One Trip Three Projects
In 2019, a group of EMBL scientists travelled to the Italian city of Naples and the nearby island of Ischia. The region is a popular destination for tourists but the purpose of their trip was not sightseeing. The scientists were there to collect samples of microbes and marine organisms at several spots along Ischias coast, in collaboration with the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn di Napoli , a marine research institute in Naples, which also runs a research station on Ischia.
This image of a six-day-old Platynereis larva shows genes expressed in muscle cells and in various neurons in the brain and ventral nerve cord . Credit: Paola Bertucci, Hernando Martínez Vergara/EMBL
Meanwhile, scientists working in Yannick Schwabs team focused on phytoplankton tiny aquatic organisms that obtain their energy from sunlight. The Schwab team is developing advanced imaging techniques to study how the structures inside cells are linked to the expression of genes in phytoplankton. Their work requires the application of electron microscopy and single-cell sequencing techniques, which need to be adapted for fieldwork. This expedition taught us how complex and diverse the samples we collect in the field can be, says Yannick.
EMBL scientists and their colleagues collected samples at various locations near Naples and around Ischia to study phytoplankton. Credit: Patrick Müller/EMBL
How Synthetic Biology Can Help The Environment
BASF inserted a gene into a corn plant that makes it more drought-resistant.
Most environmental science is focused on how to turn back the clock, not push it forward, says Ben Bostick, a geochemist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. We think about how we can roll back our footprint, and not so much about how can we make our footprint bigger in a positive way, he said. But there are many examples of synthetic biology that I think actually have a lot of potential in the environment. Think of how we can help our environment just by doing things like improving the materials we make using synthetic biology.
Synthetic biology is the construction of biological components, such as enzymes and cells, or functions and organisms that dont exist in nature, or their redesign to perform new functions. Synthetic biologists identify gene sequences that give organisms certain traits, create them chemically in a lab, then insert them into other microorganisms, like E. coli, so that they produce the desired proteins, characteristics or functions.
Since 2011, when I wrote a general introduction to synbio, the field has grown rapidly.
A rendering of CRISPR-Cas9.
Nevertheless, synthetic biology is producing some potential solutions to our most intractable environmental problems. Here are some examples.
Dealing with pollution
CRISPR was used to give fruit flies red fluorescent eyes.
This soil crust contains cyanobacteria, algae, fungi and lichens.
Feeding the world
Why Cell Biology Is So Important
Have you ever been ill? Even if it was a tummy bug it will have been your cells that were affected by the poisonous chemicals or toxins from bacteria cells in the bad food.
You may know of someone who has been ill with a disease or disorder such as meningitis, malaria, diabetes, a type of cancer, cystic fibrosis, or Alzheimers disease. All these diseases and disorders are caused by problems at a cell or molecular level. Physical damage such as a burn or broken bone also causes damage at cell level.
Eventually it will be possible to produce a health forecast by analysing your database of genetic and cell information. Using this you will be able to take more control over your health in a preventive way.
But cell biology is not just about disease. It has greatly assisted the human fertility programme. DNA testing has been used in archaeology to provide evidence that a living person is related to a long dead ancestor.
In plant science it has been used to show that two plants that look different have the same genetic origins.
Forensic medicine uses cell biology and DNA fingerprinting to help solve murders and assaults. Neither the courts of law nor the criminals can escape the importance of cell biology.
A basic understanding of cell biology including genetics will be as important as having some knowledge about computers and the Internet.
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How Can Science Solve All Of Our Problems
Category: Society Published: September 25, 2013
Science can not solve all of our problems. While scientific understanding can help battle things like disease, hunger, and poverty when applied properly, it does not do so completely and automatically. Furthermore, there are many areas of life where science can have little impact. Let us look at some of the reasons why this is so.
First of all, there is a huge difference between knowing something and acting on it. Science is concerned with accumulating and understanding observations of the physical world. That understanding alone solves no problems. Individual people have to act on that understanding for it to help solve problems. For instance, science has found that regular exercise can lower your risk of heart disease. Knowing this fact is interesting, but it will do nothing for your personal heath unless you act on it and actually exercise. And that’s the hard part. Reading an article about exercise is easy. Getting into an actual routine of regular exercise is harder. In this sense, science really solves no problems at all. Problems are only solved when people take the knowledge provided by science and use it. In fact, many of humanity’s biggest problems are caused by lack of action, and not lack of knowledge.
Biodiversity Systematics And Evolutionary Genomics
Research in biodiversity, enhanced by rapid advances in comparative and evolutionary biology, is a critical ingredient in expanding the range of options available for developing new food crops and improving current ones. Information technology, imaging, and high-throughput sequencing are a few of the technological advances that promise to drive rapid advances in understanding and managing biological diversity. Developing a comprehensive knowledge of plant diversity and greater understanding of evolutionary relationships is the functional equivalent of building a fully stocked parts warehouse with an inventory control system that quickly locates exactly the right part. Much of this potential is as yet unrealized because most species on Earth are yet unnamed, indeed undiscovered, and their precise evolutionary relationships are unknown. The field of systematicsthe study of the diversity of life and the relationships among organismsis undergoing a renaissance as a result of adding genomic and computational analysis to the many other ways organisms can be compared. The practical benefits of expanding knowledge in this area are enormous tapping into the vast resources represented by biological diversity will contribute to adapting and improving crops for food and bioenergy, understanding ecosystem function, and finding new biologically active chemicals for medical and industrial applications .
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Learning In Biology Opens Up Career Opportunities
The following non-exhaustive list suggests the diversity of careers into which graduates in biological science go:
Agronomist, animal behaviour scientist, animal welfare officer, biochemist, biotechnologist, cheese production supervisor, conservation biologist, environmental analyst, environmental ecologist, environmental manager, environmental officer, fisheries scientist, food and drink technologist, forestry technician, genetics technician, marine biologist, meat biochemist, medical sciences technician, nursery grower, plant pathologist, plant physiologist, quarantine officer, research manager, secondary school science teacher, zoologist.
Identifying And Optimizing Sources Of Biomass For Biofuel
Today, the United States leads the world in the volume of biofuels produced, and nearly all U.S. biofuel today is made by using fermentation to convert starch from corn into ethanol. More than 30 percent of the U.S. corn crop is used for ethanol production . As a result of the application of biotechnology to agriculture, per-acre corn yields are increasing at 2 to 3 percent per year . Grain alone, however, will not allow dramatic expansion of biofuel production, and must be supplemented, and ultimately replaced, with other sources of biomass. Development of energy crops that are direct sources of fermentable sugars, such as sugarcane or sweet sorghum, or sources of cellulosic materials, such as switchgrass, miscanthus, or agricultural and forestry byproducts, is an important priority. The same fundamental knowledge, tools, and technologies developed in the New Biology approach to the food challenge would be directly applicable here: understanding plant growth advancing genetically informed breeding, transgenics and genetic engineering advancing biodiversity, systematics and evolutionary genomics and understanding crops as ecosystems. Thus, both the agriculture and energy research communities will be stakeholders in the effort to transform plant breeding capabilities.
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A New Biology Approach To The Environment Challenge: Understand And Sustain Ecosystem Function And Biodiversity In The Face Of Rapid Change
Humans do not exist independently of the rest of the living world. From the most basic requirements of oxygen, clean water, and food, to raw materials like fuel, building material, fiber for clothing, and shelter that have allowed human societies to flourish around the globe, to intangible benefits that enrich the quality of life such as the shade of a tree on a hot day or the inspiration of an eagle in flight, humans are dependent on other organisms. Together, the resources and benefits that are provided by the living world are considered ecosystem services . The amount of services that ecosystems can provide depends, at base, on their productivity: that is, their ability to use energy from the sun to make complex carbon-containing molecules like sugars and starches. Sustaining ecosystems so that their productivity remains high even in the face of rapid climate change is essential to sustaining and enhancing the quality of life of a growing human population.
What Is An Ecosystem
The ecosystem is the structural and functional unit of ecology where the living organisms interact with each other and the surrounding environment. In other words, an ecosystem is a chain of interactions between organisms and their environment. The term Ecosystem was first coined by A.G.Tansley, an English botanist, in 1935.
Read on to explore the structure, components, types and functions of the ecosystem in the ecosystem notes provided below.
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Biology Careers In Healthcare
Working in healthcare as a biologist will see you developing campaigns to help treat and cure illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis, heart disease, and many lesser-known illnesses and diseases. Although many roles are out of reach to students holding just an undergraduate degree , the sector has a huge hiring capacity, and biologists are well sought-after in the medical world.
Healthcare biologists with the necessary qualifications and experience also work as veterinarians, doctors, nurses, dentists and other healthcare professionals. Biologists are recruited not only within hospitals and other medical facilities they are also hired by organizations such as the Peace Corps in order to bring advanced healthcare to developing and war-torn regions.
Finale: Moving Between Disciplines
In talking about the effects of one field on others, I have generally ignored the boundary problem how do we distinguish among fields? We do this now, in part, by self-identification, just as we deal with ambiguity about race, ethnicity and religion. Self-identification in science is commonly linked to the source of ones graduate degree, and departmental names on diplomas can become limits to exploration in adjacent fields. But many of us in biology expect that, as studies of cells and molecules become more obviously in need of several disciplinary approaches, it will become increasingly difficult to label the science and to predict the kinds of degrees the people doing it should have.
At the NIH, we have become concerned about how people should be trained in college and in graduate studies to pursue biological problems over the next 50 years, and we are discussing the need to study this issue with the National Research Council. I also agree with Leon Lederman, who has been leading the movement to establish a more logical order for teaching the sciences in US high schools: that is physics, chemistry and then biology. But these activities will come to fruition only after many years, and it is important to also consider the more immediate need to transport intellects across artificial disciplinary boundaries.
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Levels In Biological Theory
Besides the more philosophical debates discussed above, levels oforganization also play an important conceptual role in biologicalresearch and theory. Interestingly, this growing body of literature onlevels in evolutionary biology is almost entirely disconnected fromthe debates on levels in philosophy of science discussed above.
A prominent example is the issue of levels of selection. In thisdebate, the hierarchical organization of nature into levels is animportant background assumption, as the aim is to find out at whichlevel of the biological hierarchy natural selection is taking place. Although Darwins originalaccount was focused on evolution at the level of organisms, arguablythe conditions for natural selection can be formulated abstractlywithout referring to any specific kinds of entities, which allows fornatural selection to operate at any level where the conditions aresatisfied . Since the 1970s, the debateon levels of selection has kept on growing and extending to differentareas, though no precise consensus has been reached. Positions rangefrom the gene-centered view, where natural selection is taken tooperate almost exclusively at the level of genes , to the pluralistic multilevel selection theory, whichallows for natural selection to operate on any level of the biologicalhierarchy where we find the right kind of units .
Consider A Physicists Perspective On Reductionism
Reductionist approaches to complex biological systems do not necessarily mean reducing those systems to small units. Systems approaches to biology that involve large numbers of variables can be inherently interesting to physicists because they conceptually resemble problems in statistical mechanics that relate microscopic and macroscopic properties with very large degrees of freedom and exact solutions are not possible. If a biologist can frame a problem in these terms, it will probably engage a physicist.
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Biology Careers In Environmental Conservation
As an environmental biologist youll be interested in solving environmental problems and helping to protect natural resources and plant and animal wildlife to conserve and sustain them for future generations. Careers with a biology degree which fall under this remit include marine and/or aquatic biologist, zoo biologist, conservation biologist, ecologist and environmental manager. Biologists in these roles carry out recovery programs for endangered species and provide education for the general public. Hiring industries include charities and not-for-profit organizations, government and the public sector and ecological consultancies.
Teaches Concepts On Basic Living
Despite being a small-scale concept, the basic way of how human beings live is also covered by the importance of biology. It teaches people how to plant for food consumption. Furthermore, it tells what food is appropriate to consume and what is not.
In some cases, biology has provided useful concepts and ideas in building shelters effectively. It may seem an obvious factor, but it is only through comprehending and interpreting the temperature of the human body and how it mainly works that everyone can know what he or she needs to eat and how to sleep comfortably.
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So What Can You Do With A Biology Degree
Biology degrees are extensive, so as you might expect, careers for biology graduates are equally as wide-ranging. Careers you could pursue with a biology degree include:
Biology careers can lead you to study living organisms to help develop biological knowledge and understanding of living processes for a number of different purposes, including treatment of disease and sustaining the natural environment.
Many biology degree graduates choose to study at postgraduate level within a specialization or related field, in order to further their expertise and help career progression, although further study often isnt necessary for many.
Read on to find out more about the selection of typical and less typical biology careers available for both undergraduates and postgraduates.
Studying Complex Systems Directly In Humans
Work in model organisms, as discussed earlier, is immensely productive because fundamental developmental and metabolic pathways have been conserved throughout evolution and are shared among many organisms. In fact, model organisms are increasingly useful as genomics makes it possible to understand the differences and similarities among organisms at an ever more detailed level. Advances in imaging, high-throughput technologies, and computational biology increasingly make it possible to relate model system information directly to the study of complex systems in the human. New technologies and sciences that allow, for example, comprehensive comparisons of genomes and gene expression will enable much more sophisticated associations between genotype and phenotype.
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Understand What I Do Not Understand Means
When physicists say they do not understand something that you have said about biology, its possible that you do not understand that topic either.
Understanding operates at different planes in different disciplines, and when a physicist seeks understanding, what they hope to grasp might differ from the knowledge that a biologist seeks.
For example, a biologist understands gene transcription by identifying specific transcription factors, their binding sites, the role of RNA polymerase and the genes that get activated.
For the physicist, these crucial facets of transcription specific gene names and binding sites are extraneous details. Instead, among the questions they consider important are the probability distributions associated with attracting transcription complexes to specific sites and the quantification of the forces involved in this process.
Clearly, questions of this nature are of keen interest to biologists once we sidestep our love affair with our favourite gene.
Correlations Between Physics And Medicine
This table was presented by Robert Hofstadter of Stanford University at a conference on biological imaging organized by the National Academy of Sciences in October 1983. Hofstadter had shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1961 for his work in nuclear physics. Many new physics-based techniques have become important in biology since then, for example various image capture and analysis techniques developed by astronomers and astrophysicists.
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