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Evidence-Based Solutions for Central California

Lorena Anderson

Ecosystem Engineers Play Crucial Role in Stabilizing Their Environments, Study Shows

When people think of engineering in nature, they tend to think of species such as beavers — the tree-felling, dam-building rodents whose machinations can shape the landscape by creating lakes and changing the path of rivers.

But beavers are far from the only organisms to reshape their environment. A squirrel that inadvertently plants oak trees is also an “ecosystem engineer.” Roughly speaking, any organism whose impact on the environment outlasts its own lifetime is an environmental engineer.

$3.5 Million Hellman Endowment Expands Future of Research at UC Merced

Since 2011, the Hellman Fellows Fund has provided close to 60 UC Merced assistant professors with much-needed research support in the form of seed funding. The prestigious Hellman Fellowship has launched countless careers at UC Merced and across the UC system.

Now, thanks to a generous new $3.5 million gift from the Hellman family, UC Merced will permanently establish the UC Merced Society of Hellman Fellows starting in 2021. The endowment allows the program to continue in perpetuity, while affording the campus more flexibility in funding early-career research.

New Project Aims to Advance Understanding of Immune Cells as they Develop

Maybe now more than ever, scientists need to understand the immune system.

A new National Institutes of Health grant is funding a cross-disciplinary collaboration between bioengineering Professor Joel Spencer and immunology Professor Jennifer Manilay that will allow them to watch as immune-system cells develop in the bone marrow of a living mouse to gain insights into how they work.

New Grant Helps Assess Benefits of Satellites for Determining Water Quality

Summertime means fun in the water, but as temperatures increase, algal blooms can grow in freshwater and marine ecosystems.

Some algae are natural and life-giving, while others are the result of life out of balance and can have harmful effects. Consisting of bacteria and tiny plankton, they arise quickly and alter the ecosystem by consuming available oxygen, killing fish.

Bacteria Use the Physics of Twist to Measure Their Own Size and Shape

Theoretical physics Professor Ajay Gopinathan has been working over the past decade to model a submicroscopic mystery. Now, he and a team of colleagues have verified an important piece of the puzzle of how tiny, intrinsically twisted protein filaments responsible for repairing and growing cells know where to go to perform their function.

The work could someday enable scientists to control bacterial growth.

Human Waste Treatment Helps Solve Climate-Change Puzzle, New Study Shows

About 4.5 billion people around the globe do not have access to adequate sanitation, and what they do have — typically pit latrines and lagoons — are responsible for widespread illnesses and a portion of the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.

UC Merced Professor Rebecca Ryals and a group of colleagues have a solution that not only increases safety, sustainability and jobs, but reduces greenhouse gas emissions and waste-borne illnesses while producing an effective fertilizer for agriculture.

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