Seastars are the canaries in the coal mine for climate change

At the Bodega Marine Lab, Eric Sanford studies sea stars and mussels to determine how climate change will affect ecosystems along the California coast.

“Our results suggest that if during the summertime there are more warm events, which is what’s predicted by climate models to occur along the California coast, then this can have a really big effect on these marine ecosystems.  What we found is that sea stars are actually really sensitive to small changes in temperature, so if the sea stars experience these moderately warm low tides, they get really stressed out and they consume fewer mussels and end up growing a lot less.”  – Eric Sanford, UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab

Robotic squirrels vs. rattlesnakes

Picture 2013-01-24 at 3.42.46 PMUC Davis researchers go into rattlesnake country to study the interaction between snakes and squirrels. The snakes are real, but the squirrel is a robot.

“By bringing engineers and biologists together, we’re creating new ways of doing science.  Hopefully making discoveries that would not have been made unless we brought these different fields together.” – Sanjay Joshi

A number of former and current students have built the robosquirrels over the years, primarily from the S. Joshi and D. Owings labs at UC Davis, in close collaboration with the R. Clark lab at SDSU. Former PhD student Aaron Rundus built the first robosquirrel for his laboratory studies, assisted by Nick Giannini and Erin Chin. Former MS student Ryan Johnson built the first outdoor robosquirrel for field studies, with input from Matthew Barbour. Alex Barszap, Zac Dillow, Armen Davtyan, Laine Tennyson, and Travis Kupp have modified the squirrels in various ways for continuing field studies, with help from Bree Putman.

Converting tobacco plants into fuel for cars and airplanes

Picture 2013-01-25 at 4.30.31 PMScientists at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s FOLIUM Project, funded by ARPA-E, use light to convert the carbon in tobacco leaves into biofuels.

“Once we have a plant and a production yield that promises commercial levels within the near future, I think we will be able to attract the interest of the big tobacco companies. Growing tobacco for cigarette consumption is a dwindling industry and we believe that converting tobacco into a bioenergy crop will also generate a new market for tobacco farmers.”
— Christer Jansson