Have you ever driven through the forests of British Columbia and seen areas with brown-needled evergreen trees?
Sitka Spruce in Prairie Creek Redwoods SP | wild trees
These trees are victimized by a parasitic insect, the white pine weevil. The female white pine weevil feeds on the stems of these host evergreens and deposit their eggs in the apical shoot, the end of the tree farthest from the attachment. The larvae will hatch and grow into mature white pine weevils while the apical shoot completes its growth for the year. As the next generation of white pine weevils exit the tree they feed on the xylem, the tree’s nutrient system which turns the needles of the tree brown and eventually kills the tree.
Here is a podcast that further discusses the white pine weevil and provides insight on identifying trees that are damaged.
Dr. Justin Whitehill, a researcher at the Michael Smith Labs at the University of British Columbia, studies Sitka spruce trees that are resistant and susceptible to white pine weevils hoping to find a variety that can be used successfully in reforestation efforts.
The difference between resistant and susceptible genotypes is that they contain a different quantity and arrangement of stone cells. Stone cells are rigid cells that provide a physical barrier against these burrowing insects. Figure 4 (a,c,e,g) from Dr. Whitehill’s paper shows that the resistant Sitka spruce trees have more stone cells and they are arranged in a random configuration. This allows them to grow their stone cell barrier much faster than susceptible Sitka spruce trees. Figure 4 (b,d,f,h) shows that susceptible Sitka spruce trees have fewer stone cells arranged in a chronological configuration. There is a thicker layer of stone cells in the resistant Sitka spruce trees and therefore, they provide a greater physical barrier against the white pine weevils.
Figure 4 | Dr. Justin Whitehill
One of the reasons why this research is so important is that over 40% of the economy in British Columbia relies on the pulp and timber industries. There are more than 55,000 direct jobs and more than 7,300 businesses that rely on this natural resource.
To learn more about this research and to hear from Dr. Justin Whitehill, watch the following newscast.
By: Maureen Lai, Rosalyn Desa, Osama Qubain and Rikul Thapar
Posted in Biological Sciences, Issues in Science, Outreach Project, Public Engagement, Science Communication
Tagged biology, forestry, lumber, Michael Smith Labs, pulp, Science in the News, Sitka spruce, UBC, white pine weevil
It’s that time again where it seems that everyone is sick and there are germs everywhere. Many people have adapted preventative cold regimens for the winter such as getting a flu shot, increasing their vitamin C intake and drinking warm beverages. I believe that everyone needs to think back to the basics and wash their hands more frequently and thoroughly in order to prevent getting sick.
Wash ’em if you got ’em | woodleywonderworks
Recently, Daily Mail performed an experiment which used a UV camera to detect germs and estimate which method of washing your hands is the most effective. A lotion was applied to the hands after washing them so the germs appear fluorescent white under the UV camera. Researchers found that washing your hands with soap for 15 – 30 seconds got rid of the majority of germs as opposed to a six second hand wash which minimally reduced the germs present. Additionally, they found that washing your hands for more than 30 seconds was not necessary to eliminate even more germs and resulted in unnecessary exhaustion.
Washing hands (before shot)_0033 | James Emery
Washing hands (after shot)_0035 | James Emery
Often times people think that if they wash their hands with hot water, it will kill the germs. This is not true since germs require temperatures above 100°C, the boiling point of water, to have this effect. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that washing your hands with water that is too hot can cause skin inflammation and is a waste of energy. Check out this video to learn more about the differences of washing your hands in hot and cold water.
By: Nick Uhas
Since hot water doesn’t help you get rid of germs, you must rely on friction. First, rub your hands together vigorously so the soap is able to trap germs on your hands. Then, when you use running water, the germs trapped in the soap suspension can be washed away. When drying your hands, make sure to do so with a towel or hand dryer so once again, the friction can remove even more germs.
I think that prevention is the best way to approach illnesses and disease. Whether it takes reciting happy birthday twice or the use of nice smelling antibacterial soap, make sure you wash your hands because I believe it is the most effective and simple way to prevent getting sick this winter.
Wash Your Hands! | elston
Posted in Biological Sciences, Issues in Science, Public Engagement, Science Communication
Tagged bacteria, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, flu, germs, handwashing, health, Nick Uhas, prevention, Science in the News, sickness, viruses
After astonishing statistics about heart disease morbidity and mortality from the Heart and Stroke Foundation were released in the last few years, many at-risk individuals have made changes in their dietary, exercise, drinking and smoking habits. In order to avoid heart disease caused by lifestyle choices, individuals have gone as far as consuming entirely plant-based diets and spending a majority of their time participating in vigorous exercise. Watch the video below to learn some basic changes you can make to prevent heart disease.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia found that eating high protein foods could benefit women’s heart health as much as quitting smoking, getting exercise, eating a low-sodium diet and reducing alcohol consumption. They found that eating large amounts of amino acids from a combination of plant and animal sources could prevent conditions such as high blood pressure and arterial stiffness. In this study, seven amino acids were under study. Researchers found that glutamic acid, leucine and tyrosine, which are commonly found in animal sources of protein, have the ability to lower arterial stiffness. All amino acids found in plant sources have the ability to lower blood pressure.
Amino Acids in Zwitterionic Form| Joel Meredith
In my opinion, this research is insightful but individuals should remember that saturated fat, which is commonly found in high protein red meats, can contribute to plaque buildup and ultimately, heart disease. I would include a variety of plant-based high protein foods such as legumes and tofu to obtain the benefits outlined by this study but to also minimize the amount of saturated fat consumed.
Artherosclerosis | NIH: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
I think that this research is important to pass on to your family members as many people think they have to go to an extremity in order to prevent heart disease caused by lifestyle choices. I think it is important to remember that even small changes in your diet such as incorporating more wholesome, high protein foods into it can make a large difference. In many cases, heart disease is preventable and I strongly believe that if everyone supports each other in making good lifestyle adjustments, heart disease will no longer be the number one killer in Canada in generations to come. Here is a look at some differences in dietary habits over time which may provide hints as to why heart disease is so prevalent in this generation.
Celebrate Those Viking Dinners | Steve Jurvetson
October 12, 2015 in Biological Sciences, Issues in Science, Public Engagement
Tagged amino acids, arterial stiffness, cardiovascular disease, health, Heart and Stroke Foundation, heart disease, high blood pressure, plant based, protein, Science in the News
We all know the feeling. After working into the night on a term paper, sipping coffee and dazing into the backlight of your laptop screen, your head finally makes its way to the pillow. You lie in your pitch dark room but you just cannot fall asleep. Why? You did have that coffee a mere three hours ago which is the cause of your wakefulness but could that really delay your entire circadian rhythm?
Your circadian rhythm is a natural body cycle that runs over a 24 hour period to match up with the hours in a day. Generally, this cycle controls your wakefulness and sleepiness by regulating the hormone melatonin. For more information about your circadian rhythm, please check out the video below:
Just a few days ago, the Journal of Science Translational Medicine published an article that stated what happens inside and outside of you when you consume caffeine just before bed. After approximately 49 days, scientists at the University of Colorado in the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory discovered that individuals who consumed the equivalent of one double espresso three hours before bed caused a delay of approximately 40 minutes in their circadian rhythm. They found that the hormone melatonin which is normally at a high level before bed, was abnormally low in these individuals. Additionally, they assessed the effect of bright light exposure on the individuals and similar disruptions in the circadian rhythm were documented. In fact, it was found that bright light exposure had about twice the negative impact on the circadian rhythm than caffeine, delaying it by over an hour.
According to Science Daily, caffeine is a psychoactive drug and we now know that it alters the natural circadian rhythm. Below is a list of common beverages and the amount of caffeine in each. It makes me wonder why so many individuals consume these beverages on a regular basis and why are there no regulations in place to monitor consumption?
I think that if our generation started consuming caffeinated beverages as early as high school, the disruption in the circadian rhythm cycle could accumulate and cause long term issues such as chronic sleep deprivation, insomnia and other sleep maladies. This could cost millions of dollars in pharmaceutical drugs and other treatments to fix so it is important for us to take a stand now for our own well-being.
In conclusion, I believe that next time you are up late to study, it is best to choose beverages without caffeine. I think that the emerging research about caffeine consumption is incredibly important since caffeine is consumed on such a frequent basis. I would like to see some further research advising individuals of the best time of day to consume caffeine in order to minimize the impact on the circadian rhythm.