2021

The carbonate chimneys at the Point Dume methane seep off southern California are covered with colorful microbial mats and permeated by methane-eating microbes. Courtesy of the Schmidt Ocean Institute

Microbes in Ocean Play Important Role in Moderating Earth’s Temperature

June 14, 2021

Methane is a strong greenhouse gas that plays a key role in Earth’s climate. Anytime we use natural gas, whether we light up our kitchen stove or barbeque, we are using methane.

Only three sources on Earth produce methane naturally: volcanoes, subsurface water-rock interactions, and microbes. Between these three sources, most is generated by microbes, which have deposited hundreds of gigatons of methane into the deep seafloor. At seafloor methane seeps, it percolates upwards toward the open ocean, and microbial communities consume the majority of this...

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Tree Canopy

New Study Finds Leaf Surface Water Contributes to Total Canopy Water Content

June 7, 2021

Water availability is essential to terrestrial plants, especially tall canopy trees. Satellite observations at microwave frequencies make it possible to assess total canopy water content and plant stress. However, leaf surface water -- water coming from dew, fog and rainfall -- is often overlooked when interpreting changes in canopy water content. An increasing body of evidence, though, indicates that plants might rely more than originally thought on these nonconventional water sources.

In a recent study in ...

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Image of Army Ants from "Nature's Ultimate Social Hunters" by Daniel J.C. Kronauer

How army ants' iconic mass raids evolved

May 25, 2021

Army ants form some of the largest insect societies on the planet. They are quite famous in popular culture, most notably from a terrifying scene in Indiana Jones. But they are also ecologically important. They live in very large colonies and consume large amounts of arthropods. And because they eat so much of the other animals around them, they are nomadic and must keep moving in order to not run out of food. Due to their nomadic nature and mass consumption of food, they have a huge impact on arthropod populations throughout tropical rainforests floors.

Their mass raids are...

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Jacob Suissa

Jacob Suissa Receives 2021 Derek C. Bok Award

May 19, 2021

Congratulations to PhD candidate Jacob Suissa (Friedman Lab) recipient of the 2021 Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates!

 

Mahadevan_MIT Robot Wig

Harvard and MIT Develop Hair-Brushing Robot

May 5, 2021

L. Mahadevan teamed with MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to develop a hair-brushing robot. The robotic arm has a sensorized soft brush, camera with force feedback, and closed-loop control.

The robot, which can identify different hair types and groom accordingly, could be an assest in assistive-care settings.  MIT News shares a video of the robot in action. 

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Roe Deer courtesy of Nathan Ranc

Memory Drives the Foraging Behavior of Large Wild Mammals

April 13, 2021

A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the foraging decisions of roe deer are guided primarily by memory, and not sensory perception alone.

The cognitive processes underlying the foraging decisions of large mammals in nature are not well understood, in part because it has been difficult to disentangle the effects of sensory perception and memory on the animals’ movements. Nathan Ranc (Ph'D '...

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Naomi Pierce and Benton Taylor 2021 Climate Fund

Naomi Pierce and Benton Taylor awarded Harvard Climate Change Solutions Fund

April 22, 2021

Professors Naomi Pierce and Benton Taylor along with seven other Harvard research teams will share $1 million in the seventh round of the Climate Change Solutions Fund (CCSF). The award was established by President Emerita Drew Gilpin Faust in 2014 to support research and policy initiatives intended to reduce the risks of climate change.

Naomi Pierce won for her proposal, "Prospecting for Functional Materials in the Entomology...

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