Graduate News

Fern Leaf by Jacob Suissa

Ferns in the mountains

February 16, 2021

Earth is home to millions of known species of plants and animals, but by no means are they distributed evenly. For instance, rainforests cover less than 2 percent of Earth's total surface, yet they are home to 50 percent of Earth's species. Oceans account for 71 percent of Earth's total surface but contain only 15 percent of Earth's species. What drives this uneven distribution of species on Earth is a major question for scientists.

In a paper published February 16 in the Journal of...

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Can a fin become a limb?

Can a fin become a limb?

February 4, 2021

Fin-to-limb transition is an icon of key evolutionary transformations. Many studies focus on understanding the evolution of the simple fin into a complicated limb skeleton by examining the fossil record. In a paper published February 4 in Cell, researchers at Harvard and Boston Children's Hospital examined what's occurring at the genetic level to drive different patterns in the fin skeleton versus the limb skeleton.

Researchers, led by M. Brent Hawkins, a recent doctoral...

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Termite nest courtesy of Guy Theraulaz

Constructing termite turrets without a blueprint

January 19, 2021

PhD Candidate Alex Heyde (Mahadevan Lab) and Professor L. Mahadevan have developed a mathematical model to help explain how termites construct their intricate mounds.

The research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences built on previous studies in the Mahadevan lab on termite mound physiology and morphogenesis. Previous research showed that day-to-night temperature variations drive convective flow in the...

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CAPTURE Artist Interpretation

CAPTUREing Whole-Body 3D movements

December 18, 2020

In the last decade, Neuroscientists have made major advances in their quest to study the brain. They can assemble complete wiring diagrams and catalogue the brain's many cell types. They've developed electrode arrays for recording electrical activity in individual neurons and placed itty bitty microscopes on the heads of mice to visualize their brain activity. However, almost shockingly, there are no tools to precisely measure the brain's principal output -- behavior - in freely moving animals.

Animal behavior is important to a broad range of disciplines, from neuroscience and...

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Micrograph showing Rothia cells (light blue) in their native habitat, a bacterial biofilm scraped from the human tongue.  Photo credit: Jessica Mark Welch, Marine Biological Laboratory.

The Incredible, Variable Bacteria Living in Your Mouth

December 16, 2020

Bacteria often show very strong biogeography – some bacteria are abundant in specific locations while absent from others – leading to major questions when applying microbiology to therapeutics or probiotics: how did the bacteria get into the wrong place? How do we add the right bacteria into the right place when the biogeography has gotten ‘out of whack’? These questions, though, have one big obstacle, bacteria are so tiny and numerous with very diverse and complicated populations which creates major challenges to understanding which subgroups of bacteria live...

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Life Reconstruction. Original artwork created by scientific illustrator Davide Bonadonna.

Water-to-land transition in early tetrapods

November 25, 2020

The water-to-land transition is one of the most important and inspiring major transitions in vertebrate evolution. And the question of how and when tetrapods transitioned from water to land has long been a source of wonder and scientific debate.

Early ideas posited that drying-up-pools of water stranded fish on land and that being out of water provided the selective pressure to evolve more limb-like appendages to walk back to water. In the 1990s newly discovered specimens suggested that the first tetrapods retained many aquatic features, like gills and a tail fin, and that...

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Liming Cai

Liming Cai Receives Dorothy M. Skinner Award

November 20, 2020
Congratulations to Liming Cai, PhD ‘20 (Davis Lab) recipient of the Dorothy M. Skinner Award from the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology for her presentation, “Deeply altered genome architecture in the iconic endoparasitic flowering plant Rafflesiaceae”. The award recognizes women Ph.D. students and/or postdoctoral fellows who have demonstrated outstanding scholarship and show high potential for continued excellence in research.
OEB Darwin Shield

Congratulations November Graduates!

November 16, 2020

Congratulations to our PhD candidates who successfully defended and earned their doctorate November 2020!!

  • Meghan Blumstein (N. Michele Holbrook Lab), "The plastic and adaptive potential of sugar storage in temperate trees under climate change"
  • Liming Cai (Charles Davis Lab), "Phylogeny and genome evolution of the flowering plant clade Malpighiales"
  • Blake Dickson (Stephanie Pierce Lab), "Evolution of the tetrapod forelimb and functional morphology of the humerus...
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