Monthly Archives: May 2015

We’ll be back after this short break!

Inspiration Dissemination will be off the air for the next two weekends, as Zhian and I will be out of town for various reasons and unable to host. But have no fear! June 7th we return, and will be interviewing Beatrice Moissinac who studies Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS). She describes her work as, “a branch of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning that looks at how a computer can learn to become an expert at a task, and then teach this task to a human using lessons and exercises designed by the computer itself.” Beatrice is working at Technology Across the Curriculum (TAC) at OSU, “to develop Virtual Learning Environments”.

She says her first application is Fire Safety: How do you teach someone how to get out of a building on fire?

She’s probably right to be worried (the rope ladder I keep under my bed is a little dated), and we can’t wait to find out what her research in artificial intelligence has to say about fire safety!


Whosits & Whatsits Galore: What do larval fish eat, and who eats them?

20150402_HatfieldGradStudentMiram_HO-4675  Tonight on Inspiration Dissemination, Miram Gleiber (a 1st year PhD student in Integrative Biology) discusses her passion for ‘le poisson’. Working underneath Su Sponaugle and Bob Cowan, Miram first got into the piscine when she was a little girl, investigating tide pools in Victoria, British Columbia. “When you take a scoop of water from the ocean you don’t realize what’s in it,” Miram muses, “… it’s a whole other world.”

Figure 1  Figure 2

Above: Larval Fish captured in the Straits of Florida (Photos by: Cedric Guigand) on the left, and on the right, Copepods captured in the western Antarctic Peninsula: Clockwise from top left are Calanus propinquus, Paraeuchaeta antarctica, Metridia gerlachei, Calanoides acutus (Photos by: Miram Gleiber)

Because Larval fish grow up to be reef fish, which are good for biodiversity and tourism, obtaining accurate numbers of wild stock that survive the larval stage and understanding what conditions promote survival is valuable knowledge. The fish first hatch and “hang out” for thirty days in the open ocean before coming back to the reef, during which time they subsist largely on patches of zooplankton and phytoplankton that float around in the open ocean. Miram’s current research at OSU aims to understand how these patches of tiny biodiversity contribute to the growth and survival of the small fishes that eventually make their way into the view of our camera lenses and photo albums, and sometimes to our plates, as well.

To learn more about Miram and her adventures on the open sea, join us at 7pm Pacific on 88.7 FM KBVR Corvallis, or stream the talk live here!

ARSV Laurence M. Gould, a 230-foot Antarctic research vessel.

ARSV Laurence M. Gould, a 230-foot Antarctic research vessel.

From Systems Bio and Symbiosis to Nepovirus and Nematodes

There are perhaps a many as one million species of nematodes. Some parasitic varieties can grow to a meter in length, but most are microscopic in size. They inhabit almost every environment imaginable, from salt water to soil, and even human bodies. But it isn’t the symbiosis between a parasitic nematode like hookworm and a human that Danielle Tom is interested in, her research in the Department of Integrative Biology at OSU concerns a particular nematode called Xiphinema americanum.

51XyTEl0Y1L Despite the fact that nematodes cover most of the planet’s surface and there are probably billions of them thriving on the earth at any given moment, surprisingly little is still known about the worms. Xiphinema americanum, for instance, carries a bacteria specially designed to live inside it called Xiphinematobacter. Studying the evolutionary genomics of these species can help elucidate the phylogenetic, or evolutionary, history of both. This work is important to the United States Department of Agriculture, because Xiphinema americanum is a potential carrier for nepovirus, which can infect important crops like grapes, raspberries, and tobacco via these plants’ root systems, which the worm also exists in a symbiotic relationship with. This sort of an analysis, of an animal and its relationship to its environment at multiple levels of scale and with regard to multiple other species, is called systems biology.

Danielle works under Dee Denver, associate professor and director of the the Molecular Cellular Biology program (MCB), and she will be joining us on the show tonight at 7pm pacific time.

To learn more about this exciting research and her personal journey into genomics and biology, tune into 88.7 FM to listen, or stream the show live here!

Genomics on the Farm: Breeding A More Resistant Rice

Kalarata_black seed_27May2011_560x225

Photo courtesy the Jaiswal Lab

Tonight Noor Al-Bader of OSU’s Molecular and Cell Biology department joins us on the show to discuss her doctoral research concerning genomics and plant breeding.  Working in Dr. Pankaj Jaiswal’s lab, Noor deals with large data sets of genetic information concerning varieties of Rice and Chia. The goal of her study is to determine which genes relate to the expression of traits implicated in stress resistance and nutritional content. Often the varieties of these crops grown for their value to farmers are susceptible to environmental stressors such as high salinity in water, drought, and high temperatures. These environmental concerns unfortunately promise to be increasing concerns in many areas such crops are grown due to the increasing impact of climate change. Wild types are often hardier, and genetic studies of both types hold promise for producing a “happy medium” capable of producing high yield, nutritious rice and chia that is also highly prosperous under less than desirable environmental circumstances.  These new varieties are not produced via genetic modification in the lab, but bred on the farm, crossing strains generation after generation and recording the results with painstaking attention to detail- the old fashioned way. The contrast between the hands on work of horticulture and the hard science of genetics in the lab may seem a surprising pair, but in this case the genetics research is utilized to facilitate traditional methods of horticulture by simply speeding along a process that could normally take lifetimes. Just like in her research, Noor strives to have the best of both worlds.

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