When a species’ habitat shrinks, its populations decline. Individuals that persist in remaining islands of habitat have no choice but to breed with their relatives, reducing the health and fertility of their offspring. Researchers at Monash University seek to increase genetic diversity in small populations, helping them rebound. They have established ‘genetic rescue’ methods to save many endangered species from extinction, collaborating with wildlife agencies to test solutions.
Before the first living organisms were brought into being, molecules were already moving and changing. Many energy sources, including light and heat from the sun, were available to provide the energy needed to drive chemical reactions. Mechanical energy, which describes the energy of motion, was also readily available before life’s emergence. Dr Helen Greenwood Hansma from the University of California in Santa Barbara explores how mechanical energy could have driven the processes that gave rise to early life.
Many scientific concepts are applicable to multiple disciplines and across spatial scales, from the microscopic to the global. As such, scientists from different disciplines must communicate effectively – through a shared scientific language – for effective collaboration and scientific advancement. With this aim, Dr Laura Tipton of Chaminade University and her colleagues from the University of Hawai’i investigate the history of ecological terminology, in order to work towards building a common lexicon that bridges ecology and microbiome science.
Historically, controlled forest burning in western North America created a forest patchwork that limited the size and severity of wildfires. Over the last 200 years, however, fire suppression created large areas of dense tree stands. As droughts and temperatures increase due to climate change, these dense forests are now at increasing risk from extremely severe wildfires.
Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, we face challenges that require innovative and strategic responding. Dr Aldo Bonasera at Texas A&M University in the USA and Laboratori Nazionali del Sud, Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Italy, and Dr Hua Zheng at the School of Physics and Information Technology, Shaanxi Normal University in China, have taken a mathematical approach to compare the current COVID-19 pandemic with the Spanish Flu. Their findings have led to important recommendations for managing the current pandemic through vaccination programmes.