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BioScience Talks

BioScience Talks , published by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, is the monthly discussion podcast of the journal BioScience. AIBS is a registered US 501c3 nonprofit organization, EIN: 53-0220853.
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Now displaying: Page 1
Mar 31, 2020

In November 2019, through the collaboration of the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR), BioScience Talks was lucky enough to attend and report on ASGSR's Annual Meeting, in Denver, Colorado. We spoke with numerous presenters, students, and other participants in the meeting, who discussed research topics ranging from growing food crops in space to using novel construction materials to help keep astronauts pathogen free. In addition, we chatted with ASGSR personnel about their newly launched Fellows program and caught up with student presenters, who described taking experiments all the way from classroom brainstorming to actual work aboard the International Space Station. 

 

This year's podcast release is being released during Space Science Week 2020, which is being held virtually in light of COVID-19. Click here to learn more.

Interviewees included:

  • Kevin Sato, Immediate Past-President
  • Doug Matson, President
  • Phoebe Wall, Stanford University
  • Rylee Schauer, BioServe, Colorado University Boulder
  • Pamela Flores, BioServe, Colorado University Boulder
  • Robert Ferl, University of Florida
  • Anna-Lisa Paul, University of Florida

Learn more:

 

Mar 24, 2020

In this episode of BioScience Talks, we welcome previous guest Dan Salkeld of Colorado State University back to the show. He is joined by CSU colleague and 2016 coauthor Mike Antolin to discuss the disease ecology of animal-borne illnesses in general, as well as the present coronavirus pandemic, the outbreak's origins, and the prospects for disease surveillance to improve society's preparedness for future spillover events. Image: Felipe Esquivel Reed, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

 

Mar 11, 2020

This episode is the third in our new oral history series, In Their Own Words. These pieces chronicle the stories of scientists who have made great contributions to their fields, particularly within the biological sciences. Each month, we will publish in the pages of BioScience, and on this podcast, the results of these conversations. Today we are joined by Dr. Susan Stafford, professor and dean emerita at the University of Minnesota. She previously served as president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences

Note: Both the text and audio versions have been edited for clarity and length.

 

Feb 24, 2020

Worldwide declines in insect populations have sparked considerable concern. To date, however, significant research gaps exist, and many insect threats remain under-investigated and poorly understood. For instance, despite their charismatic bioluminescent displays and cultural and economic importance, the 2000-plus species of firefly beetles have yet to be the subject of a comprehensive threat analysis.

Writing in BioScience, Sara M. Lewis of Tufts University and her colleagues aim to fill the gap with a broad overview of the threats facing these diverse and charismatic species—as well as potential solutions that may lead to their preservation into the future. Lewis and colleagues catalog numerous threats, foremost among them habitat loss, followed closely by artificial light and pesticide use. The future is not bleak, however, and the authors describe considerable opportunities to improve the prospects of bioluminescent insects, including through the preservation of habitat, reduction of light pollution, lowered insecticide use, and more-sustainable tourism. Dr. Lewis and coauthors Candace Fallon and Michael Reed join us on this episode of BioScience Talks to shed light on these challenges and opportunities. Listeners are also invited to read Dr. Lewis's book on fireflies, linked below.

 

Feb 12, 2020

This episode is the third in our new oral history series, In Their Own Words. These pieces chronicle the stories of scientists who have made great contributions to their fields, particularly within the biological sciences. Each month, we will publish in the pages of BioScience, and on this podcast, the results of these conversations. Today, we are joined by Dr. Diana Wall, university distinguished professor, director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability, and professor in the Department of Biology, at Colorado State University. She previously served as president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Note: Both the text and audio versions have been edited for clarity and length.

 

Jan 30, 2020

Each year, tens of thousands of patients undergo invasive surgery to repair perforated eardrums. The surgery, called tympanoplasty, is time consuming, costly, and difficult for patients—many of whom are children. Seeing an opportunity to fill an important unmet medical need, the founders behind Virginia startup Tympanogen have developed a technology aimed at reducing the need for these challenging operations. The product, called Perf-Fix, is a light-cured hydrogel applied in a doctor's office to give the patient's own tissue a scaffold on which to heal and rebuild, circumventing the need for surgical intervention.

Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Elaine Horn-Ranney joins us on this episode of our Impact Series to discuss Perf-Fix, what it takes to run a start-up, and some of the many other potential applications for Tympanogen's technology.

 

Jan 22, 2020

Agricultural areas are often considered distinct from local ecosystems, and in many cases, such an assessment rings true. Single-crop farmlands, reliant on the liberal use of pest- and herbicides, often limit local biodiversity and species interactions. However, in other agricultural settings, robust ecosystems thrive, intermingled with crops and supporting a diversity of species.

One such acroecosystem is coffee's. On shade-coffee farms, the coffee plant is consumed by numerous pests, including the green coffee scale, coffee berry borer, and coffee rust disease. In turn, these species are regulated by a variety of natural enemies, through processes of often staggering complexity. In a major BioScience Overview article, John Vandermeer of the University of Michigan and his colleagues aim to untangle such complexities and get at the heart of pest control in the coffee system, emphasizing the intersection of ecology with "the burgeoning field of complex systems, including references to chaos, critical transitions, hysteresis, basin or boundary collision, and spatial self-organization."

Dr. Vandermeer joins us on this episode of BioScience Talks to discuss the coffee agroecosystem—and the many species and dynamics that underlie it.

 

 

Jan 8, 2020

Peer review lies at the heart of the grant selection process and, by extension, the scientific enterprise itself. To inform their decisions, funders rely on grant reviewers—most of whom volunteer their time—to evaluate numerous proposals. However, despite its massive importance to science and society, peer review itself remains inadequately studied and often poorly understood.

To shed light on this critical institution, American Institute of Biological Sciences chief scientist Stephen Gallo and his colleagues recently published the results of a major survey. It is joined by a grant review report from Publons, a company housed within Clarivate Analytics that helps researchers track their research and review outputs and works to encourage greater recognition of scientists' work.

In this episode of BioScience Talks, we are joined by Stephen Gallo and Matthew Hayes, director of Publons, who discuss the survey results and shed light on the future of peer review.

 

Dec 31, 2019

This episode is the second in our new oral history series, In Their Own Words. These pieces chronicle the stories of scientists who have made great contributions to their fields, particularly within the biological sciences. Each month, we will publish in the pages of BioScience, and on this podcast, the results of these conversations. Today, we are joined by Dr. Kent Holsinger, board of trustees distinguished professor of biology in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut. He also previously served as president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Note: Both the text and audio versions have been edited for clarity and length.

 

Dec 11, 2019

This episode marks the first in a new oral history series from BioScience, entitled In Their Own Words. These pieces chronicle the stories of scientists who have made great contributions to their fields, particularly within the biological sciences. Each month, we will publish in the pages of BioScience, and on this podcast, the results of these conversations. This first oral history is with Dr. Rita Colwell, a distinguished environmental microbiologist and scientific administrator, who previously served as president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Note: Both the text and audio versions have been edited for clarity and length.

 

Dec 6, 2019

The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB), an American Institute of Biological Sciences member society, fosters research, education, public awareness, and understanding of living organisms from molecules and cells to ecology and evolution. For this episode of BioScience Talks, we chatted with presenters and personnel from SICB's 2019 annual meeting, which was held earlier this year in Tampa, Florida. At the meeting, researchers shared work that highlights the value of interdisciplinary, cooperative science integrated across scales, geographies, and disciplines.

Please register for the 2020 Annual SICB Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. See http://sicb.org/meetings/2020 for details.

 

Nov 13, 2019

The BioScience Talks Impact Series focuses on the path from newly gained scientific knowledge to real-world effects, addressing questions such as How does a new vaccine find its way to physicians' offices? How do ecological discoveries result in new natural resource management paradigms? How do gene-editing techniques move from discovery to therapy? By following novel research discoveries from the lab and field to law books and store shelves, we find the answers and highlight the many ways that scientific research improves our lives.

In this inaugural episode, we interviewed Dr. Crystal Icenhour, CEO of Aperiomics, a life sciences company located in Loudoun County, Virginia. The company uses a technique called shotgun metagenomic sequencing identify every known bacteria, virus, fungus, and parasite (over 37,000) found in a given patient sample. Through this revolutionary technique, they are able to identify pathogens that would escape detection using traditional means. We chatted about the technology itself, and just as important, the pathway from innovation to helping patients in need.

 

Oct 8, 2019

By altering the heritability of certain traits, gene drive technologies have the potential to spread desired genes through wild populations. In practice, this could lead to mosquito populations that, for example, bear traits making them resistant to the spread of malaria. Despite the huge potential for improving human well-being, concern exists that gene drives could fail in the wild or spread beyond their intended target populations.

Writing in BioScience, Dr. Greg Backus, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis, and Jason Delborne, Associate Professor of Science Policy and Society at North Carolina State University's Genetic Engineering and Society Center, describe a potential solution. Threshold-dependent gene drives could limit the spread of wild-released gene drives to target populations, increasing control and reducing the risk of unchecked spread. The authors joined us on this episode of BioScience Talks to discuss the potential of these gene drives—and also some of the questions of controllability, spread, and ecological uncertainty that relate to them.

 

Sep 11, 2019

In this episode of BioScience Talks, Christine Webb of Harvard University joins us to talk about the potential for widening the involvement of scientists who study animal behavior in ongoing discussions about animal treatment. She argues that because their work is often used to advance ethical arguments about animals, such as those concerning animal personhood, behavioral scientists are uniquely well positioned to engage more widely in these conversations, with potential benefits accruing to both fields.

 

 

Aug 14, 2019

Mark SchwartzIn this episode of BioScience Talks, Mark Schwartz, of the University of California, Davis, joins us to talk about the National Park Service, and in particular, the challenges facing its oversight of over 400 individual units and 85 million acres of land. Park Service lands are faced with the same ecological difficulties that other wildlands are, and cultural and procedural shifts will be needed to face them, particularly in light of the rising specter of climate change.

 

Aug 6, 2019

In this episode of BioScience Talks, Derek R. Armitage of the University of Waterloo, Jennifer J. Silver of the University of Guelph, and Daniel K. Okamoto of Florida State University come on the show to talk about natural resource management. In their recent BioScience article, our guests and their coauthors described the integration of governance with quantitative measures--with an eye toward better managing natural resources to meet desirable social and ecological outcomes. Today, they join us to describe the article and provide some practical examples from fisheries management.

 

Jul 10, 2019

Joanne S. Tornow was selected as assistant director for the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) in February 2019, following almost two decades with the foundation. Her duties ranged from program management to high-level leadership and strategic development, and she previously served as the head of BIO in an interim capacity. Prior to her time at the NSF, Tornow served on the faculty at Portland State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. She joins us on BioScience Talks to discuss the directorate's current operations and future plans. A written version of this conversation is available online and will be published in an upcoming issue of BioScience. Both versions have been edited for clarity.

 

 

Jun 12, 2019

Invasive species are a hot topic, both in scientific circles and among the public at large. Still, the mechanics of invasions are often opaque, and a broader understanding will be required in order to prevent—and respond to—future species introductions. In a world with ever-increasing trade and changing climate that often renders native species vulnerable, the need for this expanded understanding is acute.

Writing in BioScience, Dr. Mitch Cruzan, of Portland State University, in Oregon, describes the history of a particular invasive species, the slender false brome. Originally introduced in Oregon as part of a US Department of Agriculture program, the grass has undergone a hybridization process that enabled it to take hold in much of the state. By understanding the rapid adaptation of the false brome to Oregon's landscapes, it may be possible to unravel the mechanics of future invasions, before they endanger native species.

 

May 28, 2019

The concept of resilience is an important one in conservation science and resource management. However, the term itself is often poorly understood, or understood differently by different parties, with potentially troublesome effects for land managers, researchers, and others.

Writing in BioScience, Dr. Phillip Higuera (University of Montana), Dr. Alex Metcalf (University of Montana), and their colleagues suggest that a more holistic framework would consider the crucial human element of social-ecological systems. By doing so, managers could work toward outcomes that best fit the ecological needs and human priorities inherent in the system. The work they describe here is focused on fire-prone landscapes, but the approach is broadly applicable across a range of systems.

 

May 8, 2019

At the beginning of November 2018, through the collaboration of the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR), BioScience Talks once again hit the road to attend ASGSR's Annual Meeting. This year's event was held in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. Once again, we had the opportunity to speak with numerous eminent presenters and participants at the meeting, who discussed numerous topics on the cutting edge of space-related research. The topics ranged from the epigenetics of plants in space to zero-gravity plumbing—and just about everything in between. 

Interviewees included:

  • Robert Ferl, University of Florida
  • Samantha McBride, ASGSR Student President
  • Michael Roberts, International Space Station National Laboratory
  • Mark Weislogel, Portland State University
  • Kasthuri Venkateswaran, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Learn more:

 

Apr 10, 2019

Natural history specimens housed in museums, herbaria, and other research collections are revolutionizing science—largely as a result of growing efforts to digitize samples and share data among many users.

To meet the robust promise of digital collections, the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) has developed a national agenda that leverages new techniques and capabilities to create what they call the Extended Specimen Network. Members of BCoN join us on this episode of BioScience Talks to describe the newly conceived network and to talk about its potential to change the way science is performed—both now and in the future. Pictured above are our guests at a National Press Club briefing where they formally released their report (from left to right: David Jennings, Andrew Bentley, Linda Ford, Anna Monfils, Jennifer Zaspel, John Bates, Barbara Thiers, and Robert Gropp). Photograph: Samuel Hurd.

 

Mar 13, 2019

The importance of human access to adequate food could not be more clear; however, many questions surround the provision of food among and within countries. What obligations do nations have to provide food for their citizens? Is inequality in food availability a problem that requires political action, or is it simply an unfortunate side effect of food distribution systems and landscapes' ability to produce calories for those who live on them?

Writing in BioScience, Dr. Paolo D'Odorico of the University of California, Berkley, and his colleagues present these questions through the framework of human rights, delving into the various ways in which food availability and inequality are affected by trade. Drawing from a wealth of data, the authors find that, broadly speaking, trade tends to reduce food inequality. But joining us in this episode of BioScience Talks, Dr. D'Odorico cautions that more complex phenomena may lie beneath the surface, confounding simplistic explanations. 

Feb 13, 2019

Thomas CampagnaroTommaso SitziaErle Ellis

In recent years, calls to preserve greater swaths of the Earth's land- and seascapes have grown. In particular, numerous conservationists have called for the protection of half of the planet's surface, a bold initiative that would preserve much of the world's existing biodiversity and ecosystem function. However, the path to such a "half-Earth" preservation model lies largely in uncharted territory, with many potential pitfalls along the way.

Writing in BioScience, Dr. Thomas Campagnaro of the University of Padova, in Italy, and his colleagues elucidate one possible route to better landscape preservation. In their article, the authors describe Natura 2000, the world's largest conservation network. Based in the European Union, the network relies on strong governance, flexible designations, and scientific expertise to produce reliable conservation outcomes.

In this episode of BioScience Talks, Dr. Campagnaro is joined by coauthors Tommaso Sitzia, also of the University of Padova, and Erle Ellis, of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to discuss the network and the prospects for scaling it up to a planetary scale.

Jan 9, 2019

Richard Pelikan

 Austin SchwinnNew tools are making it easier to understand not only our genetic code but also the ways that the code's three-dimensional structure contributes to gene expression. This understanding will be vital in the search for cures to diseases with multiple and complex causes, such as lupus. On this episode of BioScience Talks, we discuss one such tool. It's the product of a collaboration among data scientists, medical scientists, and software engineers, and the new "xapp" allows researchers to view the 3D, looped structure of chromatin and examine the ways in which those loops affect our genes' expression.

Richard Pelikan, a bioinformatician at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, and Austin Schwinn, a data scientist at Exaptive, joined us on this episode to discuss the collaboration, epigenetics, chromatin looping, and the future of understanding human disease. Images discussed in the podcast can be found below the links.

2D image

3D representation. From association to mechanism in complex disease genetics: the role of the 3D genome. Fu et al., Arthritis Res Ther. (2018); 20: 216. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13075-018-1721-x

Dec 12, 2018

To conserve species, managers need reliable estimates of their population trends. Samples are gathered over time, but the length of the sampling period is often established using crude rules of thumb rather than good statistical methods. Writing in BioScience, Dr. Easton R. White of the Center for Population Biology at the University of California, Davis, presents an analysis of 820 vertebrate species populations and demonstrates substantial problems with current sampling approaches. He argues that properly statistically powered methods will offer a truer representation of population health—leading to saved money and effort, better knowledge of species health, and ultimately, improved conservation outcomes.

            Dr. White joins us on this episode of BioScience Talks to discuss statistical power, his own analyses, and his recommendations for future conservation efforts.

 

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