Food technology startup Aqua Cultured Foods is developing whole-muscle cut seafood alternatives created through microbial fermentation. The company plans to introduce its first commercial products early next year.
All of the 2021 Nobel Prizes in science were awarded to men.
That’s a return to business as usual after a couple of good years for female laureates. In 2020, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna won the chemistry prize for their work on the CRISPR gene editing system, and Andrea Ghez shared in the physics prize for her discovery of a supermassive black hole.
Studies have shown that those women who persist in these careers face explicit and implicit barriers to advancement. Bias is most intense in fields that are dominated by men, where women lack a critical mass of representation and are often viewed as tokens or outsiders. This bias is even more intense for transgender women and nonbinary individuals.
As things are getting better in terms of equal representation, what still holds women back in the lab, in leadership and as award winners?
Good news at the start of the pipeline
Traditional stereotypes hold that women “don’t like math” and “aren’t good at science.” Both men and women report these viewpoints, but researchers have empirically disputed them. Studies show that girls and women avoid STEM education not because of cognitive inability, but because of early exposure and experience with STEM, educational policy, cultural context, stereotypes and a lack of exposure to role models.
For the past several decades, efforts to improve the representation of women in STEM fields have focused on countering these stereotypes with educational reforms and individualprograms that can increase the number of girls entering and staying in what’s been called the STEM pipeline – the path from K-12 to college and postgraduate training.
These approaches are working. Women are increasingly likely to express an interest in STEM careers and pursue STEM majors in college. Women now make up half or more of workers in psychology and social sciences and are increasingly represented in the scientific workforce, though computer and mathematical sciences are an exception.
According to the American Institute of Physics, women earn about 20% of bachelor’s degrees and 18% of Ph.D.s in physics, an increase from 1975 when women earned 10% of bachelor’s degrees and 5% of Ph.D.s in physics.
More women are graduating with STEM Ph.D.s and earning faculty positions. But they encounter glass cliffs and ceilings as they advance through their academic careers.
In addition to issues related to the gender pay gap, the structure of academic science often makes it difficult for women to get ahead in the workplace and to balance work and life commitments. Bench science can require years of dedicated time in a laboratory. The strictures of the tenure-track process can make maintaining work-life balance, responding to family obligations and having children or taking family leave difficult, if not impossible.
Universities, professional associations and federal funders have worked to address a variety of these structural barriers. Efforts include creating family-friendly policies, increasing transparency in salary reporting, enforcing Title IX protections, providing mentoring and support programs for women scientists, protecting research time for women scientists and targeting women for hiring, research support and advancement. These programs have had mixed results.
For example, research indicates that family-friendly policies such as leave and onsite child care can exacerbate gender inequity, resulting in increased research productivity for men and increased teaching and service obligations for women.
Research shows that an implicit bias against women as experts and academic scientists is pervasive. It manifests itself by valuing, acknowledging and rewarding men’s scholarship over women’s scholarship.
Women scientists are afforded less of the respect and recognition that should come with their accomplishments. Research shows that when people talk about male scientists and experts, they’re more likely to use their surnames and more likely to refer to women by their first names.
Why does this matter? Because experiments show that individuals referred to by their surnames are more likely to be viewed as famous and eminent. In fact, one study found that calling scientists by their last names led people to consider them 14% more deserving of a National Science Foundation career award.
Seeing men as prize winners has been the history of science, but it’s not all bad news. Recent research finds that in the biomedical sciences, women are making significant gains in winning more awards, though on average these awards are typically less prestigious and have lower monetary value.
Addressing structural and implicit bias in STEM will hopefully prevent another half-century wait before the next woman is acknowledged with a Nobel Prize for her contribution to physics. I look forward to the day when a woman receiving the most prestigious award in science is newsworthy only for her science and not her gender.
The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy 2021 Biennial Report is the third report to provide the public with updates on the implementation of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, released in 2015. The strategy continues to be guided by Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Department of Agriculture, and University of Illinois Extension, with input and feedback from the Policy Working Group and several other stakeholder groups and councils. This biennial report provides a 2019-20 overview of the efforts and investments made in reducing nutrient loss to Illinois waterways from source sectors: agriculture, point sources, and urban stormwater.
Read the full post at the GCI Nexus blog. I’m a proud member of the leadership committee for this project.
My name is Dr. Jonathon Moir and I am thrilled to be writing to you today as the new Program Manager for the Green Chemistry Teaching and Learning Community (GCTLC). The GCTLC—an online platform set to launch in 2023—is a joint initiative announced in December by the ACS Green Chemistry Institute and Beyond Benign that will help revolutionize the way green chemistry educational resources are shared and further catalyze collaboration, networking and mentorship among educators, students, industry stakeholders and community members.
And so “the Blob,” as oceanographers have dubbed this huge body of warm water, was born.
Interestingly, a number of species moved northward to places along the west coast of the U.S. where the water had previously been too cold for them.
We are a marine evolutionary biologist and a marine ecologist, and are currently studying these recent arrivals to the northern California coast. Through our work, we hope to understand what has allowed species to not only move with the Blob, but persist after the water cooled.
The Blob was not destined to last forever. It eventually faded away and water temperatures returned to normal.
Many species that arrived with the Blob didn’t stay within the colder northern waters once the heatwave passed. For example, open water species like the common dolphin followed the warm waters north, then migrated back southward once waters cooled. But many coastal species are sessile – meaning they are stuck to rocks for all their adult lives. But these species are not attached to rocks when they are young. During the early larval stages, they ride ocean currents and can travel dozens of miles to find new coastlines to live on.
The Blob’s warm waters and shifting currents allowed the larvae of many species to move far past their northern boundaries while remaining in their environmental comfort zone. However, when the marine heatwave ended, the real survival test began.
Ourteam has been tracking these northern coastal populations to see which species have persisted post-Blob. Each year our team returns to the cold, wave-pounded northern California shores to monitor existing populations and look for new recruits – young individuals that survived their larval stage and successfully settled on rocks.
Every year we are excited to find new barnacle, snail and slug recruits. Of the 37 coastal species our team has been tracking, at least five have maintained small but stable northern populations after the warm waters of the Blob disappeared.
Who goes from northern tourist to local?
In addition to monitoring populations, our team is also gathering ecological and evolutionary information about these species. The giant owl limpet is one of the species that has persisted, and we want to identify what traits helped them survive after the Blob ended.
In general, traits that help a species settle in a new environment include the ability to grow and reproduce faster, choose suitable habitats, defend territories or have more offspring. To test some of these ideas, our team is conducting ecological experiments along the California coast, and we are annually recording growth for more than 2,500 individual limpets. We are also experimentally pitting juvenile owl limpets against larger adults and other competing limpet species. We hope that this work will reveal whether the new limpets on the block can grow rapidly while competing with others.
But the ecology is only half of the range expansion story. In tandem with the ecological experiments, our lab is sequencing owl limpet genomes to identify genes that potentially code for traits like faster growth or competitive prowess. It’s possible to figure out on a genetic level what is allowing certain species to survive.
Research shows that marine heatwaves are becoming more common thanks to climate change. By understanding the ecological and evolutionary attributes that allowed some species to endure and even thrive during and after the Blob, we may be able to predict what will allow species to expand further during future marine heatwaves.
The Blob 2.0 is coming; what changes will it bring?
Until now, there has been no method to attribute air pollution to individual companies that rely on and pay for trucks to move their goods. A new peer-reviewed framework enables the calculation of local health impacts from diesel trucks based on a company’s market share and public information about their industry sector.
Since plastic masks can’t be recycled, they’ll end up clogging landfills where they won’t biodegrade but will break down into smaller and smaller plastic fragments that will end up in our waterways, harming both animals and humans. But what if we used old masks to create useful new products? That’s the idea motivating the Italian artist and designer Tobia Zambotti, whose latest project is a puffer jacketed filled with plastic face masks as insulation.