Day: October 18, 2021

Food tech startup uses fermentation to grow seafood alternatives

Read the full story at Food Business News.

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.

None of the 2021 science Nobel laureates are women – here’s why men still dominate STEM award winning

Frances Arnold received the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. © Nobel Media. Photo: Alexander Mahmoud

by Mary K. Feeney (Arizona State University)

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.

2019 was another year of all male laureates, after biochemical engineer Frances Arnold won in 2018 for chemistry and Donna Strickland received the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics.

Strickland and Ghez were only the third and fourth female physicists to get a Nobel, following Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert-Mayer 60 years later. When asked how that felt, Strickland noted that at first it was surprising to realize so few women had won the award: “But, I mean, I do live in a world of mostly men, so seeing mostly men doesn’t really ever surprise me either.”

The rarity of female Nobel laureates raises questions about women’s exclusion from education and careers in science and the undervaluing of women’s contributions on science teams. Women researchers have come a long way over the past century, but there’s overwhelming evidence that women remain underrepresented in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

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 individual programs 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.

What’s not working for women

Women face a number of structural and institutional barriers in academic STEM 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.

Additionally, working in male-dominated workplaces can leave women feeling isolated, perceived as tokens and susceptible to harassment. Women often are excluded from networking opportunities and social events, left to feel they’re outside the culture of the lab, the academic department and the field.

When women lack a critical mass in a workplace – making up about 15% or more of workers – they are less empowered to advocate for themselves and more likely to be perceived as a minority group and an exception. When in this minority position, women are more likely to be pressured to take on extra service as tokens on committees or mentors to female graduate students.

With fewer female colleagues, women are less likely to build relationships with female collaborators and support and advice networks. This isolation can be exacerbated when women are unable to participate in work events or attend conferences because of family or child care responsibilities, and because of an inability to use research funds to reimburse child care.

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.

People haven’t really updated their mental images of what a scientist looks like since Wilhelm Roentgen won the first physics Nobel in 1901. Wellcome Collection, CC BY

Implicit biases about who does science

All of us – the general public, the media, university employees, students and professors – have ideas of what a scientist and a Nobel Prize winner look like. That image is predominantly male, white and older – which makes sense given 96% of the science Nobel Prize winners have been men.

This is an example of an implicit bias: one of the unconscious, involuntary, natural, unavoidable assumptions that all of us – men and women – form about the world. People make decisions based on subconscious assumptions, preferences and stereotypes – sometimes even when they are counter to their explicitly held beliefs.

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.

Implicit bias can work against women’s hiring, advancement and recognition of their work. For instance, women seeking academic jobs are more likely to be viewed and judged based on personal information and physical appearance. Letters of recommendation for women are more likely to raise doubts and use language that results in negative career outcomes.

Implicit bias can affect women’s ability to publish research findings and gain recognition for that work. Men cite their own papers 56% more than women do. Known as the “Matilda Effect,” there is a gender gap in recognition, award-winning and citations.

Women’s research is less likely to be cited by others, and their ideas are more likely to be attributed to men. Women’s solo-authored research takes twice as long to move through the review process. Women are underrepresented in journal editorships, as senior scholars and lead authors, and as peer reviewers. This marginalization in research gatekeeping positions works against the promotion of women’s research.

When a woman becomes a world-class scientist, implicit bias works against the likelihood that she will be invited as a keynote or guest speaker to share her research findings, thus lowering both her visibility in the field and the likelihood that she will be nominated for awards. This gender imbalance is notable in how infrequently women experts are quoted in news stories on most topics.

Donna Strickland, outside her lab at the University of Waterloo, won her Nobel Prize in 2018 as an associate professor. Reuters/Peter Power

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.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on Oct. 5, 2018.

Mary K. Feeney, Professor and Lincoln Professor of Ethics in Public Affairs, Arizona State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The price of living near the shore is already high. It’s about to go through the roof.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

As FEMA prepares to remove subsidies from its flood insurance, a new assessment says 8 million homeowners in landlocked states are at risk of serious flooding because of climate change.

Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Biennial Report 2021

Download the document.

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.

The Green Chemistry Teaching and Learning Community

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.

Five years after largest marine heatwave on record hit northern California coast, many warm–water species have stuck around

Southerly species like the giant owl limpet, seen here, started appearing on northern California shores. Jerry Kirkhart/Flickr, CC BY

by Erica Nielsen and Sam Walkes (University of California, Davis)

Land–based heatwaves have a less obvious though equally important sibling: marine heatwaves. In 2013, the largest marine heatwave on record began when an unusually warm mass of water formed in the Gulf of Alaska. By the next summer, the warm water spread south, raising average water temperatures along the United States west coast by 3.6 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (2-4 Celsius). In 2015, a strong El Niño event strengthened the marine heatwave further.

And so “the Blob,” as oceanographers have dubbed this huge body of warm water, was born.

A map of the Pacific Ocean with huge swaths of red colors from the coast of North America to Russia.
This satellite image from fall 2014 shows the beginnings of the Blob, where red colors represent unusually warm water temperatures. NOAA via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Hundreds of dead small red crabs on a beach with two people and two dogs walking in the background.
Pelagic red crabs, normally found in warm waters off Mexico, began washing up on beaches in California in 2015. MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

With warm water came new species

The Blob changed weather as well as ocean currents, led to the deaths of thousands of marine mammals and birds, and caused harmful algal blooms. Animals also moved during the years of warm water with the Blob. Species that usually live in more southern, warmer waters expanded their ranges into northern California and Oregon.

Pelagic red crabs, usually found off the Baja California peninsula, washed up by the hundreds on beaches north of San Francisco. Keen naturalists were surprised to find that populations of bright green sunburst anenomes, giant owl limpets and pink volcano barnacles had in some places increased by the hundreds. Ecologists even discovered a new population of angular unicorn snails over 150 miles north of their original range edge.

The Blob was not destined to last forever. It eventually faded away and water temperatures returned to normal.

A map of California with four colored lines.
Many species have established new populations far north of their historical limits, as demonstrated in this graphic where the lighter colored bars show the previous range limits and the darker colors show the new range extensions. Erica Nielsen, Sam Walkes, CC BY-ND

Cooling temps

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.

Our team 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.

A small shelled creature stuck to a rock surrounded by barnacles.
The giant owl limpet, seen here nestled in a tide pool, is one of the species that has managed to establish itself in the northern waters. Sam Walkes, CC BY-ND

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.

A cluster of small snails on a rock.
Unicorn snails, seen here in a tide pool, migrated north during the warm years of the Blob. Some populations have managed to establish themselves permanently. Sam Walkes, CC BY-ND

Conserving shifting species in a changing ocean

Considering the effects of ongoing climate change, it is good news that species can move to track their preferred climate. It’s important to note that while species that move due to climate change are not invasive, these shifts can change existing ecosystems. For example, the Hilton’s nudibranch, a predatory sea slug, expanded northward during the Blob, which led to a decline in local nudibranchs.

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?

Erica Nielsen, Postdoctoral Researcher in Marine Biology, University of California, Davis and Sam Walkes, PhD Student in Ecology, University of California, Davis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A new way to track truck pollution

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

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.

The wildly inventive way one designer used old face masks

Read the full story in Fast Company.

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.

Academia’s ableist culture laid bare

Read the full story in Nature.

Four group leaders with disabilities share their thoughts on how to make laboratories and fieldwork more accessible and inclusive.

App helps cold storage facilities improve energy use

Read the full story at Environment + Energy Leader.

Star Refrigeration is releasing an app that will help temperature-controlled storage facilities compare their energy use across the industry to help them find their most efficient use of power.

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