AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: johnomer

Australian Wildfires to Be 3x as Frequent

Fires have been raging across Australia for almost four months now. Concentrated in the east, the fires have killed 24 people so far and over a billion mammals. Record high temperatures and a long drought are the main culprits of the devastating fires. Scientists claim that the cause of these abnormal conditions in Australia is climate change and predict that these fires will be three times as likely to occur by the end of the century.

An oscillating ocean-atmosphere weather pattern that starts in the Indian ocean is behind the particularly hot and dry seasons in Australia. The weather pattern has three phases: Positive, Neutral, and Negative. When the Indian Ocean dipole is in a strong positive phase it leads to Australia’s worst fire seasons. Wenju Cai of CSIRO is a climate scientist studying the fires.

“Global warming is likely to make such extreme positive phases much more common,” He said.

     In a 2014 study, he simulated future sea-surface temperature changes in the Indian Ocean in a world where greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. They found that the frequency of strong positive-phase events could increase from about once every 17 years to about once every six years, tripling the frequency of fires in Australia. When asked if there’s a link between the fires and climate change, Cai responded,

“The big message of our 2014 paper is that, under global warming, that kind of huge Indian Ocean dipole will increase threefold by 2100.”

Proven in the study by Wenju Cai, if greenhouse emissions continue on their path then fires in Australia will be three times as frequent by the end of the century. What we can do to give the planet a better future is reduce these emissions.

For more on the devastating fires in Australia, click here or here

What’s Happening with Human Gut Microbiome Research?

Researchers are on the brink of reveling strong links between the human gut biome and the health of the individual. The potential of this research seems limitless. The human gut biome is responsible for all sorts of conditions, ranging from inflammatory bowel disease to diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autism, cancer, and AIDS. Furthering our understanding of this biome could lead to cures for these conditions.

Soon, the first microbiome therapies will be available on the market for purchase. Rebiotix, the first acquisition of a microbiome company, is currently working on developing a therapy for C. difficile infections. In an interview, Lee Jones, founder and CEO of Rebiotix, said

It has become evident through research that the microbiota that humans carry have a significant impact on human health, [The C. difficile therapy] has the potential to be the first human gut microbiome product approved anywhere in the world.”

The C. difficile therapy would mark the first human gut biome therapy on the market, a major advance in medicine. This year is supposed to be an inflection point for human gut biome research. It is expected that research will finally show results proving that the therapies have effects on humans. If this comes true, the future for microbiome medicine is bright.


Proof of Life on Mars?

           On November 26th, 2011, NASA launched their Curiosity rover to mars to explore the Gale Crater: a 100 mile wide ancient basin. In a paper published by Nature Geoscience, the authors discuss rocks enriched in mineral salts found by Curiosity. These rocks serve as evidence of briny ponds that went through episodes of overflowing and drying out over the millions of years Mars has existed. The salt deposits in the rocks serve as a watermark for the transition from a wetter Mars to the freezing desert we know today.

         Gale Crater, the area being observed by Curiosity, formed after an ancient massive impact on the surface of mars. Sediment carried by water and wind slowly filled the crater and created a peak known as Mount Sharp. As Curiosity climbs the hill of Mount Sharp it observes the different layers of sediment built up on the slopes which hold clues to the environments of different periods of Martian history. Scientists have noticed a trend from a wet landscape to a drier one as Curiosity continues up the mountain. 

“Understanding when and how the planet’s climate started evolving is a piece of another puzzle: When and how long was Mars capable of supporting microbial life at the surface?” Said lead author William Rapin of Caltech

    With the proof of water once existing on the surface comes the possibility of Mars once harbouring life. With the new evidence being reported by Curiosity it’s obvious that Mars once contained water and has been experiencing a drying period ever since. What were once lakes possibly containing life are now barren craters. Did Mars once support life? Time will tell as Curiosity continues its mission across the red planet.



Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar