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BioLine Blogs

The light at the end of the tunnel: bioluminescence’s fight against the climate crisis

UMN scientists use fungi to create a fluorescent glow in plants – a discovery that researchers hope to use to guide insects to pollinate flowers.

A small bumblebee travels swiftly through the air, searching for a flower to pollinate. It scans the field for vibrant colors and aromatic smells but finds that its timing is off. Flowers typically blossoming at this time of year don’t look quite ready, and the flowers it usually pollinates next month are already in full bloom. 

Breaking the Ice by Plunging Into a Puddle

How I learned to embrace embarrassment in science

Flies buzzed around my sweaty face as I pushed a patch of especially tall grassy sedges out of my way. It was a hot summer day and I stood in the middle of a wetland on Leech Lake in a long-sleeved shirt and chest-high waders. Thick clumps of roots and deceptively deep puddles added extra effort to every step. After an hour in the meadow, I was tired like I’d run miles.

I was having a great time. Sort of.

Luciferin, the lights behind science and food security

Using fungi bioluminescence in plants could increase crop pollination for food production.

On dark, starless, summer nights, sometimes we get surprised by steady lights emitted by click beetles or flashing lights from fireflies. Have you ever wondered why those lights liven up the sky? The lights are used to communicate, attract prey, defend, and mate. Maybe similar lights can be designed for plants to talk to insects to increase natural insect pollination rates of crops for food production. 

The flies are alright

Taking care of insects in the pursuit of science

It’s always warm in the fly room. The frequent clicking and spraying of the humidifier makes the air warm and thick, imbued with the unmistakable sticky smell of fly food. For those of us working here, it is an escape from the blustering Minnesota winter even if we have to shed all those layers to get comfortable.  Comfort is essential because you need to be on your toes when taking care of so many lives. 

Stop eating at Popeyes. Have olive oil instead.

Fad diets promise weight loss and a long healthy life. But, no diet follows through like the Mediterranean diet does.

When you look at places with the highest proportion of centenarians — no, not centaurs the mythical man horse combo; rather, people that live to be over 100-years-old — the small island of Sardinia nestled in the Mediterranean has the third highest population in the world right behind the US and Japan. 

Scientists know that the high levels of olive oil in Sardinian diets explains why they live so long. But they didn’t know why until now.

Fresh forays into fly vision

Flies in the lab get a color TV while researchers watch their neurons fire. Researchers at the UMN devise a new set up to get a deeper look at how flies see color. 

Fly eyes play an important role in picking up information about the world around them, finding food and avoiding danger. But before this information can become useful, neural circuits in the brain need to simplify and extract the important components. Within milliseconds these little insects make complex decisions about where to turn, what to eat and what to avoid. 

Life as we know it, and as we don’t

Age-old existential questions such as “how did we get here?” and “are we alone?” bridge the gap between science and philosophy. Scientists who study astrobiology -- the study of the story of life past, present, and future in the Universe -- seek to answer these questions.

The field of astrobiology is as big as the Universe itself; it encompasses many disciplines including physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, geology, and planetary science, to name a few.

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