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CBS News - September 2013


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U exploring potential new college

Provost Karen Hanson announced plans to convene a task force to consider the creation of a new college that would include the College of Biological Sciences and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. The new college would encompass life sciences, environment and agriculture. A list of task force members and a schedule of public listening sessions are expected to be posted to the provost’s website later this week.

“There are so many potential upsides to our two colleges joining forces,” says Dean Robert Elde. “Bringing together the strengths of CBS and CFANS would make us more resilient and nimble. It would raise our visibility and boost our influence within the University and at the legislature. At the same time, the rigor and sense of community that have come to define the undergraduate experience would remain unchanged. I believe that as people learn more about the vision for the new college, they will be as excited about it as I am.”

  • Read Dean Elde’s message to faculty, students and staff about the potential new college
  • Sign up to attend Caffeine With the Dean to hear more about the vision for a new college
  • Go to the Provost's website about the possible new college

Itasca donor funds matching gift challenge

A longtime supporter of Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories has offered to match up to 10 new $5,000 contributions. One-time gifts of $5,000 or a pledge of $1,000 per year for five years qualify for the match. Donors who make gifts by December 31 that qualify for matching funds will receive special recognition at the ribbon-cutting ceremony this spring, a place on the donor wall in the lobby of the new building, and invitations to special events at Itasca. Learn more about the Itasca Matching Gift Challenge.

College launches second round of cluster hiring

Following a successful initial effort to recruit and hire new faculty working in emerging areas of the biological sciences that connect with other STEM disciplines, CBS is launching a second round of faculty searches focusing on three clusters: cellular biophysics, genome variation, and microbial systems and synthetic biology. So far, nine new faculty in five of the six research clusters have been hired. Yue Chen (Functional Proteomics), Ran Blekhman (Genome Variation) and Peter Kennedy (Fungal Evolution) started in August, and the remaining faculty will start next year.

CBS diversity brown bag series kicks off September 24

Professor Marlene Zuk (EEB) will lead off the CBS Bio-diversity Brown Bag series September 24 with a discussion about the impact of gender on science careers. Post-doctoral researcher Jeremy Yoder (PBS) will go over his research on the impact of LGBT identities on scientific careers October 15 and Sehoya Cotner (Biology Program) will talk about her efforts to incorporate diversity topics in her introductory biology courses November 1. The lunchtime series, which will feature short presentations followed by informal discussion on topics at the intersection of diversity and the sciences, will culminate in a campus-wide “Critical Conversation” on the culture of science November 11. More information

Also of interest…

Marine biology in Minnesota? You betcha! CBS students can now minor in marine biology. Learn more about the program.

Cece Martin has traveled hundreds of miles collecting native plant seeds – and she doesn’t even have a license.

Professor Jennifer Powers gives tropical dry forests overdue attention in her new book about these rain forest cousins. 

  • A study led by Sehoya Cotner (Biology Program), which found that students in active learning classrooms do better than their peers in large, lecture-based classes, was featured in Science’s “editor’s choice” section.
  • Health and Biological Research News, a group in for students interested in interpreting and communicating scientific literature for a broad audience, will present at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference in November.
  • Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve was a featured field site during this year's Ecological Society of America's Annual Meeting. Researchers and staff hosted 53 fellow ecologists, showcasing key experiments and natural areas.
  • The University's STEM Center and Cedar Creek conducted a summer intensive masters-level course for K-12 science teachers, Ecology and Earth Systems Dynamics for Educators, and spearheaded the MN Department of Education funded Math and Science Teacher Partnership (MSTP) climate change workshop.


New $2 million federal grant will support research at Cedar Creek

Two federal agencies have awarded a $2 million grant for a multi-institutional research effort centered at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. Jeannine Cavender-Bares (EEB) is principal investigator for the project, called "Linking remotely sensed optical diversity to genetic, phylogenetic and functional diversity to predict ecosystem processes." Sarah Hobbie (EEB) and Peter Reich and Rebecca Montgomery (CFANS) are co-PIs. Participants will include CBS graduate students and researchers from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Funding agencies are the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Funding begins May 2014.

Female frogs prefer mates who are good multi-taskers

Animal Behavior | 8.13

In a study of gray tree frogs, a team of University of Minnesota researchers discovered that females prefer males whose calls reflect the ability to multitask effectively. In this species (Hyla chrysoscelis) males produce "trilled" mating calls that consist of a string of pulses. Typical calls can range in duration from 20-40 pulses per call and occur between 5-15 calls per minute. Males face a trade-off between call duration and call rate, but females preferred calls that are longer and more frequent, which is no simple task. "It’s kind of like singing and dancing at the same time," says lead author Jessica Ward, a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Mark Bee (EEB). The study supports the multitasking hypothesis, which suggests that females prefer males who can do two or more hard-to-do things at the same time because they are better quality mates. Go to the news release.

Adapting to human environments makes some animals smarter

Proceedings of the Royal Academy B | 8.21.13

Does adapting to environments shaped by humans make animals smarter? A paper from the lab of Emilie Snell-Rood (EEB) suggest that animals are showing complex cognitive responses to both urban and rural areas with cranial capacity tracking human-induced change in some cases. In other words, for some species the answer is yes and for others it is no. Go to the story.

Brain hormone regulates light avoidance in fruit fly larvae

Science | 9.6.13

Naoki Yamananka and Michael O'Connor (GCD), in conjunction with French scientist Pierre Leopold, have discovered that prothoracicotropic hormone (PTTH), a neuropeptide that controls the metamorphosis of Drosophila (fruit flies) from juveniles to adults, also regulates light avoidance in larvae. The researchers found that PTTH drives animals toward a darker environment to initiate the immobile maturation phase. Thus, PTTH controls the decisions of when and where animals undergo metamorphosis, optimizing conditions for adult development. Go to the paper.

New approach predicts metagenome of a complex microbial community

Nature Biotechnology | 8.25.13

Dan Knights (BTI) has developed a method to predict the metagenome of a complex microbial community (e.g., the human gut) with up to 90 percent accuracy using only marker gene sequences combined with evolutionary models and a database of reference genomes. The approach, called PICRUSt, will enable researchers to gain new insights into the functional profiles of the thousands of published uncultivated microbial communities for which only marker gene surveys exist. While marker genes reveal the types of organisms in a microbial community, they don’t provide information about their functions. Go to the paper.


CBS Dean Robert Elde announced that he will retire at the end of the 2013-14 academic year. Elde, who has been dean of the College of Biological Sciences since 1995, is the U's longest-serving dean.

David Tilman (EEB) and Reuben Harris were named to President Kaler's Strategic Planning Workgroup, which will develop the vision, mission, values, goals and strategies for the University's next strategic plan.

Craig Packer will discuss his research and his efforts to ensure the survival of lions at the Chicago Humanities Conference on November 2.

Michelle Price joined the Biology Program as an assistant professor in August.

Randy Moore and Sehoya Cotner (Biology Program) led two groups of students to the Galápagos over the summer as part of their “Biology of the Galápagos” course.

After leading the Biology Colloquium Program for two decades, Kathryn Hanna (Biology Program), who is on phased retirement, has handed off leadership to Carolyn Silflow (PBIO).

Stefanie Wiesneski (Student Services) has been named advising coordinator. In her new role, she is responsible for supervising CBS’ academic advisors and shepherding implementation of the academic advising curriculum. Assistant Director Meaghan Miller Thul will focus on supporting student programs, student retention and new student recruitment. She is also the primary liaison for recruitment and will oversee communication and branding for the office.

Robert Elde gave a presentation on leadership in biology education at the Vision & Change in Undergraduate Biology Education conference in Washington DC. Also representing CBS were Sue Wick with a poster presentation about Foundations of Biology and Robin Wright, who spoke about a new journal she founded called CourseSource.

Retired BMBB professor Vic Bloomfield is on the editorial board and contributed to the inaugural issue of the University-produced Journal of of Opinions, Ideas and Essays. The journal includes articles, reviews, short stories, poems, photographic essays, essays on scholarly topics, opinion pieces and discussions of pedagogical or curricular issues.



GenoFest 2013

The University of Minnesota Genomics Center presents an all-day symposium of genomics technology.

Cancer + Cardiovascular Research Building | East Bank | 8:15 a.m.-5:45 p.m. | Register


DuPont recruiting and information session

BTI is co-sponsoring an information session and recruiting visit from DuPont for graduate students, post-docs and faculty.

Cargill Atrium | St. Paul | 6 - 7:30 p.m. | Details


Bio-diversity brown bag series: Does the gender of scientists matter?

Professor Marlene Zuk talks about the ways men and women scientists differ in their career paths and how they are perceived.

350 Learning + Environmental Sciences | St. Paul | noon | Details


Campus Conversation with VP for Research Brian Herman

Hear about OVPR's strategic planning process and efforts to transform the research enterprise. Herman will also discuss several key research initiatives, including MnDRIVE.

322 Coffman Union | East Bank | 1 p.m. | Register


The biology and management of Asian carp: Lessons for Minnesota

Duane Chapman, a research biologist and national leader in efforts to study, control and prevent the spread of Asian carp, will give the first talk of the Moos Family Speaker Series on Water Resources.

St. Paul Student Center | 7 p.m. | Register



Mid-career faculty women’s community

Designed for full-time faculty women who are associate or full professors, teaching professors, or clinical professors, this group will focus on issues central to the experience of faculty women. info + registration