Sea Star Wasting Disease Update 2017

32822The years from 2013 through 2015 witnessed the largest non-commercial marine mass mortality event on record (as of 2013) as up to 96% of all Ochre Sea Stars on the coasts of California and Oregon perished. This created a ‘natural experiment’ and an opportunity to study genomic changes in wild populations with unprecedented detail. Rather than observing only the aftermath — usually the case in such catastrophes – a team of researchers from UC Merced is reconstructing the population and genetic consequences of this epidemic outbreak of sea star wasting disease. The team measured the abundance and genetic variation of Pisaster ochraceus (the Ochre Sea Star – a keystone species) in the year preceding mass mortality. They then repeated sampling of adults and juveniles in subsequent years, measuring population dynamics and genomic shifts during and after the disease outbreak. At a time when marine diseases and mass mortalities are on the rise, this study documents the impact of little-known wildlife diseases and potential trajectory of recovery in a keystone marine species.

Learn more and watch: Sea Star Wasting Disease Update 2017

NASA and International Cooperation

32822The 12th NASA Administrator, Charles F. Bolden Jr., shares how NASA’s programs and missions function as an instrument of international cooperation, demonstrating the steady guidance of the United States as the world’s leader.

Watch NASA International Cooperation – An Instrument of US Soft Power with Charles Bolden – 2017 Nierenberg Prize Lecture

New GRIT Talks from UCSB

842Get an up-close look at ground-breaking research and innovative technology from UCSB. Geared towards the community, these talks present the best minds from UCSB covering a wide-range of topics in science, medicine, technology and more. Check out these recent programs:


The Challenges That Society Brings to Engineering Designs
Understand the unique challenges that surface when seeking to design and control physical infrastructure such as transportation networks, power grids and data centers.

Why Antibiotics Fail – People Are Not Petri Plates
The standard antibiotic test used worldwide is based on how well drugs kill bacteria on petri plates — not in the body. Drugs that pass the standard test often fail to treat bacterial infections, whereas drugs identified by the “in vivo” test are very effective.

How Biology, Ecology, and Technology Balance Tradeoffs in an Uncertain World
Do complex systems exhibit fundamental properties? This talk looks at tradeoffs between robustness and fragility that occur in biological, ecological, and technological systems.

From Bitcoin to Central Bank Digital Currencies
Rod Garratt, UCSB Professor of Economics, describes his work on a project to build a proof of concept for a wholesale interbank payment system that facilitates payments of central bank digital currency using a distributed ledger.

Overcoming Climate Anxiety at a Time of Global Crisis
Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez discusses how humans can contribute to improving current ocean problems and eventually return the oceans to a more sustainable state.

The Remarkable Learning Abilities of the Human Brain
Greg Ashby studies how people learn new categories of objects. By mapping the neural networks, scientists have been able to identify many important and surprising differences in how we learn.

The Future of Computer Science: The Rock We Tricked Into Thinking
Explore the state of the art in computing and how the demands for energy efficient and intelligent systems is driving the creation of entirely new approaches to the problem.

The Math of Swarming Robots, Superconductors, and Slime Mold
Explore the mathematics underlying systems of interacting agents and how such systems can be analyzed using an age old scientific technique: what happens if we poke it?

Check out these programs and more on UCSB’s GRIT Talks.

More Dirt for Kids!

32822Rob Knight, the academic superstar who is leading the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego, says it’s important for kids to get dirty! He explains that exposing children to natural bacteria in the environment trains their immune systems how to respond to foreign threats. So, resist that urge to sterilize everything kids touch because you’re not helping. Instead, let them roll around in the grass, swim in rivers and the ocean, and cuddle with dogs. You might wince at the contact, but the germs they meet will make them stronger in the long run.

To learn more, check out Rob’s book, “Dirt is Good,” or watch him here:

Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs For Your Child’s Developing Immune System with Rob Knight

The Water Wars Have Begun

32822The Water Wars are coming – and according to Executive Producer Lynne Kirby, they’re already here.

Concerned about what her daughter would drink in the years ahead, Kirby became passionate about water conservation issues. She knew water was going to be a big issue in the decades to come – that water would be the “oil” of the 21st century.

She pitched the idea of making a documentary of the coming water wars to Alex Gibney, an investigative documentary filmmaker of films about Scientology, WikiLeaks, Enron and others. According to Kirby, Gibney’s the kind of guy who says, I’m coming after you… and you’re going down… and we’re going to peel back the onion and expose you.

Gibney then approached National Geographic who had been looking for a water project and the rest is history. Water & Power: A California Heist unfolds like a real-life version of the 1974 film noir Chinatown and uncovers the ruthless exploits of California’s notorious water barons, who profit off the state’s resources while everyday citizens endure a debilitating water crisis.

Watch Water & Power: Discussion of Documentary with host and UCSB Professor of Film & Media Studies, Constance Penley, and Executive Producer Lynne Kirby to hear more behind-the-scenes stories about this incredible documentary.