The Science of Sustainability

Biology

Geneticists Solve Van Gogh's Mutant Sunflowers After 125 Years

Geneticists Solve Van Gogh's Mutant Sunflowers After 125 Years

Most admirers of Vincent van Gogh's iconic "Sunflower" paintings gaze upon the golden inflorescences without any awareness of the scientific conundrum they pose. But researchers from the University of Georgia have finally cracked the case with a paper published in PLoS Genetics.

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Prop 71: Stem Cell Funding Was Overhyped But Worth It

Prop 71: Stem Cell Funding Was Overhyped But Worth It

Remember back in 2004 that big debate about whether California voters should fund embryonic stem (ES) cell research? Well it passed and now 8 years later, people are starting to ask what we have to show for it.

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Life Aquatic and Terrestrial: California Newts

Life Aquatic and Terrestrial: California Newts

Over the last couple of weeks I've visited the seasonal ponds in the East Bay at Sibley Volcanic Preserve and small creeks at Briones Regional Park and found California newts engaging in their spring rituals of courtship and mating.

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The Circus of Evolution

The Circus of Evolution

I was super-excited to see Totem because A) a friend who saw it in San Francisco raved about it, and B) it's about evolution! How cool is that? Cirque du Soleil says of their latest touring show, "TOTEM traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly."

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The Salmon are Back! (But Why?)

The Salmon are Back! (But Why?)

Biologists say more than 800,000 Sacramento Chinook are off the coast right now. It’s the biggest number they've seen since 2005.

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Small Rewards: Tiny Frogs and Chameleons Find and Fill a Niche

Small Rewards: Tiny Frogs and Chameleons Find and Fill a Niche

Recent discoveries of a Lilliputian lizard and elfin amphibian, fascinating in their own right, highlight one of the most enduring questions in biology: what controls the evolution of body size? They also provide a rare bright spot amid the relentless reports of endangered and disappearing amphibian and reptile species around the world.

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Round Up Rebels: The Rise of the Superweed

Round Up Rebels: The Rise of the Superweed

As any biologist would have predicted, weeds are becoming resistant to the herbicide Round Up. But they aren't resistant because they took up a gene that had been added to the GM crops. They are resistant because that is what happens when you overuse an herbicide.

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Feds Pay For Out-of-the-Box Energy Ideas

Feds Pay For Out-of-the-Box Energy Ideas

Did you know the federal government has a clean tech venture fund? QUEST talks with the head of the program, ARPA- E, about some potentially transformational energy ideas.

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Gigantic Journeys: Humpback and Gray Whale Migration

Gigantic Journeys: Humpback and Gray Whale Migration

Perhaps no living thing has a better appreciation of the continuity of the seas than the largest animals in them: whales.

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Millipede Mystery: A New Fluorescent Subspecies on Alcatraz?

Millipede Mystery: A New Fluorescent Subspecies on Alcatraz?

During a routine February survey on Alcatraz Island, surveyors found no sign no rats. Instead, they discovered a colony of millipedes glowing with an intense white light.

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Grazing a New Trail

Grazing a New Trail

In California's arid San Joaquin Valley, scientists propose a novel approach to managing the landscape to benefit the threatened lizards, kangaroo rats, and squirrels who call it home. Livestock grazing, often demonized in the conservation world, can actually help create livable habitat for smaller creatures when well-managed.

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The Fact and Fiction of Fantastic Hybrids

The Fact and Fiction of Fantastic Hybrids

Have you heard of the Poisonous Fiddlerfrog, whose tadpoles grow up into crabs? Or the Hummingshrew, who eats flies as well as nectar? These animals aren't real, so you'd only know about them if you've seen Voyage Through a Hidden World.

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Reproduction Unleashed

Reproduction Unleashed

Stem cell technology may one day help infertile couples conceive. And it might even allow same sex couples to conceive as well.

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Lone Wolf’s Historic Trek Provokes Questions and Concerns

Lone Wolf’s Historic Trek Provokes Questions and Concerns

OR7, the lone gray wolf from a pack in Oregon, crossed back into his home state yesterday after two months of wandering in Northern California. With OR7’s arrival, California has been thrown into a national debate about how to manage wolves.

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Fantastic Voyage: The Salmon's Uphill Struggle for Survival

Fantastic Voyage: The Salmon's Uphill Struggle for Survival

California's critically endangered coho salmon are at a crossroads. Hundreds of thousands of fish once returned to our streams to spawn. But dams, water diversion, and habitat destruction have pushed the coho to the brink of extinction. Without heroic habitat restoration and water conservation efforts, we may lose our storied silver fish.

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Beautiful Slime

Beautiful Slime

Ross's film Leviathans is on display at the Vast and Undetectable exhibit in the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery.

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Evolution, Easy as Can Be

Evolution, Easy as Can Be

Evolving from something simple like a single celled beast into a slug, mushroom, cactus or a human seems impossibly hard. The series of precise DNA changes you need is mind-boggling to think about. Unless, of course, the changes are easier than we imagine.

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A Birder’s-Eye View of Conservation

A Birder’s-Eye View of Conservation

The Great Backyard Bird Count gives novice Bay Area wildlife watchers the chance to play field biologist in their own backyards and help scientists gather data on the incidence, abundance, and distribution of birds. Researchers will use sightings to identify trends that will help conserve these valuable indicators of biodiversity.

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One Whale's Tale

One Whale's Tale

A rooftop is a long way from the deep blue sea, so when I learned that the skull of a juvenile minke whale was resting atop the California Academy of Sciences' living roof, my curiosity was piqued.

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What Can Lake Vostok Tell Us About Europa?

What Can Lake Vostok Tell Us About Europa?

Does the prospect of life in subglacial Lake Vostok really point to the same on the icy satellite Europa? The answer may surprise you.

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