Psychedelics as Catalysts for Change; The Big Blue-Green Algae Monster from Lake Mendota; Grassland 2.0 in Restoring People & Prairie to Agriculture

Explore the Unknown!
For December 1, 2021
Hi WN@TL Fans,
As I drove on I-94 to Chicago on Sunday afternoon I noticed a huge sign standing about three feet south of the state line hawking cannabis. The billboards at the border tell a tale of two states:  southbound, they’re now selling marijuana; northbound, we’re still selling cheese.
This is astonishing to me, the rapid change in the status of marijuana over the past few years.  It is a shift unmatched in the US since the end of federal Prohibition of alcohol in 1933.
The legal status of marijuana in the United States is a podge of hodge, ranging from fully illegal (eg, Idaho and South Carolina), to CBD oil only (eg, Wisconsin and Iowa), to decriminalized recreational use and permitted medical use (eg, Minnesota), to fully legalized (eg, Michigan and Illinois). On Sunday I was reminded that my grandparents in Racine used to make a run for the border just to buy margarine.
The state-by-state patchwork of marijuana laws might soon be applied to other drugs that decades ago were made illicit, illegal and even immoral.  The shift in legal status and in public acceptance comes in part, or so it seems to me, from the entering of my fellow Baby Boomers into the ranks of the elderly and into the age of arthritis, and the recognition especially by some veterans of the possible benefits of certain mind-altering chemicals in treating PTSD.
These transitions may be viewed as steps in the pharmaceuticalization of illegalized drugs that can safely alleviate physiological pain and lighten psychological anguish.  One might imagine a coming jurisdictional yin & yang between the DEA and the FDA.  In any case, these changes are giving a new twist to the phrase “drug rehabilitation.”
On December 1 Cody Wenthur of the School of Pharmacy speaks on “Psychedelics as Catalysts for Change” featuring the work of the new Transdisciplinary Center for Research on Psychoactive Substances.
Psychedelics as Catalysts for Change
Description: Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy approaches using ketamine, MDMA, or psilocybin have shown substantial promise in human trials for the treatment of  difficult psychiatric conditions including end-of-life anxiety, treatment resistant depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, there remain many important questions regarding the mechanisms by which these interventions lead to both rapid and lasting behavioral change. Using translational approaches that range from organic synthesis to human studies, the Wenthur Lab is interrogating the role of acute corticosteroid release in the behavioral outcomes following psilocybin administration, assessing polypharmacologic contributions of active metabolites to ketamine’s functional profile, and investigating how differential self-identity and experiential memory contribute to variation in clinical psychedelic studies. In this talk, Dr. Wenthur will discuss the results of these studies to date, highlighting the possible means by which psychedelics may act as molecular change agents, and he will also share insights into how the design and development of these psychedelic research studies have acted to change the trajectory of his own career development thus far.
Bio: Cody Wenthur is an innovative, translational investigator in psychopharmacology who has been on the UW–Madison faculty since 2018. His work is focused on improving our understanding of the basis for beneficial and detrimental effects of opioids, cannabinoids, psychedelics, and other neuroplasticity-inducing approaches in the context of novel therapeutic approaches for promoting and maintaining mental health. His research program has received both basic and clinical grant and fellowship support from NIGMS, NIDA, NIMH, independent foundations, and philanthropic funds. The resulting findings have been published in leading journals such as Nature and PNAS and have yielded the development of first-in-class tool compounds and generated new pharmacologic techniques for the investigation of complex psychoactive mixtures. His scientific research is complemented by his dedicated support of graduate education in neuropharmacology, including active service as the founding director of the Psychedelic Pharmaceutical Investigation Master’s program, and mentorship of PharmD and PhD students in the Pharmaceutical Sciences, Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, and Neuroscience Training Programs.
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On December 8 Trina McMahon of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering speaks on 
“The Big Blue-Green Algae Monster from Lake Mendota: Will It Eat You?”

Description: Lake Mendota is an amazing resource for the City of Madison and the UW. It is also known as the best studied lake in the world. However, if you’ve spent time near the shoreline or on the lake, you know that it can get pretty ugly in the summertime. Blue green algae have plagued the lake since at least the 1850’s and continue to contribute to beach closures and generally poor water quality. They make toxins that poison dogs and occasionally humans. Why do these nasties appear in our lakes every summer? How worried should we really be about swimming and water skiing in the lake? What can we do to make them go away? The McMahon lab studies the water microbiome and this WN@TL will focus on our recent findings related to the blue-green algae specifically.

Bio: Professor Katherine (Trina) McMahon is a professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She obtained her BS and MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and her PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. Her research interests lie at the intersection of water quality and microbiology with a focus on biological wastewater treatment and freshwater microbial ecology. Trina is passionate about professional development related to teaching, especially for pre-faculty.
On December 15  Randy Jackson of the Department of Agronomy and the Wisconsin Energy Institute speaks on 
“Grassland 2.0:  Restoring People & Prairie to Agriculture.”

Description: Grassland 2.0 is a USDA-funded project focused on transforming agriculture in the upper Midwest from grain-based to grassland-based livestock production. The benefits of such a transformation would be restoring critical functions of the original prairie — soil building, clean water, biodiversity — as well as increased profitability, which should keep more and more diverse farmers on the land. Our approach combines top-down efforts to raise awareness by developing this narrative and bottom-up efforts to build-out place-based conversations about how to make this transformation happen.

Bio: Jackson earned his BS in Environmental Science from UC Riverside, MS in Natural Resource Sciences from Humboldt State University, and PhD in Ecosystem Sciences from UC Berkeley. Currently, he is Campbell-Bascom Professor of Grassland Ecology in the Department of Agronomy at UW-Madison. His group explores how agroecosystems accumulate and retain carbon and nutrients while supporting biodiversity. He helps direct Grassland 2.0 and the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial, a 30-yr-old experiment comparing ecosystem services provided by a range of cropping systems typical of the upper Midwest.

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Remember, we’ve now shifted to Hybrid so we can both Zoom and gather in one Room—Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison WI.
Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!
Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H