UW Darwin Days:”Discovering the DNA Discovery Center: Collections-Based Research in Evolutionary Biology, Museum Science Communication, and Outreach”;”Protecting Groundwater from Leaching Soil Contamination.”; “Design, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship: the Case Study of ‘Hello Loom!’”

Come Explore the Unknown!   
By Zoom:  at go.wisc.edu/240r59.  
In Person: Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison.
7pm Central
For 2/9/22    UW-Madison Darwin Days Special Wednesday Nite @ The Lab with Isabel Distefano from the Field Museum in Chicago
Hi WN@TL Fans,
DNA is a lot like an alphabet, I tell the middle schoolers who come to the Biotech Center for our Doing DNA:  The Code of Life field trips.  Kids are quick to know that not all languages are written (and not all languages are spoken); that not all written languages use an alphabet; and that there are many alphabets. They know, mostly, that there are 26 letters in the English alphabet, and they know the letters’ names and their canonical order.  
However, when I ask them: How many shapes did you have to learn to read the English alphabet?  Well, they usually say 26.  Then I nudge them to remember how many different shapes were actually in that alphabet that wrapped around their first-grade classroom above the blackboard like a Bayeux Tapestry in text instead of in textile.  Oh, comes the dawn:  there are two sets of letters, upper case and lower, so you have to learn extra shapes for some letters—A/a, B/b, D/d and so forth—while other dyads—C/c, K/k, O/o—are merely a pair of Me and Mini-me.  
But wait, there’s more.  A few years ago my daughter, a decade or a dozen years into her life, scoffed at a birthday card she’d received.  She couldn’t read it:  it was in cursive, in the Palmer method, as the Dominican nuns would say.  It was Greek to her, yet the words sprang and sang from the page to me.  I suspect at this late date that in my daughter’s eyes my ability to read cursive and to write Palmer will be as close to a superpower as I’ll ever have.  Thus, to learn to read the English alphabet, you may have to master two sets each of 52 shapes.  What exquisite distinctions in shape & meaning the human brain can parse.
DNA is a lot like an alphabet, but unlike the English alphabet, DNA has only four letters, only four shapes to learn, and there’s no upper case and lower case.  Speakers string phonemes into spoken words and spoken phrases, and information is gone with the wind.  In contrast, writers string written letters into written words, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into pages, and so forth.  And eventually, voila:  a story is written and told.
My young visitors may not know a lot about DNA, but most are well on their way to mastering a written language.  They can draw on that know-how as a metaphor for how DNA works for the same reasons famous folks in the 1950’s adopted the linguistic terms of replication, transcription and translation for copying DNA, for making a polymer of RNA based on a template of DNA, and for assembling a string of amino acids based on a template of RNA.  
In any alphabetical language, small changes in the orders of letters can make a big difference in meaning–or not. I ask the visitors how the Canadians spell ‘center’, and how they spell ‘color’.  This opens the door to etymology, and the tracing of the evolution of words back to a common tongue. 
With the coming of DNA sequencing, and especially the arrival of methods of high-speed, low-cost sequencing and computers & algorithms to help researchers see and compare patterns, the next level of linguistic metaphor for me is etymology.  Getting and then analyzing, especially sequencing, an organism’s DNA lets us peer into its past, to probe for connections to its cousins and more distant kin, to shake up and shake out our themes and schemes for how evolution has driven living things. 
DNA is a lot like an alphabet. Tonight, I think well also get to see how in the hands of insightful researchers, in parsing DNA our evolutionary stories can be written and told.   
On February 9 we celebrate UW Darwin Days with the JF Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution.  Our invited speaker will be Isabel Distefano with the Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution at the Field Museum, Chicago, IL.  She will speak by zoom to us on:
“Discovering the DNA Discovery Center:  Collections-Based Research in Evolutionary Biology, Museum Science Communication, and Outreach” 
Description:   Isabel Distefano is a technician in the Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution within the Field Museum. This is the museum’s only DNA lab space and she is one of three permanent staff members who helps manage the lab, its projects, and its users. The laboratory was also built out to display a permanent interactive exhibit space within the museum’s public area, called the DNA Discovery Center. Join Isabel for Darwin Day as she presents on the capabilities of the lab and exhibit space, her work as a bench scientist and museum science communicator, and ongoing projects and some collaborations within the lab. 
Explore More: 
Please note:  Isabel Distefano will speak to us by zoom, but you are welcome to come to Room 1111 to watch her talk.  Since we are celebrating Darwin’s birthday (February 12, 1809), we’ll have cake and other refreshments.  Probably will skip the 213  candles, though.
Bob Schneiker at the Sphinx in Egypt
On February 16 Bob Schneiker guides us through computer models that help geologists analyze threats to our water supplies in his talk entitled “Protecting Groundwater from Leaching Soil Contamination.”
Description: Soil and groundwater are precious resources that need protection. Permissible concentrations of contaminants in surface soil and groundwater are based on consumption. However, it is difficult to assess threats to groundwater quality posed by contaminants leaching from soil. Many regulatory agencies have turned to contaminant modeling. To ensure adequate protection of groundwater quality the default cleanup objectives are based on a worst-case scenario. Alternatively site-specific modeling can be performed that could indicate that higher levels of soil contamination are permissible while maintaining an equal protection of groundwater quality. Elsewhere, site-specific modeling may indicate that an imminent threat to groundwater quality exists that should be addressed before it gets worse.

Bio: Robert (Bob) Schneiker obtained a BS and MS in Geology/Geophysics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 1992 he performed SESOIL modeling for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Model results were used to establish soil cleanup standards for the WDNR NR 700 Rule Series. Bob provides support and training for his SEVIEW modeling software that is used by regulators and consultants around the world. He has presented papers on contaminant modeling in the United States, Canada, and the European Union. Mr. Schneiker conducts training seminars for consultants and regulatory agencies. He is currently a member of the MassDEP Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFAS) in Residuals Technical Workgroup. Bob also conducts research on the construction, age, and preservation of the Great Sphinx in Egypt.

Explore More:
Marianne Fairbanks
On February 23 Marianne Fairbanks of the School of Human Ecology returns to Wednesday Nite @ The Lab to share her sagas of ingenuity, innovation and entrepreneurship as she describes how she invented, patented and brought to market her hand-held “Hello Loom!”  Fibers are my mostest favoritest tactile technology. I learned to weave on a potholder loom my Grandma Deutsch gave me, and my Grandma Zinnen taught me how to knit.  Weavers are the original textualists to me, although the spiders prolly beat us to it with both spinning and webbing.   
Here’s how Prof. Fairbanks describes her talk entitled “Design, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship: the Case Study of ‘Hello Loom!’”
Description:  Weaving is the interlacement of threads at a 90 degree angle used to construct cloth that has been used for shelter and protection for over 12,000 years. While there are many ways to hold threads in tension on a loom or frame, Hello Loom, a hand-held laser-cut loom, designed by Associate Professor, Marianne Fairbanks offers portability and access to weaving in hopes of finding new ways to connect modern makers to this ancient technique. The small laser cut loom design, the size of a cell phone, was first developed as part of her social weaving project called Weaving Lab, hosted at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery in the summer of 2017 and 2018. Later, when traveling to Scandinavia for her Weaving Lab project, Fairbanks invited 40 Danish weavers to make small woven works on Hello Looms to see the range of current weaving practices. These weavings are now on exhibit as part of a show currently on exhibit at the Center for Design and Material Culture. Fairbanks will discuss the evolution of Hello Loom and how she has patented the design with the help of WARF. The idea grew into a business when Fairbanks realized how many people were eager to have their own experience with weaving. The mission of Hello Loom is to get as many people excited about the limitless possibilities of weaving that are found in combining colors, texture and patterns. Beyond the aesthetic and tactile pleasures of weaving, Fairbanks works with engineering and horticulture faculty to innovate textile-based solutions for a sustainable future.

Bio: Marianne Fairbanks is a visual artist, designer, and associate Professor of Design Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work spans the fields of art, design, and social practice, seeking to chart new material and conceptual territories, to innovate solution-based design, and to foster fresh modes of cultural production. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her BFA from the University of Michigan. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally in venues including The Museum of Art and Design, NY, USA, Copenhagen Contemporary, Copenhagen Denmark, RAM Gallery, Oslo, Norway and The Röhsska Museum of Design and Craft, Gothenburg, Sweden.
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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
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