“Wednesday Nite @ The Lab” Public Science Talks
Wednesdays at 7pm CT
Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison WI,
Stream by zoom at go.wisc.edu/240r59
For 14 September 2022
Hi WN@TL Fans,
When my colleague Liz Jesse and I welcome groups to our BioTrek Outreach Lab, we sometimes start the activities by inviting visitors to pick a pencil from a Terrace pitcher. The pencils come in five different colors, or rather I should say they come in five starting colors: soon, some of the kids notice with delight that the pencils are changing color in their hands. Whoa! What’s going on here?
We then coach the kids to think of all the factors the pencil is feeling while it’s in their hand. The kids come up with quite a list: heat, dirt, germs, gunk, skin oils, friction, and pressure; some even come up with the exclusion of air or of light. Once we have generated this family of working hypotheses, we do what experimental scientists do best: we become Scientists and test the ideas. So far in all our experiments since my colleague Cheryl Redman introduced color-changing pencils to our BioTrek lineup 20 years ago, heat alone has sufficed to trigger the color change.
If we have time, we ask the scientists to figure out the transition temperature of the color change. I suggest they take the “Goldilocks Approach”: put a pencil and a thermometer in a glass, add a little water that’s way too hot, and then add water that’s way too cold, until the pencil shifts from the high-temperature color to the cool color—and that’s the ‘just right’ temperature of transition.
Early on when I was first developing this schtick, a kid asked, ‘So, what’s this got to do with biotechnology?’ Originally, not much. But luckily, I had heard that among the several thousand genetic strains of fruit flies maintained in the various labs in the Genetics Department were several that were temperature sensitive. That is, if you warmed the flies up to our body temperature, ironically (to me) the flies froze—they stopped moving. Then if you cooled them back down to room temperature, they’d recover and start moving again.
Now, ideally, I would like to offer this fly activity to the visitors as an example of working with a model organism—a species that is small, fast, simple & cheap, and therefore great for speeding research—but I had heard it takes about two minutes to warm the flies up and about two minutes to cool the flies off, and plus when the flies recover, they could fly away. So we use the temperature-sensitive color-changing pencils as a kind of ‘model organism’ for a model organism. Kids can design and try experiments with pencils similar to the experiments they might try on flies, but the pencils are faster, simpler, and cheaper than using fruit flies. Thus, the pencil activity becomes an exploration of the powers and limits of model organisms.
With these pencils, small changes in temperature can trigger visible changes in color. On a global scale, we know that small changes in annual average temperature can trigger visible changes in the huge scale of polar ice caps and mountain-top glaciers. But what of shifts at the microscopic or metabolic scale? How might warming temperatures affect the physiology and functioning of animals? This week we get to hear how the fruit fly can give us insights into some of the biomolecular impacts of climate change.
On September 14 Ana Caroline Paiva Gandara from the Department of Genetics and the Morgridge Institute will speak on “Climate Change & the Consequences of Suboptimal Temperatures on Reproduction.”
Description: Changes in temperature have been reported worldwide due to climate change, as its affects on the behavior of animals. So, it has become urgent to investigate how temperature impacts reproductive traits, such as gametogenesis and fertility. Insects are particularly sensitive to environmental temperatures because they cannot properly regulate their internal temperatures. These animals are extremely relevant due to public health, economic, and ecological reasons; they have representatives of disease vectors, agricultural pests, and pollinators. Despite the accumulated knowledge on the effect of temperature on insect reproductive fitness, cellular and molecular mechanisms are basically unknown. Studies on the effects of suboptimal temperatures on the reproduction of insects may pave the way for further research into the effects of climate change on the gamete quality of cattle, and pollinators under adverse environmental conditions. I am going to present a brief history of the studies of the effects of temperature on insect reproduction, with a focus on the fruit flies as a model system, passing through temperature sensing systems, and a few data about my own research on the topic.
Bio: I was born in Brazil and have developed my whole scientific career at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ – Brazil. Most of my experience was studying biochemistry and redox metabolism of hematophagous insects, with a focus on NADPH-oxidase and mitochondria roles in the gut. Because of my early involvement with science, I could mentor many students, be on undergraduate committees and collaborate with different research groups, which has yielded me several publications as co-author. Since high school, I have often been attending and presenting posters at different national and international scientific meetings. I have also been involved with university outreach and science communication practices, as lectures in high schools, live events for the lay public, articles to diverse science communication media, and becoming a permanent volunteer in the traditional science museum “Espaço Ciência Viva” at Rio de Janeiro city, as a specialist monitor. From February 2018 to June 2022, I worked at the BMB department at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health as a postdoctoral fellow for Dr. Daniela Drummond-Barbosa. In July 2022, I started working as an Assistant Scientist at the Department of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and for Morgridge Institute for Research. Using the model system Drosophila melanogaster, I study the effects of thermal stress on gametogenesis. I want to pursue a career in academic research, as an insect stress physiology specialist.
Explore More: Drummond-Barbosa Lab – Morgridge Institute for Research
On September 21 Michael Menon, Airport Wildlife Hazards Program Manager with the Bureau of Aeronautics of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation; and graduate student at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, will speak on “At the Intersection of Wildlife & Aviation.”
Description: In this talk, I will be bringing to light the topic of wildlife hazard mitigation at airports, including an introduction to the problem as well as an exploration of what scientists & airport personnel are doing to keep aviation safe. I will also briefly touch on my graduate research projects at Wisconsin on wildlife in & around airports.
Bio: I moved to Wisconsin from the Georgia coast. Prior to that, I was in Dubuque, Iowa for a few years. Before living in Iowa, I lived in Athens, Georgia. I received my BA in Political Science from the University of Georgia. I currently work for the Wisconsin DOT at the Bureau of Aeronautics where I work on improving safety at airports through the mitigation of wildlife hazards to aviation. While aviation has always been a part of my career, my interest in natural resource conservation developed after graduating from college when I had the opportunity to work for several summers in New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji for the University of Georgia’s Discover Abroad program which focuses on sustaining human societies and the natural environment. I am excited to be able to combine my aviation background with my interest in natural resources as I pursue my graduate degree at the Nelson Institute under the guidance of David Drake. My thesis research focuses on identifying the driving factors behind wildlife presence in the airport environment and modeling wildlife strike probability. I like to spend my spare time traveling, hiking, and birding. Madison is an awesome place, and I feel very fortunate to have landed here!
Hope to see you soon, in person or by zoom, at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.
Tom ZinnenBiotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H
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Here are the components of the WN@TL User’s Guide:
1. The live WN@TL seminar, every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, at 7pm CT in Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center and on Zoom at go.wisc.edu/240r59
2. The WN@TL YouTube channel
3. WN@TL on the University Place broadcast channel of PBS Wisconsin
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