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NCEAS’ DataONE Streamlines Search and Analysis of Massive Amounts of Ecological Data


data one scientists

In response to the growing need for a way to easily access and analyze massive amounts of heterogeneous data in the fields of earth and environmental sciences, UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a core partner in a joint effort to streamline such research, presents DataONE, the Data Observation Network for Earth. DataONE is capable of providing researchers access to globally distributed, networked data from a single point of discovery.

It’s an effort that can take researchers nearly a year to complete, as they examine and analyze various forms of information, from remotely sensed data, to hundreds of published papers, to historic observational field data. Simultaneously, these researchers search remote repositories, check for duplicates, and integrate the information, as they try to find answers to complex problems that affect both science and society.

Scientists and other users, meanwhile, will experience massive gains in efficiency, ease of access, and reductions in redundancy, as the data submitted to one repository will be easily available from multiple participating repositories. Users will also have the security of data persistence, thanks to better data curation and institutional diversity, which ensure that data do not disappear when organizations shift priorities or lose funding.

The data will also be available to a wide variety of audiences. K-16 educators, those who could use the information as the basis for policy and management decisions, funders, and stakeholders will also have access to data from DataONE.


salmon

Seafood, Wild or Farmed? The Answer May Be Both

Most people think of seafood as either wild or farmed, but in fact both categories may apply to the fish you pick up from your grocery store. In recent years, for example, as much as 40 percent of the Alaskan salmon catch originated in fish hatcheries, although it may be labeled “all wild, never farmed.”

An article produced by a working group of UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis recommends when a combination of seafood production techniques are used that they are acknowledged in the marketplace. The group calls on national and international organizations and governmental agencies to use the term “hybrid,” when applicable. The article is in Marine Policy, and is currently available online.

The article reveals how the strictly traditional categories of seafood production — fisheries and aquaculture — are insufficient to account for the growth potential and environmental impacts of the seafood sector. The authors examine several popular seafood products that are harvested using a combination of techniques generally ascribed to either fisheries or aquaculture.


Scientists Employ a Powerful UCSB Laser to Breathe New Life into an Old Technology for Studying Atomic-Level Structures

scientists

A multi-university team has employed a high-powered laser based at UC Santa Barbara to dramatically improve one of the tools scientists use to study the world at the atomic level. The team used their amped-up electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectrometer to study the electron spin of free radicals and nitrogen atoms trapped inside a diamond.

The improvement will pull back the veil that shrouds the molecular world, allowing scientists to study tiny molecules at a high resolution.

The team, which includes researchers from UC Santa Barbara, University of Southern California, and Florida State University, published its findings this week in Nature.

By using a high-powered laser, the researchers were able to significantly enhance EPR spectroscopy, which uses electromagnetic radiation and magnetic fields to excite electrons. These excited electrons emit electromagnetic radiation that reveals details about the structure of the targeted molecules.


International Team of Physicists Makes Discovery About Temperature in Convection

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An international team of physicists is working to ascertain more about the fundamental physical laws that are at work in a process known as convection, which occurs in a boiling pot of water as well as in the turbulent movement of the liquid outer core of the Earth. The team’s new finding specifies the way that the temperature of a gas or liquid varies with the distance from a heat source during convection. The research is expected to eventually help engineers with applications such as the design of cooling systems in nuclear power plants.

The experiments took place in a cylinder that was placed under the turret of a large pressure container. The 8-foot tall cylinder was heated at the bottom and cooled at the top. There were about 100 thermometers inside it, and it was pressurized with sulfur hexafluoride, an inert gas. Convection occurred inside the cylinder because, in the presence of gravity, the warmer gas at the bottom tends to rise to the top, while the colder gas tends to sink.

Guenter Ahlers, professor of physics at UC Santa Barbara, said that understanding the temperature in turbulent convection is also very important because there are many applications where turbulent convection is used to cool things. In nuclear reactors, for instance, cooling is done by turbulent convection.



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Lars Bildsten Named Director of Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics

After an international search for a new director for the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) at UC Santa Barbara, the search committee found the best person for the position was already in Santa Barbara: Lars Bildsten, professor of physics and a KITP permanent member. The baton was passed on July 1 from Professor David Gross, a 2004 Nobel laureate, who will remain at KITP as a permanent member.

“I am honored to have been selected,” said Bildsten, who joined KITP and UC Santa Barbara in 1999. “It is also a deep responsibility to maintain the tradition of excellent leadership at the KITP. David Gross very successfully expanded our activities and funding, increased our international prominence, and placed us in a very strong position.”

Bildsten, who works in the field of theoretical astrophysics, came to UC Santa Barbara from UC Berkeley, where he was an assistant and associate professor in both the Physics and Astronomy departments. Prior to that, he was a research fellow at Caltech. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Cornell University in 1991. Throughout his academic and teaching career, he has received various honors, titles, and fellowships. Bildsten was recently elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.





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UC Santa Barbara’s Engineering Department standing in world universities, according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities by Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The Gaucho campus also was ranked 11th in Physics, 16th in the Science Field, 18th in Chemistry, and 44th in Computer Science. Overall, UC Santa Barbara was named 34th best university in the world.

Study: Focusing on Strengths Improves Social Skills of Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorders

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A new study conducted by researchers at the Koegel Autism Center at UC Santa Barbara has found that by playing on their strengths — high intelligence and very specific interests — these adolescents are as capable as anyone else of forging strong friendships. In addition, the research findings demonstrate that the area of the brain that controls such social behavior is not as damaged in adolescents with ASD as was previously believed. The findings appear in a recent issue of the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions.

The research team, which also includes Lynn Koegel, the center’s clinical director, and Sunny Kim, a graduate student in education at UC Santa Barbara, took a creative approach to helping three boys with ASD to interact with their peers. Rather than discourage their sometimes-obsessive interests, the researchers helped set up social clubs around them and invited students who do not have ASD to join. The clubs provided a venue for the ASD students to display their special interests and abilities, and helped them engage with their peers in a more meaningful way.

Koegel offered the example of a student with ASD who has a keen interest in computer graphics. The team created a graphic design club in which students would design logos for various companies and businesses. Because most of the students lacked the necessary expertise, they depended on their classmate with ASD to make the venture a success. “When he was able to interact on a topic in which he was interested, he was able to demonstrate more normal social behavior,” Koegel said. “He not only made friends with his fellow members, he was elected club president.”


Scientists Examine Effects of Manufactured Nanoparticles on Soybean Crops

soybeans

Sunscreens, lotions, and cosmetics contain tiny metal nanoparticles that wash down the drain at the end of the day, or are discharged after manufacturing. Those nanoparticles eventually end up in agricultural soil, which is a cause for concern, according to a group of environmental scientists that recently carried out the first major study of soybeans grown in soil contaminated by two manufactured nanomaterials (MNMs).

The scientists studied the effects of two common nanoparticles, zinc oxide and cerium oxide, on soybeans grown in soil in greenhouses. Zinc oxide is used in cosmetics, lotions, and sunscreens. Cerium oxide is used as an ingredient in catalytic converters to minimize carbon monoxide production, and in fuel to increase fuel combustion. Cerium can enter soil through the atmosphere when fuel additives are released with diesel fuel combustion.

The study showed that soybean plants grown in soil that contained zinc oxide bioaccumulated zinc; they absorbed it into the stems, leaves, and beans. Food quality was affected, although it may not be harmful to humans to eat the soybeans if the zinc is in the form of ions or salts, in the plants, according to senior author Patricia Holden, a professor with the Bren School. In the case of cerium oxide, the nanoparticles did not bioaccumulate, but plant growth was stunted. Changes occurred in the root nodules, where symbiotic bacteria normally accumulate and convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonium, which fertilizes the plant. The changes in the root nodules indicate that greater use of synthetic fertilizers might be necessary with the buildup of MNMs in the soil.


— From UC Santa Barbara Office of Public Affairs and staff reports

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