A cohort of 12 Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island undergraduate students arrived at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in May to participate in a summer research internship called Environmental Biology for Pacific Islanders, hosted by UH Mānoa’s Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC). The opportunity, funded for three years by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, seeks to increase the number of Pacific Islanders pursuing bachelors and advanced degrees by recruiting and training promising students in modern approaches to environmental biology.
Read the full story here: http://www.hawaii.edu/news/2017/05/23/environmental-biology-internship-for-pacific-islanders/
Dr. Robert Cowie of PBRC discusses the rat lungworm problem in Hawaii in an
interview for ThinkTechHawaii that aired live on 10 March 2017. The rat
lungworm is a parasite with a natural life cycle that involves snails and
rats as hosts. However, if someone eats a raw or undercooked snail or slug
they can become infected by the parasite, which moves to the brain and can
cause serious neurological problems, a condition known as eosinophilic
meningitis. Dr. Cowie discusses the main ways in which people are infected,
probably most commonly by inadvertently eating a small snail or slug
(babies may only be a few tenths of an inch in size) among the leaves of
produce such as lettuce or other leafy greens. At this time the parasite
occurs only in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, but if
purchasing produce locally in Hawaii Dr. Cowie strongly recommends washing
it thoroughly under cold tap water to remove any snails or slugs.
Dr. Christie Wilcox, a Yanagihara lab Post-Doctoral Scientist, has published a new non-fiction popular science book on venom. Her book and current UH-based research were featured on this week's Bytemarks Cafe on HPR. Dr. Wilcox has been working under PBRC faculty member Dr. Angel Yanagihara for just over one and a half years, studying box jelly venom pathophysiology and developing assays to test sting first aid measures. Her debut book, Venomous: How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry (Scientific American/FSG Books) hit shelves August 9th. Dr. Wilcox will be signing books at the Waikiki Aquarium Family Night on August 26th and at an event at the Ala Moana Barnes and Noble at 1:00 pm on September 3rd.
With support from a National Science Foundation grant, the Pacific Biosciences Research Center at UHM hosted a two-day workshop on June 1 and 2, 2016 to explore, in depth, the causes underlying the large disparity in numbers of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) vs. the general population of the U.S. participating in both college-level education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and in STEM careers. Thirty-one participants, mostly college faculty members, included representatives from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, American Samoa and Hawaii. The workshop began with invited lectures on a successful minority-training program at the University of California Berkeley and mechanisms to evaluate minority training and retention in STEM, followed by a very successful panel presentation with representatives from each of the seven island groups present. The panel comments were focused on barriers to participation from causes as diverse as cultural differences, geographical distances, and financial disparities at many levels. The second day of the workshop explored reducing, eliminating and overcoming the barriers. A National Science Foundation program officer, present throughout the workshop, declared it important and unique.
Following introductory remarks by the convener and special lectures by two invited specialists in minority STEM education, a panel of participants drawn from each island group presented perspectives on barriers to STEM education in their home islands.
In this video of the panel presentations, the speakers are, from left to right, Alden Tagarino (American Samoa), Huihui Kanahele-Mossman (UH Hilo), Peltin Pelep (Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia), Vernice Yuji (Palau), Joni Kerr (Guam), Sean Macduff (Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), and Don Hess (Marshall Islands)."
Angel Yanagihara, Assistant Research Professor in the Bekesy Laboratory of
Neurobiology, PBRC, SOEST, has been newly selected as a Fulbright
Specialist by the J. William Fulbright Council for International Exchange
of Scholars, on behalf of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of
the U.S. Department of State.
As the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the
U.S. government, the Fulbright Specialists Program (FSP) is designed to
support highly qualified U.S. faculty and professionals, with expertise in
specific disciplines, to engage in collaborative projects that focus on
unmet needs and challenges, as well as that build and strengthen capacity
in curriculum and faculty development at institutions of higher education
in more than 100 countries.
Yanagihara's expertise and innovative technologies were specifically sought
in a newly approved Fulbright project proposed by researchers at the
National University of Ireland in Galway. Yanagihara will travel to
Ireland, and work with faculty and students on research efforts aimed at
addressing dangerous stings of the lion's mane jellyfish (*Cyanea
capillata*). Increasing numbers of lion's mane jellyfish in Dublin Bay have led to
beach closures and have been linked to serious Irukandji syndrome symptoms
in swimmers. She will also test innovative new approaches to prevent salmon
deaths in offshore fisheries following exposure to massive jellyfish
blooms. “There is a critical need to mitigate the negative economic and
public health impacts of increasing numbers and frequencies of jellyfish
blooms in coastal zones of Ireland. I look forward to sharing the expertise
and break through technologies I developed at the University of Hawaii, in
collaborative efforts to address the serious impacts of jellyfish blooms,”
As a Fulbright Specialist, Yanagihara will be considered for additional
future overseas assignments that require her unique expertise during the
next five years.
PBRC/Kewalo Marine Laboratory receives new NSF award. NSF just approved and funded a regional STEM education grant entitled: NSF-ATE: Partnership for Advanced Marine and Environmental Science Training for Pacific Islanders. This grant, supported by $900,000 in funds over three years, will enhance marine and environmental science education at the five minority-serving community colleges of the Pacific Islands: American Samoa Community College, the College of Micronesia - FSM, the College of the Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas College, and Palau Community College. The project will support curriculum development, the professional development of the college faculty, internships and field experiences for students, and strengthen the scientific infrastructure of the participating institutions. The focus will be on island ecosystems and climate change science, and activities will include expanded use of new tools and technologies, and support for student internships and research experiences.
The Principal Investigator is Bob Richmond, Research Professor and Director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory. The Co-P.I.’s include Dr. Patrick Tellei, President of Palau Community College (PCC), Vernice Yuzi (PCC Faculty) and Don Hess, Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs for the College of the Marshall Islands. Over 1,000 Pacific Island students have benefited from the support provided by NSF for the regional community colleges through two previous NSF-ATE grants to Bob Richmond and his colleagues.
Recent articles in Science and Nature argue for the creation of an international effort to study the earth's microbiome.
An International Microbiome Initiative (IMI) is needed, argue researchers from China, the United States and Europe in a Comment piece in this week’s Nature. “Earth’s biome is not defined by national borders”, write Nicole Dubilier, Margaret McFall-Ngai and Liping Zhao; in their view “efforts to unlock its secrets should go global”.
It is becoming increasingly clear that understanding the role of the Earth’s microbial community (the microbiome) in the biosphere and in human health will be key to meeting many of humanity’s challenges, from energy to disease. However, two factors are impeding progress: the fragmentation of the life sciences and a lack of coordination among the various microbiome research endeavours already under way around the world.
Although some have suggested that a US-based microbiome initiative should be created, Dubilier and colleagues contend that an IMI is needed as an overarching organization to foster collaboration and coordination. “So much can be gained by creating an IMI,” they conclude, whereas “further uncoordinated national microbiome programmes will almost certainly waste research efforts and taxpayers’ money”.
Before the advent of molecular methods to identify non-culturable bacteria, symbiosis was thought to be a unusual character in animals, i.e., restricted to a few species, such as hydrothermal vent animals, termites and some luminous fish and squid. While these associations continue to provide ideal study subjects for the phenomenon of symbiosis, the technological advances of high-throughput sequencing have revealed a world far beyond our imagination. The data to date reveal that many, if not most, animals rely on partnerships with microbes for their health and survival. For example, work on vertebrates has demonstrated that the carriage of gut consortia is a shared, derived character in this subphylum of animals. This article highlights a few examples of research efforts in this field.