New life for endangered coastal lupine

A rare, coastal flowering plant known as Tidestrom’s lupine — threatened by native deer mice that can munch up to three-quarters of its unripe fruits under cover of an invasive beachgrass — has been given a new life with the large-scale removal of that grass, a long-term study in the journal Restoration Ecology shows.

Endangered tortoises thrive on invasive plants

Introduced plants make up roughly half the diet of two subspecies of endangered tortoise, field research in the Galapagos reveals. Tortoises  seem to prefer non-native to native plants and the plants may help them to stay well-nourished during the dry season.

Gut microbes in healthy kids carry antibiotic resistance genes

Friendly microbes in the intestinal tracts of healthy American children have numerous antibiotic resistance genes, according to results of a pilot study by scientists at the School of Medicine. The genes are cause for concern because they can be shared with harmful microbes, interfering with the effectiveness of antibiotics in ways that can contribute to serious illness and, in some cases, death. Pictured is the study’s senior author, Gautum Dantas, PhD.

Walking in the footsteps of 19th- and 20th-century naturalists, scientists find battered plant-pollinator network

Two biologists at Washington University in St. Louis were delighted to discover a meticulous dataset on a plant-pollinator network recorded by Illinois naturalist Charles Robertson between 1884 and 1916. Re-collecting part of Robertson’s network, they learned that although the network has compensated for some losses, battered by climate change and habitat loss it is now weaker and less resilient than in Robertson’s time.

Study extends the ‘ecology of fear’ to fear of parasites

Work at Washington University in St. Louis, just published in EcoHealth, shows that the ecology of fear, like other concepts from predator-prey theory, also extends to parasites. Raccoons and squirrels would give up food, the study demonstrated, if the area was infested with larval ticks. At some level, they are weighing the value of the abandoned food against the risk of being parasitized.

The great pond experiment

A seven-year experiment shows that pond communities bear the imprint of random events in their past, such as the order in which species were introduced into the ponds. This finding locates one of the wellsprings of biodiversity but also suggests that it may not be possible to restore ecosystems whose history we cannot recreate.

Biologist discusses sacred nature of sustainability

GoodenoughThe hot topics of global warming and environmental sustainability are concerns that fit neatly within the precepts of religious naturalism, according to Ursula Goodenough, Ph.D., professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to being a renowned cell biologist, Goodenough is a religious naturalist and the author of The Sacred Depths of Nature, a bestselling book on religious naturalism that was published in 1998. Religious naturalism neither requires belief in God nor excludes such faith. Rather, the movement is based on what Goodenough describes as “an exploration of the religious potential of nature.”

Study on wildlife corridors shows how they work over time

Ellen Damschen & Forest ServiceA new paper on ecological corridors co-authored by Washington University biologists Ellen Damschen and John Orrock in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, was published online Dec. 1 as part of a special issue on movement ecology. This research reveals that by understanding how species move, you can predict if and how corridors work.

After drought, ponds “keep up with the Joneses”

WUSTL senior Ruth Poland and Jonathan Chase, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and director of WUSTL’s Tyson Research Center, check species out in one of Tyson’s ponds.An ecologist at Washington University in St. Louis has discovered that after ponds dry up through drought in a region, when they revive, the community of species in each pond tends to be very similar to one another in species composition.

Ecologist reports dire devastation of snake species following floods

In science, it’s best to be good, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky. Ecologist Owen Sexton, Ph.D., professor emeritus of biology in Arts & Sciences, had just completed a census of snakes at a conservation preserve northwest of St. Louis when the great flood of 1993 deluged the area, putting the preserve at least 15 feet under water. The flood provided Sexton with a rare opportunity: His collected data and the flood would combine to make “the perfect study” of how an area rebounds from natural disaster.
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