Public Release:  AAAS news briefs from UC Davis

Greenhouse gases in fuels; predatory arms races; agricultural nitrogen; celestial superconductors; ocean invaders; making energy from manure; mosquito repellents

University of California - Davis

Researchers from the University of California, Davis, will present these findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 17-21.

Presentation: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Transportation Sector
Presenter: Christopher Yang, UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies
Date and time: Friday, Feb. 18, 2 p.m.
Location: 206 Washington Convention Center
Symposium: Portraits of the California Energy System in 2050: Cutting Emissions by 80 Percent

The transportation sector in California is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the state. It is expected to grow significantly over time, due to increasing population and travel demand, especially for air travel and moving goods. Tackling this sector is critical if California is to meet its ambitious greenhouse-gas-reduction targets. This talk will discuss the three main approaches (or "levers") for reducing transportation emissions, including reducing travel demand, improving vehicle efficiency and switching to lower-carbon alternative fuels. Two strategies with high potential are electrification of vehicles to run on hydrogen or electricity, and producing biofuels for use in more conventional combustion engines.

Contact: Christopher Yang, UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, ccyang@ucdavis.edu


Presentation: Escalation, Interdependence and Source Populations
Presenter: Geerat Vermeij, UC Davis distinguished professor of geology
Date and time: Saturday, Feb. 19, 9 a.m.
Location: 207A Washington Convention Center
Symposium: Rethinking Adaptation to a Changing Global Environment

Sometimes, predators and prey become involved in an evolutionary "arms race" with each other. Geerat Vermeij, distinguished professor of geology at UC Davis, will discuss the conditions under which this escalation, or "enemy-driven evolution," takes place. Environments that select for aggression and strong defenses are typically highly productive environments with a high abundance of individuals, such as rainforests or major reef systems in the ocean. In contrast, less productive environments are less important for evolution. These hotbeds of evolution are also important for conservation, because they act as source populations that send individuals to more distant and less productive environments. For example, the waters around a large archipelago of islands may contain many self-sustaining populations of animals that help to sustain populations around more remote islands.

Contact: Geerat Vermeij, Geology, (530) 752-2234, gjvermeij@ucdavis.edu


Presentation: A Framework for Action: Lessons from the California Nitrogen Assessment
Presenter: Thomas Tomich, director, Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis
Date and time: Saturday, Feb. 19, 3 p.m.
Location: 140A Washington Convention Center
Symposium: Global and Local Responses to the Nitrogen Challenge: Science, Practice, and Policy

Managing the benefits and costs associated with agricultural nitrogen is emerging as one of the great challenges of the 21st century. On one hand, nitrogen is an essential resource. As a component of synthetic and organic fertilizers, it is critical to the success of agriculture and has played a vital role in the health of humanity over the last half century. On the other hand, the increased quantity of nitrogen used and produced by agriculture is causing significant changes to the environment -- including climate change, air and water pollution, and biodiversity loss -- and threatens the vitality of human and natural resources worldwide. But while the challenges nitrogen presents to society are clear, the most appropriate responses are less apparent. Tomich leads the California Nitrogen Assessment to find leverage points where policy and technology can have a positive effect on California's air and water, and the health of its citizens -- while at the same time maintaining the success of its thriving agriculture. This project engages stakeholders to find solutions that link science with action -- a process that will help create a roadmap for informed discussion, debate and decision making around the world.

Contact: Thomas Tomich, Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis, (530) 752-3915, tptomich@ucdavis.edu. News release (2009): http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=9136


Presentation: Observing Celestial Superfluids
Presenter: David Pines, UC Davis distinguished professor of physics
Date and time: Saturday, Feb. 19, 4 p.m.
Location: 146B Washington Convention Center
Symposium: Superconductivity: From 1911 to 2021

Superconductors (materials with virtually no electrical resistance) offer the promise of technological breakthroughs such as transmission lines without power loss and magnetically levitated trains. On Earth, such properties are found in only a few materials at very low temperatures. But huge amounts of high-temperature superfluids can be found in the sky, according to David Pines, distinguished professor of physics at UC Davis. Pines will discuss the discovery, history and our current understanding of these "celestial superfluids" in pulsars and neutron stars -- objects he calls "the cosmic equivalent of a nuclear physics laboratory."

Contact: David Pines, Physics, (505) 670-6422, david.pines@gmail.com


Presentation: From Sea to Sea: Effects of Invasive Species in Marine Systems
Presenter: Susan Williams, UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory
Date and time: Sunday, Feb. 20, 9 a.m.
Location: 146B Washington Convention Center
Symposium: Invasive Species: What Harm Do They Do?

Non-native species have invaded over 80 percent of marine regions on Earth, including remote Antarctica. More than half of these species are considered harmful in their invaded habitats, causing changes in native marine ecosystems and exacting stiff economic costs from marine industries such as shipping and aquaculture (which are two of the main pathways for introductions). This presentation will review prevention methods for ship ballast water; hull fouling; the aquarium trade; and, an emerging concern, plastic debris. It will also review the effects of marine invasive species, including human illness, altered food webs, and disrupted ecosystem services provided by marine wetland plants (salt marshes, seagrasses). It will describe the need for continued attention to marine invasive species in the face of climate change and warming oceans.

Contact: Susan Williams, Bodega Marine Laboratory, (707) 875-2211, slwilliams@ucdavis.edu


Presentation: Agricultural Waste for Energy
Presenter: Frank Mitloehner, UC Davis Department of Animal Science
Date and time: Sunday, Feb. 20, 9:30 a.m.
Location: 206 Washington Convention Center
Symposium: Waste Not, Want Not: Waste As the World's Most Abundant Renewable Resource

A significant portion of the 130,000 tons of waste manure produced annually from the approximately 2 million dairy cows in central California could be turned into fuel and energy sources, including heat and gaseous, liquid or solid fuels. This presentation will describe some possibilities. For instance: Processed manure along with other biomass from urban and other agricultural sources can yield biomethane, a product equivalent to natural gas. In California's Central Valley, many dairies are located near compressed-natural-gas (CNG) filling stations and gas pipelines. A biomethane industry along the Central Valley's heavily traveled highways 5 and 99 could serve as the infrastructure for future "hydrogen highways," providing a renewable fuel for cars and trucks. Dried manure fibers could also be burned in biomass power plants. An economically lucrative biomass-to-energy system works best with co-generation digesters that receive and digest energy-rich waste streams that then become utilities supplying an increasingly urbanized California.

Contact: Frank Mitloehner, Animal Science, (530) 752-3936, fmmitloehner@ucdavis.edu


Presentation: Olfactory Molecular Targets for Reverse Chemical Ecology
Presenter: Walter Leal, UC Davis Department of Entomology
Date and time: Monday, Feb. 21, 9:45 a.m.
Location: 145B Washington Convention Center
Symposium: Chemically Speaking: How Organisms Talk to Each Other

With current technologies, it takes about 10 years and approximately $30 million to bring to market a new repellent for mosquitoes, which transmit devastating diseases such as malaria, dengue and West Nile virus. Hoping to decrease the time and money needed to develop new mosquito repellents, the Walter Leal lab has looked beyond the rich genome of the mosquito to the fruit fly genome. An abundance of information is already available about fruit fly olfactory receptor neurons, which play an important role in the sense of smell and are key to developing insect repellents. The research by Leal and colleagues has yielded a wealth of information about fruit fly receptivity to a variety of repellents, including DEET, and has led to new techniques that should prove valuable in screening candidate mosquito repellent compounds in the early stages of research and development.

Contact: Walter Leal, Entomology, wsleal@ucdavis.edu

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