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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Landfill treasure hunts: Novel microorganisms could be the key to more efficient waste management

Pile of garbage, paper and plastic in landfill.

Byline: Navin Asokumar, Biology MSc. student

Landfills, a way of safely disposing waste, are now considered to be breeding grounds for novel, never before identified microorganisms. Biologists at the University of Waterloo believe these microorganisms have special metabolic abilities that can be harnessed to recycle plant waste.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Farewell fossil fuels: Biologists aim to increase biofuel production output to aid waning fossil fuel reserves

Silhouette of oil pump jack

Byline: Amrit Mehta, Biology MSc. student

The decline in reserves, rising cost of fossil fuel extraction and export, and the environmental impacts of their continued use are making alternative fuel more appealing. The push now is to be able to convert cellulose-containing waste into biofuels.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Phragmites Problem: Aggressive invasive reed threatens wetland ecosystem processes


Byline: Sarah Kim, Biology MSc. student

Wetlands in North America are home to a very diverse set of native plants. But an invasive reed called common reed (Phragmites australis) has been expanding rapidly and could potentially threaten the ecosystem processes in the wetlands it inhabits.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Missing Piece: Understanding the hothead protein’s role in plant cuticle formation

Eric Le Dreff-Kerwin looks at a protein structure on a laptop.

Byline: Quinn Abrams, Biology MSc student

Missing a single protein can have lethal consequences for plants. Cuticles are the waxy wall that protects plants from sunlight, pesticides, and dehydration. But damage to the cuticle, like when the Hothead protein is missing, causes the wall to fall down.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A chilling immune system: Low temperatures slow down fish immune response to infection

Fumehood with glassware and samples

Byline: Éric Le Dreff-Kerwin, Biology MSc student

The sudden decrease in sporting fish is leading to a potential ecological disruption, if not an economical loss. Due to a lowering in water temperatures, walleye are doing more than wish they could wrap themselves up in a warm blanket.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Wastewater treatment upgrades result in major reduction of intersex fish

Aerial photo of the  Kitchener Wastewater Treatment Plant in 2016 (Credit: Region of Waterloo).

Upgrades to a wastewater treatment plant along Ontario’s Grand River, led to a 70 per cent drop of intersex fish within one year and a full recovery of the fish population within three years, according to researchers at the University of Waterloo.

Aerial photo of the  Kitchener Wastewater Treatment Plant in 2016 (Credit: Region of Waterloo).

Monday, January 9, 2017

Enigmatic Archaea: Scientists learn more about a key player in wastewater treatment

Water spout gushing with water

Byline: Ola Matysiakiewicz, Biology MSc student

Single-celled microorganisms, including both bacteria and archaea, have been around for over 3 billion years but scientists have only recently discovered that many of them exist.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Small Molecules, Big Deal

arabidpsis thaliana

Exposure to a simple molecule can restore fertility in the sterile plants 

Byline: Mark Lubberts, Biology MSc. student 

Some mutated versions of the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana can’t reproduce. But exposure to a small molecule called spermidine can restore fertility in some branches in one particular Arabidopsis mutant.

Even more surprisingly, the offspring of the treated plants are fertile, even though they have the same mutations as their parent.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rooney lab wins the 2016 Holiday Hallway competition

Christmas doors

The Department of Biology has claimed its 2016 festive door winners!

Each year, the Biology Graduate Student Association opens registration for interested grads to have the opportunity to list their labs in the annual festive door competition.

This year, the science buildings saw a total of eight teams competing to determine who could design the most creative display of the season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Waterloo biologist part of a research collaboration creating new genetic toolbox

Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) picture of S. meliloti cells, filled with bioplastics granules (credit: G. Meglei)

Waterloo biologist Trevor Charles is part of a newly formed collaboration that has received $250,000 in funding from Genome Canada’s Disruptive Innovations in Genomics (DIG) program to retool a well-studied bacterial strain into accepting genetic material from other bacterial species.

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