News archive - January 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

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

Landfill pile of garbage, bottles and paper.

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.

Waterloo researchers are trying to modify enzymes from heat-loving microbes to improve the efficiency of converting cellulose-containing biological waste into biofuel.

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.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Repairing childhood trauma: Newly discovered pathway links adult mental illness to childhood

Two cartoon figures - one in the corner and the other looking down

Byline: Jonathan Sutley, Pharmacy MSc student

Chronic early life social isolation is linked with negative psychological and social outcomes in adulthood. Waterloo researchers have discovered social isolation changes unusual protein expression in the adult brain of rodents who socially isolated. Examining how stress affects the brain on a molecular level can help researchers get insight into disorders like schizophrenia and depression.   

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.