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0 14

I research how genes control important food traits, and how light influences genes. I really enjoy discussing science with the public, especially in areas where a better understanding of science can help us farm better crops, with more nutrition & flavor, and less environmental impact.

I will be back at 1 pm EDT (5 pm UTC, 6 pm BST, 10 am PDT) to answer questions, AMA!

submitted by Prof_Kevin_Folta to science
[link] [449 comments]

0 27

My name is Heidi Lyn. My research focus is nonhuman animal cognition and communication and I have been in this field close to 20 years, working in Hawaii, Scotland, the Netherlands, New York City and now close to the beach on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. I have worked with marine mammals including dolphins, belugas, walrus and otters as well as primates including chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans. In my lab, we are currently expanding our research focus to include less studied animals like reptiles and carrion birds and beginning a large project with dogs at the Humane Society of Southern Mississippi. This last project is currently part of a crowd funding initiative at http://experiment.com/projects/can-cognitive-tests-of-shelter-dogs-improve-their-chances-of-adoption.

Some of the recent publications from our lab include a chapter I wrote summarizing the past 40 years of research into the language abilities of apes, including sign-language using apes and those that use keyboard systems (Lyn 2012). Most of my career to date has been spent working on various animal language studies where findings show the basic ability to use symbols communicatively is shared by chimpanzees, bonobos and other apes. Dolphins are another species in which language has been studied. Another chapter I’ve written compares early symbol use in two bonobos and four dolphins from three different long-term projects, showing that there are many similarities among apes, dolphins and human children when learning symbols (Lyn, 2008).

Publications can be found here

The current focus of my lab has been influenced by our recent series of studies showing that highly enriched rearing environments not only lead to symbolic abilities, but they also make apes smarter in general. That is, we’ve found that language-competent apes outperform typically–reared apes on a series of tasks of complex social, physical, and communicative skills (Lyn, 2010, Russell, Lyn, Schaeffer, and Hopkins, 2011). These findings still beg the questions – how do other species compare? and what is it about these environments that can support higher-level thinking?

PrimateCast from Kyoto University discussing our work

Right now, we want to expand these findings as far as we can. We want to study many different species using the same tests, so that we can do direct comparisons. This is not easy because the species we are studying have such different bodies and senses, so the tests need be carefully designed to allow each species the same chance of success. Also, we want to sample as many species in as many different environments as possible, to try to see which environments support complex thought and which do not. For this, we will soon be recruiting pet dogs to participate in our studies.

Our lab is also animal welfare oriented. We have completed a number of studies on the effects of enrichment on captive animals (e.g. Franks, Lyn, Klein, & Reiss, 2009) with the hope of bettering the lives of animals in human care. To that end, our current project at the Humane Society has a secondary purpose – to use the data collected from the testing to create a comprehensive behavioral evaluation that can be used to better match shelter dogs with potential owners. To support that research, please visit the project at experiment.com.

I will be back at 1 pm EDT (10 am PDT, 6 pm BST), I’m looking forward to seeing your questions – AMA!

submitted by Dr_Heidi_Lyn to science
[link] [560 comments]

0 8

Our gastrointestinal tract harbors a complex community of microbes that outnumber us 10:1 on a cellular level. We therefore walk around each day with more microbial genomic material in and on our bodies, than human. We have therefore shifted focus from fear of external pathogens to curiosity and investigation of the microbes that have grown and evolved with us since birth. This interplay between our human and microbial selves has profound impact on health and disease and has been a relatively new, yet intense, area of research in the field of science. One fact that has become clear is that our indigenous diets and the introduction of different foods throughout life shape the microbial microbial landscape in both favorable and unfavorable ways. From these investigations we have new insights into many complex diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel diseases and diabetes to name a few. It is an exciting time for microbiome research and I am eager to answer questions anyone may have about our dynamic microbial selves.

I will be back at 12 pm EDT (5 BST, 9 AM PDT) to answer questions, AMA!

submitted by Dr_Suzanne_Devkota to science
[link] [414 comments]

0 15

I’m Paul Héroux, a Professor of Toxicology and Health Effects of Electromagnetism at the Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, in Montreal, Canada. Recent work in my laboratory has uncovered a mechanism by which extra-low-frequency magnetic fields interact with unstable molecular structures such as hydrogen bridges, altering the ability of protons to tunnel from one molecule to another. How this plays out in practice is that the reaction rates of certain enzymes can be altered by magnetic fields at very low intensities such as 25 nT, comfortably within the range of everyday exposures. This has not been found out until now mainly because the effect, although disruptive to the cell, does not increase quickly with field intensity, and drives an adaptation of the cell to the radiation. Metabolism is altered because one enzyme, ATP Synthase, is particularly vulnerable: the ratio between glycolysis and redox metabolism is changed. The mechanism we uncovered is likely to act not only at low frequencies, but also extending to microwave frequencies, implicating all broadcasting and radiating telecommunications systems. So, electromagnetic radiation may impact chronic disease rates such as cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders.

I will be back at 1 pm EDT to answer questions, AMA!

submitted by Dr_Paul_Heroux to science
[link] [237 comments]

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