Research report: Amphibians predict environmental change

The role of amphibians as “canaries in the coal mine” of environmental changes has been confirmed by the work of two University of California biologists.

Walter Jetz, an associate professor of biology at UC San Diego, co-authored a study being published in the online version of the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” with Lauren Buckley of UC Santa Barbara.

They used maps of the environment and amphibian and bird distributions to answer the question of how the environment - as well as the distribution of birds and amphibians - changes as one moves from one place to another around the globe.

Combining efforts

UCSD, the University of British Columbia and a Canadian nonprofit have pledge to support a partnership working to reduce greenhouse gases and energy use from technologies on campus.

Art Ellis, UCSD’s vice chancellor for research at UC San Diego, said in a press release the document they signed last week “creates a unique international partnership that will examine how cyberinfrastructure can be used in research universities to create carbon-neutral environments.”

Key to DNA

Two UCSD biologists have discovered an enzyme that helps stop the accumulation of “bubbles of unwound DNA.”

A press release described the discovery of “the first of a new class of cellular motor proteins that “rewind” sections of the double-stranded DNA molecule that become unwound, like the tangled ribbons from a cassette tape, in “bubbles” that prevent critical genes from being expressed.”

That occurrence can ultimately lead to death, said Jim Kadonaga, a professor of biology at UCSD who headed the study.

Timur Yusufzai, a postdoctoral fellow working in his laboratory, co-authored their report in the Oct. 31 issue of “Science.”

Regular columnist Lynne Friedmann will return next week.