Research Report: ‘WIFIRE’ developed to predict wildfire behavior

By Lynne Friedmann

UC San Diego researchers are building cyberinfrastructure to perform real-time data-driven assessment, simulation, prediction and visualization of wildfire behavior.

Dubbed WIFIRE, the project will integrate satellite and real-time remote sensor data with computational techniques in visualization, modeling and data assimilation to provide real-time estimates on a wildfire’s rate of spread based on climate, wind speeds, topography, urban dynamics and fuel content.

WIFIRE participants include three research organizations within UCSD: San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) Qualcomm Institute, and the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) department at the university’s Jacobs School of Engineering. Also participating in the project is the University of Maryland’s Department of Fire Protection Engineering.

When fully implemented, WIFIRE will enable users to access specialized web interfaces and user-specified alerts for environmental events broadcasted to receivers before, during and after a wildfire. The goal is better situational awareness, response and decision support.

More information at

New map of insulin pathway

A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) created the first comprehensive roadmap of the protein interactions that enable pancreatic cells to produce, store and secrete the hormone insulin.

Within beta cells of the pancreas, insulin precursor proteins are synthesized, folded and processed into mature insulin that is secreted into the bloodstream when glucose levels rise. While researchers have catalogued hundreds of individual proteins found within beta cells, it was unclear which of these proteins actually interact with insulin and therefore participate directly in the production, storage and secretion process.

The TSRI study used antibodies to bind to early and late forms of the hormone in the synthesis/secretion process. By pulling insulin proteins out of the “soup” of beta cell molecules, these antibodies also isolated whatever proteins happened to have bound to the insulin—and thus presumably had functional interactions.

Mass spectrometry identified both the insulin-interacting proteins within beta cells as well as differentiate “pro-insulin” proteins that seem to play a role in the early insulin-synthesis phase, versus mature insulin proteins that seem to function in the later stages of insulin storage and secretion.

Findings are published in the journal Cell Reports. News release at

Fear of predators alerts honeybees behavior

The life of a honeybee seems idyllic. Fly from flower to flower, collect nectar and turn it into honey. But honeybees live in a world filled with dangerous predators ready to ambush. Such fear drives bees to adopt different strategies when behaving as a colony versus acting as individuals.

Colonies exhibit more caution by avoiding food sources associated with dangerous predators. Individual bees take on more risk in their foraging behavior, pursuing sweeter food sources even in the presence of an aggressive predator. Collectively this helps honeybees exploit all of available food sources in a region.

The insight came when UC San Diego biologists worked with scientists at Yunnan Agricultural University in China to study the impact on foraging Asian honeybees in the presence of the Asian Giant Hornet and a smaller hornet species.

In a series of experiments, bees were presented with different combinations of safe and dangerous feeders — depending on their association with the larger or smaller hornets — containing varying concentrations of sucrose. Testing how bees respond when sweeter food sources was also more dangerous, they found that individual bees were more risk-tolerant. On the other hand, the colony as a whole avoided the Giant Hornet at the best food, but continued to visit lower quality food associated with the smaller hornet.

Findings appear in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. News release at

Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.