New Materials from Bloodworms

Researchers from UCSB’s Biological Sciences and Chemistry depts. recently discovered that bloodworms incorporate copper into the skeletal structure of their jaws. Copper in high concentrations is normally toxic to living organisms, making this an unexpected phenomenon. The copper appears to act as a side-link between long chains of fibrous proteins.

The result is a strong, lightweight, robust structural material. New materials produced along these lines may prove to be useful in industry, said the researchers. The results of the research were published in the Oct. 11 issue of Science. Dr. Herbert Waite of the Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology Dept. and Dr. Galen Stucky of the Chemistry Dept. were coauthors on the paper.

Northern Exposure

As global warming continues, many animals are expected to migrate farther north to stay in cooler waters. However, recent research, conducted in part at UCSB, indicates that coastal animals may not be able to take advantage of this strategy.

By using special thermometers disguised as mussels to avoid vandalism or theft, the scientists determined that, even though water temperatures in Washington and Oregon are cooler than those in southern California, differences in the tides may expose sedentary animals to the sun during the hottest parts of the day. In more southerly regions, animals were well submerged at these times.

The result was a significant mortality in 2002 for Oregon and Washington mussels. These tidal patterns will vary over time, with 2003 being the worst year for northern region mussels. The study was published in the Nov. 1 issue of Science. Drs. Carol Blanchette and Patricia Halpin of UCSB’s Marine Science Institute and Dr. Gretchen Hofmann of the Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology Dept. were coauthors on the paper.

Lawrence Livermore Gets New Associate Deputy Director

Dr. Rokaya Al-Ayat has been promoted to associate deputy director for Science and Technology at the University of California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Al-Ayat was formerly a staff member in the Deputy Director for Science and Technology office.

She will assist in developing a new investment strategy for research at LLNL. Al-Ayat holds a Master of Science degree and doctorate in applied mathematics, and a Master of Engineering degree in industrial engineering and operations research. She began her career at UC Berkeley and has been at LLNL since 1978.