Pacific ocean rockfish are known for their incredible variation in lifespan across closely related species, with some living a paltry 11 years while others have lives that span across two or more centuries. Indeed, some rockfish are among the longest-lived extant vertebrates on the planet. But why is this the case?
A number of researchers in the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara, working in collaboration with other scientists from UC Berkeley, Washington, Alabama, British Columbia and Chile, have sought to uncover the evolutionary reason for this. By performing genomic analyses on 88 different species of rockfish, the researchers detected the specific genetic drivers for longevity in these species that promote DNA repair and immunity.
Nakamura Lights The Way
Shuji Nakamura, a UCSB professor of materials science and electrical and computer engineering, recently won the third annual Richard J. Goldstein Energy Lecture Award from The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Nakamura is perhaps best known for developing the now-ubiquitous blue LED technology, famous for its energy efficiency. In the 1990s, Nakamura developed a system to ensure the high quality of gallium nitride crystals which underpin LED technology, paving the way for their application in everything from traffic signals to fairy lights.
The award Nakamura is receiving from ASME is given to those who have “[pioneered] contributions to the frontiers of energy, leading to breakthroughs in existing technology, leading to new applications or new areas of engineering endeavor, or leading to policy initiatives.” This is one of numerous accolades the professor has received in the past decade and a half, including others such as the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics and the 2021 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.
Devastating wildfires have rocked the North American continent this year, with mammoth blazes in places as far south as Arizona and as far north as British Columbia. In California alone, over 2.5 million acres have burned — the second-most on record. UCSB researchers Isaac Park and Max Moritz, working in collaboration with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and The George Washington University, recently published work examining how climate, human activity and fire history all interact to influence the probability of fire on a landscape in California.
They found that local climate factors, namely fuel dryness and availability, as well as human influences such as the presence and density of housing, roads, electrical infrastructure and agriculture, all contribute to fire probability. In addition, they pinpointed how previous burn events can serve as barriers to subsequent fires in some places. With these findings, Park, Moritz and their collaborators hope to provide the public with tools to map out the local probability of fires across the state.
A version of this article appeared on p.13 of the November 18, 2021 print edition of the Daily Nexus.