An article by Erik Linstrum, a historian of science and British imperialism in the Society of Fellows, has been recognized with awards from two professional associations. ”The Politics of Psychology in the British Empire, 1898-1960,” which appeared in Past & Present in May 2012, was awarded the Walter D. Love Prize from the North American Conference on British Studies. The Love Prize is given annually for the best article in any field of British history by a North American scholar. In addition, the Forum for History of Human Science has awarded Linstrum the FHHS Article Prize, which is given every other year for the best recent article in the field.
Paper by Elizabeth Pringle and collaborators shows that ant-tree mutualisms are stronger where water is scarce
Ecuador laurel trees (Cordia alliadora) in the seasonally dry tropical forests of Central America and Mexico engage in a defensive symbiosis with Azteca ants: the tree supplies the ants food and shelter, while the ants defend the tree from herbivores. The intermediary in this interaction are scale insects that extract sap from the tree and secrete a carbohydrate-rich honeydew for ants to feed on. In a new study published in PLoS Biology, Elizabeth Pringle (3rd year fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows), Erol Akçay (University of Pennsylvania), and colleagues from Stanford show that the strength of this mutualistic interaction is tied to water availability. From Costa Rica to Mexico, rainfall drops 4-fold and the wet season gets shorter. In drier sites, the ants are more defensive while the trees allocate more resources to them. Pringle and colleagues show that the prolonged water stress in drier sites causes the tree to have less reserve carbon, which increases the risk of dying or going without growth in the rare event that the tree gets defoliated completely. Trees in drier climates may buy insurance against defoliation by diverting more of their carbon production (from photosynthesis) to ants, which results in larger ant colonies. Pringle and colleagues developed a mathematical model that shows that such an insurance mechanism, rather than defense against low-level but chronic herbivory, explains the observed variation across the rainfall gradient. This study shows how important ecological interactions can be affected by local climate in unexpected ways, which is an important part of understanding how natural ecosystems will respond to global climate change.
A new report by Seth Marvel and coworkers finds that the medieval social universe was not a ‘small-world’ network: Despite the presence of extended social networks for postal services, taxation, intelligence gathering, and trade, the average distance between two people was still far more than six degrees. With a little reflection, it seems plausible that this could be inferred from the wave-like spread of epidemics like the Black Death. Surprisingly, however, trying to make this argument precise raises an array of mathematical challenges. The report by Marvel, et al. provides new work on integro-differential equations and spatial random network models that both resolves this long-standing open problem and offers a fresh approach to other studies of human epidemics.
Former Nature editor and award-winning science writer Philip Ball gives a popular account of the work on BBC Future.
Besky’s (2012-2015) ethnographic monograph on tea plantation life and labor in Darjeeling, India will be published by University of California Press in December 2013 in the California Studies in Food and Culture Series.
A partnership led by the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute involving several U-M units as well as the Governor’s office, state regulators, industry representatives and environmental organizations is examining multiple aspects of hydraulic fracturing specific to the state of Michigan.
Brian Ellis was the lead author for the technical report on geology and hydrogeology, which can be found here.
Ellis’ report provides a survey of the Michigan Basin geology by discussing basin hydrogeological characteristics within the context of evaluating the impact of high-volume hydraulic fracturing. If you are interested in reading more about this report or the other reports, or would like to share a comment, please click here.
A recent article in Nature entitled, “Secrets of Fracking Fluids Pave Way for Cleaner Recipe,” referenced work being done by Brian Ellis, who is studying the impact on hydraulic fracturing fluid chemical additives on the leaching of trace metals from shales. The article explains that the disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing could empower green chemistry, as some researchers hope to look at the mixtures used at oil and gas wells and narrow them down to a group of environmentally acceptable ones. To view the article click here.
Lily Cox-Richard (2010-2013) receives the 2013 Paula and Edwin Sidman Fellowship in the Arts from the Institute for Humanities, University of Michigan. Her upcoming solo exhibition at the Institute for Humanities Gallery, featuring new work, will open in November.
Rubens Reis, a member of the Michigan Society of Fellows, was involved in the discovery of a supernova remnant which is among the youngest known in the Milky Way.
For details see: http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2013/g306/
For the original article see: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2013arXiv1303.3546R
Eric Plemons (2012-2015) was awarded a Faculty Seed Grant from Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender to fund a new field research project entitled, “Designing Genitals in Ghent: Toward an Ethnography of Sex Reassignment in One of the World’s Leading Institutions.”
Project Abstract: The surgical techniques used in the often-controversial practice of genital sex reassignment surgery (SRS) vary widely and unevenly across the world. Variation has been anecdotally attributed to differences in politics, beliefs about the sexed body, surgeons’ styles, and the piecemeal flow of knowledge from innovators to practitioners. In this project I begin ethnographic and historical research on SRS surgical variation by working with the surgical team at Ghent University Hospital, the world leaders in SRS practice and research. This will provide the foundation for a larger project on global variation, SRS knowledge, and associated bio-psycho-medical theories of the sexed body.
University of Michigan astrophysicists have detected, for the first time, the oscillating signal that heralds the last gasps of a star falling victim to a previously dormant supermassive black hole.
Read more at : NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/swift/bursts/shredded-star.html
For the original article see: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6097/949.abstract