Observations of Birds in Puerto Rico

Submitted by kcapri on Thu, 03/23/2017 - 19:26

Over spring break, I visited Puerto Rico. During my vacation, I was able to observe a variety of different wildlife that I had never experienced before. First to mention, were these black birds that constantly were surrounding our house. They were not afraid of humans and were quite noisy. Their feathers were black and glossy, with yellow eyes. After further research, I found that they are named the Greater Antillean Grackle bird, Quiscalus niger. I found that it is common for this species to have a glossy black color and bright yellow eyes, as well as an usual keel-shaped tail. This species also nests in colonies on trees together, which is why it was common for me to see lots of them during my vacation outside my home, where several trees were. The birds eat from foraging on the ground for seeds, insects, and small lizards. It is also common for these birds to be bold, noisy, and unafraid of humans because they live in heavily populated habitats, for example the city of Carolina, Puerto Rico, where I stayed. They are not found in deep forests at all.


Image 1. Photograph depicting the Greater Antillean Grackle in its natural habitat, perched on a branch. Taken by Daniel Lane from http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/portal/species/overview?p_p_spp=669516.



Lane D. Greater Antillean Grackle (Quiscalus niger) - Neotropical Birds. Neotropical Birds. 2010 [accessed 2017 Mar 23]. http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/portal/species/overview?p_p_spp=66951

Pancreatic Cancer: Metastasis

Submitted by jgirgis on Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:41

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a cancer that quickly turns to metastatic. PDAC metastasis is considered advanced when it has metastasized to distant locations such as the lungs, bone, brain, etc. In PDAC, hypoxia occurs. Hypoxia is low oxygen and activates tumor progression, malignancy, and resistance to therapy. Hypoxia signaling is mediated by the hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs). HIFs are activated by oncogenes or tumor suppressors that are inactive. In PDAC, a major regulator of hypoxia is inducible factor-1 (HIF-1). In addition, in PDAC, there is a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) that occurs at HIF-1 G1790A and C1772T. It was found that patients that these SNP’s had an increased risk of metastasis occurring quickly with PDAC. Also, the G1790A SNP was correlated with a higher expression of HIF-1, which regulates metastasis progression.

Not only does HIF-1 contribute to the regulation of metastasis in patients with PDAC, but there is an actin-bundling protein that is called fascin. Fascin is overexpressed in patients with PDAC and this overexpression causes the upregulation of metastasis occurring in PDAC patients. HIF-1 relates to fascin because it directly activates the expression of fascin.  There is another actin-bundling protein that is called LASP-1 (LIM and SH3 protein 1). This is also overexpressed in patients with PDAC due to HIF-1. The combination of the overexpression of fascin and LASP-1 cause metastasis to occur quickly in patients with PDAC.  The way that HIF-1 is activates is through a phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway.


Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4396576/

Triglyceride Digestion

Submitted by seszlari on Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:35

Triglyceride digestion begins in the mouth with the action of lingual lipase. In the stomach, gastric lipase breaks down the triglyceride into diglycerides and free fatty acids. Fat in the small intestine triggers the release of the hormones CCK and secretin. CCK then causes the gallbladder to contract and release bile from the gallbladder. Secretin causes the release of bicarbonate and pancreatic enzymes, including pancreatic lipase. Bile emulsifies fats which increases the surface area. Pancreatic lipase breaks a triglyceride into a 2-monoglyceride and 2 free fatty acids. Bile salts form small globules called micelles. The micellular lipids are passively absorbed and bile salts are eventually reabsorbed into the ileum, returned to the liver and recycled into bile again.


Submitted by scestero on Thu, 03/23/2017 - 15:22

Mammals are one of the most diverse organisms in the world when it comes to environment, they can live virtually anywhere. Many mammalian species have evolved to live in the ocean or in other bodies of water, in a sense they have gone back to the water. As we know dolphins and whales are examples of such animlas, but there are also otters and seals. Some like the manatee and whale are far more evolved for life in the water than a sea otter. Otters have an extremely thick coat of hair, a coat that almost cuased them to go extinct due to hunting. This coat is an extremely good insulator, but there are mammals thathave evolved more efficient forms of insulation. Sea lion, seals and whales have evolved a fatty layer underneth the skin called blubber. This acts as an insulator in water and can reach up to 20inches in thickness. 

Journal #21-- Shark Research PP

Submitted by skhall on Thu, 03/23/2017 - 10:26

A previous student at UMass, Duncan J. Irschick has been analyzing shark species in Floride to grasp a better understanding of their body shapes. In order to help with his research, Irschick and his team needed to create a technology to create a 3D structure of the body types they are analyzing. “Now, he and colleagues have developed just such a tool, a multi-armed platform that integrates several cameras plus a computer system, which they call the “Beastcam” because it can rapidly and easily create 3D models of living animals and other objects.” The model was inspired when he attempted to make a model of a shark with just one camera, and his creation was not successful. Irschick works with other undergraduates to create these 3D models with the use of this beastcam in their lab. Their technology can take 40-60 photos in about 20 seconds. These structures can be used in various softwares to look at different characteristics of the sharks. Irschick has used this tool to create 3D structures of geckos here on campus and is hoping to take these skills back to florida for his research on sharks. 



Journal #21--UMass Amherst Shark Research Leads Biologists to Create ‘Beastcam’

Submitted by skhall on Thu, 03/23/2017 - 10:07

While browsing the UMass Biology Newsletter page I stumbled across a previous UMass student doing some remarkable research. Duncan J. Irschick was working with sharks in Florida last spring to better understand their body shapes and decided to create a piece of technology to help create the 3D structure of these body types. “Now, he and colleagues have developed just such a tool, a multi-armed platform that integrates several cameras plus a computer system, which they call the “Beastcam” because it can rapidly and easily create 3D models of living animals and other objects.” The model was inspired when he attempted to make a model of a shark with just one camera, and the model was not successful with his original work. He works with other undergraduates to create these models and take photos in the lab. The contraption can take 40-60 photos in about 20 seconds. These structures can be used in various softwares to look at different characteristics of the sharks. Duncan has used this tool to create 3D structures of geckos here on campus and is hoping to take these skills back to florida for his research on sharks. 


cancer genetics project 2 check in part 1

Submitted by jdantonio on Thu, 03/23/2017 - 01:02

For our project we are choosing to target prostate metastatic cancer, it is the 6th most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and is the most deadly. Prostate cancer has a tendency to colonize bone cells and lymph nodes for secondary tumor formation. We will target the growth and proliferation of new cells with androgen deprivation therapy, which blocks the binding of testosterone to prostate cells thereby preventing prostate cell growth and survival. We will address the invasion of bone cells with Bisphosphonates and Denosumab both of which prevent the spread of cancer to the bones by interfering with bone structural features wih make it easier for cancer cells to colonizes them. we will be targeting the overexpressed receptor molecule CXCR4  which is associated with the formation of premetastatic niche in osteocytes in prostate cancer patients. We are investigating the possibility of CXCR4 down regulation by targeting miR 218 a microRNA associated with CXCR4 upregulation and miR 25 which is associated with down regulation or designing our own siRNA that specifically targets the CXCR4 gene. CXCR4 receptor activates a pathway that activates the expression of MMP9 an enzyme which remodels the extracellular matrix of bone cells. This remodeling of extracellular matrix is associated with secondary  metastatic tumor formation in the bones of metastatic prostate cancer patients. We may also target the MMP9 protein itself by designing an inhibitor for the enzyme. This covers both the premetestatic niche and extracellular matrix portion of the project.  For targeting the signalling from the tumor to new sites we plan on targeting large oncosomes, very large exosomes that are associated with prostate cancer, I have yet to find a way to target them but they’re huge so we might just be able to filter them out of the blood in a dialysis type treatment( this is little convoluted but it would be cool if it worked).

Observing the Sunset

Submitted by jgirgis on Wed, 03/22/2017 - 23:22

The sunset yesterday consisted of a mixture of purple, orange, yellow, and pink colors. I was watching the sunset next to the field near the honors college. The grass on the field was very dark. One could not even make out that it was grass if they did not know that it was a field. At this time when one looked out at the field, one could see the sunset very clearly. The bottom of the sunset was orange and yellow, which was the sun glowing. The middle of the sun was a very bright yellow color. Right above the sun was an orange color that spread across the horizon on the field. There were not many clouds on the horizon. However, after the orange color, the clouds appeared. The clouds were a very dark purple. When one looked closely, the clouds were such a dark color that they could be perceived as black. The clouds were also very voluminous. The clouds seemed very bouncy and full, although they were a dark color. In addition to the clouds being dark, in between the clouds and the orange horizon, there was a faint pink color. There were not any clouds on the parts of the sunset that were pink. The pink was a very light pink color, making this sunset very special.

Journal 18

Submitted by kngallant on Wed, 03/22/2017 - 21:14

    Certain birds display a behavior called “broken-wing display” in order to divert the attention of a predator. Birds will display this behavior in order to protect their offspring. For example, consider a coyote is approaching a mother duck and her offspring. The mother duck is easily able to fly away from the coyote, but her ducklings cannot. In order to protect them, she will pretend as if she has a broken wing. She will act as if she is struggling to fly and lift off the ground, to get the attention of the coyote. Meanwhile, her baby ducklings will be walking away from the scene looking for a safe place to hide. The mother will continue this behavior, confusing the predator, to divert his attention away from her offspring until they are safely hidden. Once she sees her ducklings are safe, hidden where the coyote cannot get to them, she will quickly stop pretending her wing is broken and fly away. This is an example of how animals avoid predators, as well as an example of how a mother will risk her own life in order to save her offspring.

Auditory System Journal

Submitted by matjbaker on Wed, 03/22/2017 - 17:01

Auditory sensation is essentially the transmission of matter waves in the environment into neuronal firing in our body. The pressure wave enters our ears through the outer ear and proceeds to interact with the tympanic membrane which is also known as the ear drum. At the ear drum, the pressure wave is converted to vibration that is passed from the tympanic membrane to small bones in the ear known as ossicles. These ossicles basically act as a lever and pass the force along to the oval window. The ossicles are able to act like a lever because of the difference in surface area between the tympanic membrane and the oval window. The same amount of force applied over a smaller surface area results in greater pressure and allows for amplification of the signal. The oval window then leads to the cochlea where you can find the basilar membrane and the tectorial membrane. The base of the basilar membrane is narrow and stiff which allows it to be stimulated by relatively high pitched sounds. The apex of the basilar membrane is is wide and floppy which allows it to transmit information from sound waves of lower frequencies. Sandwhiched between the basilar membrane and the tectorial membrane are hair cells that make up the organ of corti. When a force is exerted on these hair cells forcing them to bend, a mechanical gated ion channel is opened allowing an influx of potassium ions. The shift in membrane potential of the hair cell results in voltage-gated calcium channels on the cell to also open. This influx of calcium triggers vessicles containing a neurotransmitter called glutamate to be released from the cell. This glutamate interacts with ligand-gated ion channels on the post syanptic cell resulting in the firing of an action potential in ganglion neurites that is sent to the brain through the auditory nerve, also known as the 8th cranial nerve. This information travels through the brain stem to the medial geniculate nucleus and then finally to the auditory cortex which is located in the temporal lobe.


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