Invasive Species: Nature’s Junk Food?

Lauren Pintor, assistant professor of aquatic ecology at the Ohio State University, co-authored a study that appeared in Ecology Letters in which she and her colleague studied the effect of invasive species on the diet of native predators.

What they found suggests that invasive species might be nature’s junk food for local predators. The study suggests that native predators do best when reserving their consumption of foreign species as an occasional snack. Reasons can range from nutrition to the ability to eat or digest unfamiliar creatures. Most often foreign species help predators only when they become a supplemental food source.

However, there are cases in which an invasive species have become successful primary food sources and in some cases have even saved an endangered species. Familiar to many Ohioans, the European round goby that has been wreaking havoc in the depths of Lake Erie has probably saved a local endangered species, the Lake Erie watersnake. The clever watersnake adapted to eating the round goby and is no longer considered endangered.

Learning the Language of Research

Through a a grant from the National Science Foundation the Ohio State University has developed a summer program in which a group of undergraduate students from select colleges and universities around the country are learning the principles and practices of scientific research. The program takes place at COSI in downtown Columbus where students are engaging in linguistic analysis, studying the cognitive processes of language, and learning how to have effective social interactions with museum guests.

13 students were chosen from a group of 102 applicants. The 13 chosen students demonstrated a commitment to learn, though they had a limited knowledge of research practices. They are a diverse group chosen from public and private four-year institutions. Some are students of the Ohio State University system.

The internship encompasses three distinct elements over the 10-week period: classroom sessions, research training, and informal science education. Interaction on the museum floor is a critical component of the program.

After three weeks of in-class instruction students get matched up with a research partner—an Ohio State faculty member whose research projects match the student’s interest. The students then work one on one with the faculty member assisting in their research. Students might do any number of tasks including recruiting and running participants to analyzing and presenting data. Students will learn how to interact with the public and present their data effectively.

Students’ research discoveries will be featured in a capstone program before the conclusion of their research experience on Aug. 13.

Ohio State Dietary Expert Looks into Benefits of High Fat Diets for Athletes

Jeff Volek of the Ohio State University Department of Human Science has long been studying low-carbohydrate diets, and focuses on the role of ketogenic diets in athletic performance and recovery.

In a recent New York Times article discussing the long held belief that high-carbohydrate diets are preferable for athletes and new research that suggest high-fat diets might actually be better. If you yourself are an athlete or know one you’ve probably heard the term “carb loading” before. Recently this traditional wisdom has been challenged by scientists like Dr. Volek who was quoted in the article:

“From an evolutionary standpoint, a high-fat performance diet makes sense. Early humans, the hunter-gatherers, who were quite physically active, primarily ate fat. It’s been the main fuel for active humans far longer than carbohydrates have been.”

In agrarian societies carbohydrates were hard to come by and took a lot of energy to gather while not providing as much overall benefit as the protein and fat from meat.
The New York Times article also discusses the fact that exercise scientists have known for a long time that endurance training adapts the trainee’s body to better metabolize fat and use it as fuel.

While the scientific jury is still out on which is better for athletes, fat or carbs, the continued work of Dr. Volek and others should lead to some interesting results and possibly completely change what training athletes eat.

Buckeyes In The News

Jody Victor: Buckeye alumni are out there in almost every job. career, employment, service, military, occupation you can think of. In fact, there may be some we didn’t think of. Case in point, here’s an excerpt from an article on osu.edu about just such an alumni.

In 1984, the black-and-white Nintendo Entertainment System was still a year away from its U.S. release; the first version of Tetris had just been created in Moscow.

Sixteen-year-old Steve May was used to the barebones video game graphics that defined the era. But a story in Science that year–focused on new “amazing computer-generated imagery”–fascinated him.

Best of all for the Mansfield teen? It was happening at Ohio State’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design, a trailblazer in the field of computer animation.

Three Ohio State degrees later, May is a shining star at Pixar, where he’s worked on Up, Cars, Finding Nemo, and Toy Story 2. (May earned a bachelor’s in 1990, master’s in 1992, and PhD in 1998, all in Computer and Information Science.)

For Brave, which opened at No. 1, May oversaw and developed technology used in the film; ensured the movie lined up with the director’s creative vision; and supervised animators.

“I loved school,” says May, who also served as Ohio State faculty for 12 years. “I studied computer graphics and animation, so it directly applies to what we do at Pixar.”

Go Bucks!!!

Jody Victor