Tailored to fit

first_imgColumbine flowers are recognizable by the long, trailing nectar spurs that extend from the bases of their petals, tempting the taste buds of their insect pollinators.New research at Harvard and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), helps to explain how columbines have achieved a rapid radiation of approximately 70 species, with flowers apparently tailored to the length of their pollinators’ tongues.Bees, for example, enjoy the short spurs of Aquilegia vulgaris, whereas hawkmoths favor A. longissima, whose spurs can grow to up to 16 centimeters.According to results published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the dramatic diversity in the length of the columbines’ spurs is the result of one simple change during development: the extent of cell elongation.“The evolutionary importance of interactions between flowers and pollinators has been recognized for centuries,” says co-lead author Sharon Gerbode, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).“Charles Darwin, observing orchids, recognized that the extraordinarily long nectar spur on the Angraecum must have evolved in concert with the equally long tongue of the moth that pollinated it, but the exact mechanism for this kind of adaptation has been a matter of speculation.”For more than 60 years, biologists have assumed that the length of columbine spurs was achieved primarily by cell proliferation. The new research reveals that proliferation plays almost no role at all in creating the vast diversity of Aquilegia species currently seen.In fact, 99 percent of the variation in spur length can be attributed to changes in cell shape — specifically, changing round cells into long ones.The researchers made more than 13,000 measurements to count the number of cells along the spur, as well as the area and degree of elongation of each cell.Columbines, such as Aquilegia longissima (pictured), show promise as a model organism for the study of evolution in plants because they have experienced such a rapid adaptive radiation within the past 3 million years. Courtesy of Scott A. Hodges/UCSBThey found that cell division ceases early in the development of the spur — when it is about 5 millimeters long. At that point, the general pattern for the spur has been established, and all species of columbine petals look the same. From that point on, the cells elongate to varying extents, creating diverse spur lengths across species.“The controlled elongation of cells within the petal spurs was a critical evolutionary innovation for Aquilegia, a genus that is considered to be a textbook example of adaptive radiation,” says co-lead author Joshua Puzey, a graduate student in Harvard’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB).The researchers confirmed their results through mathematical analysis and modeling, and through in vivo experiments to disrupt cellular structure. The next step will be to examine several major hormone pathways and cytoskeletal elements that are known to influence cell elongation and developmental timing.“We want to understand the genes that are responsible for both the initial evolution of nectar spurs and their subsequent diversification,” says co-principal investigator Elena Kramer, professor of OEB at Harvard.It is clear, she says, that the starting point for the spur is likely to have already been present in the last common ancestor of all the columbine species.“Now that we understand the real developmental basis for the first appearance and diversification of spurs, we can make much more informed guesses about what genes contributed to the process,” Kramer adds.“Fundamentally, these studies will help us answer questions about the genetic basis for speciation and how developmental processes evolve.”Columbines show promise as a model organism for the study of evolution in plants because they have experienced such a rapid adaptive radiation within the past 3 million years.“The fact that this occurred quite recently is incredibly useful,” says Kramer, “because it means that the species are still very similar to each other at the genetic level.”Once researchers have identified the molecular signals that drive elongation in the spurs, the hope is that they will be able to recognize and understand speciation at all levels, from genes to populations.“Aquilegia serve as a nice example of how environmental selective pressures may drive extreme morphologies — as here the flower and pollinator strive for an exclusive relationship,” adds co-principal investigator L. Mahadevan, the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics at SEAS and professor of OEB and physics at Harvard. “Given that we can now manipulate spur length using externally applied drugs, our study even raises the possibility of artificially tuning that process and studying the results from an ecological perspective.”UCSB faculty member Scott A. Hodges served as co-author for the research.The research was supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, The Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology at Harvard, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the NSF-supported Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at Harvard.Biologists have long assumed that the length of columbine spurs was achieved primarily by cell proliferation. The new research reveals that proliferation plays almost no role at all in creating the vast diversity of Aquilegia species currently seen.The Aquilegia canadensis is pictured here. Photo courtesy of Joshua Puzey/OEBlast_img read more

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Coronavirus poses challenges to Election Day

first_imgRapoport: For elections coming up very soon, there are limited but important things that can be done. Election officials can widely circulate absentee ballots and set up safe procedures for their return.  In some places, emergency legislation or executive order could be needed. In addition, social distancing can be practiced, like having people drop off ballots outside, limiting how many people can be inside the polling place, and keeping equipment and election personnel continuously sanitized. Polling places should be moved from nursing homes or other places where vulnerable people are likely to be. And higher pay and aggressive poll worker recruitment efforts should bring young and middle–aged people to expand and diversify what is now primarily an elderly election day workforce. Ash: What steps should we take to minimize the risks from another pandemic on future elections?Rapoport: I really think the coronavirus can and should be a powerful impetus for changes that are already being made, but slowly; something akin to a strong shove from behind to a person walking along; unpleasant but effective. States are moving to policies that allow voters far more options to register and to vote than they have had. One of these is a significant expansion of mail options for voting. Six states have fully or almost fully mail-in elections and a large number have eliminated restrictions on absentee ballots as well as begun sending ballots to all voters. A second is an extended period of early voting, which is now offered in 37 states. Both policies are helpful conveniences for the voter, but also significant social distancing mechanisms to prevent gluts of voters on election day. And, obviously, moving from caucuses to primaries, and utilizing ranked–choice voting which eliminates two-stage runoffs, are both in the same direction. Ash: Do you think states should postpone elections in situations like this?Rapoport: Postponing elections really should be avoided at almost all costs. Policies that expand the options available to voters, interventions that make the adjustments needed with good advance planning and adequate funding and professionalism of election administrators can all make a major difference. It was notable that when Louisiana announced they are delaying the Democratic primary until June 20th, four other states with primaries with dates even closer issued a joint statement pledging to conduct their elections as planned.  As the presidential primary season unfolds, the Ash Center sat down with Miles Rapoport, Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy at the Ash Center and former Secretary of the State for Connecticut, for a conversation about the steps that election officials can take to lessen the risks posed by coronavirus on election day.Q&AMiles RapoportAsh: What can election officials do now to stem the risk of exposure to voters and poll workers? Read Full Storylast_img read more

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APG and others outline stance on BP net-zero ambition, delivery

first_imgIn their statement, the investors said they welcomed this as a response to last year’s Climate Action 100+ shareholder resolution, and also expressed their support for BP’s reporting on the consistency of new material capital expenditure investments with the goals of the Paris Agreement, in line with the 2019 AGM resolution.‘Ground-breaking’ According to the investors, this reporting “breaks new ground by developing by developing a profitability and carbon intensity test for projects under conditions which BP believes are consistent with the Paris goals”.They cautioned that the assumptions underlying this test should be kept under careful review “given the possibility that the COVID crisis may have brought forward peak oil”.“We also look to forward to building on our constructive engagement in this area, exploring how to ensure that capex is also consistent with carbon budgets aligned to BP’s journey to net-zero,” they added.The investors also said they would “welcome more clarity” on BP’s short and medium-term targets aligned to its net-zero ambition, such as greenhouse gas emissions targets for energy produced and sold (Scopes 1-3), the links to remuneration, and planned levels of investment in traditional oil and gas and low carbon technologies.“Providing a roadmap and aligning capital expenditure with a finite carbon budget are clear indicators to investors of a shift in company strategy”Steve Waygood, chief responsible investment officer at Aviva Investors“We commend BP for setting out its net-zero ambition,” said Steve Waygood, chief responsible investment officer at Aviva Investors.“Providing a roadmap and aligning capital expenditure with a finite carbon budget are clear indicators to investors of a shift in company strategy, providing milestones against which to assess progress. We look forward to continuing our engagement with BP to ensure that capex remains consistent with its goal to reach net-zero by 2050.”*Full list of supporting investors: APG Asset Management, Aviva Investors, AXA Investment Managers, BMO Global Asset Management on behalf of its advisory clients, EOS at Federated Hermes on behalf of its stewardship clients, HSBC Global Asset Management, Kempen, Legal & General Investment Management, Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, M&G Investments, Newton Investment Management, PGGM, and UBS Asset Management.Looking for IPE’s latest magazine? Read the digital edition here. Major global institutional investors involved in collaborative engagement with BP as part of Climate Action 100+ (CA 100+) have publicly set out their perspective on the company’s commitment to become a net-zero oil and gas major, welcoming “ground-breaking” reporting on capital expenditure but pledging further attention to the company’s spending.APG Asset Management, Aviva Investors, Legal & General Investment Management, PGGM and UBS Asset Management are among those* putting their name to statement that has been drafted “for consideration” upon the occasion of BP’s annual general meeting tomorrow.Due to the coronavirus and government guidance on social distancing, the AGM will be a closed meeting and will be live streamed on the Internet. Investors will not be able to participate, but chair Helge Lund is expected to acknowledge the investors’ statement when he addresses the meeting.The investors’ statement follows BP in February announcing a net-zero “ambition”, with then new chief executive officer Bernard Looney saying it would provide details about how it planned to deliver on that in September, when it holds a capital markets day.last_img read more

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SCA president lauds unity among executives, members

first_imgBy Frederick HalleyTORONTO, Canada — President of the Scarborough Cricket Association (SCA) Shiv Persaud has described his first year at the helm as one which was faced with challenges and adversities. However, according to him, “we were able to improvise and find viable solutions for each situation”.SCA secretary Eon Gunraj receives the Norman Sue Spirit Award from Kim Sue, daughter of the late businessman.SCA secretary Eon Gunraj receives the Norman Sue Spirit Award from Kim Sue, daughter of the late businessman.The Guyanese-born Persaud made this disclosure at last Saturday night’s 36th annual presentation, dinner and dance held at the Scarborough Convention Centre here and attended by, among others, Federal Member of Parliament Salma Zahid and Member of Provisional Parliament Raymond Cho.Persaud referred to one such instance when women cricketers attached to the SCA were shunned by Cricket Canada in their scheduled game against the touring MCC women’s team. According to the unassuming president, “even though we were all disappointed and heartbroken, we became more united.”Persaud pointed out that the unity was further evident in the first-ever women’s All Star game in the SCA. “Another instance was being able to manage the effects of losing two of our playing fields at Ellesemere.This affected the T20 competition and regular season playoffs, as games had to be played in October, long after the cricket season was scheduled to end.”Persaud disclosed that prior to the beginning of the 2016 season, the goals of the SCA were to ensure that the members were given the recognition and support they require to succeed and have confidence in the board of executives. “Secondly, it was the time for us to embrace the popularised version of cricket in the T20 format and lastly we wanted to ensure that every effort was made to advance the sport among juniors and women.”Persaud also pointed out that the women’s division “gave us another chapter of the thrilling rivalry between 2016 champions Kaisoca and Superstars. The growth and success showcased by our women’s cricketers in Scarborough is the highest across the province of Ontario and Canada that it has been for many years ….”Reflecting more on the 2016 season, Persaud disclosed that there are many areas that “we have started planning and exploring to build on our successes in 2017. For example, structuring our junior division for Under-13, U-16 and U-19, contesting regular season finals at different times during the season and allowing our women cricketers to play at different venues and possibly play games under light.”In applauding his executives, Persaud boasted: “I want to commend you for all your hard work and dedicated service. I am proud to have you as part of my executive body and am anxiously looking forward to your future contributions.”Persaud also reserved a special thank you for the several sponsors for their generous support in 2016. Coaches Danny Singh, Yunus Motara and assistant coach Matthew Francis were also lauded for their efforts in the OCA junior championship and the women’s all-star game.In her brief remarks, MP Salma Zahid said the SCA is doing a great job to develop cricket in Toronto. Zahid, who originated from Pakistan, showered praises on the SCA for targeting youths and women. She also presented trophies and medals to participants of the women’s all-star game.Ontario Cricket Association (OCA) vice-president Melvin John, who was also in attendance, also praised the SCA for doing a wonderful job, alluding to the fact that 2016 has been a great year for the association.This year’s Norman Sue Spirit Award went to SCA’s long-standing secretary Eon Gunraj and was presented by the late businessman’s daughter Kim. “Your selflessness and charity is an inspiration to all,” the plaque fittingly read.last_img read more

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CCR Cup winner called up from U20s to Munster senior squad

first_imgMeanwhile, a disciplinary panel has cleared Munster centre Francis Saili to play this weekend. He had been cited for an alleged dangerous tackle in the Reds’ win over the Ospreys. But the panel have found that while it was a foul, it didn’t merit a red card. The second row was expected to be named in the U20s side to play France this weekend but has been withdrawn for the province’s Pro12 game against Scarlets instead.Munster academy out-half Bill Johnston is in for the first time since the Junior World Cup last summer, as one of 5 changes in Nigal Carolan’s side.Munster wing Calvin Nash Captains.last_img

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