From Cropland to Cities: Aerial Transport of Fungi

How connected are our farms to our cities? If you are a flying fungus, they may be very connected! In a new study, researchers from De Paul University found fungi from the soil on the rooftops of Chicago and wondered why. It turns out, small fungal spores can travel from agricultural fields through the air into the cities and form friendships with the city-dwelling plants. Understanding how these spores move from agriculture to cities could help researchers develop new insight of the urban ecosystem.

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Stop and Smell the Flowers: Color-changing spiders blend in to avoid being eaten

Can you think of any animals that can change colors? I bet a spider didn’t come to mind! Believe it or not, crab spiders can change colors from white to yellow depending on the color of the flower they occupy. When an insect arrives at a spider-inhabited flower, the crab spiders use their long legs to grab their meal. Matching the color of their flower may allow crab spiders to hide from their prey and predators. Stop, smell the flowers, and see if you can spot some crab spiders!

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Using genetics to reveal how coffee agriculture affects a forest dwelling rodent

Strong conservation plans are enriched by data that show which features of the habitat are important for wildlife. DNA analyses can reveal how landscape features join or separate populations without necessarily needing the observational data collected from studying animals moving in the wild. These methods can be helpful for conservation policies for elusive or understudied species. Read on to find out how coffee plantations affect an elusive forest dwelling rodent.

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Unequal Access to Urban Tree Benefits in the Bronx

Urban trees provide many ecosystem services to residents, but tree cover can be unequally distributed, resulting in fewer benefits for disadvantaged neighborhoods. This is true in the Bronx, where a recent study demonstrates that the distribution of services provided by trees is related to median income as well as population density. Analyzing the inequity of ecosystem services in our cities is the first step towards developing solutions to improve access to ecosystem services and make the distribution of these resources more just.

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Leaving a Legacy: Plants leave “memories” in the soil that can affect future generations

It’s easy to drive by grasslands, forests, and deserts without thinking too deeply about how and why they have developed to be unique from one another. Still, most of us have an intuition of how community drivers work, such as recognizing that sandy soils and very hot climates encourage the growth of cacti instead of oaks. As an ecologist that has done a lot of work with restoration projects, I am particularly interested in thinking about all of the environmental “ingredients” that go into the recipe for each unique plant community. The day that I found out that plants can leave “memories” in soil which change communities long term, I immediately began thinking about how we could harness this knowledge for good and whether or not humans play a role in the development of these legacies.

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Rich bird, poor bird: urban street trees support native birds across a socioeconomic gradient

If you’ve jumped on the bird-watching bandwagon to pass time during the pandemic or tuned in to #BlackBirdersWeek, you might have a new-found awareness of the birds outside your window or in your local park. What you may not have noticed is that urban birding experiences can differ greatly among neighborhoods.

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Earth’s largest water reservoir could be 1,800 miles beneath the surface

When Jules Verne first published his story “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, it was fantasy that one could sail across a vast ocean deep below the surface of the earth, but many became fascinated by what could exist thousands of miles beneath our feet. These fantasies remain even today as we are unable to study the innermost layers of our planet directly, but new research techniques reveal the Earth’s core may be more like Verne’s version after all.

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Accidental Breakthrough: An Unexpected Laboratory Hybrid of a Critically Endangered Fish Species

Sometimes scientific breakthroughs happen by sheer accident. That was certainly the case with scientists studying the Russian sturgeon. An unexpectedly successful cross-species breeding experiment resulted in the first documented surviving hybrids of Russian sturgeon and American paddlefish. This opens new doors and frontiers for fish genetics, aquaculture, and potential survival strategies for critically endangered sturgeon species.

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