HHMI Investigator and Chancellor's Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology John Kuriyan has received the 2017 Stein & Moore Award sponsored by The Protein Society. The award recognizes eminent leaders in protein science who have made sustained high-impact research contributions to the field.
Ryan Morrie, a graduate student in the Feller Lab, has been awarded the 2017-2018 University of California Dissertation-Year Fellowship for his outstanding scholarly achievement and future academic potential. He was also recognized for his involvement in scientific outreach with diverse local elementary school children through the Bay Area Scientists In Schools (BASIS) program.
Congratulations to Professors Jamie Cate and Christopher Chang for being elected members of the esteemed American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Fishermen on Lake Victoria. Image courtesy of Kathryn Fiorella.
A toxic environment is known to create health problems for people, but sick people can also create health problems for the environment. Around Kenya’s Lake Victoria, a fishing community where locals battle high rates of disease and a depleted fish stock, scientists found that human illness exacerbates unsustainable fishing practices.
The study challenges the long-held assumption in environmental research that human disease provides a natural check to environmental exploitation and demonstrates a new way that poor human health may harm the environment. The study suggests that quality healthcare could have benefits beyond human populations and help people manage their environment and the sustainability of those resources.
“Studies have suggested people will spend less time on their livelihoods when they are sick, but we didn’t see that trend in our study. Instead, we saw a shift toward more destructive fishing methods when people were ill,” said Kathryn Fiorella, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral scholar at Cornell University. Fiorella was a doctoral student at Berkeley during the study, working in the lab of professor Justin Brashares.
The study will be published the week of April 3 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and Rocca fellowships to Fiorella through the Center for African Studies at UC Berkeley.
Understanding the links between human and environmental health is critical for the millions who cope with recurrent illness and rely directly on natural resources for sustenance.
“Healthy people, it turns out, are better for the environment,” said Richard Yuretich, program officer for the National Science Foundation’s Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Program, which funded the research. “When you feel well, you can plan the tasks you need to accomplish more carefully. But when you’re sick, you often just want to get things done fast, with the result that you may be more wasteful. This project illustrates the complex relationships we have with the world around us. Investigating these links is the principal aim of NSF’s Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Program.”
Added Brashares: “We’re focused on identifying and illuminating these connections between a changing environment and its potential impacts on human economies, health and social systems,”
To study these connections, Fiorella spent three months of each year of her graduate studies at Lake Victoria, a place where health and the environment are intertwined in complex ways and have been for decades.
Lake Victoria transformed after British colonists introduced Nile perch, a predatory fish, to the lake in the 1960s to support commercial fishing. Nile perch quickly dominated the lake and caused the extinction of hundreds of native cichlid species. During the 1980s and 1990s, commercial fishing grew around the lake and Nile perch started to decline, so regulations were enacted to save the fishery. During the same time, the HIV epidemic was spreading throughout East Africa. As Lake Victoria’s fishing community grew sicker, the environmental exploitation of the fishery worsened.
To explore how illness was altering fishing practices, the researchers tracked 303 households living on Lake Victoria. The households were interviewed four different times over a year. The researchers collected data about household health and fishing habits and looked for trends during times of sickness and good health.
Among active fishers, the study found limited evidence that illness reduced fishing effort. Instead, ill fishers shifted the methods they used. When ill, fishers were more likely to use methods that were illegal, destructive and concentrated near the shoreline, but required less travel and energy, the study found. Ill fishers were also less likely to use legal methods that are physically demanding, require travel to deep waters and are considered more sustainable.
“When people are chronically ill, they have different outlooks on the future,” Brashares said. “That different outlook means that they increasingly rely on unsustainable methods because they’re focused on short-term gain.”Tuesday, April 4, 2017 - 13:30 byline: Brett Israel, UC Berkeley Media relations Legacy: section header item: Date: Tuesday, April 4, 2017 - 13:30 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left
BS Nature documentary that first aired March 29 and is now available for streaming explores the impact of climate change on Yosemite National Park, and features two UC Berkeley biologists who climb to the tops of giant sequoias to understand what the future holds for these ancient trees.
MCB graduate student Nicole Haloupek's lovely article in the Berkeley Review is featured front and center on the UC Berkeley home page today. Read the full article, "Color by Numbers," which highlights the fascinating work of the Patel Lab (including grad students Ryan Null and Rachel Thayer) and other researchers on campus examinig the science behind color.