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Working with colleagues at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the New York Botanical Garden, and New York University, Museum scientists have created the largest genome-based tree of life for seed plants. Their findings plot the evolutionary relationships of 150 different species of plants based on advanced genome-wide analysis of gene structure and function. This new approach, called “functional phylogenomics,” allows scientists to reconstruct the pattern of events that led to the vast number of plant species we see today and could help identify genes used to improve seed quality for agriculture.
The research, performed by members of the New York Plant Genomics Consortium, was funded by the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Program to identify the genes that caused the evolution of seeds, a trait of important economic interest.
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The fifth floor of the Rose Center for Earth and Space is home to the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics, which includes a research group of two dozen graduate students, research scientists, and postdocs. Michael Shara, curator of the new exhibition Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration, is one of three curators in the department. Below is the first in a series of features on the curators’ areas of research.
Curator Michael Shara studies stellar populations in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies. Over the last decade, he has focused on stars known as Wolf-Rayets—hot, ephemeral bodies that start their lives 20 to 80 times more massive than the Sun and then shed much of that mass over a lifespan of a few hundred thousand years until they explode as Type 1b or 1c supernovae, which occur when a massive star’s core collapses. There are now 600 Wolf-Rayet stars known in the Milky Way, an 80 percent increase since 2006. Shara’s team has found and characterized the majority of them. His “best” and rarest specimens are from the far side of the Milky Way, which is still terra incognita to astronomers.
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In December 1957, two months after the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik 1, the first human-made object to enter space and the catalyst for the space race, the Museum published a memo titled “Calling All Scientists,” which observed how the lone satellite had shifted the public appraisal of scientists. “[P]ress people dashed up to the museum to get the Planetarium staff to help them explain to the public what had happened,” the memo read. “The scientists are now being turned to for guidance.”
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Another fast-approaching holiday season brings a rush of food, fun, laughter, and memories. Fabio Parasecoli, an associate professor in The New School’s Food Studies program, explores the ways food memories shape how we view ourselves and our connection to communal and cultural memories. Join Parasecoli on Wednesday, December 14, for this month’s Adventures in the Global Kitchen, Sugar Skulls to King Cakes: Global Memories and Holiday Traditions, to learn about holiday food traditions from around the globe, to taste a variety of beloved holiday desserts, and for the chance to win an authentic Mexican sugar skull. Recently, Parasecoli answered a few questions about holiday foods.