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Breaking research from Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. 


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All the buzz – bigger honeybee colonies have quieter combs

Jan 23, 2018
When honeybee colonies get larger, common sense suggests it would be noisier with more bees buzzing around.
But a study recently published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology reports that bigger honeybee colonies actually have quieter combs than smaller ones. “The surprising result was that – and at first I thought something must be wrong – when there are more bees on the comb, the vibrations are actually reduced,” said Michael Smith, a Cornell doctoral student in neurobiology and behavior and the paper’s lead author. [...] Read more

Eating more foods with choline during pregnancy could boost baby’s brain

Jan 4, 2018
When expectant mothers consume sufficient amounts of the nutrient choline during pregnancy, their offspring gain enduring cognitive benefits, a new Cornell University study suggests. Choline – found in egg yolks, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and cruciferous vegetables – has many functions, but this study focused on its role in prenatal brain development. [...] Read more

Northeast farmers weigh warming climate, drenched fields

Dec 14, 2017
Farmers in the Northeast are adapting to longer growing seasons and warming climate conditions – but they may face spring-planting whiplash as they confront fields increasingly saturated with rain, according to a research paper published in the journal Climatic Change. “Climate change can easily intensify agricultural susceptibility, but also presents fresh, surprising opportunities,” said David Wolfe, professor of plant and soil ecology at Cornell University and senior author of the paper. [...] Read more

Climate scientists study the odds of a U.S. megadrought

Dec 13, 2017
To help untangle fact from speculation, Cornell climate scientists and their colleagues have developed a “robust null hypothesis” to assess the odds of a megadrought – one that lasts more than 30 years – occurring in the western and southwestern United States. The research was published online in the Journal of Climate. [...] Read more

Cornell researchers boost barley, brewing industry in New York

Dec 7, 2017
The start of Prohibition in 1919 ended the party for more than just beer-drinkers: It also shut down New York’s once-thriving malt barley industry. When legal drinking returned in 1933, growers in the western United States dominated the market for malting barley, which – along with hops, yeast and water – is used to brew beer. Now, researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University are leading a multi-year project aimed at bringing malting barley back to New York and helping farmers take advantage of the economic opportunities offered by the crop. [...] Read more

Cornell, DEC launch new hemlock pest biocontrol lab

Nov 21, 2017
Cornell University and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced the creation of a new, $1.2 million biological control lab on Cornell’s Ithaca campus to protect the state’s ecologically important hemlock trees. The lab, partly funded by the state conservation department and headed by Cornell forest entomologist Mark Whitmore, will research and rear biological controls to slow the spread of hemlock woolly adelgids, invasive pests that threaten trees in roughly half of New York’s 62 counties and in more than 15 other states [...] Read more

Proposed New York climate change mitigation bill doesn’t hit the mark, says Cornell expert

Nov 20, 2017
Toby Ault, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University, suggested strong carbon-tracking improvements be included in a proposed New York State Senate bill intended to mitigate the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed Senate Bill S6617-A – the Climate and Community Protection Act –  is sponsored by Sen. Tony Avella, D-11th District, and it is currently in committee. In June 2017, the New York Assembly passed its version of the act. If enacted, the bill will establish the New York State Climate Action Council as well as mitigate the impacts of climate change in New York [...] Read more

Tumbling bumblebee populations linked to fungicides

Nov 15, 2017
When a Cornell-led team of scientists analyzed two dozen environmental factors to understand bumblebee population declines and range contractions, they expected to find stressors like changes in land use, geography or insecticides. Instead, they found a shocker: fungicides, commonly thought to have no impact [...] Read more

Saving Coney Island from the roller coaster of climate change

Nov 8, 2017
Through the lens of natural history, Coney Island features marshes, wetlands, creeks and a sandy shore. Today, it’s famous for hot dogs, crowded beaches, Mermaid Avenue and Luna Park. But as sea levels rise, the Coney Island peninsula is in danger of becoming uninhabitable. Cornell landscape architecture graduate students are wrestling with the island’s tenable, livable resilience in the face of nature aiming to reclaim the island. By semester’s end of the theory and practice course taught by Peter Trowbridge, professor of landscape architecture, and Mitch Glass, visiting critic in city and regional planning and landscape architecture, 36 graduate students will develop 36 ways to keep Coney Island inhabitants happy [...] Read more

Climate change, sparse policies endanger right whale population

Nov 7, 2017
North Atlantic right whales – a highly endangered species making modest population gains in the past decade – may be imperiled by warming waters and insufficient international protection, according to a new Cornell University analysis published in Global Change Biology. North Atlantic right whales’ preferred cuisine is copepods that thrive in cool waters, such as the Gulf of Maine, said author Erin Meyer-Gutbrod, who conducted the work as a doctoral student and postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Charles Greene, professor of oceanography and co-author on the paper [...] Read more

Vitamin E discovery in maize could lead to more nutritious crop

Nov 1, 2017
New research has identified genes that control vitamin E content in maize grain, a finding that could lead to improving the nutritional profile of this staple crop. Cornell University scientists and colleagues from other institutions combined different types of genetic association analyses to identify 14 genes across the genome that were involved in the synthesis of vitamin E. Six genes were newly discovered to encode proteins that contribute to a class of antioxidant compounds called tocochromanols, collectively known as vitamin E. Along with antioxidant properties, tocochromanols have been associated with good heart health in humans and proper functioning in plants [...] Read more

Cornell research helping hemlocks survive in New York state

Oct 25, 2017
Efforts to battle an invasive forest pest just got a boost from a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation grant that enables Cornell Botanic Gardens to continue – and expand – its work to conserve hemlock trees that are foundational to the university’s campus and natural areas [...] Read more

3-D scanning project of 20,000 animals makes details available worldwide

Oct 17, 2017
What began as a Twitter joke between two researchers has turned into a four-year, $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant to take 3-D digital scans of 20,000 museum vertebrate specimens and make them available to everyone online. Cornell’s Museum of Vertebrates, with 1.3 million fish specimens, 27,000 reptiles and amphibians (called herps), and 57,000 bird and 23,000 mammal specimens, is one of 16 institutions involved and promises to feature prominently in the project [...] Read more

Deer prefer native plants leaving lasting damage on forests

Oct 6, 2017
When rampant white-tailed deer graze in forests, they prefer to eat native plants over certain unpalatable invasive plants, such as garlic mustard and Japanese stiltgrass. These eating habits lower native plant diversity and abundance, while increasing the proportion of plant communities made up of non-native species, according to a new study [...] Read more

Study illuminates dramatic impact of night lights on bird migration

Oct 4, 2017
Billions of birds undertake migratory journeys each spring and fall. Most of these spectacular movements go unseen, occurring under the cover of darkness. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides some of the most compelling evidence yet that artificial light at night causes radical changes in the behaviors of migrating birds [...] Read more

Mold contamination in sea salts could potentially spoil food

Oct 3, 2017
Like fine wines, sea salts are artisanal products that inspire talk of terroir, texture and provenance. Now there’s evidence that they can also be sources of spoilage molds. Research from Cornell University mycologist Kathie Hodge and doctoral candidate Megan Biango-Daniels reveals varying levels of mold contamination in commercial sea salts. Among those molds were important food spoilage molds like Aspergillus and Penicillium, and even some notorious producers of mycotoxins [...] Read more

Anxiety, depression can diminish retirement savings

Sep 26, 2017
Psychological distress can take a toll on more than just health. It can also significantly damage retirement savings, according to a new study by a Cornell University financial economist and her co-author. Mental health problems can have a large negative effect on retirement savings, the study found. Three factors make the research even more meaningful, the authors say: People increasingly are living longer, dealing with more psychological distress, and shouldering the burden of saving for retirement without the help of employers [...] Read more

War on weeds takes toll on beneficial bacteria in the soil

Sep 26, 2017
As farmers battle in their above-ground war on weeds, they may inadvertently create underground casualties – unintentionally attacking the beneficial bacteria that help crops guard against enemy fungus, according to Cornell University research. Specifically, Cornell researchers found negative consequences of the weed-killing herbicide glyphosate on Pseudomonas, a soil-friendly bacteria [...] Read more