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Showing posts from 2015

A Tale of Two Tremors: The Nepal Quake and the San Ramon Swarm

by Zack Griggy, San Marin HS

            The earthquake is an awe-inspiring disaster that can occur anywhere at anytime where two tectonic plates contact. Tectonic plates make up most of the Earth's crust and move freely, so they can rub up against, move away from, or compress against other tectonic plates, which results in huge amounts of energy. The place where said actions occur are called faults. Earthquakes are the result of rocks along the fault breaking as the faults move. This releases all the pent-up energy from the tectonic plate movement, and results in a tremor. There have been countless earthquakes recorded, but recently, there have been many events in particular that have attracted a large amount of attention in the seismological community, among which include the San Ramon Swarm and last April's Nepal Quake.
             Since October 15, the town of San Ramon in Contra Costa County, California has been rattled by more than 200 small earthquakes. Thirty of which…

Modeling Tsunamis and Monitoring Earthquakes: an Interview with Geophysicist and MSS Speaker Diego Melgar

--> By Talya Klinger, MSS Intern

How can we meet the computational challenge of modeling and monitoring earthquakes in real time, and how can we anticipate and prepare for natural disasters? Diego Melgar, Ph.D. of the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, is investigating these questions and more. As an assistant researcher, he develops earthquake models and tsunami warning systems using high-rate GPS data, paving the way for better earthquake preparation.
1. How did you first get interested in seismology?
I grew up in Mexico City, where earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and other natural hazards are a fact of life. I've also always liked math and physics, and so, when it was time to go to college and select a program, I looked around and I found a geophysics degree at the National University that studied the Earth and its physics with lots of math. It seemed like a great idea to me!
2. What are some of the most challenging aspects of modeling natural disasters in real-time…

Angiosperms: How the Disappearance of Bees Put Flowers At Risk

By Zack Griggy, San Marin HS

          Plants are unique organisms. They have unique cell structures, ways of making energy, and reproduction. There are many different kinds of plants, but a category of plants called angiosperms makes up 80% of plants. But some of these angiosperms are at risk, as bees and other pollinators, which are vital to angiosperm reproduction, are disappearing.
         Plant reproduction varies among different kinds of plants in two significant ways. The two distinguishing factors that divide the kingdom Plantae are seeding and flowering. Angiosperms are the only group of plants that makes both flowers and seeds.
         Flowers are the reproductive system of an angiosperm. In a flower, two structures in particular play a vital role in plant reproduction. These parts are the pistil and stamen of a flower. The pistil consists of the ovary, the style and the stigma. The ovary is a small are in the bulb of the flower where eggs are stored. Atop the ovary is the …

Carnivorous Plants

by Jane Casto, Terra Linda High School Freshman

Carnivorous plants is a term often associated with flies and Venus fly traps. There is much more however, to learn about these organisms, and about their complex functions that allow optimal survival and ideal food supply. Scientists have been unraveling the true genius of these plants for years, and even now, breakthroughs are being made in research. To begin, we answer the question: what is a carnivorous plant? 
Carnivorous plants, or insectivorous plants, are plants that have adapted to consuming and digesting insects and other animals. These plants work in a variety of ways based on their species, of which there are 600 known to man. The basic understanding of the makeup of carnivorous plants is uniform throughout the different species. Carnivorous plants have adapted to a low-nutrient environment, making digestion of invertebrates optimal, as it is a low-nutrient energy method of consumption. the Venus fly trap's deadly leaves, …

Pollinators, Predator-Prey Relations, and Pursuing Your STEM Interests: an Interview with Biologist and MSS Speaker Amber Sciligo

by Talya Klinger, MSS Intern

Dr. Amber Sciligo, a scientist in the department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley, researches the interactions between insects, plants, the environment, and human economies. Whether she directs her focus to examining self-fertilizing carnivorous plants, observing how native bee communities enhance crop pollination, or finding the optimal level of crop diversity for sustainable farming, Dr. Sciligo’s research has important implications for the wild world of botany. Attend her research presentation at Terra Linda High School, Room 207, from 7:30-8:30 pm on October 21st. In Dr. Sciligo's words: -->
1. How did you originally get interested in ecology and evolution?
Multiple life events led me down this path. The first was in my high school biology class, when I was taught how to catch insects and curate them as if they were to be kept in a museum (arrange their body parts and pin them so that they would dry out and be p…

E-Cigarettes: A Subtle Danger?

By Zack Griggy, San Marin HS

          E-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, are marketed as a healthier and safer cigarette. But is it really? Multiple organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have found that they are not at all safer that traditional cigarettes.
          A traditional cigarette burns the leaves from the tobacco plant. Tobacco is a plant that naturally contains nicotine, the main addictive agent in cigarettes. Nicotine is also used as a strong insecticide and is so strong that a drop of pure nicotine can kill a person. When tobacco is burned, nicotine is released in the smoke. The smoker can then inhale the smoke and experience a high feeling, which is caused by excess levels of dopamine from the nicotine. In addition to

tobacco,cigarettes can also contain thousands of toxic chemicals, the purpose of which could be anything from making cigarettes combustible to enhancing the addictive effects of the ni…

Bacteria, Botulism, and Beauty

--> By Talya Klinger, MSS Intern
What do foodborne illnesses, neck dystonia treatments, and celebrities’ beauty regimens have in common? Clostridium botulinum, baratii, and other species of Clostridium bacteria produce all of the above and more. These seemingly innocuous, rod-shaped bacteria, commonly found in soil and in the intestinal tracts of fish and mammals, produce one of the most deadly biological substances: botulinum toxin, a neurotoxin that intercepts neurotransmitters and paralyzes muscles in the disease known as botulism. Nonetheless, botulinum toxin isn’t all bad: this chemical not only protects the bacteria from intense heat and high acidity, but it makes for an effective treatment for medical conditions as wide-ranging as muscle spasms, chronic migraines, and, yes, wrinkles. 

Clostridium botulinum and similar bacteria can make their way into the human body in a number of ways. Wounds infected with Clostridium botulinum or spores ingested by infants can lead to …

An Interview With Dr. Erik Foehr

By Zack Griggy, MSS Intern, San Marin High School, Novato

          In today's world, infectious disease remains a deadly concern to humanity. Some of these diseases include anthrax, Venezuelian equine encephalitis, bubonic plague, MERS, Eastern equine encephalitis, and, of course, botulism. Botulism is a disease that can cause paralysis and even death, but what makes botulism so different from the rest of these diseases is that the substance that causes it, botulinum toxin, is widely marketed as a beauty product under the name Botox. Dr. Erik Foehr, an expert in the fields of bioanalysis, immunogenicity risk assessment, and drug development, is currently investigating the toxin and how the body responds to it. Attend his presentation at Terra Linda High School, 320 Nova Albion Way, in Room 207 from 7:30 to 8:30 pm on September 30th.

In order to gain a little more insight before his talk, we interviewed Dr. Foehr about his work and research.

1. What drew you into the fields of phar…

Chemosynthesis in the Deep Sea

Chemosynthesis In the Deep Sea
by Jane Casto, MSS Intern, Terra Linda High School           The deep sea- where cold, stable pressures and darkness rule. Within that darkness lies life; a broad spectrum of biodiversity. The most fascinating thing about the deep sea, however, lays within what goes against lifeforms on land.            On land, plants and animals alike require some form of energy. The same is true in the deep sea, but one thing, particularly about plants, is quite different. Photosynthesis, the process plants use to turn sunlight into usable energy through chlorophyll, is almost always the method that plants use to get said energy. However, in the deep sea, quite a difference can be seen with that process.           One of the reasons as to why deep sea ecosystems, such as hydrothermal vents, do not use the process of photosynthesis is obvious. Little sunlight reaches that far down into the ocean. With that in mind, however, the question presents itself: how do these eco…

An Interview with Dr. Jenna Judge, Marine Biologist

by Talya Klinger, MSS Intern

Driftwood is a common sight on beaches, but what happens to driftwood when it sinks to the seafloor? Dr. Jenna Judge, a recent doctoral graduate of UC Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology, researches evolution and ecology in deep-sea habitats, such as driftwood, as well as hydrothermal vents and sunken whale bones. Her research shows that these unusual substrates host diverse, lively communities shaped by the wood they inhabit. Attend her research presentation at Terra Linda High School, Room 207, from 7:30-8:30 pm on September 9th.

In Dr. Judge’s words:

1.Why did you decide to become a marine biologist in the first place?
Well, I grew up in the mountains, but I was always interested in nature and science. I also loved the beach when my family would go on camping trips to the coast. However, I really decided to pursue marine biology in high school after learning about extreme deep-sea environments and the strange animals that live there from my AP Biol…

Internship application period for 2015-2016 now open

Marin Teens! (HS & college age) Want a cool fall internship? Check out Marin Science Seminar internships. You can apply online.

Apply Online for MSS Internships
Fall 2015 Internship dates: Sept. 9 - Nov. 18
Spring 2016 Internship dates: Feb. 10 - Apr. 13
Explore science & technology, meet scientists and medical professionals, gain experience for your resume and college applications, develop a portfolio! 

MSS interns attend and assist with a minimum of 6 science seminars per academic year (there are 12 per year) during which they meet the speakers and assist with various logistical duties. Sessions take place on Wednesday evenings at Terra Linda High School, Room 207, during the school year. Interns arrive evening of a session at 7 pm and are free to leave once breakdown is completed (between 8:30 and 9 pm). Interns also assist in researching and creating materials about event topics, c…

All About Lysosomes

by Angel Zhou, Branson School

Lysosomes, discovered and named by Belgian biologist Christian de Duve, who eventually received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1974, are membrane-enclosed organelles that function as the digestive system of the cell, both degrading material taken up from outside the cell and digesting obsolete components of the cell itself. The membrane around a lysosome allows the digestive enzymes to work at the pH they require. In their simplest form, lysosomes are visualized as dense spherical vacuoles, but they can display considerable variation in size and shape as a result of differences in the materials that have been taken up for digestion. Lysosomes contain an array of enzymes capable of breaking down biological polymers, including proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and lipids.

The lysosome’s enzymes are synthesized in the rough endoplasmic reticulum. The enzymes are released from Golgi apparatus in small vesicles which ultimately fuse with acidic vesicles ca…

Interview with Dr. Katie Ferris of UC Berkeley

by Angel Zhou, Branson School

Monkey flowers and mice - two radically different things. Yet, biologists, like Dr. Katie Ferris, are studying how native monkey flowers and mice have adapted to drastically different environments. 
Dr. Ferris currently works with Dr. Michael Nachman at UC Berkeley, using genetic sequencing and samples of monkey flowers and mice to show how organisms are often adapted to their local environment and that these adaptations are genetically based. 
To learn more about Dr. Ferris and her work with Monkey flowers and mice, read the following interview:
1) How did you decide to enter your field of work? I decided to become a biologist pretty early on in life. When I was little I loved being outside and interacting with the natural world, especially with plants. Because of my attraction to plants I often got in trouble for picking flowers in my mother's garden. When I was three years old I picked off every single bright green new hosta lily shoot that popped out o…