Yellow-Spotted Salamander Migration

Yellow-Spotted Salamander photo: Nancy Coddington

When the spring temperatures begin to rise and the snow recedes, the first warm rainy night of spring brings a chorus of spring peepers, wood frogs and mole salamanders. The spring migration happens sometime between mid March and April when evening temperatures rise above 40ºF as the amphibians move from the upland wooded areas to vernal pools and ponds to find suitable mates. Spotted salamanders are usually a secretive critter living under rocks, in seeps or underground in small damp burrows, so this is the night to be able to see them in large numbers. https://youtu.be/X9b02qycESc

This migration of yellow-spotted salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum, is a right of passage for some Binghamton University students. Devin DiGiacopo is a third year Phd student in Jessica Hua’s lab at Binghamton University and is researching how road salt affects spotted salamanders.

A Geneticist’s Growing Season

What does a maize geneticist do? Explore the growing season of maize, and how scientists study the plant’s genetic diversity and connect it to the phenotypes they observe. Maize needs lots of sun and warm weather to grow. Seeds are usually planted in spring, in marked rows to identify each plant by its pedigree and genotype. In the mid-summer, when the plants are ready, scientists begin crossing the varieties of maize.

Maize Genetics

There is a tremendous amount of genetic diversity in maize. Much of the maize you have seen may look the same, but across the world there are tens of thousands of  varieties of maize that are different colors, sizes, have different growing times, nutritional content, etc. Scientists at Cornell University are studying the diversity of maize, trying to connect two things: phenotype and genotype. A phenotype is any physical attribute that can be measured (also known as a “trait”). It can be something you can see like how tall the plant is, what color the kernels are, or when the plant flowers.

Maize: Feeding the World

Maize—or “corn”—has a history dating back to the beginning of agriculture, and today is used for everything from livestock feed and human consumption, to the production of starch, sweeteners, corn oil, beverage and industrial alcohol, fuel ethanol, and plastics. Maize is grown on every continent save Antarctica, and is the most widely grown grain in the world. Maize is also one of the most genetically diverse crops, allowing for selection from an incredible array of grain qualities and environmental adaptations. Maize is an excellent example of domestication—evolution in action—and researchers compare current varieties of maize with its wild ancestor, teosinte, to illustrate this principle. Maize was first domesticated from teosinte approximately 9,000-10,000 years ago.