Letter from the Editor
Welcome SDSU Biology Students! This is our first edition of the Biology Graduate Gazette. The past few years many of us realized there is a disconnect between the three biology departments: Cell and Molecular (CMB), Evolution (EB), and Ecology (ECO). Starting this newsletter is just one of the initiatives we are taking to improve the environment and camaraderie within our department. This newsletter also comes at a hectic time for the university and the world. Way back in March we swiftly moved to online classes when COVID-19 was first seriously seen as a threat. As the months progressed, protests against police brutality raged across the country, and the world. In the midst of racially charged protests, the White House tried to deport international students here on student visas. As each event unfolded, biology graduate students demanded transparency and action from the administration at all levels of the university and, to an extent, they supported us. Actions the Biology Graduate Student Association (BGSA) has taken to increase support for our students is outlined in the “Quarterly Recap” section. As the world descends into chaos, we need to support each other now more than ever. It is my hope that this newsletter will strengthen our community and provide a place for students to share their creativity, experiences, and concerns in a medium created for graduate students by graduate students.
Brianne Palmer | Ecology PhD Student
In spring of 2020, BGSA filed to be recognized as a student organization which allows us to apply for funds and gives us a bit more power when advocating on behalf of our grad student body!
BGSA started a petition to remove a professor who misused the listserv. This led to the creation of new listservs to try to prevent unwanted emails. Biology grads can use email@example.com to send emails to all the biology grad students. There are no faculty on that listserv.
BGSA also composed a statement condemning these killings and called for action from the faculty. You can read our Mission Statement and Diversity and Inclusion Statement on the website. This statement as well as personal emails from many students in the department prompted a faculty response and we are currently working within each program area, with the department, and with the College of Science to develop plans to improve diversity and inclusion at every level of administration.
We started a subcommittee aimed at promoting collaboration between grad students and undergrads. We hope to help place undergrads into labs where they can thrive and provide mentorship opportunities for graduate students.
Additionally, we started a Discord group to improve communication between program areas and foster a community within our department even though many of us are still working from home.
If you have any ideas about what BGSA can do to improve the biology grad student environment better or if you are interested in helping out with any of our ongoing initiatives, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Subscribe” in the subject line to get on the email list and join the BGSA Discord.
Ric Desantiago and Erica Pollard are the co-chairs of MEBSA
Broadly MEBSA's goals are to foster a supportive community among students in marine ecology and biology and to work towards improving the academic environment at the Coastal and Marine Institute Laboratory (CMIL).
They meet every other Wednesday (at a zoom time now TBD). The meetings consist of speaker seminars, outreach events to local schools, and social events. They are also starting a grad mentorship program where undergraduate students can partner with a graduate student mentor to answer research questions or prepare them for a job/future career in academia.
MEBSA is open to any students undergrad or grad that are interested in marine science, education, and awareness.
The first meeting is September 2nd. If interested please contact email@example.com
Greetings everyone! For those of you who don’t know me my name is Alessandra Zuniga. I am a PhD student in the joint doctoral program in ecology here at San Diego State and I am a member of the Oechel lab group. As I now transition to my second year at the University of California Davis, I have had some time to reflect on what I have achieved so far. I wanted to use this space to share a fragment of the work I have done up to this point in my graduate career. I often fail to give myself credit for my accomplishments, but I think it is important now more than ever to exchange success stories and spread positivity within the graduate student community.
In broad terms my research focuses on investigating the effects of several climate change factors on perennial cropping systems in California. Rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations projected for the next century will likely be accompanied by other environmental changes including more frequent drought events for the state of California. The fate of many agricultural cropping systems depends on an improved understanding of how the plant water requirements are expected to change with future climate. The aim of my first research experiment was to examine the interactive effects of elevated CO2 and drought on grapevine water use efficiency. Water use efficiency is a measure of the units of carbon fixed per unit of water used by the plant. This can be a valuable tool for growers to better estimate the crops precise moisture requirements.
This past spring and summer I had the opportunity to operate a state of the art growth chamber to incubate plants in a precisely controlled environment. In the spring I collected two varieties of grapevine cuttings from a local vineyard in San Diego and grew them inside the chamber under ambient or elevated CO2 concentrations for 10 weeks. During the last two weeks of the experiment drought and control irrigation treatments were gradually induced. Leaf physiological responses, including photosynthesis and stomatal conductance, were collected using a portable infrared gas analyzer and water use efficiency was calculated from these measures. In addition, I observed leaf morphology throughout their development for changes in stomatal shape, size, and density in response to increased CO2 levels. These stomatal characteristics also have the potential to influence the plants water use strategies. I am now in the process of analyzing my results and plan to present my findings at the ASA-CSSA-SSSA conference this fall.
Despite the several roadblocks that this pandemic has introduced, I have managed to successfully complete my first research experiment. This was possible thanks to the support of my advisor Walt Oechel, lab mates, and friends who helped me navigate the changes and overcome the many obstacles that stemmed from these unprecedented times. My hats off to all of the grad students, faculty, and staff that have persevered and have been able to get through and make the most of a difficult and unusual field season. Lastly, my piece of advice to you as your start this academic year is, don’t be afraid to express your challenges to those around you, be transparent, and ask for help because chances are there is someone else who has encountered the same problem. There are many incredible people on campus willing to lend their support. I hope that this was a mild inspiration to old and new graduate students to keep moving in the forward direction. Wishing you all a safe and productive fall semester!
MUNG BEAN CAKES
From Grace Chao
250g Mung beans
100g rock sugar
15g powdered milk (optional)
a handful of salt
1. Add the mung beans to a pot and cover with water to just above the level of the beans. Bring to the boil, cover, and then turn off the heat, leaving the beans to sit for 15-20 minutes.
2. Then put them back on the stove and bring to the boil again, turn off, cover and sit for a further 15-20 mins. Do this a third time, being careful the beans do not boil dry.
3. Add the rock sugar and salt and continue simmering until the rocksugaris dissolved. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend to a paste, then run it through a sieve.
4. Add the milk and butter to the mung bean paste and cook over the stove on a low flame, until the water has evaporated.
5. Use a spatula to scrape the paste from the pan into a bowl.
6. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Make sure the plastic wrap is flush with the paste to prevent a skin from forming.
7. Brush the molds you want to use with a little oil and then divide the mung bean paste into small portions, and press into the molds, scraping off excess paste.
8. Turn the molds upside down and carefully remove the mung bean portions.
Artist Spotlight: Tierney Bougie
Tierney Bougie is a Master’s Student in the Evolutionary Biology Program. She started painting as a form of self-care and stress relief. She is originally from Oshkosh, Wisconsin and did her undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin studying entomology. Her research in the Hedin lab is focused on the speciation and hybridization of a group of jumping spiders native to the mountains of North America.
Do you have something you want to submit?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by December 31, 2020 for the next issue! As you can see, I will publish anything! Artwork! Writing! Memes! Accomplishments! Complaints!
I received a deluge of memes and comics so here is a small sampling! Keep them coming!
Created with images by Megan Ellis - "untitled image" • Joel Vodell - "Ocean" • Marieke Tacken - "untitled image"