New Zealand Biosecurity Studied
John Trumble, professor of entomology, chaired an international team to review New Zealand’s biosecurity – detecting and preventing insects and other pests from establishing in the country – and applied entomology – managing the pests that are established in the country.

“The charge to my review team was to evaluate the overall quality of the research, including research staff, facilities and productivity,” Trumble said. This month, Trumble is serving as chair on a U.S. national panel on integrated pest management. The goal of the panel is to select proposals with the best science and potential impact on agriculture.

Trumble will travel to Virginia Tech in the fall as part of a US Department of Agriculture-led team evaluating the research, teaching and service activities of the Departments of Entomology, plant pathology and physiology, and weed science.

Briggs Goes to Boston
John Briggs, professor of English, has been awarded a $105,000 Summer Seminar Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to direct a three-week seminar on the prose of Samuel Johnson, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill at Boston University in July.

The seminar will focus on the ability of the three men to write and speak persuasively while under great pressure and the imaginative, stylistic and moral resources they drew upon.

Briggs, the author of “Francis Bacon and the Rhetoric of Nature” and “Lincoln’s Speeches Reconsidered,” will lead discussions about Lincoln’s achievements as a writer and speaker. Scholars Bruce Redford of Boston University and Paul Alkon of the University of Southern California will lead discussions of the works of Johnson and Churchill.

Impacts of Vietnam War Studied
Environmental impacts of the Vietnam War on the Mekong Delta figure prominently in research that David Biggs, assistant professor of history, will undertake this summer with a $5,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biggs will examine American military and government records at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., in his study of the long-lasting effects of war on patterns of settlement and development in the economically important region. He also will comb through a largely unexplored collection of captured Viet Cong documents to better understand the attitudes and actions of Vietnamese insurgents between 1960 and 1975.

The research will contribute to a book Biggs is finishing, “Between the Rivers and Tides: A Hydraulic History of the Mekong Delta.” He also received a UC Presidential Research Fellowship in Humanities that supported trips last summer to the Vietnamese and Cambodian national archives to help complete revisions to his book.

La Brea Tar Pits Home for New Bacteria
David E. Crowley, a professor of environmental microbiology in the Department of Environmental Sciences, and Jong-Shik Kim, a postdoctoral researcher, have discovered that the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits in downtown Los Angeles, house hundreds of new species of bacteria with unusual properties, allowing the bacteria to survive and grow in heavy oil and natural asphalt.

Trapped in soil that was mixed with heavy oil nearly 28,000 years ago, the bacteria contain three previously undiscovered classes of enzymes that can naturally break down petroleum products, the researchers report.

“We were surprised to find these bacteria because asphalt is an extreme and hostile environment for life to survive,” said Kim, who initiated the study. “It’s clear, however, that these living organisms can survive in heavy oil mixtures containing many highly toxic chemicals. Moreover, these bacteria survive with no water, and little or no oxygen.”

The bacteria and their enzymes have potential application for bioremediation (cleaning oil spills), medical treatments (new medicines), alternative energy (biofuels), enhanced oil recovery and industrial applications (biochemicals and biotechnology).

Study results appear online in the April 6 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.