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  1. Price, Rebecca (Ed.)
    To enhance equity and diversity in undergraduate biology, recent research in biology education focuses on best practices that reduce learning barriers for all students and improve academic performance. However, the majority of current research into student experiences in introductory biology takes place at large, predominantly White institutions. To foster contextual knowledge in biology education research, we harnessed data from a large research coordination network to examine the extent of academic performance gaps based on demographic status across institutional contexts and how two psychological factors, test anxiety and ethnicity stigma consciousness, may mediate performance in introductory biology. We used data from seven institutions across three institution types: 2-year community colleges, 4-year inclusive institutions (based on admissions selectivity; hereafter, inclusive), and 4-year selective institutions (hereafter, selective). In our sample, we did not observe binary gender gaps across institutional contexts, but found that performance gaps based on underrepresented minority status were evident at inclusive and selective 4-year institutions, but not at community colleges. Differences in social psychological factors and their impacts on academic performance varied substantially across institutional contexts. Our findings demonstrate that institutional context can play an important role in the mechanisms underlying performance gaps.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  3. Abstract

    Bald cypress trees over 2,000-years old have been discovered in the forested wetlands along Black River using dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating. The oldest bald cypress yet documented is at least 2,624-years old, makingTaxodium distichumthe oldest-known wetland tree species, the oldest living trees in eastern North America, and the fifth oldest known non-clonal tree species on earth. The annual ring-width chronology developed from the ancient Black River bald cypress trees is positively correlated with growing season precipitation totals over the southeastern United States and with atmospheric circulation over the Northern Hemisphere, providing the longest exactly-dated climate proxy yet developed in eastern North America. The Nature Conservancy owns 6,400 ha in their Black River Preserve and the North Carolina legislature is considering establishment of a Black River State Park, but ancient forested wetlands are found along most of this 106 km stream and remain threatened by logging, water pollution, and sea level rise.

  4. Abstract The EXO-200 experiment searched for neutrinoless double-beta decay of 136 Xe with a single-phase liquid xenon detector. It used an active mass of 110 kg of 80.6%-enriched liquid xenon in an ultra-low background time projection chamber with ionization and scintillation detection and readout. This paper describes the design and performance of the various support systems necessary for detector operation, including cryogenics, xenon handling, and controls. Novel features of the system were driven by the need to protect the thin-walled detector chamber containing the liquid xenon, to achieve high chemical purity of the Xe, and to maintain thermal uniformity across the detector.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  5. Convergent evolution provides insights into the selective drivers underlying evolutionary change. Snake venoms, with a direct genetic basis and clearly defined functional phenotype, provide a model system for exploring the repeated evolution of adaptations. While snakes use venom primarily for predation, and venom composition often reflects diet specificity, three lineages of cobras have independently evolved the ability to spit venom at adversaries. Using gene, protein, and functional analyses, we show that the three spitting lineages possess venoms characterized by an up-regulation of phospholipase A2(PLA2) toxins, which potentiate the action of preexisting venom cytotoxins to activate mammalian sensory neurons and cause enhanced pain. These repeated independent changes provide a fascinating example of convergent evolution across multiple phenotypic levels driven by selection for defense.