New Study Highlights Valuable Tool for Studying Living and Extinct Animals
University of Cincinnati scientists are reporting a significant finding that could open up entirely new explorations in the fields of ecology and paleoecology.
A mathematical analytical tool that was designed to predict a common elemental signal in surface water resulting in significant savings compared with traditional field surveys also is effective at predicting values for a wide range of materials, and is in fact most successful when applied to the bones and teeth of mammals. The research by
, assistant professors of geology at UC, and Clément Bataille, an earth scientist at the Chevron Corporation, is
for an upcoming issue of the research journal, Biological Reviews.
Strontium ratios in rocks vary depending on the type of rock and the rocks age. The
previously developed by Bataille and Gabriel J. Bowen, an associate professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah, uses U.S. bedrock geology and all major river systems and drainages to predict strontium isotope ratios (the ratio of strontium 87 to strontium 86) in surface waters.
The research, led by the University of Cincinnati, used the water model to compare predicted strontium isotope ratios in surface water, soil, vegetation, fish and mammal skeletal tissues from a massive collection of data led by Crowley across the U.S., excluding Alaska and Hawaii.
Because the ratio of strontium 87 to strontium 86 in water, soil, vegetation and animal tissues predominantly reflect local geology, they can be used to distinguish geologically distinct regions as well as identify highly mobile populations, says Crowley. We tested how accurate the model was at predicting strontium ratios not just in water, but in additional materials relevant to ecological and paleoecological research.
The tool worked for all materials but appeared to be most successful in predicting strontium ratios in mammals. Theres every indication that mammals are better predicted using this model than other materials, says Miller.
We think the models success at predicting strontium ratios for mammals is related to how the landscape is sampled by this analytical tool, adds Crowley. The predictions for the larger mammals were better than the smaller mammals. This is likely because the amount of area covered by a larger mammal more closely resembles the space that the model understands.
Tracking strontium isotope ratios is a valuable tool beyond the science at top research institutions like UC. Strontium is a heavy earth metal that can be found in most organic substances such as bones, teeth, soils and plant tissues. As a result, strontium isotope ratios are used in fields including forensics research, animal poaching investigations, and even tracking where marijuana plants came from in drug busts.
Although strontium isotope analysis related to biological research is on the rise, the expense in terms of ground mapping has been prohibitive.
Its a really powerful system, but in order to get an idea of where elephant tusks confiscated in Kenya came from, for example, investigators would have to track the strontium signals throughout the country or potentially all over East Africa, explains Miller. Models like the one we tested could make it possible to quickly get a good idea of where that animal was originally from.
The researchers say the water model provides a readily available source of background data for predicting strontium ratios for biologically relevant materials in regions where empirical data are lacking. The availability of increasingly high-quality modeled strontium data will dramatically expand the accessibility of this geochemical tool to ecological applications, says Crowley.
is a journal that covers the entire range of biological sciences, particularly the areas of modern biology. The journal is dedicated to publishing articles to inform non-specialist biologists as well as researchers in the field.
UCs nationally ranked
conducts field research around the world in areas spanning paleontology, quaternary geology, geomorphology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, tectonics, environmental geology and biogeochemistry.
UC research institute hosts first annual festival of sensing
May 13, 2022
UC’s Institute for Research in Sensing (IRiS) hosts its first annual Expo & Festival of Sensing next month to convene an interdisciplinary conference exploring the topic of sensing in all its forms, from the sciences to the humanities. The event will be held on May 25 and 26 in Tangeman University Center, 2600 Clifton Ave., and is open to faculty, staff, students and the public. The conference brings together representatives from across disciplines—from engineering, biology, ethics, the humanities, performing arts and more—to explore sensing through a variety of lenses, says IRiS director and associate professor of biology Nathan Morehouse. “We hope the IRiS event raises awareness of the amazing breadth of work happing on sensing at UC, while at the same time stimulating new conversations between the sciences, engineering, the arts and humanities,” he said.
UC research sheds light on historically marginalized communities
May 12, 2022
At the University of Cincinnati’s College of Art and Sciences (A&S), students are often given the opportunity to complete in-depth research tailored to their individual interests. For two graduate students in the history department, this research included challenging the notion that the only research with impact is done by those in white lab coats. Maurice Adkins and Katherine Ranum have spent their graduate school years bringing to light stories of marginalized people, helping to fill gaps within U.S. historical studies. As a result, many institutions are taking notice of Adkins and Ranum, rewarding them with fellowships that allow them to continue their efforts to make historical research more inclusive. Adkins, a recent graduate from the history department’s doctorate program, spent seven years traveling between Cincinnati and North Carolina, scouring archives and hunting down public records to complete his dissertation, which explores Black leadership at historically Black col- leges and Universities (HBCUs) in North Carolina from 1863-1931. This quickly became laborious, Adkins says, due to the underfunding that many HBCUs have faced historically, resulting in poorer record keeping than that of other universities.
WVXU: Could this low-cost fix improve habitat in streams?
May 11, 2022
WVXU highlights a demonstration project led by the University of Cincinnati to find low-cost ways to improve the health of urban streams. The project aims to increase biodiversity by providing more wildlife habitat.