Editors' Choice

Science  19 Apr 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6437, pp. 250
  1. Conservation

    Conflict in the air

    1. Caroline Ash

    The red grouse (Lagopus lagopus) is an iconic species of British upland heaths that is favored for hunting.


    The heather-coated uplands of the British Isles are home to two charismatic and specialized birds: the commercially valuable red grouse and its rare raptor predator, the hen harrier. These species are the focus of an often-emotional conflict after highly publicized poisonings of hen harriers. St John et al. analyzed the basis of the human confrontation and report on the results of a questionnaire answered by more than 500 members of field sport and nature conservation organizations. There was an apparently irreconcilable gulf in responses to management approaches, depending on whether the respondent was pro–grouse conservation for hunting or pro–bird conservation overall. The authors concluded that there may be some prospects for consensus if the adversaries are engaged in joint planning for the longer-term future of the British upland landscape.

    People Nat. 1, 6 (2019).

  2. Education

    Getting to the core of biology success

    1. Melissa McCartney

    The “Vision and Change” report details a nationally agreed upon framework of core concepts designed to prepare students for the biology-related challenges of the 21st century. Couch et al. describe the development of General Biology–Measuring Achievement and Progression in Science (GenBio-MAPS), an instrument designed to measure student understanding of the core concepts at key time points during an undergraduate biology program, allowing for assessment at both 2- and 4-year institutions. Data were collected from more than 5000 students at 20 institutions, resulting in the first programmatic assessment for general biology programs that align with the core concepts. Implementing GenBio-MAPS will allow departments to identify areas of proficiency and deficiency throughout their programs and guide curricular changes to address problem areas and support the teaching of core concepts.

    CBE Life Sci. Educ. 18, ar1 (2019).

  3. Nanomaterials

    Putting polymer micelles in their place

    1. Phil Szuromi

    Block-copolymer micelles generally have been used in solution, for applications such as drug delivery. Surface assembly methods that work with other nanosized objects that use electric or magnetic fields or shear tend to be inefficient with these materials. Gould et al. show that optical tweezers can be used to position cylindrical block copolymer micelles on a glass substrate. The micelles have a polyferrocenylsilane core with a high refractive index that enables optical manipulation. Total internal reflection fluorescence spectroscopy of a dye trapped in the poly(dimethylsiloxane) corona enabled positioning and orientation of the micelles on the surface. Arrays consisting of 100 objects were deposited in 10 minutes in a process that could be automated using dynamic holographic methods.

    ACS Nano 10.1021/acsnano.9b00342 (2019).

  4. Psychiatric Genomics

    Trait mapping in schizophrenia

    1. Laura M. Zahn

    Identifying the underlying causal genetic variants for traits that are inherited through multiple genes is valuable for assessing the genetic architecture of disease. Using a gene-expression imputation method that examines the expression of genes within the brain and identifies genetic loci, Huckins et al. found more than 400 genes associated with schizophrenia. Overlap between these genes with networks of genetic interactions implicated in other psychiatric diseases identified 67 variants that were independently associated with schizophrenia. Furthermore, the researchers were able to locate the regions and developmental stages of the brain where these genes are expressed.

    Nat. Genetics 51, 659 (2019).

  5. Robotics

    Thoughtful service

    1. Marc S. Lavine

    Service robots could assist people with severe disabilities to go beyond basic communication and movement enabled by current devices, but they would require an efficient and minimalist control system. Kuhner et al. developed a robotic service assistant that performs complex tasks in real-world environments and is controlled using thought. The robot can fetch and carry objects and also interact in close physical proximity to the user. This control is achieved by combining techniques from brain-signal decoding and natural language processing, where common terminology is used to maximize the overlap between the way the user sees the world and the way the task planner defines and controls each primitive action for the robot.

    Robot. Auton. Syst. 116, 98 (2019).

  6. Plant Science

    Controlling floral transition

    1. Pamela J. Hines

    Confocal image of an Arabidopsis flower cluster


    For seed crops, such as maize and wheat, flowers need to develop at the right time to optimize harvest. Hormonal signals and metabolic status coordinate to set the transition from vegetative to reproductive growth. During acute nitrogen starvation, the plant flowers in a last-chance attempt to reproduce. Olas et al. studied what happens in the model plant Arabidopsis when nitrogen status is suboptimal, but not at starvation levels. MicroRNA regulators and nitrate-responsive gene promotor elements detect nitrogen status directly in the shoot apical meristem, from which flowers arise. With low nitrogen and short days, flowering depends more upon the availability of carbon in the form of sugar. With longer days, low nitrogen matters less. Thus, when faced with limited nitrogen supplies, the plant integrates photoperiod, hormonal, and metabolic signals to define the moment of flowering.

    New Phytol. 10.1111/nph.15812 (2019).

  7. Signal Transduction

    Sensing ribosome function

    1. L. Bryan Ray

    The protein kinase GCN2 phosphorylates the translation initiation factor eIF2α and is an important component of signaling mechanisms that allow cells to coordinate rates of translation with the availability of amino acids. GCN2 is regulated by interaction with transfer RNAs, but Inglis et al. report that GCN2 can also directly interact with ribosomes in its role as a sensor of translation activity. Binding of a portion of the ribosome known as the P-stalk was enough to activate kinase activity of GCN2 toward eIF2α. This same region of the ribosome that interacts with GCN2 also interacts with elongation factors. This may provide a structural mechanism by which GCN2 could monitor translational stress.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.116, 4946 (2019).