Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station

Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station -

Sheridan College in Finals for NSF CC Innovation Challenge

Four Sheridan College students are carrying out a project at the Sheridan R&E center for the NSF Community College Innovation Challenge.

The students proposed to genetically engineer algae for enhanced lipid production.


They have moved into the finals as their project has been selected as one of the ten finalist innovations from all community college projects selected nationwide. The students will now have the opportunity to travel to Washington DC in June and make the final presentation.

Miller, Levy Honored for Research

Dan Levy was recognized for his research in the UW Department of Molecular Biology.

Dan Levy was recognized for his research in the UW Department of Molecular Biology.

March 9, 2015 — Professor Scott Miller and Assistant Professor Dan Levy won outstanding research and early career research awards from the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station. Miller is in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, and Levy is in the Department of Molecular Biology.

Miller joined UW in 2002 as an assistant professor in the then-Department of Renewable Resources. His research focus is spatial hydrology, and his lab focuses on the use of innovative field and modeling techniques to better understand the fate and transport of water, and how humans change hydrologic response. He has worked around the world on topics ranging from deforestation to risk assessment, but more recently has focused his research on Wyoming-related issues.

Levy joined UW in 2011 after working as a postdoctoral fellow in molecular and cell biology at the University of California-Berkeley. His lab’s goal is to reveal nuclear size control mechanisms to understand how nuclear size affects cell and nuclear function, and sub-nuclear organization. His previous research and training as a mechanistic biochemist, investigating size control of intracellular structures and developing in vitro reconstitution systems, positioned him to solve problems relating to nuclear size regulation.

Also nominated for the early career research award were Melanie Murphy, assistant professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management; and Andrew Kniss, associate professor, and Brian Mealor, assistant professor, both in the Department of Plant Sciences.


UW Librarians Receive Award to Digitize Historic UW Documents

February 2, 2015 — photos of two menUniversity of Wyoming Associate Librarians David Kruger and Chad Hutchens received an $8,000 Project Ceres award from the Center for Research Libraries to digitize historic UW Agricultural Experiment Station bulletins.

UW was one of only eight land-grant universities to receive a Project Ceres award through a highly competitive application process. Other recipients for the 2014-15 application year included libraries from the University of Florida, Kansas State University, Louisiana State University, New Mexico State University, University of Minnesota, Purdue University and Washington State University.

The Project Ceres award will enable UW Libraries to digitize more than 300 Agricultural Experiment Station bulletins from 1891 through 1965. Library patrons will have electronic access to past bulletin issues and keyword searchability across 75 years of publications.

“I greatly appreciate the University of Wyoming Libraries for their efforts to preserve historical agricultural research in Wyoming,” says Bret Hess, UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources associate dean. “The convenience of being able to access historical experiment station bulletins online, versus trying to use them from closed collections, benefits faculty, staff, students and our constituents.”

UW Libraries received notice of the award last May and will have the digitization project completed by August 2015. The UW Agricultural Experiment Station bulletins will become available online through the Libraries’ Wyoming Scholars Repository.



UW scientist wants to dispel genetically modified crop, pesticide use fallacies

Kniss-AndrewA weed scientist at the University of Wyoming targets misconceptions about the safety of genetically engineered crops (GMOs) and pesticide use in modern agriculture in a public webinar Friday, Oct. 17.

“Many people believe the giant seed companies are the only ones who benefit from GMO crops, but this simply isn’t the case,” said Andrew Kniss, an associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The webinar begins at 1:10 p.m. and is at http://goo.gl/69jQKY.

Consumers should be interested in their food, Kniss said.

“But when people go looking for this information, I worry a lot of people are being misled by organizations with alternative motives,” he said. “It is our job at the university to be a primary source of unbiased information. It is important for us to engage the public and provide the best information available.”

Kniss will discuss the role of land-grant faculty members in addressing disinformation and misconceptions among non-agricultural audiences. He said many people have little firsthand knowledge of how modern farms operate and are hungry for that information. He cites a lack of agricultural outreach and extension to the general public as partly responsible.


UW scientists study how complexity developed from simple cell


Naomi Ward


Ekaterina Gottshall

Consider this a matter of scrambling down the family tree to its roots.

Really old roots.

Or perhaps it’s more like blowing the dust off the family album – the human album – and opening to the first pages billions of years ago.

Naomi Ward, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Wyoming, is the senior author on a paper recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS).

The research examines how simple bacterial cells could have made the transition to more complex cells, leading to plants, animals and humans.

The paper, “Spatially segregated transcription and translation in cells of the endomembrane-containing bacterium Gemmata obscuriglobus,” was published online this week, and describes research supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Ekaterina Gottshall, a graduate student in the Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences Ph.D. program, is first author on the paper and main contributor to the experimental work. Other authors are assistant professor Jay Gatlin, also in molecular biology, and Corrine Seebart, an assistant research scientist in Ward’s group.

Ward’s version of genealogy looks at how simple bacterial cells, which do not have the nuclear membrane that separates transcription and translation (the reading of DNA instructions to make protein), could have evolved into eukaryotic cells (plants, animals, humans), which have transcription and translation occurring in separate locations.

This evolutionary step was an important part of developing greater cell complexity in ancient eukaryotic cells.

The membrane-no membrane distinction, and separation of the two processes, serves as a definition.

“This is usually considered to be a very fundamental way in which bacterial cells differ from our cells,” said Ward. “However, cells of Gemmata obscuriglobus (the bacterium they studied) have complex internal membranes, making them look superficially like eukaryotic cells.”

Gottshall wanted to know if transcription and translation could occur in different places in the cell just like in a eukaryote cell.

“We asked this question because the way in which complex eukaryotic cells evolved from a simpler ancestor is not completely understood, and we thought that studying this question in Gemmata might shed some light on that problem,” said Gottshall.

It is generally thought that two of the major membrane-bound compartments in animal and plant cells – mitochondria, the power plants of the cell, and chloroplasts, where photosynthesis occurs – were formed when ancient bacteria took up residence in an ancient proto-eukaryotic cell.

Some estimates place the move-in date around 1.8 billion years ago. Bacterial microfossils first appear about 3.5 billion years ago.

Ward and her research group found a substantial amount of G. obscuriglobus translation does occur in a different place from transcription, as is found in eukaryotic cells.

“Although this is not the first time this has been reported for bacteria, it is the first time it has been reported for such a complex bacterial cell,” said Ward. “Although we don’t know whether this uncoupled gene expression in Gemmata arose in the same way it did in the ancient eukaryotic cell, it shows us one possible way in which it might have been organized.”

The research has yielded another product unusual in molecular biology or other kinds of experimental science.

Ward recently participated in an art-science collaborative experiment (The Ucross-Pollination Experiment), organized by UW philosophy professor Jeff Lockwood. She collaborated with philosophy professor H.L. Hix to explore form in poetry and science, and one of the products was a poem based on the PNAS paper.

Ward believes the poem helps achieve one of the goals of the NSF as well as the Ucross Experiment (supported by the Ucross Foundation and the Wyoming Humanities Council, and a diversity of UW departments and programs), to make science more approachable to non-scientists.