Jesse Ausubel to receive 2022 Nierenberg Prize

Jesse Ausubel will be honored with the 2022 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest. This award is presented annually by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and the Nierenberg Family to honor the memory of William A. Nierenberg, an esteemed physicist and national science leader who served Scripps Oceanography as director for two decades. Previous awardees include atmospheric scientist Warren Washington, biochemist and Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna, filmmaker Sir David Attenborough, and primatologist Dame Jane Goodall, among others.

Airborne DNA

PHE’s marine eDNA expert Mark Stoeckle comments on new papers on airborne eDNA in the video Scientists ID Dozens of Plants, Animals from Free-Floating DNA. In a trio of studies, researchers report capturing and analyzing airborne prepared for the magazine and website The Scientist.  The report is spurred by widely reported terrific new papers measuring airborne DNA around zoos.

While presented as a first, this study of airborne DNA began in 2005 under the auspices of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Paula Olsiewski and Jesse Ausubel recruited and managed a series of grants to explore the potential for airborne DNA studies. The largest grant went to the Venter Institute, which pioneered the techniques:

After Mapping the Human Genome, Analyzing the City’s Air Mar 7, 2005 — Dr J Craig Venter will study New York City’s air by installing filter system atop one of Midtown-Manhattan’s skyscrapers and studying its …  

  Among resulting publications: A metagenomic framework for the study of airborne microbial communities  …, J Glass, MD Adams, R Friedman, JC Venter – PloS one, 2013 – journals.plos.org  Understanding the microbial content of the air has important scientific, health, and economic  implications. While studies have primarily characterized the taxonomic content of air samples by sequencing the 16S or 18S ribosomal RNA gene, direct analysis of the genomic …

Among other findings, while focusing on microbial aspects, the Venter team found more rat DNA circulating in the air of NY than human DNA.

Podcast with Jesse Ausubel

Jesse reflects on decarbonization, dematerialization, land-sparing, industrial ecology, industrialization of the oceans, biological traces of fishes and of Leonardo Da Vinci, and the Seven Deadly Sins in an 83″ podcast with Robert Bryce, author of Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: and A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations.

The Podcast is also on YouTube where you get to see who sings Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Archive Sewage!

PHE Guest Investigator David Thaler and RU colleague Tom Sakmar publish open access in BMC Infectious Diseases 21, Article #601 (2021) Archiving time series sewage samples as biological records of built environments.”  The idea for the article arose during our 2020 twice-weekly PHE Zooms.  It is rooted in part in Paula Olsiewski’s completed Sloan Foundation program on the Microbiology of the Built Environment, to which David contributed.  It also links to the Leonardo Da Vinci DNA Project, to which both David and Tom belong, and which searches for biological relics from times past and also explores how better to preserve recent traces of DNA and RNA.

Abstract

This commentary encourages the regular archiving of nucleic-acid-stabilized serial samples of wastewaters and/or sewage. Stabilized samples would facilitate retrospective reconstitution of built environments’ biological fluids. Biological time capsules would allow retrospective searches for nucleic acids from viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. Current resources for testing need not be diverted if samples are saved in case they become important in the future. Systematic storage would facilitate investigation into the origin and prevalence of viruses and other agents. Comparison of prevalence data from individual and clinical samplings with community wastewater would allow valuable comparison, contrast and correlation among different testing modalities. Current interest is focused on SARS-CoV-2, but archived samples could become valuable in many contexts including surveys for other infectious and chemical agents whose identity is not currently known. Archived time series of wastewater will take their place alongside other biological repositories and records including those from medical facilities, museums, eDNA, living cell and tissue collections. Together these will prove invaluable records of the evolving Anthropocene.

COVID & The World Interview with Jesse Ausubel

The website Human Progress launches a new video series called The Covid Tonic. The series features conversations between renowned scholars and editor, Marian L. Tupy. The interviews focus on the global impact of COVID-19 and the continued importance of rational optimism. Episode 1 features the environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel, a Human Progress Board Member and Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University in New York City. 


Watch the full video here