School of
Integrative Biology

SIB News

University of Illinois Wins Freezer Challenge for a Third Straight Year

The U of I's list of Top Freezer Challenge Labs includes the Downie Lab.

Keeping laboratory samples cold can be an essential part of research activities and ensuring the safety and integrity of projects and experiments. As a Tier One research university, the numerous refrigerators, freezers, and cooling equipment used at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign also present a significant opportunity to further energy conservation efforts.

Genomic study reveals evolutionary secrets of banyan tree

The banyan fig tree Ficus microcarpa is famous for its aerial roots, which sprout from branches and eventually reach the soil. The tree also has a unique relationship with a wasp that has coevolved with it and is the only insect that can pollinate it.

In a new study researchers, lead by Ray Ming, identify regions in the banyan fig’s genome that promote the development of its unusual aerial roots and enhance its ability to signal its wasp pollinator.

Amplifying expertise in the news

Four LAS faculty members receive Public Voices Fellowships

As a way to amplify voices of expertise on pressing issues, a national program called the Public Voices Fellowship will allow professors from across the country to pair up with journalists and learn more about how to discuss ideas with a broad audience. Four of the professors are from the College of LAS, to include Alex Harmon-Threatt.

Following the sounds of prairie cicadas

When I arrive at the Loda Cemetery Prairie Nature Preserve, Katie Dana is already out there. She’s wearing knee-high boots to ward off chiggers and ticks, and she’s carrying an insect net. Dana is on the prowl for cicadas: the loudest insects on the planet. On this hot summer day, they do not disappoint. The males are in full chorus.

Have you become obsessed with bugs or hummingbirds? In the pandemic, you’re not alone.

In the midst of the grief, confusion and anger of the past few months, many Americans have developed a new obsession with the creepy little things in life, by which I mean bugs.

I’ve never heard so many people talking about bugs as I have through this spring and summer, never seen so many social media posts dedicated to tiny critters that buzz and crawl and sting.

In times of ecological uncertainty, brood parasites hedge their bets

Some birds lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species and let the host parents raise their young. A new study finds that in times of environmental flux, these brood parasites “diversify their portfolios,” minimizing the risks of their unorthodox lifestyle by increasing the number and variety of hosts they select as adoptive parents.

Illinois Team Tracks COVID ‘Spike’ Protein for 2020 iGEM Competition

The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges for a worldwide competition that brings high school and college students together to tackle big questions in synthetic biology.

But it also provided a unique research opportunity for the University of Illinois team competing in this year’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition.

Scientists further cowpea research—boosting canopy CO2 assimilation, water-use efficiency

Crops grow dense canopies that consist of several layers of leaves—the upper layers with younger sun leaves and the lower layers with older shaded leaves that may have difficulty intercepting sunlight trickling down from the top layers.

In a recent study published in Food and Energy Security...

Building a prairie & watching for bees with ESA Fellow Alex Harmon-Threatt

Join us in celebrating Entomology's Alexandra Harmon-Threatt, elected as a 2020 Early Career Fellow by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) for her critically important research in the ecology and conservation of native bee species: training the next generation of ecologists, providing public outreach, and enhancing diversity in science. Read more about her research:

It’s early evening as I follow the researchers to their work site on the Phillips Tract, just east of Urbana. When we get there...

Study of giant ant heads using simple models may aid bio-inspired designs

Researchers have developed a simple model to study how ants balance their large heads relative to their body size. Such models may have useful applications in bio-inspired designs. They use a variety of modelling approaches to study form and function. By using a basic biomechanical model for studying body form and center of mass stability in ants, new research identifies the benefits of “simple models” and hope that it can be used for bio-inspired designs.