Archive for the ‘Food’ Category
The Genetics of Taste citizen science project from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science set out to understand the link between genetics and TAS2R38 gene, responsible for the “bitter” taste receptor.
Come to your senses! SciStarter has curated a list of citizen science projects for all five senses.
Guest post by Michelle Murphy-Niedziela.
Don’t like brussels sprouts? Hate IPA beers? Prefer your cream with a bit of coffee? You might be a supertaster. So, what’s your super power as a supertaster?
Being a supertaster means that you have an increased taste sensitivity, particularly for bitter foods, due to the presence of the TAS2R38 gene and an increased number of fungiform papillae (or taste buds). Those taste buds have receptors that sense sweet, salty, bitter and sour. TAS2R38 is the gene responsible for a certain type of bitter taste receptor, sensitive to the bitter chemicals PROP and PTC. So more taste buds + more bitter receptors = SUPERTASTER!
The citizen science efforts from the community-based Genetics of Taste Lab at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, led by curator Dr. Nicole Garneau, set out to replicate the academic data and prove that non-scientists can do genetics work. By recruiting members of the community to participate, they collected 3000 samples, analyzed for age, gender and genetics.
After a rocky start while figuring out and learning the techniques, they completed the study in early August 2013 with 1800 genetic samples and 500 tongue photographs. While they weren’t able to replicate all the findings found in academic labs (they did find differences in TAS2R38 expression in males versus females as well as age differences), they were not able to find a connection between the number of taste buds and genetics.
Separate from Garneau’s study, scientists studying taste genetics have found that supertasters may have better control of their appetite and may avoid sweet and fatty foods leading to better health and a less occurrence of metabolic syndrome and obesity (Shafaie et al., 2013; Turner-McGrievy et al., 2013). Further, supertaster patients are less likely to need surgical intervention for chronic rhinosinusitis (Adappa et al., 2013). Women are more likely to be supertasters, 35% of women and 15% of men (Bartoshuk et al., 1994). It turns out, about 25% of people are supertasters; 25% are non-tasters; and the other 50% are somewhere in the middle (medium tasters carry only one copy of the TAS2R38 gene, so fewer of those special bitter receptors and fewer taste buds than supertasters). But have no fear, being a supertaster or nontaster represents normal variation in the human population like eye or hair color.
Garneau and her team will be presenting their work at the Association for Chemoreception Sciences (AChemS) and have even submitted their work for publication in the academic journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.
Want to find out if you are a taster or a non taster? Here are two more fun things you can do at home.
1. Count your taste buds – Dye your tongue using blue food coloring and count the number of bumps on your tongue, compare with your friends!
2. Taste test at home – Order PTC or PROP taste strips online (can be found on Amazon); place them on your tongue; and tell us the results! If you taste nothing, then you are a non-taster. If you taste bitter, then you are a taster!
Image: The Creative Panic
Dr. Michelle Murphy Niedziela is a behavioral neuroscience expert in neuropsychology, psychology and consumer science with a focus on flavor and fragrance technologies. Michelle obtained a PhD and masters in neuroscience and biopsychology from Purdue University and a BS in psychology from Florida State University. In the past she’s worked at Johnson & Johnson, Mars Chocolate and is now a neuromarketing Scientific Director at HCD Research. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys cooking, blogging and traveling. Follow her on Twitter @nerdoscientism and her blog.
Next week is National Pollinator Week!
Pollinators, like bees, birds, and butterflies, play an important role in all of our lives. They aid in flowering plant reproduction, help ensure the health of national forests and grasslands, and work together with famers and ranchers in the production of fruits and vegetables. National Pollinator Week is a yearly effort to build more awareness about the need to maintain a healthy pollinator population.
Today, we’re highlighting one of the many National Pollinator Week events taking place all over the nation: the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Pollinator-Palooza.
To celebrate National Pollinator Week, the Missouri Botanical Garden‘s Sophia M Sachs Butterfly House is connecting people with pollinators in a whole new way. On Father’s Day, families in the Greater St Louis Area and beyond are invited to join games and crafts (designed for kids ages 2-11), observe bee hives, and ask a trained entomologist about pollination or the pollinators themselves.
I had a chance to chat with Laura Chisholm, a program specialist and entomologist at the Sophia M Sachs Butterfly House, about what we can expect at this weekend’s Pollinator Palooza. Laura knows her bugs! She runs the Pollinator-Palooza event and Bug Hunt which occur during the June and July. She also assists with other special events throughout the year, including October Owls and Orchids, March Morpho Mania, Booterflies, and Hot! Hot! Hot!
A new partnership between Microsoft and the European Environmental Agency is combining detailed scientific information on air and water quality with observations made by citizen scientists.
Ever wondered about the air quality in Copenhagen? Or perhaps the water quality in Paris?
Eye on Earth uses Microsoft’s Bing Maps to combine goespatial and environmental data from 22,000 bathing sites and 1,000 air quality monitoring stations throughout Europe. An “air quality model” provides the air pollution situation between air quality monitoring stations.
Citizen scientists can contribute their knowledge by clicking on simple user feedback icons. For each location, the map displays the average yearly value of all ratings submitted by citizen scientists. Users can then overlay the environmental data with their own observations with the click of a mouse.
Think you can spot the difference between and a honey bee and a bumble bee? Well, there’s one day left to test your bee knowledge with the online Bee Challenge, brought to you by the folks at the Great Pollinator Project!
A collaboration between the Greenbelt Native Plant Nursery and the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, the Great Pollinator Project calls upon citizen scientists to help researchers better understand the 200 species of bees that live in New York City by observing and recording data on bees in their urban backyards, community gardens, or rooftops. Why? For one thing, declines in certain bee populations may be affecting food production. Pollination–a primary function of bees–contributes to one-third of our food (fruits and vegetables)!
Looking for a great way to contribute to science while becoming an “A” Bee Student? Why not participate in the Great Pollinator Project?
The major rivers and estuaries along the northeastern coast of the U.S. are preparing for peak spawning season of herring, eels, shad, and other fish.
Aquatic dwellers in the Hudson River, situated between NY and NJ, are fortunate to have the Hudson River Estuary Program and Scenic Hudson organizations looking out for them. Now through June 1, they are teaming with citizen scientists to monitor herring and American eel in Ulster County’s Black Creek Preserve.
Herring volunteers will observe the creek to see if, where, and when spawning runs occur. Those interested in eels will use nets and trap devices to catch juvenile glass eels, which are counted, weighed, and released unharmed. This data may help biologists discover why populations of these important fish are declining.
And if it’s spawning season, it’s time to celebrate the American shad, embarking on their long return from the ocean to the river where they will spawn at their own birthplace. For the Lenape Indians, the annual shad run delivered hundreds of thousands of shad–a staple of their diet–into their rivers, symbolizing the start of spring. Today, when shad return to the rivers to spawn, it’s a reflection of the vitality of the water: in the 1970s, polluted waters kept shad away, resulting in a sharp population decline. Rivers are much healthier today but shad numbers remain low, despite valiant restoration efforts. Researchers are turning to citizen scientists to help and we’ll report on those efforts here, shortly.
In the interim, this mighty fish is being celebrated and digested at annual Shad Fests! Philadelphia, PA and Lambertville, NJ just honored his remarkable fish at their annual shad festivals. On May 16, Boscobel-Garrison, NJ will play host to the 20th annual Shad Fest . If you’d like to learn more about the shad, here’s a related article I wrote for Discover magazine.