Indiana University       Research & Creative Activity       January 2001 • Volume XXIII, Number 3


During the 1980s, California condors were very near extinction. The most prominent cause of death was lead poisoning from eating bullet fragments in carcasses. But the birds, North America’s largest, have been bred successfully in captivity, and since 1992, many have been released back into the wild. In a recent study published in Conservation Biology, however, Vicky Meretsky, IUB assistant professor of public and environmental affairs, says that the mortality rate of the released birds is too high for a viable population in the wild. Thirty-five of the 104 birds released by August 2000 had died. Lead poisoning was once again the main cause of death. Meretsky also observes that released condors who were reared by humans using condor-shaped puppets are overly tame, unafraid of approaching humans for food. Meretsky strongly urges that future releases be limited to birds reared by condor parents. To prevent deaths from lead contamination, her study recommends restricting hunters to nontoxic tungsten-and-tin ammunition in release areas.

Astrid Merget began her official tenure as the third dean of the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs on October 1. She succeeds A. James Barnes, who has returned to teaching at SPEA. Merget was most recently associate dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She has also served as a senior adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. Michael A. Patchner has joined IUPUI as dean of the IU School of Social Work. He was formerly associate dean and professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work. He replaces Sheldon Siegel, professor emeritus of social work at IUPUI, who had been serving as interim dean since July 1999.

Wiltz Wagner Jr. and other scientists sent pigs into weightless flight on a NASA KC-135 aircraft to study how gravity affects blood flow in the lungs. Contrary to conventional teaching, Wagner, the Virgil K. Stoelting Professor of anesthesia at the IU School of Medicine, and his team found that the treelike vascular structure of the lungs is a primary determinant of blood flow. Recognizing the combined importance of vascular geometry and gravity on pulmonary blood flow is “an important advancement in our understanding of lung physiology,” say the researchers in the September issue of Journal of Applied Physiology. Back on the ground, second-year IU medical student Eric M. Jaryszak served as principal author of a study prompted by Wagner’s work. Jaryszak developed a video microscopy project demonstrating that capillaries in mammalian lungs responded to a change in blood flow in only two seconds. His research confirmed an essential part of Wagner’s zero gravity experiments aboard the KC-135 jet. Jaryszak’s study was also published in the September JAP, accompanied by a Web video. Journal editors commended Jaryszak and his co-authors for “their pioneering efforts in bringing a new publication medium to the journal.”

It only takes a glance at the newest riverboat casino or a peek at headlines trumpeting the latest multimillion dollar jackpot to know that gambling is wildly popular in the United States. Thomas Mawhinney, IU South Bend associate professor of psychology, wants to know more about the price of that popularity. A behavioral specialist, Mawhinney has launched a two-year research project to determine how the growth of gambling has affected individuals and society. “How does the lure of big money distort our view of reality, change individual behavior, and impact government decisions?” Mawhinney asks. He plans to present preliminary research results at a meeting of the National Association of Behavior Analysts later this year.

Although far more Americans today are likely to accept, discuss, and seek help for their own mental health problems, they continue to stigmatize others who have mental illnesses, according to a study led by IU Bloomington Chancellors’ Professor of sociology Bernice Pescosolido. Pescosolido and co-author Bruce Link of Columbia University evaluated data from four major surveys conducted between 1950 and 1996. They found that 12.1 percent of Americans surveyed in 1996 perceived people with mental illnesses as violent or dangerous, nearly two times as many as in 1950. But research shows that people with mental illnesses are no more likely to commit violent acts than the general population, according to Pescosolido. The new study also says that the majority of Americans today believe that mental health problems are genetic, chemical, or stress-related, not indications of personal deficiency or bad character. At the same time, however, a majority of Americans are unwilling to have a mentally ill person as a co-worker or guest in their home, regardless of his or her mental health problem.

The advent of photosynthesis (the process by which green plants use light to synthesize carbon dioxide while releasing oxygen into the atmosphere) is one of the central events in the development of life on Earth. But the origin and evolution of this life-sustaining process have long been unresolved. Although scientists have agreed that photosynthesis originated in bacteria, they have not agreed on which species of bacteria contains the most ancient photosystem. In a study published in Science, Carl E. Bauer, the Clyde Culbertson Professor of biology at IUB, and a research team analyzed photosynthesis genes from divergent species and generated a large new molecular data set. Among other results, they determined that non-oxygen-producing species such as purple and green bacteria are the most ancient photosynthetic bacteria, reversing the long-held hypothesis that purple bacteria were one of the last bacterial species to evolve, not one of the first. See for more.


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