Introducing the PLOS ONE Energy Materials Collection – Author Perspectives, Part 2


New and modified materials for future energy production, storage and use is an active area of research, where the progress made will shape society and support a sustainable future.  In August of 2021, PLOS ONE published a new collection of Energy Materials papers, showcasing state-of-the-art research in this exciting field. We interviewed some of the authors whose research is part of this collection, in order to shed further light on the discoveries they have made and the challenges they continue to tackle.


Sascha Raufeisen


Sascha is currently a PhD student at Institute of Technical and Environmental Chemistry at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany. B.Sc. in chemistry (topic bachelor’s thesis: “Synthesis of a thiofunctionalized phosphoramidite for DNA synthesis”). M. Sc. in environmental chemistry (topic master’s thesis: “Investigation of the pyroelectrocatalytic oxidation capability of lithium niobate and lithium tantalate in an aquatic system“). Research focus: new advanced oxidation processes (AOP’s) and combinations (e.g. ultrasound with electrochemistry or photocatalysis) and pyrocatalysis (mechanism elucidation, modelling, application, catalyst development/synthesis) analytical chemistry and water analytics.

Sascha Raufeisen’s paper in this collection: Raufeisen S, Stelter M, Braeutigam P (2020) Pyrocatalysis—The DCF assay as a pH-robust tool to determine the oxidation capability of thermally excited pyroelectric powders. PLoS ONE 15(2): e0228644. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228644

Can you tell us a bit about the beginning of this project that led to your PLOS ONE paper? If you weren’t involved in the study from the start, what was your first impression of the study?

SR: In 2014, I worked on a research module on the topic of electrochemical COD determination as part of my master’s degree in environmental chemistry. During my literature research, I read a lot on the topic of new and innovative advanced oxidation processes. By chance, I came across an article by Gutmann et al. In this article, they presented for the first time a wastewater treatment process based on thermally excited pyroelectric materials. I was immediately fascinated by the underlying mechanism and the prospect of exploiting the huge residual heat potentials in industry for the purification of wastewater. When, by chance, the first author of this study was also working in Jena and we exchanged ideas with him about the topic, I was hooked. I decided to change the topic of my master’s thesis and set out on the stony path of working on a completely new topic. After many missteps, corrections, and minor successes, I finished my master’s thesis with ten times more questions than when I started. Consequently, I decided to investigate pyrocatalysis further as part of my doctoral thesis. In the course of this work, I came to the conclusion that the methodology of the DCF assay needs to be fundamentally revised, which eventually resulted in my PLOS ONE paper.

Pyrocatalysis is a very exciting new research area. Do you envision that it will be possible in the future to apply this to energy generation applications of different kinds, in addition to wastewater remediation?

SR: In my opinion, further potential fields of application are H2 generation and the disinfection of (waste)water. Pyrocatalytic H2 generation could contribute to the supply of industry (e.g. steel production) with sustainably produced H2. Pyrocatalytic disinfection may gain importance especially with regard to future pandemic prevention. At the moment, however, the application of pyrocatalysis in all these three fields of application is highly dependent on the further development of pyroelectric catalysts. The DCF assay presented in the PLOS ONE paper can make a valuable contribution here.

As an early career scientist, how did you prepare yourself for the review process when submitting your first few papers? Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known before that first submission?

SR: In order to prepare myself, I consulted more experienced scientists at our institute. They explained what I had to pay attention to in the cover letter, the abstract and the introduction. They also helped me with the suggestion of reviewers. The communication with the reviewers went smoothly. The most challenging part of my first two publications was choosing the right journal. With such a new topic at the cross section between environmental/water chemistry and materials science, I received many rejections due to the lack of fit.

What hopes do you have for the future of research into sustainable energy solutions? Do you have a clear sense at this point where you would like to go in your career?

SR: I hope that all industrialized countries will finally recognize that we must increase our efforts extremely in order to slow down climate change as much as possible. An essential point here is the conversion of our entire energy demand (electricity and heat) to a regenerative basis. Since this is not possible with current technologies, research in this area must be accelerated. In addition to storage technologies, I believe that concepts for the use of residual heat must also be further developed. One technique could be pyrocatalysis, which could be used for wastewater treatment and H2 generation at the same time. I want to contribute to this transformation with my research.


Jeremi Dauchet


Jeremi Dauchet is a physicist who received his PhD in chemical engineering in 2012. He is expert in transport physics and radiative transfer in particular (including electromagnetic theory applied to the determination of radiative properties), with special emphasis on the Monte Carlo method. Associate professor at Pascal Institute (France), his research is applied to photoreactive processes engineering.

Jeremi Dauchet’s paper in this collection: Supplis C, Dauchet J, Gattepaille V, Gros F, Vourc’h T, Cornet J-F (2021) Radiative analysis of luminescence in photoreactive systems: Application to photosensitizers for solar fuel production. PLoS ONE 16(7): e0255002. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0255002

Can you tell us a bit about the beginning of this project that led to your PLOS ONE paper? If you weren’t involved in the study from the start, what was your first impression of the study?

JD: This work was initiated by experimental results obtained by Caroline Supplis during her PhD. We observed unexpected yet significant impact of luminescence when studying bio-inspired H2 production in a benchmark photoreactor. The analysis of those experiments led us to carry the thorough radiative study presented in our PLOS ONE paper.

We noticed that you shared your Monte Carlo algorithm with your PLOS ONE paper. What motivated you to do this? Do you have any experience of using other researcher’s code from publications, or know of anyone who has used the code you’ve shared?

JD: Indeed, we are dedicated to open research and distributing open source codes and databases is part of that approach. We often provide the codes used in our publications as supplementary material or as links directed to our websites. Ensuring that these codes and databases will be available to readers in the long run is a concern. We know that our codes and databases are used by other researchers because they contact us when they need advises (or when it is no longer available at the provided url!). When those codes are mature enough, we work with Meso-Star for software development, support, maintenance, integration and distribution under GNU general public license (www.meso-star.com/projects/misc/about-en.html). Conversely we routinely use other researcher’s codes, for example the famous Mie code for electromagnetic scattering provided by Craig F. Bohren and Donald R. Huffman as an appendix in their book “Absorption and Scattering of Light by Small Particles”.

Was there anything that surprised you during this study, or did everything go exactly according to plan?

JD: This entire study had not been envisaged when Caroline’s PhD research-plan was being drawn up! Photoreactive processes are controlled at different scales by radiative transfer and therefore, we knew that radiative analysis will be an important part of the work. But we did not anticipate such significant effects of luminescence, which led Caroline to 3 years of investigations.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by contributors are solely those of individual contributors, and not necessarily those of PLOS.

Featured image: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0243296

The post Introducing the PLOS ONE Energy Materials Collection – Author Perspectives, Part 2 appeared first on EveryONE.

Introducing the PLOS ONE Energy Materials Collection – Author Perspectives, Part 1


It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the role that advances within the science of energy materials may play in our lives over the next few decades. As the world grapples with the challenges of increasing energy demand and dynamic usage patterns, the community of scientists developing materials for future energy production, usage and storage are a vital part of building a sustainable future. In August of 2021, PLOS ONE published a new collection of Energy Materials papers, showcasing state-of-the-art research in this exciting field. We interviewed some of the authors whose research is part of this collection, in order to shed further light on the discoveries they have made and the challenges they continue to tackle.


Rosa Mondragón


I have a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Universitat Jaume I in Castelló (Spain). I defended my PhD thesis about spray drying of nanofluids in 2013 and that was my first experience with the amazing field of nanofluids. I am currently Associate Professor in the Fluid Mechanics area of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Construction in Universitat Jaume I and I belong to the Multiphase Fluids research group. My research is focused on the synthesis and characterization of nanofluids for heat transfer, thermal energy storage and solar radiation absorption applications. I have been participant member of the COST Action “Overcoming Barriers to Nanofluids Market Uptake – NANOUPTAKE” (2016-2020) whose objectives were the development of a common understanding about nanofluids preparation and characterization and the acceleration of the transfer of knowledge from fundamental research to industrial applications.

Rosa Mondragon’s paper in this collection: Mondragón R, Sánchez D, Cabello R, Llopis R, Juliá JE (2019) Flat plate solar collector performance using alumina nanofluids: Experimental characterization and efficiency tests. PLoS ONE 14(2): e0212260. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0212260

Can you tell us a bit about the beginning of this project that led to your PLOS ONE paper? If you weren’t involved in the study from the start, what was your first impression of the study?

RM: I began my research on nanofluids for heat transfer applications in 2010 but after some years doing experimental characterization of thermophysical properties at the lab scale (thermal conductivity, viscosity, specific heat, etc.) we needed to move towards the analysis of its use in real applications. The only difficulty was to find any research group having the suitable facilities to start a joint collaboration. Besides, most of the facilities required quite a big volume of fluids making also a challenge sending the nanofluid to a different research centre. Fortunately, we found out that the Thermal Engineering research group of our department had recently acquired a flat plate solar collector that could be used. That was the beginning of the project that led to the paper published and some lessons learnt.

What is it about nanofluids that make them such a good candidate for use in solar collectors?

RM: The term nanofluid was coined to refer to the mixture of nanoparticles dispersed in a base fluid with improved thermal properties, specifically thermal conductivity. This thermal conductivity enhancement achieved due to the higher thermal conductivity of the solid nanoparticles leads to an increase in the heat transfer capacity of the fluid and the efficiency of the solar collector. However, there are more variables involved in the process such as the decrease in the specific heat capacity or the increase in the viscosity. As a result, a combined experimental analysis of all the nanofluid thermophysical properties is necessary to ensure a better performance of the nanofluid in transferring the thermal energy obtained from the absorbed solar energy, compared to the base fluid. It is also worth mentioning that there exist a wide variety of nanoparticles with good thermal properties, inexpensive and non-toxic that can be selected.

Was there anything that surprised you during this study, or did everything go exactly according to plan?

RM: Of course not everything went exactly according to the plan but it comes with the experimental research. We had a previous experience using the nanofluid in a thermohydraulic loop and we knew that the compatibility with the materials in pipes and pumps was very important to avoid oxidation and corrosion. If the solar collector was made to transport water, the addition of the nanoparticles should not have caused any problem. However, the acidic conditions needed to stabilize the nanoparticles in water promoted the oxidation of the materials and the corrosion of the copper tubes. Moreover, the contact of the concentrated nanofluid with the hot surface of the tubes caused a deposition layer as is shown in the paper. As a result, the enhancement theoretically predicted for the solar collector efficiency was not achieved due to the thermal resistance caused by the nanoparticle layer. The nanofluid initially white became orangish after the tests which confirmed that is highly recommended to check the compatibility of the nanofluid with the materials of the experimental facilities to ensure a good performance and to achieve the best results.


Bernhard Springer


Bernhard Springer, M. Sc. is currently a research associate at University of Applied Sciences Landshut (UAS Landshut) and a PhD student at Technical University Munich (TUM). He studied physics at the TUM from 2011 and finished his Bachelor’s degree in 2015. From 2015 till 2017 he studied Applied and engineering physics at the TUM and finished with a Master’s degree. Since 2017 he is working as a research associate at the Technology Centre Energy affiliated to the UAS Landshut. In 2018 he started with his PhD studies at the chemistry department of the TUM. Since 2019 he is working with his colleagues on the Project “SpinnAP”. His fields of research include Electrospinning, Lithium-Ion-Batteries  and solid-state electrolytes.

Bernhard Springer’s paper in this collection: Springer BC, Frankenberger M, Pettinger K-H (2020) Lamination of Separators to Electrodes using Electrospinning. PLoS ONE 15(1): e0227903. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0227903

Can you tell us a bit about the beginning of this project that led to your PLOS ONE paper? If you weren’t involved in the study from the start, what was your first impression of the study?

BS: The project leading to my publication is “Spinning Technologies for Advanced Battery Production” (SpinnAP) and is funded by the Bavarian Research Foundation. The project aims to improve lithium ion batteries, both liquid and solid electrolyte systems, using electrospinning. An example for such an improvement is to enable lamination on different separators using electrospinning, like described in my paper. In addition, suitable production processes as well as an improved nanofiber output for industrial applications are part of our development focus. To achieve this, we also develop our own high-output electrospinning machine within the frame of the project. We are supported by our project partners 3M Dyneon GmbH, AKE Technologies GmbH and Brückner GmbH with their respective expertise.

Electrospinning seems like a very promising method for the future of lithium ion batteries. What do you think are the main advantages this can bring to the consumer or user of lithium ion batteries?

BS: For lithium ion batteries using a liquid electrolyte, lamination can achieve two main advantages: First, lamination is able to improve the charge and discharge capability, as shown by Frankenberger et al (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jelechem.2019.02.030). Unfortunately, not all separators are capable for lamination. Using electrospinning we want to enable lamination for all types of separators to combine the advantages of lamination with the advantages of the respective separators, e.g. lower production costs or safety enhancement. Second, lamination creates a firm connection between the electrodes and the separator. This can be positive for the production speed of the cells, since the individual layers can not be displaced during the following production steps. This can lead to an increased production output and more inexpensive battery cells.

As an early career scientist, how did you prepare yourself for the review process when submitting your first few papers? Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known before that first submission?

BS: In preparation to my first submission, I intensely discussed with my colleagues from the Technology Center Energy, a research facility of the University of Applied Sciences Landshut, about their previous experiences. In addition, I read the guidelines provided by PLOS regarding the submission process carefully.

What hopes do you have for the future of research into sustainable energy solutions? Do you have a clear sense at this point where you would like to go in your career?

BS: I do not have a clear sense where I would like to go in my career yet, but I do intend to pursue an industrial career path. At the moment I strongly focus on my dissertation.


David López Durán


David is Professor in the Department of Physics of the University of Córdoba (Spain). He obtained the MSc degree in the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain), and his PhD in the Fundamental Physics Institute (FPI) of the Spanish National Research Council (SNRC) in Madrid. He has developed his work in La Sapienza, University of Rome (Italy), Argonne National Laboratory, IL (USA), and CIC Nanogune, San Sebastián (Spain), among others. His research topics are: weakly bound molecular clusters, collisions of molecules at low and ultralow temperatures, and potential energy surfaces of small molecular aggregates. Some recent scientific contributions are: (1) “The CECAM electronic structure library and the modular software development paradigm”, J. Chem. Phys. 153, 024117-1/024117-23 (2020) article promoted as part of the “Chemical Physics Software Collection” of the Journal of Chemical Physics (September 2021), and (2) interview in TV (May 2021): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJ71JPVdhtw

David López Durán’s paper in this collection: López-Durán D, Plésiat E, Krompiec M, Artacho E (2020) Gap variability upon packing in organic photovoltaics. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0234115. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234115

Can you tell us a bit about the beginning of this project that led to your PLOS ONE paper? If you weren’t involved in the study from the start, what was your first impression of the study?

DL: This article came up as part of the work supported by the “Centre Européen de Calcul Atomique et Moléculaire” (CECAM), which is formed by several institutions in Europe and funds multiple activities, one of them a partnership between some of these institutions, network called “E-CAM”, and to which I belonged. One of the targets of E-CAM was to bring closer the academic and the industrial worlds through several initiatives, for instance a collaboration between two nodes with different profiles. This manuscript came up due to the work developed in my former institutions, CIC Nanogune (San Sebastián, Spain) and University of Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain), and the industrial partner Merck Chemicals Ltd. (Southampton, United Kingdom). The climate change and global warming are, unfortunately, a hot topic in science and we tried to contribute to its solution studying organic photovoltaics. Specifically, we addressed the problem of the arrangement of the molecules in order to maximize the electric current.

How do you think that the results you obtained in this study will impact the development of organovoltaics in the future?

DL: The design of a device to generate energy based in any kind of photovoltaic molecules must include the analysis of several factors in order to obtain the maximum performance. One of them is the HOMO-LUMO band gap of the constituent molecules, which are usually a donor-acceptor pair, magnitude which dramatically depends on the geometry arrangement of these pairs. As this gap becomes smaller, the electronic transference is easier and, therefore, the generation of electric current. But to be small this gap is necessary that the molecules were arranged in a convenient way one with respect to the others, i. e. with their active electronic areas clearly accessible. In this work we study a great number of configurations of an organic donor-acceptor pair in gas phase, as previous step before moving to the solid phase of a real device. Our study will impact the subsequent research because now there are available some hints about the optimal geometry configuration of the molecules.   

Was there anything that surprised you during this study, or did everything go exactly according to plan?

DL: The donor-acceptor pair that we studied is 4modBT-4TIC, molecules which are based on others extensively employed in the organic photovoltaics field. We found several surprises, the first one being that the variation of the gap in all the studied configurations was around 0.3 eV, which is significant considering that the gaps in this context are not larger than 1 eV. The second surprise was the lack of correlation between the binding energy of the pair and the HOMO-LUMO band gap: the arrangement with the maximum binding energy was not that with the maximum gap and, in turn, the configuration with the maximum gap was not that with the maximum binding energy. A third surprise was that the arrangement with the maximum binding energy were much more bound that the rest. All these findings pose new questions and, therefore, further research is needed.

What’s the most unusual or unexpected collaboration you’ve been a part of during your research?

DL: I have never had an unusual or unexpected collaboration during my scientific career. However, I would like to mention that I feel very lucky because I have known people from all over the world. These experiences enrich you and make you think in a more broad and comprehensive way.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by contributors are solely those of individual contributors, and not necessarily those of PLOS.

Featured image: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0243296

The post Introducing the PLOS ONE Energy Materials Collection – Author Perspectives, Part 1 appeared first on EveryONE.

Updating the PLOS ONE Nanomaterials Collection – Author Perspectives, Part 3


In July, we updated our Nanomaterials Collection, featuring papers published over the past few years in PLOS ONE. This collection showcases the breadth of the nanomaterials community at PLOS ONE, and includes papers on a variety of topics, such as the fabrication of nanomaterials, nanomaterial-cell interactions, the role of nanomaterials in drug delivery, and nanomaterials in the environment.

To celebrate this updated collection, we are conducting a series of Q&As with authors whose work is included in the collection. Next out is our conversations with Roberto Vazquez-Muñoz from the University of Connecticut Health Center, Roselyne Ferrari from Université de Paris and Yerol Narayana from Mangalore University. They discuss the future potential of nanomaterials research, the value of open science practices, and their experiences of pursuing unexpected effects seen in the lab. We will be adding more author interviews over the next few weeks, so please do keep checking back.


Roberto Vazquez-Muñoz – University of Connecticut Health Center


Currently, I work at the University of Connecticut Health Center (UConn Health), USA. I’m a nanomedicine scientist with a multidisciplinary background: B.Sc. with a concentration in Biology, with postgraduate education in Microbiology (M. Sc.) and Nanotechnology (Ph.D.). My research focuses on the complex systems’ interactions between antimicrobial nanomaterials (nanoantibiotics), microbial cells (pathogens and probiotics), antibiotics, and the environment. My goal is to develop affordable, novel nanotechnology-based solutions to combat multidrug-resistant infectious diseases, particularly for communities under limited resources. My network includes international and transdisciplinary research teams to develop applied nanotechnology solutions for the agricultural, veterinary, and clinical sectors. My work has been published in international peer-reviewed journals, and I have developed patented and commercial products. I’ve been awarded by different institutions such as The Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education (Mexico), Rotary International’s Rotaract, the International Network of Bionanotechnology, and the New England I-Corps (MIT)/Accelerate (UCONN) program.

Roberto Vazquez-Muñoz’s paper in the Nanomaterials Collection: Vazquez-Muñoz R, Meza-Villezcas A, Fournier PGJ, Soria-Castro E, Juarez-Moreno K, Gallego-Hernández AL, et al. (2019) Enhancement of antibiotics antimicrobial activity due to the silver nanoparticles impact on the cell membrane. PLoS ONE 14(11): e0224904. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0224904

What motivated you to work in this field?

RVM: My motivation to work in this field comes from my interest in the impact of infectious diseases through history and our ability to create solutions to combat them. This interest led me to focus on the interactions between nanomaterials, microbial cells, and antimicrobial substances for combat infection. Additionally, as current treatments are less and less effective against pathogens, nanotechnology has proven to be an effective strategy to fight the crisis of infectious diseases.

Nanomaterials research has increased in popularity over the past few years as a research topic. Do you envision that the field can continue to grow this way, and do you see any challenges on the horizon?

RVM: Yes, nanomaterials research has increased in popularity worldwide, and we have seen exponential growth in publications. The field will continue to grow for years as we constantly discover nanomaterial’s novel structures, properties, and applications. Additionally, we continuously develop novel synthesis methods and understand the interactions between nanomaterials and other systems (organisms, materials, environment, etc.).

However, there are several challenges on the horizon. A critical challenge is understanding the impact of nanomaterials on living organisms and the environment. It is crucial to expand the research on human and ecological nanotoxicology and the fate of “nano-waste” on the environment. Another challenge is the standardization of research data. As nanomaterials research is a multidisciplinary field, there is still a lack of standard criteria for conducting and publishing research, leading to difficulties in comparing data from different studies.

Can you tell us about an experience during your research, whether in the lab or at the computer or in conversation etc., where something finally clicked or worked?

RVM: One of my experiences during my research is when I was working on how nanomaterials increase the antibacterial activity of antibiotics. Different published studies showed the impact of nanomaterials on cell structure and metabolism. At the same time, other studies reported synergistic – or antagonistic – activity between nanomaterials and antibiotics; however, their explanations about the mechanisms were primarily theoretical. Unfortunately, there was no apparent connection between the proposed mechanisms and the synergistic activity reported by other groups. To fill that knowledge gap, we conducted experimental work to evaluate the physical and chemical interactions in the nanomaterials-antibiotics-microbial cell complex system. Then, when we compared our data with the literature, we started to see the connecting dots that could explain the synergistic activity of antibiotics. Moreover, our model could also explain some results published from other groups. That project was a stimulating and satisfactory experience and contributed to a better understanding of the synergistic activity of nanoparticles with antibiotics.

Is there a specific research area where a collaboration with the nanomaterials community could be particularly interesting for interdisciplinary research?

RVM: There are many research areas where interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration with the nanomaterials community is exciting. Nanomedicine is my first pick. The novel properties of nanomaterials have raised a lot of interest from the medical community, particularly for drug delivery, controlled release, reducing toxicity, among others. Additionally, beyond treatments, the development of new instrumentation, biosensors, analytical kits, sanitizing formulations, and other related applications for the healthcare sector is on the rise, creating more opportunities to work in diverse, interdisciplinary environments. In this regard, I have an interdisciplinary background (microbiology and nanotechnology), and my work focuses on medical applications, which allows me to participate in different research groups.


Roselyne Ferrari – Université de Paris


I am an Associate Professor in the Paris Diderot University (now Université de Paris) since 1994. I defended my PhD thesis entitled “Investigation of foliar lipid peroxidation in higher plants and evaluation of antioxidant capacities of sensitive or drought-resistant plants” in 1992 (Paris Diderot University, France) in the field of Tropical Plant Biology. I then got interested in microorganisms and studied a class of enzymes capable of detoxifying fatty acid hydroperoxides: “the alkylhydroperoxide reductases”. I then investigated the ability of Escherichia coli to detoxify emerging pollutants in aquatic environments and in particular man-made metal oxide nanoparticles. I participated for 10 years in the development of laboratory tests to assess the toxicity of zinc oxide and titanium nanoparticles in natural aquatic environments. I showed, through metabolomics and proteomics, that E. coli tries to overcome the stress caused by nanoparticles by increasing its oxidative and respiratory capacity. More recently, I started to work again on polyunsaturated fatty acids and peroxidation phenomena, but this time on fungi. Recently I am also interested in the ability of some microscopic coprophilous fungi to destroy lignocellulose. These ascomycete fungi are over-equipped with hydrolytic enzymes, such as oxidases or oxygenases.

Roselyne Ferrari’s paper in the Nanomaterials Collection: Planchon M, Léger T, Spalla O, Huber G, Ferrari R (2017) Metabolomic and proteomic investigations of impacts of titanium dioxide nanoparticles on Escherichia coli. PLoS ONE 12(6): e0178437. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178437

What is your favorite thing about nanomaterials?

RF: I am interested in the toxicology of nanoparticles in the environment and more particularly in their dissemination in the 3 compartments (soil water air). I am also interested in the fixation of environmental metal oxide nanoparticles by the bark of urban trees.

Have you had any surprises in your research recently, where the result was not what you expected?

RF: I did indeed have some surprises in the results I got in the paper I published in PLOS ONE. I did not expect that the amount of ATP would increase in Escherichia coli bacteria after they were brought into contact with the titanium dioxide nanoparticles. Unfortunately I did not pursue this line of research and I remain on this question.

Did you have to adapt your work in light of the pandemic, and if so, how?

RF: I adapted like many researchers and continued my work following the recommendations of my University.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for disseminating research in your field, or for communicating science in general?

RF: Social networks, media in general have allowed us to continue to disseminate to our fellow researchers as well as video conferencing.


Yerol Narayana – Mangalore University


Obtained MSc and PhD from Mangalore University. Presently the Professor and Chairman, Board of Studies, Department of Physics of Mangalore University.  Area of research include ‘Environmental Radioactivity, ‘Radiation Biophysics’ and ‘Nanoparticles for Biomedical Applications’. Published more than 150 research papers in International Journals and presented more than 250 research papers in conferences. Completed five major research projects and one major research project is ongoing. Guided 13 students for PhD degree and 8 students are currently working for their PhD degree.  Received ‘Commonwealth Fellowship Award’ for Post-Doctoral research in the United Kingdom during 2000-2001, ‘Wington Tiular Fellowship award’ from ACU in 2013, ‘Dr A K Ganguly Award’ from Indian Association for Radiation Protection, India in 2016, ‘Best Teacher Award’ from Mangalore University in the year 2017 and ‘Best Research Publication Award’ from Govt. of Karnataka, India, in 2019.

Yerol Narayana’s paper in the Nanomaterials Collection: Suvarna S, Das U, KC S, Mishra S, Sudarshan M, Saha KD, et al. (2017) Synthesis of a novel glucose capped gold nanoparticle as a better theranostic candidate. PLoS ONE 12(6): e0178202. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178202

What route did you take to where you currently are in your career? 

YN: I obtained my Masters degree in physics from, Mangalore University in 1989 and PhD degree from the same University in 1994. I joined the Physics Department of Mangalore University in 1995 as Assistant Professor and subsequently became Professor in 2010. I have done my Post-doctoral research at BGS, UK during 2000-01 under the commonwealth fellowship and subsequently at University of Stirling, UK in 2014 under Wighton-Titular Fellowship. Currently I am working as Professor of Physics at Mangalore University.

How important are open science practices in your field? Do you have any success stories from your own research of sharing or reusing code, data, protocols, open hardware, interacting with preprints, or something else? 

YN: Open science practices are very useful in any field of scientific research.  In my field, open access to published scientific materials have helped in a big way in designing experiments, data analysis and furtherance of research.

If you could dream really big, is there a particular material, function or material property that seems far away at the moment, but you think could be attained in the future?

YN: At present the major challenge in Radiotherapy is the radio-resistance of tumor cells and protecting the normal cells. Researchers are working on a concept of multiple therapy i.e. simultaneous chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hyperthermia therapy and radiotherapy to overcome the radio-resistance and it has been proved to be effective. Live tumor imaging is another big challenge. Some nanoparticles have shown potential to improve the aforesaid individual treatment and imaging techniques. At present, individual nanomaterials are being tried for treatment and imaging. The usage of multiple nanomaterials simultaneously would not be safe as their unique interaction mechanism may create unforeseen problems. Therefore, we need a single nanomaterial that is capable of supporting multiple therapy and live imaging to reduce the side effects and to assure safety. We believe that it will be a reality in the near future.


Disclaimer: Views expressed by contributors are solely those of individual contributors, and not necessarily those of PLOS.

Featured image: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0133088

The post Updating the PLOS ONE Nanomaterials Collection – Author Perspectives, Part 3 appeared first on EveryONE.

Updating the PLOS ONE Nanomaterials Collection – Author Perspectives, Part 2


In July, we updated our Nanomaterials Collection, featuring papers published over the past few years in PLOS ONE. This collection showcases the breadth of the nanomaterials community at PLOS ONE, and includes papers on a variety of topics, such as the fabrication of nanomaterials, nanomaterial-cell interactions, the role of nanomaterials in drug delivery, and nanomaterials in the environment.

To celebrate this updated collection, we are conducting a series of Q&As with authors whose work is included in the collection. Next out is our conversations with Lauren Crandon from OnTo Technology and Robert Zucker from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In this Q&A, they discuss the importance of understanding the environmental fate of nanomaterials, new technology development, and their experiences of making new discoveries in the lab. We will be adding more author interviews over the next few weeks, so please do keep checking back.


Lauren Crandon – OnTo Technology


Lauren Crandon is a Research and Development Engineer with OnTo Technology in Bend, OR. She develops technology to recycle lithium-ion batteries, including nanomaterials. She received her Ph.D. from Oregon State University in Environmental Engineering, where she researched the environmental fate and impacts of nanomaterials.

Lauren Crandon’s paper in the Nanomaterials Collection: Crandon LE, Boenisch KM, Harper BJ, Harper SL (2020) Adaptive methodology to determine hydrophobicity of nanomaterials in situ. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0233844. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0233844

What motivated you to work in this field?

LC: I knew I wanted to study the environmental implications of emerging contaminants. When I first walked into the Harper Nanotoxicology Lab at Oregon State, I got so excited about nanomaterials. I learned that more and more fields in technology, medicine, and industry were using nanoparticles and that these would all be eventually released into the environment. In our lab, we looked at the implications of this at both the small scale (within individual organism) and the large scale (how far downstream nanoparticles will end up). If we can develop a good understanding of fate, transport, and toxicity, we can responsibly develop nano-enabled technology for the future.

Nanomaterials research has increased in popularity over the past few years as a research topic. Do you envision that the field can continue to grow in this way, and do you see any challenges on the horizon?

LC: I absolutely believe the field of nanomaterials will continue to grow. For example, lithium-ion batteries are starting to use nanomaterials to improve performance and nanoparticle-based sunscreens are becoming more popular due to concerns with their chemical alternatives. I think we will also see exciting breakthroughs in nanomedicine, among other fields. The main challenge will continue to be evaluating human and environmental safety at end-of-life for these applications. It is difficult to establish standards and regulations, since the fate and behavior of nanomaterials depends on their environment. However, this will be important for sustainable use.

Can you tell us about an experience during your research, whether in lab or at the computer or in conversation etc., where something finally clicked, or worked?

 LC: Yes! I was collaborating with a toxicology graduate student in my lab to compare the toxicity of Cu and CuO nanoparticles in zebrafish. The CuO NPs were much less toxic, but we could not explain why. They dissolved more Cu+2, which was generally accepted to be the toxic mechanism. When I applied one of the standard assays I was working on to measure reactive oxygen species (ROS), the trends matched! Cu NPs generated much more ROS than CuO, which explained the higher toxicity. Applying a standardized test to NPs in a specific testing environment allowed us to model and predict toxicity. I spent the rest of my graduate work continuing to standardize rapid assays for commercially used nanoparticles and correlating my results with their toxicity. I hope this can help us predict the potential risks of materials as they enter the market.

Is there a specific research area where a collaboration with the nanomaterials community could be particularly interesting for interdisciplinary research?

LC: I am very excited about applications of nanomaterials in energy storage devices and medicine. I hope that as these materials continue to enter the market, nanotoxicology research will continue to be funded and part of the story. Nanomaterials offer novel properties that bring major benefits but also do not always follow conventional toxicology. I would like to see collaboration with the technology industry and environmental toxicology to responsibly produce the next generation of novel materials.


Robert Zucker – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Dr. Robert Zucker is a Research Biologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment. His research involves applying biophysical technologies of imaging and flow cytometry to reproductive toxicology questions.

Robert Zucker’s paper in the Nanomaterials Collection: Zucker RM, Ortenzio J, Degn LL, Boyes WK (2020) Detection of large extracellular silver nanoparticle rings observed during mitosis using darkfield microscopy. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0240268. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0240268

What route did you take to where you currently are in your career?

RZ: I obtained a BS in physics from The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and obtained a master’s degree at UCLA in the Laboratory of Nuclear Medicine and Radiation Biology in the field of biophysics and nuclear medicine. I also received my PhD in biophysics at UCLA studying biophysical separation and characterization of hematological cells. After graduating from UCLA, I did a two-year Post-Doc at the Max Planck Institute in Munich Germany in immunology.  When I returned to America, I became a principal investigator at the Papanicolaou Cancer Institute and an adjunct associate professor at the University of Miami for 12 years. In this position, I was involved in cancer research and was a member of the Miami sickle cell center. My next position was at the EPA in Research Triangle Park, NC, applying biophysical technologies of imaging and flow cytometry to reproductive toxicology questions.

What emerging topics in your field are you particularly excited about?

RZ: Flow cytometry has been around for over 50 years. Recently, the technology has been improved by using five lasers with 64 detectors. This provides a system with better resolution. In addition, the software incorporated into the system allows the removal of autofluoresence noise to increase the detection of cells or particles. 

Optical microscopes, cameras and equipment have improved to allow scientists to easily obtain digital images, which are high resolution. The new microscopes are automated allowing the scientist to design and achieve experiments that were not previously feasible. For example, the current microscope allows us to use widefield confocal microscopy on 2D images that can be deconvolved with software built into the system for higher resolution. It is quicker than point-scanning confocal microscopy.  The machines can obtain sequential measurements over time on one field or take images from multiple fields.

How important are open science practices in your field? Do you have any success stories from your own research of sharing or reusing code, data, protocols, open hardware, interacting with preprints, or something else?

RZ: It is important to follow one’s scientific instincts—the EPA is an organization that allows this freedom to their investigators to research projects of interest to the Agency. I have two success stories to share from my own research.

Success story #1: In the field of nanoparticles, I observed that TiO2 was extremely reflective using darkfield microscopy. Using flow cytometry, granulocytes, monocytes, and neutrophils can be identified based on size (forward scatter) and internal structure (side scatter) from the granules contained in the neutrophils.  Can this scatter signal be used to detect a dose response of uptake of nanoparticles by a cell? To try to answer this question, we used two concentration of TiO2 in an experiment, and a dose response was observed with these two-concentration compared to controls.  This procedure has subsequently been reproduced by a number of investigations with various types of metal nanoparticles. One of our papers was published in PLOS One and compared the effect of different coating of silver particles coatings on uptake and toxicity by mammalian cells.

Success story #2: The confocal microscope allows scientists to see embryo and reproductive structures in 3D using fluorescence staining technology. By applying very old technologies used to clear tissues,  we were able to see very deep into tissues. This procedure allowed the internal structures of reproductive tissues and developing embryos to be observed. The data were used to support the hypothesis that studied how the chemicals affected these tissues.

If you could dream really big, is there a particular material, function or material property that seems far away at the moment, but you think could be attained in the future?

RZ: My dream would be to use the current spectral flow cytometer to predict 1) the effects of microplastics on mammalian cells 2) to detect the effects of climate change on cyanobacteria growth and toxin production 3) to spectrally detect microplastics in water.  I would want to provide a simple imaging test to 4) detect microplastics in water by their higher reflectivity 5) to provide an instant imaging quantitation of the amount of Algae and Cyanobacteria in a water sample based on differential excitation fluorescence, and 6) use spectral features of photosynthesis fluorescence and autofluoresence to determine the health of plants and cyanobacteria and then relate this data to the environment. 


Disclaimer: Views expressed by contributors are solely those of individual contributors, and not necessarily those of PLOS.

Featured image: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0133088

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Updating the PLOS ONE Nanomaterials Collection – Author Perspectives, Part 1


In July, we updated our Nanomaterials Collection, featuring papers published over the past few years in PLOS ONE. This collection showcases the breadth of the nanomaterials community at PLOS ONE, and includes papers on a variety of topics, such as fabrication of nanomaterials, nanomaterial-cell interactions, the role of nanomaterials in drug delivery, and nanomaterials in the environment.

To celebrate this updated collection, we are conducting a series of Q&As with authors whose work is included in the collection. First out is our conversations with Stacey Harper from Oregon State University, David Estrada from Boise State University and Vernita Gordon from The University of Texas at Austin. They provide thought-provoking insights into the future of nanotechnology, the environmental impact of nanomaterials, new ways in which scientific advances can be shared and disseminated, and how being a researcher means being open to work taking unexpected directions. We will be adding more author interviews over the next few weeks, so please do keep checking back.


Stacey Harper – Oregon State University


Dr. Stacey Harper is a Professor in the School of Chemical, Biological & Environmental Engineering and the Department of Environmental & Molecular Toxicology at OSU.  Studies in the Harper laboratory use rapid assays with whole organisms and communities of organisms to evaluate the toxic potential of diverse nanomaterials, including nanoplastics.  Dr. Harper is the President for the Pacific Northwest Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), a member of SETAC Nano Interest Group Steering Committee, a leader of the Pacific Northwest Consortium on Plastics, and was recognized by the US National Nanotechnology Coordination Office as one of the outstanding women in nanotechnology in 2019.

Stacey Harper’s paper in the Nanomaterials Collection: Crandon LE, Boenisch KM, Harper BJ, Harper SL (2020) Adaptive methodology to determine hydrophobicity of nanomaterials in situ. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0233844. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0233844

What route did you take to where you currently are in your career?

SH: The path was clearly not straight, nor was it really planned.  I found that at every decision point in my career that I would choose the path that I found most rewarding.  Starting my graduate career in comparative physiology gave me a lot of perspective and opportunities to explore the science that I was interested in. I moved into a post-doctoral position with the Environmental Protection Agency and explored a diverse array of projects and was intrigued by the newly emerging field of nanoscience and nanotoxicology.  I enjoy the challenge of finding answers to questions and solving issues that others would pass over for something guaranteed to succeed.

What emerging topics in your field are you particularly excited about?

SH: The application of nanotechnology solutions to nearly all of the issues with water sustainability seems unlimited.  However, with any new technological solution, we need to consider the potential unintended consequences of the materials we design.  It gives me great pleasure to work in partnership with materials designers to ensure that the safety of their products during the research and development phase of product development.  It is extremely rewarding to provide manufacturers with the information they need to make the best environmentally responsible decisions.

How important are open science practices in your field? Do you have any success stories from your own research of sharing or reusing code, data, protocols, open hardware, interacting with preprints, or something else?

SH: Open science is critical to ensuring that information scientists generate are useful to the community of people that need that information.  Data sharing is one of my priorities, as such, I established an open source database (Nanomaterial Biological Interactions knowledgebase, nbi.oregonstate.edu) for data from my research group on the toxic potential of a wide range of different nanomaterials that vary in composition, size, shape and surface chemistry.  As a leader of the National Cancer Institute Nanotechnology Working Group, we developed a standard for describing nanomaterial characteristics in a detailed fashion (ASTM E2909-13):

Standard Guide for Investigation/Study/Assay Tab-Delimited Format for Nanotechnologies (ISA-TAB-Nano): Standard File Format for the Submission and Exchange of Data on Nanomaterials and Characterizations

Such standards enhance our ability to share and integrate data across the many diverse fields that make up nanoscience and nanotechnology, which is necessary to advance the field in an evidence-based manner.

If you could dream really big, is there a particular material, function or material property that seems far away at the moment, but you think could be attained in the future?

SH: Point of demand materials that could capture the energy from sunlight, even in low light environments, and convert it to usable energy without the need for energy storage.  Think about a car painted with photovoltaic paint that could do this without the need for battery storage or fuel.  That would be a game changer.


David Estrada – Boise State University


David Estrada received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013 before joining the faculty at Boise State University. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering and holds an appointment as the university’s Associate Director for the Center for Advanced Energy Studies. He is the recipient of the NSF and NDSEG Graduate Fellowships. His work has been recognized with several awards, including the NSF CAREER Award, the National TRiO Achievers award, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Innovator of the year award. He is a Senior Member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers and his research interests are in the areas of emergent semiconductor nanomaterials and bionanotechnology.

David Estrada’s paper in the Nanomaterials Collection: Williams- Godwin L, Brown D, Livingston R, Webb T, Karriem L, Graugnard E, et al. (2019) Open-source automated chemical vapor deposition system for the production of two- dimensional nanomaterials. PLoS ONE 14(1): e0210817. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0210817

What motivated you to work in this field?

DE: The field of 2D materials is a rapidly expanding and exciting field. The ability to control the properties of materials based on their chemical composition, atomic thickness, and by surrounding environment is fascinating to me. Understanding how to leverage these attributes for specific applications is both intriguing and rewarding.

Nanomaterials research has increased in popularity over the past few years as a research topic. Do you envision that the field can continue to grow in this way, and do you see any challenges on the horizon?

DE: Absolutely. With the discovery of 2D materials and their heterostructures, pioneered by Geim and Novoselov, there is a lot of room for growth in the field of nanomaterials. I believe the greatest opportunities for discovery lie at the nexus of artificial intelligence, computational materials science, and applications in microelectronics, quantum computing, and biotechnology. The biggest challenges will be in developing scalable and reliable synthesis methods to fully leverage the unique physics and chemistry of nanomaterials.

Can you tell us about an experience during your research, whether in lab or at the computer or in conversation etc., where something finally clicked, or worked?

DE: One of my favorite memories as a graduate student was being in the lab and imaging power dissipation in graphene transistors via IR microscopy with our Postdoctoral Scholar – Dr. Myung-Ho Bae. We were able to electrostatically control the temperature distribution in graphene transistor, which was a direct observation of tuning the Fermi level across the band structure of graphene. It was truly exciting to be among the first in the world to observe such phenomena in a material that was only 1 atom thick!

Is there a specific research area where a collaboration with the nanomaterials community could be particularly interesting for interdisciplinary research?

DE: I personally believe that energy, water, and healthcare will present some of the greatest engineering challenges in the future. Understanding how/if nanomaterials can help solve some of the pressing challenges in grid level energy storage, water purification, and regenerative medicine will require teams of interdisciplinary STEM researchers working alongside policy makers and social scientists. As Herb Brooks told the 1980 Men’s US Olympic hockey team, “Great moments are born from great opportunity”. That is what scientists have today, an opportunity for enormous societal impact by leveraging our collective expertise and knowledge to solve these grand challenges. If we are successful, history will recognize our generation as a great moment in time that changed the course of civilization.


Vernita Gordon – The University of Texas at Austin


Vernita Gordon is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at University of Texas at Austin, where she has been on the faculty since 2010.  Her research group studies biofilm-forming bacterial systems, with a view toward understanding how physics and biology interplay and how they impact disease course.  She did undergraduate work at Vanderbilt University and graduate work at Harvard University, as well as postdocs at University of Edinburgh and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  She likes doing science, most of the time.  She also likes running, science fiction, singing, knitting, and spending time doing fun things with her family.  She wishes the pandemic were over already.

Vernita Gordon’s paper in the Nanomaterials Collection: Kovach K, Sabaraya IV, Patel P, Kirisits MJ, Saleh NB, Gordon VD (2020) Suspended multiwalled, acid-functionalized carbon nanotubes promote aggregation of the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0236599. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0236599

What’s your favourite thing about nanomaterials?

VG: I’m not really a nanomaterials researcher.  I’m a biological physicist, with my roots in soft-matter physics, but I keep bumping up against nanomaterials in random ways.  I think my favorite thing about nanomaterials is the way their small size gives rise to applications that wouldn’t be possible for the same material in a larger size.  I’m thinking here of nanoparticles for drug delivery (I work a lot with pathogenic biofilms, which tolerate a lot of conventional antibiotic treatment, so people have to put a lot of creativity into finding ways to treat biofilm infection) and the work we recently published in PLOS ONE, which started when we were wondering how stray nanomaterials in aqueous environments might affect the mechanical strength of biofilms, and wound up with the unexpected discovery that suspended nanotubes can promote bacteria aggregating into sort of proto-biofilms.

Have you had any recent surprises in your research, where the outcome wasn’t what you had expected?

VG: Yes.  This happens all the time.  It is far more common for me to be surprised and a project take a direction that I had not anticipated than it is for everything to move forward steadily the way I thought it would.  The PLOS ONE paper I mention in my previous answer is one example of this.  Of the roughly 20 papers I’ve published since starting a faculty position, I think maybe 4 told the story I had anticipated when starting the project.

Did you have to adapt your work in light of the pandemic, and if so, how?

VG: We first had to shut down our research labs completely, I think for 2-3 months, and then we were allowed to re-open slowly, at very limited capacity.  I had graduate students who were not able to be in the lab for months.  To deal with this, we started a new modeling project, to study biofilm growth and mechanics in vitro, with colleagues at University of Edinburgh.  We also greatly extended a modeling project that we had started before the pandemic, so that what had been a small side project for a student became his only project for nearly a year.

What do you see as the big opportunities for research dissemination in your field, or how science is communicated in general?

VG: I think more-informal communication is becoming increasingly important, both for scientists learning about each other’s work and for the general public.  Platforms like Twitter and Facebook can rapidly spread “snapshots” of scientific advances, with the possibility for interested parties to dig much deeper into the actual research publication (things like Instagram and whatever else the young people are using can probably do that too, but I’m not on Instagram or TikTok so I haven’t experienced that directly).  This is one of the major ways I learn about scientific papers that I should read.  I think there’s a gap between the social-media “snapshot” and the thorny research publication that still needs to be filled with good communication of science to the general public.  YouTube and blogs seem good for this, and are already doing some good things, but I’d like to see even more of this.  One thing the pandemic has really shown is that we need to do a better job of communicating, to a broad audience, how science is done and what science is saying.


Disclaimer: Views expressed by contributors are solely those of individual contributors, and not necessarily those of PLOS.

Featured image: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0133088

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Introducing the Health and Healthcare in Gender Diverse Communities Collection


We are delighted to announce our Collection on Health and Healthcare in Gender Diverse Communities, curated by our Guest Editors Dr. Asa Radix, Dr. Ayden Scheim, and Dr. Jae Sevelius. The collection includes a diverse group of articles investigating influences on mental and physical health, experiences accessing healthcare and engaging with the healthcare system, and the impacts of violence, discrimination, and stigma on health and wellbeing within gender diverse communities around the world. Additional articles will be added to the Collection as they become available, so be sure to keep checking back for the newest research.

Here, Drs. Sevelius and Scheim share their thoughts on this crucial area of research.

What recent developments or emerging trends in the field do you find most interesting or exciting?

JS: It is absolutely critical that we continue to advance the science around transgender children and youth. This science is imperative to inform advocacy for policies that support our young people and provide access to life-saving treatment, especially in this era of proposed treatment bans and myths around ‘desistance’. Further, learning more about how best to support trans people in their youth can help to prevent some of the persistent mental and physical health disparities we see among trans adults.

AS: I’m excited by the changing scientific and organizational leadership in the field, with trans health research increasingly led by trans people. This is not simply a matter of representation for its own sake — I think community knowledge and relationships can be leveraged to improve the rigour, relevance, and reach of our research. I also see growing topical and regional diversity in trans health research. Like cisgender people, trans people live everywhere in the world, grow older, and form families, and so improving the health of trans populations requires a holistic and global approach.

From your perspective, what are the biggest challenges faced by researchers working with and within gender diverse communities? Do you have any advice for effectively overcoming these challenges?

JS: As an intervention scientist working in close collaboration with trans communities, some of the biggest challenges are structural. The priorities of the funders drive the science, and the funding mechanisms and timelines often do not account for the incredible investment of time and funds required to get community-engaged science right. To be successful and relevant, our intervention research needs to be led by trans people themselves. Due to social marginalization, this work is the first formal job many of the trans people I work with have had, which means there is significant training and support required to ensure our teams are successful and thriving professionally.

AS: Although trans health research increasingly involves trans people in leadership roles, those trans people are too often those who (like me) benefit from structural racism and discrimination. It is vital that researchers attend to differences in power and life experience within trans and gender diverse communities. Ideally, they would use community-based participatory research approaches to forge research partnerships that build power and resources of trans individuals and organizations from marginalized backgrounds.

Why is open access publication important in this field?

JS: Among the many reasons open access is important, one tremendous benefit is ensuring that health care providers who are treating trans patients have access to the most current and relevant science, enabling them to make more informed treatment decisions. Further, because taxpayers fund the majority of our research, they should have free access to the results of our work.

AS: As anyone plugged into trans Twitter can tell you, trans advocates actively engage with research being published on trans health and use that research in their advocacy, from educating families to pursuing legal challenges. Among the many reasons for OA, making research findings accessible for community advocates is a key priority for me.

About the Guest Editors:

Asa Radix is the Senior Director of Research and Education at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center and a Clinical Associate Professor and the NYU  Grossman School of Medicine.

Ayden Scheim is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Drexel University.

Jae Sevelius is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Co-Director of the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS), Co-Director of the CAPS Developmental Core, and PI and co-founder of the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health.

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Introducing the Rewilding and Restoration Collection


As we approach the beginning of the UN Decade on Ecosystem RestorationPLOS ONE and a team of dedicated Guest Editors have brought together a Collection of research showcasing current practical and theoretical approaches to rewilding and ecological restoration around the world. The Collection features a wealth of interdisciplinary research covering systems from forests to wetlands, and addressing issues from species reintroductions to public perceptions. Fourteen research articles are included in the Collection at launch, but more will be added in the coming months, so keep checking back for updates!

PLOS ONE is hugely grateful to all who have participated in this Collection, especially our fantastic Guest Editors.

Featured image: Austin D on Unsplash

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Introducing the Plant Phenomics & Precision Agriculture Collection


We are very excited to launch our new Collection on Plant Phenomics and Precision Agriculture. Our Guest Editors- Malia Gehan, Guillaume Lobet and Sierra Young- have curated a diverse group of research articles selected from the pool of submissions we received in response to our call for papers. Here we highlight some of the articles included in the Collection at launch- but more will be added in time, so do keep checking back!

We start our tour underground. Measurement of belowground plant traits requires specialised technological solutions to overcome the challenges posed by the physical properties and variability of substrates. Adu and colleagues measured root architecture traits of young pot-grown cassava plants, with the aim of identifying appropriate yield predictors for mature field-grown plants [1]. They found strong evidence for the feasibility of their phenomic approach as a means for exploring yield components.

Other belowground structures were studied by Kudenov and colleagues [2]. They demonstrated the potential of interactance spectroscopy for probing the internal tissues of sweet potatoes in order to identify defects that affect culinary value and storage quality. The technique was effective to depths of approximately 5 mm, and could represent a significant improvement over current destructive methods for defect monitoring.

Necrotic tissue RGB cross-sectional images from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0246872

Machine learning has found a wide range of applications in plant phenomics and precision agriculture, including image-based plant classification. However, all such applications require appropriate training data for the particular crop and task involved. To address this bottleneck, Beck and colleagues developed an embedded robotic system that can automatically generate and label plant images for machine learning applications [3]. The system presented in their Collection article could dramatically increase the efficiency of machine learning-based phenomics.

Full view of the EAGL-I system from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0243923

Image segmentation is another key area of research in plant phenomics, underpinning many approaches to analysis of crop growth and development. Li and colleagues described a new end-to-end segmentation system based on convolutional neural networks to support high-throughput phenotyping of maize plants [4]. This system allows for identification of individual plant shoots within a field and extraction of their phenotypes, which could help facilitate progress in varietal selection.

Overview of the image acquisition system from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0241528

Another segmentation approach based on near-infrared spectroscopy is presented by Colorado and colleagues in their Collection article [5]. They demonstrate its application for the measurement of aboveground biomass in rice crops. When compared with an existing k-means-based method, the new technique showed a 13% improvement in the strength of the correlation between image-derived and actual biomass.

The UAV system from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239591

Crop mixtures, an important component of many agroecological land-use practices, represent a challenge for image analysis. Focussing on a model grass-legume mixed pasture system, Ball and colleagues used RGB imaging to predict growth and the level of interspecies facilitation [6]. They found that high-throughput phenotyping provides a valuable tool for exploring interactions between species in such complex agricultural environments.

Pot-level separation of plant biomass from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239673

Herbivory is a major challenge to crop growth, and methods for measuring herbivores’ effects on plant health status are therefore vital for screening for resilient crop varieties. The results of a study by Horgan and colleagues suggest that changes in plant reflectance properties caused by planthopper feeding could provide the basis for high-throughput approaches to screening for resistance to sap-sucking insects in cereals [7]. They discuss how such measurements could be integrated in bulk phenotyping tests.

The nutrients available to a crop are another key determinant of performance. Understanding the nutritional composition of any organic soil amendments (e.g. manure, compost) is therefore of critical importance. In their Collection article, Towett and colleagues present a machine learning-based method for quantifying nutrients in organic soil amendments using X-ray fluorescence and mid-infrared spectroscopy [8]. They suggest that portable spectrometers coupled with machine learning algorithms could even be developed as a low-cost tool for use by smallholder farmers.

Several papers in the Collection focus on the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for phenotyping and surveillance of crop status. In their study, Grüner and colleagues tested whether UAV-based multispectral and textural monitoring could predict aboveground biomass and nitrogen fixation in grass-legume mixtures [9]. Their results showed great promise for this approach, with strong evidence for the importance of including textural information in prediction models.

Orthomosaic of the experimental field from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234703

Meanwhile, Cao and colleagues used UAV hyperspectral remote sensing to model the chlorophyll content of rice canopies [10]. Chlorophyll content is an important indicator of growth status and photosynthetic capacity, particularly under different environmental conditions. The authors used an inversion model based on machine learning, which produced encouraging results supporting the use of such technologies for chlorophyll monitoring.

The UAV hyperspectral imaging system from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0238530

Automated monitoring of plant growth in space and time poses many technical difficulties. In recent years, three-dimensional point clouds derived from laser scanners and depth cameras have been used for measuring plant structure, but tracking points over time during plant growth is challenging. In their paper, Chebrolu and colleagues explore the feasibility of a non-rigid registration approach, finding that it could successfully model plant growth in four dimensions and prove useful in automated trait analysis [11].

4D registration of a point cloud pair for maize and tomato from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0247243

Last but not least in the first batch of papers included in the Collection, Jacques and colleagues highlight the issue of variability in the properties of materials commonly used in phenomic applications [12]. They show that the production location of a gelling agent used in Arabidopsis seedling phenotyping has a significant effect on the results obtained, affecting the comparability of studies performed using product from different sources.

More articles will be added to the Collection over the coming months, so please do check back for updates!

References

  1. Adu MO, Asare PA, Yawson DO, Nyarko MA, Abdul Razak A, Kusi AK, et al. (2020) The search for yield predictors for mature field-grown plants from juvenile pot-grown cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz). PLoS ONE 15(5): e0232595. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232595
  2. Kudenov MW, Scarboro CG, Altaqui A, Boyette M, Yencho GC, Williams CM (2021) Internal defect scanning of sweetpotatoes using interactance spectroscopy. PLoS ONE 16(2): e0246872. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0246872
  3. Beck MA, Liu C-Y, Bidinosti CP, Henry CJ, Godee CM, Ajmani M (2020) An embedded system for the automated generation of labeled plant images to enable machine learning applications in agriculture. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0243923. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0243923
  4. Li Y, Wen W, Guo X, Yu Z, Gu S, Yan H, et al. (2021) High-throughput phenotyping analysis of maize at the seedling stage using end-to-end segmentation network. PLoS ONE 16(1): e0241528. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0241528
  5. Ball KR, Power SA, Brien C, Woodin S, Jewell N, Berger B, et al. (2020) High-throughput, image-based phenotyping reveals nutrient-dependent growth facilitation in a grass-legume mixture. PLoS ONE 15(10): e0239673. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239673
  6. Colorado JD, Calderon F, Mendez D, Petro E, Rojas JP, Correa ES, et al. (2020) A novel NIR-image segmentation method for the precise estimation of above-ground biomass in rice crops. PLoS ONE 15(10): e0239591. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239591
  7. Horgan FG, Jauregui A, Peñalver Cruz A, Crisol Martínez E, Bernal CC (2020) Changes in reflectance of rice seedlings during planthopper feeding as detected by digital camera: Potential applications for high-throughput phenotyping. PLoS ONE 15(8): e0238173. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0238173
  8. Towett EK, Drake LB, Acquah GE, Haefele SM, McGrath SP, Shepherd KD (2020) Comprehensive nutrient analysis in agricultural organic amendments through non-destructive assays using machine learning. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0242821. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0242821
  9. Grüner E, Wachendorf M, Astor T (2020) The potential of UAV-borne spectral and textural information for predicting aboveground biomass and N fixation in legume-grass mixtures. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0234703. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234703
  10. Cao Y, Jiang K, Wu J, Yu F, Du W, Xu T (2020) Inversion modeling of japonica rice canopy chlorophyll content with UAV hyperspectral remote sensing. PLoS ONE 15(9): e0238530. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0238530
  11. Chebrolu N, Magistri F, Läbe T, Stachniss C (2021) Registration of spatio-temporal point clouds of plants for phenotyping. PLoS ONE 16(2): e0247243. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0247243
  12. Jacques CN, Hulbert AK, Westenskow S, Neff MM (2020) Production location of the gelling agent Phytagel has a significant impact on Arabidopsis thaliana seedling phenotypic analysis. PLoS ONE 15(5): e0228515. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228515

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Introducing the Open Soft Robotics Research Collection

PLOS ONE is delighted to announce a Collection entitled Open Soft Robotics Research. This Collection consists of research articles submitted to a 2019-2020 Call for Papers on the same topic. As the Collection launches today, it consists of six research articles, while two reviews will be added at a later stage.

Largely inspired by the way many living organisms move and adapt their shape to their surroundings, soft robots have been designed and constructed with compliant, deformable and variable-stiffness materials, sensors and actuators. Biomimicry has allowed soft robots to acquire novel features such as stretchability, growth, morphing, self-reconfigurability, self-healing and edibility. Their impact has grown in a variety of sectors, from search and rescue and exploration, to rehabilitation medicine, surgery, prostheses and exoskeletons, as well as various applications that improve wellness and quality of life.

The papers published today present several exciting aspects of the latest research on the topic of soft robotics. Two papers touch on 3D printing, one for printing surgical devices [1], and one for cores [2] which can be used in a variety of applications. A second set of papers intersect with medicine, in that they provide methods for fabricating prosthetic hands [3] and artificial muscles [4], respectively. Lastly, two of the papers utilise dynamic modelling, one for dielectric elastomer actuators [5] and one for soft continuum manipulators [6]. Taken together, these papers present a fascinating snapshot of the state-of-the-art within soft robotics research.

This Collection was curated by a dedicated team of Guest Editors: Guoying Gu (Shanghai Jiao Tong University), Aslan Miriyev (EMPA, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology), Lucia Beccai, (IIT, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia), Matteo Cianchetti (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, School of Advanced Studies Pisa), Barbara Mazzolai (IIT, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia) and Dana D. Damian (University of Sheffield).

We invite you to explore the Collection starting today, and encourage you to check back in for more Open Soft Robotics Research in PLOS ONE.

References:

[1] Culmone C, Henselmans PWJ, van Starkenburg RIB, Breedveld P (2020) Exploring non-assembly 3D printing for novel compliant surgical devices. PLoS ONE 15(5): e0232952. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232952 

[2] Preechayasomboon P, Rombokas E (2020) Negshell casting: 3D-printed structured and sacrificial cores for soft robot fabrication. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0234354. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234354 

[3] Mohammadi A, Lavranos J, Zhou H, Mutlu R, Alici G, Tan Y, et al. (2020) A practical 3D-printed soft robotic prosthetic hand with multi-articulating capabilities. PLoS ONE 15(5): e0232766. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232766 

[4] Harjo M, Järvekülg M, Tamm T, Otero TF, Kiefer R (2020) Concept of an artificial muscle design on polypyrrole nanofiber scaffolds. PLoS ONE 15(5): e0232851. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232851 

[5] Huang P, Ye W, Wang Y (2020) Dynamic modeling of dielectric elastomer actuator with conical shape. PLoS ONE 15(8): e0235229. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0235229 

[6] Tariverdi A, Venkiteswaran VK, Martinsen ØG, Elle OJ, Tørresen J, Misra S (2020) Dynamic modeling of soft continuum manipulators using lie group variational integration. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0236121. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0236121 

Featured Image credit: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering CC-BY 2.0

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Introducing PLOS ONE’s Education Research Collection

Understanding teaching and learning—what works, how, and for whom—is an academic endeavor in its own right. This may be conducted by medical researchers who are also educators or by education scholars whose main expertise is in pedagogy or educational psychology. As PLOS ONE welcomes rigorous original research regardless of disciplinary boundaries, it is a home for education research. Our journal welcomes a variety of study designs and methods, including quantitative research, but importantly also for education research, mixed-methods and qualitative research.

The newly published Education Research Collection illustrates the breadth of contributions made in PLOS ONE to this field over the years. The Collection includes both small-scale interventions (such as on the teaching of fractions related to Common Core State standards [1]) and curriculum-wide observations (for example, of the most effective forms of active learning in biology classrooms [2]). It ranges from early childhood development (such as the assessment of the Early Childhood Environment scale [3]) to higher education faculty professional development programs (for instance, on changing teaching practices of science faculty [4]).

Credit: Kimberly Farmer

The Collection includes a variety of study types, whether randomized control trials (such as the assessment of educational tools [5]),  large longitudinal studies (such as on the long-term effects of the early childhood Chicago School Readiness Project [6]), or systematic reviews and meta-analyses (such as on the effect of child-staff ratios in early childhood education [7]). It highlights innovative programs (for instance on teaching critical thinking skills and argumentation through bioethics education [8]) and novel teacher assessment tools (for instance in medical education [9]).

This Collection also includes studies on the gender gap in STEM education, such as the effect of an intervention on gender ratios in higher education [10] or the analysis of multinational PISA data [11].

The papers in this Collection also include several studies on teacher attitudes that can be relevant to their professional development, whether on teachers’ attitude toward the inclusion of students with disabilities [12], on teachers’ emotions [13], or the role of teachers’ expectations about children’s socio-economic status and their performance [14].

This is only a small selection of the education research published at PLOS ONE over the years, and we welcome new submissions to this Collection.

For authors who are new to education research

If you want to know more about methodological and reporting standards in the field, we can recommend some useful resources such as:

  • American Psychologist’s Journal Article Reporting standards for both quantitative research (Appelbaum et al. 2018 [15]) and qualitative research (Levitt et al. 2018 [16]).
  • Annotated education research articles at the CBE-Life Science Education journal’s website (published by the American Society of Cell Biology).
  • The Institute of Education Sciences’ resources for researchers.

For papers describing new methods or programs, including teaching methods and class interventions, PLOS ONE has specific criteria of utility, validation, and availability (see more here). 

Credit: Jess Bailey

In general, we expect sufficient methodological details enabling other teachers and researchers to replicate a teaching intervention such as sample worksheets, a detailed lesson plan or curriculum or other educational materials. For any intervention, we look for sufficient details to assess its generalizability: how students were recruited, the frequency of class meetings, teachers’ experience, teaching objectives, school setting, but also detailed assessment methods and a comparison with existing methods. Educational evidence may consist both in quantitative assessments (such as pre/post test results) and qualitative evidence (such as student works and testimonies). 

We also expect papers to provide sufficient background about the study they report to embed its rationale in relevant scholarly discussions about education theory or motivate a pedagogical intervention with reference to teaching standards, when applicable.

We look forward to your continuing submissions in education research to PLOS ONE and are excited to see this Collection grow in the years to come!   

References

[1] Fazio, L. K., Kennedy, C. A., & Siegler, R. S. (2016). Improving children’s knowledge of fraction magnitudes. PLOS ONE, 11(10), e0165243.

[2] Weir, L. K., Barker, M. K., McDonnell, L. M., Schimpf, N. G., Rodela, T. M., & Schulte, P. M. (2019). Small changes, big gains: A curriculum-wide study of teaching practices and student learning in undergraduate biology. PLOS ONE, 14(8), e0220900.

[3] Brunsek, A., Perlman, M., Falenchuk, O., McMullen, E., Fletcher, B., & Shah, P. S. (2017). The relationship between the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale and its revised form and child outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE, 12(6), e0178512.

[4] Bush, S. D., Rudd, J. A., Stevens, M. T., Tanner, K. D., & Williams, K. S. (2016). Fostering change from within: Influencing teaching practices of departmental colleagues by science faculty with education specialties. PLOS ONE, 11(3), e0150914.

[5] Diamond, A., Lee, C., Senften, P., Lam, A., & Abbott, D. (2019). Randomized control trial of Tools of the Mind: Marked benefits to kindergarten children and their teachers. PLOS ONE, 14(9), e0222447.

[6] Brunsek, A., Perlman, M., Falenchuk, O., McMullen, E., Fletcher, B., & Shah, P. S. (2017). The relationship between the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale and its revised form and child outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE, 12(6), e0178512.

[7] Perlman, M., Fletcher, B., Falenchuk, O., Brunsek, A., McMullen, E., & Shah, P. S. (2017). Child-staff ratios in early childhood education and care settings and child outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE, 12(1), e0170256.

[8] Chowning, J. T., Griswold, J. C., Kovarik, D. N., & Collins, L. J. (2012). Fostering critical thinking, reasoning, and argumentation skills through bioethics education. PLOS ONE, 7(5), e36791.

[9] Arah, O. A., Hoekstra, J. B., Bos, A. P., & Lombarts, K. M. (2011). New tools for systematic evaluation of teaching qualities of medical faculty: results of an ongoing multi-center survey. PLOS ONE, 6(10), e25983.

[10] Sullivan, L. L., Ballen, C. J., & Cotner, S. (2018). Small group gender ratios impact biology class performance and peer evaluations. PLOS ONE, 13(4), e0195129.

[11] Stoet, Gijsbert, and David C. Geary. “Sex differences in mathematics and reading achievement are inversely related: Within-and across-nation assessment of 10 years of PISA data.” PLOS ONE 8.3 (2013): e57988.

[12] Vaz, S., Wilson, N., Falkmer, M., Sim, A., Scott, M., Cordier, R., & Falkmer, T. (2015). Factors associated with primary school teachers’ attitudes towards the inclusion of students with disabilities. PLOS ONE, 10(8), e0137002.

[13] Frenzel, A. C., Becker-Kurz, B., Pekrun, R., & Goetz, T. (2015). Teaching this class drives me nuts!-Examining the person and context specificity of teacher emotions. PLOS ONE, 10(6), e0129630.

[14] Speybroeck, S., Kuppens, S., Van Damme, J., Van Petegem, P., Lamote, C., Boonen, T., & de Bilde, J. (2012). The role of teachers’ expectations in the association between children’s SES and performance in kindergarten: A moderated mediation analysis. PLOS ONE, 7(4), e34502.

[15] Appelbaum, M., Cooper, H., Kline, R. B., Mayo-Wilson, E., Nezu, A. M., & Rao, S. M. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for quantitative research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report. American Psychologist, 73(1), 3.

[16] Levitt, H. M., Bamberg, M., Creswell, J. W., Frost, D. M., Josselson, R., & Suárez-Orozco, C. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for qualitative primary, qualitative meta-analytic, and mixed methods research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report. American Psychologist, 73(1), 26.

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Introducing the Microbial Ecology of Changing Environments Collection

We are very pleased to be launching our Microbial Ecology in Changing Environments Collection, the product of a call for papers convened by PLOS ONE and our Guest Editors, Melissa Cregger and Stephanie Kivlin. The research in the Collection crosses disciplinary boundaries and represents a wide range of geographies, providing a snapshot of the diversity of research in contemporary microbial ecology. More articles will be added in due course, so please check back for updates!

Several articles highlighted in the Collection address the structure and dynamics of microbial communities in marine or aquatic environments. Three North American studies feature in the initial set of articles. Working in the Southern Californian Bight, Larkin and colleagues explored the effect of El Niño events on cyanobacterial populations [1]. Meanwhile, Vogel and colleagues found evidence for environmental and host-specific influences on microbial community structure on seagrass off the coast of Florida [2]. Finally, using a wetland mesocosm in Connecticut, Donato and co-workers performed an integrative study of microbial and plant responses to simulated chemical pollution [3].

The impact of natural disturbance on microbial communities was another theme that emerged in submissions to the Collection. In this first batch of articles, this is represented by the work of Eaton and colleagues, who examined how a major hurricane affected soil microbes in primary forests in Costa Rica [4].

The microbial ecology of manmade environments also features in the Collection. Maguvu and co-workers analysed the microbiome and physicochemical properties of drinking water production plants in South Africa, identifying significant variation in microbial community structure between facilities [5].

Last but not least, the Collection includes new research on the relationships between microbial communities living in dynamic environments within host organisms. Working in the UK, Garber and colleagues examined the effect of abrupt dietary changes in ponies on gut microbiota, with important implications for animal management [6].

The research in the Collection provides valuable insights into the mechanisms and consequences of microbial interactions with dynamic environments, and highlights the broad range of systems in which scientists are actively engaged in elucidating these phenomena.

References

  1. Larkin AA, Moreno AR, Fagan AJ, Fowlds A, Ruiz A, Martiny AC (2020) Persistent El Niño driven shifts in marine cyanobacteria populations. PLoS ONE 15(9): e0238405. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0238405
  2. Vogel MA, Mason OU, Miller TE (2020) Host and environmental determinants of microbial community structure in the marine phyllosphere. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0235441. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0235441
  3. Donato M, Johnson O, Steven B, Lawrence BA (2020) Nitrogen enrichment stimulates wetland plant responses whereas salt amendments alter sediment microbial communities and biogeochemical responses. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0235225. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0235225
  4. Eaton WD, McGee KM, Alderfer K, Jimenez AR, Hajibabaei M (2020) Increase in abundance and decrease in richness of soil microbes following Hurricane Otto in three primary forest types in the Northern Zone of Costa Rica. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0231187. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0231187
  5. Maguvu TE, Bezuidenhout CC, Kritzinger R, Tsholo K, Plaatjie M, Molale-Tom LG, et al. (2020) Combining physicochemical properties and microbiome data to evaluate the water quality of South African drinking water production plants. PLoS ONE 15(8): e0237335. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0237335
  6. Garber A, Hastie P, McGuinness D, Malarange P, Murray J-A (2020) Abrupt dietary changes between grass and hay alter faecal microbiota of ponies. PLoS ONE 15(8): e0237869. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0237869

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Taking a walk on the wild side: An interview with the Guest Editors of our Rewilding & Restoration Call for Papers

PLOS ONE has an open Call for Papers on Rewilding & Restoration, with selected submissions to be featured in an upcoming Collection. We hope to feature a diverse range of multidisciplinary and interdiscipinary research, and are especially keen to encourage studies from ecoregions and voices that are underrepresented in the restoration literature. 

We asked three of the Guest Editors- Karen Holl, Benis Egoh, and Chris Sandom- to share their thoughts on the past, present, and future of research in rewilding and ecological restoration.

Why is rewilding and restoration an important area of research? How is it relevant to contemporary society and the challenges we face?

KH: Over the past few years there have been a growing number of commitments at the global, national and regional scale to restore ecosystems to conserve biodiversity, sequester carbon, improve water quality and supply, and provide goods and services to people. For example, the United Nations has declared 2021-2030 the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and the Bonn Challenge aims to get countries to commit to restore 350 million hectares of forest (an area roughly the size of India) by 2030. So there is a dramatic need for ecological and social studies of how to successfully scale up restoration to the large areas proposed.

BE: Restoration is important because it is the only means through which we can recover nature that has been lost. However, it is important that we understand what, how and where we want to restore. One of the biggest challenges is how to measures restoration success. In my opinion, many times we set out to restore with an objective in mind without thinking of the trade-offs and how to measure our success.

CS: We are about to enter the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030). It has been declared to ‘massively scale up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems’ to help ‘fight the climate crisis and enhance food security, water supply and biodiversity’. It is an exciting prospect! But, there is a danger this decade will be squandered if restoration practice is not combined with effective rewilding and restoration research. We need this science to improve our understanding of how to increase the probability of rewilding and restoration success across different ecosystems and circumstances. If we can do the science right, we will make restoration more effective and efficient, meaning limited resources can be put to the greatest use in our efforts to meet the big sustainability challenges.

How does your own research fit into this theme?

KH: For the past 25 years, I have studied how to restore forests, primarily in Latin America, and a range of ecosystems in California and worked with practitioners on how to implement the results of this work. I hope that the papers in this Collection will provide additional insights and case studies that complement my recent Primer of Ecological Restoration book and that I can use in teaching.

BE: In my research, I investigate the trade-offs and benefits from restoration and how we can plan to minimise these trade-offs- where should we be restoring to get the biggest benefits while minimizing cost?

CS: My research is focused on rewilding, in particular, trophic rewilding. I want to understand how reintroducing large mammals can help ecosystems restore and maintain themselves. I typically look at how carnivores influence herbivores, herbivores influence vegetation structure, and how this effects ecosystem functioning and the delivery of ecosystem services like mitigating climate change. I do my best to cover multiple spatial and temporal scales, covering local field projects, such as the Knepp rewilding project, to global macroecological research and looking at snapshot comparisons in the present to palaeoecology that spans millennia.

What trends or exciting advances have you seen in your field recently?

KH: There is increasing recognition of the importance of socioeconomic considerations. The scale of studies is also slowly increasing, which is important. There is increasing recognition that we are restoring in a time of rapid global change and that our restoration approaches need to reflect this reality.

BE: The most exciting advances to me is the research around financing restoration and how a variety of sectors including insurance companies are coming on board to fund restoration measures. Beneficiaries of restoration projects are starting to understand the benefit they get from nature through research on ecosystem services. Also, our research on planning restoration to achieve multiple benefits moves away from traditional ad-hoc restoration. However, implementation of restoration plans is still very low because restoration is mostly opportunistic.

CS: Two papers I’ve really enjoyed this year are “The megabiota are disproportionately important for biosphere functioning” by Brian Enquist and colleagues and “Trophic rewilding revives biotic resistance to shrub invasion” (paywall) by Jennifer Guyton and colleagues. The first provides a theoretical underpinning for the importance of ‘megabiota’ – the largest plants and animals – for driving biosphere scale processes like ecosystem total biomass, resource flows and fertility using metabolic scaling theory. The second reports that in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, a decade of large ungulate population recovery has reversed the expansion of an invasive woody species, which had established after the megafauna had been massively reduced in the preceding decades. I think these papers offer important advances in the theory and empirical evidence supporting trophic rewilding.

How does interdisciplinarity contribute to progress in this area of research?

KH: Restoration ecology is an inherently interdisciplinary field. Even if we knew everything about the science of the physical and ecological processes needed to restore ecosystems, which we don’t, success of ecological restoration projects depends critically on engaging stakeholders throughout the process, from planning to implementation to maintenance and monitoring. We need good examples of projects that have succeeded in addressing legal, economic, and social considerations to result in ecological restoration projects that last beyond the first few years.

BE: Successful restoration requires information on land suitability from soil scientists, cost of restoration from an economic perspective, type of species and habitat requirement from ecologists, consideration of the social aspect and careful planning to maximize benefits. Interdisciplinarity is therefore at the center of research in restoration.

CS: Interdisciplinary research is absolutely essential in rewilding and restoration. While the practices of rewilding and restoration seem to be focused on ecology, the factors governing success or failure are typically more about people. As a result, we need social scientists, psychologists, economists, researchers across the humanities as well as practitioners and indigenous and local knowledge to develop and implement innovative rewilding and restoration science.

What advice would you give to a student keen to work in this area of research?

KH: I tell my students to get training in both the natural and social sciences. It is important thing to get hands on experience working on restoration projects to understand the constraints and opportunities of on-the-ground projects and to collaborate with practitioners on designing research questions that are both scientifically rigorous and will help improve restoration efforts.

BE: This is an exciting area of research with a variety of directions that can be pursued.

CS: Think big and get creative. Rewilding and restoration are systems science. They are all about understanding how all the parts of nature, including people, fit together and function. You need to think about the system as a whole, and how whatever it is you are researching fits into that bigger picture. You need to address the question: what are the potential cascading effects of any particular rewilding or restoration action? Because nature is a complex system it is dynamic and chaotic, so you need to be comfortable with uncertainty and work in probabilities. Also, we still have a lot to learn so get creative and embrace diversity in thinking and practice. It is an exciting and challenging field to work in, it makes it very rewarding!

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Introducing the Biodiversity Conservation Collection

  It is with great pleasure that we announce the launch of our Biodiversity Conservation Collection. This Collection showcases research on a broad range of conservation science related topics, including anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity, such

Introducing the Biodiversity Conservation Collection

 

It is with great pleasure that we announce the launch of our Biodiversity Conservation Collection. This Collection showcases research on a broad range of conservation science related topics, including anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity, such as habitat degradation, the spread of invasive species and global warming; conservation of key ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and pest regulation; and new management strategies to prevent further biodiversity loss.

We are extremely grateful to our team of Guest Editors, Steve Beissinger (University of California, Berkeley), Thomas Couvreur (Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador), Carlos Duarte (KAUST), Claudia Mettke-Hoffmann (Liverpool John Moores University) and Stuart Pimm (Duke University), for evaluating all submitted research and selecting articles for inclusion in the Collection. We also want to express our thanks to the PLOS ONE Academic Editors involved in the handling of submissions, to the reviewers, and to all the authors who submitted their research to this Call for Papers.

 

 

Habitat loss

Eight of the studies published in the initial Collection release focus on habitat destruction in a wide range of regions, ecosystems and species. In the North Pacific Ocean, Edwards et al. investigated the ecological consequences of marine deforestation caused by shifting trophic interactions in the Aleutian Archipelago. They show that the rapid decline of sea otter populations, caused by increased predation pressure from killer whales, led to high sea urchin densities causing widespread deforestation of the kelp forests and general loss of biodiversity and ecosystem function. In the mainland USA, Bradshaw et al. evaluated whether wetland management practices for waterfowl were also beneficial to other wetland-dependent species such as bitterns, grebes and crakes. Habitats for marsh bird species have more than halved in the last 50 years due to wetland loss and degradation; their results highlight the importance of maintaining wetland hydrologic and vegetation complexity for the conservation of breeding marsh birds.

In Brazil, three independent studies provide evidence of the impacts of habitat fragmentation in the Amazon rain forest, where biodiversity has rapidly declined in recent decades. Palmeirim et al. quantified the effect of deforestation on small mammals and found that forest dwelling species are being replaced by open-habitat species as the deforestation frontier expands. Teixeira-Santos et al. studied four endangered emblematic large terrestrial mammals and showed that the survival ability was different for each species and that some species can adapt to tolerate anthropogenically altered habitats. Paschoalini et al. studied the effects of habitat fragmentation on the Araguaian river dolphin, whose populations have been dramatically reduced due to dam construction. This research provides potential practical applications to help species management and conservation in the region, as occupation and development of the Amazon is currently being encouraged in Brazil.

 

 

When the habitat is fragmented, isolated populations lose genetic diversity, leaving them more vulnerable to changing environmental conditions and with a higher risk of extinction. In the Midwestern USA, Douglas et al. examined the genetic population structure of three upland game birds inhabiting the declining American prairie grasslands, including the endangered Greater Prairie Chicken, and found that their populations are experiencing a genetic bottleneck. They advocate for a multi-species approach as a more effective management strategy for endangered upland game birds and for making more land available to prairie species. In the United Kingdom, Ball et al. conducted a study on the conservation genetic state of adder populations and found that the species’ polyandrous breeding system is, for the moment, protecting it against inbreeding. However, this might become a problem in the future as loss of connectivity prevents movement of individuals between patches of suitable habitat. Dondina et al. studied the suitability of ecological corridors to connect two isolated wolf populations through the degraded lowlands of Northern Italy and showed the importance of keeping natural areas, such as rivers, for maintaining habitat connectivity for the conservation of endangered species in a fragmented landscape.

 

 

Climate change

Three studies among the first batch of articles published in this Collection address the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and potential mitigation strategies. Carbon sequestration has been suggested as a potential approach to mitigating the effects of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. In Spain, Morant et al. investigated the relationships between wetlands’ ecological characteristics, conservation measures and carbon emissions in the Ebro Delta wetlands. Wetlands are an important ecosystem service acting as natural carbon sinks but are under threat due to habitat destruction. 

Large-scale empirical studies of the existing and projected impacts of climate change on wildlife are vital to scientifically-informed conservation management strategies aimed at minimizing and mitigating these impacts. In Southern California, Fogarty et al. used a large bird abundance dataset to investigate whether annual variation in seasonal temperature and precipitation was associated with relative abundances of breeding bird species. They found that species in arid areas may be negatively affected by increased temperature and aridity, but species from cooler areas may respond positively to those fluctuations in climate. Carbon pricing policies can also have unintended consequences for biodiversity through changing land management. Hashida et al. modelled forest habitat changes in response to forest landowner decision-making under multiple carbon pricing scenarios in Western USA. Their results predict a major shift from coniferous forest to hardwoods which could result in a dramatic loss of biodiversity in the region.

 

 

Invasive species

Three studies published in the Collection showcase research on species invasions. International trade is a major pathway of introduction of invasive species. Lucardi et al. conducted a comprehensive survey of the plant community at the largest container terminal in the USA . Their research identified the presence of a high number of invasive plant species in the port, providing  important evidence that shipping ports are crucial sources of emergent plant invasions but  are largely under-researched. Invasive species can have complex ecological impacts on the regions of invasion. Besterman et al. studied the ecological impacts of the establishment of one of the most invasive macroalgae on habitat selection and foraging behaviour of shorebirds in the mid-Atlantic region of the USA and found that generalist species preferred invaded habitats while specialist shorebirds preferred uninvaded mudflats. Invasive species also cause major economic losses in the regions of invasion. One of the most successful methods for sustainable management of invasive species is using their own natural enemies against them. In Morocco, Qessaoui et al. discovered the insecticidal activity of native rhizobacteria present in the soil against an important pest of tomato crops and suggested that using biological control agents would reduce the amount of synthetic chemical pesticides being used to control plant pests.

 

 

Conservation strategies

Finally three papers report methodological advances in conservation of endangered species. Endangered species are usually difficult to study because their population densities are low which hampers conservation efforts. Here, Nagarajan et al. report successful results of a non-invasive method for monitoring a wood-boring beetle species threatened by habitat loss in California. Current monitoring efforts require extensive field work looking for this rare species. In this study, the authors collected faecal samples from exit holes on trees and applied genetic barcoding techniques to identify the makers of the holes.

Large terrestrial carnivores are often keystone species in the ecosystems but have historically been persecuted and their populations are in decline globally. In the USA, sport hunting is used as a tool for managing puma populations. Laundré et al. investigated the effectiveness of this strategy for reducing conflict with humans, livestock and game species. Their results indicate that there is little evidence that puma control reduces conflict, and remark the need to reassess traditional predator control practices.

Management of captive populations is crucial for conservation of endangered species whose wild populations are at high risk of extinction. Fazio et al. studied the stress physiology of the fishing cat, a threatened wild cat from Southeast Asia, that is notoriously difficult to breed in captivity. Their study suggests that management actions such as transfers between facilities increases levels of stress while reduced animal-keeper interaction and social housing could lower stress levels and increase breeding success. This study might provide insights to better manage translocations of captive individuals of easily stressed species.

 

 

At the time of launch, there are 17 research articles featured in the Collection but more papers will be added as they are published over the coming weeks – so do check back for updates!

 

About the Guest Editors:

Steve Beissinger

Steve Beissinger is Professor of Ecology & Conservation Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he held the A. Starker Leopold Chair in Wildlife Biology (2003-13), is a research associate of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and is the co-Director of the Berkeley Institute for Parks, People and Biodiversity. Professor Beissinger’s current research centers on wildlife responses to global change and species’ extinctions – with recent fieldwork carried out in protected areas and working landscapes in California and Latin America. He directs the Grinnell Resurvey Project – a 15 year effort to revisit locations throughout California first surveyed by Joseph Grinnell in the early 1900’s in order to quantify the impacts of a century of climate and land-use change on the birds and mammals of California. Steve’s studies of parrotlets in Venezuela extend more than 30 years. Integrative studies of secretive, threatened rails in California provide a model for understanding coupled natural and human systems. He has authored over 200 scientific publications and is senior editor of three books. He served on the editorial boards of Ecology Letters, Ecology, Conservation Biology, Studies in Avian Biology, and Climate Change Responses. Steve is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Ecological Society of America (ESA), the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and the American Ornithological Society, which awarded him the William Brewster Memorial Award in 2010 for his research on Western Hemisphere birds.

Thomas Couvreur

Thomas L.P. Couvreur is a senior researcher at the French National Institute for Sustainable Development, and is currently based at the “Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador”, in Quito Ecuador. He received his PhD in tropical biodiversity from the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and worked as post doc at the Osnabruck University in Germany and The New York Botanical Garden in the USA. His main interest lies in understanding the evolution, resilience and diversity of tropical biodiversity, and rain forests in particular, one of the most complex and diverse ecosystems on the planet. He undertakes research in taxonomy, conservation, molecular phylogenetics and phylogeography of tropical plants. His research mainly focuses on tropical Africa and South America. He is chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission for palms since 2018.

 Carlos Duarte

Professor Carlos M. Duarte (Ph.D. McGill University, 1987) is the Tarek Ahmed Juffali Research Chair in Red Sea Ecology at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), in Saudi Arabia. Before this he was Research Professor with the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and Director of the Oceans Institute at The University of Western Australia.
Duarte’s research focuses on understanding the effects of global change in aquatic ecosystems, both marine and freshwater. He has conducted research across all continents and oceans, spanning most of the marine ecosystem types, from inland to near-shore and the deep sea and from microbes to whales. Professor Duarte led the Malaspina 2010 Expedition that sailed the world’s oceans to examine the impacts of global change on ocean ecosystems and explore their biodiversity. Professor Duarte served as President of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography between 2007 and 2010. In 2009, was appointed member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council (ERC), the highest-level scientific committee at the European Level, where he served until 2013. He has published more than 700 scientific papers and has been ranked within the top 1% Highly-Cited Scientist by Thompson Reuters in all three assessments of this rank, including the 2018 assessment released by Clarivate Analytics.

 Claudia Mettke-Hofmann

Dr Claudia Mettke-Hofmann is Reader in Animal Behaviour at Liverpool John Moores University, UK, and Subject Leader of the Animal Behaviour team. She received her externally conducted PhD from Free University of Berlin, Germany, and subsequently worked as a postdoc at the Max-Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell and Andechs, Germany, in collaboration with the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Comparative Behaviour, Vienna, Austria, before moving to the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Washington DC, USA. She is now based at Liverpool John Moores University. Her research area is cognitive ecology, mainly in birds, with strong links to conservation aspects and animal welfare. She investigates how animals collect and store environmental information in relation to their ecology on the species level but also on the individual level (personality). A focus is how animals respond to environmental change, particularly in species that differ in their movement patterns such as being resident, migratory or nomadic. Differences in cognitive abilities in these groups help explain and predict population developments in our rapidly changing environments. More recently, her research has focussed on individual differences in cognition in colour-polymorphic species highlighting exciting differences in responses to environmental change between colour morphs. Claudia has been a PLOS ONE Section Editor since 2014.

 Stuart Pimm

Stuart Pimm is the Doris Duke Chair of Conservation Ecology at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. He is a world leader in the study of present day extinctions and what we can do to prevent them. Pimm received his BSc degree from Oxford University in 1971 and his Ph.D from New Mexico State University in 1974. Pimm is the author of over 300 scientific papers and four books. Pimm directs SavingSpecies, a 501c3 non-profit that uses funds for carbon emissions offsets to fund local conservation groups to restore degraded lands in areas of exceptional tropical biodiversity. His international honours include the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2010), the Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006).

 

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