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Imaging, climate, disaster response on tap for PNNL at AAAS

Pacific Northwest National Lab shares expertise at international science conference

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February 15, 2012 Share This!

  • PNNL researchers will explore a world of topics at the 2012 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, from earthly impacts of climate and disasters to the inner world of cells.
    Photo courtesy of Flying Singer.

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VANCOVER, British Columbia — X-ray imaging, climate change and overcoming disasters are the topics of presentations at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science by researchers from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Summaries of the AAAS symposia with PNNL involvement are below.

X-ray microscopy seen as next wave in structural biology research

Feb. 17, 10-11:30 a.m., Room 208-209, West Building, Vancouver Convention Center

Snapshots of proteins in repose might someday be replaced by views of proteins caught in action, if researchers presenting at AAAS have their way. Researchers will explore how X-ray imaging can surpass X-ray crystallography for gathering detailed structural and functional information, even going as far as CAT-scan-like tomography of cells at the nanometer scale.

X-ray crystallography has served structural biologists well — researchers who painstakingly purify individual proteins, DNA or other molecules of interest, form them into crystals and bombard them with X-rays to learn what they look like, how they work and how they've evolved over time. But with more than 60,000 unique molecules crystallized, some researchers, such as PNNL technologist Louis Terminello, say the ones relatively easy-to-crystallize are out of the way and biologists need a new tool for structural biology. Terminello has assembled this symposium to explore X-ray imaging as that next powerful tool.

"X-ray imaging allows you to peer through a collection of cells and tissues and keep things as close to their natural state as possible," said Terminello. "Other methods require processes that perturb reality. With the advent of high spatially resolved X-ray technology, we are just on the edge of X-ray microscopy that can show us the architecture inside cells." Terminello hopes the X-ray microscope will transform structural biology the way van Leeuwenhoek's microscope created the field of biology centuries ago.

REFERENCE: "Understanding Cellular Machinery Through X-Ray Imaging," Feb. 17, 10-11:30 a.m., Room 208-209, West Building, Vancouver Convention Center,

Integrating society with climate science

Feb. 17, 1:30-4:30 p.m., Room 205-207, West Building, Vancouver Convention Center

Hefty technical reports aren't always the best way to help the public and policymakers understand climate change's potential impacts. But detailed scientific tomes have historically been the main communication vehicle for climate researchers. Researchers will discuss innovative ways to make climate research more approachable and understandable for society at a Friday AAAS symposium.

The session will include Richard Moss, a PNNL climate change impacts scientist, who will discuss how to relate data from global climate and socioeconomic models to local and regional needs.  Moss — who works out of the Joint Global Change Research Institute at the University of Maryland — helped develop Representative Concentration Pathways, comprehensive scenarios that portray different greenhouse gas concentrations the world could experience. The data from these scenarios is being used in global climate models to update climate change projections. At the same time, Moss and his colleagues are combining the scenarios with socioeconomic factors such as population growth and technology use.

Moss suggests it would be easier to see how local and regional decisions could be affected by climate change by enabling decision makers to relate these global scenarios to local and regional concerns. For example, municipal planners could use these scenarios to test how different zoning and water resource management plans would play out under different combinations of climate change, population growth and more. Moss will describe methods being tested now in the U.S. Climate Assessment, which is scheduled for completion in 2013. He serves on the federal advisory committee overseeing the report and is leading development of scenarios for the report's preparation.

REFERENCE: "Beyond Climate Models: Rethinking How to Envision the Future with Climate Change," Feb. 17, 1:30-4:30 p.m., Room 205-207, West Building, Vancouver Convention Center,

Stabilizing carbon dioxide levels

Feb. 17, 1:30-4:30 p.m., Room 114-115, West Building, Vancouver Convention Center

PNNL soil scientist and climate change modeler Cesar Izaurralde will serve as a discussant during a symposium about the implications of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and how to mitigate such increases.

REFERENCE: "Toward Stabilization of Net Global Carbon Dioxide Levels," Feb. 17, 1:30-4:30 p.m., Room 114-115, West Building, Vancouver Convention Center,

Working together to bounce back from disaster

Feb. 18, 10-11:30 a.m., Room 211, West Building, Vancouver Convention Center

While examining two of the world's largest environmental crises in recent history — the 2011 Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the U.S.'s Gulf of Mexico — a group of experts will discuss how communities can better bounce back from disasters. The symposium's speakers will discuss how governments can work with the public, groups and businesses to help communities prepare to more quickly overcome the hardships that inevitably follow an emergency. The symposium participants and what they will discuss are as follows:

REFERENCE: "Responding to and Recovering from Catastrophic Events: The Road to Resilience," Feb. 18, 10-11:30 a.m., Room 211, West Building, Vancouver Convention Center,

For more information about PNNL's participation at AAAS, go to 

Tags: Environment, Fundamental Science, National Security, Climate Science, Inspection Devices, Radiation Detection

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