Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers wondered whether they could quickly identify pollutants by using the midge genome to scan for cell damage. There was one tiny hitch: There is no midge genome map. Undaunted, they substituted that of a distant relative, the thoroughly mapped fruit fly Drosophila.
Sure enough, it turns out, material on a fruit fly gene chip will bind to protein-precursor RNA from ground-up midge larvae to yield a pattern specific to the pollutant -- heavy metal, radionuclide, hormone analogue or pesticide -- to which the midges were exposed.
Balancing the water and growth equation
Nationwide, municipalities struggle to maintain the balance between managing growth and preserving natural resources. In King County, Wash., home to the expansive Seattle metropolitan area, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers are assisting the county's Department of Natural Resources and Parks by developing an integrated computational modeling system that simulates the potential impacts of urban activities, including population growth, on the area's watersheds, rivers, lakes and estuaries.
When complete in 2005, the Integrated Water Resource Modeling System will enable King County planners to evaluate diverse scenarios such as drinking water withdrawal from urban lakes, or the effects of changes in the urban growth boundary. The system will include models of water resources as well as those used to evaluate ecological and human health risks.
PNNL researchers hope to develop a system that can be applied in other municipalities wrestling with complex growth and natural resource management issues.