DNA’s Dark Matter, Robust Networks and Forest Canopies

May 3, 2022

First Pitcher: Peter Kindgren, Researcher, Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology, Umeå Plant Science Centre, SLU

Why do organisms need non-coding DNA?

All eukaryotic organisms have a lot more DNA than what is required to code for necessary proteins. This “dark matter” of the genome is a key question in modern biology. Surprisingly, most of the non-coding DNA gets transcribed into RNA. This suggests that an organism actively regulate the use of the non-coding DNA. The question is why and what role non-coding DNA has in the development of organisms.

Second Pitcher: Zoltán Elekes, Research Fellow, Agglomeration and Social Networks Lendület Research Group, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungary; Researcher, Centre for Regional Science at Umeå University, Sweden.

Robust Networks of Resilient Regions

Local economies consist of interacting specialised production units that depend on distributed resources such as skills and technologies. The division of labour between them implies the need for solving coordination problems that are particular to each local economy. Yet, while we know that some regions tend to be more resilient to economic shocks than others, it is unclear how these particular solutions, represented as networks, relate to local economic resilience. Zoltán Elekes and colleagues set out to study how the structure of labour flow networks between industries conditions the economic resilience of regions across 72 local labour markets in Sweden. Drawing on recent advancements in network science they stress-tested skill-relatedness networks constructed from local labour flows between industries against the elimination of some of their nodes. They then validated the connection between such network robustness and employment growth in the context of the 2008 economic crisis. They found marked heterogeneity across regions in terms of network robustness. The results from regression analysis support that regions endowed with more robust local skill-relatedness networks of industries experienced higher employment growth particularly in the resistance stage of the unfolding crisis.

Zoltán Elekes is engaged in research on topics at the intersection of evolutionary economic geography and network science. He is a research fellow at the ANET Lab of the Centre for Economic and Regional Studies in Hungary, where he studies the geography of collaborative knowledge production and supplier-buyer networks. He leads a research project at the Centre for Regional Science at Umeå University, Sweden on how the network structure of local labour markets condition regional economic resilience.

Third Pitcher: Zsofia Stangl, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Forest Ecology and Management, SLU.

Modelling dynamic photosynthesis in forest canopies

Zsofia Stangl, a plant physiologist and eco-physiologist with expertise in modelling leaf photosynthesis in response to variable environmental conditions, is looking for a collaborator to model the forest canopy. The model should combine canopy structure, light conditions and leaf physiology to model forest carbon uptake. Current models do not take into account fluctuating light conditions, leading to incorrect predictions of carbon uptake, for example. The ideal collaborator to help with this project would have interest and expertise in modelling complex, dynamic systems and in developing new concepts for modelling natural processes.

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