Eureka!: beaker briefs

Research highlights from the desk, lab and field

Pictured are gorgonian coral-dominated coral reef communities at St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Gorgonian coral-dominated coral reef communities at St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo: Howard Lasker

The Future of Coral

“Does this mean that as stony corals continue to decline, we’re going to see reefs transforming into these gorgonian coral-dominated communities? That’s what we’re trying to find out.”
Howard Lasker, Professor of geology

In parts of the Caribbean, divers have noticed that tree-like corals called gorgonians seem to be thriving even as other species struggle. A new, $1-million study looks to quantify this phenomenon and determine why it’s happening, providing clues as to how reefs may change as our planet warms.

Who’s Leading It: UB geology researcher Howard Lasker, together with Cal State Northridge colleague Peter Edmunds

Mind-Controlled Robots

It’s not the plot of a sci-fi movie. UB engineers are exploring the practical applications of brain-computer interfaces (BCI), which let people operate robots using only thoughts. The device they’re testing—a low-cost, non-invasive headset—might one day enable factory workers to drill, weld and assemble products hands-free.

Who’s Leading It: Engineering researcher Thenkurussi “Kesh” Kesavadas

Children’s Literacy

The country in which a child is born matters more than traits like cognitive ability in determining whether he or she will have basic reading skills, according to a study analyzing test scores from 186,725 fourth-graders in 38 nations. It’s a case of nurture trumping nature, the project director says.

Who’s Leading It: Learning and instruction researcher Ming Ming Chiu