E-mail | SIS | Moodle | Helpdesk | Libraries | cuni.cz | CIS More

česky | english Log in

Popular Science

RSS feed

Please finish exiting and boarding, there is better air quality at the next station
Taking the metro is an everyday means of transport for many residents. It is the most time-efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transportation. But have you ever thought about the air quality there? Jan Bendl from the Institute for Environmental Studies at Charles University's Faculty of Science, in collaboration with scientists from Munich's Bundeswehr University, delved into the depths of the metro to measure the air quality there.
Creeping future of reptiles and amphibians
You might have heard that most amphibians and all reptile native species are protected in the Czech Republic. This includes over 30 species but herpetofauna embraces approximately 20 000 species! Most of them are distributed in protected areas which are designed for the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources. Unfortunately, the impact of global warming on reptiles and amphibians hasn’t been thoroughly studied yet. This was changed by a team of researchers including Jiří Šmíd from the Faculty of Science, Charles University.
Does the golden drink have a bitter future?
Hops are one of the main components of the beer, giving it its characteristic bitterness. However, climate change could seriously compromise the cultivation of hop and its quality. A team of experts led by Martin Možný from the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute and including Vojtěch Vlach from the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology at the Faculty of Science, Charles University, has given a glimpse of the possible future of this golden beverage through a study published in the journal Nature Communications.
Diversified agriculture to support bee biodiversity
Bees are one of the most important and productive insect pollinators in our nature. They play a part in every aspect of the ecosystem, including humans and their agricultural production. It is therefore extremely important to study them. An international team led by Nicolas Vereecken and Nicolas Leclercq from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, including Daniel Benda and Jakub Straka from the Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, looked at several key questions. What is the biodiversity of bee species across the Earth and what are the major aspects influencing these insects?
Cinderella in Czechia
Turning the light or heating on by simply pressing a power switch is so ordinary for us that we don’t think about where the electricity is coming from. Thermoelectric power plants, together with nuclear power plants, are the most prominent in the production of electricity in the Czech Republic. Fly ash, a solid waste from coal combustion in power plants, is collected and deposited in sedimentation lagoons. Anyone thinking that such habitat is incompatible with life would be wrong. Research teams led by Robert Tropek from the Faculty of Science, Charles University, together with Biology Centre (Czech Academy of Sciences), and David Boukal from the University of South Bohemia, studied biodiversity in these fly ash sedimentation lagoons. Their findings change the previous view on biodiversity protection.
How is facial asymmetry related to gender and age?
No one is perfect, we all have at least a slightly asymmetrical face. Asymmetry arises during development and changes with age. We are most sensitive to asymmetry in the eye area because it's the first place people usually look. In the rest of the face, other asymmetrical places help us for example when assessing the attractiveness or health of an individual. How does facial symmetry change over the course of a lifetime? Is there a difference in facial asymmetry between the sexes? Katarína Harnádková from the Laboratory of 3D Imaging and Analytical Methods at the Faculty of Science, Charles University sought to answer these questions.
What can a small joint surface on the pelvic bone reveal?
The pelvic bone can tell anthropologists a lot. For example, the pelvis can be used to estimate sex in adults. It is even possible to specify the approximate age of an individual at the time of death thanks to specific spots on the pelvic bone. Traditional methods of estimating age at death rely on expert knowledge. Their estimate may be subjectively influenced and may not be accurate. Significant advances in technology have brought new methods of age estimation to anthropological research. Scientists from the 3D Imaging and Analysis Laboratory, icluding Anežka Pilmann Kotěrová, at the Department of Human Anthropology and Genetics, Faculty of Science, Charles University, have come up with a new method using 3D scans of bone surfaces and subsequent computer analysis.
Bravery among birds
Most people have probably at least heard about human activities that are massively modifying ecosystems. These include not only tropical rainforests, which are important biodiversity hotspots for both animals and plants, but also open ecosystems, such as savannahs. Animals also meet humans much more often than before. However, species differ in their tolerance towards humans and degree of stress that encounters with them induce. Peter Mikula from the Faculty of Science, Charles University investigated the tolerance of tropical birds towards humans.
Interact or not? That´s the question.
Hybrid organo-inorganic molecules are gaining lots of attention in medicinal chemistry lately. They can be applied in targeted cancer therapy or the treatment of other serious diseases. One of the inorganic pharmacophores (active parts of a therapeutic molecule) is metallacarborane COSAN, which is used to improve the function of many biologically active molecules targeting DNA. But how does COSAN itself interact with DNA? A new study conducted under the lead author Mariusz Uchman from the Department of Physical and Macromolecular Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Charles University, now answers this question.
Immune genes – important, yet not explored
Our immune system is very complex. 10% of the genome is made of genes encoding immunity. Even though species differ in the composition of their immune genes, most of them are shared by the majority of jawed vertebrates. Despite this, there are tremendous differences within these shared genes. That’s because genomes are undergoing never-ending changes thanks to mutations. Immune system genes are one of the most rapidly evolving and their sequences are diverse both across and within species, mostly due to adaptations induced by previous interactions of the host immune system and pathogens. However, this field of infectious biology is heavily understudied. Michal Vinkler from the Faculty of Science, Charles University looked at this topic in more detail.
A window into the future of cancer treatment
Most of us probably think of a tumor as a piece of tissue that grew somewhere, where it wasn’t supposed to. Cancer tumor contains not only metastasizing cells but other cell types as well. Collectively, this is called the tumor microenvironment (TME), and everything in it is affected by the cancer treatment. Most of the research regarding cancer focuses on its treatment. Nevertheless, the effects on TME are not discussed enough, even though it might have a crucial influence on the illness. Mirko Milošević from the Faculty of Science, Charles University was part of a research group that looked at this missing piece and summarized the effect of various metabolic cancer treatments on the non-transformed cell types within TME.
So similar yet so different – the story of Earth and Venus
Most of us probably know how Mount Everest and the Himalayas mountains look. But have you ever imagined how mountains look at our nearest planetary neighbor – Venus? How can we use our own terrestrial mountains to study the space ones? The scientific team led by geophysicist Gunther Kletetschka from the Institute of Hydrogeology, Engineering Geology, and Applied Geophysics of the Faculty of Science, Charles University, has taken these questions and used them for their new study comparing the geological profiles of Earth and Venus based on their gravitation. The paper was published in the prestigious scientific journal Scientific Reports, which is part of the Nature journal.
Global change under the microscope
Global climate change can be studied from various points of view. What causes it, how to prevent it, and what consequences will it bring. Petr Kohout from the Faculty of Science, Charles University, was part of a research group, that studied the effect of global change on forest microbiome. The study was even selected to be on the cover of a prestigious journal Nature Reviews Microbiology.
How Trypanosoma escaped the immunity
Trypanosoma brucei gambiense is responsible for over 95 % of sleeping sickness cases – a disease that threatens many inhabitants of Africa. Like any parasite, Trypanosoma is trying to escape the human immune system quite successfully, despite being exposed to the hostile environment of the intravascular system. Its elaborate mechanisms against adaptive immunity have been described but how does this parasite outsmart the early stages of immune response? An international research group, joined by Martin Zoltner from the Faculty of Science, Charles University, tried to answer that question.
How much do cities affect bird lives?
You have probably already noticed the decline of insects in nature, either through the media or even from your own experience. Now, an international European research group has investigated how disappearing insects can affect bird populations. Professor Jiří Reif, from the Faculty of Science at Charles University, was involved in this research too, particularly in the planning of the project. According to the authors, insectivorous birds could be negatively affected by the depletion of insect communities.
Where do the herbarium specimens come from?
For more than twenty years, there has been a heated debate about the close relationship between museums and colonialism. A new study in the prestigious journal Nature Human Behaviour examines herbarium collections around the world, their colonial legacy and the extent to which herbarium data has been digitised. One of the study's co-authors is Patrik Mráz, Head of the Herbarium Collections at the Faculty of Science, Charles University.
Is an increase in disgust during pregnancy a way to protect the fetus?
The behavioural immune system (BIS) is a very important part of the human defence mechanism against external pathogens, in addition to the physical immune system. It functions mainly on the principle of disgust, which warns us against potential infectious agents. The degree of disgust varies not only between people but can also change in an individual throughout a lifetime. Most often these changes reflect an increased risk of pathogenic infection (e.g. due to immune and hormonal changes or due to higher concentrations of pathogens in the environment). Could the level of disgust increase in women during pregnancy because of an intelligent immune system response to protect the mother and fetus from potential pathogens? The question of whether the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was reflected in pregnancy disgust or changes in it, precisely because of the increased risk of disease, was addressed by a group of researchers who recently published a paper in Frontiers in Psychology. Šárka Kaňková and Jana Hlaváčová from the Department of Philosophy and History of Science and Jan Havlíček from the Department of Zoology also participated in the study.
Halt migration – a new way of cancer treatment?
Cellular migration is crucial for the formation of metastasis – distant cancer cell deposits. However, metastasis is what makes cancer deadly in most cases. Prevention of their formation could thus present a promising approach to the treatment of the feared disease. The current options as well as prospects for the future are reviewed in a new paper by a scientific team joined by Jan Brábek and Daniel Rosel from the Faculty of Science, Charles University.
How high is the ambient ozone?
Ambient ozone is one of the major pollutants in the air. Its presence is highly undesirable as it is toxic to living organisms and causes damage to forest stands. Monitoring ambient ozone is therefore very important. But how does it behave at different levels close to the surface in an area with relatively clean air? This question has not yet been answered. A team of experts led by Iva Hůnová from the Institute for Environmental Studies at the Faculty of Science of Charles University, together with Marek Brabec and Marek Malý from the Czech Academy of Sciences, set out to find out the results.
Genetic movement of Soldanella
In both plant and animal species, various hybridisations can occur over time, leading to the transmission of genes to descendants and sometimes to the origin of new species. Using new methods of plant genome research, it is possible to capture these pathways into history, helping us to better understand evolutionary processes and often making extraordinary discoveries. One interesting plant whose pathways of evolutionary hybridization have not yet been fully elucidated is the genus Soldanella L. (snowbells; Primulaceae). Marek Slovák from the Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Charles University, together with an international team across Europe, have unravelled the so far unknown fate of the Soldanella genus.
When ice melts and water disappears
Climate change, along with rising air temperatures, has a major impact on the quantity and availability of water in many ways. As a result, there are also ecological impacts on the entire ecosystem. One of the catchments that has been severely affected by climate change and is also currently facing controversy over the use of large amounts of water to extract the lowest quality oil resource (bitumen) is the Athabasca River Basin in Canada. Milada Matoušková and Kateřina Fraindová from the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology at the Faculty of Science of Charles University focused on the specific impacts in detail.
New colours of the world
The world is still changing. Because of that, there is an increasing need for new classifications of individual systems to help determine the state, pattern, and dynamics of change in each area. However, most global systems only include natural conditions. But what about abiotic factors, biodiversity, or human influence? Aleš Hrdina and Dušan Romportl from the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology at Charles University used all mentioned and much more in their quest for a new classification of Global Environmental Systems.
Mitochondria on the Move
“Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell.” An almost iconic sentence describing and simplifying the role of mitochondria in eukaryotic cells. Mitochondria indeed are essential in producing vast amounts of energy for the cell. However, they also serve many other key functions. So key in fact that cells may exchange mitochondria with each other or even steal them in a process termed horizontal mitochondrial transfer (HMT). A new review paper in the Journal of Cell Biology co-authored by prof. Ing. Jiří Neužil, CSc. (Griffith University, IBT CAS, and Department of Physiology, Faculty of Science) thus focused on known implications of HMT for human health.
Fish stress pushes the boundaries of science
When a person is under stress, their body produces a variety of hormones that prepare the body for a hit-or-run scenario. One of these stress hormones can also be observed and measured in fish, which challenges any claim that fish cannot experience stress. The research we present today looks more closely at how the host body reacts to a parasite infestation. A research team of scientists led by Professor Martin Reichard measured cortisol levels in plasma samples taken from rainbow gurnard fish in response to parasite infestation. Together with Anna Janovská from the Faculty of Science of Charles University, they published a paper in the Environmental Biology of Fishes journal.
Insect fossil gems from iron concretions
Palaeoentomology is a fascinating field of scientific research that studies fossil insects. Extinct species are compared to modern relatives, facilitating the dating of phylogenetic trees, and so on. Scientists can apply modern approaches to describe the morphology of individuals and compare them with extinct relatives. Tomáš Dvořák and Jakub Prokop from the Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, together with a colleague from the Polish Academy of Sciences, published an article in the journal Historical Biology in which they describe the findings of insect wings and other body structures in concretions from the Upper Carboniferous period.
Pheromones – more than a thousand words
Termites, as well as bees and wasps, are social or eusocial insects. What does that mean? As an insect community, they have set castes that determine each individual’s role in the termite community. But how does such a termite know which caste it belongs to? Does it prefer to look after the eggs or defend the nest? How does communication work between tens of thousands of individuals in a colony? These are key questions in social insect biology that researchers are seeking to answer. A team of scientists from the Chemistry of Social Insects research group at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS has reported an important finding. Together with Klára Dolejšová and Natan Horáček from the Faculty of Science of Charles University and their French colleague Virginia Roy, they have published their work in the journal Communications Biology. Their research details the unique discovery of the first royal pheromone in higher termites, which plays a major role in controlling the division of labour in the community; specifically, in determining when nymphs (sort of princesses) become queens.
What does the weather forecast tell us about little ringed plovers?
Our planet is undergoing global changes which are usually associated with common topics of concern, such as greenhouse gases or melting of the icebergs. Unfortunately, the effect of global changes on animal populations is not one of these topics. Vojtěch Brlík from the Faculty of Science at Charles University therefore participated in research which focused on little ringed plovers (Charadrius dubius) and the effect of precipitation and temperature on their survival throughout the year.
Even giants of the oceans deserve gentle care
Whale populations have only recently begun to recover from commercial whaling, but a new factor is already beginning to threaten them: global climate change. And this is not just speculation – the impact is being felt in reproduction and population genetics. Petra Nevečeřalová and Pavel Hulva from the Department of Zoology at the Faculty of Science of Charles University have conducted genetic research on one of the largest mammals on Earth. Together with an international team of scientists, they used non-invasive methods of collecting samples for DNA analysis. Their project aimed to describe the population structure of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) and the population changes of the species in recent decades.
CLIMOS – sand fly-borne diseases in your mobile phone
Going for holidays to the Mediterranean? Beside weather forecast, accommodation prices and rating of beaches, you may soon also check in your mobile phone a risk of contracting leishmaniasis. Researchers from our faculty participate at CLIMOS, a new project aiming to study the effects of climate change on the distribution of phlebotomine sand flies and sand fly-borne pathogens in Europe and adjacent regions. And beside new scientific data, it shall provide some very handy outcomes.
Flower chafers and their potential for non-forest biotope conservation
The term flagship or umbrella species refers to those whose conservation – and, more importantly, the conservation of their habitat – allows other inhabitants of such habitats to be protected. Common flagship species include saproxylic flower chafers. However, not all flower chafers dwell in dead wood like the saproxylic species. Dominik Vondráček, David Král, and Petr Šípek from the Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, recently investigated flower chafers dwelling in soils in various non-forest biotopes. Their paper, published in Insect Conservation and Diversity, confirms the rediscovery of relict flower chafer populations that were thought to be extinct, assesses their genetic structure, and discusses the implications of the results in terms of biotope conservation.

Document Actions