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Lorena Anderson

Ecosystem Engineers Play Crucial Role in Stabilizing Their Environments, Study Shows

When people think of engineering in nature, they tend to think of species such as beavers — the tree-felling, dam-building rodents whose machinations can shape the landscape by creating lakes and changing the path of rivers.

But beavers are far from the only organisms to reshape their environment. A squirrel that inadvertently plants oak trees is also an “ecosystem engineer.” Roughly speaking, any organism whose impact on the environment outlasts its own lifetime is an environmental engineer.

New NSF Center Intersects Chemistry and Mechanics

Scientists know the whats and whys of using light, heat and electricity to direct chemical reactions toward an end goal. What’s less well understood are the effects mechanical force can have on chemistry.

Thanks to a three-year, $1.8 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, a team of researchers — including mechanical engineering Professor Ashlie Martini — are forming a new center for this emerging area of study.

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