University of Wyoming Extension News

UW scientists study how complexity developed from simple cell

Ekaterina Gotshall

Ekaterina Gotshall

Naomi Ward

Naomi Ward

Consider this a matter of scrambling down the family tree to its roots.

Really old roots.

Or perhaps it’s more like blowing the dust off the family album – the human album – and opening to the first pages billions of years ago.

Naomi Ward, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Wyoming, is the senior author on a paper recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS).

The research examines how simple bacterial cells could have made the transition to more complex cells, leading to plants, animals and humans.

The paper, “Spatially segregated transcription and translation in cells of the endomembrane-containing bacterium Gemmata obscuriglobus,” was published online this week, and describes research supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Ekaterina Gottshall, a graduate student in the Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences Ph.D. program, is first author on the paper and main contributor to the experimental work. Other authors are assistant professor Jay Gatlin, also in molecular biology, and Corrine Seebart, an assistant research scientist in Ward’s group.

Ward’s version of genealogy looks at how simple bacterial cells, which do not have the nuclear membrane that separates transcription and translation (the reading of DNA instructions to make protein), could have evolved into eukaryotic cells (plants, animals, humans), which have transcription and translation occurring in separate locations.

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Stripe rust, wheat stem sawfly pestering southeast Wyoming wheat fields

UW Extension plant pathologist Bill Stump

UW Extension plant pathologist Bill Stump

University of Wyoming scientists found stripe rust and wheat stem sawfly affecting wheat fields in southeastern Wyoming during their survey of 61 field sites.

UW Extension plant pathologist Bill Stump and research assistant Wendy Cecil, both in the Department of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, toured fields June 9-13 and June 16-17.

Overall wheat yields are expected to be above average, according to their report, but they found several dryland fields noticeablyinfected by stripe rust in southeastern Goshen, eastern Laramie and Platte counties. Warm and dry weather could curtail the extent of the disease, they noted.

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UW Extension bulletin explains using native plants, adapted seed sources for reclamation

seed coverA new bulletin from the University of Wyoming Extension addresses using native plants and adapted seed sources to help reclaim severely disturbed lands.

Native plants represent key resources for restoration of ecosystem functions and wildland health, state authors assistant professor and extension restoration ecologist Kristina Hufford and Rachel Mealor, extension range specialist, both in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.

“Successful Restoration of Severely Disturbed Lands: Native Plants and Adapted Seeds for Reclamation,” B-1256, includes resources for the selection of native plant species and appropriate seed sources for revegetation of degraded lands in the state and region.

“This bulletin addresses questions we’ve received during workshops about the selection of native plant species and the use of different seed sources in land reclamation and restoration,” said Hufford, who also participates in the School of Energy Resources.

The bulletin is available for free download by going to and clicking Publications in the left-hand column, then typing B-1256 in the search field.

For more information, contact Hufford at 307-766-5587 or at

University of Wyoming fills plant sciences department head position

Professor Jim Heitholt

Professor Jim Heitholt

A plant scientist with years of experience teaching students and conducting studies at research and extension centers is the new head of the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Wyoming.

Jim Heitholt will leave his crop physiology position with Texas A&M University – Commerce and join the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Aug. 18. He is scheduled to attend the Powell Research and Extension Center field day Thursday, July 17, near Powell.

“The appointment is a very exciting time for me personally,” said Heitholt, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences with Texas A&M University – Commerce, who also has a joint appointment in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at College Station.

 “I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and intend to serve the students, faculty, staff, and college leadership and stakeholders as wisely and enthusiastically as I possibly can,” he said.

Bret Hess, associate dean of research in the college, served as one of two interim department heads during the search to fill theposition.

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Traveling exhibit at Casper fair highlights UW Extension’s 100th anniversary

Hannah Swnbom

UW Extension educator Hannah Swanbom

One hundred years of Wyoming residents striving to improve their lives is reflected in a traveling exhibit on display at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo in Casper through July 12.

The University of Wyoming Extension’s interactive exhibit includes touchscreen technology and standing presentation boards showing its engagement with citizens since 1913.

The effects of world wars, the Depression and drought are shown but also those issues with a Wyoming touch – one woman rode a horse 10 miles in a blizzard to get to a hat-making workshop in Cokeville in 1922. One workshop attendee said she had not had a hat in seven years.

“I was amazed at the history of extension and how our roots were in agriculture but we’ve branched out with different types of programming,” said Hannah Swanbom, community development educator with extension for Natrona, Niobrara and Converse counties. She joined extension in 2012. “It’s interesting to see 100 years ago what the programs were and how we’ve grown but stayed true to our roots.”

The exhibit will be displayed at the Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo in Douglas this August and in various counties throughout the year.