Texas Tech University

International Center for Arid and Semi-Arid Land Studies

The International Center for Arid and Semiarid Land Studies (ICASALS) at Texas Tech University was created in 1966 to promote the university's special mission of the interdisciplinary study of arid and semiarid environments and the human relationship to these environments from an international perspective. The purpose of ICASALS is to stimulate, coordinate and implement teaching, research, and public service activities concerning all aspects of the world's arid and semiarid regions, their people and their problems.

News of Interest

Study links increase in air pollution to heart risks
Research in The Lancet Planetary Health found that each 10 microgram-per-cubic-meter increase in PM2.5 air pollution, caused by airborne particles less than 2.5 microns in size, was associated with a 5% increase in heart events. The biggest link was between air pollution and stroke risk, according to the study of more than 157,000 adults, ages 35 to 70, in 21 countries.
Full Story: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease/air-pollution-and-heart-disease-stroke

A simple, measurable goal for biodiversity?
Last month, a team of researchers proposed creating one headline number to measure how well we are protecting biodiversity. They suggested that countries should aim to keep extinctions to “well below” 20 known species worldwide every year. The idea deserves seriour consideration and thorough assessment, argues a Nature editorial.
Full Story: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01936-y

A cosmic origin for the handedness of life
Nineteenth-century biologist Louis Pasteur speculated that life's preference for using certain organic molecules but not their mirror-image counterparts is “one of the links between life on Earth and the cosmos”. Now, two astrophysicists have a new interpretation of that connection. They say that that the never-ending bombardment of Earth by cosmic rays could have led to DNA that is unerringly right-handed and amino acids that are nearly always left-handed Cosmic rays that hit the upper atmosphere produce new particles, some of which are endowed with a preferred handedness caused by the weak nuclear force, the only fundamental force known to distinguish left from right. Over eons, that asymmetry could have trickled down to organic matter.
Full Story: https://www.quantamagazine.org/cosmic-rays-may-explain-lifes-bias-for-right-handed-dna-20200629/

arid region world map