• Lessons Learned from Implementing a Wet Laboratory Molecular Training Workshop for Beach Water Quality Monitoring

      Verhougstraete, Marc Paul; Brothers, Sydney; Litaker, Wayne; Blackwood, A. Denene; Noble, Rachel; The University of Arizona, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health (PLoS, 2015-03-30)
      Rapid molecular testing methods are poised to replace many of the conventional, culturebased tests currently used in fields such as water quality and food science. Rapid qPCR methods have the benefit of being faster than conventional methods and provide a means to more accurately protect public health. However, many scientists and technicians in water and food quality microbiology laboratories have limited experience using these molecular tests. To ensure that practitioners can use and implement qPCR techniques successfully, we developed a week long workshop to provide hands-on training and exposure to rapid molecular methods for water quality management. This workshop trained academic professors, government employees, private industry representatives, and graduate students in rapid qPCR methods for monitoring recreational water quality. Attendees were immersed in these new methods with hands-on laboratory sessions, lectures, and one-on-one training. Upon completion, the attendees gained sufficient knowledge and practice to teach and share these new molecular techniques with colleagues at their respective laboratories. Key findings from this workshop demonstrated: 1) participants with no prior experience could be effectively trained to conduct highly repeatable qPCR analysis in one week; 2) participants with different desirable outcomes required exposure to a range of different platforms and sample processing approaches; and 3) the collaborative interaction amongst newly trained practitioners, workshop leaders, and members of the water quality community helped foster a cohesive cohort of individuals which can advocate powerful cohort for proper implementation of molecular methods.
    • Settlement-Size Scaling among Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherer Settlement Systems in the New World

      Haas, W. Randall; Klink, Cynthia J.; Maggard, Greg J.; Aldenderfer, Mark S. (PLoS, 2015-11-04)
      Settlement size predicts extreme variation in the rates and magnitudes of many social and ecological processes in human societies. Yet, the factors that drive human settlement-size variation remain poorly understood. Size variation among economically integrated settlements tends to be heavy tailed such that the smallest settlements are extremely common and the largest settlements extremely large and rare. The upper tail of this size distribution is often formalized mathematically as a power-law function. Explanations for this scaling structure in human settlement systems tend to emphasize complex socioeconomic processes including agriculture, manufacturing, and warfare—behaviors that tend to differentially nucleate and disperse populations hierarchically among settlements. But, the degree to which heavy-tailed settlement-size variation requires such complex behaviors remains unclear. By examining the settlement patterns of eight prehistoric New World hunter-gatherer settlement systems spanning three distinct environmental contexts, this analysis explores the degree to which heavy-tailed settlement-size scaling depends on the aforementioned socioeconomic complexities. Surprisingly, the analysis finds that power-law models offer plausible and parsimonious statistical descriptions of prehistoric hunter-gatherer settlement-size variation. This finding reveals that incipient forms of hierarchical settlement structure may have preceded socioeconomic complexity in human societies and points to a need for additional research to explicate how mobile foragers came to exhibit settlement patterns that are more commonly associated with hierarchical organization. We propose that hunter-gatherer mobility with preferential attachment to previously occupied locations may account for the observed structure in site-size variation.