Ayala’s interest in science started at a young age, with exposure to both popular-science and science-fiction. Her curiosity and enthusiasm for the natural sciences resulted in degrees in both chemical engineering and molecular biology, and a firm belief that the advancement of humanity depends on our ability to share, discuss and understand novel ideas. With great power comes great responsibility, and Ayala believes it is the responsibility of scientists to show the beauty and strength of science to the public. Still looking for the science-fiction novel hidden within her, she looks to science communication as a way to share new concepts, tools and discoveries with curious people from all walks of life.
Ayala is the editor of 45 Breaks:
Extending the genomic record of human diversity
We studied the genetic variation among people from diverse groups across the globe, to learn about the complex evolutionary history that has shaped our genomes. Our study provided insights into the timescale of early human evolution and the genetic contributions of Neanderthals and Denisovans to present-day people.Mar 25, 2021 | 4 min read
Learning to stop: two types of neurons cooperate to adjust behaviour
Updating learning to control our actions is a fundamental aspect of brain function. It eliminates behaviours that use valuable energy for no reward. Here, we discover that two interlaced brain cell types allow this change in performance.Mar 19, 2021 | 3.5 min read
Can active learning in college classrooms disrupt patterns of under-representation in STEM?
Students from minoritized groups enter college with interest in STEM but leave these majors at high rates, largely due to inequities in STEM classes. Active learning reduces the disparities in exam scores and passing rates observed in traditional STEM classrooms. Thus, changes in course design can be an important tool in promoting equity in STEM.Mar 18, 2021 | 3 min read
Will we soon witness the first summer without Arctic sea ice in 130,000 years?
A new study explains how Arctic sea ice might have melted completely during the Last Interglacial (warm period) around 130,000 years ago and supports predictions that the region will be sea ice-free by 2030-2060.Mar 17, 2021 | 3.5 min read
A ghost population of the Ice Age hidden in a Mexican cave
Our excavation at Chiquihuite Cave in Zacatecas, Mexico, produced evidence that humans arrived to the Americas as early as 32,000 year ago, doubling the currently accepted age for the human presence on the continent. Stone artefacts made of limestone reveal an enigmatic population and a new culture that had not been acknowledged before.Mar 11, 2021 | 4 min read
Making the coral reef ‘A-list’
The world’s coral reefs are embattled by increasing human pressures. My colleagues and I explored which coral reefs could still simultaneously meet key fisheries, biodiversity, and ecosystem function goals, and how conservation efforts could be strategically placed to maximise these. We found that no-fishing reserves in locations far from people were critical to sustaining coral reefs.Mar 4, 2021 | 4 min read