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:
Reading South American history in the native Brazilian genomes
The contact with Europeans and the colonization of the New World led to the massive extermination of Native Americans, which concealed most of its pre-contact history. In this study, we uncovered ancient Brazilian native migrations, as well as aspects of the post-contact history of these populations using genomic data.Feb 12, 2021 | 3 min read
Naturally occurring enzyme does the unexpected
Macrocycles are complex molecules with unique three-dimensional shapes, that are difficult to synthesize in the lab. We show that a commercially available enzyme can execute this non-natural reaction, given the right building blocks. This allows us to further explore the use of macrocycles and the boundaries of molecular synthesis.Feb 9, 2021 | 3 min read
Microplastics are raining down from the sky
Microplastic waste has become so prevalent in the environment that it is being picked up and transported by the wind and the rain. We linked plastic fallout rates with air-mass movements to understand where plastics are coming from, how far they are travelling, and how much of them is raining out of the sky.Feb 5, 2021 | 3.5 min read
Microfibers in the ocean: are they all made of plastic?
Many people are now aware of the danger microplastics pose to oceanic wildlife. However, textile fibers released from fabrics we use every day have been overlooked until recently. The vast majority of these tiny thread-like particles - which have long been assumed to be plastic - are actually natural fibers like cotton and wool.Feb 2, 2021 | 4 min read
How to stop a tragedy of the space commons
Earth’s orbits are filling with satellites and space junk. Left unchecked, collisions between space junk could propagate out of control, and humanity will lose access to a valuable resource. Just as we pay to maintain parks and nature reserves, we need to start charging orbit users for using orbital space. Orbital-use fees will preserve orbital space and make the space industry more profitable.Jan 29, 2021 | 4 min read
Designer corals shine a bright light on the future of coral reefs
Coral reefs are in rapid decline due to climate change, which causes marine heat waves. We cultured the microalgae that live inside the coral tissue under high temperature for four years. When we reintroduced the heat-evolved microalgae into coral, some of these “designer” corals showed increased tolerance to heat. Such coral may be used to help coral reefs survive until climate warming is halted.Jan 27, 2021 | 3.5 min read