PSU Biologists and Hydrologists Contribute to Rivers of Europe Book

The Elsevier has published the second edition of the Rivers of Europe, ed. by K. Tockner, C. Zarfl, C.T. Robinson. As in the case of the first edition, researchers of the Faculty of Geography and the Faculty of Biology, Perm State University (PSU), contributed to the publication.

The book describes the biological and geographical features of the Volga and its tributaries, notably the Kama river and Perm-related part – serving the overall vision of the aquatic organisms and ichthyo-fauna, typical of the vast Volga-basin valley. It took 3 years to prepare the publication.

The contributors included researchers from the Department of Hydrology and Protection of Water Resources, the Department of Zoology of Invertebrates and Aquatic Ecology and the Department of Vertebrate Zoology and Ecology, PSU – making 1/3 of the section.

“The result is the most important reference book on all major European rivers, reflecting their current state. The urgent demand and feedback by its readers soon after the first publication in 2009 caused the editing team to start working on an updated version, nearly immediately,”

says Mikhail Baklanov, Head of the Department of Vertebrate Zoology and Ecology, PSU.

Interested on what is the Rivers of Europe about? Want to know more about Perm and the Kama basin?

The Volga River, at 3690 km (2293 mi), is known to be the longest river in Europe, 5th in Russia and 16th globally. The Volga flows into the Caspian Sea, the largest inland sea on Earth, covering various biomes from taiga to semidesert, holding about 151,000 rivers of which 2600 flow into the Volga directly – the Kama being its largest tributary, 5th longest river of Europe, crossing the vast Perm territory, and more.

Deriving its name from the Udmurt “kam”, meaning “river” or “current”. The river became a major link of communication between Asia and Europe. Originally colonized by Fins at the end of the 11th century, it saw the first Russian traders 3-4 centuries later, giving birth to Perm settlement and providing Imperial Russia with minerals, timber, fur and metals for production of armour and cannons.

Related section of the Book concerning the Kama river covers paleography; physiography, climate, and land use; geomorphology, hydrology, and biogeochemistry and questions of pollution; aquatic and riparian biodiversity – including plants, algae, zooplankton, zoobenthos and fish; questions of management and conservation; paleography of the catchment; physiography, climate, and land use.

Today, the Kama catchment consists of 12 administrative regions with a total population of 29 million people. Among them, >10 million (~40%) inhabit the adjacent riverine floodplain. Ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy, coal industry, oil processing, and engineering and chemical industries cause heavy mining activity. Industrial discharge from the river-side cities are the main sources of pollution.

Providing a comprehensive outlook of the Volga and Kama basin, regarding their challenges and prospects, the PSU researchers see the increased content of manganese and iron compounds in water as a result of both anthropogenic and natural factors, including the bed weathering. In general, waters of the Kama are suitable for technical and domestic water supply, after treatment and disinfection.

The book experts, contributing to the research and publication, included Dr. Svetlana Dvinskikh, ScD. Victor Noskov, ScD. Alexander Kitaev, ScD Margarita Aleksevnina, ScD Anna Istomina, ScD Elena Presnova, ScD Mikhail Baklanov, Dr. Evgeny Zinoviev from the faculties of Geography and Biology, PSU.

Please, see the PDF of the Rivers of Europe enclosed.

PSU Scholars Explore Nano-Links of Human Brain Cells

The research allows to detect the conditions under which Alzheimer’s disease and other related illnesses appear. Russian News Agency TASS, one of the largest news agencies worldwide, reports on the research which involves Perm State University scholars:

Russian scientists have described a mechanism that controls the ability of the human brain to change. This will help to better understand the conditions in which brain function is impaired – for example, in Alzheimer’s disease. The research results have been published in the Science Advances scientific journal, as Perm State University press service reports.

The researchers have identified the functional nano-architecture of synapses, which enable contacts between nerve cells. The article describes the structure of molecular mechanisms controlling the ability of brain to change along one’s life. The scientists determine the important role of calcium ions accumulated in ‘nano-tanks’, typical of every synapse, contributing to nerve cells’ operation.

When the synapse is triggered, the ‘nano-tanks’ is emptied, and then filled up again. The details of such  mechanism have remained previously unknown. The studies show that the ‘tank’ is strictly oriented in space and retains a kind of a memory vector.

“Alzheimer’s disease is known for the loss of synaptic contacts. For the first time ever, our article describes the molecular mechanism by which the ‘nano-tank’ can be filled without the synapses being involved. We assume that learning to control this mechanism can alleviate the symptoms of the disease and preserve memory,”

says Dr. Eduard Korkotyan, co-author, professor at Perm State University and Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel).

Learning to control this process, we reduce the consequences of many diseases associated with brain damage.

“It has been found that nanostructures within thousands of spines, located on the surface of each neuron, are capable of precisely directing calcium gradients that create rapid transients. This happens in milliseconds and less than ten thousandths of a millimeter in space. To explain such processes, we had to apply newly the theory known as statistics of extreme events “,

notes Professor Eduard Korkotyan.

In addition to Professor Eduard Korkotian and graduate student Lilia Kushnireva, the group of researchers, included Kanishka Basnayake (École normale supérieure,, France), David Mazaud (Institut Curie, France), Alexis Bemelmans (CEA Université Pierre et Marie Curie,  France), Natalie Ruach (Collège de France, France) and David Holkman (École normale supérieure, France).

Please, see the article here.

The picture shows calcium (yellow), which is transported from the synapse to the nano-tank (green) thanks to ion pumps (red). Then it moves along the arrows and stands out from the opposite side of the tank through the pore systems (blue). The whole process takes less than 1 millisecond. The tank is about 200 nanometers in size.

PSU Scholars Reveal Their Mission in a Newly Published Divers Thriller

The Unbound Publishing has published a documentary thriller on divers exploring underwater caves, with a reference to scientists of Perm State University. The book by Mark Cowan and Martin Robson is titled “Between the Devil and the Deep: One Man’s Battle to Beat the Bends” and holds 448 pages of a drama which happened in the South of Russia, a challenge which took years to understand and explore. The book, released on 22 July, 2021, mentions the names of scholars from Perm State University (PSU, Russia).

“Deep underwater lurks a mysterious man-made illness. It has gone by many names over the years – Satan’s disease, diver’s palsy, the chokes,” the book promo states. – the phenomenon known today as a decompression sickness, or the “bends”. Robert Kurson, a columnist for the New York Times and bestselling author of the “Shadow Divers” claims the new book to be “one of the best accounts ever written of deep-water diving and its staggering, haunting dangers”.

In the winter 2012, Robson, along with Perm scientists, took part in an expedition to the Blue Lake in Kabardino-Balkaria, to the South of Russia. The goal of the mission was to discover an underwater cave system, hitherto hidden from human eyes. The Blue Lake, called by the locals as the Jin’s Jug, is a combination of two unique objects – a karst spring and a karst mine. The origin of the reservoir is not completely clear: a river constantly flows out of the Blue Lake, yet nothing visibly flows into it. The challenge served a start for a closer investigation.

Researchers from Perm State University have been exploring lakes for a hundred years, already, since the start of the University in 1916. Perm Territory has water reservoirs of a similar type, albeit less deep. Their close study and proven practices allow PSU experts to enter international research projects and conduct an expert assessment of similar objects in Russia and worldwide, hence their appearance in a book by Mark Cowan and Martin Robson.

“Why explore the lake?” comments Professor Nikolay Maksimovich, Deputy Director for Science, Natural Science Institute, PSU, Associate Professor of the Department of Hydrology and Protection of Water Resources, Head of Laboratory of Geology of Technogenic Processes. “From a common point of view, the research is important in order to understand the origin of the lake, its evolution, and protect it. Any data on such phenomena expand the horizons of our knowledge about the structure of the Earth. The research of this kind is often initiated or accompanied by divers.”

A layer of cold water at depths of about 100 m (328 ft) allowed Professor Maksimovich to suggest the source of the flow was hidden somewhere there. During the expedition, the famous Russian diver Andrei Rodionov died in search of flow tunnels. It was to him that Martin Robson dedicated his final dive in the lake. Tragically, as Robson returned from the deepest dive of 209 m (685 ft) the disaster struck: just seventy-five feet down, he was ambushed by the bends.

Robson knew that if he continued up to the surface he would probably die before help arrived. Instead, he sank back into the cold water, with electric heating batteries discharged, gambling on an underwater practice most doctors believe is a suicidal act. Soon the only hope he had of saving his life would rest in the hands of a dramatic mercy mission organized at the highest levels of the Russian government.

Between the Devil and the Deep is believed to be the first book to tell the terrifying true story of what it feels like to get the bends, taking you inside the body and mind of a man who suffered the unthinkable. Writer Mark Cowan also explores the grimly fascinating history of decompression sickness, the science behind what causes the disease, and the stories of the forgotten divers who pushed the limits of physical endurance to help find a solution. Albeit the human progress, science is still accompanied by risk, yet it is within our effort to bring it to the minimum, PSU scholars suggest.

Info about the Book:
Between the Devil and the Deep: One Man’s Battle to Beat the Bends
by Mark Cowan (Author), Martin Robson (Author)
Publisher: Unbound
ISBN: 9781800180291
Number of pages: 448
Dimensions: 240 x 159 mm
Hardcover – 22 July 2021

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