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If you have ever paddled or poled your way through a Louisiana bayou – a dark flooded swamp forest -- while sunrays slanted through the feathery cypress canopy and the still, black water felt particularly menacing, then you have a pretty good idea what it would look and feel like to float the flooded Carboniferous forests of 380 million years ago.  Unseen alligators and crocodiles provide a bit of menace in modern swamp forests.  Man-size water scorpions and carnivorous, salamander-like amphibians were their counterparts lurking beneath the water of the Carboniferous swamps.  This ancient forest was noticeably silent.  No birds chirped or sang, no frogs croaked or chorused, no mammals yelped or yowled.  Evolution had not yet conjured these animals into existence. It was a visually as well as acoustically drab world.   Flowers had not yet evolved to brighten the forest’s greens, grays, and browns. However, in this drab, quiet world, one of the most momentous events in the history of life was taking place. 

Methuselah's Zoo

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Steven N. Austad, Ph.D., appointed as inaugural Protective Life Endowed Chair in Healthy Aging Research at UAB

A partnership between the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Protective Life Corporation focuses on advancing the science of healthy aging, including a $1.5 million investment, announced in May, to create the Protective Life Endowed Chair in Healthy Aging Research. The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees recently approved the appointment of Steven N. Austad, Ph.D., one of the most respected minds in healthy aging research, as the inaugural Protective Life Endowed Chair in Healthy Aging Research, enabling him to build on his pioneering legacy to establish Birmingham as a global epicenter for healthy aging research.

“Dr. Austad is an international trailblazer in the science of aging, and we are thrilled to see him named as the inaugural Protective Life Endowed Chair in Healthy Aging Research at UAB,” said Rich Bielen, president and CEO of Protective. “At Protective, we are proud to be able to play a role in advancing healthy aging research, which will ultimately help people live longer, healthier lives and have a significant impact on our industry.”

Austad will lead a collaborative team of healthy aging researchers in the UAB College of Arts and SciencesMarnix E. Heersink School of MedicineSchool of Public HealthSchool of Health Professions and others on interdisciplinary research to better understand the aging process as it relates to morbidity and mortality, prepare our society for future demographic shifts, and invest in people’s well-being.

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About Me
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I am a scientist and writer. My early research was field-based. I have done field research in several parts of the United States, Venezuela, East Africa, Micronesia, and Papua New Guinea. Once I became interested in the biology of aging, my research became more laboratory oriented. Perhaps because of my background in English, I have always been eager to communicate the excitement of science to the public at large. In that capacity I have written popular books, planned museum exhibits, and produced a regular newspaper column on science.

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