Nature Blog Network

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tuesday Toon

Nuff said.

On The "Fly of the Wine Cellars"

These aren't my own words, but that of Dr. Thompson on the TAXACOM listserve. But, I do think the information is very interesting, something I didn't know of before and wanted to share. The original message is at the TAXACOM online archives.

"What is more important are the kinds of flies that Linnaeus knew. The most curious in respect to history, is Musca cellaris, described on page 597 [in the Systema Naturae]. Today this name is forgotten due to the fear of geneticists who don't want to recognize the fact that Linnaeus knew Drosophila melanogaster (Meigen 1830). Linneaus loved wine and beer, and described the little flies which are attracted to fermented fruits as Musca cellaris, the fly of the wine cellars. Later Kirby and Spence put this species in its own genus, Oinopota (from the Greek for wine drinker). So by the Official rules of Nomenclature (ICZN) Linnaeus never knew Drosophila nor the species was unknown to the authors of the first text in Entomology."

Curiosly, AnimalBase reports the name Musca cellaris as available. Meaning that it is what is referred to as a nomen dubium ("doubtful name") in taxonomy. Though Meigen described Drosophila melanogaster in 1830, in the 1881 the article How to make vinegar in The Household Cyclopedia of General Information referred to the vinegar fly as Musca cellaris. Did the author recognize Linnaeus' priority or was he or she working under the opinion that Drosophila melanogaster and Musca cellaris were separate taxa? Granted this was before the rise of genetics. It was the geneticists who supressed the more appropriate linnaean name in favor of Drosophila melangaster, whom they had grown to know and love. Drosophila means "lover of dew". I think I prefer a happy drunk fly instead.

*Update: Christopher Taylor has another perspective of fly name conundrums. RPM also weighs in.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Make Friends With an Anemone

Dorid Designs has added a new design to her repertoire, one that certainly makes me happy!

I'm heading over right to place my order. Go check out her store, the designs are brilliant!

SciBlogCon '08: Real Time Blogging in the Marine Sciences

A week late, but better than never! Here are some pictures from our Real-Time Blogging in the Marine Sciences session at SciBlogCon '08. Thanks to all the participants and my fellow moderators: Rick, Peter, Karen and Jason!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

TO95 Assimilated By DSN?

The word is out now. The blogosphere is a-buzz. Kevin Z is now officially writing for Deep Sea News as a fixed member of their team. I'm very excited to be working with Craig and Peter. They are a great couple of deep diving dudes with an accomplished scientific record to boot. From the comments over at DSN, people seemed a bit concerned about TO95. So here are some FAQs.

What does this all for The Other 95%? Well, nothing really. I'll still keep pluggin along here. Everything that I want to write about thats above 200m or terrestrial will remain here. This is also the home for my spineless music and personal ramblings.

Will we still be able to hear all the news and views of the world's most under-appreciated majority? Yes! I will still bring you content on the most amazing creatures this world has ever seen. Content may be more abbreviated, which may result in there being more of it.

You promised to do all these blog carnivals, your not backing out are you? I will still host blog carnivals occasionally as I've always done here. In fact, I will be looking to host blog carnivals on DSN as well.

Your not selling out are you? Yes and no. Sure, ScienceBlogs pays. But not that much and it will be split 3 ways. Peter and I will have enough to buy a box of diapers and Craig donates his to Oceana. Its nothing that will make a living. My reasons for joining are not monetary. I am passionate about the deep sea and enjoy working with Craig and Peter. DSN provides a high visibility outlet for me as well.

Won't you be stretched a little too thin? Yes, but I am always stretched out thinly. That is the nature of being a successful scientist. Involving yourself in several projects. Starting new collaborations while putting the finishing touches on old ones. My writing at TO95 and DSN nearly always takes place at home on my time, after my kids have gone to sleep. When I am in my office, I work on papers and my dissertation. My advisor wishes I could would work on my dissertation and papers during this time. But sometimes you need to do other things. Many grad students I know read trashy science fiction or romance novels. Many watch T.V. or play video games. Some spend their nights at the bars or other social places. I sit at home in blog in my spare time. I fail to see how blogging is any more of a time waster than those other activities. My blogging has led to great collaborations, friendships, potential job opportunities, educational outreach opportunities, being noticed by more established faculty and researchers, and improved writing that carries over to my dissertation. Jennifer Ouelette said her keynote address to the Science Blogging Conference that her blog was her 'writing lab'. This is a wonderful analogy that I will "link to" often in explaining why I blog.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Everybody Loves A Beagle

If you haven't already head over to The Beagle Project shop and get an awesome T-shirt! I just ordered Beagle Project onesies and a shirt for myself. If you don't know what The Beagle Project is then you've been living in a hole. Get out and click on the icon in my sidebar or on the shirt above and check out their store. The Beagle Project seeks to recreate the Beagle voyage of Charles Darwin, while doing modern science, education and public outreach along the way. It is the most noble project of 2008. So go there, donate by paypal, buy a shirt or a mug and help build the Beagle replica in time for the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth! While you are at go to their blog and get the latest news.

They lived so well without religion and they were so happy...

"... Also they didn't believe what I was saying because I didn't have evidence for it, and that made me think. They would try so hard to understand what I was saying, but it was obviously utterly irrelevant to them. I began to think: what am I doing here, giving them these 2000-year-old concepts when everything of value I can think of to communicate to them they already have?"
- via Aydin from Snail's Tales.

73rd Annual Meeting of the American Malacological Society

There are special symposia on:
1) A land snail conservation symposium and workshop in honor of the late Leslie Hubricht, organized by Kathryn Perez (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/Duke University), Jay Cordeiro (NatureServe), Jochen Gerber (Field Museum of Natural History) and Kevin Roe (Iowa State University)

2) A symposium on molluscan taxonomy in the 21st century, organized by Benoit Dayrat (UC Merced)

3) A special session on cephalopod biology organized by Frank Anderson, Christine Huffard (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) and Elizabeth Shea (Delaware Museum of Natural History)

I am particularly interested in the 2nd session, but the 3rd session would be interesting too even though I do not really work on cephalopods. I would like to go, but probably won't be able to find the resources. I could present a poster on molluscs as ecosystem engineers/facilitators at hydrothermal vents. Would that fit with the conference or be more appropriate at a general ecology conference?

In other news, and I know its going to upset Jim whom I dearly wanted to meet in Rhode Island, but I probably won't be going to the Benthic Ecology Meeting this year. The Ocean Sciences Meeting will take alot of my time and Benthics is one month after that. My committee is pressuring me to produce a draft of my experimental work by May. STRESS!! Gotta love it!

Work With an Invert! - Scallop Eye Evolution PhD

Ph.D. Graduate Assistantship, Evolutionary Developmental Biology at Iowa State University

A graduate research assistantship is available for Fall 2008 to support a Ph.D. student interested in studying the evolution of developmental mechanisms. Our lab is using the scallop, a novel molluscan model, to study the evolution of the eye. Ongoing and future projects aimed at understanding the evolution of the eye and the development of the nervous system in scallops include laboratory and field experiments. Ultimately, we wish to understand how genetic and developmental mechanisms underlying structural complexity evolve. The position will be located at Iowa State University in the laboratory of Dr. Jeanne Serb.

Applicants should be enthusiastic and capable of working independently. Prior experience with DNA and RNA extraction, PCR, in situ hybridization, and DNA sequencing is preferred. The successful candidate will play a significant role in developing his/her research project. All prospective students are encouraged to contact Dr. Jeanne Serb via e-mail (serb::at::iastate::dot::edu). Please include a curriculum vitae, a one-page statement of research interests and relevant experience, and the names and email addresses of three

Applicants should apply to the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) graduate program through the department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology at Iowa State University. For Fall 2008 admittance, formal graduate applications should be received by 1 January 2008.

Work With an Invert! - Natural Sciences Curator in South Africa

Research position at Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

The Natal Museum researchers conduct research in various fields of natural sciences. The main responsibilities for this position are:
· Undertake original research (either independently or under the supervision of a chief curator), with emphasis on the unique resources housed in the Natal Museum: ideally molluscs, or other non-insect invertebrates such as myriapods, arachnids and earthworms.
· Register for higher postgraduate qualification where appropriate.
· Augment the collections through fieldwork where appropriate.
· Critically evaluate and interpret data, and prepare high quality manuscripts that meet the standards of the international scientific community.
· Formulate targeted research projects and submit applications to external funding bodies.
· Assist in efficient management and databasing of the collections, and provide guidance and scientific advice where necessary.
· Provide external and internal clients with authoritative information relating to collections and field of research expertise.
· Engage in collaborative research projects to enhance research capacity.

REQUIREMENTS: PhD degree in relevant field is preferable, ideally with publication record and curatorial experience. Applicants with an Honours or Masters Degree in relevant field may be considered if they intend to continue academic studies. Good existing knowledge of the research field and understanding the role of museum research are essential. Ability to generate funds, conduct research and communicate scientific results to academic community, general public and other interest groups. Excellent writing, presentation and communication skills. Valid drivers licence.

SALARY: Negotiable at salary level 8 of Public Service Employees.

The Natal Museum is an equal opportunity affirmative action employer, whose aim it is to promote representativity in all levels of occupational categories in the institution. Applications should be posted to: The Deputy Director: Natal Museum, 237 Jabu Ndlovu Street, Private Bag 9070, Pietermaritzburg, 3200.

No faxed applications will be accepted.
The Natal Museum reserves the right not to make an appointment.
Please send a covering letter stating the position you are applying for, a detailed resume with a list of references and certified copies of all qualifications.
Further enquiries regarding these positions can be directed to the Deputy Director.
Closing date for submission of all applications is 15 February 2008, at 12:00. Late applications will not be accepted. If you have not heard from us by the 20 March 2008, please consider your application to have been unsuccessful.

237 Jabu Ndlovu Street, Pietermaritzburg
For a never ending journey of discovery!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bloggers Support Echinoderms

"...we make a difference one starfish at a time."
-Jennifer Ouelette's comment on a very thought-provoking post on science and the media by Abel Pharmboy at Terra Sigillata.

Courtesy the Catawba County Government.

Nature Reviews The Open Lab

Science über-journal Nature has published a review of The Open Lab 2007: The Best Science Writing on Blogs. Many know that I was a judge for the anthology as well as a contributor. It will be marked for distribution soon and you can buy it at bookstores in March. will hopefully start selling it online next month (possibly at a discounted price). For now you can buy it online at, all proceeds go towards the next science blogging conference. For all the low-down on The Open Lab, check out Bora's webpage. Here is Nature's (glowing?) review!

"The editor of this second anthology of the best scientific communiqu's [sic] from the blogosphere thinks blogs offer new ways to discuss science. The Open Laboratory 2007: the Best Science Writing on Blogs (, 2008) takes the curious approach of using dead tree format to highlight the diversity of scientific ideas, opinions and voices flowing across the Internet. Every year a different guest editor — here Reed Cartwright, a blogger and genetics and bioinformatics postdoc from North Carolina State University — picks the best posts to coincide with the Science Blogging Conference (in North Carolina on 19 January). First-hand accounts bring to life the stresses of a graduate student, a mother returning to the bench and an archaeologist's joy at unearthing mammoth fossils. Topics tackled are as varied as the writers, from Viagra and tapeworms to trepanning. Explanations are often offered with a personal twist, such as a father's tale of his child's Asperger's syndrome. The measured voices of trustworthy academics make medical research easy to swallow. If you are overwhelmed by the surge in science-related blogging and don't know where to start, then this compilation may help you steer a course through the sea of perspectives on offer — or inspire you to start a blog yourself."

Work With an Invert! - Undergrad Summer Research in Dublin

Note the closing date for applications is March 30th 2008.

Summer Research in Dublin

Collections-Based Biology in Dublin (CoBiD)
Undergraduate Research Experience & Knowledge Award

This summer programme offers research projects and activities for
students in organismal biology using biological collections

Research Projects
extreme environments | fire ecology | DNA barcoding | freshwater
ecology | biocontrol | environmental epigenomics | terrestrial ecology
| invasive species | plant evolution and extinction | life history |
genomic imprinting

completion of the third (junior) year of an undergraduate biosciences
degree | ability to work independently | strong interest in the
project of choice | career goals in organismal biology

Full funding for the 10-week programme will be provided for 10
successful candidates, including assistance with air transportation to
and from Dublin, accommodation in Dublin, and a small weekly
allowance, as well as project expenses. Prior experience with museum
collections is not required – one of the goals of the programme is to
expose students to new research skills. The programme is open to all
international as well as Irish and EU students.

Term dates: June 16th to August 22nd 2008

For application instructions and more information:

Applications must be received by 30 March 2008
*Via the Mollusca listserve

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blog For Choice Day

Miriam at The Oyster's Garter has the low-down.

"The conclusion is clear. Anti-choicers do not care about actually reducing fetal death. If they did, they would work arm in arm with pro-choicers to improve birth control access and sex education. "
I don't have anything to add just that I most certainly do believe women should have a choice in the matters subject to the women's body, health and mind.


Left: Typosyllis krohni Ehlers, 1864

Dr. Frank Licher has posted all the information you'll ever want (minus figures which you can get from his book) about the polychaete genus Typosyllis, which he revised. Syllids are one of my favorite polychaete familes because they have all these crazy dorsal cirri on each parapodia (i.e. each segment of the worm). The dorsal cirri are the squiggly appendages on the worm to the left. Dr. Licher also posts a key to the genus, species descriptions (in german), a figure demonstrating the variety of the main identification character - setae. It is this last character that prompted one of polychaetology's most accomplished living expert, Kristian Fauchald, to note in his authoritative key to polychaete genera*, "... close examination of the structure of the setae is also necessary, making the identification of the syllids a time-consuming occupation." Dr. Licher also has a beautiful SEM (scanning electron micrograph) of a Typosyllis on his webpage that worth a look (click on the picture to see it enlarged and in full).

* Fauchald K. 1977. The polychaete worms: definitions and keys to the orders, families and genera. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Science Series 28:1-188.

**Hat tip to Annelida listserve.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Spineless (Drinking) Song of the Week - No Beer In America?

Some have said that our great country, The United States of America, contains to viable options in the way of beer consumption. This my friends is an egregious statement. A statement that nullifies the hard-working men and women of one of our countries finest industries. An industry unlike none other in the country. An industry so fervent in emancipation from the corporation. An industry on the rise. On the upbeat. On the minds of every concerned beer consumer from the amorous Atlantic to the powerful Pacific. From the cold northern country to balmy southern swamps. This, my good friends. This is the microbrewer.

The microbrewer is an artist. The microbrewer is scientist. The microbrewer knows what americans like. But damn the man! Damn the man that bring the microbrewer down. Who among brandishes Budweiser? Who among us consumes coors? I don't see you living the "High Life" with that Miller in your hand. Your mouth is begging you. Put down these defile deviant drinks. Do not partake from the corrupted cup of corporate beer. There is solution to this sin upon mankind. Drink microbrews. Drink from the springs of solace. Drink from the chalice of custom-brewed full-bodied flavor.

To celebrate our microbrewing brethern, my brother/blogger-in-arms Mike Haubrich and I co-wrote the song No Beer In America. The lyrics are all Mike's and he asked to bring it to life. So the guitar and lonesome hollers are my own. Head over the Mike's blog to read the lyrics and listen to the music file (click on song title link above)! The following were mentioned and/or consumed in the making of this song:

Surly Brewing Company
Summit Brewing
Boulevard Brewing Co.
ESB (Extra Strong Bitter)-I'll use Red Hook as an example.(I've been informed by one astute commenter that Anheiser-Busch owns Red Hook, therefore not a microbrew) Mike Haubrich likes Goose Island
Bell's Two-Hearted Ale
Anchor Brewing
Moose Drool (Big Sky Brewing Company)

And I refuse to link to the shit beer mentioned in the song (that was most certainly not consumed). OK, these ones aren't that bad: Cooper Pale Ale, Pilsner Urquell, Guinness. But bad beers beware, you know who you are!

I would be remiss if not to mention State College's own Otto's Pub. They make some of the best varieties you can come by in town.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

SciBlogCon '08 Friday Dinner

For the Friday dinner we ate at a restaurant called the Town Hall Grille in Chapel Hill. Bora and Anton arranged a nice full course dinner for us (almost 50 in attendance). I had ample amounts of Yuengling, some mixed greens, the vegetarian option (I can't remember what it was called, but it was good! A baked vegetable dish with mexican-style flavor topped with a salsa), and a banana custard desert (below).

The mixed greens were lame in honesty. Just some green leafy stuff with a non-descript vinegarette. But the main course and the desert were delicious! I didn't get to see a full menu really since I think we had predetermined menu options for the gathering, but if you are in the area or visiting go check it out!

Liz from PLoS, Peter, Karen.

Lisa from NBC17, Jason.

My dinner table companions! Clockwise from left: Peter, Karen, Lisa, Jason, Jen, Christine, Liz

Dinner party left side.

Dinner party center.

Dinner Party right side.

Speech Bora! Who also has dinner party pictures: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Saturday, January 19, 2008

North Carolina Science Blogging Conference '08

We had our session this morning on real time blogging in the marine sciences and it went great! We had about 15 in attendance, plus the five of us and the discussion was non-stop. I'm real proud of my co-moderators, Rick MacPherson, Jason Robertshaw, Karen James and Peter Etnoyer. I am also very proud and the audience, they embraced the unconference format there was never a dull moment and they all brought up great points and every person contributed. Jason was hard at work working the live video feed AND participating in the discussion. It is archived here (click on thumbnail under 'past posts') for your viewing enjoyment! The next couple posts will be on various parts of the conference.

Looking out at the frosty landscape on my to the conference. This flight segment was from State College, PA to Washington DC Dulles airport over the folding ridges of the tortured Appalachian range.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Return of the Spineless Song - Symbiosis Is Everywhere

"Symbiosis is ubiquitous in terrestrial, freshwater and marine communities. It has played a key role in the emergence of major life forms on Earth and in the generation of biological diversity."
Nancy Moran (2006). Symbiosis. Current Biology 16 (20): R866-R871
Yes my friends, its true. Everywhere. You can't avoid. You are in a symbiosis. You might as well accept it. You have several phyla of eukaryotes on you as we speak. Some are cleaning up dead skin, some are burrowing under your skin. Lets not even talk bacteria and viruses. Everyone does it whether they want it not.

When symbiosis comes to mind, what do you think of first? My guess is that the majority of you thought about mutualism, two or more organisms helping each out, positive-positive relationships. But symbiosis spans the gamut from parasitism to mutualism. Symbiosis is the relationship between 2 (or more) organisms - "Living together". It is a fascinating subject of study. I have been studying chemoautotrophic fauna with with endosymbiotic bacteria for several years now. Thats "chemical self-feeding" critters with "internal" bacteria living inside of it. I never ceased to be amazed at the diversity of interactions. These bacteria can utilize a variety of chemicals, hydrogen sulfide and its derivatives, methane and other gases, iron (and other polymetallic) sulfides, oil, who knows what else we might find as we look closer and delve deeper. To most animals, these chemicals are harmful, if not lethal, at certain concentrations.

My work in the Fisher Lab has made me appreciate symbiosis much more deeply than I would have thought. In this song I sing my praise of symbiosis, in the sense of mutualism (required reading: Ruby E, Henderson B, McFall-Ngai MJ. 2004. We get by with a little help from our (little) friends. Science 303:1305-1307). You can find a link to song in the Spineless Songs Sidebar on your left

Symbiosis is Everywhere

You can in through my skin
Just like infection
But now I can’t live without you

I could never ask you to leave
I need you to feed
We’ve evolved so much to together

When I was but a larva
So young and unsure
You came into my life and showed me the way

We could never be apart
I’ve a place for you
In a specialized organ, maybe two

Cows do it, termites too
corals tubeworms squid who knew?
Symbiosis is everywhere (x4)

I give you a home
you give me some food
Together we can make it in this ocean blue

With our pathways linked
Short chain fatty acids
Is what I want is what I gets

I may bring you sunlight
Methane gas or sulfide
For you I will make exposure so high

You don’t grow too much
Man, don’t parasitize
Theres no prize for oversized

Mussels do it, clams do too
Nematodes, anemone even kangaroo
Symbiosis is everywhere (x4)


It should come as no surprise that a musician loves poetry. Songs are but poems set to rhythm with an audio accompaniment. One of my secrets is that I engage in poetry often, though I never reveal my verses, unless in a song. John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts asks his readers what poems they like and remember. He offers us To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell. Coincidently, Emmett Duffy at the Natural Patriot started blogging Friday Poetry. He brings us a chinese poet, Wang Wei, and an excerpt from the poem Song of Peach Tree Spring. And, of course, there is the Digital Cuttlefish.

I could bring you some invertebrate poetry (though my offering does contain invert references), but I would like to highlight one poet whose verses send a tingling down my spines, whose words evoke a visual landscape in my mind. Robinson Jeffers was a man in love with the natural world. I learned of him while taking a humanities course at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey, CA, near Jeffers home in the idyllic village of Carmel-by-the-Sea. If any of my readers are living in or planning a visit to the Monterey area, I VERY HIGHLY STRONGLY suggest you visit Tor House (painting to the left from the linked website). Jeffers home that is now a museum to his legacy. He was a very interesting guy. Quit medical school to study forestry, visited the then undeveloped Carmel Point and Big Sur coastline, settled in his wife to make it their home and wrote plays and poetry the rest of his days - generally enjoying life with an ease hard to come by these days for most of us. Many of the trees there were planted by Jeffers. He apprenticed himself to a contractor to learn how to build his house, which is absolutely beautiful - modeled after a tudor barn. He also built Hawk Tower for his wife to retreat to and as special place for his children with a view over the California cliffs of the Pacific. Below is example of the visual landscape Jeffers offers us. When reading, I suggest you close your eyes at the end of each stanza and reflect on the verses, as I often do...

Continent's End by Robinson Jeffers

At the equinox when the earth was veiled in a late rain,
wreathed with wet poppies, waiting spring,
The ocean swelled for a far storm and beat its boundary,
the ground-swell shook the beds of granite.

I gazing at the boundaries of granite and spray, the
established sea-marks, felt behind me
Mountain and plain, the immense breadth of the continent,
before me the mass and doubled stretch of water.

I said: You yoke the Aleutian seal-rocks with the lava
and coral sowings that flower the south,
Over your flood the life that sought the sunrise faces
ours that has followed the evening star.

The long migrations meet across you and it is nothing
to you, you have forgotten us, mother.
You were much younger when we crawled out of the womb
and lay in the sun's eye on the tideline.

It was long and long ago; we have grown proud since then
and you have grown bitter; life retains
Your mobile soft unquiet strength; and envies hardness,
the insolent quietness of stone.

The tides are in our veins, we still mirror the stars,
life is your child, but there is in me
Older and harder than life and more impartial, the eye
that watched before there was an ocean.

That watched you fill your beds out of the condensation
of thin vapor and watched you change them,
That saw you soft and violent wear your boundaries down,
eat rock, shift places with the continents.

Mother, though my song's measure is like your surf-beat's
ancient rhythm I never learned it of you.
Before there was any water there were tides of fire, both
our tones flow from the older fountain.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Natural Patriot!

Today marks the 1st birthday of the Natural Patriot blog by crustie ole marine ecologist Emmett Duffy. Its a wonderful and thoughtful blog and I'm happy it is still around and will remain so indefinitely. Please go over to the Natural Patriot and wish it a happy birthday!

OMG! SciBlogCon '08!

I'm very stoked to be going to the 2008 North Carolina Science Blogging Conference. I hope we get a good turn out so we get a nice discussion going, such as some of the points on our conference discussion wiki (click the link for examples of real-time blogging we pulled from the blogosphere):

-Using blogs as a tool in Science, Conservation and Marine Education
-Blogs as filters of novel research and synthesizers of concepts
-Communicating Marine Science to the public via blogs (including podcasting and video blogs) to increasing public awareness of Ocean Science and related issues (i.e. who reads marine biology blogs and why).
-Blogging from the field as a method to communicate the scientific method, how research is done and what its like to be a scientist
-The multifaceted constraints of blogging in the field and to what extent blogging does or does not represent the organization you work for.
This conference is following the "unconference" format so come prepared to discuss and exchange ideas! For those unable to attend we are going to try to have a few options in place.

First: Jason over at Cephalopodcast, one of the session co-moderators, will try to stream the presentation (9:50 to 11am ET). Here are details:
Second: SciBlogCon has set up chat rooms through (instructions here). You have to register, but each session at the conference is supposed to have a chat room. Once logged in the chat channel is called NC Science Blogging Conference 1. Would be interesting to try out!

Third: Live blogging! I am sure each of us will be live-blogging the whole weekend, so keep your eyes peeled to our blogs or your RSS feeds for updates. Obviously I will be blogging here, Jason has set up a special little place for the conference (first bullet point above), Rick blogs at Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets, Karen blogs of The Beagle Project (and possibly her new little personal space on the web: Data Not Shown), Peter blogs at Deep Sea News. We encourage questions, discussion and comments at any of our blogs ALWAYS!

Great Intership for Undergrads!

Marine Ecology Internships at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Position description / availability - We are seeking applicants to help conduct research on several projects currently being conducted in various benthic communities. These projects focus on benthic community structures, the effects of nutrient enrichment, and oyster growth and restoration. Research will be based at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in the Mobile Bay area of the Northern Gulf Coast. The interns will work closely with Professor Ken Heck, Research Associate Dottie Byron, and graduate students.

We are looking for interns for both spring and fall seasons. The duration of the internship is about 3 months. The internship will have a flexible start date with summer interns starting on or about May 19, 2008 continuing through August 15, 2008. Fall interns will start on August 18, 2008 and continue through November 14, 2008. You may apply for both seasons if you wish.

Duties and responsibilities – This internship will be field intensive at times. Field research will include seagrass restoration and monitoring, juvenile snappers and gag grouper habitat assessment, and monthly sampling of restored oyster reefs near Dauphin Island, Alabama (for more information regarding current projects, please check the Marine Ecology Lab website at Applicants should have their own snorkel gear (both seasons) and wet suit (fall season only). Interns will be involved in sample collection and processing and will receive training in sampling techniques (benthic flora and fauna sampling, water column sampling, gillnetting, seining, trawling, and seagrass monitoring techniques), fish and invertebrate identification, and analytical methods (chlorophyll analysis and nutrient analysis). There will also be numerous opportunities to learn other ecological field sampling techniques in a variety of marine environments. In addition, there will be seminars from visiting scientists and discussion groups on current topics in marine science.

We are seeking people who are enthusiastic about marine ecology and may be considering marine science as a career. This job requires long days of physically demanding field work and long hours sorting samples in the lab. Experience (although not necessary), as well as enthusiasm about marine research, are important aspects of a rewarding internship. This is a great opportunity for hands-on training in the field and laboratory.

Stipend – A weekly stipend of $150 and a room and board allowance ($150/week) will be

Eligibility – Undergraduate juniors and seniors enrolled in marine programs or with marine experience are preferred. Graduating seniors are also welcome to apply. This internship is available only to U.S. citizens.

Application Instructions – The application is now a fillable pdf form, and can be accessed at You must have Acrobat Reader installed to view the application. Although not required, we would prefer if you emailed your application using the “Submit by Email” link on the last page of the application. Upon selecting the email form option, on-screen instructions will appear. You may also print a copy of your application and submit it via fax to (251) 861-7540 Attn: Dottie Byron or via mail to:

Dottie Byron
Marine Ecology Lab Intern Program
Dauphin Island Sea Lab
101 Bienville Blvd.
Dauphin Island, AL 36528

If at any time during the application process, you have questions or problems with the fillable
pdf form, you may contact Dottie Byron via email at dbyron::at::disl::dot::org or via phone (251) 861-2179.

Summer Internship Application Deadline: March 30, 2008
Summer Interns will be notified: April 14, 2008.

Fall Internship Application Deadline: April 20, 2008
Fall Interns will be notified: May 5, 2008.

Visit our web page to learn about the Dauphin Island Sea Lab ( and to view Dr. K.L. Heck’s research profile (
The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is an Equal Opportunity Employer

Quote of the Day

"Were the monies paid by university libraries and medical schools for subscriptions instead dedicated to page charges, journals such as PLOS and Ecology would flourish and the big corporate pigs would perish."
- Don Strong, Professor in Ecology and Evolution at UC-Davis (my undergrad dept.!) on a comment on an interesting discussion at Deep Sea News discussing open access.

BBC OnePlanet Soils and Earthworms Program

Image from my favorite vermicomposting site for children: A must see especially for parents and teachers!

BBC World Service (radio) OnePlanet environment program topic this week is soil. The middle segment of the first episode covers earthworms, including a visit to the NHM Darwin Centre collection. It's available as a podcast for downloading.

From the Ground Up: Part 1

The first of a two part series in which soil scientists, biologists and enthusiasts tell the story of soil. How was this invaluable thin layer around the planet formed and how does it differ in around the world?

From the Ground Up: Part 2

This part is about soil degradation issues & land management to combat it.

You can download the podcast from the the OnePlanet website (first link) or directly download the mp3 files of each episode (13MB each, second and third links). Each episode is 26 minutes long.

*Thanks to G.R. on the Annelida listserve for bringing my attention to this!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Indeed, truly junk DNA makes no sense in the context of an intelligent designer, and is in fact possibly evidence of a rather dumb designer. Natural selection is the dumb designer. For this reason, there is a link between seeking function in the junk and creationism."
- Greg Laden on his blog here.

Elliot and I hiking at Millbrook Marsh, State College, PA sometime in late Summer/early Fall 2007. We like to spread the "message" whenever and wherever we can! Photo by Linda Zelnio.

I know its not an invert, but I couldn't resist. I saw this at Altoona Atheist in the sidebar while perusing their site. Go there and say hi!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tuesday Toon

Click on comic to see it larger

Monday, January 14, 2008

Open Lab 2007 - Published!

Bora and Reed have published the Open Lab 2007. Just like that. I am absolutely amazed at how hard they worked to get this out so fast. As a judge for the entries in the book, I am very proud of their accomplishment as well as all the science bloggers featured in this collection of essays. The other judges had even deemed one of my blog posts worthy as one of the top 53 essays in 2007, out of 468. You can purchase the anthology here for your perusal. I only had time to judge about 30-40% of the articles, and can tell you that 95% of the entries are of very high quality. It was very hard to choose, but I promise that the 53 chosen for the anthology will make a superb read! So go out and get yourself a copy, pick one up for your folks as well. The proceeds are used to support future science blogging conferences, like the one I am going to this weekend in North Carolina.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New Marine Biology Open Access Journal

I just recently discovered a new open access journal dedicated to marine biology. Its creatively titled The Open Marine Biology Journal published by Bentham Open.

The Open Marine Biology Journal is an Open Access online journal, which publishes Research articles, Reviews and Letters in the field of marine biology, aiming at providing the most complete and reliable source of information on current developments in the field.

Each peer-reviewed article that is published in a Bentham OPEN Journal is universally and freely accessible via the Internet in an easily readable and printable PDF format.
I must say its about time! But will anyone publish here? Its not very visible right now and only 2 articles have been published:
Volume 1

Partial Replacement of Fishmeal by Lyophylized Powder of the Microalgae Spirulina platensis in Pacific White Shrimp Diets

pp.1-5 (5) Authors: R. Hanel, D. Broekman, S. de Graaf, D. Schnack
Volume 2

Influence of Macroalgal Cover on Coral Colony Growth Rates on Fringing Reefs of Discovery Bay, Jamaica: A Letter Report

pp.1-6 (6) Author: M. J.C. Crabbe

What it does have though are competitive publications fees (compared to PLoS, or journals with open-access options). Here is the fee schedule:
  • PUBLICATION FEES: The publication fee details for each article published in the journal are given below:
  • Letters: The publication fee for each published Letter article submitted is $600.
  • Research Articles: The publication fee for each published Research article is $800.
  • Mini-Review Articles: The publication fee for each published Mini-Review article is $600.
  • Review Articles: The publication fee for each published Review article is $900.
  • Once the paper is accepted for publication, the author will receive by email an electronic invoice.
Submissions from the Editorial Board Members of the journals will receive a special discount of 50% on the total publication fee. Submissions by authors from developing countries will receive a discount of 30% on the total publication fee charge.
I don't know if I'll ever give it a try, but I think it deserves some support for its efforts. I'll be keeping an eye on what is getting published there though. It'll be hard to compete with something like PLoS ONE. Even though PLoS ONE is more expensive (almost double!), it already has high visibility and quality publications by renowned experts in their fields. I do not mean it as an insult, but I didn't recognize most of the editorial board of The Open Marine Biology Journal, nor the authors of the 2 articles. Granted I am not so experienced in the many niches of marine biology, but I do know who the major players are. Regardless, good luck to them and I hope everyone will keep an eye out for the articles coming from this new open access journal.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

CABS Invertebrate Diversity Initiative

Did you know the Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) has an Invertebrate Diversity Initiative? Here is what they say about the spineless:

More than 95 percent of the Earth's animal species are invertebrates (animals without backbones). They can be found in all habitats of the planet, from polar regions to rainforests to the greatest depths of the oceans. The number of invertebrate species living today is estimated to be between 3 and 15 million. By comparison, there are only about 47,000 species of vertebrates.

While most invertebrates are smaller than the smallest of vertebrates, the ecological services invertebrates provide are immeasurable, and life as we know it would cease to exist without them. Yet despite the ubiquity and unparalleled role invertebrates play in our planet's ecosystems they receive little or no attention from general public or conservation authorities.

To help remedy this situation, CABS launched the Invertebrate Diversity Initiative (IDI) in 2002, a program designed to promote invertebrates in conservation practices, both as indicators of the ecosystem health and subject of conservation actions.
(emphasis my own)

CABS is officially a Friend of the Invertebrates here at TO95.

Toadally Tangled #96

Martin Rundkvist has the 96th edition of the Tangled Bank up at Aardvarcheology. Lots of great links to lots of great science writing, including my barnacle evolution post. Go there and read away, its toadally awesome!

The Results Are In...

Its the best of Deep Sea News 2007! It is my pleasure to announce the results. As one of the 8 specialist judges, it was a tough job to narrow down the results to what in my opinion were the top notch posts in each of several categories. But somehow, someway I and the other judges did. Now the results are in! Go check out:

Best of the Abyss 2007
and Best of DSN 2007

Then go cast your vote for the Fuzzy Yeti Award! I nominated the post Hydrothermal Vents = Global Warming, clearly showcasing my "area of expertise" bias.

LIVEBLUE in 2008

"Live like you love the ocean."
LIVEBLUE is a new blog and organization to promote the blue lifestyle. 2008 is the year for living blue. Also the International Year of the Reef. Get out of green and LIVEBLUE dude. Dive in an ocean, go to an aquarium, pick up that Pabst Blue Ribbon can sitting in the tidepool. Take your vacation to the coast, spend money on sustainable fish and sustainably run hotels. Give $20 to the Ocean Conservancy, or Oceana, or The Coral Reef Alliance. Visit ocean blogs and comment on them (see my sidebar blogroll). Write you politician and request ocean protection, sustainable fishing, or ending environmentally damaging fishing or aquarium trade practices.

We live on a blue planet, the oceans are not a dump. We wouldn't choose to eat out of a trashcan. So why do we? Lets do what we say, lets LIVEBLUE in 2008. Catch the buzzword, ride the wave, support your local marine biologist.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Tuesday Toon

Quote of the Day

"In the 1990s, several authors in the United States revived the argument from design but modified the second prong of the [Paley] argument by referring to an unspecified "intelligent designer," thus avoiding explicit reference to God, so that the argument from design could be taught in the public schools as an alternative to evolution. Judge Jones, like so many other independent observers, saw through this hypocritical subterfuge and determined, moreover, that the argument lacks any scientific cogency whatsoever."
-Francisco Ayala (2008). Science, Evolution and Creationism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105 (1): 3-4. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0711608105

Monday, January 7, 2008

Carnival of the Blue #8

Carnival of the Blue #8 is up at I'm A Chordata, Urochordata! Many awesome ocean related posts, will give you many hours of great reading! Go check it out right now! The theme is Food, Sex, Death and more. My entry has to do with the middle option.

Ice Inverts

Richard Black, environment correspondent for the BBC, has a nice news article on small invertebrate larvae (such as the annelid juveniles in the photo) that live within the small briny channels inside the arctic ice. Required reading for the week is Rich Life Emerges from Nature's Freezer.

Work With Several Inverts! - European Marine Biodiversity Masters

An application process is currently open (various deadlines, starting Jan 15, 2008) for a new Erasmus Mundus course in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. More information can be found on the website: . Applications are open for both European and non-European students. The Erasmus Mundus Master of Science in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (EMBC) is offered by a University consortium consisting of 6 partners. The study programme is divided in 3 thematic modules : (1) Understanding the structure and function of marine biodiversity (2) Toolbox for investigating marine biodiversity (3) Conservation and Restoration of marine biodiversity.

NC Science Blogging Conference

Its only 12 more days till the North Carolina Science Blogging Conference. I've got my room booked, my flight scheduled, and am raring to go! The Real-Time Blogging in the Marine Sciences session that I have put together is looking real good. We've got Peter Etnoyer from Deep Sea News, Karen James from The Beagle Project, Rick Macpherson from the blog Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice and Sunsets and The Coral Reef Alliance and Jason Robertshaw from Cephalopodcast on the panel in addition to myself. We've got lots to discuss, specifically blogging discovery as it is happening - in real-time. This has applications outside of the marine sciences too. We hope you can join us in this discussion at the conference!

Consequently, I arrive in the morning on Friday and leave early Monday morning. I might head out to the Museum of Life & Science on Friday. If anyone wants to come with me or meet me there, I'd love to have some company! If anyone is arriving at the airport around 10-11am, let me know and we can share a ride. I'll be at the Friday night dinner as well. My Sunday, as of now, is also completely open so all you Research Triangle folk better give me some cool suggestions.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Open Lab 2007

As many of you may know, Bora and Anton have been tirelessly working to get the 2007 edition of Open Lab out in time for the NC Science Blogging Conference. I had the honor and sincere pleasure of being of ~30 judges to assist in evaluating the 450+ posts jockeying to be considered the "best of '07" (as denoted by OL2007 judge badge on the right sidebar). In an interesting twist of fate, one of the nominees decided to pull out their post and my post on "anemones raising a tentacle in support of evolution" was chosen as the first runner-up (disclaimer: I did not evaluate my own submissions)! I am now flush with pride at taking part in this whole process, just knowing I was considered as a runner-up was an honor in itself. Go check out all the other winning entries at the Open Lab 2007 gala.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Barnacle Evolution: A Tribute to Alan J. Southward (1928-2007)

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchIts a brand new year! Thats means I get to have 2008 in my Endnote catalogue! So what was the first paper of the year that I downloaded?

Perez-Losada, M., M. Harp, J. T. Hoeg, Y. Achituv, D. Jones, H. Watanabe, and K. A. Crandall. 2008. The tempo and mode of barnacle evolution. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 46:328-346.

This was tempered by the news of the passing of one the world's great barnacle biologists, Alan J. Southward. I never got a chance to meet him, though I heard from several people he was great guy. The Liverpool Daily Post's obituary gives a brief example:

"At a more homely level, he was a kind and humorous man, white-haired and bushy-browed, who devoted his immense intellect to discovering more about simple creatures, which, though unseen and unsung, experience the precious gift of life on Earth."
But I have gotten known his research since 2003 when I became interested in stalked barnacles from hydrothermal vents at the East Pacific Rise. Relishing an opportunity to go on board a research expedition with a boat full of taxonomists (though I came with a small geology contingent), I saw for the first time in my life the stalked barnacle, Neolepas zevinae. Barnacles on stalks were a new concept for me. N. zevinae was described in 1979 by Bill Newman from Scripp's Institute for Oceanography. He is still alive and was a colleague of Dr. Southward. The poster below describes them well (from a newspaper by Sam Hinton in 1981).

Alan Southward was more than just a barnacle biologist. Like Charles Darwin, the foremost authority on barnacles, Dr. Southward studied biogeographic patterns and isolating barriers using barnacle distributions. He studied the damage to the marine ecosystem by pollutants in the 1950s, showing how long it took for ecosystems to recover. Additionally, he was one of the first to study the effects of environmental temperature increases on marine invertebrate fauna, way before global warming was a hotbed issue. Alan Southward worked with other marine organisms, most notably Pogonophorans, but limpets and fish as well as being an accomplished marine biologist. He worked 19 beyond his retirement, focusing heavily on hydrothermal vent organisms.

For further information about this naturalist who exemplified a lifetime of learning, I encourage you to look up his publications. I'm happy to provide some from my personal library too! Paul Dando, a researcher at the Marine Biological Station who worked with Dr. Southward, wrote an excellent obituary article in this week's Nature. It is well worth the read. With that being said, this post on barnacle evolution is dedicated to the memory of Alan J. Southward. Cheers!

Lepas anatifera from Washington state, USA. Photo credit: David Cowles 1997.

Perez-Losada et al. (2008) published a MEGA barnacle data set using 3 nuclear genes and 44 morphological characters for 91 taxa in the superorders Thoracica and Rhizocephala. They rewrote barnacle evolution by rejecting some of the hypotheses that were the foundation for barnacle biology and systematic, while giving statistical and phylogenetic support for others and creating new hypotheses. This study forms the new basis for understanding barnacle evolution and basic biology. This has many implications for other fields. In particular, barnacles are the marine industry's most wanted. They foul docks, boats, and anything else with a part in the seawater, including other animals! Whales, sea turtles, other crustaceans and just about anything else can become a barnacle colonization substrate.

Though Linnaeus, and/or his students, certainly described barnacles, the real authority was Charles Darwin. He spent over 8 years cataloging, describing and monographing every barnacle he could get his hands on from every part of the world. This resulted in 4 comprehensive tomes that are still referenced and cited today. Darwin Online has the complete works freely available over the internet: Living Cirripedia Volumes 1 & 2 and Fossil Cirripedia of Great Britain Volumes 1 & 2. Darwin based much of his taxonomy on shell characteristics, though he certainly studied the internal "soft" parts.

The cirripede shell is formed by plates secreted by the cuticle. They are not molted, or shed, like in other arthropods but increase in size circumferentially and in height. The number of shell plates were traditionally hypothesized to increase from a thoracican ancestor with 4 or 5 plates during the course of evolution. Other groups in the Thoracica with more plates are thus more derived. It is uncertain to what the selective pressure was to develop different numbers of plates. Perhaps more smaller plates offer greater protection than fewer larger plates. What Perez-Losada et al. found out though was there were no clear patterns with plate enumeration. Clades with no plates are mixed in with clades with 5 plates, while a clade with more than 12 plates is sister to a clade with a last common ancestor that had no more than 7 plates. The theory of shell plate evolution is clearly debunked in this analysis, though they can say with some degree of certainty that the last common ancestor to the Thoracica had no more than 4 plates. Another interesting point is that asymmetry (Verrucomorpha) has evolved independently at least twice in the thoracican lineage. I believe this highlights the plasticity in biomineral characters, such as shell characteristics. This is seen in many molluscan clades where general shell characteristics are misleading, sometimes due to external parameters (erosion) and sometimes due to phenotypic plasticity in the mechanisms that construct biomineral structures. Thus, the soft parts and larval characteristics are more important (though often more difficult to study and they leave no fossil trace).

Figure 3 from Perez-Losada et al. (2008): "Thoracican divergence time chronogram estimated using the 50% majority-rule consensus BMCMC tree of morphological and molecular data under mix-models..." See paper for more details.

On a sytematic level they uncovered several polyphyletic clades, such as the Heterlepadomorpha (those that have no shell plates). This clade appears to have evolved at least twice, independently, and in both cases are more derived (within clades that have more than 5 plates) and a more recent radiation. The previously well established clades of the Verrucomorpha, Scalpellomorpha and Sessilia are no more, while the Iblomorpha and Balanomorpha have gained unequivocal support. One grouping that caught my attention is the clade below (magnified from above).

Especially everything under and including the clade marked 'Verrucomorpha (7s)'. All those barnacles - Neoverruca, Ashinkailepas, Vulcanolepas, Leucolepas and the aforementioned Neolepas are - are hydrothermal vent barnacles from the Pacific Ocean. I am very surprised to see this neat and well supported grouping. In particular, the stalked barnacle Vulcanolepas osheai is known the farm chemoautotrophic bacteria on its cirri. The more vent scientists look, the more it seems that vent organisms tend to form clades despite geographic distance, barriers or classical taxonomic ranks. We are seeing similar grouping in anemones, caridean shrimp, bythograeid crabs, and of course all the chemoautotrophic taxa: siboglinid annelids, bathymodiolin mussels, and vesicomyid clams. The habitat appears to be a unifying factor. I wonder what else in this phylogeny groups together by habitat? I know I've found Arcoscapellum sp. hanging off the antenna of an anomuran crab (Eumunida picta), perhaps it is related to other crab hitchhiking barnacles.

This study is a great study for many reasons, partly because it answers some questions, but mostly because it rearranges our thinking about the taxa in question and gives us more avenues to explore. I didn't highlight all the major discoveries from this article, such as the fine-tuning of the tempo of evolution, but I hope to see future papers addressing the evolutionary ecology of barnacles in light of the new systematic rearrangement. Taxonomy is at the point now where they needs to be substantial revolutions to be made in order to progress from stagnancy. This study and others like it using 'total evidence' (i.e. combining morphological characters, life history traits and genetics) will pave the way to understanding animal evolution and give systematics the credit it deserves, both financially and publicly. So cheers Dr. Southward, I'm sure you are resting well in the cirri of your loved organisms.

Quote of the Day

"As obfuscatory as this may seem, comparative biologists must not make inferences from a species name without consulting the systematic literature to see what patterns of variation the name purports to represent."
- Mishler, B. D., & M. J. Donoghue. 1982. Species concepts: a case for pluralism. Systematic Zoology 31:491-503.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tuesday Toon

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Quote of the Day

"The Biological Species Concept advocates a chauvinistic perception of diversity, one obviously in discord with known, natural, biological systems. Given that all asexual species are disregarded and that allopatric lineages, regardless of their sexual tendencies, are only considered subspecies, biodiversity recognized under this concept is severely abridged."
- Wiley, E. O., & R. L. Mayden. 2000. A defense of the evolutionary species concept, Pages 198-208 in Q. D. Wheeler, and R. Meier, eds. Species Concepts and Phylogenetic Theory: A Debate. New York, Colombia University Press.

Its a New Year, Lets Elect a New Party!

In case you weren't aware, I am very liberal. I was in the Green Party, and active in the Davis Chapter, until I moved out of my liberal haven in California and headed to rolling hills (some here actually call them mountains...) of central Pennsylvania. After growing up a little, I realized that I wasn't going to make any difference in the state of what Ralphie called the Duopoly in this country. So I joined the Democratic Party when I registered myself in PA. And then came 2004... Lets just say Linda and I were both Dean supporters the way.

Well, its a new election cycle and I am not passionate about any choices from any party. Linda like Hilary, but she can't vote since she isn't an american citizen. I definitely don't like Obama because from how he talks it doesn't seem like he has a clue what he is talking about. This certainly goes for non-domestic issues. I think he is very intelligent, charismatic and well-meaning, but like John Logsdon I just feel he is missing something and I don't want to wait until after the election to find out what. I liked Richardson the best on paper, his qualifications are fantastic, but when I heard him on the debates he didn't sound all there. Not a great speaker. And then theres Gravel, Kucinich, Dodd and Biden which have been made irrelevant by the media. Considering the pool of applicants, I was leaning more towards Edwards because I thought I agreed with him on alot of the issues important me and his background and demeanor was something I could more identify with. But at the same time, I keep falling into this trap of who is the most electable. Its all very confusing thanks to 24-hours news blahmentary and the media in general. I don't think Clinton would be bad, but I really want to get out of the Bush/Clinton cycle that I have been in all my voting life!

So I took this survey to find out the candidate that best fits my positions and how strongly I feel about the issue. Below are the top 5 picks based on my support or opposition to the issue and my weight (minimal, important or key). I don't know all the details about the script, perhaps there is a bug in there, though the creator of the survey says it is fine.

Edwards was seventh on the list after Biden. I was quite surprised. Kucinich and Gravel came out as my first choices based only on the selected issues for the survey. Clinton came out ahead of Edwards, so maybe I should be a Clinton supporter? I disagreed with Clinton on some key issues for myself. The No Child Child Left Behind and Patriot Acts, in my opinion, should be abolished, but according to the survey her position is that she supports keeping those acts. She also supports construction of the border fence?? And opposes same-sex marriage?? I didn't know this and wonder if the script for the candidates positions is wrong or outdated? I also do not feel I can support a candidate that considers military action against Iran.

Perhaps there are flaws in the survey. Regardless, I won't support Kucinich. I don't have time to review the candidates positions and their consistency on those positions at this moment, but will do so before I vote in a primary. Considering the pool of Republican candidates is horrendous, they will not be an option this election cycle. I was seriously considering McClain until he opened his mouth. I agreed with him on lots of issues but he keeps changing his positions to reflect whichever voter base he is trying to gets attention. Consistency is a big deal for me. I hate it when people change themselves to appeal to a certain crowd. I think Edwards his head on straight and I like his passion. I need to feel passionate about my country again. I love the people (with exceptions) here but hate the policies/politics.

I want to see progress, increased science funding and education (increased education in general), universal healthcare, fairer tax system (i do believe we should be taxed, but that we should get something for it!), increased international relations (like recognizing other countries have a say in how the world is run), but also a return to domestic issues. I feel that globalization has forced politcians to overly focus on the international community, which may be a good thing, but often domestic issues are relegated to the back of the line. Especially when dealing with the low-income segments of society, of which I am a member of. I've been fortunate to live in 2 states (CA and PA) which have excellent state-funded welfare programs that my wife and I would have been in deep trouble without. I am very grateful for that. But citizens of other states may not be so lucky, so lets get a federal standard. Lets reduce selfishness of the upper classes and to paraphrase Woody Guthrie "redistribute the wealth".

"And they'll take the money and spread it out equal
Just like the Bible and the prophets suggest
But the men that go riding to help these poor workers
The rich will cut down like an unwelcome guest"
- Unwelcome Guest (Words by Woody Guthrie, song by Billy Bragg & Wilco)