Nature Blog Network

Sunday, November 30, 2008

5 Things Meme

Those scallywags, Brian from Laelaps and Adrian from Evolving Complexity, have tagged me with the 5 things meme. Wow, its been ages since those gosh darn memes have been traveling around. I swore we exhausted them out last year, but like a nasty infection you didn't quite clean out well enough, its come back. Here it goes!

5 Things I Was Doing 10 Years Ago

  • Line cook at Applebee's in Davenport, IA
  • Breaking off an engagement (one of the best things I've ever done!)
  • Dropped out of community college
  • Traveled to Australia and New Zealand
  • Smoking 1-2 packs of cigarettes a day
5 Things On My To-Do List Today
  • Write some more on my Masters thesis (yes it is still isn't quite finished yet...)
  • Clean up living room (train kids to pick up toys... futile I know...)
  • Read on microsatellite optimization
  • Write some blog posts
  • Figure out how to increase resolution of line drawings for a publication that held back because the resolution of the images was too low :(
5 Snacks I Love
  • Sun chips!!
  • Cashew and raisin mix
  • Cookies
  • Bananas
  • Goldfish crackers
5 Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire
  • Buy a house with lots of land, and a boat of course
  • Pay off all my debts and brothers' debts and buy my parents a nice house near us
  • Invest a large enough portion that we could live comfortably off the interest
  • Put enough way for my kids to get the best possible education and not have to worry about working through school like I did
  • Start a scholarship for poor people to attend college
5 Places I've lived
  • State College, PA
  • Davis, Monterey, San Jose and Berkeley, CA
  • Mesa, AZ
  • Bettendorf, IA
  • Moline, IL
5 Jobs I've Had
  • Graduate student research and teaching assistant
  • Academic Support Services tutor (basic arithmetic to calculus)
  • Supervisor at an upscale local cafe
  • Audio engineer and studio musician
  • Line cook, baker and/or kitchen manager for several restaurants
Ok, so I will tag my coblogger Eric, Rick, Karen, the Southern Fried Scientist, and EchinoChris.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Help! My squid shrank!

Ok, finally got all that writing stuff done so I can connect to the net again. Jack in and what do I find?

Almost every way of preserving it makes it shrink!

The Te Papa staff are counting down the days to their new exhibit of the colossal squid:

Of course in the original press surrounding the capture of the squid, it was mentioned by many sources that the squid was thought to have a total length in excess of 6 metes and possibly as long as 8m. When it was dissected and preserved, it measured out at 4.2 meters. The museum researchers and staff decided to see if there was a cause for the discrepancy and found that the original, unpreserved flaccid length was probably about 6 meters. Of course since squid have no bones and extremely elastic tissues, when it was alive and under the proper stimulation the squid may have exceeded 8m in length.

I only wish there was a way for me to get down to NZ over the break. Hmmm... wait there is a symposium on deep sea coral in NZ next week... maybe Professor A. would take me with him...I can ride in the suitcase for deep sea coral associate ecology and Te Papa... Passport's ready and up to date...besides, I wanted to check out grad school opportunities down there. Hmmm....

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Starvation is the Thread That Binds Amoebas Together

ResearchBlogging.orgWhen the going gets tough, the starved huddle together en masse. You might expect this behavior from musk oxen, schools of fish or even armies of anemones. New research published in the open access journal PLoS Biology demonstrates that our spineless protistan cousins, the amoeba, seek out genetically similar relatives when they are under stress. They aggregate together to form a fruiting body which will carry their genetic information safely on when better days arrive. This happens at an expense though. Nearly 20% of individual amoebas will perish in this effort "altruistically" giving their all for their cousins. The spores of the fruiting body are hardy and will go on carrying the amoebas' genetic heritage, while some cells will die making the stalk that lifts the fruiting body off of the ground. The higher the fruiting body the more likely and farther it will be dispersed.

Figure 4: Sorting of Strains during Multicellular Development. Cells expressing either GFP or DsRed were mixed at equal proportions and allowed to develop on agar plates. Pictures were taken at the indicated developmental time points and the merged image of the two fluorophores is shown. (A) A mix of the genetically dissimilar strains AX4-DsRed and QS44-GFP shows increased segregation with time. (B) A mix of the genetically identical strains AX4-DsRed and AX4-GFP shows no segregation.

There are several interesting ramifications from this study. The amoebas must be able to detect similar genotypes. Additionally, this demonstrates an important historical point in organismal evolution. The beginnings of multicellularity. One direct hypothesis generated or supported by this is that multicellularity evolved out of a need to protect genetic information during stressful times, such as starvation. Instead of every individual slowly dying off they band together for a final push to ensure the survival of the genes.

Elizabeth A. Ostrowski, Mariko Katoh, Gad Shaulsky, David C. Queller, Joan E. Strassmann (2008). Kin Discrimination Increases with Genetic Distance in a Social Amoeba PLoS Biology, 6 (11) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060287

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Insects Day In Court

In the case of the insects vs. the trucks, it looks like the insects finally get their day in court. In England, a group called Buglife – an invertebrate conservation group – has taken developers of a truck park and warehouse to court to save some 1300 species of invertebrates, including 900 that are listed as nationally important by Britain. The site of the construction, West Thurrock Marshes in Essex, is sensitive habitat and home to one of England's most diverse populations of invertebrates.

Good luck Inverts!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Decompressing after tests, I stumbled across the Archipelagos blog where an international group of scientists, researchers, and volunteers work together to study and conserve resources in the Aegean. The organization is using the blog as a major component of their outreach and news dissemination.

The organization's main site gives a strong clue to what is found in the blog... conservation, research, outreach and field courses spread across 4 research stations and 2 research bases through the Aegean Sea.

The blog has notes from the research teams and volunteers about the various projects that are going on and their adventures. A sampling of November postings – each by a different trainee researcher – includes diurnal changes in the invertebrate community off Faros, issues surrounding solid waste disposal and hypocrisy, habitat mapping, a forest fire, beaches as ash trays, and graphic design for the environment.

The last one, a posting by a designer with a Bsc Product Design and Innovation degree, really caught my eye as it is not what I expect to see on an environmental or science blog – talking about the design projects for this NGO. Unfortunately design of outreach materials is often – though certainly not always – an afterthought. Having pursued design at BSU before life got in the way, I want to use design in my career going forward, so I love seeing design projects and concerns being discussed in connection to science and an NGO. I was especially pleased to discover that Archipelagos offers a 10 day course on Marine Scientific Illustration and Underwater Photography. Pretty cool.

I could easily see spending a few months out there with this group. Seeing as my schedule is a little bit cramped right now though, I'll have to settle for snatching a few minutes every couple days to spend there virtually.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Just Sayin'

It's beautiful, sunny, 75°F (24°C). The trees are lush and green as the calm water gently reflects the sunshine. A nice warm breeze coming in through the open screen door. This is perhaps the nicest November I have ever been witnessed to. Oh, and there was a butterfly outside my window! In Mid-Novemeber! I ain't leaving North Carolina... EVAH!

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Inverts from Boston

Things have been even more quiet at The New Blue than here for the past month or so, but it turns out there is no cause for alarm as it seems that Jives has been just a wee bit busy!

He announced today on the blog that a new feature has been rolled out at the New England Aquarium – a virtual aquarium tour they call the NEAQ Mobile Tour. It's available as 16 videos at the NEAQ site or as an iTunes download (video or audio tours)! Take the Aquarium Tour on your iPod as your virtual guide at the Aquarium... cool!

My favorite "chapters" of course are the Jellies, the Giant Pacific Octopus and the whale, I mean the Northern Right Whales.

Be sure to check them all out and give Jives a bit of feedback!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Antarctic Inverts in Boston

How many invert species do you see?

This is a detail from this much larger, gorgeous photo from Antarctica that ran as a feature on this past weekend. The series of 32 images are awe inspiring even if there is only the one invert filled image:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Palau Flatworm in HD is a great resource for some high-def invert video.
This video below is a small, re-sized sample of a really nice longer 720p video from one of the Japanese ships sunk at Palau. Many inverts in the video, but the marine flatworm, coolest of the Platyhelminthes (to my untrained eye, I believe it is Maritigrella crozierae) is my favorite from the whole clip. (The narrator speaks of two of them, in a bit of invert porn, but I only see one in the video... is it just me?)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Linnaeus' Legacy Up

At the Life Photo Meme! Go check out all the taxonomic goodness.

Vote for Brian for the Student Blogging Scholarship!

My good friend, science blogger comrade and all around awesome palaeo-blogger is in the final 20 for the 2008 Student Blogging Scholarships If he wins he gets $10K to pay for his last semester in school and help him out with student loans. So head over right now to the 2008 Student Blogging Scholarship and vote for Brian Switek!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Invert Playground

The whiteboard from the undergrad lounge in the marine science building at UCONN Avery Point....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

YES WE CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!

This will be getting a lot of play while I count bacterial colonies today!! (hat tip to Marky Mark)

Can I just say w00t1!!!!!!!11!!!11!!!!!11


Seriously though, did anyone else get watery-eyed during PRESIDENT-ELECT Obama's acceptance speech? I nearly balled out with tears of joy. Linda and I had to run outside in the run the yell out a big w00t!!! so we didn't wake the kids. I have never been this proud to be an american. I feel a new train a comin'. Its a new dawn. I can once again be proud for my country this moment. THIS IS FRIKKIN LANDSLIDE!! In case you didn't notice.

I can't wait to see North Carolina, Indiana and Montana filled in blue after its all said and done. It'll look even more purdy then.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Carnival of Evolution #5

There was an astonishing amount of entries to this edition of the Carnival of Evolution. I can tell this one is here to stay. The fifth edition promises to continue the high quality of submissions we have seen thus far. A real potpourri of evolution from paleobiology to development, education to speculation.

Evolution Education
My friend, Peter Buckland, a graduate student in educational theory at Penn State studying the controversy of evolution in the classroom recently gave what was likely a superb talk to a crowd of nearly 100 people. Unfortunately, he couldn't have given his talk 2 months ago while I was still in residency in the Happy Valley. He writes a 2-part post based on his talk's content called “Thou Shall Not Inhibit Academic Freedom: The Evolution of Anti-Evolutionism.” Part 1 deals with some background while part 2 is a nice reflection on some of the finer concerns of evolution education in the US.
"Now, we can talk about controversies on the tree of life. How closely related are we to Neanderthals? That’s a great question in science. The question is not “Are we related to Neanderthals?” Biologists, paleontologists, and anthropologists have skirmishes over portions of the tree of life. None of them argue that they are on it.

But that’s not what Explore Evolution would have us believe. They want to foist a particular notion, the “Orchard of Life” on high school students. No one in biology talks about the orchard of life..."
Drinking deep from the literature, Aydin of the Snail's Tales discusses a quote from a 1915 text:
"Had the biologists indeed abandoned the evolutionary theory at the turn of the 20th century, evolutionary explanations of biological phenomena would by now be an almost-forgotten chapter in the annals of biology."
Human Evolution at a Stand-Still, or Not
Steve Jones had a little something to say about human evolution this month. Apparently, selection no longer acts upon us. Several bloggers had a few things to say about Jones' data and conclusions. For instance, Ben from the group blog Grown Ass People notes that
"these arguments may seem convincing to anyone who hasn't taken intro biology, but any undergrad worth their auto-pipette should be able to see right through Professor Jones' nonsense."
Transitioning to a Species Near You
Glen at the Behe Fails Weblog exclaims "There's a reason why all vertebrate wings are modified legs of their terretrial ancestor"!
"Yet we are to believe that a “designer” capable of creating extremely complex systems–of the kind that humans cannot presently create–went back again and again to legs in order to design vertebrate wings. Which is just as evolution predicts, in the tetrapod context. Would anybody ever expect that of an alien?"
Grrl Scientist discusses new research on everyone's favorite evolutionary transition fossil, Tiktaalik!
"The new study reminds us that the gradual transition from aquatic to terrestrial lifestyles required much more than the evolution of limbs"
Evolution and Development
Alvaro at Sharp Brains has an extensive interview with Dr. Michael Posner on his research on the evolution and development of self-regulation.
"What is exciting these days is that progress in neuroimaging and in genetics make it possible to think about self-regulation in terms of specific brain-based networks."
Nagraj, one of the Hoxful Monsters, discusses new research on the origin and evolution of microRNA's in animals.
"Micro RNAs present in plants and algae have a different gene structure, biogenesis and targeting properties from those of animals, and these miRNAs are not found in fungi. Based on the above facts it's generally considered that miRNAs in plants and animals had independent origin."
Who Needs so much O2 Anyways?
Irradiatus from Biochemical Soul discusses an awesome new paper from the awesome Open Access Journal PLoS ONE where researchers evolved low O2 tolerance in the lab.
"Personally, I think one of the most amazing aspects of this study was just how quickly these flies evolved to survive and develop perpetually in severely low oxygen conditions. In only 32 generations the flies were able to live in oxygen conditions completely lethal to normal flies."
Semantics in Evolution
The Urban Scientist posts on the uses of the words heritable, inherited and genetic in teaching and the press:
"Heritability deals with the likelihood or probability of traits running in families. But here is the catch: something can be heritable due to genetics or environment. In this case the environment includes culture or habits and behaviors that you experience and accept as a normal and everyday. Everything that shared among related individuals isn’t necessarily because they share the same genes."
The Future of Evolution is Fun!
What got you really interested in evolution? One of the more interesting questions is how can you predict phenotypes. What will creatures look like in the future? Blog n00b Christie Lynn's submission from Observations of a Nerd is the ultimate in geeky barroom debate. Make sure you add her to your RSS feeds!
"The fun of evolution isn't in looking back - it's in looking forward. So let's take just one moment to release a barrel of monkeys into evolution and the future we're so upset about. Instead of the glass being half-empty, it's merely awaiting the next set of species to fill it."

And check out the 100+ Incredible Open Courseware Resources for Science Geeks which has some software available for teaching and modeling evolution. That is all for this edition be sure to keep posted the mother ship for information about upcoming carnivals! The 6th edition will be held at Life Before Death on November 15th. Make sure you get your submissions in soon!

Spider Substance Abuse

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