For most people, individual plants or animals can be very beautiful, but for scientists, the real wonder lies in understanding the interrelationships between species and how they fit into the tapestry of life.
It might surprise you to learn that every week, scientists are discovering new plant and animal species -- even species that are big enough to be seen with the naked eye. With each now discovery comes the same question: how is this new species related to all the others that we already know about?
This is where taxonomists come in. Taxonomists are scientists who specialise in describing, naming and classifying new species. They study plants and animals to identify which other species are their closest relatives and further, to understand how they fit into the larger, more complex, tapestry of life.Continue reading...
I’ve just returned from about 4 months away doing field work on Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited island in the world. I had an absolutely fantastic time, and will reflect on my experiences a bit over the winter. One of the things I look forward to on returning from the field (where there is little or no internet connectivity, poor email and phones, and a myriad of amazing experiences in nature and natural history) is catching up on all the amazing blogging and writing from my time away. Below I’d like to highlight a few that caught my attention or various reasons, and add some thoughts of my own. These are certainly not the only amazing stories from the last few months, and there are others that gave me much more to think about that I’ll write about later. So without further ado, here we go:
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The first thing I noticed on my visit to Puebla was the dust. The dust comes from many sources. The fallow agricultural fields. The desert. The active Popocatepétl volcano. The two million inhabitants of the city and their automobiles. The air is windy and the rain does not come, so the valley sits constantly under a yellow-gray layer of air.
My friend Alicia, a Mexican ecologist, invited me on an adventure far above...Read the full article.
Today’s “best of” list are my choices of books published in 2014 that focus on the topics of human biology, psychology and medicine.
Today’s list of “best of” are my choices of books published in 2014 that focus on the topics of human biology, psychology and medicine. This genre always produces a large and (mostly) excellent collection of books, so it was difficult to limit my choices to just “a dozen or so” titles that I think you will enjoy.Continue reading...
A few years ago, a faculty member at a teaching college was giving a seminar at my university. It’s not often folks from teaching focused institutions pass through, and as someone that is considering positions at liberal arts schools, I was eager to hear what his job was like and what they were looking for when they hired. The one thing that has stuck with me was his description of teaching for the first time — the first course you teach will be like the first pancake off the griddle. It will be burnt or undercooked, but in either case it will not be good.
This semester I’m stepping up to the stove and getting my first burnt pancake out of the way – I’m teaching my first course. Intro to Environmental Science. Although I spend most of my days thinking about amphibian ecology, I’m really excited to return to my roots in Environmental Studies. Some times I miss thinking about economics or socio-political aspects of environmental issues. So while I am really...Read the full article.
Do Policy Makers REALLY Want to Talk to Scientists?
This open op-ed in Nature describes the misuse of a scientist’s genetic and population viability analysis (PVA, an analysis that estimates extinction risk of a population or species) by the Swedish government to justify their wolf culling program. An extremely bold move to write the op-ed by Dr. Chapron which may have repercussions in terms of access to permits and funding in the future. However, he brings up a crucial point, how can biodiversity scientists work with advocates and/or policy makers when they have a policy agenda that may be counter to scientific results? And, what avenues for recourse do scientists have when their work is intentionally misused?
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It’s Friday and that means that it’s time for our Friday link dump, where we highlight some recent papers (and other stuff) that we found interesting but didn’t have the time to write an entire post about. If you think there’s something we missed, or have something to say, please share in the comments section!
Science just released its annual list with the top 10 scientific achievements of the year....Read the full article.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears re-mentioning. NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology has a superb and informative blog, DEBrief. The latest post is called: How to win over panels and influence program officers: advice for effective written reviews. If you’ve ever wondered what NSF wants to know when you’re writing a review and the best way to write one, this is what to read.
There is a useful and detailed “mentoring” section on the lab page of Anna Dornhaus, of the University of Arizona. These pages include a lot of links to other resources, separated for undergrads, grad students, and postdocs.
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