Minggu, 28 Februari 2010

Dennis Moore, cycad theft and carnivorous plants

More carnivorous plants - here the venus flytrap and some different video of the Pitcher Plant.

Also, Bruce mentioned Cycad theft being a problem. There are several articles online about this. Here's one from California. I'm curious how you would go about selling a large stolen cycad. In the movies they always pass stolen goods through pawn shops (in the US) or sell them in a pub (in the UK). Both of these venues seem appropriate for a stolen video camera or watch but not for a large, and spiky, plant you are trying to sell for thousands of dollars.

The article suggests that ' thieves may be stealing to fill orders for an international black market most active in supplying collectors in the United States, Mexico, the Bahamas and South Africa.'

Somehow I find this international black market in a somewhat obscure group of gymnosperms hard to imagine. It's almost pythonesque. 'It's a holdup not a botany lesson.' I wonder what else there is a thriving international black market in that I am totally unaware of?


Sabtu, 27 Februari 2010

Lotusland articles

Please post, or send me to post, any cool pictures you took at the gardens today.

Here are two articles about the Lotusland gardens and their founder, Ganna Walska, Forget About Rubies – She Wanted Cycads from the Christian Science Monitor and What The Diva Wrought, published in the Wall Street Journal. Both are short and well worth a read. The second article is hosted at the Lotusland website so click the links on the left for further information about Lotusland.

New Stem Cell Guidelines

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is about to change its definition of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in light of recent trends in stem cell research.

In March of 2009 President Barack Obama signed an executive order once again permitting the use of hESCs in research. According to the executive order, the NIH is charged with ensuring that NIH-funded research in which hESCs are used is ethically responsible, scientifically worthy, and conducted in accordance with applicable law. NIH does that by setting strict guidelines for what types of cells may be used and how they must be derived.

According to the current NIH guidelines, part of the definition of hESCs is that they are cells “derived from the inner cell mass of blastocyst stage human embryos”1. But the definition apparently had the unintended consequence of excluding some cell lines that were derived from even earlier, morula-stage cells (Review Figure 21.5 in Johnson’s Human Biology). The revised language will read, “derived from early stage human embryos, up to and including the blastocyst stage”, so that these more recent cell lines may be used in federally funded research projects.

The new guidelines do not change the rigorous ethical standards for deriving human cell lines. They just make more stem cell lines available to researchers.

1 Federal Register vol. 75, no. 35, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010, p. 8085-8086.

Jumat, 26 Februari 2010

Lotusland trip tomorrow

Don't forget our trip tomorrow. Meet at CCS at 9.15 RAIN OR SHINE - and at this point the former is looking more likely....(although it looks like the heaviest showers should be over by the time we arrive).

I don't think it will snow but just in case here is a handy guide to tracks we might find. Okay, 'fess up which ones don't you get? I confess I've never been into the Lord of the Rings so I don't get the Legolas reference although I do recognize the name as some elf or pixie or something. I think the rabbit one is the funniest.

From xkcd - the nerdiest strip out there. Math humor and science pathos under one roof.

Kamis, 25 Februari 2010

Transpirational Pull

Maria-Cristina linked to David Attenborough's Private Life of Plants series below but I thought I'd add this clip about plant water transport. He makes an obvious point that I'd never thought of before - plants move all this water silently! I also realize that like David Attenborough I forgot to point out that this entire process ('pulling' up very long thin tubes of water) only works because of the extraordinary properties of water - in this case its hydrogen bonding which gives the tube of water great strength.

Selasa, 23 Februari 2010

Pick the Pollinator

As part of the nova program First Flower, about the evolution of the earliest flowers, they have an interactive 'Pick the Pollinator' game.

You should really all get all of these right although one of them (the violet) is a little clumsily presented.

There are several interesting videos and articles at the website. I don't think you can watch the whole show but you can see a nice clip on youTube.

Climate change and steelhead

Monday March 1st, 6pm, Restoration Seminar series will be featuring:

Mark Capelli, NOAA, who will speak about his work incorporating global climate change predictions in the Southern California Steelhead Recovery Plan

Monday, 6pm, BSIF 1217

Senin, 22 Februari 2010

Larval dispersal, connectivity and biodiversity in marine systems

Monday's EEMB seminar speaker will be Dr. Rob Toonen from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. The title of Rob's talk is, "Larval dispersal, connectivity and biodiversity in marine systems." Rob's research covers a wide variety of topics, and his seminar is sure to be of interest to many. For example, a recent study of his was the Feature Article in Marine Ecology Progress Series. Please join us for Rob's talk this afternoon at 4pm in the MSRB auditorium.


Don't forget to bring a list of topics to class tomorrow. It should be complete through week 7. Indicate which topic you already wrote about in class.

In the latest PNAS: Selective loss of polymorphic mating types is associated with rapid phenotypic evolution during morphic speciation
Abstract: Polymorphism may play an important role in speciation because new species could originate from the distinctive morphs observed in polymorphic populations. However, much remains to be understood about the process by which morphs found new species. To detail the steps of this mode of speciation, we studied the geographic variation and evolutionary history of a throat color polymorphism that distinguishes the “rock-paper-scissors” mating strategies of the side-blotched lizard, Uta stansburiana. We found that the polymorphism is geographically widespread and has been maintained for millions of years. However, there are many populations with reduced numbers of throat color morphs. Phylogenetic reconstruction showed that the polymorphism is ancestral, but it has been independently lost eight times, often giving rise to morphologically distinct subspecies/species. Changes to the polymorphism likely involved selection because the allele for one particular male strategy, the “sneaker” morph, has been lost in all cases. Polymorphism loss was associated with accelerated evolution of male size, female size, and sexual dimorphism, which suggests that polymorphism loss can promote rapid divergence among populations and aid species formation.

The paper was also summarized at Science Daily Evolutionary Game of Rock-Paper-Scissors May Lead to New Species.

Minggu, 21 Februari 2010

Proboscis prediction

I mentioned the Madagascar Star Orchid, aka Star of Bethlehem orchid, comet orchid and Darwin's orchid when we talked about evolution.

Based on the extremely long corolla (about a foot in length) the moths would need to probe to get the nectar Darwin deduced that there must be moths with extremely long tongues in Madagascar even though he never saw them:

"It is, however, surprising that any insect should be able to reach the nectar: our English sphinxes have probosces as long as their bodies: but in Madagascar there must be moths with probosces capable of extension to a length of between ten and eleven inches!" Darwin, 1862 in On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing.

This photo was the Botany Photo of the day on Feb 12th and they include a link to an interesting paper in the American Entomologist entitled Darwin's Madagascan Hawk Moth Prediction that describes how Darwin's description of the orchid and proposed moth was ridiculed by some as being impossible while others suggested the long nectaries were proof of supernatural creation. Darwin and Wallace went on to explain how evolutionary processes could develop both a long-nectaried orchid species and a co-evolved moth.

Unfortunately Darwin did not live long enough to see the discovery of the moth in 1903. Although the moth was originally named "praedicta" in honor of the fact that Darwin predicted its existence the name was later, unfortunately, changed.

The moth approaches the flower to ascertain by scent whether or not it is the correct orchid species. Then the moth backs up over a foot and unrolls its proboscis, then flies forward, inserting it into the orchid's spur.

Sabtu, 20 Februari 2010

Genetic Testing

An interesting article in the Washington Post this week about the decline in genetic diseases due to genetic testing.

Some of mankind's most devastating inherited diseases appear to be declining, and a few have nearly disappeared, because more people are using genetic testing to decide whether to have children.

Number Gossip

It's no secret that many biologists have a bit of math phobia. If that includes you then I invite you think of a number. Go on. Any number between 1 and 9999.
Now explore that number at NumberGossip.com

You'll learn the unique properties of the number, the rare properties and the common properties.

You'll learn about evil numbers, odious numbers, narcissistic numbers, untouchable numbers, vampire numbers and many more.

Not directly biology related but if it makes math a little more fun then my work here is done.

Jumat, 19 Februari 2010

Inorganic Flora

Check out Macuto Murayama's flower illustrations. Apparently he spends months on each one by dissecting out all the floral parts, sketching and photographing them, then renders them in 3-D software before recompositing the image in photoshop. The resultant image have a ghostly x-ray quality to them combined with the precision of a scientific illustration and yet have a great artistic beauty. Lots more examples at the link and there are more details on the artist and his technique here.

It is not only an image of a plant, but representation of the intellect’s power and its elaborate tools for scrutinizing nature. The transparency of this work refers not only to the lucid petals of a flower, but to the ambitious, romantic and utopian struggle of science to see and present the world as transparent (completely seen, entirely grasped) object.

Tree of Life Web Project

This is a very informative and FUN website that I love to lose myself in. My favorite feature is the "random page" link, which takes you to a random species page, where you can read up about them!

Here is the synopsis:

The Tree of Life Web Project (ToL) is a collaborative effort of biologists and nature enthusiasts from around the world. On more than 10,000 World Wide Web pages, the project provides information about biodiversity, the characteristics of different groups of organisms, and their evolutionary history (phylogeny).

Each page contains information about a particular group, e.g., salamanders, segmented worms, phlox flowers, tyrannosaurs, euglenids, Heliconius butterflies, club fungi, or the vampire squid. ToL pages are linked one to another hierarchically, in the form of the evolutionary tree of life. Starting with the root of all Life on Earth and moving out along diverging branches to individual species, the structure of the ToL project thus illustrates the genetic connections between all living things.

Kamis, 18 Februari 2010

Yellow fatty beans

...and that's why, today, bananas are called "yellow fatty beans". Questions? Abe Simpson

Bananas are thought to have been one of the earliest fruits to have been 'domesticated'. Apparently in the middle ages both Moslems and Christians assumed that the forbidden fruit mentioned in the bible was the banana (the precise species is of course not revealed). I'm not sure when this tradition changed to the apple but it may have been because in Latin malum means apple and mālum means evil.

All bananas today are sterile. Here's an interesting article on the fate of the poor, sexless and therefore defenceless, banana.

Pity the banana. Despite its unmistakably phallic appearance, it hasn’t had sex for thousands of years. The world’s most erotic fruit is a sterile, seedless mutant—and therein lies a problem. The banana is genetically old and decrepit. It has been at an evolutionary standstill ever since humans first propagated it in the jungles of Southeast Asia at the end of the last ice age. And that is why some scientists believe that the banana could be doomed. It lacks the genes to fight off the pests and diseases that are invading the banana plantations of Central America and the small holdings of Africa and Asia.

Rabu, 17 Februari 2010

Research Week

The artists hang shows, the composers put on concerts and the writers read their material........ How do the other five CCS Majors get to share?

Answer - the first annual "Research Week". Please visit the CCS Gallery this week to see a range of research poster presentations provided by CCS Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows and other CCS research-active students.

Selasa, 16 Februari 2010

Names and places

Whenever we go to CCBER it reminds me of all the buildings on campus named after people and that I don't have a clue who most of them are. I recently came across the website of The University of California History Digital Archives. This is a great site containing masses of information and you can read about many of the names you see around campus: Vernon Cheadle, Preston Cloud, John Snidecor, Herbert Broida, and many others.

Senin, 15 Februari 2010

CCBER visit

With the holiday and all don't forget that tomorrow (Tuesday 16th) we will visit the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration. You can find information and directions at their website. We will meet there at 11.00 am and you should allow 5 minutes to cycle or 10-15 minutes if you are walking over there - although that is naturally dependent on where you are walking from......

Here's a map showing the bike route from CCS (click for a larger version).


Speaking of plants being unable to move, and instead having to rely on adaptability. Sounds like the poor Redwoods aren't keeping up with the dryness.

On a different but bio-related note: has anyone ever woken to find a Jerusalem Cricket in their shoe? God, what a monster.

Minggu, 14 Februari 2010

Annual EEMB Graduate Student Symposium

Next Saturday, 20 February 2010, is the 6th Annual EEMB Graduate Student Symposium in the MSI Auditorium.
This is a great chance to find out what all those grad students actually do. And do I see a CCS student presenting?

10:00‐10:30 am Registration and Coffee
10:30‐10:40 Welcome & Intro: Dr. Bob Warner, Professor and Chair of EEMB
10:40‐11:20 Keynote speaker: Dr. Catherine Gautier, Professor of Geography
11:20‐11:30 Mid‐morning coffee break
11:30‐12:30 pm SESSION I
• J. Stephen Gosnell: Non‐consumptive effects of a keystone intertidal predator and community consequences
• Caitlin Fong: The evolution of phototransduction and its role in behavior in Hydra magnipapillata
• Xueying (Shirley) Han: Spatial patterns in density of the sea urchin Diadema savignyi: Effects of predators
• Thomas Smith: Interactions between tadpoles, mayflies, and epiphyton in alpine
lakes of the Sierra Nevada
12:30‐1:40 Lunch (2nd floor balcony)
1:40‐1:50 Half‐time show
1:50‐3:05 SESSION II
• Karen Stahlheber: Islands of invasion: Dominance of exotexotic species near living and dead oak trees (Quercus spp.) in California grasslands
• Nathan Derieg: A flower color polymorphism: adaptations at odds?
• Barbara Bastos Horta e Costa: Evaluation of the first effects of conservation measures on reef fish communities in the Arrabida Marine Park, Portugal
• Alison Pischedda: Contrasting the relative importance of pre‐ and post‐copulatory sexual selection
• Tate Tunstall: Water flow and the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis : How environment may affect disease outcome
3:05‐3:20 Mid‐afternoon coffee break
3:20‐4:20 SESSION III
• Brian Haggerty: TBD
• Julio Lorda: The effect of the trematode Microphallus sp. on the New Zealand mud snail, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, population in their native range
• Steve Sadro: Microbial effects on diel patterns of community respiration in an oligotrophic alpine lake
• Nicole Molinari: Native vs. non‐native grassland species: Who will win under future global change scenarios?
4:30‐5:30 Happy hour (2nd floor balcony)
5:45‐late Dinner, Alumni House, please give $10 to Alina Haas (LSB 4312) to attend

Sabtu, 13 Februari 2010

Problems you didn't know existed #36 - Cycad smuggling

Scientists at the University of Johannesburg have started a DNA barcoding project to stop the smuggling of endangered cycad species in the country.

"Cycads grow in hot and arid environments and they grow slowly. To get a long stem it might taken 400 to 800 years. As a result, their prices go through the roof,"

"In South Africa, some cycad colonies have virtually been wiped out by collectors seeking a sample," he said. "When a botanist a few years ago discovered a new species, Encephalartos cerinus, thieves plundered so many of the plants that they nearly wiped out the species within weeks of its discovery."

"Identification is nearly impossible when plants are stripped of their leaves for transport purposes, and it is therefore also important to identify species when only fragments from an individual specimen are available."

Jumat, 12 Februari 2010

Herbal supplements

Sometimes there is too much information on the internet and sorting out the crazy from the really crazy is tricky. Fortunately when it comes to health and nutrition the government itself actually has some pretty good websites and information. You are probably familiar with the NIH and CDC websites but the Nutrition.gov website is pretty good too and is a good source for information on botanical and herbal supplements and medicines Nutrition.gov is produced by the National Agricultural Library, part of USDA.

You can read more about gymnosperm derived compounds such as Ephedra and Ginkgo and numerous other herbal supplements and remedies.

You can download all the factsheets at once in pdf format if you click the image above. If you know someone who is a little too into herbal remedies you may want to pass on a copy. Not because the herbs are necessarily bad or dangerous but because they may have adverse interactions with other commonly prescribed medicines (eg for diabetes or blood pressure) and the factsheets clearly summarize our current state of knowledge.

Bacterial Resistance to Antibiotics

The prevailing thought has always been that bacterial resistance to antibiotics comes about by a process of natural selection. When antibiotics kill most but not all of a bacterial population, the bacteria that survive are those that were most resistant to the antibiotic. These resistant bacteria then flourish, passing their resistance genes on to other bacteria and outcompeting their more vulnerable kin. The more times an antibiotic is used, then, the more likely it becomes that the surviving bacteria will be resistant to it.

But now researchers have found another mechanism for bacterial resistance to antibiotics. It turns out that antibiotics induce the formation of toxic molecules within bacteria called reactive oxygen species, or free radicals, that help kill the bacteria. But if the concentration of antibiotic is below the threshold for killing the bacteria outright, the free radicals cause mutations in the bacteria, some of which by random chance may confer drug resistance. In other words, antibiotics speed up the process of bacterial evolution in the surviving bacteria.

The finding opens a new avenue for research – finding molecules that prevent this bacterial mutagenesis, thus perhaps delaying the development of antibiotic resistance.

Kamis, 11 Februari 2010

Gymnosperm Reproduction Videos

I just watched these again and they really are pretty good. This is, of course, WAY more information than we covered in class but it really helps a lot to see some of this happen in clear 3-d diagrams. The first one is very short and a little obvious but I liked the second and third ones a lot. I thought they really helped in visualizing what is going on.

Brown eyes, brown skin, shovel-form front teeth..what a 4,000 year old hunk!

An artist's impression shows "Inuk" who is believed ...

Scientists have sequenced the DNA from four frozen hairs of a Greenlander who died 4,000 years ago in a study they say takes genetic technology into several new realms.

Surprisingly, the long-dead man appears to have originated in Siberia and is unrelated to modern Greenlanders, Morten Rasmussen of theUniversity of Copenhagen and colleagues found.

"This provides evidence for a migration from Siberia into the New World some 5,500 years ago, independent of that giving rise to the modern Native Americans and Inuit," the researchers wrote in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Not only can the findings help transform the study of archeology, but they can help answer questions about the origins of modern populations and disease, they said.

Read the rest of the article by following the link above. Woot woot for genomic sequencing!

Rabu, 10 Februari 2010

If you've ever wanted a science badge...

Some funny options:


Moss Helps Chart the Conquest of Land by Plants

Hey all-
no time to write because I'm at work right now, but just saw this sciencedaily article that's very relevant to what we discussed in class yesterday.



Least exciting answer ever...

The Liverwort Lunularia cruciata from Botany photo of the Day website. I'd say if your liver looks like this you've got a pretty serious problem.

Wort derives from the Old English wyrt, which simply meant plant! It was often used in the names of herbs and plants that had medicinal uses, the first part of the word denoting the complaint, or area of the body, against which it might be specially effective.

Although some of these names were acquired because the plants actually did contain substances that helped others were acquired because the plant, or part of the plant, merely resembled part of the body. This relationship of plant form to function was based in the "Doctrine of Signatures" and probably had its basis in natural theology: "it was reasoned that the Almighty must have set his sign upon the various means of curing disease which he provided."

Examples include Spleenwort (thought to be useful in treating the spleen), Liverwort (thought to be useful in treating the liver), Toothwort (thought to be useful in treating tooth ailments0 and Lungwort (thought to be useful in treating pulmonary infections). There are also lots of examples where plant in some way resembled the symptoms of a disease. So, for example, Poplar or "Quaking Aspen" leaves were used for shaking or uncontrollable body movements (medically known as palsy).

Selasa, 09 Februari 2010

Moss cam

Sadly it looks like the moss cam may be defunct. After seven years of daily service it looks like live updates have ceased. However the moss cam web site is still there and will answer all your questions from, 'what does it look like at night?' (dark) to 'how much did it cost' ($1832.72) and 'what happens if a chipmunk comes by?' (cool pictures). Check out the hydrated and dehydrated pictures of the moss.

Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy Revisited

About a year ago in this blog I described PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy as an exciting and potentially effective new treatment for injuries to tendons and ligaments. Apparently athletes and other patients were asking for the treatment, even though insurance companies were reluctant to pay for it. I asked, “Does it work?” and mentioned that several clinical trials were currently underway to find out.

The results of several of the clinical trials are now in, and the results are not encouraging. In one study of patients with Achilles tendon injuries, PRP therapy was no more effective than an injection of saline (the control). In another study of tennis elbow, PRP therapy appeared to be slightly more effective than injections of steroids (the standard treatment these days). However, some scientists have criticized the tennis elbow study for not having a control group. Steroid injections are known to reduce pain in the short-term but to slow healing in the long-term. So the jury is still out on whether PRP therapy for tennis elbow is actually better than no treatment at all.

No doubt, studies with other tendon/ligament injuries using different study protocols will be done in the future. In the meantime, enthusiasm for PRP therapy has cooled just a little.

Senin, 08 Februari 2010

Orchid bee trade-off

Orchid bees use their extraordinarily long tongues to drink nectar from the deep, tropical flowers only they can access. Researchers have long suspected that this kind of exclusive access came with a mechanical cost. According to common sense and a classic law of fluid mechanics, it's just plain hard to suck thick, viscous nectars up through a long straw.

A paper in The American Naturalist confirmed this prediction for the first time in 2007: orchid bees with long tongues suck up their nectar more slowly than bees with shorter tongues.

Scaling of Nectar Foraging in Orchid Bees

Minggu, 07 Februari 2010

It's all one song

"It's all one song." -- Neil Young replying to a man in the audience, who said "It all sounds the same!"
I just discovered WikiQuote and it's there so it must be true.

Anywhow I'm probably the only person who thinks this is a good metaphor for evolution, particularly macroevolution, but this story made me think of it again.

In a finding that overturns conventional wisdom, scientists are reporting the first discovery of the female sex hormone progesterone in a plant. Until now, scientists thought that only animals could make progesterone.

"While the biological role of progesterone has been extensively studied in mammals, the reason for its presence in plants is less apparent." They speculate that the hormone, like other steroid hormones, might be an ancient bioregulator that evolved billions of years ago, before the appearance of modern plants and animals.

It seems to me we shouldn't be too surprised by the discovery of progesterone in plants because it is, after all, all one song.

Occurrence of Progesterone and Related Animal Steroids in Two Higher Plants
J. Nat. Prod., January 28, 2010

Sabtu, 06 Februari 2010

Walking with Tetrapods

This week's Nature Video is also cool, and relevant to class.

The fossilized remains of 395-million-year-old footprints in Poland have turned back the clock on the evolution of four-legged creatures, or tetrapods. The finds, reported this week in Nature, are 18 million years older than the earliest confirmed tetrapod fossils.

Scientists are getting better at getting their stories out (or at least some journals are better at presenting stores to the media in digestible form)

Read the original Article, the accompanying News and Views, related news story and listen to the Nature Podcast.

Jumat, 05 Februari 2010

Carbon Dioxide and Forest Growth

Plants require carbon dioxide (CO2) for growth. How are they affected by the rise in atmospheric CO2 that occurred over the last century, as a result of human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels? Do plants use more CO2 (i.e, grow faster) when more CO2 is available?

There is some evidence that they may. A study of 55 forest plots in the Eastern United States reveals that the tree biomass is increasing at a faster rate now than in several decades past. After factoring out other known factors, the most likely causes appear to be increases in atmospheric CO2 and in temperature. This may be good news, for it means that as the atmospheric CO2 rises, some of the excess CO2 may naturally be stored in Earth's forest biomass. This could be slowing the rate of rise of CO2 (and global warming) that would otherwise occur.

Weekend video

For most of human evolutionary history, before the advent modern running shoes, humans ran either barefoot or in minimal shoes. A comparison of the biomechanics of habitually shod versus habitually barefoot runners suggests that running barefoot is not only comfortable but may also help avoid some impact-related stress injuries. On the cover, the feet of Kenyan adolescents who have never worn shoes and run up to 20 km a day. Their feet are healthy and strong - and until recently, everyone’s feet looked like this.

I was going to leave this until next quarter but since being on the cover of Nature last week barefoot running is attracting even more attention from the media. Nature is actually a little slow to this bandwagon - just this week I've caught two CCS students indulging in barefoot escapades.

Nature have a nice series of short videos that illustrate some of their papers.

This actually reminds me of a story I read recently, in Wired magazine I think. Some researchers were interested in using force platforms to help rehabilitate stroke victims by giving them feedback on balance and forces. The type of force platform that would typically be used, like the one used to calculate the forces on the foot in the study above, can cost well over $10,000. Looking for a cheaper alternative they dismantled the balance board available for skateboarding and balance games on the Nintendo Wii system. They found the accelerometers and strain gauges more than adequate. Thanks to the Internets I can confirm that this half remembered second hand story is actually true.

Kamis, 04 Februari 2010


Just about everyone will agree that trees are made from sunlight, water, and soil the trees sucks up from their roots. But the surprising truth is that trees are made from air! Trees are solar-powered machines that convert air into wood. Why is it that, despite the fact that photosynthesis is one of the most widely taught subjects in science, so few people really understand the central idea underlying this system?

Watch the video here.

I've posted this to the blog before but I think it is worth a repost. I've thought about this video a lot and I think the point it makes is spot on. Somewhere in all the teaching, especially in big intro classes, we forget to include the wonder. Sometimes you really do need to stop and see the wood in the trees.

Rabu, 03 Februari 2010

West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference

The 35th Annual West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference will be held at Santa Clara University on April 24, 2010. Register and/or submit an abstrac at the website http://www.scu.edu/cas/biology/wcbsurc/index.cfm

1. Registration: It is time to register for the 2010 Conference. Our website includes the registration form and the website allows you to pay via credit card. http://www.scu.edu/cas/biology/wcbsurc/index.cfm

2. Abstract Deadline: March 1, 2010. Please read the guidelines for preparing your abstract on our website. E-mail abstracts to me: weisinger@scu.edu

3. Background: On Saturday April 24, 2010 the 35th Annual West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference will be held at Santa Clara University. Two other Santa Clara faculty and I founded the Conference in 1975 and Santa Clara exclusively hosted the Conference for the first decade. Over the years the Conference has grown in size and prestige and now rotates between Northern and Southern California. Each year about 100 undergraduate students along with their faculty sponsors attend the Conference and students give oral presentations or posters of their original research. Typically we have a broad spectrum of undergraduate students from large universities like Stanford and UCLA to smaller colleges like Occidental and Westmont.

4. Keynote: This year's keynote speaker will be Dr. Christopher Field, Director of the Carnegie Department of Global Ecology. Dr. Field, as chair of an international research team on global warming, shared the Nobel Prize with Al Gore in 2007.

5. We will send e-mails to remind you of abstract deadlines, etc.

Selasa, 02 Februari 2010

Introduction to plants

I found these videos over winter break and was instantly hooked on BBC. The narrator David Attenborough, does an incredible job capturing the audience, and at the end you can also learn about how time-lapse filming was done.
But the best part are the PLANTS. This show really brings them to life and everyone has to watch at least 10 mins of it, you won't regret it. This is only part 1 of 6, and if your further interested, youtube their "Private Life of Plants" Series. The link will be below the video. Have fun :)
Suggest you FULL SCREEN this video.

Here is link to Series " Private Life of Plants":

Panda's Thumb

If you want to check out the full story of the Panda's thumb it is presented in nice clear, and illustrated fashion here. This website also explains what the radial sesamoid usually does and shows pictures of the same bones in the hand of a grizzly bear
Two years ago I went in to see a film I had heard nothing about (something I usually try to avoid doing). The film was M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening"- and I remember it being so bad that I almost left the theater.
Aside from the poor dialogue and overall bad storyline, the movie was terrible because of how it depicted evolution. I don't want to give it away (I think everyone seriously considering studying evolutionary biology should be forced to watch the film) but the entire premise is based on what John was saying in class today about how plants adapt given that they cannot move...

I don't know. Maybe one of these days I'll host a "Happening" party and we can all whine and gripe and grumble together.

Smoking and Breast Sagging

A couple of years ago a plastic surgeon and his colleagues did a study in which they interviewed 132 women who had requested breast lift surgery or breast augmentation. The goal of the interviews was to try to determine whether there was any truth to the commonly held belief that breast-feeding causes breast sagging later in life.

The results showed no difference in the degree of breast ptosis (sagging) between women who had breastfed and those who had not. However, factors that did correlate with breast sagging included the woman’s age, how many pregnancies she had had, and whether she had smoked.

Yes, you read that right - smoking. It is well known that smoking damages elastin, the protein fibers in skin responsible for skin’s youthful appearance and elasticity. That’s why chronic smokers are much more likely to have wrinkled skin than non-smokers. It would not be much of a stretch (no pun intended) to hypothesize that healthy elastin supports breast tissue and helps maintain breast shape.

One more reason not to smoke?

Reference: Rinker, Brian et al. The effect of breastfeeding on breast aesthetics. Aesthet. Surg. J. 28:534-537, 2008.

Senin, 01 Februari 2010

Non-venomous snake sequesters venom from a toad

Pretty crazy. This snake, Rhabdophis tigrinus, of Japan is resistant to a species of toxic toad. After eating the toad, the snake is able to maintain the toxins in its neck glands and use them a chemical defense.

Here's the link:

New Bird-like Species of Dinosaur: Haplocheirus sollers

Through an expedition to the Gobi Desert of China, scientists have solved the puzzle of how one group of dinosaurs came to look like birds--independent of birds.

Here is the link to the article:


A 10-foot long dinosaur that may have used a claw to dig up termites? It seems so unnatural...or maybe there were termites the size of a golfball back in the Late Jurassic period? eeeek!

Today and next week

Just a couple of seminars to keep you on your toes:

Today's EEMB seminar is presented by Ben Gilbert, a postdoc here at UCSB. His talk is entitled, "Maintaining species diversity: Untangling the roles of environment, space and competition."
4:00 in the MSRB auditorium.

Next week's (February 8th) CCBER restoration ecology seminar is Understanding the impacts to Global Climate Change on Plant Phenology and Pollination Patterns – Brian Haggerty, UCSB
BSIF 1217. (between Noble and BioII)
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