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Showing posts from March, 2013

Northwest Developmental Biology conference

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I'm in Friday Harbor Labs for the Northwest Developmental Biology Conference, with a lot of other UW people including other biograds. Kelsey Galimba gave a great talk today about her work on Thalictrum floral homeotic genes, and Jessica Guseman presented a yeast-and-auxin poster on Wednesday. Former biograd Cristy Walcher gave a talk about tomato lazy-2, which contrary to its name actively grows downward; she's now visiting faculty at University of Puget Sound. I'm looking forward to Tracy Larson's poster on adult neuron development in sparrows, too. I also gave a talk yesterday, on my homeodomain transcription factor project. Almost concurrently, the paper was published online in Development on Wednesday. We found the gene, HOMEODOMAIN GLABROUS 2 (HDG2) though a microarray scheme involving Arabidopsis seedlings enriched in different epidermal cell types. The meristemoid cell type is really interesting because it renews itself through several asymmetric division…

Ten hundred words of biograd winners

Last week's grad student happy hour at the Burke Museum included a competition to summarize your research using only the most common thousand words of the English language, a concept recently popularized by the webcomic XKCD and carried on by Ten Hundred Words of Science. Three out of the four prizes were brought home by the biograds who entered, and I'm told there were only three bio entries total! See sponsoring organization FOSEP's post for more information on the challenge and the other great science entries. The biology winners are reproduced below. Yasmeen Hussain (Grand Prize Winner)I study the link between sperm chemotaxis and fertilization success. Eggs in animals such as sea urchins release chemicals that act as sperm attractants. Sperm use chemotaxis - that is, orientation towards the source of a chemical gradient - to find the eggs. However, it is unknown whether sperm chemotaxis directly contributes to reproductive success. I study tiny things that are man …

Brad Dickerson at RealClearScience

Our own Brad Dickerson wrote an article on President Obama's "Brain Activity Map" plan: Unfortunately, Mr. Obama’s goal of mapping how the human brain is connected will not necessarily allow us to infer how those neurons function. Many scientists who work on the stomachs of lobsters would gleefully inform the President that a group of as few as 14 neurons can instantly control different behaviors depending on the context. But, when the problem is scaled up to that of the human brain, the mind truly boggles. Why not check it out and support Brad by commenting over there?

Women in Science

The current issue of Nature features articles and an editorial devoted to pointing out the systematic gender inequality still present in science. It's not only the effect of history: while it's true that women in many places were not permitted into higher education until fairly recently, studies are also finding that exactly equal qualifications are perceived differently depending on whether a CV is labeled with a masculine- or feminine-seeming name. So how do we level the playing field? "to chip away at this invisibility" Women scientists can't fix everything themselves, but it helps to stand up and inform people about what we're doing. For instance, Edith Widder's TED talk on filming the giant squid has gotten a lot of people excited. Looks Like Science collects photos of real modern-day scientists going about their (frequently wacky) lives. Unsurprisingly, many of the young people pictured are women. How not to do it Most people reading this have l…

Species species of the Week week #7 OR Tautonomical IGP!!!

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So just for the record, I was super excited when I started Species species of the Week week because this animal is EXACTLY what I had in mind. Check it out it's: Velella Velella

Figure 1. Velella Velella in their natural habitat - with sunglasses.
Thanks you guys for giving tautonyms some pop-culture legitimacy! Ok. No, of course that is the Seattle-ish Electro-pop band Velella Velella (Figure 1). I admit I don't know the story of their name, though I'm sure someone around here does, but I can only assume that the capitalization of the species name is "ironic". In fact, thanks to lack of case-sensitivity, searches for the more gelatinous V. velella are indistinguishable from those searching for the band. Here is the Velella velella I'm actually talking about: Velella velella "By-the-wind sailor" Figure 2.Velella velella for realz. V. velella emerges as this week's tautonym, you will recall, because it is on the tautonomical menu of the Blue Drago…

Examining coevolution in Argentinean fossils

If you are having trouble deciding between two major fields of study, don't fret... you can always go into paleontology, where you can study multiple fields! For the last four years, my advisor, Caroline Strömberg, and I along with several collaborators from the US and Argentina have been working at a famous fossil site known as Gran Barranca, located in Chubut Province, Argentina. The project is multidisciplinary in approach, involving geology, geochemistry, paleobotany and vertebrate paleontology. Our goal was to test hypotheses about early grassland origins and the potential co-evolution of mammalian herbivores between 43 and 18 million years ago. Gran Barranca is well known for its vertebrate fossil record and it has been studied for over 100 years by renowned paleontologists such as the Ameghino brothers and G.G. Simpson. Gran Barranca is a paleontologist's dream as it preserves a long, nearly continuous fossil record of diverse South American biotas including vertebrat…