Showing posts from September, 2014

Departmental retreat recap

Now that the academic year is in full swing, the leaves are changing colors, and our schedules are filling up with grant applications and office hours, let's take a moment to reflect on the glory that was the 2014 Biology Department Retreat two weekends ago.

Per department custom, the 2014 retreat was held at our gorgeous marine lab in Friday Harbor, WA (note, you can take classes and do research there!).  The weather was perfect (we've been told it's always like that at FHL) and wildlife viewing was plentiful. Lot's of mammals, reptiles, birds, and invertebrates were spotted, not least of which included a particularly friendly red fox, black-tailed deer, racoons, harbor seals, harbor porpoises, California sea lions, killer whales (!!!), California quail, ravens, red tailed hawk, pine siskin, brown creeper, red-breasted nuthatch, band-tailed pigeon, garter snakes, rough skinned newt, alligator lizards, sandlance, pacific herring, possibly cod, metridium, hydramedusa, a…

Review: Climate change course in China

BioGrad Foen Peng spent several weeks in China learning about climate change this summer. Read about his experience below!
This summer, I was enrolled in the Ecology of Climate Changecourse in Xishuanbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Yunnan, China. This course lasted for about one month. We had 26 classmates in total, who were from 16 countries in Asia, Europe and America. Our lecturers were also from diverse countries.

It was really fun to communicate with students from diverse countries. A lot of our lecturers asked students to connect the impacts of climate change with our respective background, like local agricultural changes, farmers’ experiences, and vegetation changes. For example, the oral history class asked us to do an interview with one or two local farmers in our own countries. When we were discussing our data, we were surprised to find that our results were so different: farmers in some regions like Kashmir, India have experienced dramatic changes in recent decades– as a re…

Sonia Singhal: Exploding Bacteria!

"…very small living creatures in rain water." The evolution course I took as an undergraduate was co-taught by two professors, one who studied butterflies and the other (my advisor at the time) who studied viral ecology and evolution. For one of the classes, the butterfly professor brought in models and pinned specimens to show off their beautiful patterns. My advisor decided he couldn’t be one-upped. “I had organism envy,” he explained to us as he passed around Petri dishes on which some viruses had been grown.

The organisms we study are all interesting and dynamic, but that can be easy to forget when they’re things that are not publicly “charismatic”, not bright and colorful or cute and cuddly, or just too small to see. For example, I only see bacteria when there are millions of them in one place, enough to turn liquid turbid or form a small, moist-looking dab on a Petri dish. At this scale, it can seem as though things are fairly static. The liquid only becomes so turbid…

Grad Publication: Emily Bain, Anna McCann, Larissa Patterson

Pigment pattern is a defining characteristic of many animals that is more than just beautiful to look at; stripes, spots, and bright colors function in many behaviors such as warning coloration, mate recognition, and camouflage. Even among closely related species, pigment patterns can be stunningly diverse. In the Parichy lab, we use the pigment pattern of the adult zebrafish, Danio rerio, to study molecular and cellular mechanisms of pattern formation and how these processes evolve between species.

The stripes on a zebrafish are composed of three different cell types: black melanophores, yellow orange xanthophores, and iridescent iridophores. We know from previous work that interactions between pigment cells are crucial for stripe formation, but cues from the environment tell the pigment cells when and where to show up.
In this paper, we discuss the role of thyroid hormone in the development of different pigment cell lineages and metamorphosis using genetic mutants as well as a new tec…