Showing posts from February, 2015

Jared Grummer: Studying hybrid zones between Argentinean lizard species with loads of DNA

I often wonder what non-scientists think of my research: who cares about lizards that they will never see? When I say I study hybrids, do they think I mean hybrid cars? And no, there are no medical applications for my research. Hybridization, or interbreeding between distinct species, of lizards in Argentina is a very foreign idea for most, in more ways than one.

I am a fourth year Ph.D. candidate and I have been interested in hybrid zones for a little while. Hybrid zones offer a unique view into the evolutionary processes that either generate or extinguish species. You see, “species” is a word that the non evolutionary biologist is certainly familiar with, but few know the incendiary debates that regularly occur on campuses worldwide that cover ideas of what defines a species. Just like species, the definition of a species is mutable and evolves over time, largely based on how data are collected. Before Darwin, species have been diagnosed based on morphological (physical/external) c…

Biology Graduate Student Retreat 2015

Another year, another grad retreat: hot tubbin', dance/costume party, epic burritos with homemade guacamole thanks to our social committee, hiking, breakfast at the bakery, a trip to the Reptile Zoo, science and grad life talk. We might have the best grads ever.
Unseasonably warm temperatures resulted in little snow this year, so everyone who was planning on going skiing or snowshoeing ended up hiking instead. More BioGrads on the trail ahead! See you next year!

Audrey Ragsac: From Seattle to Brazil

When I walk to work every day, I greet two security guards, walk over a moat, hold my ID card to a sensor that makes the door click open in a satisfyingly sci-fi way, and I walk into the relief of air conditioning from the 90°F plus heat. I’m in a city of 12 million people, it’s summer in January, and yes, I said a moat. Needless to say, the experience of walking into the plant systematics lab at the University of Sao Paulo (USP) is quite different from that at UW Biology.

In a way, it feels like I work in a medieval fortress filled with 21st century science. Step inside after crossing the moat, and you will find towering metal cabinets filled with dried plant collections, hear the whir of -80°C freezers, and see labs adorned with the latest in scientific equipment. The students here say we work “above the waves,” since our building literally sits on top of a small artificial lake. While it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for housing the herbarium and labs (moisture and humidity…