Showing posts from 2016

Gideon Dunster: Sleepless in Seattle... what about Formosa?

Imagine for a second that you are standing in an old, two room school house. Cement floors, brick walls, and a basic tin roof surround you. The closest paved road is a 2-hour drive away. The closest hospital (not clinic) is too. The only electricity comes from the only extension cord that you have surreptitiously connected to the only electrical wire running to the structure. Outside is an endless expanse of dirt which is occasionally broken up by tough shrubs, sharp cacti, and extremely hearty trees. Make-shift houses and shacks dot the landscape, while feral animals root through a mixture of trash and underbrush in search of their next meal. Dogs, cats, sheep, goats, pigs, birds, cattle, horses, donkeys, ñandues; they are all equal in the eyes of the sun and all free to do as they please.

In many ways, time as we think of it is irrelevant out here. The sun rises when it pleases, sets as it wills, and in between life moves at whatever pace you choose. There is no rush hour, because …

Eliza Heery's A Diary from Down Under Part 1

Eliza Heery recounts her recent experience in Sydney, Australia through NSF’s EAPSI program in a two-part series…
A Diary from Down Under
June 7, 2016: Greetings from down under! I’m in Sydney for 3 months working with one of my all-time top science heroes, Dr. Emma Johnston, at University of New South Wales (UNSW). It’s all thanks to support from the National Science Foundation and the Australian Academy of Science, through a program they jointly fund called EAPSI – East Asia Pacific Summer Institute.
Of course, it’s not at all summer here in Australia. My approach into Sydney Airport was among the most exciting aviation experiences I can recall due to a 100-year winter storm that was pounding the coast of New South Wales. Upon deplaning, I discovered a usually fair-weather city deep in the throes of winter weather chaos. City buses were rerouted, sirens of emergency vehicles chirped persistently in the distance, and Hassan, my Uber driver, had to turn around on three different occasio…

Will King: The Fun of Being a Grad Student

“What is it like,” asked the robotic grad student in his robotic voice, “what is it like to have fun?” The grad student had stopped enjoying research on his quest to become a science machine.
That robot is not me—we lack the cyborg technology, and overall I’m enjoying my grad school experience—but just to be safe I reflected on the things I'm doing to get a PhD. I did a quick exercise to answer the question: How are the things I do as a grad student fun?
I categorized my graduate activities as Type I fun, Type II fun, or no fun at all. Have you heard of these categories? Type I fun we enjoy in the moment. Nerf gun fights, singing in the car, and indulgent napping are things I put in this category. Type II fun sucks at the time but is enjoyable in retrospect. For example, that time my brother and I dared each other to eat stupid amounts of wasabi.
To answer my question I came up with a list of 36 graduate student activities, categorized them, and tallied up the number of activit…

Woohoo! Spring and Summer '16 Defenses

Congratulations to the Biograds who successfully completed their degrees during spring and summer of 2016! Here we highlight a few graduates:

Emily Grason
Mollusca Non-Grata: The influence of top-down control and residence time on the abundance, distribution, and behavior of non-native marine snails in Washington State
Ruesink Lab | May 27, 2015
Up Next: Currently Program Coordinator for Washington Sea Grant Crab Team, responsible for managing 100 volunteers monitoring pocket estuaries at 26 sites in Washington's Salish Sea. Also, Conservation Science Fellow at JRS Biodiversity Foundation, translating grantee science to support project goals.

Jake Cooper
Evolutionary dynamics under various modes of reproduction
Kerr & Bergstrom Labs | June 20, 2016
Up Next: Dr. Cooper celebrated his defense with a dive trip to Belize (so many puffers!) before he starts his postdoc lectureship teaching Bio180 here at UW.

Elli Theobald
Local impacts of global change: shifti…

Q&A with Alex Brannick: What's it like to dig out a T. rex?

What’s the workday for a fossil researcher – a paleontologist? Recently, a group of paleontologists in UW Biology discovered and partially excavated a fossil of the famous meat-eating dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus rex. Here, Alex Brannick, Ph.D. candidate and scientist on the scene, shares what it was like to work on this project in the field:
What research were you doing at the Hell Creek Formation, where the T. rex fossil was found? My research surrounds studying the morphology and evolution of Cretaceous metatherian mammals (a group of mammals that includes modern marsupials). Fossils (mostly teeth) of the animals that I am interested in can be found in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana. I was also part of a surveying project in the beginning of the field season. So, not directly connected to the T. rex. However, Dr. Greg Wilson (my advisor) and his crew are part of larger project that includes many different areas of paleontology and geology, including collecting dinosaur specimens.

Grad Publication: Molly Roberts with a Fresh Look into Salinity Changes and Phytoplankton in the Salish Sea

Haiku: Fresh water brings plants lowers carbon dioxide in San Juan Islands
Global carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution from cars, airplanes, and coal plants influence the Salish Sea in multiple ways. As you may know, CO2 is causing global warming by acting as a greenhouse gas. CO2 also causes ocean acidification by dissolving in seawater. More acidic ocean conditions make it more difficult for some marine organisms to grow and make shells. Regionally, warming may also influence the timing and magnitude of river influence in the San Juan Archipelago. All of these changes may interact and have cascading effects on organisms in the region. 
Over the past few years a group of scientists at the University of Washington’s marine station, Friday Harbor Laboratories, on San Juan Island, found that the seawater flowing around the lab docks often had twice as much CO2 as the atmosphere.1 This means that the organisms living in this water are living in conditions similar to what is expected globally 100 y…

Grad Publication: Lauren Vandepas on Nautilus Phylogenetic Awesomeness and Fisheries Cautiousness

The nautilus shell is a familiar shape, reminiscent of the golden ratio or the decorative soaps in your grandmother’s kitschy beach-themed pastel bathroom. Nautiluses – cephalopod mollusks, relatives of squids and octopuses – are as enigmatic and striking as their famous outerwear.

Nautiluses’ unique natural history and ancient body plan set them apart from their cephalopod brethren. They are the only cephalopod lineage to keep its external shell and are thought to never stray far from the sea floor. They are limited on the shallow end by their low tolerance for the warm surface waters of the Indo-Pacific, where they exclusively reside, and on the deep end by a fatal-shell-implosion depth (which is as sad as it sounds) of about 800 m. In contrast to squid, they are lousy swimmers. The octopus has amazing eyesight – nautilus, not so much. Despite these potential evolutionary “shortcomings,” nautiluses have been around for a LONG time; modern nautilus appear to have changed very little…

Summer science sampler

Here's a taste of the research that our grad students are conducting this summer:

Katrina van Raay “This summer I'm studying really tiny things (viruses, toxins produced by bacteria) kill slightly bigger tiny things (bacteria), how the really tiny things can join up to form super tiny killers, and how the slightly bigger tiny things can evade the really tiny things through evolution.”
Will King “I’m playing plumber, electrician, and chef to an escargatoire of predatory snails. I want to find out if snails' appetites for barnacles change with warmer temperatures. (what a fun word)”
Meera Lee Sethi “This summer I am surveying insect herbivory in Mount Rainier's subalpine meadows; I spend my days staring at thousands of leaves and deciding how chewed up they are, collecting bugs, and occasionally being attacked by chipmunks.”
Gideon Dunster “In September I will be going to Argentina for several weeks to collect data from the Toba community, a group of indigenous Argentinians, h…

Grad Publication: Yasmeen Hussain and Making Spray-and-Pray Pay

Have you ever wondered how sea urchins reproduce? Do you envision their spiny selves crawling over to other spiny friends, courting by poking each other, mysterious appendages emerging from their cryptic bodies?

Unfortunately for your imagination, sea urchins don’t look for mates. Instead, they broadcast spawn, releasing their sperm and eggs directly into the ocean environment. Sea urchins are not alone in broadcast spawning: jellyfish, sea cucumbers, most corals, sea stars, anemones, sponges, oysters, and many other marine organisms reproduce with this “spray and pray” strategy. Sea urchin sperm are small (~25 µm long) and sea urchin eggs are slightly less small (~100 µm in diameter, about the width of a human hair). A tide pool with a volume of 1 cubic meter is gigantic in comparison to these sexy little cells – if the sperm cell was now the size of an average-height person, the length of the tidepool would be nearly the length of Rhode Island. So we might wonder: how in the world …

State of the SciPos & Awards!

We're wrapping up a great academic year here, with commencement at the end of this week (can't wait for wizards robes!) and it's a great time to celebrate the growth of the SciPos community and the accomplishments of this year.

In the past academic year, SciPos has grown to an average of 3,000 views per month, and has nearly topped 100,000 views since its launch in October, 2011! This growth is due entirely to the excellent content generated by our graduate students. And we had the opportunity to recognize those contributions this year at our departmental BBQ. Incidentally, this BBQ was our opportunity to say a final goodbye to the Botany greenhouse, which will be taken down to make space for the department's new building, including a new greenhouse.
So without further ado, announcing this year's winners of the SciPos Awards:
Most Popular Post Brandon Peecook1000 word challenge - Part 4

In which Brandon documents the legacy of successful #scicomm from our graduate …

Winter Defenses!

Congratulations to the Biograds who successfully completed their degrees during the winter quarter. We're sad to see them go, but thrilled for their accomplishments!

David DeMar
Late Cretaceous and Paleocene Lissamphibia and Squamata of Montana and the end-Cretaceous mass extinction
Wilson Lab | December 9, 2015
Up Next: Dr. Demar has already launched into a post-doc in the Wilson Lab which took him to India. At right he is pictured in the field in central India in the Deccan Traps volcanic province.

Elisha Harris
Paleoecological evidence reveals no change in local ecosystem structure through a ~2 million year-long global warming event during the Miocene
Strömberg Lab | March 3, 2016
Up Next: Dr. Harris celebrated her defense by heading to Baja to soak up the sun and local flora and fauna.

Hilary Hayford
Tidal migration patterns moderate thermal risk in the intertidal snail Nucella ostrina
Carrington Lab | March 11, 2016
Up Next: Dr. Hayford will be staying on in the Carrington Lab as a Po…

Grad Publication: Meg Whitney and Tiny Titanosaurs

You might have heard, Biograd Meg Whitney gave an incredible talk at GSS about baby giant dinosaurs, winning her the best talk of the day! Now, the paper has just been published, in Science, and you can read all about it. Below, Meg describes the research that went into this paper. Click here for the full article and here for more information from NSF about the research.

Long-necked dinosaur, sauropod, babies hatched out of eggs the size of a grapefruit and from there grew to their record-breaking body sizes. Although we have fossils of sauropod eggs, hatchlings are exceedingly rare. As you might imagine, a freshly-dead baby dinosaur would have been a tasty bite for a predator, making it difficult to capture them in the fossil record. As my undergraduate research project at Macalester College, I helped to describe a rare baby fossil and investigate the life of the smallest of the largest animals to have ever walked on earth.

Rapetosaurus krausei, lived about 67 million-year…