A plethora of posts (and a steminist profile)

Study: Pollutants may delay human pregnancies
A new study by Germaine Buck Louis and colleagues at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences took a novel approach to exploring how environmental pollutants may impact the time it takes for couples to conceive. Continue reading….

Study: Facial expressions of intense joy and anguish are indistinguishable
Studies looking at how people perceive emotions often rely on stimuli that look like floating faces. What has largely been missing in these studies is the role of the body in emotional processing. A fascinating new study published in Science used a clever experimental paradigm to tease apart how we use visual input from bodies more than faces to determine whether someone is having a very good or very bad day. Continue reading…

Project ARISE brings scientists and mobile labs into biology classrooms
Project ARISE (Advancing Rhode Island Science Education) connects high school biology teachers with Brown University scientists to enrich science education for Rhode Island high school students. Continue reading….

Play a game and help scientists map the connectome with EyeWire
Some people do jigsaw puzzles during their holiday breaks. This year you can help solve a different kind of puzzle by mapping a single neuron’s path through a mouse’s retina—right from the comfort of your couch. Continue reading…

Scratching at the neuroscience of itch
It may seem obvious that there must be at least one type of neuron that responds to things that make us itchy like a wool sweater or an allergic reaction to a new lotion. Until recently, however, scientists were unsure whether there were neurons that specifically process itchy stimuli or whether these neurons also process a related but very different sensation: pain. Continue reading…

My STEMINIST profile
The STEMINIST blog recently posted a profile about me.  To read more about how I got interested in science and my advice to other women in science, see the profile here.


SciStarter and revolutionary vaccine technology: new AAAS posts

SciStarter helps citizen scientists discover new projects: SciStarter is an incredible database of science projects that anyone can participate in.  Read more about the website and some of the projects it includes here.

Salmonella typhimurium Photo: Volker Brinkmann, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, Germany

Engineering self-destructing Salmonella to make better vaccines: Researchers at Arizona State University are doing an amazing thing. Wei Kong and others in Roy Curtiss’s lab are engineering Salmonella to turn it into a delivery system for DNA vaccines. They recently published their advances in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Hypothetically such vaccines could be used against not just viruses but also fungal or parasitic infections and could also be a key defense against bioterrorism. Read more here.

Retractions, Exploring the Zooniverse, Spiders in Guam, and Crowdfunding

I have four recent posts up at the AAAS MemberCentral website:

Should a scientific journal article be retracted if its conclusions are wrong? 
When should a paper be retracted? Certainly if the results were fabricated but what if the results are wrong for other reasons? And what if the results are right but the conclusions are wrong?

Identify new galaxies, explore the deep oceans, and categorize bat calls with Zooniverse: Zooniverse lets citizen scientists analyze large datasets 
These projects are so awesome that sometimes I wish I were retired so I could be a citizen scientist (instead of a real one). In the time since I wrote this post, four new suns were discovered by ‘armchair astronomers’ working on one of the Zooniverse projects and Zooniverse launched a new project where people can classify cancer cells. You don’t need any scientific background to work on these projects, and you might discover something new and really fascinating.  Hat tip to Kyle Willett, a college friend of mine who is a postdoc working on the GalaxyZoo project, for introducing me to Zooniverse at his wedding.

In Guam, more snakes means fewer birds — and many spiders
This post looks at how an invasive species created a “natural experiment” for ecologists studying ecosystems in Guam.

Scientists experiment with a new way to fund their research
Ethan Perlstein really, really, really  wants you to help fund his meth lab.

Lizards, a shark, and a cartoon

Interesting things from around the web that I’d like to share with you this Sunday evening.

High school students publish original research about lizard nests


Florida Brown Anole (image credit: Alberta P)

This post by Adam Reedy on the SciAm Guest Blog talks about high school students who completed an original research project in class (it took them four months) and published the results in the journal, Behavioral Ecology. The students found that female brown anoles increase the survival rate of their offspring by choosing good nesting sites (particularly in regards to moisture). Mr. Reedy was able to get his students involved in such research with support by an NSF grant and through a collaboration with an evolutionary ecology lab. Not only were his students excited to be doing the project, but they also scored at or above peers in other classrooms in the school on tests.

My favorite quote from the piece: “My students took a very specific question with an unknown answer and made a small, but real contribution to what is known about life on our planet.”

Local news: Dead 13-food shark discovered near Little Compton, RI (aka a beach where I like to swim!)


Photo credit: Courtney Sacco (AP)

A fisherman discovered the shark‘s corpse near Westport, Massachusetts near the border with Rhode Island and half a mile from public swimming beaches in Little Compton. Great white shark sightings aren’t that rare further east in Cape Cod. In fact, a great white bit a man swimming in the Cape in July. But sightings in this area of Massachusetts are unusual. A necropsy was performed, and there were no signs of trauma and no other immediately identified cause of death. Officials are planning on leaving the body on the shore as it is difficult to move (and they probably learned blowing up big marine animals doesn’t work so well from the case of the exploding Oregon whale).

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal : Someday you will die; now is your chance to learn something new!


I love this cartoon by SMBC. SMBC is a very funny web comic that often references science/scientists (check out the archives if you haven’t before). This piece was quite touching (I won’t spoil the whole thing here), and I think there’s a shout out to citizen science in one of the panels. Anyone can learn about and practice science if they’re interested–especially in the internet age. In fact, here are 27 places you can learn about science for free online!