What’s the Biodiversity Within Your Closet?

Conservationists and other nature lovers frequently advocate to save or increase biodiversity, but what exactly is biodiversity? One conjures up images of rainforests, coral reefs or animal clipart arranged artistically. These hint at the concept of biodiversity, which on the surface, seems simple, but gets more complicated once you try to measure it (even for…

What We’re Reading- June 16, 2017

Ectotherms and Climate Change Ectotherms regulate their body temperature using external heat sources; for example, turtles bask in the sun or on hot rocks to warm up, then retreat to the shade when they become over heated.  Increasing temperatures due to climate change are expected to have physiological effects on animals and plants.  Heat shock…

What We’re Reading- May 26, 2017

Protect Krill to Protect Whales We previously wrote about the importance of krill (marine invertebrates) for supporting oceanic ecosystems.  This paper (sub) compared the movement of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangiliae) to tonnage of krill harvested around the West Antarctic peninsula.  The authors found a correlation between spatial areas where the whales spent the most time and…

What We’re Reading- May 19, 2017

Genetic Diversity of Snow Leopards Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are endemic to the Altai, Himalaya, and Tibetan uplifts and adapted to high-altitude environments.  They are currently listed as an endangered species by IUCN.  This new paper investigated genetic diversity of snow leopards across their range.  They found that the cats have low genetic diversity in…

What We’re Reading- April 28, 2017

Next-Generation Microsatellites What if conservation’s favorite marker (the microsatellite) could be sequenced and genotyped from next-generation data?  This paper (sub) is the latest showing that possibility and specifically introduces a genotyping and phasing tool: HipSTR.  Microsatellites have propelled much of conservation genetics and users are familiar with data analysis and interpretation of results.  As next-generation…

We Marched for Science- Now What?

Like many of you I joined a local March for Science this past Saturday (April 22, 2017).  Local for me is New York City, so I enjoyed a pretty large march (~20k) with fellow scientists, engineers, physicians and nurses, environmental advocates, science supporters, and their spouses and kids.  I enjoyed the pithy signs and marching…

What We’re Reading- April 7, 2017

Detecting Disease from Skin Swabs Chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) is a fungal disease causing amphibian die offs around the world (we wrote about it here).  Given its wide distribution both on hosts and geographically, there’s no surprise that there is genomic variation.  Scientists are interested in this variation to understand virulence, host specificity, and patterns of…

Is Model Emily Ratajkowski Hurting or Helping Sea Turtles?

*This post was updated on April 6th, 2017.  I get a daily alert from Vogue magazine (I know, shocking!). Today, I clicked on a link to check out model Emily Ratajkowski’s vacation photos from Mexico and was shocked to see her Instagram holding a baby sea turtle. This is bad for so many reasons. I am writing…

What We’re Reading- March 17, 2017

An Endangered Generalist?  Soon after germination orchids must be colonized by fungi whose hyphae both enter orchid cells and create an extensive mycorrhizal network in the soil, thereby transferring nutrients to the plant.  Orchids may be mycorrhizal generalists able to associate with many different fungal species, or specialists only able to associate with one or a…

CRISPR for Conservation

I’ve got this feeling that CRISPR is the next PCR.  Have you ever met someone who was an early adopter of PCR?  No, I mean an early adopter of PCR where the technique required three water baths, a swivel chair, a stop watch, and AN ACTUAL PERSON to move the reaction tubes between water baths every…

Marsupial misconceptions: weird mammals, placentas and pouches

I’ve now been living in Australia for almost 18 years, and I’m an unashamed convert to #TeamMarsupial. Marsupials are fascinating animals in both evolutionary and ecological terms, but at times I am surprised by how poorly-understood they are. I’ve been thinking of writing a post to address some recurring marsupial misconceptions for a while. When I saw…