Astrophysicists = Parasitized Killifish

I can only assume that the authors of the every silly Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal have taken invertebrate zoology and were fascinated by the bizarre life history cycles of trematodes and/or spent some time hanging around with Armand Kuris and Kevin Lafferty at UC Santa Barbara. Why? Because of today’s brilliant comic (see below).

Update: apparently the author’s wife is IN the Kuris lab. Ha!

A Grand Experiment: Can Crowdfunding Work for Science?

There have been a steady stream of articles over the years stating that now is the time for Science to embrace Crowdfunding. It is the wave of the future, they state. It will link people to science directly. Abandon the shackles of the NSF and NIH, ye meek and mild mannered scientists. The internet is your salvation.

And along with this hoopla comes a small handfull of science crowdfunding sites, but few success stories. There has been no large-scale well-advertised attempt at seeing whether crowdfunding really is a viable model for science.

Well, it’s time we change that.

Announcing the SciFund Challenge!

My co-conspirator, Jai Ranganathan of Curiouser and Curiouser, and I have decided to spearhead a large effort to recruit scientists to try and crowd-fund a piece of their science. We want to see, just how is crowdfunding for science different from normal funding? Can we harness the power of our social networks, the online science blogosphere, and maybe the larger public to fund science?

Crowdfunding hedgehog wants crowds to fund him.

Honestly, we have no idea. But it’s worth trying, and, hopefully, we can do some interesting post-mortem analyses once the project wraps up. So go check out our project blog including a call to arms, how this will work, and our sign-up form.

Cufflinks for the Well Dressed Marine Scientist

So, I’m-a-gettin’ hitched in, what, just less that 6 weeks to a singularly lovely lady. As I determine the proper haute couture for the nuptials, I’ve begun to have fun with one piece in particular. Cuffilnks.

I mean, if you’re going to go Tux (and I do so love a good tuxedo), cufflinks are a must. But what kind of cufflinks should a gentleman marine biologist wear? Why, sea-creature themed, of course. I began my search looking for ascidian themed cufflinks and studs. Sadly, no jeweler, even on etsy, has yet decided to imortalize the beauty of a Ciona intestinalis or the distinctive star-shaped patter of Botryllus schlosseri for one to wear on their French cuffs. So I began to search further afield. I’ll give away the ending right here, I’m going with these urchin cufflinks by Ashley Childs actually cast from urchin tests, but, I thought you all might be interested to see some of the lovely, beautiful pieces I found along the way.

Nothing says style and elegance like a piece of urchin test adorning your wrist.

Phylum Echinodermata, Class Echinoidea
While the ones I’m going with are cast from tests, it is not for lack of trying to find cufflinks made from actual tests. I’ve long coveted these made from small urchin tests found washed ashore. Sadly, they are only available in pink, green, and brown, and won’t match anything else color-wise at the wedding. (What, I used to be in theater, so design is very important.)

So, cast or inspired it is. I really liked these urchin-styled cufflinks by David Yurman, but, sadly, silver, which clashes with the purple & gold thing we’re going for. Also, these slightly more abstract urchin ‘links were awesome, but, likewise, silver. (See also this great ring by the same artist).

So, gold (or, rather, plated). I thought these were elegant and lovely, but Tiffany and waaay too pricey for me. Similarly, these were great, and had a maching studset, but, a little plain. So, if I was going to go urchin, I was going to go with the cast piece.

Phylum Echinodermata, Various Classes

That said, I was not quite ready to give up on echinoderms. On a bit of whimsy I tried searching for some Sea Cucumber ones. No dice. Sand dollars turned up a few interesting natural or cast ones. I’ve never studied sand dollars, though, so…I continued looking. What about Pycnopodia? No dice for the multi-armed beast. However, I did turn up some cool Pisaster-like ones as well as a few more abstract. There were even a few made from beach drift (I hope) (and that person’s store is full of similar neat stuff), but nothing really caught me like the urchin test cufflinks.

Phylum Mollusca, Class Gastropoda
What about getting out of Echinoderms all together, and going with mollusks? Surely, there must be many gastropod-inspired cufflinks out there. And there are! Many are just ho-hum plain seashells, though. Some, though, are exquisite, such as these conch shells, which really could do for any whelk biologist. Or these silver lovelies by Danielle Meshorer which reminded me of nothing so much as our Californian Lithopoma. There were also some great ones made from actual shells.

I'd say these were second place. They're pretty fabulous. And pointy, so, useful to stab unruly wedding guests.

Phylum Mollusca, Class Cephalopoda
Now, like a good nerdy marine ecologist with slightly steampunkish leanings, the question begs: why not cephalopods. Indeed, I just finished reading Kraken, and do annually celebrate Cephalopodmas. A search for squid cufflinks can turn up a lot, but many of them are cameos or kinda kitchy. Instead, what really impressed me in cephalopods was Octopus cufflinks. This particular version with a hole in the head popped up all over the place, and is really rather stylish. Or you can find this set with a matching tie pin. Or even get into something a little more abstract. I liked them, but, eh. As I’ve never studied cephalopods, I felt like I should be true to my roots.

What gothy Cthonic octopodes these are!

Phylum Arthropoda, Class Malacostraca
I have, however, spend a lot of time with crabs and lobsters. Crabs also made a lot of sense as I am a boy Baltimore bred. The crab cufflinks out there are all very classy, if I do say so. I think my favorites just featured claws. Some where very cool and artsy. Other’s more steampunky. But nothing that really grabbed me. Similarly while there were some wonderful silver and gold lobsters out there (and some quite pricey!), nothing really said, yes, I am what you want on your wrist when you say “I do.”

I like to pinch.

So, really, it came down to urchins. I mean, nothing says commitment like the commitment of a ravening spiky beast gnawing through an entire kelp forest. That takes desire, work, perseverance, and a lot of love…of kelp. An apt metaphor, no? Well, at least my future wife will get a chuckle out of that one. I hope. And given the elegance, whimsy, and biological accuracy of the urchin test cufflinks, I think it’s where I’m going to go. But for the rest o’ ye, enjoy what I’ve listed here, and if you’ve found anything that you feel is truly amazing, please, post it! Also, I’m still looking for studs…

Why Michaelis-Menten Rules in a (simple) Lotka-Volterra World

WARNING: This blog entry contains me awkwardly groping with math. It’s not pretty. It’s not done elegantly – indeed, for problems of even moderate complexity I fired up maxima (which is totally awesome!) rather than screw up the algebra on paper. And there are a few leaps that I make that I’m sure someone could write a proof for, but, well… While I fall somewhere in the middle of the theoretical – experimental axis of scientists, that doesn’t mean it’s something I do every day, so, expect some turbulence. I welcome comments and suggestions.

And, indeed, despite my lit searching, I’m not entirely convinced that someone hasn’t done this before, so, I may be re-inventing a very old wheel. But I thought it might be interesting to post these thoughts, if only for my own processing of recent research results.

I also admit, showing some (clumsy) mathematical thoughts publically makes me feel, well, like I’m not wearing any pants. Oh well. Onwards! With or without pants!

So, I was intrigued by Kyle’s comment on my entry about the AJB diversity function paper. He said that surely theory must lead us to conclude that, due to only a limited number of species being able to pack into a space, a plot may never achieve some theoretical maximum amount of productivity as predicted by some curve.

This led me to think more about diversity effects, and why are they saturating, anyway? Should they be? It’s not Kyle’s original question, but, it’s an interesting one and leads down similar theoretical pathways (I think).

So I decided to go back to basic competition theory – the Lotka-Volterra competition equations. Continue reading

Ecological Nerd Musique

I woke up this morning to a wonderful email in my inbox (thanks, Fergus!) letting me know about a little musical delight. A song about diurnal zooplankton migration entitled, well, Diurnal Migration. With lyrics like Much of the ocean is not yet explored/ Though submarines pootle about the sea floor, how can you go wrong? (Also, I now have an image of Dr. M. pootling about the seafloor).

So, I went on and decided to listen to the rest of the album, Pre-Apocalyptic Love Song, by Hannah Werdmuller, an ecologist-singer-songwriter. With songs about Grow-Bags, being prepared for the apocalypse (I showed you my heart, you showed me your homemade snare trap ), how could you go wrong? So go check it out!

And then things got even more awesome.

I noticed she had a musical twitter feed where she linked to a new collection of songs, Geek Like Me from the virtual music festival Geek Pop. Basically, it had me at its first song, animals, with the phrase Let’s make love like salmon living in fresh water/ You leave it in the bath I’ll come and pick it up later and the fact that it had a song entitled Brokeback Workbench.

Definitely the second triumph of the morning. And the website has more free tracks scattered about.

Yay! Just what I needed to make my morning of recoding some ill behaving R packages worth it!

Promoting Ecology on the Web!

For the past three years, the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America has hosted a wonderful entitled “Ecology on the Web”. Under the curation of Jeff Hollister, EoW started out and grew to provide a number of links to fantastic ecological projects on the web.

If you’re reading this, you know that using the internet as a medium to facilitate communication between scientists is a passion of mine. So I was delighted when Jeff asked me to take over the feature.

So for the next issue of the Bulletin, I’m hoping to take Ecology on the Web and run with it a little bit, In addition to featuring the web presence and products of great ecological projects, I’d also like to feature notable places where Ecologists are using the medium of the web to communicate, converse, argue, and generally share their science. To that end, I’d like to also feature two blogs, and two exemplary blog posts or other form of online writing per issue.

So, please, feel free to submit now or for future issues. Simple provide me with a link and a brief (150 words or less) annotation about the link.

If you have found something on the web that is particularly compelling, interesting, or worthy of mention, I’d love to hear about that, too!

Lastly, if any of you have any great suggestions for interesting things that could be done with the feature, please leave them in the comments below. I’d love some feedback!

A Brief Residency at Deep Sea News

Hey, all! For the rest of the month, I’m the Scientist in Residence over at The Deep Sea News! Muchas gracias to Rick, Miriam, Kevin, and the rest of the crew for bringing me on board. My first post is up where I discuss some of my work on How are extinctions and invasions shaping food webs?

Also, contrary to what Rick may have you believe, I’m at NCEAS, not NESCent. hehe.

More posts to come!

Diversity-Function Brought to Life

Last October, Colin Bates and Jeff Morales conducted a workshop on Scientific Filmmaking at my old stomping grounds, the Bodega Marine Lab. The two run an awesome organization whose sole mission is to train people in ways to tell compelling science stories via video. As someone who has worked on a scientific documentary before, film is an incredible medium to have science make a direct connection with the public. So hats off to them.

But even cooler, one of my former labmates was the topic of one of the videos from the workshop! So check out this awesome video about Kris Aquilino below. She gives a great introduction in to the wild world of science that asks whether the diversity of life on earth matters for how the world functions.

Researcher Profile: Kristin Aquilino from Neil Losin on Vimeo.