Well, everyone’s had a great year blogging away about the peer reviewed literature, yes? It’s time to reward those efforts! Announcing the first annual Research Blogging Awards! There are a multitude of categories, each with a $50 cash prize attached. And, here’s the kicker, the best research blog of the year will win $1,000! And with the upcoming iTablet, iPad, iSlate, iWillCallItWhatIWant tech-shininess from Apple just around the corner, it’s not a moment too soon!
Here at the Santa Barbara Farmer’s market, I’ve been delighted that we have local fish, ridgeback shrimp, mussels, and oysters. They’re amongst the tastiest seafood I’ve eaten (last week’s pumpkin shrimp risotto that I whipped up was one of the all time most amazing things I’ve ever cooked).
One thing I’ve always admired is that the lovely fresh seasonal sustainably farmed veggies one can get at the farmers market can also be purchased via a Community Supported Agriculture organization. CSA’s are awesome, in that a farm offers “shares” to the public. The subscribers pay up front for, say, a box of vegetables that they pick up weekly, hence giving them cash up front so that they can plan their season. This promotes good (and seasonal) eating on the part of consumers, good farming practices on the part of farmers (many CSAs are organic, etc, given the type of consumer that goes for these sorts of efforts), and fosters a nice sense of community between farmer and consumer.
Intriguingly, the model for veggies has caught on for meat, so that in many places you can now get a “meat share” from places like the Sonoma County Meat Buying Club.
So with all of this promotion for sustainable, quality, communal food buying from terrestrial sources, I’ve long wondered – why are there not CSA’s for the sea? Why not pool a bunch of consumers who get their weekly fish, so that they can subsidize the costs of fishing, provide support through good and bad years. Most importantly, this would tie people more closely to the fishing policies that happen right off their coast, giving them a reason to understand and financially address important marine policy issues, and promoting better stewardship of this precious resource. So rather than a CSA, what about a CSF (community supported fishery), if you will.
Well, it looks like it has happened! The Port Clyde Fresh Catch seafood cooperative has worked in collaboration with the Island Institute, the Nature Conservancy, and the Penobscot East Resource Center to set up a CSF provides weekly fish shares, in addition to settling at local farmer’s markets. The offer a variety of fish and shrimp CSF options. And being a modern organization, they even have a facebook page.
Fortunately, this doesn’t appear to be an isolated phenomenon. Around Boston, the Cape Ann Fresh Catch started up last summer (there was even an article in the Wall Street Journal). Intriguingly, they also take a very long careful and nuanced look at what it means to say that their actions are sustainable. And, of course, they have a facebook page.
Science is a giant family. Each Professor gives “birth” to a litter of PhD students over time, many of whom go on to have their own students, who have their own students, and so on and so forth ad infinitum.
While all of us know our academic parent (right?), at least some of our sciblings (depending on the age of the lab), and usually our academic grandparent, what about our great-grandparent? Or great-great-grandparent. Can my aacadmic lineage be traced back to Darwin? Or Linneaus? Indeed, something like 40% of mathematicians can indeed trace themselves back to Leibniz.
Not it’s time for Marine Ecologists to do the same.
Mary O’Connor has graciously setup a Marine Ecology Family Tree over at the wonderful academictree.org. The site endeavours to see how all academic geneologies end up connecting. Is your discipline not there? Contact the admins. But if you’re a marine ecologist, go there now, login, and fill in your info! Let’s see how many degrees we’re separated by!
(also, as more info is filled in, I’ll update my tree on the right)
This is tremendously cool. A nice intuitive web-based interface for the lme4 package in R (and you neither need to know R or understand the intricacies of the lme4 package) that gives you pdf output and plots. If you just want to play around and not worry about coding things up, it’s a great little option. Be sure to check out the demo video.
The LTER network, for those unfamiliar, is perhaps the oldest network of Long Term Ecological Research projects, well, anywhere. It consists of a collection of sites, each representing a different ecosystem type – from kelp forests to the arctic tundra to even urban ecosystems (oddly in my hometown). The data from these sites is largely out there and publicly available, and the network funds some really top-notch projects from established researchers and up-and-coming postdocs.
Whoops, how did that link get in there!
Because it is a network of sites sharing data and tools, there is a ton of cyberinfrastrcuture. Given the types of folk that has recruited into the project, I’m not surprised that the network is hip to blogs, twitter, and the like. And I’m pretty psyched that we’re having a working group on how to harness their power. Should be neat.
So, someone over at researchblogging.org was decidedly foolish, and asked me to be one of their new editors-at-large for Biology. That means, every Thursday, I’ll be posting the three biology (typically ecology and evolution) research paper reviews linked through researchblogging.org that I enjoyed the most. My first post is up, and hopefully there will be many more to come!
For those who aren’t following it, the SEAPLEX cruise blog is pretty amazing. SEAPLEX is a cruise being led by none other than Miriam Goldstein of The Oyster’s Garter to explore the Great North Pacific Trash Gyre.
The Seaplex Cruise Track. Not quite a three hour tour.
OK, so, a gyre of trash may not be that great, but, you know, it’s Great. As in Awesome. By which I mean Awe-inspiring kinda Great. Not great. You know. Sheesh.
The cruise is not only ambitious in its goals to map out the garbage patch itself (and to see, is it a big patch, a bunch of islands, or what), but it’s both blogging and tweeting away giving the public a fascinating snapshot into real oceanographic and ecological science in real time. And, they’re being pretty candid, as can be seen below.
Science in real time. The good, the bad, the silly.
So keep your RSS-feeds updated, check your twitter feeds, and let’s see just what Miriam and her hearty crew find out!
For the fashionable marine biologist: Some months back, I fell upon a website called Sir Critter selling t-shirts of organisms bedecked by a monocle, top-hats, and cane. I asked the designer if he would create a Sir Sea Squirt. He was delighted, and just posted the resulting shirt, Sir Sea Squirt.
For those of you out there who don’t think Sea Squirts are, indeed, the coolest thing on earth. *ahem* They also have Sir Urchin (I’m getting one with a purple S. purpuratus), Sir Squid, Sir Jellyfish, Sir Sea Slug, and more. The designer has also mentioned that he’ll be updating with a few new critters every month.
I’ve gotta, say, Roughgarden’s The Genial Gene is so far pretty awesome. It is fulfilling its promise of being meaty, laying out the real some real testable predictions for her theory of Social Selection, and also pointing out some of the logical, historical, and cultural fallacies of sexual selection. I’m going to be very curious to read some of the reviews that will come out by sexual selection advocates, but so far, I think she is presenting a fairly compelling argument.
I just finished reading a section on penis fencing in hermaphroditic flatworms. The example was used to demonstrate how we write the narrative that we want to see – virile strong rapacious flatworms, dueling it out! The loser slinks away in shame to bear the burden of being a female. The winner is victorious, not having to incubate their own genetic progeny, but instead have farmed it out. It’s inspired papers such as Sex and Violence in Hermaphrodites (which shows that insemination is usually dominated by one individual, but doesn’t show anything about multiple copulation attempts, or the cost of being inseminated) or Evolutionary Conflict: Sprem Wars, Phantom Inseminations (about sea slugs, but, again, no fitness benefits v. costs). It’s also inspired at least one great comic strip.
There are a few questions this raises. First, if such a system of mating is SO harmful, then wouldn’t it be selected against? I mean, if “losing” a mating bout is such a huge cost to an individual…which implies a cost to their fitness, then selection should ultimately find a way around that? It doesn’t sound like the most evolutionarily stable of strategies – hurt the one who will bring your genetic contribution into the next generation! Make sure they’re in the worst possible condition while they go off and incubate your genetic future! This is not to mention the fact that all of the energy you’ve been putting into the eggs you yourself have produced (remember, these little suckers are hermaphrodites) have now been wasted! Yippee!
This does not sound like a good thing, when one stops to think.
More likely, she points out, a lot of this is just cultural bias creeping into our observations. I mean, I’ll be honest, fast moving flatworms whipping their penises around? It sounds like some frat parties I’ve been to! Well, ok, not really – I was in a co-ed literary society, but that is neither here nor there!
The point is, you can see how easy it is to write a narrative to these behaviors that can override more dispassionate reasoning. An example may help, however.
Below are two movies of flatworm penis fencing. One, the original, is dark, gritty, with the full on sexual selection narrative as its underpinning. If you’d like, ignore the narration, and just pay attention to the underscoring of the actual mating.
Now, compare this to the same mating event, but this time underscored with “No Quiero Otro” by the Bajofondo Tango Club.
Interesting stuff. Makes you think a little bit more about the true meaning (and evolutionary costs and benefits) of Apophallation.