#SciFund Preview….

Whew, it’s been a bit since I posted here. Rest assured, little sea squirts, there are some interesting new things in the works. Some things that are science-y (in which I try and use this blog as a sounding board/ lab notebook) and some things not so much.

In the not so much category, a ton of my time has lately been going to the organizing of the #SciFund challenge – a large initiative to try and crowdfunding for science! If you haven’t been following it, check out our initial manifesto here.

I’m pretty stoked about the whole thing – it’s a real way of connecting science to the public via a funding mechanism. And with us launching on November 1st, it’s been an absolute pleasure to watch the creative and innovative videos that participating scientists have been putting together to solicit funds.

Videos, you say? Am I doing one?

Why yes! So to give you a hint of what’s to come, here’s a brief preview of my #SciFund video. I think you’ll all agree, it’s vintage me, attempting to sell one of the more arcane (to the public) pieces of my research in a way that might just connect. We shall see.

More to come in a week…

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…

Low Down Poor Abused Data Blues

I’m having one of those days. One of those “I have a meeting that will finalize the analyses for a paper, let’s just check that ONE thing that didn’t matter in early versions of this model, so, it shouldn’t matter now, and OMGWTFBBQ everything changed!” kinds of days. Well, OK, not everything – just the new piece of the story that intrigued me the most because it was so delightfully intuitive. It’s made me feel a little blue. Well, a lot blue. So, fingers flying across the keyboard to fit new models, I flipped on some Muddy Waters. At the same time Miriam G suggested the Low Down Poor Abused Data Blues. While I’m no Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, or BB King, clearly, this must be done. I’ve got a first verse. I’m welcome to contributions:

This is me. Right now. Except replace the guitar with a laptop furiously churning through R code.

Low Down Poor Abused Data Blues

Oh my data’s got autocorrelation,
eats up my treatment effect.

Oh my data’s got autocorrelation,
eats up my treatment effect.

But the decrease in sample size, it makes my analysis such a wreck.

Who’s your (academic) (great-grand) Daddy?!

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)

Mapping the Sasquatch

ResearchBlogging.orgI love modeling! I love modeling! Modeling will solve everything!

Let’s model the spatial distribution of Bigfoot!


Figure 1 from the paper. Foots denote sighting of Sasquatch footprints. Circles for just visual/auditory sightings. I ask, how does one know what Bigfoot sounds like?

Yes, it sounds silly, but in the current issue of the Journal of Biogegraphy, Lozier et al give us their stunning contribution Predicting the distribution of Sasquatch in western North America: anything goes with ecological niche modelling. Finally, all will be revealed. And for those wondering:

Sasquatch belongs to a large primate lineage descended from the extinct Asian species Gigantopithicus blacki, but see Milinkovich et al. (2004) and Coltman & Davis (2005) for phylogenetic analyses indicating possible membership in the ungulate clade.

They do this to prove a point – that Ecological Niche Models for determining species ranges are amazing – invaluable conservation tools, really. But if the taxonomy on the data that goes into them are shoddy (like, say, calling a Black Bear a Sasquatch), the results will be, well, interesting.

They use data on sightings (see Fig. 1 above) from… the Bigfoot Field Research Organization
and then used the latest and greatest in Ecological Niche Modeling to determine, given environmental parameters, just where does Bigfoot live? And, under current climate change scenarios, where might we find Sasquatch in the future?

So cryptozoologists take note! Here is a veritable treasure trove of information as to where to place your next tripwire camera!

Where will bigfoot be in the future after climate change? Panel A shows current Sasquatch Distribution. Panel B shows its projected distribution under climate change.

In fairness, the authors use this dubious analysis to point out that, when we have a record of species occurrences that seem tidy and orderly, we often don’t question their taxonomic validity. The output of these models, vital to some conservation efforts, will only be as good as their input. Indeed, in this case, the authors find striking overlap with the (far less frequently observed) Black Bear (yes, people report sightings of Sasquatch more than that of Black Bears). It’s a real problem, and the assessment of data uncertainty is a real pressing issue for any method that attempts to draw inference from sparse data.

But, really, in the end, this is an Ig-Nobel award winner in the making. Bravo.

Lozier, J., Aniello, P., & Hickerson, M. (2009). Predicting the distribution of Sasquatch in western North America: anything goes with ecological niche modelling Journal of Biogeography DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2009.02152.x