Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Blood Sucking Moth

Okay, I'll take your Bird eating spider and raise you a Blood Sucking Moth. Just in time for Halloween. It's also on video, complete with classic scientific comment 'It's starting to hurt.'

Also notice how they make it sound like a normal scientific experiment to offer human blood to moths. What sort of experiment was this?!!?

Monday, October 27, 2008

PhD finishing talk


"Tau Regulates Kinesin-Based Transport By Modulation of Microtubule Structure"

Presented by Austin Peck

Hosted by Les Wilson and Stu Feinstein

2:00pm October 31st

MSRB (Marine Science Research Bldg) Auditorium

Reception on the 2nd Floor Deck Immediately Afterwards

Attire: Costumes preferred

Why do neurons generate multiple isoforms of the microtubule-associated protein tau in a developmentally-coordinated manner? How does disruption of tau isoform balance in neurons cause neurodegenerative disease in humans? In this study, we used a kinesin-driven microtubule gliding assay as a molecular reporter for tau induced changes in intrinsic microtubule surface topography. We find that assembly of microtubules by either 3R or 4R tau differentially regulates gliding velocity, independent of tau concentration. We suggest that these different velocities reflect distinct tau-induced topographies intrinsic to the MT surface. Additionally we find that kinesin dramatically stabilizes microtubule dynamic instability, while both tau isoforms increase microtubule rigidity. Together, these tau-mediated effects upon structure and function may be critical for proper neuronal development and maintenance, and when impaired, could lead to neurodegenerative disease.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Termites Helping the World?

On Friday, in Intro Bio, Dr. Feinstein talked about beta linkages and their roles in plants. Beta linkages give atoms in plants a ribbon structure that allows for thousands of hydrogen bonds to be made. These linkages also create strength in plants, but humans lack the enzymes that break these bonds down. A symbiotic bacteria, that exists only in termites, is able to break these beta linkages and convert wood into energy. The mention of termites made me remember a recent article in The Atlantic that discussed this bacteria and its potential role in biofuel production. Termites, or rather the bacteria in termites, are able to extract "sugars, CO2, hydrogen, and methane with 90 percent efficiency." Researchers are now trying to find ways to achieve this efficiency in biofuel production.

photo from wikipedia

PhD finishing seminar (and 200th post)

Ph.D. exit seminar:

“Plant-soil feedbacks and native plant re-establishment on Santa Cruz Island

Stephanie Yelenik

advisor: Jonathan Levine

Monday, October 27, 1PM, MSI auditorium

Friday, October 24, 2008

Change in the scheduled program

Monday's EEMB seminar has been rescheduled. The speaker will now be Brad Cardinale speaking about “Effects of biodiversity on the functioning of ecosystems … one summary of, and vision for a paradigm."
Monday October 27th at 4:00PM MSRB Auditorium

If you are interested in the ecological/environmental/theoretical side of things this would be a good seminar to attend. Brad is a faculty member in EEMB.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Eyewitness to global warming

Not really ideal for the seminar assignment for the colloquium (we'd prefer you to pick a research presentation) but I thought many of you may be interested in this (free) event. One of the things I most enjoyed about about being an undergraduate (and a graduate, and a postdoc, and a faculty member) was interesting events like this. One of the factors that influenced our decision to return to Santa Barbara was the outstanding program that UCSB Arts and Lectures puts on every quarter.

Monday, October 27, 2008 @ 7:30 PM, Campbell Hall

Will Steger: Eyewitness to Global Warming

The fourth person ever to reach both poles, Will Steger is known by many titles – educator, activist, photographer, and former Explorer-in-Residence for National Geographic. His monumental 1,200 mile expedition by sled and canoe between Russia and Ellesmere Island, Canada, earned Steger the prestigious John Oliver La Gorce Medal, awarded only 19 times since 1888, and placed him in the ranks of such pioneers as Amelia Earhart and Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Steger will present an visual account of the global warming induced changes that he’s witnessed firsthand in Arctic regions over four decades of polar exploration.

Co-presented with The Will Steger Foundation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Citation mapping

We didn't get to demonstrate this very well today but I think citation mapping is a tool that could be useful and is certainly an interesting way to visualize the way that an individual paper fits into the larger scheme of things. Check out the online demo that shows some of the key attributes quite nicely. The only problem is that it currently doesn't seem to work quite as rapidly as their demo version. Still, it is just the beta version. Web of Science/Knowledge is changing quite rapidly these days and you can always click on 'what's new' on the right hand side of the homepage to see what the latest updates are.

Spider eats Bird

A guy in Australia caught the event on camera. Here is the article, and pictures. I have just conducted a survey which concluded that this is indeed awesomesauce.

Monday, October 20, 2008

CCS wireless network

For the Biology Colloquium on Wednesday you will be using your laptops in CCS. This will require us to access the CCS wireless network. If you have not already utilized this then some instructions are below. Provided you have a UCSBnetID you should be able to access the wireless network but the instructions vary a little according to your operating system. The second link below takes you to a library website that explains the setup for different operating systems (both windows and mac). If you are 'computer challenged' you may want to turn up early to get your network configured correctly before we start.


The CCS wireless is part of the "UCSB Wireless Web" network. Faculty, staff and students with a UCSBnetID can use this network.

To gain access select the "UCSB Wireless Web" from the control panel that controls your wireless web access.

Although we are not on the same network at the library, for your computer set-up the following instructions apply:

Society of Undergraduate Biologists

FINALLY! An undergraduate organization for ALL biology majors! The Society of Undergraduate Biologists (SUB) will be the main social and informational network for bio students, helping you to make the most out of your biology degree. (Look for us on Facebook!)

INFORMATIONAL MEETING for 2008-2009 Come to our Open House! Hang out, snack, and learn about the benefits of being a SUB member! Learn about our other upcoming events!
Wednesday, Oct. 22nd in Life Sciences Building Rm. 4307, 4:30-6:30 PM
15 min Presentations at 4:30 and 5:30 PM

Sunday, October 19, 2008

PhD Comics

If a picture is worth a thousand words than a well crafted cartoon is probably worth, oh about five or six hundred. Here, from PhD comics, are some gems on the scientific paper and the publishing process. Enjoy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Farewell to Overhead

I can't believe you're dead

Is there a chance to get

You back again tonight

To shed your light

From Farewell to Overhead by Monochrom

For those of you who watched the last debate, or in fact the earlier debates, I would like to add one scientific clarification. This is an overhead projector. They used to be widely used to project images onto screens. Poorly used they have been the downfall of many a nervous presenter and, in darkened classrooms have probably put many a student to sleep. The advent of cheaper data projectors has resulted in a decline in the use of overhead projectors, although mathematicians still like them because of the ease with which you can write on them. You can get a used one on ebay for $20 or a new one for a couple of hundred. Check out this song that laments the decline of the OHP. Brilliant.

This, on the other hand, is a Carl Zeiss Universarium. Although I don't think there is a song about it, and you can't buy one on ebay I would hazard to suggest that it has introduced millions to the wonders of astronomy and is a feature of leading planetariums worldwide. It will set you back several million dollars which doesn't seem that bad for something that can entertain, educate AND looks like a robot from the future.

Oh and if you are wondering what I'm talking about, here's an article from Discover magazine referring to an earlier mention of this issue and a statement from the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

To be able to vote in the upcoming election you must be registered. In California, voter registration must be postmarked by October 20, 2008 - that's MONDAY. Here is a link to the California Secretary of State's information page.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New CCS Bio book shelf

Bruce has uncovered some old field guides and placed them on a new Biology bookshelf in Room 145. We will try to add to this collection through time. These books are to be USED! Please use them in the tradition of CCS, take them and use them but return them when you are done so other students can use them. If you have requests for guides to particular groups then let us know and we'll see what we can do. Although some of these books may be a little elderly some of these old guides are great. The names may have changed but the information and identification keys can be great.

Low tides and x-rated gastropods

There have been some nice low tides over the past couple of days and they will extend into the weekend. The best part, for us non-morning people, is that they are at a civilized time of day. It really is a joy to be down on the beach around sunset poking around in tidepools.

Friday has a low of -0.5 at 6.32pm, Saturdays has a low of -0.3 at 7.38 and Sunday's is getting a bit late at -0.1 at 8.56pm.

Anything below 0 is sufficient to reveal interesting tidepools and critters and with lows in the negative range the viewing is probably good for an hour or two before and after low tide. Your best bets are either right at Campus Point, or, better, Devereux Point (Coal Oil Point) and the area between there and IV. However the best spot, IMHO, are the reefs between Elwood Bluffs and Haskell's Beach (now better known as the beach by the Bacara resort). For a weekend outing you could cycle (or drive) west on Hollister until just before it crosses the railway and ends at the Freeway. Take the well signposted turn to Bacara resort. Go about half a mile down here to the public parking lot (free). You can leave your bike here and walk a hundred meters down to the beach. Turn left (East) and at a low tide you can walk for miles, largely in solitude. The tidepools start getting really good just past the two stubby piers you can see and keep getting better and better.

Let us know what you find, or better, post some pictures. There's a really nice tide pool website at Santa Barbara City College with a great many of the beautiful pictures taken right by UCSB campus so these are the plants and animals you will see. Check out the 'Treasures' page. These are some of the organisms you might catch sight of with such a low tide.

If any of you want to organize a group trip then just post a meeting time and place in the comments.

The picture above is the best find from our last tide pooling trip - the California Brown Sea Hare - Aplysia californica. Each sea hare is both male and female, but they cannot fertilize their own eggs. Dozens pile up for sea hare orgies. They mate in lines and circles: each is male to the one in front and female to the one behind, so each is both a mother and a father. That is one x-rated gastropod....

Cancer surveillance seminar

UCSB Department of Geography Colloquium

DATE: October 16, 2008
TIME: 3:30 – 4:45 p.m.
PLACE: Buchanan 1930

SPEAKERS: Pierre Goovaerts and Geoffrey Jacquez, BioMedware Inc

TITLE: New Geospatial Approaches to Cancer Control and Surveillance

Recent and ongoing research at BioMedware has focused on the
development and
application of new GIScience and geostatistical
methods in cancer control and
surveillance. This talk will first give
a brief overview of a geostatistical approach
tailored to the
analysis of both a real and individual-level health data. It will be

used to map the risk of late-stage breast cancer diagnosis in
Michigan, and to
analyze lung cancer mortality in the southeastern
United States in relation to
shipyard asbestos, industrial activities,
and other factors. A new meta-analytic
approach to cancer
clustering, called “Cluster Morphology Analysis” (CMA) will

be discussed that relaxes assumptions of cluster shape. CMA has
been shown
in simulation studies to reduce false positives while
maintaining statistical
power and its application to pancreatic
cancer mortality in Michigan will be

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Neuroscience seminar this week

Remember, I'm not posting details of all seminars here - check the links to the right for the regular EEMB, MCDB, CCBER and NCEAS events. I'll post seminars that might not be on this list PLUS those that I think would be good for a more general audience or anything else I think deserves a special shout out.

Neuroscience seminar on Tuesday, October 21st at 3:30pm

Professor Paul Martin, Director of the National Vision Research Institute of Australia, Victorian College of Optometry and University of Melbourne, will present a seminar this Tuesday afternoon at 3:30pm, in the Horvath Conference Room, Biological Sciences II, room 6141:

"Nerve pathways and nerve signals that serve color perception in primates".

Global handwashing day

The first-ever Global Handwashing Day will take place on Wednesday, October 15, 2008. The UN General Assembly has designated 2008 the International Year of Sanitation, and Global Handwashing Day will echo and reinforce its call for improved hygiene practices. Global Handwashing Day will be the centerpiece of a week of activities that will mobilize millions of people in more than 20 countries across five continents to wash their hands with soap.

If you are interested in raising money for charity or giving money to charity then it is interesting to consider where the best 'value for money' is. In terms of saving human lives charities that provide clean water and sanitation would have to rank very highly. For example, WaterAid, which has a nice website wherein I learned that today was Global Handwashing Day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Special Bren event

Advance notice for this one, it's a couple of weeks off.

Stephen H. Schneider, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences Stanford University
Monday, Oct. 27, 2008
5:30 - 6:45 p.m.
Broida Hall 1610

"Global Warming: Is the Science Settled Enough for Policy?"

Panel Discussion to Follow

Dr. Schneider is the Inaugural Visitor in the Zurich Financial Services Distinguished Visitors Program on Climate Change

Monday, October 13, 2008

Two book recommendations from Bruce

Steven Shapin
The University of Chicago Press

This is the book that I mentioned in the Colloquium as an excellent small summary of the origins of western (group) science. This is NOT about the origins of science - scientific thinking has been around since the first human decided to explore the Earth in a rational way. But notice he calls it the Scientific REVOLUTION - when science suddenly explodes. His basic thesis is as I explained, that the Christian ethos suggested (a) a rational creator, whose works (b) could be understood and thus be revered as a source of "natural religion" beyond the Bible, but only if humans (c) studied in groups to overcome human fallibility in understanding God's works. Thus this both sent humans to the natural world to study it (with the assurance of ultimate success) but made them do it as groups.

To appreciate how much "science" existed in the rest of the world (although sometimes the author confuses technology with science) consult

Lost Discoveries : The Ancient Roots of Modern Science--from the Babylonians to the Maya *
Dick Teresi
Simon & Schuster

The collection of knowledge that is presented here is vast and fascinating - but this knowledge never pulled together in an explosive way the way knowledge of the natural world did in western Europe. By example, the Chinese had fossils figured out millennia ago - but it took a world view focused on the linear history of the Bible to result in a linear interpretation of Earth history & thus the importance of fossils as both biostratigraphic markers, and one of the strongest lines of evidence for evolution in the sense of the unrolling of increasing biological complexity through time. To the Chinese, fossils were just past life. Nothing more.


* - Book recommendations link to, not because we endorse this company, or get any kind of kickback, but because the site contains a useful collection of both editorial and reader reviews.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

We live in a political world

With the economy cratering and numerous foreign policy issues to talk about the two candidates for president have not spent much time addressing science in their debates, or in their speeches for that matter.

A group called Science Debate 2008 called for a presidential debate on science that turned into a groundswell of support and over 3,400 questions were submitted that people wanted the candidates for President to answer about science and the future of America. This list was pruned down to 14 questions and both candidates (or more likely people from their staff) have answered them. You can view the answers side by side at the sciencedebate2008 website.

This week New Scientist magazine asked 11 prominent scientists and thinkers what the top of their wishlist would be for a new president (Eleven things the next president should do for science).

You might like to think how you would answer this before you look at the article. Or better still debate it with your friends. It's not hard to think of things but what is the priority? The answers are all short, from 50 to 100 words and vary quite widely.

Friday, October 10, 2008

So what?

'The greatest challenge of science, its art, lies in asking an important question and framing it in a way that allows it to be broken into manageable pieces, into experiments that can be conducted that ultimately lead to answers. To do this requires a certain kind of genius, one that probes vertically and sees horizontally.

Horizontal vision allows someone to assimilate and weave together seemingly unconnected bits of information. It allows an investigator to see what others do not see, and to make leaps of connectivity and creativity. Probing vertically, going deeper and deeper into something, creates new information. Sometimes what one finds will shine brilliantly enough to illuminate the whole world.

At least one question connects the vertical and the horizontal. That question is "So what?" Like a word on a scrabble board, this question can connect with and prompt movement in many directions. It can eliminate a piece of information as unimportant or, at least to the investigator asking the question, irrelevant. It can push an investigator to probe more deeply to understand a piece of information. It can also force an investigator to step back and see how to fit a finding into a broader context. To see questions in this these ways requires a wonder, a deep wonder focused by discipline, like a lens focusing the sun's rays on a spot of paper until it bursts into flames.'

From 'The Great Influenza' by John Barry.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

CCS Biology Mid Residency Review- Phase 1

Just a reminder that the CCS Biology Mid Residency Review process is underway. The faculty will be meeting with most of the second year students to assess progress, discuss research plans and generally get a collective sense of how we (faculty and students) are doing. If you are up for review, you should have received several email messages from me by now. We are trying to lock in the schedule for 18 students and 7 faculty, so please get back to me as soon as possible with your available times. Please do contact me if you have questions or concerns (

MCDB Seminar on Thursday

The MCDB Seminar on Thursday, October 9, 2009 (3:30 PM in Rathmann Auditorium - that's LSB 1001) will be presented by Dr. Bruce Goode, from Brandeis University. Dr. Goode earned his PhD here at UCSB with Dr. Stu Feinstein. He gives a terrific seminar, so try to make it if you can. With a seminar title of "Rise of the Actin Machines," how can you not attend?

Monday, October 6, 2008

The First Annual Bren PhD Student Research Symposium

The PhD Students at THE BREN SCHOOL OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND MANAGEMENT , with generous support from the Graduate Division, University of California , Santa Barbara Present THE FIRST ANNUAL BREN PhD STUDENT RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM Friday, Oct. 17, 2008 10:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Bren Hall 1414 Please note: Space is limited to the first 100 guests who register, and though space may be available at some of the talks, registration is required for the lunch and the reception. Those wishing to attend should check out the web page for a schedule and registration details. This is a great way to find out some of the things going on in the Bren School.

Amongst others

Monday @ 4pm in the MSRB Auditorium the EEMB Seminar will be given by Carolyn Kurle, a new postdoc in Brad Cardinale's lab here at UCSB.
"Investigating trophic impacts of invasive rats on islands".

Wednesday @11 am in MRL 2053 Deborah E. Leckband, PhD, Reid T. Milner Professor, Dept of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign
“Reading the Road Signs: Cell migration in Engineered Environments”

Friday, October 3, 2008

Introduce Yourself

Okay, I know what you're thinking (actually I don't, so don't worry), you're thinking that you would like to post here and to be involved but you don't know how to get started.

Well, inspired by a certain well known TV interview, why don't you tell us about your reading? Answer any or all of the following three questions in whatever detail you'd like (just don't say 'all of them'!).

What is one print media source you use to read about science and biology?

What is one electronic media source you use to read about science and biology?

What is one media source you mainly read for fun that you occasionally learn useful things about science and biology from?

I'll even take all the pressure off by going first:
What is one print media source you use to read about science and biology?
I'm a big fan of New Scientist magazine. They do have a pretty good website (although much of it is only accessible to subscribers) but the magazine itself is only about a buck an issue if you subscribe and makes for a pretty easy way to keep up with advances in all of science not just biology.
What is one electronic media source you use to read about science and biology?
ScienceDaily is a very useful source. It has its flaws but it's a great resource to find up to date research in areas that are a little outside your main interest.
What is one media source you mainly read for fun that you occasionally learn useful things about science and biology from?
I don't have time to constantly surf the web looking for the latest cool thing, amusing article or silly video so I rely on BoingBoing (a directory of wonderful things) to find them for me. Although I often go there for entertainment its surprising how often I come away with something more interesting. I'm currently mulling over the conservation implications of the mackerel economy in US prisons and the bizarre walking strategies of artificially evolved organisms.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Seminar tomorrow

MCDB Seminar tomorrow, Thursday, October 2nd
3:30 PM, Rathmann Auditorium (aka 1001 LSB)

“Redundancy in Notch signaling: quality or quantity?”

Raphael Kopan
Professor of Developmental Biology
Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis
Meet the Speaker Reception, Rathmann Auditorium
Immediately Following Seminar

I'm not going to post all the seminars but will try to start off posting quite a few at the start of the quarter and then selected ones thereafter.

Stapelia gigantea

Short notice but if you read this today you can use it as an excuse to go check out the glasshouses (between Noble Hall and Webb Hall)
The Stapelia gigantea is on display at the Greenhouse in front of Bay 4 from now until 3 pm. The Stapelia is from Africa.  More info can be found at
This is not the pointy smelly plant some of you thought it would be. It has a very nice star shaped flower and is unusual in its own right. It does attract flies.
Joan Calder