Thursday, December 30, 2010

It all starts/ends here

Posting the same thing twice is a repeat. Posting it three times is a tradition.

At various points this quarter we'll be talking about the origin of life, the early history of the earth and the importance of asteroid impacts.

For everyone who has ever wondered what it would be like when a 500km diameter asteroid crashes into the earth. If you go to YouTube to watch it you can click a little link to watch it in high def. (highly recommended). You might also want to wait until you can crank up the speakers. The perfect soundtrack to the end of the world. Or the beginning...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Evolutionary Ecology Internship Opportunities in the Mazer Lab

The Mazer lab tests predictions and develops hypotheses concerning the process and outcome of evolution by natural selection in wild plant species. In our current work, we’re examining the causes and consequences of the evolution of plant mating behaviors (yes, plants behave!). The "mating system" of wild plant and animal populations refers to the ways in which sperm and egg unite within and between individuals. In plants, outcrossing occurs when pollen is transferred (often by insects or by wind) from one plant's flowers to another's. In contrast, self-fertilization (selfing) is an extreme form of inbreeding that occurs when a single plant pollinates itself; the united egg and sperm originate from the same individual! Just as in humans and other animals, inbreeding in plants can have harmful effects on their offspring. Nevertheless, the evolution of selfing (from outcrossing ancestors) is quite common in plants. Indeed fully 20-25% of living plant species regularly engage in selfing. Detecting the “costs” and “benefits” of self-fertilization — especially in a stressful and changing climate, where pollinators may become a highly limiting resource — and predict the ecological conditions under which selfing evolves are the central goals of our research.

We would like to recruit undergraduates into the Mazer lab to help with a supervised research project on mating system evolution in several species of the California native wildflower, Clarkia. Undergraduate researchers will work with Professor Mazer, graduate students, postdocs, other undergraduates in the lab to learn a variety of lab, greenhouse, and computing techniques that we’ve developed to study:
1) The physiological performance of selfers vs. outcrossers under stressful conditions
2) Genetically based associations between mating system, physiology, and fitness
3) The ways in which natural selection operates under field conditions

Time Commitment: 8-10 hours per week, including a weekly meeting. Students who work for at least two full quarters will be eligible for paid positions in future quarters (pending available funding).
Current Lab Members:
• Dr. Susan Mazer, Principal Investigator (
• Dr. Leah Dudley, Post-doc (
• Alisa Hove: PhD Student (
• Brian Haggerty: PhD Student (
Please contact Leah Dudley ( if you are interested in joining our research group. Also describe why you are interested in this project and what preparation you’ve had that might help you to be an excellent co-worker (Examples: course work in ecology or evolution, organizational skills, statistical experience, data entry, lab work, chemistry, camping, wilderness experience, or field work). We will meet
Tuesday, January 4, 2010, the first week of the new quarter in LSB 4301 2-3pm to introduce ourselves and chat about schedules and possible projects. However, please contact me beforehand if you are interested in the lab and especially if you cannot make it to this meeting time.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Learn about Sanford-Burnham's Core facilities: THURSDAY, Dec 2, 3:30-4:30pm, Rathmann Auditorium (ie 1001LSB)

This week's MCDB seminar is a departure from our normal form and represents a unique opportunity to learn more about the Core facilities and research resources of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.  The purpose is to provide faculty, staff, and students with information on what these facilities are and how they can access them in supporting research projects here at UCSB.  The speaker is Dr. Craig Hauser, the VP for Scientific Resources at SBMRI.  

Dr. Hauser is of the UC system, having done his undergraduate studies at UC Davis, Ph.D. at UC Irvine, and postdoctoral studies at UC Berkeley.  He was then recruited to the Sanford-Burnham faculty in La Jolla in 1989.   His research has centered on the interplay between the regulation of gene expression and oncogenic transformation, focusing on the Ets family of transcription factors.  In 2005, he became an adjunct faculty member and assumed a full-time administrative position, currently serving as Vice President for Scientific Resources.   His responsibilities include overseeing the operations of the Institute’s Shared Resources (cores), scientific equipment, and scientific regulatory compliance.

Dr. Hauser will present some background on the other two Sanford-Burnham sites (La Jolla, California and Orlando, Florida) and describe the somewhat unique philosophy and operations of the Institute’s many core facilities at these sites.   In addition to presenting the capabilities of these cores, he will describe how Sanford-Burnham’s partners, such as UCSB, can access the core services.  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Summer research opportunities

Caltech is excited to announce two summer research opportunities available to continuing undergraduate students. Questions about these programs can be directed to Carol Casey at or (626) 395-2887.


The MURF program aims to increase the participation of underrepresented students (such as African American, Hispanic, and Native American, females who are underrepresented in their discipline, and first-generation college students) in science and engineering Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. programs and to make
Caltech's programs more visible to students not traditionally exposed to Caltech.

Eligibility: Students must be current sophomores through non-graduating seniors and must be U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required.

Support: MURF students will receive a $6000 award for the ten-week program.
Additional housing and travel support may be provided.

Application: Online applications are due January 12, 2011.

For more information, please visit


Caltech's Amgen Scholars Program is geared towards students in biology, chemistry, and biotechnology fields. Some of these fields include biology, biochemistry, bioengineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering, and chemistry.

Eligibility: Students must be current sophomores through non-graduating seniors, must be attending a four-year university, and must be U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents. A minimum GPA of 3.2 is required.

Support: Amgen Scholars will receive a $5500 award, round-trip air transportation, a generous housing allowance, and a food allowance.

Application: Online applications are due February 15, 2011.

For more information, please visit

Carol Casey
Associate Director
Student-Faculty Programs
California Institute of Technology
Mail Code 330-87
Pasadena, CA 91125
(626) 395-2887

Monday, November 22, 2010

I don’t know what to believe…

Thanksgiving and Christmas are times where we traditionally meet with family, eat too much and have awkward conversations with relatives we barely know and realize we have very little in common with.

If they find out you are a biologist chances are you'll get asked about topics ranging from global warming to this week's cancer scare. Here's a handy dandy resource for putting people straight about why they shouldn't necessarily believe it when they hear that cell phone towers are killing plants, will cure/cause cancer, or how scientists are all faking global warming. 

Have a safe Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday's EEMB seminar

Today's EEMB seminar speaker is Mike Ryan from the University of Texas.

Mike integrates behavioral ecology, physiology and biogeography within a phylogenetic approach to study mate signaling and sexual selection in túngara frogs and swordtail fishes.  Please join us at 4pm in the MSRB auditorium for his talk, "Sexual Selection and Communication in Tungara Frogs: Brian, Behavior & Evolution".  Refreshments will be served prior to the talk.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Friday seminar

This talk should be more accessible to undergraduates than most modelling talks. The photograph above is from one of Cherie's field sites and was taken by Joel Sartore, a National Geographic photographer. It recently won a prize in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards.

Nov 12 @ 1:00pm, 1132 HFH - Harold Frank Hall also known as Engineering I
Professor Cherie Briggs,
"Models of host-pathogen dynamics"
A recently discovered chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is having devastating effects on amphibian populations in the California Sierra Nevada, and throughout the world. In the Sierra Nevada, Bd has led to hundreds of local extinctions of frog populations, but a few populations are persisting with Bd. Efforts are currently underway, both in the Sierra Nevada and worldwide, to attempt to control this pathogen and/or limit its impact on amphibian populations. Herpetologists and ecologists are actively seeking the advice of modelers and theoreticians about what control strategies are likely to be most effective against this pathogen. In this talk, I will describe our efforts to date to develop models of the Bd/frog system, which involve models that differ from standard microparasite disease models because of the unique biology of Bd. I will discuss mechanisms by which control strategies might be effective, and areas in which further modeling work is needed.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Carcinonemertes kurisi

In case you didn't see the Nexus today:  New Nemertean Worm Species Named After UCSB Scientist

UCSB zoology professor Armand Kuris has received one of the greatest honors biologists can hope for — having a newly discovered species named after him.
Carcinonemertes kurisi, a species of ribbon worm, was first found and documented by Kuris and Patricia Sadeghian, one of his former students. Sadeghian wrote her Master’s thesis on the species in 2003 and then named the ribbon worm after Kuris in an October 2010 issue of the Journal of Natural History after producing a formal description of the worm.

Monday, November 8, 2010

EEMB Seminar time and location change

NOTE: Today's EEMB seminar is at 3:30 PM in the third floor conference room of the MSI building- 3322 MSRB

Mark Vellend, an ecologist from the University of British Columbia will be giving the EEMB departmental seminar today, "Integrating ecology and genetics: patterns, experiments, and ideas."  Mark is an interactive and broad thinking population and community ecologist, who focuses on plants.  His website is:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Geeky science students wanted

As CCS students you should not restrict yourself to those labs that actively advertise for undergraduates. But if research on the molecular mechanisms underlying polycystic kidney disease and mechanisms of epithelial cell function and kidney physiology sound like your thing then this is a great opportunity.

Geeky science students invited to apply for undergraduate research internships in the Weimbs lab in MCDB
Do you have a passion for research? Did you spend your childhood looking at dirt samples under a microscope or mixing concoctions with a beefed-up chemistry set? Are you serious about a career in research and attending a PhD program in a top graduate school? Do you want to make a real contribution to research on a human disease that affects millions? Do you want to be intellectually involved, read research papers, come up with new ideas and test them yourself? Are you unafraid of learning new scientific techniques, tinkering with experiments over and over until you get them to work, spending long hours in the lab, reading papers all night long, presenting your findings in front of the research team?
If this sounds like you, we want you in the lab!
You would be teamed up with and trained by an experienced scientist in the lab. You would be expected to work more and more independently over time, manage your own experiments and schedule, plan and interpret experiments, understand what you are doing, be productive, move your research project forward.
Look up our research on the web to see if this excites you. If it does, send your resume and list of grades to:
Thomas Weimbs, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology

Yearly courses

GOLD is your best source of information about what courses are running next quarter but what about the one after that? The two biology departments at UCSB plan at least a year in advance and publish their list of planned courses online. They aren't however, that easy to find. Go to the EEMB website, click on Academic Programs - Undergraduate Studies and then on the menu on the left hand side click 'current students'. Scroll down and you'll see a link to:

Updated list of the proposed courses for the year
This is a list, updated yearly, of what courses the two departments are actually planning on running. It isn't a guarantee but it's as good as you are going to get. I use it all the time to find out what is happening.

Monday, November 1, 2010

EEMB seminar

Today's EEMB seminar should be of interest to those with an interest in marine biology, ecology or global change

Dr. Jonathan Shurin from UCSD will be giving this Monday's EEMB seminar. Dr. Shurin works in aquatic ecosystems investigating local and regional controls of species diversity, consumer-resource dynamics and food web energetics. The title of his talk is "Plankton ecosystem dynamics in a warmer, wilder world"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lab opportunity

Subject: Freshman/Sophomore Lab Position Available in Collin's Lab

Research Project:
The overall research is to determine the influence of environmental and hormonal factors on the constituent phase of embryo and larval development as they occur within the ovaries of viviparous nearshore rockfish(Sebastes spp)

Undergraduate Contribution:
The undergraduate will be responsible for validating protocols for incubating embryos and larvae aspirated from the ovaries of rockfish at various stages of development. The student will carry out incubations at different osmolalities and in the presence of various potential growth promoting factors. The student will assess development by morphometric analysis of fresh specimens and histological sections.

If you are interested, please contact Adam Karevoll at
akarevoll at

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dance your Ph.D.

"The dreaded question. "So, what's your Ph.D. research about?" You could bore them with an explanation. Or you could dance.
That's the idea behind "Dance Your Ph.D." Over the past 3 years, scientists from around the world have teamed up to create dance videos based on their graduate research."
Thought you all might enjoy this! A good way to both relieve stress and study science at the same time... Enjoy :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Seeing is believing

I know at least one of you mentioned an interest in stem cells. The MCDB seminar looks like it might be of interest:

MCDB Seminar
Speaker: Pete Coffey
Head of Ocular Biology & Therapeutics
Professor, Cellular Therapy and Visual Sciences
Director, London Project to Cure Blindness

Title: "Stemming Vision Loss Using Stem Cells - Seeing Is Believing"
Location: Rathmann Auditorium, LSB 1001
Thursday October 7th 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Friday, October 1, 2010


We don't get a lot of biomechanics talks here so I'll highlight this one. There was a nice article about this work at ScienceDaily recently.

Swimming and filtration in the ocean by jet-propelled salps
Dr. Kelly R. Sutherland
Postdoctoral Scholar in Bioengineering, California Institute of Technology

Engineering Sciences Building, ESB 1001
Thursday, October 4th, 4.00 p.m.

Salps are barrel-shaped marine organisms that are common in the open ocean and swim using a pulsed jet.  Among salp species, there are a variety of body shapes and swimming styles that correspond to differences in ecological function.  Dye visualization via bluewater SCUBA techniques and laboratory Digital Particle Image Velocimetry (DPIV) were used to describe jet wake structure and swimming performance variables including thrust, drag and propulsive efficiency among three salp species (Pegea confoederata, Weelia (Salpa) cylindrica, Cyclosalpa sp.).  Locomotion by each species was achieved using vortex ring ring propulsion.   Different combinations of swimming speed and hydrodynamic efficiency were observed and can be considered in light of metabolic constraints and ecological roles.  Though nature does not strive for optimality, this work shows the value of a comparative approach for understanding how underlying structure and mechanism influence performance.     

During swimming, the same fluid that propels the salp forward also contains food particles, which are captured on a mucous mesh as fluid passes through the mostly hollow body.  Though salps are centimeters in length and swim at speeds of ~1-10 cm s-1, filtration occurs on a fine, mucous mesh (fiber diameter ~0.1 μm) at low velocity (1.6 cm s−1) and is thus a low Reynolds number (Re ~10−3) process.  A model of particle capture efficiency by a rectangular mesh was used to estimate particle capture rates on the salp filtering mesh based on realistic oceanic particle concentrations.  Particle feeding experiments using 0.5, 1 and 3 µm fluorescent polystyrene microspheres were then performed to test the theoretical model.  Results from both the model and from experiments showed that smaller particles are captured at considerably higher rates than larger particles.  Though particles smaller than mesh openings (1.4 µm) are expected to supply substantially less carbon than larger particles, they can still completely satisfy salp energetic needs.  By removing different sized particles with nonuniform efficiency and packaging them into fast-sinking fecal pellets, salps have the potential to structure oceanic particle size spectra.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Labwork opportunity

Tom Smith, a grad student in  in Cherie Brigg's lab is looking for a couple students to help him sort and ID insects and algae, etc. His project involves describing Sierra Nevada alpine lake communities and their response to extinction of endemic frogs.
Contact Tom directly if you are interested.

From Silent Spring to Silent Night

Advance notice on this one. Tyrone is an excellent speaker and his work is very interesting. As a side note, Tyrone works with a huge number of undergraduates and if he was at UCSB I'm sure he'd be a favorite with CCS students.

Tyrone Hayes,  Professor, UC Berkeley

"From Silent Spring to Silent Night: What happens if our canary stops singing?"

Hosted by Bren Professor Patricia Holden as part of the Seminar in Ecotoxicology

Friday, Oct. 8, 2010
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Bren Hall 1414 

The herbicide atrazine is a potent endocrine disrupter that chemically castrates and feminizes exposed male amphibians. Further, when combined with other pesticides, exposure results in a hormonal stress response that leads to retarded growth and development, and immuno-suppression. The immuno-suppression results in increased disease rates and mortality. Though many factors likely contribute to amphibian declines, pesticides likely play an important role even in populations that appear to decline for other reasons, such as disease. Pesticides like atrazine are ubiquitous, persistent contaminants. Effects of exposure have been shown in every vertebrate class examined (fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals) via common mechanisms. These observations demonstrate the critical impact that pesticides have on environmental health. Furthermore, reproductive cancers and birth defects associated with exposure to many of these same chemicals (e.g. atrazine) via identical mechanisms demonstrate that the impact on environmental health is an indicator of a negative impact on public health. Many of these mechanisms are being revealed only now in the scientific literature and agencies (such as the Environmental Protection Agency) are ill-equipped to deal with this emergent science and translate it efficiently into health-protective policies. Given the importance of this science and relevance to public health, there is a strong need to translate this information and provide public access to this knowledge. In particular, minority populations, more likely to be exposed to these chemicals, more likely to suffer health effects associated with exposure, less likely to have access to adequate health care and less likely to have access to this information, need to be informed. It is especially incumbent upon research scientists to make accurate accounts of these data available when industry and agency representatives (e.g. the EPA) provide inaccurate information to the public.

CCS distinguished lecturer

The first CCS Distinguished Lecturer for 2010 - 2011 will be Mary Roach, author of "Stiff", "Spook" and "Bonk' and now "Packing for Mars".

This will be of interest to CCS Literature and Science students, as Mary writes about science, particularly biology  - "Stiff" looks into "the curious lives of human cadavers",  "Spook" into claims of the afterlife and "Bonk"  into the somewhat whackier aspects of the physiology of sex (see reviews).

She will be available to talk with CCS students in the Gallery on Monday October 4th at 4:00 PM and will be giving an arts & lectures address in Campbell Hall at 8:00 that evening. (General $10, Students $6)

This is an opportunity to converse with a successful and off-the-beaten track author who is noted for a combination of insight & humor.  Be sure to visit her website  and read her biography.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Monday, June 7, 2010

Edward Tufte kills kittens...

Bruce forwarded this to me. If you don't get it then you must take CS105 - Research Presentation before you graduate. Or the kittens will die.....

(Original at Mark Goetz blog)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Midterm answer and job opportunity

Ecology 'midterm' answers, plus a few comments, are here. (If you need the midterm itself it is here).

Here's one more job opportunity for the summer if any of you are looking for gainful employment.

The Valentine Lab of the Earth Science Dept. and Marine Science Institutute at UCSB is seeking an undergraduate assistant for summer 2010. This student will aid in field collection and organization of marine water samples and related equipment as part of our seeps-related research into the methane budget for the waters of the Santa Barbara Basin. Additional laboratory experience will be gained as well. Experience with working aboard UCSB's small watercraft is a plus (but not required). The stipend for this position will be approx $12.50/hr at 20-40 hrs a week - taking summer school is ok but ability to work all day on Tuesdays is important. Those interested please contact Frank Kinnaman at for more information.

oh yes, I almost forgot...

And to end the quarter on the best note possible, the newest (and great) xkcd comic:

Summer Reading

That title sounds painful, I know (and I apologize). So as we all depart for our homes, our vacations or our labs for summer research, I thought I'd bring up a book I think we could all take the time to read. I feel like during the school year I miss a lot of reading time because I'm so wrapped up in coursework, but really, the majority of learning for me comes from independent research.
George C. Williams' "Adaptation and Natural Selection" is the perfect summer book because it's relatively short (although dense) and really beautifully covers a lot of the evolutionary themes we have discussed throughout the year. I've noticed that in class a lot of questions have arisen as to why organisms have or have not evolved specific traits. Within the first 25 pages of the book Williams well addresses these issues and I think its worth a read for all of us.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Banana treats for everyone

Aha, it turns out that if you want to get the tax deduction you don't have to pick a particular rat when you make a donation to HeroRats. I'm not sure I could cope with the choice and the responsibility.

These rats amaze me. It's like they have single handedly decided to change the public perception of rats. Not only do they help clear landmines but now they detect TB and cancer! As Brandon pointed out, the only thing left is for them to fight crime at night. Perhaps they do.

So probably for less than the cost of buying pizza for the class everyone is getting banana treats. And by everyone I mean the rats.

Thanks for a great quarter. Have a good summer.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

National Running Day

Who knew? Apparently today is National Running Day. Go run somewhere. Ellwood Mesa is my favorite spot.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cowbirds in Love

I just discovered this comic. Cowbirds in Love is a daily comic about sad things, happy things, science, philosophy and occasionally obligate brood parasitism. Not quite as nerdy as xkcd it has a similar poorly drawn charm - complete with occasional biology.

As someone who actually does have a strong opinion about the difference between geeks and nerds I was especially amused by yesterday's xkcd comic.

Wrapping it up

Well, I'm almost done here. Although this blog will go into diapause shortly it will be back in the Fall (for a new round of the Bio Colloquium) and then in the Winter and Spring for Intro Bio again. PLEASE post here if you have items you think other bio students would be interested in: interesting seminars, lab opportunities, grant opportunities, research etc. OR just send items to me and I'll post them.

In the last couple of classes we've mentioned the leading causes of death in the US a couple of times: Heart disease, Cancer, Strokes and Chronic lower respiratory diseases. What is amazing is how much this has changed over just a single generation. Can you guess the top four causes of death in the US in the years right before World War II, ie before the invention of antibiotics?

Tuberculosis, pneumonia, cancer and syphilis.

Hence this poster from The American Social Hygiene Association on the dangers of autoriding. Syphilis may no longer be a death sentence but guys who look like this are probably still best avoided - especially if they take you autoriding and try to take liberties with you.

I teach a class on the Ecology of Disease (EEMB40) in the Winter quarter if any of you are interested. It's a lower division class that focuses on the changing ecology that has led to changing patterns of infectious disease in human populations.

Oh go on, here's another one that's probably even more sexist. 'A girl who would yield to one man has probably had relations with another. Very likely she is diseased.' As opposed to the 'wise guy' on the right who even seems to have visible symptoms of syphilis (or maybe just a poorly drawn face).

Monday, May 31, 2010

A fatty world record

Spot the outlier. Okay, the fact that it is in red is a bit of a giveaway. What this chart shows is the weight of a very, very exclusive club - people who have run a 10,000m race in under 27 minutes (that's over six consecutive miles at 4:20 pace).

Until earlier this month there were just 30 members of this club. Then in a fast race at Stanford, set up so Galen Rupp could have a go at the American Record (27:13) Chris Solinsky simply ran away from the field over the last two and a half laps and got to join this exclusive club. Rupp did beat the old American record but it was a bit of a moot point since Solinsky had just crushed it. Just watch:

What is so unusual about Solinsky's win is not his ethnicity but his size. Yes, the other members of the club are all African but they are also all very light. Solinsky, at 161 pounds was 20 pounds heavier than the next heaviest runner to break 27 minutes and about 40 pounds heavier than the average (121 pounds).
My teammates always make fun of me for being a fatty and stuff, and the first thing they said after the race was "that's probably a fatty world record."

Of course from the perspective of almost everyone else Solinsky is hardly a 'fatty'. In fact he's almost exactly the same height and weight I am, I think he's about 1" shorter and essentially the same weight, giving him a BMI that is smack in the middle of normal.

This all relates to several issues related to human physiology that we covered last week and will cover tomorrow. Of particular interest is the suggestion that a 'large' runner such as Solinsky can only match the smaller runners in cool conditions - as heat and humidity rise even human runners approach limits set by their ability to shed heat. A notable example was seen in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics where the unexpected winner was the 95 pound Josiah Thugwane of South Africa. In the hot and humid conditions the tiny Thugwane had a considerable advantage that allowed him to win in the relatively slow time of 2:12.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Final exam

Write an editorial about the news that researchers led by J. Craig Venter have built a genome from scratch and used it to control a cell. Is this a giant step forward or just another day at the office? Some distinguished folks discuss the issue here.

(Not an actual final exam, but I hope that you all have some background and some enthusiasm for the topic that you could attempt this).

New campus seminar calendar

Did you know there are dozens of research-related events from all disciplines happening on campus every week? Now you can get all the details in one place with the Office of Research’s new events calendar at

The calendar includes seminars, lectures, symposia, conferences, colloquia, and other events from UCSB-affiliated researchers and visiting scholars that are open to a campus audience.

The events are stored as a Google Calendar, so you can subscribe with a Google account or export the information for use in other calendar programs including CorporateTime.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Stephen Colbert's Inner Fish

I mentioned this book earlier in the quarter and it is a very good read. I hadn't realized that the author, Neil Shubin, had been on the Colbert Report until Vincenzo mentioned it to me. He does a pretty good job at getting his points across, letting Stephen Colbert get his laughs, and not coming across as a clueless scientist. Nice job.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


So as finals and the end of the year approach us, I thought it would be appropriate to bring up a feeling that most of us are feeling at the moment--stress. As Claudia and John talked about in class a couple weeks ago, stress in humans is really wacky because we have the ability to kind of turn it on whenever, and in some cases this is not exactly a good thing. It can lead to shorter life-spans, gray hair, heart problems, lack of sleep, you know not good stuff. However, in a pinch under some sort of chaos, it can really help you out. I'm a firm believer and lover of podcasts, and I just happened to come across this great one by Radiolab about stress. They've included a bunch of people's stories about how they have used stress to help/hurt themselves, and a lot of interesting commentary. I strongly recommend you guys listen to it, it's really interesting.

here's the link:

Nicotine mode of action

By binding to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, nicotine increases the levels of several neurotransmitters - acting as a sort of "volume control". It is thought that increased levels of dopamine in the reward circuits of the brain are responsible for the euphoria and relaxation and eventual addiction caused by nicotine consumption.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Favorite Quote

I've got to say- I got pretty excited about the lecture on immunology. It reminded me that I've been meaning to post what is, quite possibly, one of my favorite quotes of all time. Written by Claude Combes, a parasite ecologist, I think it really nicely wraps up the main idea behind the Red Queen hypothesis as it pertains to coevolution with pathogens:

"One might add that being genetically unvarying when one has a determined parasite for an adversary is like taking the same route home every day when threatened by terrorists."
 -Claude Combes

I like it so much that I even have it on my facebook profile. 

Rubbish flyers

R. L. Nudds, G. J. Dyke. Narrow Primary Feather Rachises in Confuciusornis and Archaeopteryx Suggest Poor Flight Ability. Science, 2010; 328

The fossil birds Archaeopteryx and Confuciusornis had feathered wings resembling those of living birds, but their flight capabilities remain uncertain. Analysis of the rachises of their primary feathers shows that the rachises were much thinner and weaker than those of modern birds, and thus the birds were not capable of flight. Only if the primary feather rachises were solid in cross-section (the strongest structural configuration), and not hollow as in living birds, would flight have been possible. Hence, if Archaeopteryx and Confuciusornis were flapping flyers, they must have had a feather structure that was fundamentally different from that of living birds. Alternatively, if they were only gliders, then the flapping wing stroke must have appeared after the divergence of Confuciusornis, likely within the enantiornithine or ornithurine radiations.

Or, as ScienceDaily summarized: The evolution of flight took longer than previously thought with the ancestors of modern birds "rubbish" at flying, if they flew at all, according to scientists.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Male antelope scares female into staying for sex

During mating season, male topi antelope trick females with false alarms of nearby danger to boost chances for sex, a new study says. If a female starts wandering out of a male's territory, the male will begin snorting and staring, ears pricked, at nonexistent predators."The female will be walking away, and the male runs in front, looks not at the female but where she's going, makes this snort, and she typically stops," said lead researcher Jakob Bro-Jørgensen of the University of Liverpool.

The paper is in The American Naturalist (Male Topi Antelopes Alarm Snort Deceptively to Retain Females for Mating) and there's a news report at the National Geographic site.

Sharks can become invisible?!

So this isn't exactly related to what we are learning in class right now, but I had to post. Up to 10% of sharks are "luminous" - they emit light from organs called photophores. This creates an optical illusion making them invisible to predators and prey! It also turns on sharks of the opposite sex. Pretty crazy.

Here's the link to the article:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Smells like Teen Spirit, or maybe lilac....

Did you know that the 2004 Nobel Prize was awarded to Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck for their discoveries of "odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system"?

There's a nice summary of their research on the Nobel website (this is the summary of the summary - check the link for the full version):

The sense of smell long remained the most enigmatic of our senses. The basic principles for recognizing and remembering about 10,000 different odours were not understood. This year's Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine have solved this problem and in a series of pioneering studies clarified how our olfactory system works. They discovered a large gene family, comprised of some 1,000 different genes (three per cent of our genes) that give rise to an equivalent number of olfactory receptor types. These receptors are located on the olfactory receptor cells, which occupy a small area in the upper part of the nasal epithelium and detect the inhaled odorant molecules.

Each olfactory receptor cell possesses only one type of odorant receptor, and each receptor can detect a limited number of odorant substances. Our olfactory receptor cells are therefore highly specialized for a few odours. The cells send thin nerve processes directly to distinct micro domains, glomeruli, in the olfactory bulb, the primary olfactory area of the brain. Receptor cells carrying the same type of receptor send their nerve processes to the same glomerulus. From these micro domains in the olfactory bulb the information is relayed further to other parts of the brain, where the information from several olfactory receptors is combined, forming a pattern. Therefore, we can consciously experience the smell of a lilac flower in the spring and recall this olfactory memory at other times.

Friday, May 21, 2010


This video, taken from a 16-mm movie made in the 1950s by the late David Rogers at Vanderbilt University, shows a neutrophil chasing down and consuming bacteria. Although some or all of the movement of the bacteria may simply be due to Brownian motion the movement of the neutrophil is clearly directed, in this case by chemical gradients. There's another nice video showing neutrophil chemotaxis here.

Unfortunately internet memes run a strong and I immediately thought of the following BoingBoing post - Adding the Benny Hill Theme to Anything Makes it Funny. So it was no surprise to find someone had already done that.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A moift and wet foil

You have probably all used JSTOR at one time or another to get access to online journals. What you might not realize is that JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit organization helping the academic community use digital technologies to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways.

JSTOR is currently collaborating with The Royal Society to digitize, preserve, and extend access to their Philosophical Transactions back to 1685. So, for example, you can now read the first journal report on the medicinal powers of willow bark (now known to be due to high concentrations of salicyclic acid - closely related to the active ingredient in aspirin.) Salicyclic acid is now known to be an important compound in mediating what is known as 'systemic acquired resistance' in plants - the plant equivalent to the innate immune system found in animals.

At this time in human history the 'doctrine of signatures' was still widely believed - that a plant shaped like a body part or disease would be useful in curing it (hence the names liverwort, woundwort, toothwort, wormwood etc). This was a theological reasoning rather than a scientific observation - it was reasoned that the Almighty must have set his sign upon the various means of curing disease which he provided. Through time this concept was expanded so that the "signature" could also be identified in the environments or specific sites in which plants grew.

Hence the following passage:

'As this tree delights in a moift and wet foil, where agues chiefly abound, the general maxim, that many natural remedies carry their cure along with them, or their remedies lie not far from their caufes, was fo very appofite to this particular cafe, that I could not help applying it; and that this might be the intention of Providence, I muft own had fome little weight with me.'

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Undergraduate Research Colloquium

This Thursday, 20th May, is the UCSB Undergraduate Research Colloquium - A poster exhibition that recognizes the scholarly achievements of students and acknowledges the faculty who have contributed to the development of student research and creative projects.

It is held from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m in the Corwin Pavillion - so it is very convenient for you to wander across after class and take a look around. This is usually quite a large event with over a hundred posters.

Don't forget Brad Hawkins talk today at 4pm (see below).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Golden Years Truly Are Golden

As I mentioned in class the AAAS website reported on a PNAS paper out online yesterday: A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States

In contrast to other, similar, studies this one used a large sample with fewer questions. In fact the sample size was over a third of a million people!

Stone's team found that global well-being declines from the 20s to age 50, then increases steadily. Happiness and enjoyment also increase after age 50. Although sadness is fairly flat throughout the age groups, most negative feelings decline with age. Worry stays level until about 50, then drops. Anger falls steadily from the 20s; stress peaks in the 20s, starts a decline, then plummets after age 50. The patterns are almost identical for men and women, although women have more stress, worry more, and are sadder at all ages, despite reporting better global well-being than men at most ages.
The findings make sense to anyone who has gotten out of their 20s, says Stone. "If you were to do a survey and say, 'How many of you would like to be 25 again?' you don't get a lot of takers," he says.

Hopefully this news is not too depressing to those of you looking at 25 from the other side!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

xkcd on Field Biology

Dog's noses

With regard to the post below, if any of you are members of alternative rock bands then I think 'Phineas Gage was not an asshole' would be a great name for a song.

And now for something completely different.....

When a dog sniffs, he uses a different route of airflow than for normal breathing. A structure just inside the nostrils called the alar fold, opens allowing air to flow through the upper area of the nasal passages. A bony pocket traps odor molecules and they are dissolved in the mucous covered scent receptors where signals of this chemical change travel from the receptor along the olfactory nerve to the olfactory bulb at the end of each nasal passage.

When the dog exhales, the alar fold closes off the upper part and pushes air down and out through the slits on the side of the nose, which stirs up even more scent particles.

Odor molecules emanate from the source in a cone shape. Depending on environmental factors, odor molecules will be denser at the source and thinner as they disperse into the air. Scent detection dogs will scan this scent cone as they trail the source, often making a ‘whuffing’ sound.

From the Cadaver Dog Handbook by Andrew J. Rebmann, Marcella H. Sorg, Edward David

(Scooter can make 'woofing' sounds but I don't think that's what they are talking about.....)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Phineas Gage

Phineas Gage and the tamping rod that went through his brain.

Curse you Wikipedia, by making it easy to check up on facts and stories you are spoiling it for everyone.

As we saw in class the story of Phineas Gage is quite well known and often repeated in psychology and anatomy classes. But like all good stories, is it too good to be true?

Psychologist Malcolm Macmillan, in his book An Odd Kind of Fame: Stories of Phineas Gage, surveys scores of accounts of the case (both scientific and popular), finding that they are varying and inconsistent, typically poorly supported by the evidence, and often in direct contradiction to it. Accounts commonly ascribe to Gage drunkenness, braggadocio, "a vainglorious tendency to show off his wound," an "utter lack of foresight," inability or refusal to hold a job —even "sexually molesting small children," according to curricular materials at one medical school— none of these mentioned by Harlow nor by anyone else claiming actual knowledge of Gage's life.

A daguerreotype portrait of Gage—"handsome...well dressed and confident, even proud," and holding the tamping iron which injured him—was identified in 2009. One researcher points to it as consistent with a social recovery hypothesis, under which Gage's most serious mental changes may have existed for only a limited time after the accident, so that in later life he was far more functional, and socially far better adapted, than has been thought.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What are we good at.? (ans=sweating)

There's been a resurgence of interest lately in what led to the evolution of bipedalism in humans and the importance that running may have had in our evolutionary past. From Christopher Moore's best selling book 'Born to Run' to cover stories in the prestigious journal Nature (eg Endurance running and the evolution of Homo), running, especially barefoot running and endurance running, is quite the hot academic topic these days.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the actual sport of endurance running. I would guess that only a tiny handful of Americans are aware the right now the world 24 hour running championship is going on in Brive, France. The race started about 12 hours ago and will continue for another 12. You can get live updates here if you are so inclined. There is both an individual race and also a team event, with the combined distances of the top 3 runners counting for the national championship. At the last check the USA men's team and the Japanese men's team were separated by a meter! Men:JPN 421.872km, US 421.871km

The lead runners are averaging about 12km/h or 7.5 mph. That's 8 minutes per mile- hardly a slow jog. And they have been doing that for 12 hours..... with 12 more to go......

I find these performances literally amazing. What is equally interesting is that the participants don't look like freaks. They aren't muscle bound, neither are they all incredibly thin (one of the US team was over 300lbs until recently and still tips the scales around 200), they aren't all short and they aren't all tall, they aren't all young and they aren't all old - they actually look like a cross section of people you might find anywhere. (I like this picture - the tiny Russian lady on the left is 61 !)

Most animals have to pant to lose heat. Animals cannot pant and run simultaneously, limiting how long they can run before they have to stop to pant and cool down. Humans can lose heat by sweating so we can run for much, much longer. But sweating loses water and salt. So the good ultra-runners have to be exceptionally good at maintaining their fluid and salt levels.

In many ways this race is the world homeostasis championship.

Update: Exciting finish with the USA men's team holding onto third place and Scott Jurek completing 165.7 miles to beat the American record. The men's winner, Shingo Inoue from Japan, completed 170 miles and the Women's winner, Anne Cecile Fontaine of France, completed 149 miles. The second place finisher for the US (12th overall) Michael Henze finished with a 22 minute last 5k...... The tiny Russian lady above completed 117 miles.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Biodiversity: The Spice of Life ... or Life Support?

T H E 52nd A N N U A L
H A R O L D J. P L O U S A W A R D L E C T U R E

Bradley Cardinale
Biodiversity: The Spice of Life ... or Life Support?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 / 4:00 PM / FREE
Donald Bren School of Environmental Science& Management / Room 1414

The world is currently in the midst of one of the greatest waves of species extinction that has ever occurred in the history of life. But even as rates of species extinction are approaching those of prior mass extinctions, we know little about the different roles that species play in natural environments. We know even less about how the well-being of our own species might be linked to the great variety of life that is the most striking feature of our planet.

In this lecture, I will evaluate the evidence for a classic ecological hypothesis that Earth's life-support systems depend critically on the variety of species that inhabit our planet. The idea that biological diversity regulates the production of food, the cleanliness of air and water, and outbreaks of pests and disease, has been around since the time of Darwin. But while these 'services' of natural ecosystems are often touted by environmentalists to justify conservation, they have been highly controversial among scientists. Until the 1990's there was very little evidence that could establish any clear link between biological diversity and the rates of biologically essential processes. I will review the explosion of new research that has accumulated on this topic over the last two decades, and I'll begin to ask the difficult, but crucial question of how many species our planet needs to support higher life.

Bradley Cardinale is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California - Santa Barbara. He received his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Maryland in 2002, and completed his postdoctoral research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Cardinale's research is aimed at understanding how human alteration of the environment impacts the biological diversity of communities and, in turn, how diversity loss can affect ecological processes that are important to humanity. He has published nearly 60 scientific papers that help guide our efforts to conserve and restore natural ecosystems.

The Harold J. Plous Memorial Award was established in 1957 to honor Harold J. Plous, Assistant Professor of Economics. The award is given annually to a faculty member of the rank of Assistant Professor or Instructor who has demonstrated outstanding performance by creative action or contribution to the intellectual life of the college community.

Short-term research assistant needed in June

Christian Balzer, a Graduate Student in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology is looking for a motivated undergraduate to assist him for 80 hours in June. Pay is $10/hour and work schedule is flexible. The only constraint is that the 80 work hours should be completed within approx. 3 weeks. The earlier in June, the better.

Tasks will include processing soil samples in the lab and possibly helping out with some field work at Sedgwick reserve, depending on interest. His project is investigating how temporal fluctuations in water and nitrogen availability affect species coexistence (and hence, plant diversity) in grasslands.

Interested students should contact Christian Balzer directly.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

female gingko

So last quarter when discussing gymnosperms we talked about how there's biodiversity within the gymnosperms, specifically the variation between conifers (pinophyta), cycads (cycadophyta), gnetophytas, and gingkophytas. Interestingly, the gingkophyta is responsible for the gingko biloba, and it is the only species in its class etc. Essentially, it is its only living ancestor. Gingkos are really interesting because they can withstand a lot of trauma and live a really long time. However, another really interesting thing is that you have probably only seen male gingko trees. This is because the female gingko tree stinks hardcore. The fruit it produces smells like rancid butter, and because of this stench, a lot of people don't plant it. However, I was able to go on a trip to check out some female gingkos on a college campus in Portland Oregon, and for your interest here's a picture of what they look like. Unfortunately, they actually don't look any different than the male. The only way you can tell is by looking at the flowers, which are either clusters of little anthers on the male stem, or in the female's case, a small cluster of 2-3 tiny ovaries on the stem. A funny fact about these gingkos (there were two in front of the college's library) is that in the fall the fruit would smell so terrible, that they had to change the library's entrance to the other side of the building so that students and professors could avoid them.

Your inner fish

I just finished reading Neil Shubin's book 'Your Inner Fish.' It is a very easy and highly recommended read. We tend to focus on those areas where we have 'improved' on our fish-like ancestors (walking upright, doing pushups, inventing calculus etc) but what I found fascinating, and relevant to class today, was a discussion of olfaction (smelling) and how it's all been downhill since our aquatic past.

The human genome only contains about 23,000 protein-coding genes - which itself is an amazing fact. The other 98.5% of our genome consists of non-coding genes, regulatory sequences, introns and endogenous retrovirus sequences.

About 1,000 of those 23,000 protein-coding genes code for different odor receptors but less than half of them are functional in modern humans. Which says a lot about the importance of different senses in the evolution of humans from an aquatic ancestor (smell) to a terrestrial life (vision). Our evolutionary history is revealed in our genes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chytrid fungi

Available online today through PNAS early edition:

Dynamics of an emerging disease drive large-scale amphibian population extinctions
Enzootic and Epizootic Dynamics of the Chytrid Fungal Pathogen of Amphibians

UCSB has the Cliff notes press release: Studies Offer New Insights Into How Deadly Amphibian Disease Spreads and Kills

Scientists have unraveled the dynamics of a deadly disease that is wiping out amphibian populations across the globe. Chytridiomycosis is caused by a microscopic aquatic fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) that attacks the skin of amphibians. The new findings, from two separate studies published in today's online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggest that infection intensity –– the severity of the disease among individuals –– determines whether frog populations will survive or succumb to chytridiomycosis. The research identifies a critical tipping point in infection intensity, beyond which chytridiomycosis causes mass mortalities and extinctions. UC Santa Barbara's Cheryl J. Briggs, professor of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology and the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Systems Biology, is lead author of the second study and a co-author of the first study. Other collaborators from UCSB were Roland A. Knapp, a research biologist with the Marine Science Institute, and graduate student Tate S. Tunstall.

Cherie currently has ten undergraduates including at least 4 and possibly 5 CCS students working in her lab on a variety of projects from modeling and database work to PCR and genetic analysis to foodweb and mesocosm studies. So if any aspect of this work sounds interesting then you should contact either Cherie or Mary Toothman, her lab manager, directly.

Not forgetting of course how many ways this work ties into our lectures this quarter - Chytrid fungus (check); vertebrates (check); community interactions (check).

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Huh? It's hard to make up a word that nobody has used on a webpage, ever. But apparently I did. I assume if you try that link in a few days/weeks/months? this page will then show up. [I checked a little over an hour later and this page was already there! I didn't realize google searched the web so continuously]. Anywho. I apologize to all cephalopod lovers for putting up the first video. But I believe it helps make three points:
1) You'll appreciate the selection pressure that led to video 2.
2) The evolution of shells and external skeletons led to so called 'adaptive radiations' in certain groups as they, temporarily, escaped their predators. This video shows the problems of the unarmored.
3) Remember one of the advantages of group living was being able to prey on larger or more difficult prey? I rest my case.

This next one is for the cephalopod lovers. You may have seen it before but it amazes me how the octopus mimics not just the colors but also the texture of the algae.

Friday, May 7, 2010

City of gonads

And whilst we are on the subject of oversized gonads (if you missed the museum visit that will be intriguing) here is the newly discovered 'city of gonads' jellyfish. Only a few millimetres wide with a cluster of gonads on top the jellyfish was found in the River Derwent in Hobart, Tasmania.

The new species has been named Csiromedusa medeopolis, meaning "jellyfish from CSIRO" and "city of gonads" and is so different from other jellyfish that it has been placed into a new family.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ecology 'Midterm'

For those of you that missed it being handed out in class: The Ecology 'Midterm'

More Museum

Claudia pointed me in the direction of some very topical links from the museum.

First, Paul Collins has a paper in the early edition of PNAS (available May 3 so this is hot off the press). This is a great example of how museums can be used for research and how the original collectors could have had no idea about the uses their collections would be put to.

The paper concerns a story Claudia told you during the ecology section - the changes in the food web on the California Channel Islands: Pleistocene to historic shifts in bald eagle diets on the Channel Islands, California

There have also been a couple of articles in the local Independent newspaper about the museum:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How to draw a gorilla

How to draw a gorilla in 3 easy steps.

1) Be born with a certain amount of artistic talent.
2) Practice, practice, practice.

Okay, I lied about the steps being easy. But even having the talent and the practice will not get you a good gorilla drawing. For that you will need an actual gorilla to pose for you. Herein lies the problem. Gorillas don't like you making eye contact with them. If you do it to a wild gorilla you might be in danger. If you do it to a captive gorilla he'll just wander off (or escape and attack you). Either way, no posing gorilla.

The solution? Don't make eye contact with the gorilla. Hence step:
3) Get yourself some Gaze-averting glasses

The sketch is by James Gurney whose technique of avoiding eye contact allowed him some up close contact with both gorillas and chimpanzees.

He watched me draw with a professional interest. Every ten minutes or so he wanted me to show him how I was coming along on the sketch.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Asphalt volcanoes

And on the topic of geology, check out some of the press on the newest members of the CCS Bio team, Professor Dave Valentine of Earth Sciences , has been getting.

Listen to a report on KCLU: A team of researchers has found a group of what are known as "asphalt volcanoes"...some up to 65 feet high...on the ocean floor off the Santa Barbara County coastline.

Or read about it on the National Geographic website or the NSF website.

This is relevant to biology for several reasons. First, in terms of methane production and the creation of 'dead zones':

Eruptions of the California mounds might have once spewed enough methane to dramatically boost populations of methane-eating marine bacteria.

These bacteria depleted the water's oxygen, creating a giant "dead zone" in the Santa Barbara basin that was lethal to most marine life.

and secondly in terms of creating hard substrates for colonization by living organisms:

Asphalt mounds in general help create environments for marine life that might not otherwise exist.

"Processes that produce hard substrates in the deep ocean are rare. ... Generally speaking, the deep ocean is a muddy place," MacDonald said.

"I think it's really cool that there's this other process that we didn't really know about before that, at least in some places, is making pretty extensive hard bottoms for animals to colonize."

Geology talks

Bruce informs me that Geology will be having two good talks in the next two weeks:

Wednesday, May 5th, 3:30 1100 Webb Hall - Revisiting the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary Event in North America. Kirk Johnson, Sr. Scientist & Vice President, Denver Museum of Natural History

Wednesday May 12th, 3:30, 1100 Webb Hall. The Devonian Fish of Gogo, Australia (Home of the evidence for the oldest evidence for live birth in a vertebrate). John Long, Vice President of Research and Collections at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.


This is a GREAT opportunity for CCS Biology students. Check out last year's winners - Caitlin is a CCS Bio student.

The 15 June deadline for applying for the Saturdaze NatureJournal scholarship for research in natural history is fast approaching . This scholarship has been established with the cooperation of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. I would appreciate it if you would notify your contacts and your students of this award. This scholarship is not widely advertised, so generates a small applicant pool. Please encourage undergraduates currently involved in natural history research to apply.

The application form is online and is extremely simple to complete. Thanks.

Larry Friesen, PhD
Director, Saturdaze / NatureJournal


Scholarship amount: $2,000 and $500 annual awards

Application deadline: 15 June

Award date: 15 July

Application website:

Use of scholarship award : unrestricted

Scope of Saturdaze NatureJournal Scholarships: Awarded to undergraduates involved in research in natural history and majoring in a biological sciences major. Research area must be within one or more of the following geographic areas: San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, and/or northern Channel Islands or conducted by a student from one of the institutions listed below.

Applicant field: Applicant must have been an undergraduate student during the last year at one of the colleges or universities within San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara Counties:
Santa Barbara City College, Cuesta College, Allan Hancock, University of California Santa Barbara, Westmont College, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

>From the Saturdaze NatureJournal website . . .

Natural History is the broadest study of science and attempts to tie together observations of the natural world into a single interwoven fabric. As such, the knowledge base of natural history has grown beyond a single category of study and has been divided into smaller and smaller and more and more isolated disciplines. It is not uncommon that professional biologists study a single organism in a laboratory, far removed from its natural habitat. The Saturdaze Scholarship for Natural History Research supports the broader view.

Natural History is accessible to all who love and enjoy observing nature. In his essay on the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, as a naturalist, wrote that . . .

"It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us."

Who among us has not contemplated nature and been inspired to learn about the connectedness within diversity? In this sense, natural history has attracted not only the scientist, but the artist and poet; natural history has become the romantic science. The romance of natural history stems from our desire to relate to the natural world, to regain a connectedness to it, and to preserve its diversity.

Saturdaze has partnered with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and has funded a scholarship to encourage research that helps to explain one or another "entangled bank". The Saturdaze NatureJournal Scholarship for Natural History Research rewards exceptional students attempting to discover interactions in nature. Saturdaze and the Museum share the goal of "inspiring a passion for the natural world".