Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

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26 posts · 31,213 views

I want to make cutting-edge biology research accessible to those who do not have the background, and to attempt to illuminate why it is so important that we spend billions of dollars each year to study how sex is determined in a nematode, how a particular species of tree disperses its seeds, or what changes take place when a yeast cell ages and dies. These studies may not seem relevant — but I will try to convince you, along with myself, that they are, and how they could change the way we live.

Hannah Waters
26 posts

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  • May 5, 2011
  • 12:15 AM
  • 1,316 views

Swarms of tasty cicadas don’t help the birds — what gives?

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

Every thirteen years they come. After over a decade underground, they build burrows to the earth’s surface and emerge in synchrony, clawing and crawling up through the soil, rip their skins down the back and are reborn as adults. And after a month, they will be dead, whether consumed by the animals awaiting their arrival [...]... Read more »

Koenig, W., & Liebhold, A. (2003) Regional impacts of periodical cicadas on oak radial increment. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 33(6), 1084-1089. DOI: 10.1139/X03-037  

Lehmann-Ziebarth, N., Heideman, P., Shapiro, R., Stoddart, S., Hsiao, C., Stephenson, G., Milewski, P., & Ives, A. (2005) EVOLUTION OF PERIODICITY IN PERIODICAL CICADAS. Ecology, 86(12), 3200-3211. DOI: 10.1890/04-1615  

  • March 2, 2011
  • 12:41 AM
  • 937 views

Natural history collections in ecological research

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

Once I dreamed a dream of being an evolutionary biologist.  As I imagined it, I would hang out in a natural history museum, comparing fossils to one another, taking notes on the minute differences, and piecing together the history of life. It wasn’t until a job fair years ago, when I babbled to an evolutionary [...]... Read more »

Barnes, D., Kuklinski, P., Jackson, J., Keel, G., Morley, S., & Winston, J. (2011) Scott's collections help reveal accelerating marine life growth in Antarctica. Current Biology, 21(4). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.01.033  

Parker, P., Buckles, E., Farrington, H., Petren, K., Whiteman, N., Ricklefs, R., Bollmer, J., & Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G. (2011) 110 Years of Avipoxvirus in the Galapagos Islands. PLoS ONE, 6(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015989  

  • February 8, 2011
  • 10:20 PM
  • 1,226 views

The many relationships of leaf-cutter ants

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

Trying to capture the movement of a colony of leaf-cutter ants in a single photo is nearly impossible in my (amateur) experience.  The queues of ants follow a worn-down trail in the ground that they themselves made with the impact of their little ant feet.  There are ants moving in both directions, between the food [...]... Read more »

  • January 5, 2011
  • 10:58 AM
  • 1,046 views

When adaptation doesn’t happen

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

“Evolutionary biology has been enriched by considering not only how adaptation happens, but also why it often does not happen, or at least does not happen as we might naively expect.” - Douglas Futuyma (2010) In 2005, a group of … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • December 1, 2010
  • 03:18 PM
  • 903 views

Tiny tunicate throws structure to the wind

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

Today I bring you something extra special: A guest post from Lucas Brouwers of the world-famous blog Thoughtomics.  He loves genomes, I love plankton, and you get a great story involving spaceships, genomic party crashers, and, of course, a planktonic … Continue reading →... Read more »

Denoeud F, Henriet S, Mungpakdee S, Aury JM, Da Silva C, Brinkmann H, Mikhaleva J, Olsen LC, Jubin C, Cañestro C.... (2010) Plasticity of Animal Genome Architecture Unmasked by Rapid Evolution of a Pelagic Tunicate. Science (New York, N.Y.). PMID: 21097902  

  • November 5, 2010
  • 11:50 AM
  • 942 views

If you feed them, they will come: the effects of nitrogen fertilization on community composition in a salt marsh

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

Eutrophication has gained a pretty bad reputation considering that it is a natural process.  The word itself comes from the Greek “eutrophia” which means “healthy” and simply means the addition of nutrients into an ecosystem encouraging plant growth.  Of course, … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • October 20, 2010
  • 02:32 PM
  • 931 views

The Allee effect in action: why endangered Vancouver Island marmots are struggling to recover

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

There are under 200 California condors alive in the wild.  There are under 600 wild Ethiopian wolves.  There are around 3500 wild tigers and under 5500 African wild dogs outside of zoos. It has been ingrained in all of us … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • September 29, 2010
  • 08:52 AM
  • 1,020 views

The evolution of the eukaryotes and our human story

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

“Taxonomy and classification are funny,” my father joked recently, “because the organisms being classified really don’t care what they are. We’re the only ones who care!” Well, at least I thought it was a good joke.  And it speaks to … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • September 17, 2010
  • 10:33 AM
  • 1,128 views

Can seabirds overfish a resource? The case of cormorants in Estonia

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

“Overfishing” is a term associated with resource depletion, extinction, and human greed.  While the definition of overfishing is technically a subjective measure (How much fishing is too much?), it has been widely accepted to mean catching more of an aquatic … Continue reading →... Read more »

Dulvy, N., Sadovy, Y., & Reynolds, J. (2003) Extinction vulnerability in marine populations. Fish and Fisheries, 4(1), 25-64. DOI: 10.1046/j.1467-2979.2003.00105.x  

Vetemaa, M., Eschbaum, R., Albert, A., Saks, L., Verliin, A., Jurgens, K., Kesler, M., Hubel, K., Hannesson, R., & Saat, T. (2010) Changes in fish stocks in an Estonian estuary: overfishing by cormorants?. ICES Journal of Marine Science. DOI: 10.1093/icesjms/fsq113  

  • August 19, 2010
  • 12:33 PM
  • 1,208 views

Marine Snow: dead organisms and poop as manna in the ocean

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

“When I think of the floor of the deep sea…I see always the steady, unremitting, downward drift of materials from above, flake upon flake, layer upon layer…the most stupendous “snowfall” the earth has ever seen.” -Rachel Carson, The Sea Around … Continue reading →... Read more »

Bochdansky, A., van Aken, H., & Herndl, G. (2010) Role of macroscopic particles in deep-sea oxygen consumption. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(18), 8287-8291. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0913744107  

Boyce, D., Lewis, M., & Worm, B. (2010) Global phytoplankton decline over the past century. Nature, 466(7306), 591-596. DOI: 10.1038/nature09268  

Goldthwait, S., Carlson, C., Henderson, G., & Alldredge, A. (2005) Effects of physical fragmentation on remineralization of marine snow. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 59-65. DOI: 10.3354/meps305059  

WOTTON, R., & MALMQVIST, B. (2001) Feces in Aquatic Ecosystems. BioScience, 51(7), 537. DOI: 10.1641/0006-3568(2001)051[0537:FIAE]2.0.CO;2  

  • August 5, 2010
  • 11:21 AM
  • 888 views

Inevitability and oil, Pt. 2: the “end of oil” and human empathy

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

Never thought I’d actually get around to a Pt. 2, eh?  Well, I’ve shown you!  Here’s the first part: Inevitability and Oil, Pt. 1: the inherent risk for accidents in complex technology For decades now economists and scientists have predicted the “end of oil:” the day when we use up our oil reserves, potentially resulting [...]... Read more »

  • July 28, 2010
  • 09:12 AM
  • 1,103 views

Forest canopy height: why do we care?

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

If you’ve been on the internet at all in the past week, you’ve probably seen these lovely images from NASA, visualizing the height of tree canopies around the world.  They’ve been on science sites along with art ones.  In a sense, that alone is useful: using beautiful visuals to make people think about the world [...]... Read more »

  • July 19, 2010
  • 09:19 AM
  • 1,956 views

DMS(P): the amazing story of a pervasive indicator molecule in the marine food web

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

Dimethylsulfide.  Does that word mean anything to you?  “Why yes,” you organic chemistry nerds may say, “It clearly is a molecule of sulfur with two methyl groups attached.”  That’s as far as I could have gotten – until this past week, when I inundated myself with information on dimethylsulfide (DMS) due to a paper published [...]... Read more »

G. V. Wolfe, M. Steinke, & G. O. Kirst. (1997) Grazing-activated chemical defence in a unicellular marine alga. Nature, 894-897. info:/

  • June 25, 2010
  • 11:28 AM
  • 1,328 views

How did they get there? The colonization of a hydrothermal vent after volcanic eruption

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

To some people, a volcanic eruption means “Ahh!  Run!  Hot Lava!”  But to others, it means “SCIENCE!”  To those studying hydrothermal vent communities, that is (and a wide berth of geologists). Hydrothermal vents are cracks in the seafloor formed when tectonic plates spread apart, which spew out hot, mineral-rich water from the interior of the [...]... Read more »

Mullineaux, L., Adams, D., Mills, S., & Beaulieu, S. (2010) Larvae from afar colonize deep-sea hydrothermal vents after a catastrophic eruption. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(17), 7829-7834. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0913187107  

  • June 22, 2010
  • 04:05 PM
  • 1,277 views

Inevitability and Oil, Pt. 1: the inherent risk for accidents in complex technology

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

When I read updates on blogs or the news about the BP oil spill, my expression is generally very serious: furrowed brow, pursed lips which I’m probably chewing in alternation with gnawing a nail.  But last week I laughed out loud, a true LOL, a brash guffaw.  (“What?!” my labmates inquired.) I had read this [...]... Read more »

  • June 18, 2010
  • 11:49 AM
  • 1,606 views

Microbe biogeography: the distribution, dispersal and evolution of the littlest organisms

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

In any high school biology class1, we learn that isolation is key to the evolution of species.  For example, take Australia, where an array of marsupials such as koalas and kangaroos reproduce like no other animals on the planet.  Isolation on a continental island allowed ancestral marsupials to evolve gestation via pouch, a trait which [...]... Read more »

Martiny, J., Bohannan, B., Brown, J., Colwell, R., Fuhrman, J., Green, J., Horner-Devine, M., Kane, M., Krumins, J., Kuske, C.... (2006) Microbial biogeography: putting microorganisms on the map. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 4(2), 102-112. DOI: 10.1038/nrmicro1341  

  • May 25, 2010
  • 10:13 AM
  • 1,263 views

Molecular biology and globsters: dashing cryptozoologists’ dreams

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

On July 29th 2008, the day I turned 21 years, I received the best thing I could ask for: a birthday gift from Poseidon. I was living in Newport, OR at the time.  After a long morning of observing nesting seabirds through a telescope, I returned home for what I presumed to be a long [...]... Read more »

  • April 20, 2010
  • 11:21 AM
  • 1,544 views

Octopuses doing tricks on the internet and our search for non-human “intelligence”

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

An underwater photographer has his camera stolen by a thieving octopus, who flees with the device, filming along the way.  Sure, he was filming his own flesh, but baby’s first movie isn’t too shabby.

People love to talk about octopus “intelligence.”  The photographer specifies that the octopus wasn’t attacking him, but just wanted to steal [...]... Read more »

SETH, A., BAARS, B., & EDELMAN, D. (2005) Criteria for consciousness in humans and other mammals. Consciousness and Cognition, 14(1), 119-139. DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2004.08.006  

  • April 7, 2010
  • 05:36 PM
  • 1,258 views

Animals without oxygen and their implications for the evolution of life

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

It’s been a slow few weeks around here at Culturing Science.  It’s due to a little bit of writer’s block, but mainly it’s just the beautiful weather keeping me outdoors and away from the computer.  Hopefully you’ve been outside so much that you haven’t noticed.
But today my dream article was published: microorganisms, extreme environments, evolution, [...]... Read more »

Danovaro, R., Dell'Anno, A., Pusceddu, A., Gambi, C., Heiner, I., & Kristensen, R. (2010) The first metazoa living in permanently anoxic conditions. BMC Biology, 8(1), 30. DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-8-30  

  • March 2, 2010
  • 11:14 PM
  • 1,327 views

Invasive species corrupt DNA, not just ecosystems (Fitzpatrick et al., PNAS 2010)

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings


I rarely think about how invasive species affect genetics.  It’s always in terms of ecosystems or species: invasive brown tree snakes gobbling up birds and lizards in Guam, or zebra mussels overwhelming and altering the environment of the Great Lakes.  How one species outcompetes and replaces another, changing the natural system.  This is partly [...]... Read more »

Fitzpatrick, B., Johnson, J., Kump, D., Smith, J., Voss, S., & Shaffer, H. (2010) Rapid spread of invasive genes into a threatened native species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(8), 3606-3610. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0911802107  

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