Science Storiented

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The purpose of Science Storiented is to disseminate scientific knowledge in an educational and entertaining manner. As such, while reading through this blog you will encounter an eclectic mix of serious science, funny and/or educational science videos, the occasional infographic, and general geekology references that we scientists find poignantly true.

Melissa Chernick
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  • August 1, 2013
  • 06:08 PM

Heavy Metals in Fish: Toxicity and Tolerance

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

Today I found an interesting paper that fits right in to my new job in the field of aquatic ecotoxicology. As the name suggests, this field is a combination of ecology and toxicology that deals with the nature, effects, and interactions of harmful substances in the environment. In my case, it is aquatic, freshwater systems in particular. The paper I came across looks at the effects of metal contamination and tolerance in freshwater fish.Metal contamination is something that occurs worldwide. A n........ Read more »

  • July 2, 2013
  • 03:35 PM

The Boob-Resource Hypothesis: Why Is Bigger Better?

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

It has been quite a while since I've made an entry in to the "Groundbreaking science - men like boobs" category.  In the past, I've made the following statement on this topic: "Men like big breasts, therefore women evolve larger breasts. It's an evolutionarily solid argument, assuming of course that male preference exerts any pressure on the evolution of female secondary sexual characteristics." Indeed, evidence is mounting that humans have a great propensity to rely on their perceptions of........ Read more »

  • June 7, 2013
  • 04:18 PM

The Halting of the Hot Jupiter

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

We haven’t talked about exoplanets for a while, and we should ‘cause they are pretty badass. Through various podcasts and the like, I've been hearing some really cool things about NASA’s Kepler Mission and all of neat astronomical bodies it’s been finding. So I decided to browse around the NASA and JPL websites to see what new coolness has been discovered recently.NASA’s Kepler Mission was launched in 2009. It was built to detect potentially life-supporting planets around other stars........ Read more »

  • May 28, 2013
  • 04:38 PM

Staying Sticky, a Frog's Journey

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

Climbing is good. It allows for gaining access to habitats that would otherwise be unavailable. And while this access is important (otherwise, why climb in the first place?), equally important is not falling to a gruesome death. This means that your method of adhesion to the surface you are climbing needs to be effective. For example, on rough surfaces, friction pads and claws work rather well. Smooth surfaces and overhangs offer a bit more of a challenge. If you want to climb one of these surfa........ Read more »

  • April 26, 2013
  • 02:53 PM

The Curious Case of the Earworm (Part 2)

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

In Part 1 of this topic, we explored the reasons why we like certain songs. But what transforms that likable melody into an earworm? Or is likability even a contributing factor? We took the biochemical/neurological route in Part 1, so now we’re gonna go all psychology for this one with a paper published in 2011 in Psychology of Music.Let’s get some terminology out of the way first. We all have internally-directed thought (all that stuff you think to yourself), and we also experience spontane........ Read more »

Hyman, I., Burland, N., Duskin, H., Cook, M., Roy, C., McGrath, J., & Roundhill, R. (2013) Going Gaga: Investigating, Creating, and Manipulating the Song Stuck in My Head. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 27(2), 204-215. DOI: 10.1002/acp.2897  

  • April 19, 2013
  • 04:16 PM

The Curious Case of the Earworm (Part 1)

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

I have had “Thrift Shop” stuck in my head for what seems like days.Yes, it is always on the radio, and yes, I usually listen to it when it is playing. Don't judge me. But why (*Stella scream* wwhhhhyyyyy!) has it established a permanent residence in my brain? I’m going to use a few studies to make the case that it isn’t my fault; I’m led around by my biochemistry. Basically, I’m blaming it on my neurons.Hmmm…where to start. Let’s try to figure out why we like a song (or music in ........ Read more »

  • April 12, 2013
  • 05:21 PM

Om Nom Nom: The Links Between Plant Diversity and Herbivory

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

I usually start a post with the reason why a particular article caught my eye. Today, I’m not sure why my eyeballs glommed on to this paper, but they did. As it turns out, they have a pretty good taste in articles. Who knew?An early view paper from the Journal of Ecology looks at how the large herbivores of the African savanna affect the diversity and community structure of plants. More and more studies these days are taking a phylogenetic approach to community ecology questions. That is, they........ Read more »

Kowiyou Yessoufou, T. Jonathan Davies, Olivier Maurin, Maria Kuzmina, Hanno Schaefer, Michelle van der Bank, & Vincent Savolainen. (2013) Large herbivores favour species diversity but have mixed impacts on phylogenetic community structure in an African savanna ecosystem. Journal of Ecology. info:/10.1111/1365-2745.12059

  • March 29, 2013
  • 08:15 PM

Getting to the Roots (and Fungi) of Carbon Sequestration

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

This week, I found a paper that I’m calling the best of both worlds. Well, for me at least. This paper combines my past (and lingering) interest in island biogeography with a current interest in climate change and carbon storage.If you have been reading my blog long enough then you already know my love of islands. They are just so darn useful. In the past, I have focused on oceanic islands, but lake islands are also really neat. These types of islands typically form when lower lying land........ Read more »

Clemmensen, K., Bahr, A., Ovaskainen, O., Dahlberg, A., Ekblad, A., Wallander, H., Stenlid, J., Finlay, R., Wardle, D., & Lindahl, B. (2013) Roots and Associated Fungi Drive Long-Term Carbon Sequestration in Boreal Forest. Science, 339(6127), 1615-1618. DOI: 10.1126/science.1231923  

  • March 22, 2013
  • 06:48 PM

They're All Alike: The Giant Squid Conundrum

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

I wasn’t going to post on another paper this week but then two things happened: I saw the video of the first giant squid filmed in its natural habitat (those scientists get so excited!), and I saw the study about giant squid diversity. I posted the first above and now we'll take a look at the second.The giant squid (Architeuthis spp.) is one of the largest invertebrates and lives in the deep sea. It was first described as Architeuthis dux in 1857 by Danish naturalist Japetus Steenstrub, but s........ Read more »

Winkelmann, I., Campos, P., Strugnell, J., Cherel, Y., Smith, P., Kubodera, T., Allcock, L., Kampmann, M., Schroeder, H., Guerra, A.... (2013) Mitochondrial genome diversity and population structure of the giant squid Architeuthis: genetics sheds new light on one of the most enigmatic marine species. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280(1759), 20130273-20130273. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.0273  

  • March 18, 2013
  • 06:39 PM

Biological Beta Testing: Altitudinal Edition

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

Spatial patterns in biodiversity have always been a popular topic in ecology, and understanding these patterns helps us to address the looming threats to biodiversity.Did you notice how I made the word ‘patterns’ plural? There isn’t a whole separate field of biogeography for nothin’. Biological diversity is difficult (some say impossible) to measure using a single metric. How do you count things? Simply by the number of species? How about rare versus common species? What about species t........ Read more »

Mori, A., Shiono, T., Koide, D., Kitagawa, R., Ota, A., & Mizumachi, E. (2013) Community assembly processes shape an altitudinal gradient of forest biodiversity. Global Ecology and Biogeography. DOI: 10.1111/geb.12058  

  • February 13, 2013
  • 12:45 PM

Getting a Date for Valentine's Day: A Scientific Approach (Part 2)

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

Welcome to Part 2 of Getting a Date for Valentine’s Day: A Scientific Approach. This will make sense if you haven’t read Part 1, but to enjoy the full impact of this V-Day themed explosion of scientific knowledge, I suggest you read both. If that cramps your style then here’s a summary: (1) Just Ask, (2) Get Your Foot in the Door, and (3) Gaze Without Being Creepy. Now, let’s move on…4. Make Them LaughHow often do you hear that what people really want is someone with a sense of humor? ........ Read more »

Elliot, A., Niesta Kayser, D., Greitemeyer, T., Lichtenfeld, S., Gramzow, R., Maier, M., & Liu, H. (2010) Red, rank, and romance in women viewing men. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139(3), 399-417. DOI: 10.1037/a0019689  

Elliot, A., & Niesta, D. (2008) Romantic red: Red enhances men's attraction to women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1150-1164. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.95.5.1150  

Guéguen, N. (2011) ‘‘Say it with flowers’’: The effect of flowers on mating attractiveness and behavior. Social Influence, 6(2), 105-112. info:/10.1080/15534510.2011.561556

  • February 11, 2013
  • 06:39 PM

Getting a Date for Valentine’s Day: A Scientific Approach (Part 1)

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

Quite frankly, most years I feel like kicking Valentine’s Day in the truffles. Do I recognize this as a single woman’s reaction to a mushy, lovey, couples' holiday? Sure, but the urge to kick remains. This year, however, I’ve decided to take a more lighthearted, less violent approach. Part of this approach is to recognize, and even revel in, the more ridiculous aspects of commercialism and human relationships. As such, I found a selection of papers that, when put together, loosely instruct........ Read more »

  • January 28, 2013
  • 05:16 PM

Dung Beetles and Ball-Rolling: Star Light, Star Bright

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

Lately, it seems that poo is a popular topic in science news sections, and the dung beetle seems to be up front and center. I suppose that, if you are a dung beetle, you've solved all sorts of poo-related problems. If you recall the dung beetles and ball-cooling post from November, you will remember that these insects use their dung balls to help cool off their feet on the blazing hot African sands. But what if you are a beetle that works at night? You can chuck out the hot feet problem and worr........ Read more »

Dacke, M., Baird, E., Byrne, M., Scholtz, C., & Warrant, E. (2013) Dung Beetles Use the Milky Way for Orientation. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.12.034  

  • January 17, 2013
  • 02:47 PM

No Death for Death Panels

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

On Halloween 2009, my costume was a Death Panel. No kidding. And no, I won't show you a picture. As with most political themed costumes, it was funny at the time but was one of those things I thought would melt into the annals of popular culture. I mean, I can't exactly pull that off this year in the way I did then. However, the term "death panel" is one that seems to have perpetuated in the social landscape."Death panel" is a political term that originated in an August 2009 debate about federal........ Read more »

  • January 11, 2013
  • 04:07 PM

The Silverback Playbook: Changing Climate and Ape Distribution

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

On occasion, I go back to my roots in biogeography and peruse that subset of journals for interesting articles. Admittedly, I now skip over some topics that I used to devour, such as the species-area relationship (the "most general, yet protean pattern" that has recently warranted a special virtual issue). These days, I tend to stop and read articles about distribution patterns, especially as they relate to current problems like climate change.There are an increasing number of studies that show ........ Read more »

  • January 4, 2013
  • 06:22 PM

Burn Baby Burn: Fire, Forests, and Carbon

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

I know, I know. I've been a bit absent over the last few weeks. I'm going to call laying on the beach in South Florida at Christmas enough of an excuse. That and I was finishing up my Wildland Firefighter course. Yep, I'm now all certified to start and stop forest fires. Should you be afraid? Perhaps. But it got me to thinking about prescribed burning, an area of ecology that I know about but don't regularly keep up with the literature. So I decided to take a look at what has recently been publi........ Read more »

  • December 13, 2012
  • 05:52 PM

Drinking the Clouds

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

I don’t often talk about water movement in plants even though I work in a lab that studies water movement in plants. I should probably ruminate on that but won’t. Instead, I’ll start out by putting a complex problem into the simplest of terms: Plants drink water with their roots. Alright, that’s true but perhaps it is a bit too elementary. I think that, in this case, I need to explain it in more detail so that you can really appreciate why a certain research paper caught my attention.Fo........ Read more »

  • November 28, 2012
  • 05:50 PM

The Gift of Regifting

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

Be honest: How bad is it to regift? We've all gotten gifts that are clearly items someone was given and didn't want. A Chia Pet, a fruitcake, or an ugly piece of jewelry. Some things you can just tell. No lie, I once got a set of used cassette tapes. I don't even own a cassette tape player. I considered rethinking a friendship.Most often, people regift things they will not use or gifts they do not like. If you want to stick a name on it, it is a problem researchers refer to as "deadweight loss."........ Read more »

  • November 21, 2012
  • 05:10 PM

The Psychology of Gift Giving: Unique and Expensive or Ordinary but Useful?

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

The holiday shopping season is almost upon us. Black Friday is but a couple of days away. The annual shopping explosion event when you start thinking how close the year is to being over, how you haven’t even thought about what you are going to buy anyone, and how much money you don’t have to spend. Actually, I tend to be a Cyber Monday kind of shopper, but the same tenets hold true.Gift giving: What do you get someone? Will they like it? What will they give you? Will you like it? Quite frank........ Read more »

Teigen, K., Olsen, M., & Solås, O. (2005) Giver-receiver asymmetries in gift preferences. British Journal of Social Psychology, 44(1), 125-144. DOI: 10.1348/014466604X23428  

  • November 9, 2012
  • 03:25 PM

Dung Beetles and Ball-Cooling: The Secret of the Poo

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

You’re a dung beetle. That isn’t an insult, it’s a visualization aid. You are a dung beetle, you live in South Africa, you roll up feces into balls, you push those balls to a storage location, and you use the balls as food or for brooding. Now, as a human visualizing yourself as a dung beetle, consider the environment you are rolling your dung ball across: the sands of the South African desert. Are your feet hot? How do you cool them down?The authors of a new paper in Current Biology asked........ Read more »

Smolka, J., Baird, E., Byrne, M., el Jundi, B., Warrant, E., & Dacke, M. (2012) Dung beetles use their dung ball as a mobile thermal refuge. Current Biology, 22(20). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.08.057  

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