July 03, 2014

9:02 PM | My #Evol2014 talk on population genomic “scans” for local adaptation
This year at the Evolution meetings, for the very first time, the conference organizers offered presenters the option of having our talks filmed by graduate student volunteers. Naturally, I had to try this out—and the result isn’t half bad! If … Continue reading →
6:25 AM | Journal Club: DNA analysis indicates Bigfoot may be a big fake
SUMMARY: A newly-published genetic analysis of hair samples suspected as being from a cryptic primate known by various names such as "bigfoot" or "yeti", has revealed they actually originated from dogs, horses, bears or other well known mammals. A newly-published genetic analysis of hair samples suspected as being from a cryptic primate known by various names such as "bigfoot" or "yeti", has revealed they actually originated from dogs, horses, bears or other well known mammals. The analysis was […]

July 02, 2014

9:21 PM | The One That (Almost) Got Away
Even though all specimens in a natural history collection (should) have a label explaining where, when & how they were captured, sometimes that doesn’t include the full story behind how a specimen came to rest in the collection. Consider the following. While enjoying a few cold beverages on a hot summer’s evening on the porch [...]
8:28 PM | The Urvogel’s Old, New Clothes
On May 5th, 1877, the German paleontologist Karl Zittel first laid eyes on one of the most stunning …
5:35 PM | Dear United States Citizenry,
This is predominantly a blog about science; however, as we are all part of the human race, we all have the duty to speak up when we feel a group […]
4:01 PM | Much rooms
June was the 5th wettest on record, most because of a couple of inches of rain right at the end of the month. The gardens, new plants, and some replants got plenty of water, and the lily pond even had to be drained a little. Wish it could be kept for later. Of course, our gardens have lots of mulch, which means lots of nice organic material to decompose, so the fungi have been busy too. The shredded wood mulch has provided us with some nice fungal fruiting bodies. Remember, […]
1:49 PM | Wordless Wednesday: I study the most adorable species in the world – Pouched Rats
We can’t all study the most adorable, photogenic rat ever known, so I generously share all of the cuteness with you. Pouched Rats – the most adorable little beasties! -- Read more on
12:00 PM | How Do Mosquitoes Find You?
Biology concepts – semiochemicals, hematophagy, proboscis, thermosensing, TRPA1Sure, mosquitoes suck blood and pass along malaria that kill more humans than any other infectious disease. But would it be good to get rid of them. They provide food for birds – one scientist suggests that elimination of Arctic mosquitoes could reduce northern bird populations by 50%. And mosquitoes pollinate flowers too, like blueberries and cranberries. See, they’re not all bad.We can start our […]

Maekawa E, Aonuma H, Nelson B, Yoshimura A, Tokunaga F, Fukumoto S & Kanuka H (2011). The role of proboscis of the malaria vector mosquito Anopheles stephensi in host-seeking behavior., Parasites & vectors, 4 10. PMID:

Albeny-Simões D, Murrell EG, Elliot SL, Andrade MR, Lima E, Juliano SA & Vilela EF (2014). Attracted to the enemy: Aedes aegypti prefers oviposition sites with predator-killed conspecifics., Oecologia, 175 (2) 481-92. PMID:

Olanga EA, Okal MN, Mbadi PA, Kokwaro ED & Mukabana WR (2010). Attraction of Anopheles gambiae to odour baits augmented with heat and moisture., Malaria journal, 9 6. PMID:

Liu C & Zwiebel LJ (2013). Molecular characterization of larval peripheral thermosensory responses of the malaria vector mosquito Anopheles gambiae., PloS one, 8 (8) PMID:

1:37 AM | DNA analysis reveals Bigfoot is a big fake | @GrrlScientist
A newly-published genetic analysis of hair samples suspected as being from a cryptic primate known by various names such as "bigfoot" or "yeti", has revealed they actually originated from dogs, horses, bears or other well known mammals. A newly-published genetic analysis of hair samples suspected as being from a cryptic primate known by various names such as "bigfoot" or "yeti", has revealed they actually originated from dogs, horses, bears or other, well known, mammals. The analysis was […]

Sykes B.C., Mullis R.A., Hagenmuller C., Melton T.W. & Sartori M. (2014). Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti, bigfoot and other anomalous primates, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0161

MacLeod N. (2014). Molecular analysis of ‘anomalous primate’ hair samples (commentary), Proceedings of the Royal Society B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0843

Hailer F., B. M. Hallstrom, D. Klassert, S. R. Fain, J. A. Leonard, U. Arnason & A. Janke (2012). Nuclear Genomic Sequences Reveal that Polar Bears Are an Old and Distinct Bear Lineage, Science, 336 (6079) 344-347. DOI:


July 01, 2014

9:10 PM | Cargo bikes
Bicycles designed to haul cargo are pretty unusual even around a bike-popular college town.  TPP's own BikeE has a nice nylon pack behind the seat and it's big enough to pick up produce at the farmer's market near the university. But beyond that, carrying more stuff is a bit tough.  Here's a pretty cool looking cargo bike that puts the load low and amid ships.  Looks like it could certainly handle several bags of groceries. However, the sprawl of our urban areas can defeat […]
1:00 PM | A guide to the science and pseudoscience of A Troublesome Inheritance, part I: The genetics of human populations
This is the first in a series of guest posts in which Chris Smith will examine the evolutionary claims made in Nicholas Wade’s book A Troublesome Inheritance. Chris is an Associate Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at Willamette University. He uses population genetic approaches to understand coevolution of plants and insects, and he teaches the interdisciplinary course “Race, Racism, and Human […]

Bryc K., T. Karafet, A. Moreno-Estrada, A. Reynolds, A. Auton, M. Hammer, C. D. Bustamante & H. Ostrer (2010). Genome-wide patterns of population structure and admixture among Hispanic/Latino populations, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107 (Supplement_2) 8954-8961. DOI:

Cavalli-Sforza L.L., C.R. Cantor, R.M. Cook-Deegan & M.-C. King (1991). Call for a worldwide survey of human genetic diversity: A vanishing opportunity for the Human Genome Project, Genomics, 11 (2) 490-491. DOI:

Evanno G. & J. Goudet (2005). Detecting the number of clusters of individuals using the software structure: a simulation study, Molecular Ecology, 14 (8) 2611-2620. DOI:

Gagneux P., U. Gerloff, D. Tautz, P. A. Morin, C. Boesch, B. Fruth, G. Hohmann, O. A. Ryder & D. S. Woodruff (1999). Mitochondrial sequences show diverse evolutionary histories of African hominoids, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 96 (9) 5077-5082. DOI:

Moreno-Estrada A., J. C. Fernandez-Lopez, F. Zakharia, M. Sikora, A. V. Contreras, V. Acuna-Alonzo, K. Sandoval, C. Eng, S. Romero-Hidalgo & P. Ortiz-Tello & (2014). The genetics of Mexico recapitulates Native American substructure and affects biomedical traits, Science, 344 (6189) 1280-1285. DOI:

Moreno-Estrada A., Fouad Zakharia, Jacob L. McCauley, Jake K. Byrnes, Christopher R. Gignoux, Patricia A. Ortiz-Tello, Ricardo J. Martínez, Dale J. Hedges, Richard W. Morris & Celeste Eng & (2013). Reconstructing the population genetic history of the Caribbean, PLoS Genetics, 9 (11) e1003925. DOI:

Novembre J., Katarzyna Bryc, Zoltán Kutalik, Adam R. Boyko, Adam Auton, Amit Indap, Karen S. King, Sven Bergmann, Matthew R. Nelson & Matthew Stephens & (2008). Genes mirror geography within Europe, Nature, 456 (7218) 98-101. DOI:

Rosenberg N.A., Sohini Ramachandran, Chengfeng Zhao, Jonathan K. Pritchard & Marcus W. Feldman (2005). Clines, clusters, and the effect of study design on the inference of human population structure, PLoS Genetics, 1 (6) e70. DOI:

Rosenberg N.A. (2002). Genetic structure of human populations, Science, 298 (5602) 2381-2385. DOI:

Tishkoff S.A., F. R. Friedlaender, C. Ehret, A. Ranciaro, A. Froment, J. B. Hirbo, A. A. Awomoyi, J.-M. Bodo, O. Doumbo & M. Ibrahim & (2009). The genetic structure and history of Africans and African Americans, Science, 324 (5930) 1035-1044. DOI:

Wang S., Mattias Jakobsson, Sohini Ramachandran, Nicolas Ray, Gabriel Bedoya, Winston Rojas, Maria V. Parra, Julio A. Molina, Carla Gallo & Guido Mazzotti & (2007). Genetic variation and population structure in Native Americans, PLoS Genetics, 3 (11) e185. DOI:

1:00 PM | Bayesian Markov-chain Monte Carlo in population genetics
This is a guest post by Arun Sethuraman, a postdoctoral associate with Jody Hey, studying statistical models for divergence population genetics in the Department of Biology at Temple University. You can also find him on Twitter, and on his short story blog. Prompted by the great response … Continue reading →
12:59 PM | Wooster Geologist en route to China
DETROIT AIRPORT, MICHIGAN — My long anticipated trip to China has started. I have a bit of a wait in Detroit before boarding a 14-hour flight to Beijing, followed by a connection on to Shenyang. I am visiting China by invitation from geologists at Northeastern University in Shenyang. My host is Yongli Zhang, an invertebrate […]
4:24 AM | Teenagers are crazy because they’re just like lizards
Remember that time you went to the zoo, and there were these huge reptiles, like maybe Komodo Dragons, and they just sat around doing nothing? Except every so often one of them would make some vaguely unpleasant noise, or snap viciously at one of the others? And finally it dawned on you that it was […]
12:54 AM | The Dining Habits of a Jurassic Sea Dragon
When I was a fossil-crazed tyke, I used to spend hours flipping through a set of LIFE Young …

June 30, 2014

8:22 PM | Monday, monday
Monday started early when a cat woke TPP to tell him that a thunderstorm was approaching, a fact he would find out himself in another 10 to 15 minutes. She's got good hearing and is a little afraid of thunder. The morning news confirmed that here in Lincolnland politics particularly the state's gerrymandered election districts were not going change because a political hired gun of a legal persuasion managed to convince a judge that the half a million signatures, more than twice the […]
7:28 PM | Duikers once more
Time for another classic from the archives. This article originally appeared on Tet Zoo ver 2 back in August 2008 (my god… about six years ago), and appears here in tweaked, updated form.... -- Read more on
7:16 PM | “Experimental Evolution Amongst Plants” (1895)
Tl;dr: This post features my (thus far) favorite quote that I have found when doing historical work on experimental evolution. In his speech/article, Liberty Hyde Bailey argued that the truth of evolution had already been demonstrated… centuries ago as well as in the present day, not by the academic elite, but by those involved in the cultivation of […]
6:12 PM | A polymorphism persists in panmixia despite unfit heterozygotes
Discovering the genes that underlie phenotypic variation within species is increasingly common, but figuring out how they respond to natural selection is a major challenge. Stickleback researchers have been particularly successful at identifying genes or genomic regions of major phenotypic effect. The Pitx1 gene, for example, is known to influence pelvic girdle and spine development. QTL studies have revealed genomic regions underlying variation in phenotypes ranging from juvenile growth rate, […]
4:25 PM | Chilling Out With “Mammoths: Ice Age Giants”
Mammoths and I go way back, not quite to the Ice Age but at least to the late 1970s with my family’s visits to the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum, and Milwaukee Public Museum, to name two prominent places that inspired me. And one of my favourite science books had a colourful mammoth painting on […]
3:28 PM | Urban Science Adventure: 100+ things to do outside
It’s summer. The kids are out of school. You want to keep them engaged and active. Most parents also want to keep them on track academically, but not necessarily with a strong hand approach to... -- Read more on
12:54 PM | The First Animal Reefs
Sandwiched between two deserts, the dry landscapes of Namibia see less rainfall ...
11:30 AM | The Cable Companies Want to Control our Internet Access. We are so hosed.
If you’re reading this, you care deeply about net neutrality - even if you don’t know what it means. How would you like to pay 2, 3, or maybe 10 times as much to access all the websites you frequent? Think it can’t happen? Well, think again.The cable TV companies that control most of America’s access to the Internet want to change your online experience - for the worse. If we allow them to destroy net neutrality, here’s how your Internet service might look very […]
6:31 AM | Birdbooker Report 326-7
SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts. “Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin. Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.) Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them!... Read […]
4:05 AM | Jerry Coyne sees a picture of my poster on twitter, is a dick
Last week I was in Raleigh, NC for Evolution 2014, this year’s edition of the annual joint meeting of the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Society of Systematic Biology, and the American Society of Naturalists. I brought a poster that presented some work I’ve been doing on how noise (e.g., environmental fluctuation) can […]

June 29, 2014

9:16 PM | You Should Know: Dr. Michael D L Johnson and Black Science Blog
Welcome to my seventh installment of You Should Know, where I give my own #ScholarSunday salute to Science Bloggers and Blogs you may not yet know about. Introducing Dr. Michael D L Johnson and Black... -- Read more on
6:30 PM | The University of Google – Armchair Science & Medicine
Sometimes, parents have to fight like tigers to advocate for their kids. I think we’ve all had unfortunate run-ins with healthcare professionals who have the bedside manner of a prickly […]
6:23 AM | Going off the Grid for Pillow Lavas
Tatogga Lake, British Columbia – We’ve been traveling for four days and have finally arrived at our destination: Tatogga Lake. Tomorrow, we’ll be traveling by helicopter to our field site. It’s the first helicopter ride for most of us and we’re pretty excited about the birds-eye view of our subglacial pillow ridge (not to mention […]
1:06 AM | Garden gnome drone
TPP thinks he's on to something. First, let's assume you have a ceramic garden gnome because you cannot find anything more interesting to put in your garden like a chair. Second, never under estimate how lazy people can be. So the innovative thought here is to make a ceramic garden gnome drone.  The gnome functions as camouflage for the drone. There you are on the patio with a nice cold cocktail, and you want to know how much it rained last […]

June 28, 2014

7:04 AM | Pillows, and Dikes, and Bears. Oh My!
Guest Bloggers: Mary Reinthal, Julia Franceschi, and Liz Plascencia Greetings from Smithers, British Columbia! It is day three on the road and we are less then 2 days away from arriving at our field site – Pillow Ridge here we come! So far we have seen an array of fascinating geological features, including massive walls […]
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