Queer in STEM on Autostraddle

My collaborator on the Queer in STEM project and I are flattered to be the subjects of an entire profile over at Autostraddle, part of the great series on “Queered Science” by Vivian Underhill, who also gave us a nice nod in an article for Bitch Magazine. The Autostraddle article gets into the genesis of the project:

Allison had done some work on queer issues previously, on “discrimination in school settings, transnational queer migration, and identity development.” So Jeremy asked Allison what she thought about the idea of a survey of a nation-wide sample of queer scientists – as a social scientist, did she think results like that would be publishable? “I responded, ‘are you asking me to teach you about doing research with human subjects? Sure!'”

There’s even an artist’s rendering of us hard at work in the field:

You should definitely go read the whole thing.◼

Science online, poison in your potatoes edition

rhubarb Rhubarb. Delicious but toxic. Photo by Heather Quintal.
  • This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! Lizards that adjust their development for their habitat based on the temperature outside their eggs.
  • You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll hopefully learn a little about harassment and how to stop it. Hope Jahren sure can write.
  • Color me not surprised, still unhappy to see it. There’s a gender gap in citation counts.
  • Plants versus everyone else. The not-so-hidden chemical warfare agents of the vegetable aisle.
  • “Use the left lane for passing, Mr. Sulu.” What an Alcubierre warp-drive spacecraft would look like on its way past.
  • Hmm. Should peer reviewers review methods even before the experiments are done?
  • Welcome to the hominid family! On that new, impressively complete skull of an early Homo species.
  • Bookmarking for (hopefully not too much) later. How life as a professor isn’t like anything you’ve done before.

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Incubation temperature tailors these skinks to their habitat

Closed-litter Rainbow-skink (Carlia longipes) Carlia longipes. Photo by berniedup.

This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense, there’s a post from yours truly about a curious case of developmental flexibility in some Australian lizards. It seems that rainbow skinks (Carlia longipes) develop bigger bodies and longer legs if they’re incubated in cooler nests—and those developmental changes provide an advantage in the rocky habitats where nest temperatures are typically cooler:

Life is risky for a newly hatched lizard. You have to make your way in a habitat you’ve never seen before, full of all sorts of larger animals that think you’d make a decent snack, if maybe not a full meal. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could’ve been preparing for the conditions you’ll meet out there even before you crack through that shell?

Well, for one species of skinks, it looks like this may be exactly what happens. A recent paper in The American Naturalist makes the case that rainbow skinks (Carlia longipes) develop in their eggs to match the habitat conditions around their nest—based on the temperature of the nest.

This is a classic case of phenotypic plasticity, in which development responds to the environment to provide a better fit—but in Carlia longipes, plasticity goes beyond growing longer legs. To find out what’s up with these skinks, go read the whole thing.◼

Science online, what is this I can’t even edition

2008.10.04 - fall colors Photo by jby.

So this week, these things happened: Biologist and Scientific American blogger Danielle N. Lee called out a deeply disrespectful editor at the website Biology-Online, only to have SciAm take down her post. In response to widespread outrage and agitation, SciAm‘s editor-in-chief relented and more-or-less apologized.

And then Monica Byrne and Hannah Waters came forward to report that Bora Zivkovic—the SciAm blogs editor, co-founder of the ScienceOnline conference, series editor of the Open Lab anthology, and all-around godfather of online science communication—had sexually harassed them. Bora’s confirmed Monica Byrne’s report, apologized, resigned from the board of ScienceOnline, and is apparently taking leave from SciAm.

Not a good week for some leading institutions of science outreach—but also, one hopes, the first steps toward doing better.

Also these things:

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Circumcision and microbial ecology

Banana Peel What? Photo by photograφ.

Over at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, Sarah Hird describes a new study of what happens to the microbial community of the human penis when you make a … let’s say a certain change to its environment?

They begin by sampling the penile microbiota of 156 uncircumcised men. Approximately half of the men are then circumcised and all subjects are resampled after one year (presumably enough time that behavior is unaffected by the procedure).

Yeah, it’s maybe not surprising that circumcision would change what kinds of bacteria hang out in the region formerly covered by the foreskin. But apparently that change may contribute to the reduced rate of HIV transmission associated with circumcision. To find out how, go read the whole thing.◼

Science online, anthropocentrism and budgetary doomsday edition

Lab Mouse checkin out the camera Another victim of the shutdown. Photo by Minette Layne.
  • This week at The Molecular Ecologist Is the ultimate model organism for molecular genetics Homo sapiens?
  • This week in shutdown science: The CDC sits out an outbreak of drug-resistant salmonella, experiments on hold, lab mice euthanized and an entire season of Antarctic research cancelled.
  • Not like they have much state funding to lose, these days. Public universities are looking for ways to be less, um, public.
  • Of course, it can be both! Is behavioral genetics “taboo,” or just bad science?
  • From the personal to the general. The New York Times Magazine goes in-depth on underrepresentation of women in science.
  • Because bunnies! The Central Limit Theorem turns out to be adorable.
  • This sounds … familiar. The Great Library of Alexandria wasn’t destroyed by a fire, but by budget cuts.
  • Literally, because he says he can’t. Why Malcolm Gladwell can’t be trusted.
  • About 35 years. A new study estimates how long global warming can continue before average temperatures exceed historical highs.
  • It’s more likely to be MRSA. No, that’s almost certainly not a brown recluse bite.

The Molecular Ecologist: Is Homo sapiens a model organism?

New York City Photo by Bikoy.

Over at The Molecular Ecologist, guest contributor Jacob Tennessan suggests that for those of us who study the genetics of natural populations, the ultimate “model organism” may be … us.

Thus, the field of human population genetics has always been a step or two ahead of the molecular ecology of wildlife. Common techniques like mitochondrial- or microsatellite-based phylogeography analyses were pioneered with data from humans. Research into human molecular ecology has yielded countless fascinating stories that provide a baseline for what to expect when examining other taxa. Some are well-known textbook examples, like the sickle-cell hemoglobin balanced polymorphism that conveys resistance to malaria, or the human global diaspora reflected in sequence diversity that traces back to “mitochondrial Eve” and “Y-chromosome Adam.”

Does that make Homo sapiens a “model organism” in the same sense as fruitflies and Caenorhabditis elegans, or more of a proving ground for new molecular methods? Go read the whole thing, and tell us what you think in the comments.◼

2013 Twin Cities Marathon, in photos

2013.10.06 - Balloon Arch Photo by jby.

So, that marathon I ran this morning? Went pretty damn well. My official time is 3 hours 19 minutes 55 seconds, which is a personal record marathon time—by about ten minutes! I attribute this to (1) spectacular autumnal weather—clear, cool, and perfect for running; (2) some half-arsed attempts at speed training I did over the winter; and (3) actually paying attention to my pacing, instead of my usual marathon strategy of just running as fast as I can until I end up barely able to walk the last mile.

I didn’t do much tweeting from the course, but I did take a bunch of photos—the camera on my new iPhone is a lot better than my old one. So here they are, with a reconstructed transcript of my internal dialogue:

“The best thing about a marathon in my hometown is, I can walk to the starting line. It was near the Metrodome. And the weather’s nice and clear! But, eek, I only have about 25 minutes to stand in the porta-potty line …”

2013.10.06 - Metrodome Photo by jby.

“Whew. All set. Time to head to the start line.”

2013.10.06 - Headed to the starting line Photo by jby.

“And we’re off! Next stop, Saint Paul.”

2013.10.06 - And we're off! Photo by jby.

“Yay, marathons! Here’s Hennepin Avenue. I’m going to see Wicked in a couple weeks!”

2013.10.06 - South on Hennepin Photo by jby.

“And here’s the Basilica.”

2013.10.06 - Basilica I Photo by jby.

“I’m a sucker for Baroque architecture.”

2013.10.06 - Basilica II Photo by jby.

“Ooh, the Walker Art Museum.”

2013.10.06 - Walker Art Museum Photo by jby.

“And now we’re at the lakes! This is just like my usual Sunday runs.”

2013.10.06 - Lakeside I Photo by jby.

“There’s the skyline across Lake Calhoun.”

2013.10.06 - Lake Calhoun Photo by jby.

“And now the trails around Lake Harriet.”

2013.10.06 - Lake Harriet Photo by jby.

“Is this Minnehaha Parkway? I’ve never run here before.”

2013.10.06 - Parkway Photo by jby.

“Balloon arch!”

2013.10.06 - Balloon Arch Photo by jby.

“Almost to the halfway mark. Whew.”

2013.10.06 - Almost halfway! Photo by jby.

“Oof. Sixteen miles in two hours. I’m right on pace.”

2013.10.06 - Mile 16 Photo by jby.

“Crossing the Franklin Avenue Bridge. I’ve done this hundreds of times before … but it hurts a lot more this time.”

2013.10.06 - Franklin Avenue Bridge Photo by jby.

“Gee, thanks for the reminder, sponsor I’ve never heard of. Six miles to go, mostly uphill.”

2013.10.06 - Gee, thanks. Photo by jby.

[Five and a half miles of incoherence and pain. Otherwise known as Summit Avenue.]

“Finally, the cathedral. All downhill from here. Ow.”

2013.10.06 - Cathedral Photo by jby.

“I can see the State Capitol!”

2013.10.06 - Final stretch Photo by jby.

“Getting closer …”

2013.10.06 - Finish line in sight Photo by jby.

“The finish line! Does that clock really say 3:20?”

2013.10.06 - Crossing the finish Photo by jby.

“Ow. Owowowowow. Now where’s the chicken broth table?”

2013.10.06 - State Capitol Photo by jby.

“Of course they make me climb a staircase to get to the bus back to Minneapolis. Ow.”

2013.10.06 - Finish line festival I Photo by jby.

And that’s the lot. Next year, I’m going to have to do a marathon out of state for a change. Maybe Chicago?◼

Marathoning, yet again

Tomorrow morning I’m running the Twin Cities Marathon—a mere two and a half years, and three other marathons, after I moved to the Twin Cities. What can I say? Scheduling is tricky.

I’ll be bringing my phone, so there may be live-tweeted photos if I’m feeling comfortable enough for that. Certainly the forecast—cool and cloudy but not actually raining—is perfect weather for both a very long run and for nice photos of the prettiest parts [PDF] of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. But I’m really hoping to crack my current time record of about 3 hours 30 minutes, so the only mid-race updates may be the ones available via the marathon website.

In the meantime, I have one last very short run to go do, to keep the ol’ joints loose.◼

Science online, shutdown edition

Aedes aegypti mosquito A safer DEET successor can’t arrive soon enough. Photo by Sanofi Pasteur.