The postdoc-to-faculty metamorphosis: mysterious, magical, sometimes kind of gross. Photo by chekabuje .
Over at The Molecular Ecologist this week, K. E. Lotterhos has been writing about making the jump from a postdoctoral research position to being an actual, honest-to-gods faculty member. It’s in two parts, one about finding the faculty job and the other about getting started once you land it.
After I took the job, everyone told me how relaxed I must be to have a job lined up. Relaxed? There has been a substantial amount of busy work (ramping up the conference schedule, fielding emails and scheduling skype conversations with potential graduate students, dealing with lab renovations…). Plus, I’m still trying to work on my postdoc research and get it published, so more people will know who I am and so my grants will be more competitive. Everything I do now has a sense of urgency.
Congratulations! You have a job. Now get to work! But seriously, this all covers the career stage I’m hoping to enter myself, any year now. It’s definitely worthwhile reading, and bookmarking, the whole thing.◼
Over at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense, guest contributor Jessica Oswald explains how a new fossil of a bird that lived 52 million years ago helps explain the origins of some of nature’s greatest aerial acrobats:
Swifts are able to reach the highest speeds during level flight (Chantler 1999) and hummingbirds are well known for their hovering abilities and their sideways and backward flight. Swifts and hummingbirds, while sharing the same wing bone characteristics, have different lengths of flight feathers, resulting in different wing shapes across the group, which allows them to perform their different aerial feats. Hummingbirds have shorter wings relative to their body size compared to swifts, resulting in their hovering abilities. These different wing shapes are well suited for their modern functions, but we have almost no fossils from this group, so we don’t know how the wing shapes diverged, or anything about the ecology of ancient species in this lineage.
To learn what the common ancestor of swifts and hummingbirds (or, rather, one of its early descendants) looked like, go read the whole thing.◼
This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! I’m discussing a nifty new study that suggests interacting species can sometimes tolerate stressful environments by helping each other out:
This was the perspective of Peter Kropotkin, a Russian prince and political anarchist who studied the wildlife of Siberia while working as an agent of the Czar’s government. In the harsh conditions of the Siberian winter, Kropotkin reported finding not a bitter struggle over scarce resources, but what he called “Mutual Aid” among species, as well as in the human settlements that managed to eke out a living.
Something like what Kropotkin described is documented in a new paper by Elizabeth Pringle and colleagues. Examining a protection mutualism between ants and the tropical Central American tree Cordia alliodora, Pringle et al. found that drier, more stressful environments supported more investment in the mutualism.
To learn how ants can help a tree deal with drier climates—no, it doesn’t involve little tiny bucket brigades—you’ll have to go read the whole thing.◼