Science online, cat fancy edition

The white cat What’s going on in there? Photo by Enrico .

The Molecular Ecologist: Scanning the genome for local adaptation

The collection locations for plant lines sampled in my analysis. Figure 1 from Yoder et al. (2014).

This week at The Molecular Ecologist, I’ve just posted a new discussion of the latest publication to come out of my postdoctoral research with the Medicago HapMap Project. It’s an attempt to find genome regions that might be important for adaptation to climate, by scanning through a whole lot of genetic data from plants collected in different climates.

This is what’s known as a “reverse ecology” approach—it skips over the process of identifying specific traits that are important for surviving changing climates, and instead uses population genetic patterns to infer what’s going on. One approach for such a scan is presented in my latest paper, which is in this month’s issue of Genetics. Essentially I think of this as what you can do, given a lot of genetic data for a geographically distributed sample—in this case for barrel medick, or Medicago truncatula. Medicago truncatula is a model legume species, which has been used in a great deal of laboratory and greenhouse experimentation—but in this project, I tried to treat M. truncatula as a “field model” organism.

For a run-down of what I did, and what I found, go read the whole post—or check out the paper itself [PDF].◼

Science online, beards and shields edition

Beard Is this man smiling because everyone else in the room is clean shaven? Photo by Mike Mozart.

Science online, surprising consensus edition

Grizzly Bear - Animal - Wildlife - Alaska It was probably about as easy to find photos of bears as it is to find research papers about them. Photo by Barbara.

The Molecular Ecologist: Why we do, and don’t, conduct peer review anonymously

Over at The Molecular Ecologist, we’re continuing last week’s examination of anonymity in peer review with comments from our readers. A number of folks sent in thoughtful remarks in favor of anonymous peer review:

I’ve actually done an entirely open review [for Faculty of 1000] and I found the whole experience rather jarring; I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t already like the software in question, and I think that could be unethical. Scott’s a nice guy and a good scientist; I’m not certain I would have been viewed very favourably being one of the first people to criticise the work of another in the open, despite the fact I think such a system has a number of benefits.

And likewise, in favor of signed reviews:

I do think reviewers should be disclosed on publication in order to get credit for their job, but also to take responsibility of it. In general, I also think signing makes the process more transparent and helps engage in a constructive conversation.

There are some excellent points made on both sides, and I recommend reading the whole compilation of views for and against anonymity.◼

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Is a sloth’s best friend its moth-fur?

Three Toed Sloth Is it easier, being green? Photo by Bas Bloemsaat.

This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! I’m discussing a new study that purports to demonstrate that three-toed sloths are in a nutritional mutualism with specialized moths, fueled by algae and poop:

Sloths’ coarse, shaggy fur accumulates its own little microcosm of living passengers. (If you move that slowly in a tropical forest canopy, you’re going to get some hop-ons.) Among these are an assortment of algae, and moths in the genus Cryptoses. It’s been known for a long time that Cryptoses moths lay their eggs in sloth dung, and that their larvae eat it.

To find out why it isn’t completely crazy to think that these poop-eating moths might be helpful to sloths, go read the whole thing.◼

Minnesota winter as a series of cinematic genres

Image via.

(Update: Cross-posted.)

First snowfall: Romantic comedy. You meet cute when you feel the first flakes against your cheek. The fresh snow cover makes everything look new and crisp and innocent. You take a long evening walk through the park, watching the falling snow dance in the light of the street lamps. You stop to make snow angels. There is a snowball fight, but afterwards everyone is still friendly. Towards the end, adorable children come out to play.

The cold snap: Heist. Going outdoors requires careful planning, and if you don’t have the right equipment, things could go pear-shaped in an instant. You have many of your most important conversations over the phone—or via Skype, if you want to look particularly tech-savvy. If you’re going to take I-94, you’ll need a really good driver.

White Christmas: Disney animated musical. Fresh snow arrives just in time to accessorize the family photo on the front porch. Everything is covered in tinsel and blinking lights. Your trip to the drugstore to buy cough syrup has a twinkly soundtrack. People you meet on the street are jolly, but there is a sneaking sense that they’re just trying to fulfill expectations.

The blizzard: Mumblecore independent drama. The cold has numbed even your memories of summer. Everyone wears layers of flannel and threadbare sweaters, and many of your friends have taken up knitting just to make more insulation. You drink flat, tasteless Grain Belt because you can’t bear the thought of shoveling off the car again to go get something better. You have long, elliptical, monotone conversations with the houseguests who are trapped in your apartment after the sun goes down at 4:30.

The thaw: Film noir. Everything seems to change when a high-pressure system from the south waltzes in and asks if you know when it’ll be the right time to plant tomatoes. You prowl the slushy back alleys of the Warehouse District, searching for a glimpse of dry pavement. Two-story-tall piles of accumulated snow peppered with gravel and cigarette butts loom over empty, ice-covered parking lots. You think you see a crocus poking up through the snow—but forget it, Jake, it’s still only March.

The April snow storm: Adam Sandler farce. Ten inches of wet, heavy snow fall overnight with an almost audible thump. It looks shiny and new, but rapidly develops the familiar gray shading of slush. People get splashed in embarrassing ways. There is laughter, but it has a desperate, mean-spirited edge. It lasts about fifty percent longer than anyone really wants it to.◼

Science online, footprints of destruction edition

Great Vintage Movie Marquee:  Elmwood Theater, College Avenue, Berkeley CA Vintage theaters: charming. Vintage attitudes about women’s roles: unprofitable. Photo by Minette Layne.