Friday Coffee Break

Every Friday at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! our contributors pass around links to new scientific results, or science-y news, or videos of adorable wildlife, that they’re most likely to bring up while waiting in line for a latte.

From Amy – Some bad news for bats.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service confirms white-nose syndrome (WNS) is present at Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama. This cave provides winter hibernation space for several bat species, including the largest documented wintering colony of endangered gray bats. More than a million individuals of this federally listed and IUCN listed species nest at Fern Cave.
From Sarah – Some good news for bats!
“My attention was immediately drawn to the bat’s strikingly beautiful and distinct pattern of spots and stripes. It was clearly a very extraordinary animal, one that I had never seen before,” recalled Reeder. “I knew the second I saw it that it was the find of a lifetime.”

Also from Amy – In defense of basic research and the investigation of duck penises (complete with video).

As a scientist, my view is that supporting basic and applied research is essential to keep the United States ahead in the global economy. The government cannot affordnot to make that investment. In fact, I argue that research spending should increase dramatically for the United States to continue to lead the world in scientific discovery.
From CJ – Lots of organismal news this week! A gigantic new tarantula, an adventurous (and lucky!) reef fish survivor and yeast’s prestigious new official title. Lastly (and also submitted by Amy), true tales of beauty and horror brought to us by the Mantis Shrimp (and the Oatmeal):
It is Genghis Khan bathed in sherbet ice cream. The mantis shrimp is the harbinger of blood-soaked rainbows.
From Noah – The rise of pseudo-academia (aka predatory open access):

Those scientists had stumbled into a parallel world of pseudo-academia, complete with prestigiously titled conferences and journals that sponsor them. Many of the journals and meetings have names that are nearly identical to those of established, well-known publications and events. Steven Goodman, a dean and professor of medicine at Stanford and the editor of the journal Clinical Trials, which has its own imitators, called this phenomenon “the dark side of open access,” the movement to make scholarly publications freely available.

Also from Noah – Debating the pros and cons of ENCODE with Dan Graur and Michael Eisen.

ENCODE (the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) is a massive, multi-phase research project costing over $400 million done by over 400 researchers. Project findings, published last September in more than 30 scientific papers, were centered around the claim that though 80% of the genome doesn’t contain genes, it still plays a role in health…Now, a group led by Dan Graur, a professor from Houston University, have just published a paper criticizing the ENCODE project and their findings… We’re joined next by Michael Eisen, the co-founder of PLOS, for a third party take. Eisen is equally blunt in his answers. He is heavily critical, not only of the ENCODE publications (agreeing more with Graur’s definition of “functional”), but also of the ENCODE project in general.

From Devin – The beautiful and mesmerizing coalescent.

Also from Devin – Treating graduate students as people, not just scholars in training will make them better professionals.

For those reasons and many others, graduate students spend a lot of time watching and thinking about their advisers. Even when they don’t sit down with us all that often, we’re on their minds. They gossip about us. They read our writing and may even be inspired by it. And they follow our every move…So an adviser’s criticism of a graduate student’s work can pierce deeper than the tiny hooks on a burr. Criticism from someone so important can wound, and it can impair a student’s progress. And the adviser may not know it.

Also from Sarah – Next Generation Science Standards (the first national recommendation since 1996!):

Educators unveiled new guidelines on Tuesday that call for sweeping changes in the way science is taught in the United States — including, for the first time, a recommendation that climate change be taught as early as middle school. The guidelines also take a firm stand that children must learn about evolution, the central organizing idea in the biological sciences for more than a century, but one that still provokes a backlash among some religious conservatives.