Friday Coffee Break


This week we were all at the Evolution meetings in Snowbird Utah (stay tuned for a group picture).

As a result we don’t have too many links, but here’s a few to tide you over until next week!

Noah brings us this freaking interesting article that suggests that large-scale grants, ENCODE type things, don’t really lead to greater scientific impact.

Earn your #Evol2013 conference merit badges

Already updated with new badges!

Bottoms upScientific conferences present a lot of challenges, even to those of us who’ve been to a few. A good conference means presenting your own work in an interesting way, learning about a lot of other folks’ projects, asking good questions, meeting a lot of new people, catching up with old friends, maybe even tracking down some of your scientific idols—and then making a good impression when you do.

Making a game out of it all can help—and in that spirit, Sarah put together Evolution Bingo for the Evolution meetings in Ottawa last year. You could certainly re-use that bingo card for the Evolution meetings that start in Snowbird, Utah, today, but we’d also like to offer something new for Evolution 2013: Conference merit badges!

Descriptions for how to earn each are given below; click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution version of the badge when you’ve earned it. We’ll add others as we think of them and Jeremy has time to design them—nominate suggestions in the comments!

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Friday Coffee Break


Nothing says summer quite as much as fireflies, and Amy brings us these lovely pictures of the flight paths of fireflies.

Noah would like to remind everyone that it is National Pollinator Week. We strongly suggest you get outside and thank all your local pollinators.

Can Mars follow in the footsteps of Earth? Noah is reading about using microbes to terraform our friendly neighbor.

Both CJ and Sarah are thinking about our prospects as women in academia and the “Baby Penalty”. An opinion piece about the effects of children on women and men in academia.

Although women pay a baby tax in career, men pay a greater tax in… life? Also from Sarah, Why do more men than women die at every life stage? interesting stuff.

If you haven’t seen this video you should. Bill Nye the Science Guy, an advocate for teaching science, learning science, understanding science and generally making better decisions because of science.


Social networks, and networking, at conferences

Blog Network Carrying Capacity

Cross-posted from Denim and Tweed: Just in time for the Evolution 2013 meeting, Nature has a nice article by Roberta Kwok on how to use social networks and mobile apps at scientific conferences. Oh, and there’s a brief appearence by yours truly:

Twitter is also a crucial networking tool, helping people to connect with fellow attendees who have similar interests. Users can invite Twitter connections for coffee or look out for their name tags at the conference, paving the way for an in-person introduction, says Emily Jane McTavish, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. “That’s made a big difference to me at meetings where I didn’t know people,” she says. Jeremy Yoder, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Minnesota in St Paul, used Twitter to help to organize a lunch for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender scientists at the First Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology in Ottawa last year. And although these connections might not lead to immediate work advantages, one never knows who might be on one’s next grant-review panel or job-search committee, says Cruz.

If you’re bringing a smartphone or a tablet to Snowbird, you should definitely go read the whole thing.

@NothingInBio at #Evol2013: What we’re presenting

Cecret Lake - Alta Utah

The Evolution 2013 meetings are nearly upon us, and most of the team here at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! are going to be in Snowbird, Utah for the joint annual meeting of the American Society of Naturalists, the Society of Systematic Biologists, and the Society for the Study of Evolution. Rather than make you hunt through the online program, here’s where we’ll be, and what we’re presenting:

  • Amy will present “The population genetics of rapidly evolving reproductive genes: How much variation should we expect to find?” on Sunday at 9:30, as part of the Evolutionary Genetics and/or Genomics section in Cotton D/Snowbird Center. [program link]
  • Look for some of CJ’s work in a lightning talk by her dissertation advisor, Mark Dybdahl, titled “Identifying the molecular basis of coevolution: merging models and mechanisms” on Monday at 11:45, in Superior B/Cliff Lodge. [program link]
  • Noah will present “What can we learn from sequence-based species discovery? An example using sky island fly communities” on Tuesday at 9:30, as part of the Community Ecology and Evolution section in Peruvian A/Snowbird Center. [program link]
  • Sarah will present “Nature, nurture and the gut microbiota in the brood parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird” on Tuesday at 10:30, as part of the Community Ecology and Evolution section in Peruvian A/Snowbird Center. [program link]
  • Jeremy will present “Evidence for recent adaptation in genome regions associated with ecological traits in Medicago truncatula” on Tuesday at 2:45, as part of the Genetics of Adaptation section in Rendezvous A/Snowbird Center. [program link]

Looks like we’re in for a busy Tuesday! But this year, you won’t have to choose between us.

Friday Coffee Break


Puffer fish, our underwater artists. CJ is reading about a true story of love, craftsmanship and the desire to pass on descendants.

Also, recently fascinated by buried cities, CJ is reading about the lost city of ATLANTIS! Not quite, but an equally interesting underwater Egyptian city.

After a year of terrible funding (and the year before that, and the year before that) Sarah is reading about why to invest in science.

More good news from Sarah, notorious Kansas approves new state science standards that include evolution AND climate change. Will wonders never cease.

Jeremy turns our attention to new career opportunities, potentially outside of academia. Good advice for those of us on the job hunt (a great number of our current contributors).

Also from Jeremy, a statistical look at the recent NSA scandal.

Oh and also: SCOTUS holds that “naturally-occurring” DNA sequence cannot be patented. (Though cDNA can.)

Friday Coffee Break



I’m not sure there is anything cooler than feathered dinosaurs, which makes Sarah our coolest contributor this week. New (and earliest!) bird fossil found

In addition to redrawing the entire avian tree of life, Sarah is also reading about synthetic blood, ending supply shortages, germ free and coming to a Scottish hospital near you. Every step towards synthetic blood has got to be good, am i right?

Microbial ecology research continues to astound me, and apparently has Amy fascinated as well. What you eat can alter your brain function… due to the microbes you ingest!

An ongoing debate near and dear to our hearts… Geek vs. Nerd. Jeremy brings us this awesome link, with a figure from the simpsons. What more could a Friday ask for.

Finally Jeremy brings us this interesting article on open access genomics for “orphan crops“, or those crops that large food industry isn’t interested in. These resources may bring needed information to the developing farmers.