Sharks are not as deadly as selfies

So far this year, sharks have killed fewer people than selfies. Read about it here.

This could be a post about how we as a society are far too afraid of sharks.

But given that this year alone taking a selfie with a bison has caused injury, and Waterton Canyon park in Colorado closed because too many people were taking selfies with bears, maybe this should be a post about safety protocols while taking selfies.

But it turns out someone has done that already…

How about instead, I once again direct your attention to trying to take a selfie with a more innocuous organism!



Pigpen actually resembles… everyone you know

You know Pig-Pen? That adorable little guy from the Peanuts cartoons who has a cloud of dirt perpetually surround him? Well, it turns out he looks a lot like everyone you know.

We may not be walking around in a cloud of dirt, but it turns out, we are all walking around in a cloud of microorganisms. That we are spewing out. Into the air around us. Constantly.

The field of microbiology has been finding microbes inside and on top of us for years now (thank you advances in sequencing), this is the the first time it has been demonstrated that we are spewing microbes into the air around us.

Read about it over at NPR.

Or read the original article over at PeerJ.


A Postdoc is an Expression of Love for the Pursuit of Knowledge

One of our contributors just published an EXCELLENT article about what it means to be a postdoc.

How do you explain this position to non-academics? What is it exactly that you are doing? And when are you going to be able to get a financially secure long term job (it is not looking good out there…)

Jeremy also explains what his postdoc has looked like so far, and what he plans (hopes) to do in the future. And he ends his piece with one of my new favorite quotes about the postdoc:

“But I like what I do in academic research, and I think it’s worth doing. If nothing else, a postdoc should be an expression of love for the pursuit of knowledge. Times being what they are, it must also be an expression of hope. ”




Good News! Biologists aren’t replaceable

Self-driving cars, online “fem bots” and auto piloted planes.

As technology gets better, more and more jobs are taken by automation/robots (awesome video about it here).

But I come bearing good news! According to an interactive website over at the BBC, biologists have a fairly low risk of becoming automated. Good news for the job market!

Read about it here, or just play with all the different positions and how they know what will and will not become automated.




There are WAY more trees than we previously thought

Previous estimates put the approximate number of trees on earth at ~400 billion. However, recent collaborative study has revised estimates to 3.04 TRILLION. That’s 422 trees for every person on Earth.

While at first this seems like great news, it appears that there are in fact fewer trees than there have ever been. There are 46% fewer trees on Earth than there were before humans start our massive deforestation projects.

But let’s take a moment to appreciate the science! The new estimates were reached by merging two separate mechanisms for tree sampling-satellite observation and ground-based ecological work. It is a tremendous study using 429,775 measurements from around the globe.

Read about it over at the Washington Post.



10 Simple Rules

Following up on my post from earlier this week, sometimes it would be really nice if moving forward in science was more… straight forward.

While researching the previous post I came across the ULTIMATE how to guides. Apparently PLoS Biology has been doing an ongoing series called “10 Simple Rules“.

It has how to guides for career advancement, organization, workshops, conferences and SO MUCH MORE.

For example:

10 Simple Rules for  a Computational Biologist’s Laboratory Notebook

10 Simple (Empirical) Rules for Writing Science

Or my personal favorite:

10 Simple Rules for Finishing Your PhD


Do the rest of the analysis

I find that when I start and complete a project I have a process.

First I come up with a cool question.

Then I try to figure out how to answer the question. This part I often refer to “wandering through the grey fog”. I look at papers, read what others have done, attempt to teach myself new protocols and programs. This part is frustrating, I often feel like I have no idea what I am doing, or how to advance/progress.

But then at some point in the grey fog, I find the path. The way to the answer. The protocol becomes clear, or the programs make sense. Then all I need to do is follow the path to completion!

Apparently I am not the only person with this problem. Timothee Poisot has recently written an amazing post about the frustration of trying to figure your way out of the grey fog by reading what has already been published. The materials and methods are often written like:



Sometimes, we’d like a little more written than “Step 2- do the rest of the fucking analysis“.