I'm a herpetologist by training but a naturalist at heart. My masters thesis is looking into the Panamint alligator lizard, Elgaria panamintina. In particular I'm focusing on identifying its range and testing out a variety of novel techniques which may benefit the field of herpetology as a whole. I post things that interest me and often post updates on what I'm doing in the vertebrate museum, in the field, or in the lab.

 

science-junkie:

Unravelling How Planaria Regenerate

Planarian flatworms are one of nature’s little wonders. Although their ‘cross-eyed’ appearance is endearing, their real claim to fame comes from their regenerative ability. Split a planarian down the middle and you’ll soon have two cross-eyed critters staring back at you; cut one up and each piece will regenerate an entire flatworm. How do they pull of such an incredible feat? In 2011, researchers discovered that planarian regeneration depends on the activity of stem cells (‘neoblasts’) distributed throughout the flatworm’s body, but important questions about the process have remained unanswered. Are certain stem cells responsible for each organ? What activates the stem cells when regeneration is needed? An enterprising team of scientists at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research has brought us closer to answering these questions by developing a new technique to study planarian regeneration and using it to discover some of they genes involved.

Regeneration isn’t a uniquely planarian trait; starfish are well-known for growing back lost body parts, and even humans can regenerate to some extent (think of a wound healing). Planarians certainly excel at it, though; a flatworm can recover from being cut up into a staggering 279 tiny pieces, each of which regenerates into a new worm! Here’s a fun conundrum for those inclined to such things: which worm, if any, can claim to be the ‘original worm’? What if it were only two pieces instead of over 200? Would it make a difference if the two pieces were different sizes?

Undeterred by such philosophical considerations, the researchers used custom microarrays to identify genes which are activated when a planarian regenerates.

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Things

On one hand my research plans for the summer are shaping up nicely and karma is completely screwing with the person who stole my research plans. 

On the other I’m thoroughly infuriated at the professor of this class and his insistence that science must conform to his views. I received a bad grade on my presentation because it wasn’t big picture enough for him. In his review he made a statement I really disagree with “Science is a pursuit of general principles, even though we get there through individual details.”

Science is about the pursuit of knowledge… it can be to understand big principles but it can ALSO be about “small” things, you know… like the many papers about obscure plant genetic interactions we had to read. 

Science is about knowledge. knowledge. knowledge. Just because you find it boring doesn’t mean its not science.

Tentative plan to do a pelagic birding trip in two weeks!

Just heard back from the company and they say there’s space available so I’m going to go ahead and book a spot on a pelagic out of half moon bay on May 4th. 

I’ll be in the bay area the 2nd and 3rd for the CSU state research competition (presenting my research on Elgaria identification)… and figured… why not. I’ll be sort of near by, and can just book a hotel room for the night in that area. 

I haven’t been on a pelagic birding trip before… so it should be fun (and hopefully not sea-sick-y).

Yay birds!

mindblowingscience:

Mantis shrimp stronger than airplanes: Composite material inspired by shrimp stronger than standard used in airplane frames
Image above: Helicoidal structure of the mantis shrimp club.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Riverside

Inspired by the fist-like club of a mantis shrimp, a team of researchers led by University of California, Riverside, in collaboration with University of Southern California and Purdue University, have developed a design structure for composite materials that is more impact resistant and tougher than the standard used in airplanes.
"The more we study the club of this tiny crustacean, the more we realize its structure could improve so many things we use every day," said David Kisailus, a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Science and the Winston Chung Endowed Chair of Energy Innovation at the UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering.
The peacock mantis shrimp, or stomatopod, is a 4- to 6-inch-long rainbow-colored crustacean with a fist-like club that accelerates underwater faster than a 22-calibur bullet. Researchers, led by Kisailus, an associate professor of chemical engineering, are interested in the club because it can strike prey thousands of times without breaking.
The force created by the impact of the mantis shrimp’s club is more than 1,000 times its own weight. It’s so powerful that Kisailus needs to keep the animal in a special aquarium in his lab so it doesn’t break the glass. Also, the acceleration of the club creates cavitation, meaning it shears the water, literally boiling it, forming cavitation bubbles that implode, yielding a secondary impact on the mantis shrimp’s prey.
Previous work by the researchers, published in the journal Science in 2012, found the club is composed of several regions, including an endocuticle region. This region is characterized by a spiraling arrangement of mineralized fiber layers that act as shock absorber. Each layer is rotated by a small angle from the layer below to eventually complete a 180-degree rotation.
In a paper “Bio-Inspired Impact Resistant Composites,” just published online in the journal Acta Biomaterialia, the researchers applied that spiraled, or helicoidal, layered design when creating carbon fiber-epoxy composites. Composites with this design structure could be used for a variety of applications, including aerospace and automotive frames, body armor and football helmets.

Continue Reading.

mindblowingscience:

Mantis shrimp stronger than airplanes: Composite material inspired by shrimp stronger than standard used in airplane frames

Image above: Helicoidal structure of the mantis shrimp club.

Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Riverside

Inspired by the fist-like club of a mantis shrimp, a team of researchers led by University of California, Riverside, in collaboration with University of Southern California and Purdue University, have developed a design structure for composite materials that is more impact resistant and tougher than the standard used in airplanes.

"The more we study the club of this tiny crustacean, the more we realize its structure could improve so many things we use every day," said David Kisailus, a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Science and the Winston Chung Endowed Chair of Energy Innovation at the UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering.

The peacock mantis shrimp, or stomatopod, is a 4- to 6-inch-long rainbow-colored crustacean with a fist-like club that accelerates underwater faster than a 22-calibur bullet. Researchers, led by Kisailus, an associate professor of chemical engineering, are interested in the club because it can strike prey thousands of times without breaking.

The force created by the impact of the mantis shrimp’s club is more than 1,000 times its own weight. It’s so powerful that Kisailus needs to keep the animal in a special aquarium in his lab so it doesn’t break the glass. Also, the acceleration of the club creates cavitation, meaning it shears the water, literally boiling it, forming cavitation bubbles that implode, yielding a secondary impact on the mantis shrimp’s prey.

Previous work by the researchers, published in the journal Science in 2012, found the club is composed of several regions, including an endocuticle region. This region is characterized by a spiraling arrangement of mineralized fiber layers that act as shock absorber. Each layer is rotated by a small angle from the layer below to eventually complete a 180-degree rotation.

In a paper “Bio-Inspired Impact Resistant Composites,” just published online in the journal Acta Biomaterialia, the researchers applied that spiraled, or helicoidal, layered design when creating carbon fiber-epoxy composites. Composites with this design structure could be used for a variety of applications, including aerospace and automotive frames, body armor and football helmets.

Continue Reading.

Step one of hummingbird reorganization: cradle everything.

Step two: microtags.

Fixing this today because its so horrifying.

Wtf. Not cool. This is not how fragile bird specimens should be stored.

Strong urge to go birding instead of going to work.

Going to work anyway because I’m a responsible adult.

Just picked up my lifer glaucous gull in the rain on the big day field trip!

It’s that big white dot in the middle.

Just picked up my lifer glaucous gull in the rain on the big day field trip!

It’s that big white dot in the middle.

Woooo presentation done!

I can apparently give a somewhat interesting forty minute long talk (with a good 10 minutes of discussion about the talk)… everyone was alert and paid attention the whole time (not a single person fell asleep!)… the discussion about the papers was a bit more tedious, but that was to be expected based on all the past paper discussions.

I really like how I formatted the powerpoint and will probably do all my future powerpoints in a similar format, it just looked so lovely and polished on the screen.

Pretty much all the stress of the week is over… (I figured out a way to do my research without technically touching the animals and had a chance to talk with my research adviser who really helped de-stress me about the look-only thesis concept) so now its just an hour or two of teleworking and then its off to Humboldt County for a long weekend of birding!!

Finally finished this! Thought it was nearly done until this morning when I dropped the external hard drive and corrupted the file… built it from scratch throughout today and it turned out better than the previous one, one gigantic vector-based file that scaled to a 40x30-something for print.
Earth day poster & a black and white coloring-sheet version (blown up to be huge… 7 x 8 pages (8.5x11) that will be colored by kids at an earth day event next week.)

Finally finished this! Thought it was nearly done until this morning when I dropped the external hard drive and corrupted the file… built it from scratch throughout today and it turned out better than the previous one, one gigantic vector-based file that scaled to a 40x30-something for print.

Earth day poster & a black and white coloring-sheet version (blown up to be huge… 7 x 8 pages (8.5x11) that will be colored by kids at an earth day event next week.)