By the time the potato murrain arrived in Ireland scholars had already begun to explain its cause: a blight, a water mold. They had also begun to explore ways to mitigate the effects of the potato blight through shifts in the timing of planting and harvest and strict quarantines. In addition, some farmers had noticed a way to control the blight through the use of copper sulfate (which is still used). But in this moment, the voice of the scientists was too quiet and the willingness of the scientists to listen to those in the public who had ideas was too modest. As a […]
**This is a guest post from postdoctoral researcher, Dr. DeAnna Beasley. Her research is NSF-funded by our Students Discover grant which partners scientists with educators to co-create citizen science projects and middle school lesson plans. The products of these partnerships can be found at StudentsDiscover.org.**
This past summer I worked with middle school teachers in the Kenan Fellows Program and undergraduate students from Shaw University and North Carolina State University at the beautiful North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Our goal was to develop a citizen science project that would engage middle school students in the classroom […]
**This is a guest post written by NC State undergraduate, Jakini Kauba. Jakini has been collaborating with Dr. Clint Penick on the Beats project, digging through over a century of scientific literature to find the heart beats of all of the studied vertebrates on the planet and their lifespans and she needs your help!**
With the stress of starting new classes and buying new binders, pens, pencils, and notebook paper, our heart rates can increase this time of the year. Rumor has it, that this strain on our hearts can lessen our lifespan , or at least
In dust one can record the actions of storms, the wearing of mountains, the consequences of industrialization. The study of dust has a long history. Geologists consider it. Toxicologists too. Arthur Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes look to dust to discern where a criminal might have traveled.
But perhaps the most telling feature of dust is its life. Each mote of dust is an entire world composed both of living organisms and of those in the process of falling apart. Run your finger along a surface, even one that seems clean, and in the particles you retrieve will be a measure […]
My grandfather was concerned with a relatively small number of things in the last years of his life; one of those things was the dark ages. As an intensely curious man, a furiously curious man, he could not fathom how even a single generation of humans lacked the spirit necessary to try to understand their world better than the generations prior. He couldn’t understand a single such generation much less the hundred of them that actually occurred.
And yet history is unequivocal. For more than a thousand years knowledge failed to advance. Rome was sacked. The ignorant book-burning masses moved in. […]
Hundreds of self-experiments, tens of thousands of worms
In 1976, Jonathan Turton, a British parasitologist was suffering from allergies. Most of the time scientists suffer from maladies just like everyone else. They sniffle. They whine. They ache and curse the universe. They eat the soup that reminds them of their mothers. But sometimes this is not enough. Sometimes a scientist will wake up in the middle of the night with the nagging feeling that she or he is clever enough to do something more. This is when the scientist will start to read […]
What’s that crawling under your bed… sitting in your light fixture… lurking in your cabinets? Perhaps it’s a new insect species! The Arthropods of Our Homes project has expanded beyond Raleigh — to San Francisco, and from there all seven continents will be sampled for the common arthropods in homes. Watch the video to see more about the arthropods found in San Francisco homes as well as some familiar faces (Matt Bertone and Michelle Trautwein).
“Other than a few pest species, we know very little. There’s still a lot to discover… You don’t have to be an […]
Recently, Pernille Hjort from the Danish Museum of Natural History visited us in Raleigh to exchange ideas about new projects in public science. It was an opportunity for grand scheming, but also to take note of things available in the American South but missing from Danish society. The Danes may have universal health care, free college education and a bike culture that makes biking to work easier than driving, but as Pernille noted, they don’t have turkey vultures, blue birds or robins. But while life in Denmark and the American South may be relatively similar apart from these subtleties […]
Some people go from early life to death focused on one mystery. This approach, I am told, can be very satisfying. One of my mentors, Carl Rettenmeyer, spent fifty years studying the animals that live with army ants. In this endeavor Carl found enough rewards and mystery to sustain another dozen lives.
Yet while I appreciate (at least in an abstract sense) the fruits of such an approach, it is not for me. My greatest scientific joys come instead from making connections across fields, connections that require me to read about and engage scientists who do work very different from that which […]
Once upon a time, House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) only lived west of the Rocky Mountains. Then, in 1940, a group of captive birds flew to freedom from their New York cages. Their numbers slowly grew until there was a population explosion. Today, House Finches reside throughout the U.S. and Mexico.
There’s a downside to dense populations though – disease. In the 1990s, a bacterium (Mycoplasma gallisepticum) started swirling among groups of House Finches. The infection causes conjunctivitis (like “pinkeye”) in the birds. If you’re a bird with swollen eyelids and crusty build up, you’re not going to be very good at […]
Aya the cat has an interesting secret life, to say the least. When we started tracking outdoor cats with Cat Tracker in Raleigh/Durham to see where they were going when they weren’t lazily sitting on their human’s porches… we never expected that one of the cats that would sport a GPS unit would be a famous kleptomaniac living in Copenhagen.
Three-year-old Aya is a Danish cat; a semi-serious looking black male cat with a penchant for work gloves. It all started innocently enough in the Summer of 2012 — when Aya’s human neighbors were getting a new roof […]
I was staying in a one, room shack beside a river. The river, a majestic river, reminded me of the sound of a washing machine. My girlfriend was visiting. At night she punched me when a mouse ran over her face. It remains unclear whether her intent was to hurt the mouse or, as I now suspect, me. Each morning the old Czech woman across the dirt road would bring me a glass of fresh milk from the cows. She spoke little Spanish, I no Czech. I couldn’t convince her of the truth, that I am unable to digest milk much […]
Recently, one of my colleagues, Brian Brown, found thirty new species of flies in urban Los Angeles. Species not yet named. Species not yet studied. Species that could be of great value to society (or, less likely, great cost) but that had just gone missed, flying among highways and movie stars.
The discovery made by Brown and his team is wondrous, revelatory, awesome, and makes me want to look for new species of flies in my own backyard. But, in a broad sense, it is not a surprise, for one simple reason, two hundred million species live on Earth […]