Mystery organism photo of the month

October 27, 2009

A test for you all this week – who can tell me what this is a photo of?



Open access week

October 23, 2009

The past week has been Open Access Week, celebrating the unrestricted sharing of research results via the internet for the advancement and enjoyment of science and society. 424px-open_access_logo_plossvgFrom the Open Access week website:

Open Access is the principle that all research should be freely accessible online, immediately after publication, and it’s gaining ever more momentum around the world as research funders and policy makers throw their weight behind it.

Events celebrating Open Access Week have been held all over the world, including here in Wellington, New Zealand.  As my own commemoration of the week I thought I’d round up some interesting articles that have been published in Open Access Journals over the last few weeks.  All of these are peer-reviewed journal articles that are free for anyone to download and read – no subscriptions required!

Read the rest of this entry »

Lab Waste

October 20, 2009

Are you a molecular biologist or geneticist suffering from lab plastic waste-guilt?  Then here’s the video for you, made by Toronto-based biochemist, science writer, and artist Eva Amsen:

We’ve all been told to reduce, reuse, and recycle when it comes to our households. But in the lab, unless there is an underlying money issue, this rarely comes into play. In cell biology or molecular biology labs the emphasis is on working sterile, quickly and reproducibly. So companies have been selling all these incredibly useful products to life science labs: sterile plastic tubes of all shapes and sizes, single wrap multi-well tissue culture plates, sterile plastic dishes, sterile pipettes. All these products make it a lot easier to do the required work. I can’t even imagine how you could work in a cell culture lab without them, but they do create a lot of waste.

I made this video as a creative outlet and to try and raise some awareness of all the disposables in the lab, and give some mild suggestions on how to reduce the pile of trash by a tiny amount. Every bit helps, right?

Lab Waste from Eva Amsen on Vimeo (sorry it appears I can’t embed the actual video, so head over to Vimeo to watch it!).

Hat-tip: Grrlscientist

Origins of NZ skinks revealed

October 18, 2009 Most New Zealanders can name at least a dozen or so species of native bird, but how many can do the same for our native reptiles?  If you starting counting and only got as far as 1. tuatara, you’re probably not alone.  Although we are missing some of the major groups of reptiles (like snakes and alligators), we do have a diverse array of lizards.  In fact New Zealand has around 80 different lizard species in two major groups – geckos and skinks (tuatara are not lizards, they are Sphenodontids). 

Around half of our lizard species are skinks.  These are the most commonly encountered native reptiles, being the species most likely to be spotted disappearing under rocks or into long grass on a hot day, and generally being favoured by the domestic moggy.  Now new research is improving our understanding of the origins and evolution of our skink fauna, with some exciting fossil finds and the publication of a comprehensive genetic study.  Read the rest of this entry »

Science podcasts

October 10, 2009

For those of you who prefer to get your science in aural form, I thought I’d share a couple of excellent sites for podcasts.  Both of these sites succeed in making science entertaining for the public, covering both breaking science stories and discussing the science of everyday phenomena. 

The Naked Scientists are a group of researchers from Cambridge University who produce a regular science show for the BBC.  Each episode is around 30 mins long and covers a handful of different science stories at a snappy pace, often with the help of an expert guest.  You can download the podcasts of their show from their website, which also has some cool articles, ideas for experiments you can do in your kitchen, and a forum where you can ask your favourite random science question.

Radiolab is a US-based science show, broadcast on public service radio stations across the US.  Each hour-long show covers a particular aspect of science and/or philosophy, and uses music, sound effects and a healthy dose of humour to get the point across.   Podcasts of the shows are available from the website.  For those of you with short attention spans, there are also short podcasts (15-20 mins long) on the website.

Sirocco gives kakapo a bad name…

October 4, 2009

There’s not many people who get to see kakapo these days… and even fewer who can say they’ve been shagged by a kakapo. 

This video (which is apparently a hit on Youtube) comes from the new BBC series Last Chance to See , part of which was filmed in New Zealand last summer.  I hope the series will be shown in New Zealand sometime soon!

Hat-tip to Bioephemera