Feb round-up

February 26, 2010

Well this month has been a pretty unproductive one for blogging, but extremely productive in other ways as I welcomed my new daughter into the world on Feb 2nd.  In amongst the endless feeding, dirty nappies and general sleep-deprived haze, I have occasionally managed to get online and thought I’d share a couple of evolution-y things that have landed in my inbox:

The European Society for Evolutionary Biology has launched a new website aimed at improving public education and understanding of evolution.  The site is called Evolution Matters: A Guide to the Creationism/Evolution Controversy, and can be found at http://www.oeaw.ac.at/klivv/evolution/.  The site has lots of useful material, with an outline of the central issues in the creation/evolution debate (also available for download as a pdf), lots of useful links and teaching resources.

The Allan Wilson Centre has launched a new resource on its website, where you can recreate a couple of Allan Wilson’s most well-known research projects – phylogenetic analysis of the Quagga, and analysis of human origins (the project that led to the “Mitochondrial Eve” hypothesis).  Aimed a members of public, the site guides users through the analysis, using real datasets and modern software with the aim of improving understanding of the scientific process.

And if you’re feeling hungry, some geeky science cookies for you: http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/roundup-food-blogs/phd-in-delicious-the-science-cookie-project-not-so-humble-pie-108963

The complicated genetics of human eye colour inheritance

February 1, 2010

I’ll be taking a break from blogging over the next month as the “egg” (or is that the chicken?) will be hatching.  As you do, when about to have a baby, I’ve been thinking a bit about inheritance lately – what colour eyes or hair will my baby have, how tall, who will he/she take after? The questions are endless really (and no we DONT know the sex!). 

Being a geneticist, I figured the answers to at least some of these questions must be relatively well worked out.  Eye colour for starters – we all know brown eyes are dominant to blue, right?  And if you google “eye colour inheritance” you can find any number of “eye colour calculators” that will work out the likely eye colour of your offspring.  I tried to use one of these and immediately ran into a problem – even the most sophisticated one I could find only allowed brown, blue or green as eye colours.  Well, my eyes are hazel (grey/green with a brown ring around the pupil).  Does this count as green? And my partners eyes are not exactly blue or green, they are kind of greyish-greenish-blueish with a tendency to change colour depending on his clothes and the light.  So having fallen at the first hurdle, I began to suspect that eye colour might be a whole lot more complicated than what you learn at school. 

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