Friday, February 23, 2007

Winds of change...and a Giant Colossal Squid

Sorry I haven't added anything here recently, but I have been busy starting up at my new job - teaching AP Biology at North Attleboro High...

...OK, admit it, how many of you fell for that?

Seriously, I do have a new job. I'm the (get ready for this title) Coordinator for the Center for Undergraduate Research, Education, and Outreach in Marine Life Sciences at Roger Williams University. Basically, the colleges and universities in Rhode Island got a large grant to bolster undergraduate research in the state. Roger Williams used part of the grant money to create my position to help them organize, publicize, and increase their undergraduate research experience, particularly in Marine Biology. The job will involve a lot of different things, including collaborating with the other colleges in the state to form "research partnerships" between students and scientists at different schools. I'll also be creating a website to showcase the excellent student research that is being done at Roger Williams. I'll also be teaching a couple of courses starting in the Fall. Did I mention making newletters and issuing press releases? Or what about helping bring some grant money in? Organizing an intensive summer research program?

Yeah, I should be busy. But hopefully not so busy that I can't add a few things to this blog every week. In fact, given the salty nature of my new job, here's a quick link for ya:

Colossal Squid Caught - the largest squid ever caught (approx: 33 feet, 1,000 lbs)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Just curious...

I've been wondering how many of you (my former students) are still stopping by now and then to read this blog. The only way I have of knowing is when you leave comments and there has only been one comment in the past several weeks. I'm enjoying maintaining the blog, so I will continue to do so, but I would love to know how many of you are checking back here (and how often). Thanks!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The fastest way to a person's heart? Through their ribcage.

We all know that our emotions reside in our brain, but the heart has long been linked to the ideas of love and affection. Logically then, the heart has become inextricably attached to Valentine's Day. Therefore, in honor of the heart, here are some links for you to peruse:

The Interactive Heart - less interactive than I had hoped and Firefox users will have to use the site map to navigate around, but lots of info here

Heart Evolution - a good visual comparing various vertebrate hearts

Some heart facts/trivia

Cardiovascular system video - rather dry, but informative

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Birthday!!!!

Charles Darwin was born this day in 1809 in Shrewsbury, England - he would be 198 years old today. Interestingly, in a trivial way, President Abraham Lincoln was also born on this exact day (though not in Shrewsbury, England). For more info about Darwin, check out the following website:

Happy Darwin's Day everyone!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Blood: It's What's For Dinner

The diversity of life really is amazing. Just about every possible niche you can think of has been exploited at some point - if there is a way to make a living out there, you can bet natural selection has shaped some creature to utilize it. Take sanguinivores for example - better known as "blood-suckers" (Latin: sanguinis = blood; vorare = to eat).

Blood is a protein-rich material so it is not so surprising that some creatures utilize it as a food-source. In fact, sanguinivory is not so uncommon - we all know about mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies (deer/horse flies) and have some exposure to those "mysterious" creatures of the dark - vampire bats (though I bet you'd love to know more). But did you know that there are also vampire birds? Yup, blood-sucking birds.

You know those sweet, helpful, caring birds that eat the awful, ugly ticks and bugs off the backs of rhinos and giraffes, thereby preventing diseases and alleviating discomfort? Well, it turns out that they might not be so sweet and innocent after all. And on our favorite playground of natural selection, the Galapagos Islands, one of 'Darwin's finches' is a blood-sucker - this one doesn't even pretend to be helpful.

I'll let you read the bloody details on your own. Below are some links to some info on sanguinivory, blood-sucking birds, and vampire bats (I've left out mosquitoes, ticks, and flies - they're just too icky). The posts actually follow an order and are from one of the new blogs I am enjoying (yes, I know I'm a geek) - Tetrapod Zoology. There's a lot of info in the following posts, so take them slow. Enjoy!

Check this video out first:

Video: Vampire finches

Then read these in order:

Evolution of vampires

Evolution of vampires, part II

Evolution of vampires, part III

Vampire finches

Vampire Bats

Monday, February 05, 2007

Just call me Heraclitus

As you all know, I have issues with "stasis". As such, I have made some (slight) changes to the blog. Obviously, the color scheme and layout has been changed. I have also added a "Category" tab to the posts so posts on similar topics can be easily accessed as a unit (e.g. Evolution, Marine Biology). Also, the host for the blog ( has updated their services and now seem to require everyone to use a Google account to participate in the blog. So, If you would like to continue posting to this blog, you'll have to sign-up for a new gmail account - you should be prompted to do so when you try to log-in. I'll continue to post items as I find/think about them. Hopefully, all of you will continue to read and comment.

(don't know who Heraclitus is? Look him up!)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Sloths, revisited

If you recall, back at the beginning of last semester, I blogged about sloths after James' question about their body temp and enzymatic activity. Well, still no answers on their enzymes, but I was surfing around and came across this article on sloths - primarily about their evolutionary history. I figured you guys are getting into the diversity of life on Earth and the various eras/epochs of the Earth's history and thought that this article fit right in. Don't get bogged down by unfamiliar terms the author uses to refer to other groups of animals - even without knowing these terms, the general gist should be clear.

Who knew there were once aquatic sloths? Or possible predatory sloths? Or that they once lived in colder areas? Our extant (the opposite of 'extinct') sloths seem pretty boring by comparison. Where's that time machine?

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Sloths