23 April 2014

The Molecular Ecologist: Scanning the genome for local adaptation

The collection locations for plant lines sampled in my analysis. Figure 1 from Yoder et al. (2014).
This week at The Molecular Ecologist, I've just posted a new discussion of the latest publication to come out of my postdoctoral research with the Medicago HapMap Project. It's an attempt to find genome regions that might be important for adaptation to climate, by scanning through a whole lot of genetic data from plants collected in different climates.

This is what’s known as a “reverse ecology” approach—it skips over the process of identifying specific traits that are important for surviving changing climates, and instead uses population genetic patterns to infer what’s going on. One approach for such a scan is presented in my latest paper, which is in this month’s issue of Genetics. Essentially I think of this as what you can do, given a lot of genetic data for a geographically distributed sample—in this case for barrel medick, or Medicago truncatula. Medicago truncatula is a model legume species, which has been used in a great deal of laboratory and greenhouse experimentation—but in this project, I tried to treat M. truncatula as a “field model” organism.

For a run-down of what I did, and what I found, go read the whole post—or check out the paper itself [PDF].◼

18 April 2014

Science online, beards and shields edition

Beard Is this man smiling because everyone else in the room is clean shaven? Photo by Mike Mozart.

11 April 2014

Science online, surprising consensus edition

Grizzly Bear - Animal - Wildlife - Alaska It was probably about as easy to find photos of bears as it is to find research papers about them. Photo by Barbara.

10 April 2014

The Molecular Ecologist: Why we do, and don't, conduct peer review anonymously

Over at The Molecular Ecologist, we're continuing last week's examination of anonymity in peer review with comments from our readers. A number of folks sent in thoughtful remarks in favor of anonymous peer review:

I’ve actually done an entirely open review [for Faculty of 1000] and I found the whole experience rather jarring; I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t already like the software in question, and I think that could be unethical. Scott’s a nice guy and a good scientist; I’m not certain I would have been viewed very favourably being one of the first people to criticise the work of another in the open, despite the fact I think such a system has a number of benefits.

And likewise, in favor of signed reviews:

I do think reviewers should be disclosed on publication in order to get credit for their job, but also to take responsibility of it. In general, I also think signing makes the process more transparent and helps engage in a constructive conversation.

There are some excellent points made on both sides, and I recommend reading the whole compilation of views for and against anonymity.◼

08 April 2014

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Is a sloth's best friend its moth-fur?

Three Toed Sloth Is it easier, being green? Photo by Bas Bloemsaat.
This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! I'm discussing a new study that purports to demonstrate that three-toed sloths are in a nutritional mutualism with specialized moths, fueled by algae and poop:

Sloths’ coarse, shaggy fur accumulates its own little microcosm of living passengers. (If you move that slowly in a tropical forest canopy, you’re going to get some hop-ons.) Among these are an assortment of algae, and moths in the genus Cryptoses. It’s been known for a long time that Cryptoses moths lay their eggs in sloth dung, and that their larvae eat it.

To find out why it isn't completely crazy to think that these poop-eating moths might be helpful to sloths, go read the whole thing.◼

04 April 2014

Minnesota winter as a series of cinematic genres

Image via.
(Update: Cross-posted.)

First snowfall: Romantic comedy. You meet cute when you feel the first flakes against your cheek. The fresh snow cover makes everything look new and crisp and innocent. You take a long evening walk through the park, watching the falling snow dance in the light of the street lamps. You stop to make snow angels. There is a snowball fight, but afterwards everyone is still friendly. Towards the end, adorable children come out to play.

The cold snap: Heist. Going outdoors requires careful planning, and if you don't have the right equipment, things could go pear-shaped in an instant. You have many of your most important conversations over the phone—or via Skype, if you want to look particularly tech-savvy. If you're going to take I-94, you'll need a really good driver.

Science online, footprints of destruction edition

Great Vintage Movie Marquee:  Elmwood Theater, College Avenue, Berkeley CA Vintage theaters: charming. Vintage attitudes about women's roles: unprofitable. Photo by Minette Layne.