Author Archive

The Latest Underrepresented Voices in Science: Female Songbirds

By January 12th, 2018 at 11:09 am | Comment

Female Troupial, Photo Credit: Dr. Karan Odom

By: Julia Travers

Songbirds may be nature’s pop stars, but the females are still waiting for a turn in the spotlight — we don’t even know if females sing in about 70 percent of songbird species. This is because the study of birds has a gender gap: most previous research has focused on male song. Participants in the Female Bird Song Project are looking to right this imbalance.

“I think this is a very important project. It involves citizen science in gathering fundamental information about the behavioral diversity of birds,” says evolutionary ornithologist Richard Prum of Yale University. Researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Leiden University call on birders to contribute videos, photos, sound clips and field notes of female bird songs so they can better understand the evolution and role of this expressive behavior. Their research already revealed that female birds have most likely been singing for tens of millions of years. Read the rest of this entry »

Your Computer Can Volunteer, Too

By January 4th, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Comment

By: Caitlin Larkin

You probably remember when the Ebola virus became news in 2014, after it killed thousands of people. Erica Ollmann Saphire (pictured above), a structural biologist at The Scripps Research Institute, and one of the world’s foremost experts on Ebola, understood the molecular structure of the disease—and she knew its weak spots. She had a plan of attack to find an antiviral drug. Her first step was to study millions of chemical compounds to determine their potential as the basis for this drug. Testing just one compound in a laboratory, however, could take years. Computer-based simulations would help reduce the time needed for this testing by predicting the lab outcomes, but Saphire didn’t have access to computers powerful enough to run these simulations. Read the rest of this entry »

Saving Sea Turtles Through Community Litter Cleanups

By December 6th, 2017 at 8:20 pm | Comment

By: Christi Hughes

In January 2016, a young sea turtle named Grace was found floating cold and listless next to a dock in Awendaw, South Carolina. She was rescued by compassionate locals to the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Care Center™ for life-saving medical treatment. Grace, who was the size of a dinner plate, ultimately required exploratory surgery to remove a piece of flexible plastic about the size of a silver dollar­– very likely from a single-use plastic grocery bag – from her intestinal tract. Luckily, Grace made a full recovery and was released back into the ocean in July 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

Help Cure Plant Blindness through Citizen Science! Participate in TreeVersity at the Arnold Arboretum

By December 2nd, 2017 at 11:16 am | Comment

The Arboretum’s Living Collection contains over 15,000 plants representing some 4,000 kinds of trees, shrubs, and vines, including the Franklin Tree (Franklinia alatamaha), extinct in the wild for over 200 years. (Photo by Danny Schissler, ©2017 President and Fellows of Harvard College)

By Jon Hetman (Associate Director of External Relations and Communications) and Danny Schissler (Research Assistant, Friedman Lab)

Boston, MA- If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University is sharing more details than ever before about its 15,000 collected plants. The best part—you can help make it happen! In October, the Arboretum launched TreeVersity, a citizen science project designed to collect information on some 25,000 images of the trees, shrubs, and vines growing across its Olmsted-designed landscape.

Since its founding in 1872, Arboretum staff have used photography to help document the plants the institution collects, grows, and preserves for scientific study and horticultural display. Thousands of historical images—captured by famed explorers like Ernest Henry Wilson, Joseph Rock, and Frank Meyer—have long been available for viewing and downloading through the online Image Archive of the Harvard University Libraries. Read the rest of this entry »

Be thankful for your gut microbes this Thanksgiving

By November 22nd, 2017 at 5:37 pm | Comment

By: Daniel McDonald

While you kick back and relax after your Thanksgiving dinner,  your gut microbiota – the collection of beneficial microbes, mostly bacteria, that inhabit your lower intestine – will be hard at work breaking down the food you ate and carrying out all kinds of other essential functions.  Research on the microbes that call your intestine home has shown they can affect your brain, treat a hospital-acquired condition called Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), and much more. Did you know that you can change them by exercise or travel, and you can change them much more by jetlag? Since 2012, the American Gut Project (AGP) has been collecting gut microbiome data from citizens scientists all over the world to understand the extent of microbial diversity associated with humans. Read the rest of this entry »