Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

Archive for the ‘Science on the Internet’ Category


It’s that time of the month.. or rather, it was that time of the month 3 weeks ago, but I’m an idiot.


What is the carnal carnival?  It’s a collection of blog posts on the same topic that all happen to be gross or otherwise bodily!  Previous editions have included poop, vomit, decay, and orgasm,!

This month’s edition?  BODY ODOR!

Submit your posts – recent or old!  Dig through your archives and find your best posts that celebrate reeking stench!  Even if they are not gross – I would be just as happy to celebrate those lovely pheromones and learn about how they work, when, and why.

It’s a celebration of animal smell!

It was supposed to happen tomorrow – but I will have to delay until MONDAY, JANUARY 24, 2011.  Submit your posts! Submit your friends’ posts! Your mother’s posts!


Thank you and I’m looking forward to this carnival of body odor.

Written by Hanner

January 20, 2011 at 11:26 am

Why conservation? (on Southern Fried Science)

As long as we’re considering human nature in terms of how we treat one another this new year, we may as well consider how we treat other species.  That is, conservation.

Once you start thinking about Homo sapiens as just another organism competing for resources, traditional views about conservation start to crumble.  We’re raised, once again in anthropocentrism, believing that it is our job to take care of the planet.  But if we’re competing, who really cares what we destroy along the way?  Is it not just part of evolution, of natural selection and survival of the fittest?

I have a lot of thoughts on this matter, but I’d like to point you all to a post by Andrew Thaler of Southern Fried Science.  As a biologist studying hydrothermal vents, he often wrestles with the question of, “who cares? Why should we save hydrothermal vents?”  In his post, he really gets down to the thick of it, the point that gets to me every time: we evolved behavior to care about the environment.

What makes us truly unique is not our ability to destroy, but our ability to conserve. No other species in the history of the planet has recognized the inherent value in another species, not as a resource, food source, or substrate, but simply as another living organism. No other species has expended its own resources, its own precious energy, to protect another, simply for the sake of the other species existence. No other species has ever planned and implemented an initiative to bring a species back from the brink of extinction. As certain as humanity’s ability to destroy has driven countless species to extinction, it is our unique and, frankly, unnatural desire to preserve and protect species and ecosystems for purely altruistic reasons that defines us.

Read the full post here.

Written by Hanner

January 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Post on the Scientific American guest blog!

Hello friends,

It’s time for me to self-promote.  It actually makes me really uncomfortable – but I know deep down that I’ve gotta do it.  Plus you might actually be interested in this!

I was invited to write a post for the Scientific American guest blog!  It went up this morning and is about some new research on the geometry of schools of fish.  I write about why fish school, some general theory, and then dive into the research and its implications.  It’s a pretty cool story and I invite you to check it out!  Comment, tweet, digg, stumble.  Whatever you think I deserve.

Now in 3-D: the shape of krill and fish schools

Thanks for reading!


Written by Hanner

November 10, 2010 at 10:56 am

Hannah’s Picks of the Interwebs (Oct 2010)

Hey Guys,

Welcome to Hannah’s Picks, a new monthly feature in which I sum up the best things I read/saw in the previous month.  These will mostly be picked out of my google reader shares because these represent not only the things I think are interesting/well-written, but are accessible to non-scientists and/or provide a useful perspective.  There won’t be too many – not more than 10.  I really intend for this to be the cream of the crop as far as the month’s science writing/web fun goes (in my opinion, obviously).

FIRST: SHAMELESS PLUG – The post from my other blog, Sleeping with the Fishes, that I think you will be most interested in.

We now have the technology to not only quantify the approximate amount of phytoplankton by satellite, but also identify type of organism!  This actually blows my mind – identifying the genus or group FROM SPACE.  If you want to read about it, click here: The grand diversity of phytoplankton: focusing from space.  (It was a Research Blogging Editors’ Selection, if that’s any incentive…)


The 29th edition of the Carnival of Evolution is up at Byte Size Biology.  Some highlights include:

Also be sure to check out this month’s grad student carnival – about eating in style (on the cheap!) and hosted by Scicurious


“Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science” by David H. Freedman
Maintaining a healthy skepticism about scientific research is a tough line to tread.  Lean too far on one side, and you encourage a distrust of science generally; but trusting research without confirming its rationality is also unwise.  This is a common problem in medical science in particular, with much over-hyped reporting and some questionable studies.  PLEASE read this article in the Atlantic – you seriously won’t regret it.

“Carbon Dioxide and Climate”
This article isn’t as trite as the title implies – in fact, it was the opposite at the time.  This is a reprint of a 1959 Scientific American article suggesting that human activity may be affecting the earth’s climate!  WHOOA!  Worth the read for the historical perspective.

“Back from the Brink: Victories in Conservation”
Most writing about endangered species is incredibly depressing.  To promote conservation, it makes sense to promote some feeling of guilt about or responsibility for our planet and its organisms, but all the sad stories can make conservation efforts seem hopeless.  The team at Southern Fried Science wrote this lovely piece highlighting successes in bringing endangered species back from the brink.  It’s a great reminder that we CAN do something, and that our efforts are worth it.

“What are Species Worth? Putting a Price on Biodiversity” by Richard Conniff
Along the same lines – we hear all the time how important it is to preserve biodiversity, but sometimes the effort doesn’t seem worth it.  So what if we lose one species – we have so many!  Richard Conniff explains why diversity is so important, both to the planet and our own human livelihood, and why one species does matter.

Nikon’s Small World Photography Contest Winners Gallery
Gorgeous pictures of tiny things. I don’t think this needs more of a plug than that.  Soap film, cancer cells, soy sauce, and banana stem as you’ve never seen them before.


Stephen Fry’s “What I Wish I’d Known When I was 18.”
A half-hour of life advice from Stephen Fry.  Perfect.  Listen while you’re cooking dinner.


Proper time vs. Remembered Time on Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
Funny and poignant, as it should be.

Soldier serving his queen on Buttersafe
I won’t give away the punchline this time.


Autumn, again,” new album from Philly’s A Sunny Day in Glasgow, which they are giving away!  Free download!  It’s really lovely.


Written by Hanner

November 3, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Posted in Science on the Internet

Tagged with

Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson talk for A WHOLE HOUR.

Sometime tonight or in the next few days, take the time to listen to this conversation on the beauty of science between Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionary biologist and author, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist and director of the planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.  You won’t regret it.  (I listened while doing the most thorough clean of my apartment since I moved in.  So productive!)

It’s a very interesting conversation – – the beauty of science, much speculation on the origins of life and intelligent life elsewhere (as you might expect from a clash of evolutionary biology and astrophysics), and, generally, simultaneous wonder at how much we know and how little we know.

But more than anything, here is a conversation between two of the greatest minds and communicators n science out there now.  They’re a little competitive, sure, but even though they are from different disciplines, their excitement just oozes from them.  The bromance is evident and it’s worth listening for that alone.

So take the hour.  Play it in the background when you’re doing housework later, or paint your nails, or knit, or whatever you crazies do.  It’s AWESOME!!!!

via Geekosystem

Written by Hanner

October 25, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Every academic journal should have a blog.

Yesterday, Jeremy Yoder directed me (via twitter/his blog) to a new blog: the Molecular Ecologist.  I was drawn to it because, well, I’m interested in molecular ecology.  But when I got to the site, I got a little over-excited.  This is a blog run by the academic journal Molecular Biology Resources, but they want to do more with the blog than just self-report.  Their description:

However, we’d like to do more to support the molecular ecology community as a whole. This blog is a step in that direction- a forum for readers and contributors to the journal to discuss the latest papers and trends in the field. Future additions to the site include a comprehensive, searchable list of computer programs and other code (e.g. R packages) useful for analysing genetic data; and a site where novel lab methods can be posted and discussed.


Every academic journal should have a blog!  It doesn’t have to be fancy; Molecular Ecology Resources just started up a simple WordPress account.  But this creates a space for discussion, sharing of information, to publish additional information such as interviews, and more.  I think it’s a great way to get the researchers to do a bit of blogging and share their stories and their research.

It would be self-promotional, that’s for sure.  I’m sure the blog will publish many write-ups of their own articles.  But if they hold true to their word and try to discuss other important research and trends in the field, it could be very beneficial to the molecular ecology community and be a great model for other disciplines.

Maybe this sort of thing exists elsewhere, but I haven’t seen it done so simply.  So good job, Molecular Ecologist.  I hope you take this somewhere wonderful and set a great example for other journals.

Written by Hanner

October 5, 2010 at 8:07 am

Introducing… Sleeping with the Fishes!

Hello dear readers,

I’m excited to announce a new Hannah Waters production: a marine ecology blog on the Southern Fried Science Network called Sleeping with the Fishes!


It seems a bit excessive, I know.  But give me a second to explain myself, OK?

You may know that the science blogosphere is changing, and that the people at the top are working to create and manage a number of networks, and then to network those networks.  While independent bloggers are still perfectly acceptable and welcome (Culturing Science will remain independent unless something totally irresistible pops up.), I do like the idea of these networks.  It promotes community between us bloggers and scientists, and could help to increase visibility to science blogs generally and thus promote science education and the sharing of knowledge.

Despite offers, I’ve put a lot of thought into decisions to join (or not join) various networks.  I want to join one(s) that feel right to me, communities that fit my goals and my style.  I would never join a network solely for the increased exposure; that doesn’t feel right to me.

The Southern Fried Science Network is a group of bloggers focusing mainly on marine science (with a few exceptions).  When I got the offer from them, I was ecstatic.  The idea of writing in a community of shared interest and thus trying to create a marine science stronghold on the web is an exciting prospect, and I want to be a part of it.

As you know, I don’t only write about marine science on Culturing Science.  Thus I created a new blog, to keep my writing on the SFSN focused, but also to retain an outlet for writing on other topics.  It doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon this space; not by any means.  That is just about all I can tell you because it’s all that I know.  The rest will unfold with time.

So come along and join me at Sleeping with the Fishes!  I’m excited about this addition to the Hannah Waters brand (haha) and hope you are too.

You should probably subscribe to the Sleeping with the Fishes RSS feed to stay up to date.

Thanks for reading,


Written by Hanner

September 26, 2010 at 11:00 am