It’s going to be a long weekend in NC

5 10 2007

I know I plug the upcoming NC Science Blogging Conference quite a bit (if you haven’t registered yet, get on it!), but I am really excited to be going. I’m so excited, in fact, that I’m planning on leaving at about 2 AM so I can get down there with plenty of time to visit the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences the day before the conference (a Friday). Even better, the museum has dinosaurs in! The AMNH traveling exhibition Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries will be at the museum, and I’ll definitely appreciate it now that I’ve got a little more background than when I first saw it. I definitely want to make sure I visit Willo and the Acrocanthosaurus skeleton, too, although I wish I had more time during that weekend so I could stop to see the Giganotosaurus mount and Cryolophosaurus skull at the Maryland Science Center on the way to or from NC.

Still, I really am looking forward to the conference, and remember, if you’ve seen something here on Laelaps that you especially enjoyed, please submit it for consideration to the next edition of The Open Laboratory (see the purple tab on the right sidebar).

Finally, the BIG news…

4 10 2007

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had some big news regarding the future of Laelaps. The notion that things were soon going to change caused a little bit of speculation, but despite my desire to tell everyone the news, I felt it best to keep things under my hat until my new plans were fully developed. This brings us to the good news and the bad news;

The bad news; Laelaps, as it now appears on, will no longer exist. Extinction is an unpredictable process, and so it has claimed this blog.

The good news; It’s really a pseudoextinction because Laelaps has evolved, and soon you’ll be able to watch it adapt in it’s new surroundings over at ScienceBlogs! Thanks to the support of many excellent bloggers (and the ever-increasing amounts of traffic and comments from readers like you), a prediction made by my friend Chris Harrison last February has now come to fruition and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

It’ll take me a little while to get the new blog up and running (I have a Soils & Water test this afternoon so I can’t just stay home and blog, as much as I would like to), but soon I’ll post an announcement when Laelaps has been sufficiently acclimated to it’s new habitat and is ready for viewing.

Communicating Science Conference

4 10 2007

Looks like I’m going to be spending a lot of time in New York this month; the RU Anthropology club is planning a trip to the AMNH, I‘m headed to NYU this weekend for an Evolutionary Anthropology conference, and I’ll be headed back to NYU on Thursday, October 18th for a panel discussion called “How various media outlets are used to popularize, communicate, and promote science.” Registration is fairly cheap if you’re not a New York Academy of Sciences Member ($10 for students, $20 for everyone else), and it looks like the discussion should be informative. Here’s the release I received about the event;

Thursday, October 18th at 7pm
New York University School of Medicine
Faculty Dining Room
(map: )

The Science Communication Consortium (SCC) is pleased to announce its second lecture of the year, on the media’s role in science communication. Four dynamic panelists (including prominent SWINY members) will discuss their past and current roles using various media outlets, including print and radio, to present scientific topics to a variety of lay audiences.The lecture will be held on Thursday, October 18th at 7pm.

Panelists include:

Christopher Mims is the special projects editor at Scientific American dot com. In his former role as online editor at Seed Magazine, he built scienceblogs dot com.

Ann Marie Cunningham is a science journalist who began in magazines and books, and has moved into broadcasting and Webcasting. She is now a contributing producer to NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday and its Web features and acts as Executive Director to TalkingScience, Science Friday’s nonprofit arm.

Kitta MacPherson has been The Star-Ledger’s science writer since 1983. She strives daily to provide clear, concise prose about science for the intelligent “laypeople” who are her readers.

David Levine is Senior Director in the Office of Communications and Marketing for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. Prior to that, Mr. Levine was Director of Media Relations for the American Cancer Society. He also worked as a medical editor/writer for Pfizer Inc and has published a number of scientific articles for lay audiences.

A networking reception will follow the talk, which will provide an opportunity to meet the panelists and network with other science writers, scientists, authors, journalists, and others in attendance.

Please RSVP through the New York Academy of Sciences:

I wonder if anyone will drop an F-bomb at the meeting…

Dino News that I don’t have time to blog about (yet)

4 10 2007

So many fossils, so little time. Luckily the blogosphere is abuzz with paleo-nerds like myself, and there’s been plenty to talk about (especially since this is conference season). My ethical palaeontologist friend Julia has got the scoop about the new hadrosaur Gryposaurus monumentensi (as well as some good commentary about the quality of the new paper about the dinosaur vs. dinosaur “announcements” in Science and Nature), and the all-star team of Darren Naish, Matt Wedel, and Mike P. Taylor has launched a new blog called SV-POW!, featuring plenty of pictures and easy-to-understand descriptions of some of the most amazing structures ever evolved by vertebrates. Matt from the HMNH also wraps up his Synder Quarry series this week (if you haven’t been reading it, you’ve been missing out), complete with some great illustrations of phytosaurs. I’d love to write more about Gryposaurus monumentensi, but I’d be lying if I said my knowledge of ornithischians was even close to adequate to give it the treatment it deserves (plus, I still owe you all my Tyrannosaurus, juvenile sauropod, and Cretaceous N.J. posts). Still, check out the links; there seem to be a growing number of paleo folks running blogs, and I think that’s definitely something to be happy about.

The Tangled Bank pt. 89 now up!

26 09 2007

The new edition of The Tangled Bank is up at Aardvarchaeology, and don’t forget to get your submissions in for the next edition of The Boneyard coming up this Saturday at Fish Feet.

When your dials are pupilated…

21 09 2007

Drop what you’re doing; Neil has one of the most singularly excellent posts I have ever seen up over at microecos about the eyes of the Aye-Aye, a very rare and bizarre endangered strepsirhine primate that is truly unusual (and, although the “rodent-like” characters of the Aye-Aye are likely derived characters, famous morphologist W.E. le Gros Clark suggested in The Antecedents of Man, truly shows that primates evolved from animals like shrews). [Many thanks to those in the comments that corrected my bad phrasing] There is such a thing as being too bizarre, however, and even though habitat loss is a huge problem for these animals, so is the local mythology; the aye-aye is so weird that local legends deem them to be evil creatures, and they are often killed to prevent them as they are seem as symbols of death and evil. Now that’s enough of my yammering; check out Neil’s essay, post haste!

Favorite Female Science Bloggers

20 09 2007

As I noted the other day, the magazine The Scientist came out with an online article featuring some top science bloggers plugging their favorite life science blogs. As some has noted (Bora has the big list), however, no women life science bloggers were asked to contribute, and even though mention was made of some great blogs written by women, none were asked to contribute commendations for the main piece. Regardless of why women were overlooked, bloggers should not collectively shrug and move on, especially given the number of great science writers online who are female. Regarding this topic, my friend Julia asks whether part of the problem is 1) Anonymity, and/or 2) women who are scientists but do not write about science (the article was about life science blogs rather than all science blogs or academic blogs or all blogs in a general sense). Despite the narrower life science scope there are still plenty of great writers, male and female, and it would be hoped that a group asked to give recommendations would have reflected the actual diversity of life-science oriented bloggers.

In any event, I don’t want this post to be as much about the controversy surrounding The Scientist article as much as a look at some of my favorite female science bloggers. In fact, some of these bloggers have become some of my best friends on the internet and have been especially helpful in keeping me abreast of interesting stories and allowing me to share ideas with them, and while I am not as close with others on my short list I still admire their work.

~The Ethical Palaeontologist, a blog so fine that it makes me want to stop spelling the word “paleontology” and start spelling it “palaeontology.” My own spelling dilemmas aside, Julia runs a wonderful blog full of insight and humor (plus cool critters every Thursday), and her help has been invaluable in my own studies. A good friend and a great blogger, you’re really missing out if you’re not reading Julia’s work.

~The RedMolly Picayune-Democrat, a wonderful blog written by my friend Molly, full of witty passages, homeschooling discussions, and tales of (shared) frustration in trying to write a book, among other things (there’s nothing like a good 80’s off every now and then…). I had the luck of becoming acquainted with Molly this past spring when she had asked a question about cheetahs on behalf of her son, and she’s been sending me tidbits of natural history news gleaned from hither and yon (as well as awesome software, thanks again Molly!) ever since. No matter what you’re interested in, Molly’s blog always provides a pleasant read, and I can’t stress my endorsement of her work enough.

~Pondering Pikaia, an absolutely terrific science blog run by a fellow undergraduate student, Anne Marie. I have been floored by the excellent writing and good research exhibited on her blog ever since its inception this past May(!), and she definitely gives other science bloggers a run for their money. Indeed, Anne Marie is living proof that undergraduates can be great science writers too, and it will be a pleasure to be on a panel with her at the upcoming Science Blogging Conference (are you signed up yet?).

~Retrospectacle is an impressive neuroscience-oriented blog run by Shelly Batts, who I’ll also be joining for the panel on student blogging in January. Making it all the way to ScienceBlogs is impressive in and of itself, but the superb writing up on display continues to push the high-quality envelope.

~Living the Scientific Life, written by GrrlScientist, is another blog that’s part of the esteemed ScienceBlogs community, and it’s easy to see why. Beautiful pictures posted daily, excellent writing on mental health issues, and plenty of posts that are just plain fun to read round out a blog that always has something surprising when I enter the URL in my destination bar.

Bug Girl’s Blog, written by the Bug Girl (of course), covers a whole world of organisms with which I am only barely acquainted. From fireflies to spiders that work together to build massive webs, if you like inverts and aren’t reading her blog you’re really missing out. She’s also perhaps one of the foremost authorities (if not the foremost authority) in the blogosphere on DDT and I am ever-impressed with her knowledge of all things entomological. If that wasn’t enough, she’s had plenty of kind words for me and my own writing, giving me a bit of a boost during a rough start to this semester, proving that blogging is as much about community as it is about what shows up when you hit the “publish” button.

And last but not least…

~The Anterior Commissure, written by Kate, is definitely a science blog that the Rutgers community can be proud of. Kate’s recent post on a Reuter’s article about Viagra is enough in and of itself to make the blog worthy of special note (scarcely have I seen science summed up so well and with so much wit to make me literally LOL), but the whole thing is a trove of excellent writing. It might be overdoing things a bit, plugging the blog twice in one day, but it is only fair to give credit where it is due.

So that’s my short list; it’s not meant to be exhaustive, but merely to represent the work of just a few of the women out there generating some excellent writing (be it about science or not).

Update: I can’t believe that I forgot the ever-wonderful Fish Feet by Sarda. She took a little time off (hence my mental slip), but is now back in full swing and will soon be hosting The Boneyard (get those posts in!). She always has something new and interesting to say, written in a way that shows she has really thought about the subject rather than just repeating what’s already been done. Make sure you give her blog a look!

You should be reading this blog…

20 09 2007

It seems that I have to make an apology; for too long I’ve neglected to add the Anterior Commissure, a wonderful science blog from a fellow Rutgers student (albeit graduate student). If you’re not already reading it, you definitely should be. Also, Coturnix has aggregated just about every available response to an article in The Scientist about the best life science blogs, so check out his massively link-laden post.

And the Cehpalopodcast blog has some fun blog-based anagrams. Despite the pleasing potential titles “All Peas” or “Seal Pal,” I think I’ll stick with Laelaps.

Who, me?

19 09 2007

The news section of The Scientist has an article about the ever-growing number of science blogs, asking readers for their thoughts as to who has the “must read” blogs out there. Coturnix was kind enough to list Laelaps as one of his recommendations, and I am certainly humbled (and many thanks to the commenter Steph who is a fan as well!). It’s strange for me to think that this time last year I was just cutting my teeth in terms of blogging over at ProgressiveU (winning a scholarship based upon my blogging abilities definitely encouraged me to keep going), not even moving to WordPress until January. Given the welcome reception I’ve received from so many other writers, however, I am certainly glad I spend exorbitant amounts of time with my nose in a book or fingers on the keyboard, and I am inclined to agree with my wife when she told me that blogging about science is just about the most valuable thing that I have yet done.

So if you’ve got time today, head on over the list mentioned above; check out some blogs that you have never heard of before, and please add your own favorites into the comments. It looks like Pharyngula and John Hawks are really cleaning up, although there are plenty more to choose from (definitely have a look at Creek Running North and Pondering Pikaia if you’re not already reading them).

Tuesday Lunchtime Notes

18 09 2007

I am absolutely awed at the massive response my horse evolution post(s) have received, and I certainly appreciate all bloggers who plugged the work (The Sandwalk, Pharyngula, A Blog Around the Clock, Greg Laden, John Hawks, The Ethical Palaeontologist, physicshead, Darwiniana, The Lord Geekington, Quintessence of Dust, Solo’s Scent Trail, Good Tithings, KABT Resources, and any others that I may have forgotten. Hopefully I’ll be able to do something similar for artiodactyls, but that will have to wait for a bit.

Indeed, my attention (for the moment, anyhow) has turned to sauropods, more specifically involving questions about ontogeny, physiology, and lifestyle. Julia has helped me to form my ideas a bit, and Matt has already published some papers on the subjects I’m interested in, so I should soon have something covering, as the subject line of my e-mails to Julia read, “wee little sauropods.”

In the meantime, however, I have to write up a summary for my Topics in African Prehistory course about the significance of living primates to fossil studies, especially in terms of Richard Wrangham’s idea of an almost cladistic analysis of primate behavior to infer what behaviors were present in the last common ancestor of chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and humans. Some points he makes are good (i.e. shared behavior despite differing ecologies makes it more likely that the common ancestor exhibited such behavior), but overall I found the method a bit weak. In terms of thinking about ancestors, I’m biased towards the view of whatever we glean from living animals only works if it makes sense with the fossil data we have, otherwise we run the risk of thinking that we essentially evolved from chimpanzees, playing down what evolution has done in both humans and Pan since the divergence. This is the same problem I have with many of the modern books about human relationships to primates; there is a lot of focus on chimpanzees and bonobos, and the fossil record is typically only briefly mentioned (if at all) in many popular works. Such was part of the reason why I didn’t particularly like Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee, and I think what is really needed is a more comprehensive approach that can help reconcile the fossils with living species rather than reinforcing the divide between primatologists & evolutionary anthropologists (and as an aside, my wife just read Guns, Germs, and Steel and didn’t particularly care for it, either).

I also have some “minor” blog announcements, too. My blogroll has become something of a monster, and I’m soon going to review it in order to categorize it properly, and I’m also going to run an “open enrollment.” Also, it turns out that I accidentally ordered two copies of the same book (it was republished with a different title); Edwin Colbert’s Men and Dinosaurs. I’m considering running a sort of contest, the winner of the said event winning the book, although I’m not sure what to do yet. I’ll make an announcement when I have the 2nd copy in hand as well as an idea.

I’ll be headed to the AMNH this Saturday with some Rutgers students as well (I actually like using the Hall of Advanced Mammals as a classroom), the week after which I’ll be presenting two lectures to their class; one on Darwin, one on intelligent design. I don’t have the ability to videotape the lectures, but I’ll probably make the Power Point presentation available to anyone who’d like to see it (although I can’t promise that it will tell any readers of this blog things they don’t already know). I’ll also post my analysis of Wrangham’s “behavioral cladistics” later this evening for anyone who is interested, although I’m not sure what sort of reaction I’ll get from the professor and grad students tomorrow being that I’m fairly critical of the approach. Either way, I’m sure it’ll make for some interesting discussion.

And now I need to head back up Rt. 1 and eat something before my computers class. Again, many thanks to everyone who linked to, commented on, and helped proofread/correct my history of horse evolution post. I hope that I’ll be able to again raise the bar for myself in the near future. Here’s some more outro music, this time courtesy of The Fray;