Read my blog post about how crowd funding is making science happen ( pdf or link ). You have until December 15 to donate to the research proposals over at the SciFund Challenge . Which projects do you want to fund?
In my latest blog post at AAAS Member Central, I take a look at the recently updated International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species ( pdf or link ). As more species are documented, both gains and losses in conservation are evident.
Despite significant media hype about the discoveries of genes “for” particular traits or diseases, most of us know that genetics is not destiny. This is due, in part, to the complicated influence of environmental factors. Not many scientists are arguing over nature versus nurture anymore; today, research is more likely to focus on the partnership between the two. The interaction of genes and the environment is raised to another level in the relatively new science of epigenetics. The word epigenetics literally translates to “above the genome.” It refers to any changes in gene activity that do not involve changes to the genetic code (i.e., DNA) but still can be inherited from one generation to the next. Basically, epigenetics is a nongenetic form of cellular memory. For instance, all the cells in your body contain identical genetic instruction sets, yet, during development, some turn into skin cells, others heart cells, others neurons, and so on. Epigenetic. . . Read More
Echolocating bats depend upon their sense of hearing to navigate, find food, and avoid obstacles in the dark. A new study shows that their ears aren’t just passive biosonar receiving antennae – bats can change the shape of their outer ears to increase the flexibility and efficiency of their hearing. The study, by a team from Virginia Tech and Shandong University in China, was published in Physical Review Letters . Horseshoe bats, like the one pictured at left, can deform the shapes of their ears in a manner that changes the bat’s spatial hearing sensitivity. The bats can switch their ears from one configuration to another in just a tenth of a second. Rolf Müller led the research team, which used a combination of techniques including. . . Read More
My latest blog post on AAAS Member Central: ‘New Challenges to Saving the Honey Bees’ (pdf or link ). An interaction between antibiotics administered to bee hives may be making bees more vulnerable to toxins from pesticides. Bee keepers are caught between a rock and a hard place, and the future of bees may depend on less chemical interference from humans (even if our intentions are good).