Tag Archives: meet the

Meet the Finnish Forest Magic

The following narrative was written by my very good friend and colleague, Stephen Heap (University of Jyväskylä in Finland). He is a soft-spoken and incredible storyteller and this is a story about a forest survey, but really so much more.

story of forest 3

Story of the Forest by Stephen Heap, PhD

The pale sun of an autumn dawn shines through the trees to illuminate a shallow valley. Brown ferns, fading into death with the chill of the coming winter, are speckled across a mat of green moss. Trees placidly stand on either side of the valley, comfortably watching the scene below. Their shadows leave dark bars across the floor. The subdued shade accentuates the brighter patches, which shine with a golden luster like the skin of a sensuous lover in a sunlit bedroom. Continue reading

Would you like to meet a Tardigrade?

In the Canopy with Water Bears and Wheelchairs

We’ve already met tardigrades (or water bears) virtually. If you are an undergraduate with an ambulatory disability, you also have an opportunity to meet tardigrades in the tops of trees.

At ScienceOnline 2014 I learned from Meg Lowman & Rebecca Tripp during a very impressive keynote presentation about a research program to study tardigrades in forest canopies that was specifically focused on making field research accessible to individuals with ambulatory disabilities. Not only was the research fascinating (water bears are EVERYWHERE), but it also represents an important effort to help the social practice of knowledge building that we call science actually include the diversity of our society.

The project is organized through the lab of William Miller at Baker University in Kansas. If you or someone you know might be interested, contact check-out the announcement flyer below, the information sheet below that, and contact the Miller lab. The application deadline is 14 March 2014. Act quickly while supplies last.REU-2014-AnnouncmentFlyer-2 (1)

REU-Canopy-InfoSheet2014-1 (1)

Meet the Hookworm

hookworm-07022012-04Recently, the genome of the American hookworm, Necator americanus was completed (read more here). In celebration of this achievement, the American hookworm is our cool animal of the week. Also, parasitic nematodes just really don’t get enough love and attention, so it is time to honor them.

The American hookworm is picked up by humans and other mammals from the soil and then feeds on blood before making a home in the small intestine. An estimated 700 million people are affected by this parasite worldwide and unfortunately none are investment bankers or other financial district employees (because that would be amazing–parasites living within the parasites of society….soo meta and karmic).

You can protect yourself from hookworm, by simply wearing shoes which means that poor people from developing nations are overwhelmingly the afflicted majority.

Hookworm FootCheck out the sensational (in a ridiculous way) video on hookworms by Animal Planet.

If you want to help–donate money to a world health organization, which can build proper latrines and put down cement, instead of buying a pair of TOMS shoes.

“Meet the…” is a collaboration between The Finch & Pea and Nature Afield to bring Nature’s amazing creatures into your home.

Meet the Foam Nest

Physalaemus petersi communal foam nest in Ecuador  (Photo Credit: Mónica Guerra)

Physalaemus petersi communal foam nest in Ecuador
(Photo Credit: Mónica Guerra)

Reproductive modes in frogs vary greatly, as do the ways in which they deposit their eggs. The túngara frog, Physalaemus pustulosus (=Engystomops), which is the main focus in my lab constructs a “foam” nest–an adaptive character which I’ve become interested in exploring. Foamy substances are produced by some insects, tunicates, fish and, perhaps most famously, frogs.

Foam nests may be constructed by frogs in trees, underground burrows, on top of water, or nearby water sources. This phenomenon has evolved independently several times in both old and new world frogs, living in tropical and subtropical areas. Continue reading

Meet the Darkling Beetle

Fig 1 A: O. unguicularis, B: O. laeviceps, C: S. gracilipes, and D: P. cribripes (from Norgaard and Dacke 2010)

Fig 1 A: Onymacris unguicularis, B: O. laeviceps, C: Stenocara gracilipes, and D: Physterna cribripes (from Norgaard and Dacke 2010)

Elytra Structures Fig 2 A: O. unguicularis, B: O. laeviceps, C: S. gracilipes, and D: P. cribripes (from Norgaard and Dacke 2010)

Elytra Structures Fig 2 A: O. unguicularis, B: O. laeviceps, C: S. gracilipes, and D: P. cribripes (from Norgaard and Dacke 2010)

Fig 4 Fog basking posture of Onymacris unguicularis (from Norgaard and Dacke 2010)

Fig 4 Fog basking posture of Onymacris unguicularis (from Norgaard and Dacke 2010)

The Namib desert is inhabited by a number of fantastic organisms that have adaptations for desert life. In particular, there are a few tenebrionids or Darkling beetles which call this locale their home. Beetles in the desert need to collect water and while some dig trenches others bask in the fog.

Most beetles have smooth elytra, but ones that bask in fog are covered in raised bumps and are also hydrophobic. Fog basking is akin to basking in the sun to increase body temperature, but in this case the beetle uses the elytra to collect water. The increased surface area and hydrophobicity of the elytra increase the amount of water that can be extracted from the fog. This water is then funneled to the head of the beetle as a result of the adopted head-down stance.

Watch this behavior in action below:

This adaptation is so cool that humans are trying to adopt the technology to make a self-filling water bottle!

Read more in the paper below:

Norgaard, T., and M. Dacke 2010. Fog-basking behaviour and water collection efficiency in Namib Desert Darkling beetles. Front. Zool. 7:23.

“Meet the…” is a collaboration between The Finch & Pea and Nature Afield to bring Nature’s amazing creatures into your home.