Cockroaches, Tarantulas, and Widows, Oh My!

A couple of years ago Matthew Nayman and Mike Boers helped me put together this short video for something or other. I pulled off the project-specific bumpers and now it’s just a humorous stand alone video filled with fun biological, historical, and cultural facts about Madagascar hissing cockroaches (Gromphadorhina portentosa), Mexican red rump tarantulas (Brachypelma vagans), and Western Black Widows (Latrodectus hesperus). It was loads of fun to film and put together, and since it turned out so well, it seemed like a shame to keep it in the vault (so to speak). Please, Enjoy!

Fly Ructus

I’ve mentioned before that I’m working with Spotted Winged Drosophila (SWD or Drosophila suzukii) these days. Over breakfast I was struck with the urge to make something silly.


I have to add that this animated gif is a little misleading. It’s the larva that infest fresh fruits, not the adult males (like this fellow).

Ottawa and the Death of Evidence

I just returned to Vancouver after a week in Ottawa where I was attending and presenting research at the 1st Joint congress on Evolution. Perhaps the greatest highlight of this week filled with amazing talks, posters, lectures, and rap shows, was participating in the Death of Evidence rally that marched from the Ottawa Convention Centre to Parliament Hill at noon on July 10th.

Here to be Heard

Several speakers stood up in front of the crowd to talk about the importance of research, the recent cuts, and policies that threaten an informed Canadian citizenry. During the “service”, I live-tweeted quotes, moments, and take-home messages (rephrased for twitter). Of these, some of my favourites were:

“Iron curtains make for dark rooms. Harper is building Canada in the dark.”

“We DESERVE a gov’n who will listen to everyone. Including the people who know what they’re talking about.”

“science is powerful because it accepts criticism.”

And to end on:

“Call to scientists (& allies!): find out why voters vote the way they do and help them see the importance of evidence in policy.”

Check out the rest of the photos I took.

Learning to Communicate Science

Left to right: Carl Zimmer, Elizabeth Howell, Tim Lougheed, Penny Park

Evolution 2012 has kicked off to a great start for with with a workshop on Communicating Science to Society. We heard from great speakers including Carl Zimmer, Elizabeth Howell, Tim Lougheed, Penny Park, Peter Calamai (not shown) and Tom Sherratt (not shown).

I learned (or refreshed) quite a bit from the seminar. It started with Tom Sherratt describing his experiences dealing with popular media from the perspective of the scientists. Then we shifted gears to discuss the communication process from the journalist’s perspective on a number of topics and media outlets. Penny Park went over the importance of being prepared (especially for TV and radio) – both the interviewee and the interviewer, then Tim Lougheed stressed the importance of knowing your audience (and how to hook their interest – it’s like stand up comedy!). Elizabeth Howell gave us a lot of insight into the journalists’ experience (18 articles written a day! Yikes!), and the panel was rounded off with Carl Zimmer discussing what he charismatically called the Taxonomy of Interviews. We wrapped up the seminar with smaller group discussions with each of the panelists.

It was definitely a great way to start a week of communicating science (even if it’s to other scientists, not to the media). I’ve already revised the way I’m thinking of presenting the material in my poster to be more goal-oriented.