Before They Were Scientists: Mariano Vázquez

I recently interviewed physicist Mariano Vázquez. From his office in Barcelona, Spain, Mariano told me about the supercomputer encased in a crystal box located in a century old church a few hundred meters away from him. Read on as this Argentina native recounts how his time spent traveling around the world in a merchant ship with his family, the giant map on his childhood bedroom wall, and the invention of his own term for “scientist” all ultimately led him to a life of inquiry.

Lea: I’m excited to include your story in this series.

Mariano: I don’t know if it is going […]

By |January 30th, 2015|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

A Heart-to-Heart with Rob Dunn

We’re excited for the upcoming release of Rob Dunn‘s new book, The Man Who Touched His Own Heart, on February 3! After taking on the parasites, microbes, mutualists and predators that shape our human selves in his last book, The Wild Life of Our Bodies, Rob has moved on to explore the history and science of our most vital organ, the heart. Get a sneak preview of the book in this Q & A:

Interviewer: I’d like to ask you more about the story behind the story of your heart book.

Dunn: OK, sounds great.

What is the heart?

Oh, […]

By |January 27th, 2015|Books, News, Q & A|1 Comment

The Fashionable and Practical Turkey Vulture

Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) remind me of 16th century European royalty (you know those “ruffs” they wore around their necks?). That regal appearance results from a bald head, which keeps the birds a little cleaner as they dig around in decomposing roadkill.

Evolving with bacteria goes beyond losing some feathers though. After all, if you ate rotten meat, you’d get sick. Vultures, however, have extremely acidic digestive tracks and host special gut bacteria that help them digest those rotten meals.

Oh, and don’t bother vultures while they’re feeding. They’re known to vomit as a defense mechanism.

p.s. Robert Krulwich of […]

By |January 22nd, 2015|Nature in Your Backyard, Science Art|0 Comments

The Secret Life of Roukus, Part 2

Roukus the Cat is a snowbird…in the sense that she spends her winter months in warmer locales.

Roukus has finally moved south, from Maine to the sunny shores of Florida where she now basks in the glory of the Sunshine State. In the summer, Roukus roamed the forests. Now she travels along the sand dunes, not once crossing the roads near her beach house. While she enjoys long walks down the beach with her owner, she also seems to enjoy long walks by herself at night… at 1:30 in the morning! We can’t help but wonder what this kitty […]

By |January 20th, 2015|Cat Tracker|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Emily Graslie

In addition to interviewing traditionally trained scientists, I sometimes get the opportunity to interview the science communicators that help translate what happens in the lab to the rest of the world. Today’s interview is with the incredible science communicator, Emily Graslie. You may recognize her from her wildly popular YouTube series, The Brain Scoop, now based at The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Before we started our interview, with me in Raleigh and Emily in Chicago, we took note of our surroundings. Behind Emily were some familiar surrounds seen in many of her videos. We both clutch our coffee mugs […]

By |January 16th, 2015|Before They Were Scientists, Education|3 Comments

Who’s in My House?

Tiny rustling noises arise from our kitchen garbage can. I tip-toe up to it and out pops a little fuzzy face with a twitching nose. Then it’s gone… and I head to the closet for a couple live traps.

Many mice and voles have made my house their own over the years (before I gently suggest they live elsewhere).

Is my new tenant a MOUSE or a VOLE?

Need a hint?
MICE have long tails, long snouts, long ears and protruding eyes.
VOLES have short tails and teddy bear faces with small, rounded ears, button eyes and a smooshed snout.

Curious about what’s the […]

By |January 13th, 2015|Nature in Your Backyard, Science Art, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Starry Night Lesson Plan Now Available

Expanding on our work with Students Discover, we’re rolling out several new citizen science-based lesson plans on our Education page. Before the holidays, we released a NestWatch Lesson Plan, inspired by the long-standing citizen science project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In the coming months, we’ll continue to release new lesson plans focused on global, long-running citizen science projects, aligned to Next Generation Science Standards.

Our goals are simple:

  • Engage students in citizen science so they have opportunities to:
    • Participate in authentic scientific research.
    • Feel ownership over their learning.
    • Be part of a growing community of citizen scientists.
    • Improve scientific literacy by understanding […]
By |January 13th, 2015|Education|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Holly Menninger

Not every scientist got their inspiration from their science classes — in fact many have gleaned inspiration from museums, family trips or extracurricular opportunities that they had when they were younger. Dr. Holly Menninger got her start in science communication speaking to groups of visitors at the Cincinnati Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. While sitting down to talk to her about middle school, I noted a subtle Midwestern accent emerged as she excitedly described her experiences and reflected on time spent with her family and important mentors.

Lea: Tell me about your middle school setup to get us started.

Holly: I […]

By |January 9th, 2015|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

New Year, New Updates from Cat Tracker

The start of the new year seems like a good occasion to update you on Cat Tracker, our citizen science project that uses GPS technology to study the movement and home ranges of owned domestic cats. We launched in May 2014 in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina and in the last year, our program has grown to include a GPS unit loaning program in Long Island, New York, and parts of Connecticut.

For those outside our GPS loaning zones, we have a DIY option where cat owners can purchase and deploy their own GPS units and then […]

By |January 8th, 2015|Cat Tracker|1 Comment

ICYMI: Holiday Break Edition

Happy New Year! Classes are back in swing today here at NC State and we’re slowly but surely digging ourselves out from under the pile of emails that accumulated over the winter break.

A few exciting research developments and stories emerged while we were on our holiday hiatus, and we thought we should dedicate our first post in 2015 to catching you up those items you may have missed:

The Truth About What Makes Us Human (and Writing Books)

New analyses of chimpanzees and humans reveal them to be far more different than suspected, perhaps as much as 95% different.

Sometimes it takes time to see something clearly. This is especially true in writing a book. Book writing, even non-fiction book writing, is voodoo magic. It is a pot of incantations out of which emerges the animal with which one must wrestle in mornings, afternoons, evenings and dreams.

Book writing begins under reasonable control. A proposal emerges. The proposal includes a table of contents; the table of contents is pushed this way and that by, if you are lucky, an […]

By |December 27th, 2014|Books, Explainer|0 Comments

Happy Holidays from Your Wild Life!

Want a chance to win a custom Your Wild Life 2014 ornament? We’ve got a little holiday cheer to share in the form of handmade wooden ornaments inspired by the Arthropods of Our Homes project and the crafts of summer camp. Comment on this blog post with a story about the bugs you’ve seen in and around your home (if you’re having trouble giving those bugs a name, refer to this handy guide to identify the common insects) and we’ll randomly select a commenter to receive one of these custom ornaments to adorn your home on midnight December 31, […]

By |December 24th, 2014|Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

A Whole New Way of Doing Citizen Science, Maybe

Some parts of science are boring. Some are tedious. Some seem as though they will never end. It is these parts of science we tend to try to enlist the public in helping with.

You can, of course, listen for birds as part of the Breeding Bird Survey, count butterflies as part of the 4th of July butterfly counts, or set out cookie crumbs to collect urban ants for our School of Ants project. These endeavors are delightful ways to engage nature. They are also relatively easy ways to participate in science. But in collecting and contributing these […]

By |December 19th, 2014|Homes, Participate, Wild Life of Our Home|1 Comment

NestWatch Lesson Plan Now Available

Expanding on our work with Students Discover, we will be rolling out several new citizen science-based lesson plans over the next couple of months on our Education page. We’ve focused on global, long-running citizen science projects and have worked closely with educators to create lesson plans aligned to Next Generation Science Standards.

Our goals are simple:

  • Engage students in citizen science so they have opportunities to:
    • Participate in authentic scientific research.
    • Feel ownership over their learning.
    • Be part of a growing community of citizen scientists.
    • Improve scientific literacy by understanding the process of science rather than just memorizing facts or doing canned science experiments wherein we […]
By |December 15th, 2014|Education|2 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Corrie Moreau

Corrie Moreau grew up a city kid in the South. In middle school, she was on the dance team and marched in Mardi Gras parades while looking for ants in the cracks of the sidewalk outside her apartment. Read on to learn how she took her childhood love of ants and turned it into her full-time career, how she engages girls in science at The Field Museum and how her parents fostered confidence and creativity in her from a young age onward.

Lea: Where were you in middle school?

Corrie: I grew up in Louisiana. For me, the most awesome part […]

By |December 12th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|1 Comment