I just returned from the meeting of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects, an every-forth year affair that brings together scientists from around the globe under the common umbrella of social evolution. This year the venue was Copenhagen, Denmark, with over 700 participants.
Google indexed this page today from the online version of Merriam-Webster dictionary:
Main Entry: cla·dis·tics
Pronunciation: \kl?-?dis-tiks, kla-\
Function: noun plural but singular in construction
: a system of biological taxonomy that defines taxa uniquely by shared characteristics not found in ancestral groups and uses inferred evolutionary relationships to arrange taxa in a branching hierarchy such that all members of a given taxon have the same ancestors
— cla·dist \?kla-dist, ?kl?-\ noun
— cla·dis·tic \kl?-?dis-tik, kla-\ adjective
— cla·dis·ti·cal·ly \-ti-k(?-)l?\ adverb
I don’t know when was this entry actually added to the dictionary, but it is nicely defined.
I want to call your attention to a new blog written by Kurt Pickett, a colleague and close friend of mine. Kurt and I meet at the American Museum of Natural History a few years back. He was a postdoc and I a grad student, both working with James M. Carpenter.
The blog, Apoica, is named after the genus of rare nocturnal paper-wasps (Vespidae) he studied during his Ph.D. at Ohio State University. Kurt is currently an assistant professor at the University of Vermont where he continues his research on phylogenetics and the evolution of social behavior in the paper-wasp family. We are actively collaborating on a project involving ants (of course), combining molecular and morphological data for phylogenetic analysis.
In his blog Kurt writes not about his discoveries on wasp behavior, but about another major discovery he came upon by the end of his postdoc years: he has lymphoma. He recently underwent a bone marrow transplant, the ultimate treatment for his kind of cancer. He blogs about the up and downs of his recovery with the eye of the excellent scientist he is. Kurt has a great sense of humor, but don’t expect his posts to be anything but rather dark in tone.
Here’s a perfect example of what I like about blogs becoming an integral communication tool for the scientific community and interested folks alike:
- A peer-review paper gets published;
- The media gets hold on the story;
- The blogs react: scientists and general public fill the comments section (in the genuine tone of the internets);
- The authors of the original paper join in the discussion.
Discussion may get heated, comments may get bitter, but the results are always rewarding for all.
Do not forget to tune in to tomorrow’s phyloseminar where Noah Rosenberg will be speaking about consistency properties of species tree inference algorithms under the multispecies coalescent. February 24th at 1pm PST.
NewScientist posted photographs from the competition held by the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to showcase images of their latest research. In a single iconic image, the first one shows the weight that an ant is capable of carrying and how strong the suction devices in her feet are.
I have blogged about these adhesive devices in the ant’s feets before (called arolia in leet speak, singular arolium), and the very first image I used back then happens to be from the same ant species in the image above.
(h/t to P. Beldade)
My colleague Corrie S. Moreau, Assistant Curator at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, got interviewed by ScienceWatch.com in occasion of her highly cited paper in Science published back in 2006.
Weirdbuglady stuffs a real animal for a change, and shows us the whole process with detail pictures.
I agree with her, preparing animals that have the skeleton on the outside is way easier and much more cleaner.
The 7th International Congress of Hymenopterists will be held this year in Köszeg, Hungary, on June 20th to 26th. This meeting is organized by the International Society of Hymenopterists, which meets every four years to bring together the people doing research on sawflies, wasps, bees and ants around the globe. I’ll say these meetings are generally more heavily oriented towards systematic and ecological type of studies (is there anything else to know about?).
Now, the fact that the registration fee includes ethanol and ethyl acetate (for preserving the locally collected fauna) should tell you something about the level of geekiness of the crown that normally attends these meetings. But, it’s professional geekiness mind you.
You can find more information here (pdf).
Last night I attended a talk in Lisbon given by Ward Wheeler at the AMNH in New York City and moderated by Frederick Matsen from his home institution in Berkeley, California. The talk was the second on a series of talks in phylogenetics held via videoconferencing.
The idea behind phyloseminar.org is to hold regular live online seminars in phylogenetic methodology open to anyone around the globe. This is a challenge given the time zone differences of the possible participants, but it does makes the whole event fun: I watched it after dinner at 9:00pm; the presenter gave it at his 4:00pm; while the moderator was there after lunch at his 1:00pm. I saw at least one person among the audience that watched it from the future after breakfast in New Zealand the next day at 10:00am. › Continue reading
- Tom Waits