Tag Archives: North Carolina

New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 13 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites. The Big One today, I’ll cover in a separate post a little later, but here I also want to point out a paper by my good friends Elsa Youngsteadt and Coby Schal, back from my NCSU days (Dr.Youngsteadt now works for Sigma Xi and attended ScienceOnline09):
Species-Specific Seed Dispersal in an Obligate Ant-Plant Mutualism by Elsa Youngsteadt, Jeniffer Alvarez Baca, Jason Osborne, Coby Schal:

Throughout lowland Amazonia, arboreal ants collect seeds of specific plants and cultivate them in nutrient-rich nests, forming diverse yet obligate and species-specific symbioses called Neotropical ant-gardens (AGs). The ants depend on their symbiotic plants for nest stability, and the plants depend on AGs for substrate and nutrients. Although the AGs are limited to specific participants, it is unknown at what stage specificity arises, and seed fate pathways in AG epiphytes are undocumented. Here we examine the specificity of the ant-seed interaction by comparing the ant community observed at general food baits to ants attracted to and removing seeds of the AG plant Peperomia macrostachya. We also compare seed removal rates under treatments that excluded vertebrates, arthropods, or both. In the bait study, only three of 70 ant species collected P. macrostachya seeds, and 84% of observed seed removal by ants was attributed to the AG ant Camponotus femoratus. In the exclusion experiment, arthropod exclusion significantly reduced seed removal rates, but vertebrate exclusion did not. We provide the most extensive empirical evidence of species specificity in the AG mutualism and begin to quantify factors that affect seed fate in order to understand conditions that favor its departure from the typical diffuse model of plant-animal mutualism.

An Ethical Facade? Medical Students’ Miscomprehensions of Substituted Judgment:

We studied how well first-year medical students understand and apply the concept of substituted judgment, following a course on clinical ethics.
Students submitted essays on one of three ethically controversial scenarios presented in class. One scenario involved a patient who had lost decisional capacity. Through an iterative process of textual analysis, the essays were studied and coded for patterns in the ways students misunderstood or misapplied the principle of substituted judgment.
Students correctly articulated course principles regarding patient autonomy, substituted judgment, and non-imposition of physician values. However, students showed misunderstanding by giving doctors the responsibility of balancing the interests of the patient against the interests of the family, by stating doctors and surrogates should be guided primarily by a best-interest standard, and by suggesting that patient autonomy becomes the guiding principle only when patients can no longer express their wishes.
Students did not appear to internalize or correctly apply the substituted judgment standard, even though they could describe it accurately. This suggests the substituted judgment standard may run counter to students’ moral intuitions, making it harder to apply in clinical practice.

Good evolution talks at Appalachian State University

In Boone, NC:

Michael Ruse will present “Darwin at Two Hundred Years Old: Does He Still Speak to Us?” Monday, Feb. 2, 2009, at 8 p.m. in Farthing Auditorium. Ruse is the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at Florida State University and the foremost philosophical scholar on the relationship between evolution and science. He is the author of “Can a Darwinian Be a Christian?”
On Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, Jim Costa, director of the Highlands Biological Station at Western Carolina University, will discuss “Charles Darwin and the Origin of the Origin.” The talk is scheduled for 8 p.m. in the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center’s Powers Grand Hall. Costa is a noted Darwin scholar and evolutionary ecologist, as well as author of the soon-to-be-released “Darwin Line by Line: The Living Origin,” an annotated version of “On the Origin of Species.” He will discuss how Darwin came to write the work.
Sean Carroll presents “Into the Jungle: The Epic Search for the Origins of Species and the Discoveries that Forged a Revolution” Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009, at 8 p.m. in Farthing Auditorium. Carroll is a professor of molecular biology, genetics and medical genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Researcher. He is the author of several popular books on evolution, including the upcoming “Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Specie.” Carroll will be host of a PBS “NOVA” special about Darwin and evolution, which will be shown nationally next spring. His talk is co-sponsored by the Darwin Bicentennial Celebration Committee and by the university’s Morgan Distinguished Lecture Series in the Sciences.
Paul Ewald from the University of Louisville’s Department of Biology will present a lecture Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 8 p.m. in the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center’s Powers Grand Hall. His presentation is titled “Darwinian Insights into the Causes and Prevention of Cancer.” Ewald is noted for his theories regarding the co-evolution of humans and disease organisms. He argues in his book “Plague Time” that many diseases attributed to environmental stresses may actually be caused by bacteria or viruses instead.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jonathan Weiner will speak on “The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time” Thursday, March 26, 2009, at 8 p.m., in Plemmons Student Union’s Blue Ridge Ballroom. Weiner is a professor in Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. His Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Beak of the Finch” profiled the research of the husband/wife team Peter and Rosemary Grant as they carried out extensive studies of evolution on Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands.
Elisabeth Lloyd from Indiana University’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science will present the lecture “Darwinian Evolution and the Female Orgasm: Explanations and Puzzles” Thursday, April 2, 2009, at 8 p.m. in Plemmons Student Union’s Blue Ridge Ballroom. Lloyd is a leading historian and philosopher of science and author of several books on these subjects.
Niles Eldredge, curator of the American Museum of Natural History, will speak on “Darwin, the Beagle and the Origin of Modern Evolutionary Biology” Monday, April 6, 2009, at 8 p.m. in Farthing Auditorium. Eldredge, along with his colleague the late Stephen J. Gould, co-authored the seminal paper on punctuated equilibrium which emphasized that evolutionary change was not constant through time. He is also author of more than a dozen scientific books for the public, including “Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life,” a new analysis of how Darwin came to write “On the Origin of Species,” based largely on Darwin’s original notes and writings.
In addition to the lectures, a series of affiliated events has been planned, including an Evolution Film Festival which will feature a variety of movies based on or about the subject of evolution; a play by the L.A. Theater Works based on the Scopes Trial (Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009); a performance by the Department of Theatre and Dance of the courtroom scene from “Inherit the Wind” (Feb. 12-14 and 19-21); art and music events; plus special outreach activities for students and teachers.

I wish Boone was closer to me….

ScienceOnline’09 – Friday Lab Tour: the NC Museum of Natural Sciences

After coffee cupping, still pretty frozen, we went back to Radisson to see who else has arrived for ScienceOnline09 in the meantime. I set up my temporary field Headquarters in the lobby (photo by Lenore):
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After a quick lunch, it was time for Lab Tours (check blog posts and pictures for other people’s experiences). A bunch of us went to the NC Museum of Natural Sciences where Roy Campbell, the Director of Exhibits, gave us a fantastic whirlwind tour through the Museum and the vaults, the secret basement chambers that general public cannot access.
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I’ve been going to the Museum for 17 years now, pretty regularly (I used to volunteer there when it was still in the old building), yet I always notice something new, some new detail or improvement they made since the last time I visited.
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This was a pretty big group – if I remember correctly (and it’s all a blur now), we had Melissa, Paula, Elissa, Robyn, Molly, Kim , Patty, Daniel, Sol, Enrico, Carlos, as well as the entire contingent from Miss Baker’s class – eight students, two parents and Miss Baker herself.
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But there is no group big enough or rowdy enough to get Roy off his game. The Museum is enormous, and I don’t think there is anyone in the world but Roy who is capable of giving a tour of it in just two hours and covering everything and going everywhere and saying so much interesting stuff!
I am sure that the visit to the palaeontology lab (where an amazingly well preserved and complete skeleton of a bipedal crocodile was being cleaned) and the vaults was the greatest hit with the group:
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But for me, the most exciting was a brief look through one of the windows, onto the lot next door, where the bulldozers were hard at work digging a big hole – for the new wing of the Museum, as big as the main building, or so it appearrs. And that new wing – now THAT’S going to be exciting and unique, but you will have to read this blog for some time in the future until you get to hear the entire story once it becomes public….


Last year, the only snow day in the Triangle was January 20th. I remember, because a number of locals could not drive to the 2nd Science Blogging Conference. This year we were wiser so we organized it a few days early. And, lo and behold, on January 20th this year, we had snow again:
This was also the first time Juno saw snow. It took her three walks to lose the fear of this strange, white substance:
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Darwin and Evolution talks in North Carolina

I get e-mails about such events, so I thought I’d share, so you can attend some of these talks if you want:

NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C. Scott will be speaking twice in North Carolina shortly.
First, at 7:00 p.m. on January 27, she will be speaking on “Darwin’s Legacy in Science and Society” in the Wright Auditorium on the East Carolina University campus in Greenville. “Charles Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859 was an extraordinary milestone for science, but it also had profound effects on theology, philosophy, literature, and society in general. Nowhere is this more true than in the United States, where the teaching of evolution has been contentious since the early part of the 20th century. Why have Darwin’s ideas been so valuable — and yet so controversial? The answers lie not in science, but in history and culture.” Admission is $10; free to ECU faculty, staff, and students. For further details, visit:
Second, at 7:30 p.m. on January 29, she will be speaking on “Why Evolution Is Taught in North Carolina Schools” in the Burney Center on the University of North Carolina, Wilmington campus. “The North Carolina science education standards have received high marks from national evaluators. They require the teaching of what scientists and teachers consider important for students to learn, including evolution. Why do scientists and teachers feel so strongly that evolution should be part of the curriculum? And why do some parents object to their children learning it?” Admission is free and open to the public. For further details, visit:

Edward J. Larson will be speaking on “The Scopes Trial in History and the Theatre” at 8:00 p.m. on January 22, 2009, in the Farthing Auditorium on the Appalachian State University campus Boone; the event is free and open to the public, so please spread the word!
A professor of law at Pepperdine University, Lawson wrote Summer for the Gods, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning history of the Scopes trial and its impact, as well as Trial and Error, the definitive legal history of the creationism/evolution controversy.
Larson’s talk is part of Appalachian State’s extensive lecture series in honor of Darwin’s bicentennial. Among the other speakers in the series are NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C. Scott (who spoke in September) and NCSE Supporters Michael Ruse, Kenneth R. Miller, Sean Carroll, and Niles Eldredge.
For a press release about the lecture series, visit:
For a poster advertising the series, visit:

Carl Zimmer
“Darwin and Beyond: How Evolution Is Evolving”
February 12, 2009
6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Talk Overview: Charles Darwin launched the modern science of evolution, but he hardly had the last word. In fact, today scientists are discovering that evolution works in ways Darwin himself could not have imagined. In my talk I will celebrate Darwin’s achievements by looking at the newest discoveries about evolution, from the emergence of life to the dawn of humanity.
Please join us for a Darwin Day presentation by Carl Zimmer. Mr. Zimmer is well known for his popular science writing, particularly his work on evolution. He has published several books including Soul Made Flesh, a history of the brain, Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, At the Water’s Edge, a book about major transitions in the history of life, The Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins; and his latest book Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life. Mr. Zimmer contributes to the New York Times, National Geographic, Discover, Scientific American, Science, and Popular Science. He also maintains an award winning blog The Loom.
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC 27601-1029

Science/Nature things to do in the Triangle, NC

If you live around here or if you are coming early or staying after ScienceOnline’09, you may be interested in science/nature stuff you can see around here. I know, it’s January and some of those facilities are not at their rose-blooming peak, but they are worth a look:
Take a look at the awesome North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, Museum of Life and Science in Durham, Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve and Stevens Science Center in Cary, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill and JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh.
I’d also add NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, The Science House at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, Carnivore Preservation Trust in Pittsboro and the fantastic NC Zoo in Asheboro.
Not just for kids – adults will love all of this as well.