This category contains 38 posts

Getting Your Hands Dirty through Citizen Biology

Do you like to bird watch using your backyard bird feeder? Or maybe you have fun going bug hunting at a local nature preserve. However you enjoy taking in the natural world around you, there may be a way you can help scientists with important research at the same time! It’s thanks to citizen science, … Continue reading »

Using Silkworms to Make More than Silk

We have a long history with the silkworm (Bombyx mori), which was native throughout Asia and thought to have been domesticated more than 5,000 years ago in China to make silk. Silkworms today are biological silk-producing machines, the products of thousands of years of careful breeding. Silk production is now a multi-billion dollar industry, with … Continue reading »

Magnetoception and Changing Geomagnetic Poles

You may have heard the news that the Earth’s magnetic field (also called the geomagnetic field) is changing. (The field itself is created by the molten iron in the Earth’s outer core and other factors.) Specifically, it’s been significantly weakening over the last 200 years (by about 15%), and the geomagnetic North pole has been … Continue reading »

Citizen Biology

Are you not a scientist by training but you’d like to help scientists do real research? Or maybe you are a scientist and would like to aid others in doing more investigations in your spare time. Whatever your background, there are actually many ways that you can now do real scientific research in your spare … Continue reading »

An Ancient Whale Graveyard’s Culprit: Toxic Algae

In 2010, the fossilized skeletons of several large marine animals were discovered in Chile during a highway-expansion project. After studying the fossils, scientists discovered that the animals had actually been stranded over time, some 6-9 million years ago, during four distinct events. What caused the repeated mass strandings and deaths? The most likely culprit turned … Continue reading »

How Oxygen Helped Life to Flourish

About 4.5 billion years ago, our planet formed. Around a billion years later, the first life forms appeared, which were mostly single-celled microbes, and this is pretty much how life was on our planet for billions of years. Then, about 540 million years ago (or some three billion years after those microbes first appeared), multicellular … Continue reading »

Millions of Dead Sea Stars

I hesitated writing about this story because researchers really do not seem to know at all what is causing this catastrophe, yet, but doing science is primarily about solving mysteries – it’s really part of the scientific process. What exactly is the story? As you may have heard, potentially millions of sea stars (also known … Continue reading »

Aging and the Gut Microbiome

The more we learn about them, the clearer it’s becoming that the microbiomes that surround us – and live inside of us – serve vital functions for us. (Microbiomes are collections of microbes, such as bacteria and yeast, which live together in a certain area.) Just last week, we looked at the microbes living in … Continue reading »

How to Make Stem Cells… Using Acid!

Just yesterday, two papers were published in the journal Nature showing a completely novel way to make stem cells – the approach uses an acid bath. This method is rather shocking in its simplicity, and it’s unclear why or how it works, but somehow it does. Basically, the researchers took adult (somatic) cells from young … Continue reading »

Contagious Dog Cancer is 11,000 Years Old

We know of few cancers that are contagious. The ones we’re most familiar with are caused by viruses, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer, and hepatitis B, which can cause liver (hepatic) cancer. (To read more about these virus-caused cancers and their vaccines, check out my book Biology Bytes: Digestible … Continue reading »