Adventures Down South

No, I haven’t been ignoring this blog, exactly. I’ve been busy. My research takes up a lot of my time, and ridiculous things like emails, fixing tires, paying bills, and petting cats seem to consume the rest of my time. I will get back to it eventually. I have to. Writing about science keeps me sane.

I do actually have another blog these days, called Adventures Down South, which is my field blog. In this blog I am documenting what it’s like to conduct an ecological field study (with some lab work thrown in for good measure), or at least what it’s like for me. For this particular study I am looking at the effects of habitat structure on population density and dynamics in lizards, and measuring these effects on postcopulatory sexually selected traits such as testis size and genital shape in males and females (confused? have questions? check out the blog!) Continue reading


A couple gems from ‘Bats are not bugs’…

Bats are not bugs is a wonderful blog written by a friend of mine and fellow sexual selection biologist, Dr. Teri Orr. Today, in lieu of anything original from my end (trying to find time for anything except my research is almost impossible these days), I am directing you to a couple of Teri’s recent posts. Because they, like she, are delightful!

In the first, MAMMAS: Isabella Rossellini is awesome and yes…biology can be sexy!, Teri writes about Isabella’s (May I call you Isabella?) new show Mammas, on the Sundance Channel (I REALLY hope you saw at least some of her Green Porno installments!) and about the little-known reason why Isabella is even more amazing than we thought… Continue reading

Placentas, Life History, and Brain-Body Allometry

Until now, I had ignored placentas. Although as a biologist I don’t strictly study reproduction, my work tends to have a heavy reproductive slant. Given that, and the fact that I have been studying reproduction as a scientist for almost a decade, it may be surprising that I know frighteningly little about placentas (except they’re yummy – no, not really. I’m not that brave). But now I’m curious.

I recently came across an article in PNAS in which Dr. Michael Garratt and his colleagues show a connection between the type of placenta a particular mammal has (there are two major placental types of interest ) and the pace of the mammal’s life history. Life history refers to the timing of key events in an animal’s life, such as age of maturation, how many offspring they have, how long their gestation is, and how long they live. For example, think of the classic differences in the life histories of rodents and elephants. Early maturing, lots of offspring (to say the least), short-lived rodents, versus late-maturing, few offspring, long-lived elephants … you get it. Continue reading