Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Microbes and indoor ecology

This photo is from the NYTimes article's video, "The Jungle Indoors."
Great article in the New York Times yesterday about a collaborative effort among ecologists to map the microbiome in homes and other built structures (e.g., hospitals).  Last week, the American Society for Microbiology held its annual meeting in Denver, CO, and I was lucky enough to meet some of the participants. One, Dr. Jack Gilbert, was kind enough to offer some suggestions on my research.  He is also mentioned in this article for his research into the infection of a new hospital wing by its patients.  Basically, researchers are reproducing E.O. Wilson and Daniel Simberloff's classic island biogeography experiment, where mangrove islands in the Florida Keys were fumigated to eliminate all arthropod life, and then the recolonization dynamics could be observed over time.  However, this time, scientists are looking at biogeography and colonization dynamics of built spaces by microbial species.  It's a whole new area for ecologists for explore, with plenty of applications for human health.  Also, much of the research is being done by CU's own Noah Fierer, who is an incredible microbial ecologist.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Time saver

Credit for this post goes to my labmate Daniel Larremore.  For those of you out there like me who grew up in the age of Facebook, it can be difficult to just close the window and step away.  I know, I know, I get my news there too...my friends post fascinating articles, and so many of my college friends are studying such interesting topics in their own grad studies: stem cells, behavioral ecology, sociology, public health.  But, checking multiple times a day doesn't do much for my productivity.

Enter LeechBlock.  Best app ever.  I have blocked Facebook between the hours of 9am and 5pm.  When I type facebook.com into my search bar between those hours, I see this screen:
Yes, I can wait 60 seconds and get access...but usually I don't.  Time saver, willpower enhancer, all around great app.  Thanks, Daniel. :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Franco Pacini, 1939 - 2012

In preparation for my trip to the Quantitative Laws of Genome Evolution workshop in Como, Italy next month, I was reflecting on my last trip to Italy five years ago.  During that trip, I stayed near Greve, but the highlight of my trip was my visit with Dr. Franco Pacini and his family in Florence.  I recently learned that Dr. Pacini passed away last year.

In homage to this incredible man, I mention two stories.  The first is documented in this blog post, when Franco gave me and my family a private tour of Galileo's home.  It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, for someone who wrote a 3rd-grade report on the famous astronomer.  My second story about Franco took place in my childhood home in Vermont, when I was a senior in high school.  I recall that my father came home from work one day and informed my mother and me that we would be watching this specific episode of Nova on PBS, because his friend Franco was a speaker on the program.  What an incredible surprise; not only did my father have a friend in Italy who was an astrophysicist, but he was on NOVA, the PBS show that we watched almost every week, and he was talking about science to the general public!  He was an incredible role model for a burgeoning scientist such as myself.

Rest in peace, Franco, and thank you for your contributions to science and the pursuit of knowledge.