7 Things To Know About Mitochondria: 2016 edition

Mitochondria: To most people, they’re little more than a ghostly memory fragment from middle school biology. However, these tiny “powerhouse(s) of the cell” are much more than they seem. They’re actually the shape-shifting descendants of ancient bacteria that were eaten by a larger archaebacterium billions of years ago. . (If you want to know more …

12 Lessons from Science Writers 2016 in San Antonio

[Inside the Alamo. Photo by Jerald Jackson via Flickr & CC 2.0, My own Alamo photos did not come out this pretty.]  This past weekend, I spent three and a half days at the National Association of Science Writers meeting in San Antonio, Texas. If you’ve never been to a Science Writers conference, here’s what …

How 600 Citizens Helped to Document an Underwater Epidemic

[A Sunflower Sea Star with several arms missing. Photo by Jerry Kirkhart via Flickr & CC 2.0 License.]  In 2013,  something strange started happening to the starfish, or sea stars, that live along North America’s Pacific Coast. Casual observers began reporting starfish that were “dissolving” or “melting”. “What you first see is they start getting …

What Lake Beds Know (Interview with Janice Brahney of USU)

[Photo by Jake Eberhardt via Flickr & CC 2.0 License]  Lakes make excellent witnesses, says Utah State University assistant professor Janice Brahney.  The sediment at the bottom of lakes can hold clues about life in the lake thousands of years ago, preserving everything from fossils to traces of rainfall. “I wanted to be a detective …

Best Shortform Science Writing July-September 2016

(A Highly Subjective Round-up of Standout Science News) [Image above by Silke Remmery via Flickr and CC 2.0 license]  After nine months of searching through short science stories with an eye out for some of the best that the genre has to offer, I’ve come to a conclusion: Investigative pieces under 1200 words are rare. …

Mind the (Canopy) Gap: Recap of a Talk by Dr. Julia Burton

[Photo by Aaron Carlson via CC 2.0]  The Talk: Can silvicultural practices be leveraged to maintain diversity in understory plant communities? In Plain English: How does cutting down trees affect plant life on the ground? The Speaker: Julia Burton of Utah State University The Sponsor: USU College of Natural Resources What It Covered: Julia Burton …

The Slow Poisoning of the UK’s Bees (and What to Do About It)

[Photo by David Short via Flickr & Creative Commons 2.0] “By Request” is a series of posts where I track down studies that answer questions asked by you, my blog’s readers.    High School Friend Elna asked: “Impending extinction of bees- what can prevent?”   That’s a tough question to answer, because some bee populations are …

How Scientists Discovered 85,000 Viral Species in Leftover Data

[Phage viruses attempt to infect a cell. Image via Wikimedia Commons.] In 2015, the largest database of genetic information in the world– the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)–had complete genomes for 45,000 species of bacteria–but only 2,200 genomes from viruses. Viruses outnumber bacteria in every habitat researchers have sampled. In fact, they outnumber stars in …

Coming to News Stands Near You / Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want

[A statue of Charles Darwin. CGP Grey/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)] First things first: This August you’ll be able to buy a piece of my writing (on real paper) at a bookstore or newsstand near you!  I have a front-of-book story about bacterial biofilms and how we can attack them with sugar-cutting enzymes out in the …