Friday, September 25, 2015

In the News: Filter-Feeders and Whale Drones

Fig.1. This basking shark is one of several species that independently evolved the ability to filter feed (Credit: Greg Skormal/NOAA Fisheries Service, 2011)

Breathalyzer tests for whales and climate change-fighting sea creatures are part of ongoing research in marine animal science. Read to learn more about checking the health of whales, the unusual octopus genome, plankton-feeding sharks, and more!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fire and Ice in the Sierra Nevada

Fig.1. A view of Half Dome in the Sierra Nevada (Credit: Dimitry B. via Flickr, 2013)

Earlier this year, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued water restrictions for first time ever in the state’s history, mandating that urban water suppliers cut their use by 25 percent. This measure addressed California’s ongoing drought, which has entered its fourth year and contributed to deadly wildfires and billions lost in agriculture. A new study published in Nature Climate Change suggests that this record-breaking streak may stretch back far more than a few years ago.

Friday, September 18, 2015

In the News: Virus Swarms and a (New) Paelo Diet

Fig.1. Child receiving polio vaccine (Credit: USAID Bangladesh)
"Mutant viral swarms," heirloom culture collections, and stone tools from 32,000 years ago are all in the science news this week. Read more to learn how emerging viral diseases and food security are studied using novel approaches to scientific collections:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How to Adapt to Climate Change

Fig.1. This canid evolved from mongoose-like ancestors (Credit: Tambako via Flickr, 2014)

Around 23 million years ago, Earth’s climate cooled considerably, causing a shift in North America’s interior ecosystems. Forests turned into the drier, more open grasslands that remain today. As climate change affected the landscape, animals and plants adjusted to their new surroundings. The fossil record indicates that herbivorous mammals evolved longer legs and teeth more adapted to the increasingly ubiquitous C4 grasses. Although a similar adjustment had not been previously seen in predators, an international team of scientists discovered a link between modern canine hunting habits and the ancient shift in climate.

Friday, September 11, 2015

In the News: A New Member of the Family

Fig.1. Left and right view of a hand of Homo naledi, a recently discovered species of extinct hominin found in South Africa (Credit: Lee Roger Berger research team, 2015)

From bones hidden in the depths of a South African cave to century-old mold, these scientific discoveries change our understanding of human evolution and disease. Read to learn more about a new hominin, trade and caffeine, tracking diseases, and more:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Happy Birthday, Collections in the News!

One year ago today, Collections in the News published its first article about ongoing research regarding collections and how they can tell us more about the world. To celebrate, here are our top five most viewed and shared articles from the past year:  

Collection Spotlight: NMNH Vertebrate Paleontology 

We learned about preserving fossils for future researchers and museum visitors, thanks to Dr. Hans-Dieter Sues, curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Microbes and Middle Schools 

Dr. Julia Stevens at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences told us why teaching middle school students about soil microbiology is important for the future of science. 
New technologies were applied to old history in Dr. Loren Sackett’s work with wildlife diseases that cross over into humans.

“Evil Twin” of Climate Change

Ocean acidification is an ongoing threat to sea life and is only part of how climate change will affect our world, but information from sediment cores may help us to mitigate the problem.

Smallpox, Now Online! 

In an age where digitizing collections are the norm, we talked about how the question of open-access data is at the forefront of biosecurity.

Friday, September 4, 2015

In the News: Birds of a Feather

Fig.1. House Finch-eggs (Credit: Rich Mooney via Flickr, 2005)

Between Victorian egg collecting and modern day plastic production, humans have endangered bird populations around the world. Living collections and dried specimens found in museums help us to paint a picture of both their ancient relationship with people and future survival:

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The End of the World, 252 Million Years Ago

Fig.1. This trilobite was part of an important class of extinct animals that one ruled the seas (Credit: Kevin Walsh, 2005 via Flickr

Have you ever wondered about the curious creatures behind #trilobitetuesday? These marine arthropods roamed the oceans for over 270 million years and are widely considered to be among the most successful of early animals. Trilobites are well preserved and make up a large number of marine invertebrate fossil collections, informing on research in fields as wide ranging as evolutionary biology to plate tectonics. They ultimately went extinct at the end of the Permian period around 252 million years ago - along with more than 90 percent of ocean species and 75 percent of land species - during the most massive extinction event in the paleontological record. Although causes have been attributed to anything from asteroids to sea-floor methane, a recently published paper in Science Advances argues that volcanic activity catalyzed the catastrophic Permian-Triassic extinction event.