Monday, October 06, 2014

Librarian Lunch Break @BCRC

As the librarian working with the Biology Department at UMass Amherst, I am trying something new this semester. Every Wednesday from Noon-1:00pm, I will be in the Biology Computer Resource Center (Room 315 in Morrill III). I hope that students, faculty and staff will stop by with any library-related questions (like how to find an article, database search tips, using RefWorks), or just to say "Hi."

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Agriculture Census Stats - Massachusetts is doing great!

Gary Keogh, New England field office State Statistician, in a blog post from July 2014 on the USDA website, used data from the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture to illustrate the rise of community-supported agriculture (highest percentage of farms), and other aspects of Massachusetts' growing agriculture sector.

Massachusetts Agriculture Defies National Trends

The Census of Agriculture is available to all.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Scientist Issue on Sex

I like the science news site, The Scientist, which, despite it's title is focused on life sciences only.  This week, they have an issue devoted to sex, a hot topic, if you will excuse the pun.

Author of Keeping the Bees, Laurence Packer - NPR interview

I heard a Fresh Air interview with Laurence Packer, entomologist from York University in Toronto, on our local public radio station, and thought it amusing and informative. He was talking about his book, Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees Are at Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them (excerpt here). Although that subtitle is somewhat alarmist, he had a refreshingly low-key style. Although he talked about the threats to various crops, he also pointed out that there were many food plants that aren't pollinated by animals, and that we wouldn't immediately starve if all the bees died. He did note that there would be many long-term consequences of lower diversity among pollinators, and that feral honeybee colonies are much rarer than before, having been decimated by various parasites. Much of our focus on colony collapse disorder is focused on domesticated honeybees, but there are many other insects (and other animals) that pollinate.  The key to a healthy ecosystem is keeping high biodiversity.

The interviewer, Dave Davies, asked about a number of our more unusual pollinators and the mites that afflict them, and Packer had some stomach-turning examples, which I will leave to your imagination!

I have not yet purchased this book for the Libraries' collection, but I will!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Two hypotheses for our two-faced moon

Our moon has two very different faces: the near side and the far side are quite different from one another. Today, Slate's Phil Plate covers two hypotheses on just why the two sides of our moon are so different. Definitely check out Plate's quick synopsis of the two hypotheses, and if you are hungry for more, dive in to the two resources he covers!
Hypothesis one comes from Nature:
Jutzi, M., & Asphaug, E. (2011). Forming the lunar farside highlands by accretion of a companion moon. Nature, 476(7358), 69-72.
Hypothesis two you'll find via
Roy, A., Wright, J. T., & SigurĂ°sson, S. (2014). Earthshine on a Young Moon: Explaining the Lunar Farside Highlands. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 788(2), L42.
If you have any trouble accessing either of these two resources, feel free to ask a librarian! We are happy to help you figure out how to get access to all sorts of resources.
Happy searching! 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Science magazine section - "Scientific Communication" - October 4, 2013

Just in time for Open Access Week later this month (October 21-25), Science has published a section on scientific publishing, a topic regarding which they surely are not unbiased. 

I love the infographic,  The Rise of Open Access, by Randall Monroe of xkcd fame which claims that new scientific papers are published at an accelerating rate, currently about one every 20 seconds, and that since 2011, half of new papers are open access. That part of the article comes from an article by Jocelyn Kaiser in another issue of Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.341.6148.830).

There are other worthy pieces in this section, but the one that got my goat was a piece by John Bohannon, "Who's Afraid of Peer Review", an account of his sting operation, sending a scam article to a large number of open access journals to see which of them would catch its problems in their peer review systems. He made some valid points, but overall, I think the project was flawed by not including non-open access journals. The inferences drawn by him and others (see/hear the report on NPR) make it seem like the problems arise from open access rather than from poor peer review. Other bloggers  have written more articulate posts about the shortcomings (see Peter Suber's or Michael Eisen's). 

Science is hosting a live chat session on this issue with the article's author and several others including Eisen, on Thursday, Oct 10, 2013 at 3pm EDT.

Friday, May 03, 2013

A camera that sees like an insect

Here's in interesting use for low-res optics designed to imitate compound eyes.  Biomimetics in action!

Insect-Eye Digital Camera Sees What You Just Did

from National Geographic Magazine - Phenomena

Friday, November 09, 2012

From In the Loop: "Climate modeler identifies trigger for Earth’s last big freeze"

Alan Condron, a Research Assistant Professor in Geosciences at UMass Amherst, and his collaborator, Peter Winsor from University of Alaska Fairbanks, have published an article in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Using a new model, they propose a theory about how the meltwaters from the Laurentide Ice sheet, 12,000 years ago, are likely to have triggered the Younger Dryas, an abrupt cooling of the northern hemisphere, which interrupted a warming trend, coming out of a period of glaciation.
“This episode was the last time the Earth underwent a major cooling, so understanding exactly what caused it is very important for understanding how our modern-day climate might change in the future,” says Condron of the Climate System Research Center.
... “Our results are particularly relevant for how we model the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice sheets now and in the future. “It is apparent from our results that climate scientists are artificially introducing fresh water into their models over large parts of the ocean that freshwater would never have reached. In addition, our work points to the Arctic as a primary trigger for climate change. This is especially relevant considering the rapid changes that have been occurring in this region in the last 10 years.”
 See more details on this story in the campus In the Loop , Tuesday, November 6.

The full text of the original research article, "Meltwater routing and the Younger Dryas" doi:10.1073/pnas.1207381109  is available to the UMass Amherst community through the DOI link.