Monster Tales from the 112 Lab

Hydra - Feeding Extension by ravenofdreams

Hydra - Feeding Extension by ravenofdreams

So today we did a bunch of cool stuff in our Biology 112 lab. We started out by prepping and inoculating some petri dishes with a couple different kinds of fungi.

Into our first four petri dishes, we inoculated some Arthrobotrys. Arthrobotrys is a genus of predacious fungus. We’ll give them a week to grow, and then next week we’re going to feed some nematodes to them. That’s pretty neat.

Two more dishes got one culture of wild Sordaria and one tan Sordaria for a cross. Two more got one wild and one gray.

Then the really monstrous critter stuff started.

We got a watchglass and a dissection microscope and put a little Hydra in it. We observed its behavior for a while, and then added a few Daphnia. Hydra feed on Daphnia. When the Daphnia comes close, the Hydra‘s tentacles grab it, and then sting it to death while it struggles. It was very cool to watch.

After that, we moved on to some pond water. We’d put a few drops of pond water onto a slide and check it out under the regular scope, and draw anything we saw moving around. I found some neat stuff, including a good size flatworm on one slidefull, and a few Urocetra (centrums?) on a few slides, a Diatom or two, a Ciliate that closely resembled a Paramecium (Doc II identified it as a Plagiopyla minuta or something close)…

It was all very small stuff, and I was busy chasing a Ciliate around the slide to try and get a good view of his cilia. They’re fast little buggers, and since the table mover knobs are on the right side of the scope, and I’m right handed, I was swapping between moving the table and making quick, partial sketches of what I saw. Everything was going along quietly when all of a sudden…

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Buh Bye, Fluff Fluff

Mark Dybul, the man the Bush administration has relied on to spread its fundamentalist sectarian dogma of disinformation and ignorance, has been unceremoniously dismissed.

Sworn in as Secretary of State just yesterday, Hillary Clinton wasted no time cleaning house at the vast department she runs. Today, we have heard, Mark Dybul was asked to submit his resignation as US Global AIDS Coordinator, head of the office in charge of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

This is a huge first step to ensuring the health and rights of all people at risk of HIV and AIDS: Dybul oversaw the last several years of abstinence-only programs funded by PEPFAR, hob-knobbed a bit too closely with the far right, and never saw a law or policy restriction he could not make even more restrictive. Curious for a self-identified Democrat? Not so curious, I guess, if your career is dependent on pleasing the far right, and if your desire to be Global AIDS Coordinator outweighs your desire to stand up for what is right.

Given the fact that this kind of propaganda is known to have led to the deaths of untold numbers of people, I only wonder why there were no handcuffs involved.

h/t Elizabeth Wood

The Evolution of Classification

File this under, “Just Cool Science”.

From Not Exactly Rocket Science:

Whalefishes, bignoses and tapetails – these three groups of deep-sea fishes couldn’t look more different. The whalefishes (Cetomimidae) have whale-shaped bodies with disproportionately large mouths, tiny eyes, no scales and furrowed lateral lines – narrow organs on a fish’s flanks that allow it to sense water pressure.

The tapetails (Mirapinnidae) are very different – they also lack scales but they have no lateral lines. They have sharply angled mouths that give them a comical overbite and long tail streamers that extend to nine times the length of their bodies.

The bignoses (Megalommycteridae) are very different still – unlike the other two groups, they have scales, their mouths are small and their noses (as their name suggests) are very large.

Based on these distinct bodies, scientists have classified these fishes into three distinct families. Now, it seems they are wrong. Amazingly enough, the three groups are all just one single family – the tapetails are the larvae, the bignoses are the males and the whalefishes are the females. The entire classification scheme for these fishes needs to be reworked, as many distinct “species” are actually different sexes or life-stages of the same animal.

Biology rocks.

I’ve mentioned before that we live on a planet that is 70% water by area. Doc pointed out that it’s about 99% of the biosphere by volume and we’ve explored about 5% of that. That’s a lot of planet we humans have never even visited. I expect there’s plenty more weirdness to be discovered at the bottom of the ocean.

It is an amazing, wonderful, and surprising world we live in, and Ed’s got the pictures to prove it.

h/t Greg Laden

Blogging My Biology Class 20080924

Biology, Eighth Edition, by Campbell & Reece, et al.

Biology, Eighth Edition, by Campbell & Reece, et al.

My notes and thoughts from Biology 111, for Wednesday, September 24, 2008. The entire series can be found here.

Forgive the delay in this, the next installment of the series. At about this point in the semester, the workload and involvement in school just took off, and I needed to devote as much time as possible to homework and studying.

When last we left off, we had just begun a quick tour of the eukaryotic cell and its structures. We’d gone over the Nucleus and the Ribosomes, and some of the membrane-bound organelles like the Endoplasmic Reticulum (or ER), the Golgi Apparatus (or GA), and the Lysosomes.

We’ll pick it up here with number 7, the Mitochondria (another membrane-bound organelle), and we’ll go into more depth when we get to Chapter 9.

The mitochondria are sites of aerobic respiration. Recall that C:H bonds have a high potential energy because of the maximum distance of electrons from the nuclei of the Carbon and Hydrogen atoms. In other words, the electrons they share equally are midway between the C and the H.

(The lecture notes continue below the fold.)

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I Think I’ll PASS

Studying Hard by Kyle Kesselring

Studying Hard by Kyle Kesselring

Ok, I suppose the cat can be released at this point.

There are somewhere about 10 students left in my Bio 111 lecture, about the same in my lab. Considering we started out with well over double that, this is disappointing.

Coastal recognizes this is a persistent problem in particular classes and has a plan to address this high drop/fail rate in these classes. Building on a model from U Missouri KC, they are considering instituting what will be known as the PASS program (Peer Assisted Study Sessions). They will be taking a student that has done well in the class in a previous semester and having that student lead a voluntary group study session a few times a week, so that the student who did well in the past can give students currently taking the class some help.

It’s a paid position (not much, but some), and the peer group leader has to keep separate office hours in addition to the group study sessions, to be available for individual assistance.

Additionally, the peer group leader repeats the class (for free and not for a grade) to keep current with the various sections.

Doc asked me a few weeks ago if I’d do this next semester (assuming the college follows through – it’s not 100% commitment yet), and at the time said I was the first one he thought of. I was pretty chuffed about that, regardless of whether I got the position.

He gave me a letter of recommendation, and I turned that in with my application for employment, and the interview went well, I think.

(More below the fold)

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Evolved and Rational has Tangled Bank 115

Tangled BankThe latest edition of Tangled Bank is up over at Evolved and Rational.

Good stuff, including one of my Blogging My Biology Class posts. Check it out.

For those of you not familiar, the Tangled Bank is a bi-weekly blog carnival. Every couple of weeks, bloggers submit posts about the life sciences to the carnival, and one blogger puts them all in one place round-robin style. The carnival was named after Charles Darwin’s eloquent description of life around us, and how it came to be the way it is.

It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life and from use and disuse: a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms.

—Charles Darwin

Blogging My Biology Class 20080922

Biology, Eighth Edition, by Campbell & Reece, et al.

Biology, Eighth Edition, by Campbell & Reece, et al.

My notes and thoughts from Biology 111, for Monday, September 22, 2008. The entire series can be found here.

Before we get to the actual lecture, there’s something I need to address here.

While taking notes, it is often helpful and even necessary to draw little diagrams and pictures, many of which I reproduce in this series by digital means.

This is often simpler, neater, and more helpful than just scanning pages of notes from my notebook.

Until now, it’s really not made much of a difference, but in this lecture we begin drawing diagrams of cell structure, and while it’s not terribly difficult to do digitally, when drawing them in a notebook it is imperative for accuracy to understand the proper method for drawing a cell. It is a skill which requires a great deal of practice.

Chromosomes and various proteins for example, can be very complicated, and drawing them incorrectly can lead to gross misunderstandings and disaster for the student. To help prevent this, I’ve created a digital animation of the proper method for drawing a chromosome inside a prokaryotic cell. The method employed here can be extended and extrapolations to eukaryotic cell diagramming should not be difficult.

The method, along with this lecture, is below the fold.

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