Elena Suglia

a PhD student and science communicator studying plants and climate change at UC Davis

Lessons learned from Alan Alda’s talk: Bringing science on a blind date

Scientists create knowledge that benefits all, but the scientific process shouldn't end with discovery. Science is a public good and its benefits should be shared with the rest of society. With increasing anti-science sentiments in the US, it is crucial for the public to be engaged in the scientific process and understand the services science provides. Prior to the early 2000s, researchers attributed public hostility to science to a lack of understanding due to a lack of information. This inform
Meaningful Mentorship

Meaningful Mentorship Event: Resources and Recap – WiLD

During this event we talked about how to cultivate meaningful mentor-mentee relationships, from setting goals and expectations to maintaining long-term relationships. We discussed strategies for establishing, formalizing, and deepening impactful mentorships. The following is a summary of the main points from our discussion, along with a list of mentoring resources. Anyone who has either mentored or been mentored (or both) knows that these relationships can be fruitful and beneficial to both men
Raritan Headwaters Association

The Buzz on Bee Research at Fairview Farm

This summer, researchers from Rutgers University walked the meadows of Fairview Farm, catching bees in nets and identifying the flowers that attract them. Bees are responsible for pollinating a third of the food we eat, but face trouble from human impacts. With the decline of honey bees and honey bee keepers, farmers are looking to fulfill pollination needs using other methods. Honey bees aren’t the only pollinators, however: wild, native bee species currently provide half of pollination services globally, and have the potential to offset the mounting difficulties and costs of using honeybees to pollinate crops.
Catalyst Journal

Long Time, No See: Insect Antiquity and Small Body Size Contribute to Insect Diversity

The great British biologist J.B.S. Haldane once quipped that God has “an inordinate fondness of beetles.” Numbering just over one million, over half of the world’s described species are insects, and estimates of the number of extant insect species ranges from 3 to 30 million. It is difficult to estimate how many species of insects there are because they are so numerous, small, and of little interest to many people, but even conservative estimates of the number of insect species on earth today yield astonishing diversity. Why are insects so successful as a clade? Various factors over the eons have played a role in the success of insect colonization, speciation, and persistence, including small size, antiquity as a clade, and short generation time. I argue that insects are a highly diverse clade of organisms primarily because of their small size and long geological history.
Ursa Sapiens, The Brown Triple Helix Blog

What Does the Bat Say?

Most people know that bats use echolocation to find prey and orient themselves in space, but did you know that bats use echolocation to communicate with each other? It turns out that there’s music in the air every night, except we can’t hear it! It’s a good thing too, because the intensity of the sound waves bats create would be deafening could we hear them. A bat’s screech, though inaudible to us, “rivals the intensity of a revved-up engine of an aircraft about to take off.”
The College Hill Independent

Accidental Greatness

In 1879, chemist Constantin Fahlberg came home from a long day of experimenting with coal tar. Upon sitting down to eat, he noticed that his dinner rolls were sweeter than usual. When they tasted unspectacularly bland to his wife, he realized the taste must have been coming from his unwashed hands. As Fahlberg noted, “I had discovered some coal tar substance which out-sugared sugar.” Fahlberg, legend has it, jumped up from the dinner table and rushed back to his laboratory, where he tasted every
Ecology Letters

Experimental predator removal causes rapid salt marsh die-off

Salt marsh habitat loss to vegetation die-offs has accelerated throughout the western Atlantic in the last four decades. Recent studies have suggested that eutrophication, pollution and/or disease may contribute to the loss of marsh habitat. In light of recent evidence that predators are important determinants of marsh health in New England, we performed a total predator exclusion experiment. Here, we provide the first experimental evidence that predator depletion can cause salt marsh die-off by

Salt Marsh Die-off

Salt marsh die-off is a term that has been used in the US and UK to describe the death of salt marsh cordgrass leading to subsequent degradation of habitat, specifically in the low marsh zones of salt marshes on the coasts of the Western Atlantic. Cordgrass normally anchors sediment in salt marshes; its loss leads to decreased substrate hardness, increased erosion, and collapse of creek banks into the water, ultimately resulting in decreased marsh health and productivity.

This I Believe Rhode Island: Salt Marshes

Have you noticed how easy it is to overlook the profound importance of nature's subtle features?  For example, how teeny lady bugs have a major impact on crop production in agriculture.  Or how common tree leaves enable light and carbon dioxide to be absorbed from the environment for photosynthesis.  It sure does help to slow things down and notice how much nature's less obvious forms do for us in our daily lives.  And that's what we hear from Elena Suglia. Born and raised in North Kingstown, R
Behind the Science Newsletter

How do You Teach a Melting Pot? Blend it Up!

Kenji O’Brien always knew he wanted to teach.  Since graduating from Brown in 2009 with a Sc.B. in Human Biology, he has immersed himself in experiences to increase his understanding of what it means to help people learn. Because helping people learn, rather than “teaching them,” is a better way to look at education, Kenji believes. After graduating, Kenji spent 8 months teaching English classes in a small rural Chilean town of six thousand.  For many people there, he was the first American th
no ordinary world

Polar Play: Animals Have Fun Too

We have all seen parrots talk, lionesses work as a team to hunt, and apes use tools to get the job done.  Humans tend to assign many behaviors a “human only” label; however, in reality, talking parrots are only the tip of the iceberg. To those of us who have interacted with dogs, it is abundantly clear that animals take part in playful activity in the same way humans do.  But just how common is animal play, and why and to what extent do they do it? While humans understand and expect that all a
no ordinary world

A Bee's Buzz

Where do bees get their buzz?  No, I’m not referring to the sound their vibrating wings make when they fly.  In fact, I’m talking about a much more colloquial “buzz” – the one you get from caffeine when you drink a cup of coffee.  It turns out bees also enjoy the little boost in energy they reap from coffee plants when they drink the nectar, which contains low levels of caffeine that the pollinators obtain much satisfaction from. Plants originally evolved caffeine as a defense against herbivory
no ordinary world

Leaf-tailed gecko: a master of disguise

This amazing creature is a master of disguise, blending in to its surroundings to the point that it is nearly indistinguishable from the litter of the forest floor where it makes its home.  The gecko, which has evolved its elaborate camouflage to escape visual detection by predators, sports leaf-shaped tail and leaf-patterned skin, complete with veins, folds, and insect nibble marks. Both crypticity and mimicry deceive the beholder into believing that the animal is something that it is not.  Cr
no ordinary world

Mystery underwater sand circles are actually puffer fish art

If you thought crop circles were strange, odds are you haven’t seen these: The underwater version of crop circles!  Some of the intrigue with crop circles faded once people stopped thinking they were made by aliens, but these sand circles are even more interesting to behold once you know where they do come from. So who or what makes these enigmatic sculptures where they are doomed to fade into nonexistence once the ocean erodes them away?  No, not an alien race, nor a group of people from of t

Who owns the truth?

Is it morally reprehensible for scientists to advocate or even communicate their work? At the crux of this issue is the concept of truth.  Truth should not be confused with fact: as filmmaker Werner Herzog said, “fact creates norms, and truth illumination.”  Scientists seek truth, but can only provide the world with facts.  We have to believe that over time the facts science produces get closer and closer to the truth, because otherwise science itself would be moot.  The truth is as tantalizing
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