Saturday, December 5, 2015

Meaghan Procrastinates on Important Dissertation Progress By Half-Assing an R Tutorial

I (Meaghan) have spent a lot of time in R. Like, a LOT. Not really accomplishing lots and lots, mind you, but just kind of fucking around hopelessly most of the time. Meaghan of 3 months ago looked at R and thought "is there any way I can avoid using that program?" while Meaghan of today thinks "is there anything I can do with that program that will permit me to feel useful while procrastinating on something else?" As it turns out, there definitely is: Meaghan of today will now be presenting a wonderful R tutorial on how to scatterplot some shit and then make it pretty without getting entangled in ggplot2 (which is another code word for the bowels of hell).

One of the beautiful and fucking awful things about R is that for any one way of doing something, there's about 60 others. I'm going to tell you how to do things that you could probably do in other ways. These ways make sense to me, but if they cognitively don't work for you I'm sure you could find another 6+ ways of accomplishing the same goal. Also, everything I'm reporting here comes from a place of necessity: I'm sure there are other useful things we could talk about with scatterplots, but since I didn't have to think about them…. I'm not going to talk about them!

R: the very basics

It's free and available on the internet, and very powerful. It isn't user-friendly, unless your user is the Lorax of computer programming.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How to Not Drop Out of Graduate School

You may have noticed that as of late, our posting frequency has declined. Part of that has been a lack of good material, part has been an excess of trips (backpacking! Spain! Other exciting destinations like Ottawa!), but the biggest part has being trying to find the answer to the title of this blog post: how the hell to not drop out of graduate school. Meaghan just finished her 3rd year of not-dropping-out, and Amy just finished her first, so at this point we're kind of becoming experts in this whole "not abandoning ship" thing, but the past few months have really put that to the test. There's a lot of reasons to drop out, and a lot of reasons not to drop out - the pros and cons lists of graduate school isn't what we're here to discuss, but rather the ways you stay just barely afloat right up until you're rescued by graduating.

Trigger warning: we will be discussing some of the aspects of depression and anxiety that go hand-in-hand with graduate school.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Poster Session Drinking Game

Poster sessions are the first part of the day when it's socially acceptable to drink at a conference (don't try it earlier, people think you're weird, don't ask how we know). Poster sessions are also one of the strangest people-watching experiences outside of Vegas (and yes, that year SVP was in Vegas at the same time as the porn convention was one of the greatest people-watching collisions of all time).

With SVP scale bars, naturally

The interactions you have at a poster session will stay with you for the rest of your life (good or bad), so we've decided to formalize your drinking and people-watching experience with a drinking game.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Should we let people be assholes on university campuses?

Oh wow, what, two blog posts in one week? That's right - in addition to visiting new national monuments, we also recently got super rage-y over a new article published in the Atlantic called "Coddling of the American Mind" and instead of writing an epic comment on the paper's page, we're writing it here.

The article was written by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt: the first is a lawyer who represents a classic case of "outsider knows better," and the second is a professor who's worried he's going to get fired because he doesn't understand what offends students. Both of them are white doods with hurt fee-fees, and both seem to completely miss the difference between "making people feel like shit" and "babying people."

Alt. titles: "Unwanted Advice from Privileged White Dudes"

Monday, August 10, 2015

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Once in a great while something amazing happens: a stork flies through the sky carrying a little green and gray bundle of joy and lands upon some public land and BAM! A new national monument is born.

Of course the real process is a lot less cute and has massively more paperwork (a statement which is also true for human infants). In actuality, the Antiquities Act of 1906 made it so that to bring a new national monument into being, you must have a proclamation of the President of the United States. National parks, on the other hand, are created by an act of Congress (which these days is about as simple to elicit as an act of God). On July 10th 2015 President Obama designated the Waco Mammoth Site as our newest national monument - much to the delight of Amy, who lives only an hour and a half from the newest monument.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Story of Jim and Lola

We've been in a bit of a posting lull lately, so instead of giving you an informative post, we thought we'd tell you a fantastical story of science and adventure.

Once upon a time, a girl named Meaghan was employed by a company to do lichen, bryophyte, and vascular plant surveys up near Mt. Rainier, Washington. This job required long hours, a high tolerance for solitude, an appreciation for one's own body odor, and also the ability to look at plants and planty bits and plant-like-but-not-plant things all day without completely losing one's mind. It was remote, but this particular contract was not so remote that there weren't people around, scouting out campgrounds, drinking excessively, and shooting off guns of all types at all hours. And, as one might imagine, some of those people had accidents.

This is the story of one such accident.

First, let's paint the setting.
Microscopes powered by headlamps; "Lab" space; and of course, specimens. This is the face of science.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Awesome Dead Shit of the Whatever Time Period We Damn Well Please: Chalicotheres

Hey! We live. We do, despite the dramatic slow-down in posting (sorry!). And you know what else lived once? Chalicotheres, which are essentially what happens when a horse-rhino gets jealous of a gorilla's cool locomotion skills, and becomes the most awkward animal that ever lived.

Chalicotheres: Evolution's Version of the 80's.
From AMNH Library Special Collections Neg No. 36900

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Meaghan and the Molds of Doom

In 2014 I made a terrible Christmas mistake.

For gifts, I like to give people nerdy homemade things, and I find that Christmas is a particularly convenient excuse to procrastinate on important tasks that I don't want to do (like study). For Christmas of 2014 I made chocolate molds of cool extinct animals, including a giant ground sloth and a 2D Dunkelosteus face. The molds were cute, the chocolates were tasty, the bacon-flavored lollipops I made in these molds were hilarious and kind of greasy, it was fun all around. Yet somehow this sparked a series of events that led to a replica of Cophecetus bleeding unset resin like a mysterious holy relic, hives from my fingers to my biceps, and a floor so splattered in epoxy we may need to pour more plastic on it just to even the whole place out.

Same same, and yet SO DIFFERENT.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Grant Writing Playlist

Shit's been real serious on this blog as of late, and we think it's time to be a little more ridiculous for a bit. But it's still the tail end of grant-writing season. Like always. So since some of us need motivation (you), and others of us needed reasons for procrastination (us) and it looked like we hadn't actually written anything in a while (whaaaaaaa) we have rewritten two of our favorite grant-writing songs to make them more specific ear-worms for your proposal writing needs. 

You're welcome.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Things We Hope to See at SVP

SVP abstract season is upon us. It got extended, again - they seem to just now assign a "please submit by" deadline and a "WHAT WHY IS NOBODY SUBMITTING ANYTHING" deadline move always occurs later. It's cute, we like it, whatever.


SVP this year will be in Dallas, which means that Meaghan will probably gorge herself on barbecue and be too ill and full of beef to enjoy much of the conference. Amy's actually going to be there this year, which will be a massive improvement over last time, where Meaghan was alone and bereft and there weren't nearly enough people spending their full 15 minute talks explaining how cute omomyids were. So this year is already automatically going to be better, but we do have a few tips for SVP planners this year, in time enough we hope they'll implement them.

Because we are just soooo excited for SVP 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Teach Your Kids About Imposter Syndrome

Confidence can be a particularly hard thing to have in science where so much emphasis is placed on natural brilliance. Failures, no matter how small, are easy to consider a failure of your own intelligence.
Frankly... that's bullshit. And this bullshit mentality of "ruh-roh Major Revisions? I AM ALL THE STUPID" is something that strikes women particularly hard, and may be partially to blame for low female and minority involvement in STEM fields. 

Many of the undergraduate students Meaghan interacts with (including ones in her lab) shy away from grant writing, publications and school applications on the basis of not being "Good Enough." Meaghan has overheard more than just a handful of comments along the lines of "that's just so intimidating!" and "but my GPA isn't that high" or "but so-and-so did this and they're so much more accomplished than me." She decided that for the lab meeting she was running this term, the lab would sit down and talk about the perils of interpersonal comparison and low confidence. The lab was pretty interesting, and hopefully at least a little helpful, so we are presenting this lesson plan here for our readers as well as their friends, students, and coworkers. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Awesome Dead Shit: Amynodonts

It's that time of the month again! No, no, calm down - not time for more genitals, just some awesome dead shit.

This month we're talking about the family Amynodontidae, an extinct group of perissodactyls (odd-toed ungulates like horses, tapirs, and rhinos) that lived in North America, Europe, and Asia from the middle Eocene until the early Miocene.
The Winnie the Pooh of the Paleo World

Saturday, February 14, 2015

14 Days of Genitals, Day 14: NO DAYCARE NEEDED

Hey you. Hey there. Thank you for making it through these last 14 days with us. We know they've been sometimes gross, sometimes horrifying, and perhaps unneccessarily educational. We're all glad to be here on today, this day of Love/Unnecessarily Commercialized Expression of Sexual Interest, because now we can all stop thinking about animal dicks. But you know what? Even if you didn't get some shitty chalk-flavored heart candies or any form of sexual gratification, at least you aren't throat-pregnant.


Friday, February 13, 2015

14 Days of Genitals, Day 13: Lovers and Leftovers

Out there lurking in the cold dark ocean are female octopuses with the coldest blood of all. Barracudas got NOTHING on these stone cold killers.

Octopus sex is just strange to begin with, all those tentacles and hormones swirling around - shit's naturally gonna get dramatic. The male octopus has a tentacle that is his designated "gettin' busy" arm and he places a nicely wrapped package of sperm on that sex arm and sticks it in a slot on the female's body for reproduction. But that's just the beginning. The sex tentacle BREAKS OFF within the female's body and that's it, no more dick for that octopus. He will never regrow his dick-arm and he will eventually die. 

Not gonna get that tentacle back, dude.

But in some species, death is reached much more quickly.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

14 Days of Genitals, Day 12: Traumatic Insemination

Trigger warning on this one - Bed Bugs are NOT nice to each other. 
Bed bugs have never been all that appreciated by humans and that's probably gonna continue after you read the following. Bed bugs, specifically Cimex lectularius, have a special little mating adaptation called Traumatic Insemination, which is about as clear a scientific term as there ever was.

The most painful piercing ever

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

14 Days of Genitals, Day 11: Break Your Dick-Bone

A baculum is a penis bone, and no, you don't have one. Your dog, however, does. Just to clarify all that up front. Now - let's talk very briefly about Dire Wolf Dick-Bones!
Not Featured: Ghost's ENORMOUS SCHLONG

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

14 Days of Genitals, Day 10: Favoritism in Frogs

Ok, it's been a rough trip so far and everyone needs a little bit of a genital-horror break.

Cute, isn't it? This is Ranitomeya imitator, the mimic poison frog. That little pustule thing on his back is a baby tadpole hitching a ride. Cute, it isn't. But the mimic poison frog papa has clearly got some serious googly eyes for its own young, since it takes care of its tiny froglets for months at a time.

Monday, February 9, 2015

14 Days of Genitals, Day 9: Ninety-nine Red Luftballons (on my face)

Hooded seals roam the north Atlantic ocean leading normal seal lives, diving for fish, sleeping on ice, and inflating their red nasal sacs to the size of a basketball.


Wait what?

The male hooded seals are famous for their unique nasal adaptation display that they use during male-male competition for the lady seals. They have an elastic nasal cavity located on the top of their heads that is commonly referred to as the hood, which can be inflated when the seal feels threatened.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

14 Days of Genitals, Day 7: Dick head fish

Phallostethus cuulong A) male; B) female. From Shibukawa et al. 2012. 
A relatively new species of fish was discovered a few summers ago called Phallostethus cuulong, a type of priapium fish from the Vietnamese Mekong. Priapium is a fun new word we just learned and is one that puts the dick in "dickhead" quite literally.

That's not a beard, it's my asshole!

Friday, February 6, 2015

14 Days of Genitals, Day 6: Hanky-No-Panky Pandas

Baby pandas are cute. Really, really cute. Unfortunately, adult pandas seem to be really bad at making them. Why? Well apparently... apathy.

Mating? Meh.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

14 Days of Genitals, Day 4: That's Not My Tail

If you weren't aware, typical froggy style is messy: the lady shoots out her eggs while her backpack-esque partner sperms all over 'em. Tailed frogs do things a little differently. They live in mountain streams - to keep currents from whirling away all their baby-making goodness, they use internal fertilization just like people do! Except... frogs don't have penises. So what precisely is that tail?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

14 Days of Genitals, Day 3: Rock, Paper, I'm Going To Steal Your Girlfriend

Side-blotched lizards are a common lizard in the Western US - they're the rabbit of the lizard world. They're tiny and adorable, and the males come in three color morphs: those with orange throats, those with blue throats, and those with yellow. And all three have different mating strategies.

Monday, February 2, 2015

14 Days of Genitals, Day 2: Dance for your Life

Jumping spiders are the teddy bears of the arachnid world - they're small, fuzzy, and like to launch themselves at you for hug attacks.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

14 Days of Genitals, Day 1: Lekky in Love

It's that time of the year again, the time when we horrify and amaze you with facts about animals sex lives in hopes of making you feel so much better than your own (cuz even if you're celibate, at least you don't enjoy humping dead baby seals). This is the third year running - if you're interested in old posts you can follow the "14 Days of Genitals" tag down the rabbit hole.

We're going to pitch a few softballs to start then finish this run with truly horrifying sexual strategies. Today's article focuses on the mating displays of manakins.

The creepy-eyed bird, not the creepy-eyed dress-up dolls.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cenozoic Cheat Sheet

Meaghan likes to give homemade Christmas gifts. Last year she made nerdy science-themed chocolates, and the year before that she designed dorky mugs. This year, she decided to go a big more useful and create the only calendar that really matters... the Cenozoic calendar. Really, Meaghan was just kind of tired of looking up the NALMA (North American Land Mammal Ages) divisions and decided to make a cheat sheet for herself illustrated with her lab's favorite Cenozoic animals!  

Hadrianus, a big ol' tortoise

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fossils, Feral Cats, and Fire: Meaghan's Summer at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Spending a summer in Dayville, Oregon, probably doesn’t sound like much of a career-advancing opportunity unless you study obscure small towns or farming (or fire – we had lots of those). It’s deep in Eastern Oregon, so deep that it’s a 30+ minute drive if you want more than the canned beans and melted men’s deodorant the only store in town has to offer. The population is 145, but the age distribution is akin to a teetering, inverted triangle - I saw an order of magnitude more rattlesnakes than I did people under the age of 35. But Dayville is home to much more than cows and near-retirement ranchers: it has huge exposures of millions of consecutive years of fossil-forming layers of the Cenozoic and is a 15-minute drive from the world-renowned John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. As a paleontology doctoral student studying Cenozoic mammals, there’s no place in the world I’d rather be located (also, I conveniently like rattlesnakes).

Monday, January 5, 2015

Horse Evolution Rap Battle: Equus vs. Eohippus

We've been talking about it for a year, and it's finally here: the horse evolution rap battle that you didn't even know you were waiting for featuring Equus (aka the modern horse, aka Amy) versus Eohippus (aka the Equid Ewok, aka Meaghan). This video is probably about PG, for that time Amy rides the tiki torch and also mentions "Flipping the Bird." Full lyrics below. Enjoy!