PhD position: evolution of multicellularity

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This is straight from the ALGAE-L listserv, but I thought it might be of interest:

PhD studentship: The ecology and evolution of multicellularity

A fully funded PhD position is available to work on evolutionary transitions to multicellularity. The student will work within the molecular ecology and evolution lab as well as the aquatic ecology group at the Department of Biology, Lund University.

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Jackson Wheat on misunderstanding multicellularity

Jackson Wheat has a new video answering Creation Ministries International’s claims that multicellularity is a problem for evolution. CMI’s strategy seems to be

  1. Bring up a topic in evolutionary biology
  2. Pretend that there haven’t been thousands of scientific papers published on that topic
  3. Make an argument from incredulity as if the question they’re asking hasn’t already been answered

Jackson does a great job tearing down CMI’s assertions one by one.

How to identify a predatory journal

A colleague recently asked me how to know if a journal he’d been asked to review for was predatory, and I didn’t have a great answer. I suggested that the fact that they were asking him to review was probably a good sign, since the worst of the predatory journals don’t bother with that formality. Some do, though, so that’s no guarantee. I wish I’d had a better answer.

The fact is, it’s not always easy to distinguish legitimate journals from predatory ones. A step in the right direction, though, is defining what we mean by a predatory journal. A recent article in Nature has tried to do that:

Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices. (Grudniewicz et al. 2019)

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Volvox wall art

I posted earlier this week about some Chlamydomonas art, just in time for the holidays. Also still available, though, are prints on canvas of Volvox aureus, in the most niche Etsy store ever:

Volvox aureus

Volvox aureus by me

These look great if I do say, and they are ready to hang. 12″ x 12″, $40 on Etsy…would make a great gift for microbe enthusiasts. I still have four of the original eight.

Volvox in Brooklyn

Atlas Obscura has a new article by Sabrina Imbler, “Checking in on the Algae of a Brooklyn Reservoir with a Microbiologist“:

ON A FALL DAY, SALLY Warring had come to one of New York’s grandest stagnant pools of water to find an old friend. She is at Ridgewood Reservoir, a 50-acre wetland somewhere on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, looking for a colony of cells named Volvox.

Spoiler alert:

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Pierre Haas on Volvox inversion

Average shapes of Volvox inversion

Figure 4 from Haas et al. 2018. Average shapes of Volvox globator embryos for 10 stages of inversion (red lines), obtained from N = 22 overlaid and scaled embryo halves (lines in shades of blue on the left) and corresponding standard deviation shapes (shaded areas on the right).

One of my search alerts turned up a blog post about Volvox inversion, “Upside Down and Inside Out: Inversion in Volvox.” The author wasn’t identified at the top, but by the third paragraph it was clear that the post was written by someone with a deep familiarity with the subject:

In order to be able to swim, the colony must therefore turn itself inside out through a hole at the top of the cell sheet. This process is called inversion, and proceeds in different ways (type-A and type-B inversion) in different species. (It is not clear why Volvox evolved to have its flagella on the inside after cell division: the closely related alga Astrephomene divides into spherical colonies without the need for inversion.

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Psychologizing and insinuation

Uncommon Descent screenshotSuppose I were to pick some group of people, Buddhists, for example, or millennials, or Australians, and start writing nasty things about them. Suppose I said that members of this group, not some of them but all of them, were stupid, unethical, ignorant, intellectually and morally depraved, and incapable of either knowing right from wrong or believing in love. Suppose I argued that these traits were not incidental, not demographic trends, but necessary outcomes of membership in the group, in other words that belonging to the group causes them (just in case this isn’t 100% clear, I don’t believe any of these things about any of these groups).

If I wrote all that, do you think it would be fair to say that I was trying to dehumanize members of the group I was writing about? I certainly do. I sincerely hope that you would stop reading anything I wrote, block me on social media, and bring my hate speech to PZ Myers’ attention so that I’d get kicked off of Freethought Blogs.

So I find it ironic that some of the people who are saying those things are also accusing the members of the group they’re saying it about of dehumanizing others.

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Volvox at microscopesandmonsters

Check out Martyn Kelly’s blog post about Volvox from a pond in England:

The annual Algal Training Course in Durham always has a field trip out to Cassop Pond, a small pond at the foot of the Permian Limestone escarpment in County Durham that has featured in a few of my posts over the years (see “A return to Cassop”).  This year, the group came back with some samples from the pond’s margins bearing a suspension of green dots just visible to the naked eye which, when examined under the microscope, turned out to be the colonial green alga Volvox aureus.

There’s more, including some lovely micrographs, at