New position at Georgia Tech


Part of the reason posts at Fierce Roller have been so sparse lately is that I’ve been busy moving across the country. I’m now a Senior Research Scientist in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech. I’ll be running a small lab, with two (soon three) postdocs and a very talented grad student.

I spent exactly one day on campus before I left for the ASM Experimental Microbial Evolution meeting, on which I managed to meet with the grad student and one postdoc and to get hooked up to the campus wifi. I have not yet attended new employee orientation or been assigned an employee ID number, so the degree to which I’m actually employed at this moment is a bit murky. Hopefully I’ll get this all sorted next week.

Why I’ve been so quiet

Teaching my mom a roll cast, Lower Cold Lake, Montana. Photo by Aeravi.

Teaching my mom a roll cast when I should be blogging. Lower Cold Lake, Montana. Photo by Aeravi.

I’m falling way behind on my goal to post three times a week. It’s not because there isn’t cool science to talk about, and it’s not because the Discovery Institute isn’t still wrong. I’m preparing to move the lab to Atlanta near the end of July, and I have family in town, so most of my free time is filled up. There are weddings, floats, fishing, hiking, backpacking, and lots of eating out (don’t cry for me).

I will be going to several meetings this Fall, and the pace of posts will likely pick back up then:

August 4-7: 2nd ASM Conference on Experimental Microbial Evolution in Washington, DC.

August 21-25: CAN-7 team meeting in Missoula, MT.

September 12-15: NASA Executive Council Meeting in Missoula, MT.

September 29-30: Phycomorph in Limassol, Cyprus.

Test post: featured images working properly (?)

The last couple of posts have shown up in my feed reader the way I always thought they should: with the image I chose in WordPress as the “Featured Image.” In the past, they have included the first image, no image, or the FreeThought blogs logo.


I don’t see what the point of identifying an image as “Featured” is if it doesn’t show up in the rss feed. I hope this means I can count on this to happen in the future. Let’s see…I’ve included one image in this post and identified a different image (of the rss icon) as the Featured Image. [Read more…]

Thoughts on a year of blogging

Facebook reminded me the other day that it’s been a year since I started the original Fierce Roller blog. I didn’t know back then if I’d stick to it this long, and I still don’t know if I’ll keep it up another year. One step at a time.


My very first blog post.

What is Fierce Roller, exactly? I guess it’s a few different things. One of the ideas from the start was to be a service to the Volvox community, reporting new papers, meetings, and news relating to volvocine algae. But that has only been one aspect. It is also a place for me to talk about my research interests, both scientific and philosophical. Scientific usually means that it has to do with the so-called ‘major transitions’ or related evolutionary themes. I wish I could cover this topic more thoroughly, but it has become a big subfield within evolutionary biology, and I can’t possibly keep up with the relative flood of papers. Philosophical usually means that it has to do with the one discussion in the philosophy of science that I’ve contributed to, about the meaning of biological individuality. There is also, of course, a thread of skepticism, occasionally about ‘alternative’ medicine, but usually responding to creationist arguments.

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Following Fierce Roller


There doesn’t seem to be an RSS button here at Freethought Blogs, but if you use Feedly or some other feed reader (Jema), you can subscribe to fierce roller at I haven’t yet figured out how to subscribe by email, but if that’s your preference there is a slightly kludgy solution: you could convert the rss feed into emails using a service like feedmyinbox or rssfwd.

Fierce Roller is moving!

Volvox tertius

I got word Sunday night that my application to join the blogging community at Freethought Blogs was approved, so starting today Fierce Roller will be located at I’m trying to figure out how to migrate previous posts to the new platform; meanwhile, this site isn’t going anywhere (it just won’t be updated).

Hello world!

Hi, everyone! I’m excited (and surprised, to be honest) to join the freethoughtblogs community. I’ve been blogging for about ten months over at, a platform that I initially set up to serve the (pretty small) Volvox community. Volvox, in case you haven’t encountered it before, is a multicellular green alga, just visible to the naked eye, that is an important model system for understanding the evolution of multicellularity. Volvox is Latin for ‘fierce roller,’ a name bestowed by Linnaeus, who was impressed by their ability to move around without limbs.
Volvox aureus. Beautiful, isn't it?

Volvox aureus. Beautiful, isn’t it?

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