Drawing

Wake Me When It’s Spring

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Spring is here and some wildlife are emerging from hibernation. They should be waking up on the sunny side of the den after a long winters rest but that is not necessarily true. Hibernation takes a toll on their body and  it takes a great deal of energy to wake up and join the land of the conscious. The New York Time’s Science section has a wonderful article about what goes on in this time of waking for a few different animals: Waking From Hibernation, the Hard Work of Spring Begins (by Steph Yin).

Happy Spring everyone!

About the Illustration: Acrylic gouache and India ink. I am currently smitten with acrylic gouache. The opacity of gouache but waterproof like acrylic paint. When I read the article and saw the picture of the sleeping black bear and her cub this image came to me. I considered putting pjs on both of them but I decided the sleeping masks were enough.

Barbara of the Corn

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My 11th hour post for March, Woman’s History Month. Barbara McClintock, an American scientist and cytogeneticist won the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for her discovery of transposable elements or jumping genes. Through her work with maize, she found that genes can actually move with the potential to activate and inactivate surrounding genes. Her work is pivotal to our understanding of genes and heredity. She is also an inspiration to women in the sciences (and beyond).

Note: Check out the excellent Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky if you would like to learn more.

  About the illustration: Watercolor ink and micron pens on Yupo paper.

 

Left Hand, Left Hand, Right Hand, Right

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Why are some people right-handed and why are some people left-handed? For years it was believed that “handedness” (i.e. if you are left-handed or right-handed) was determined in the fetal brain. Researchers from Ruhr University Bochum in Germany recently suggested that asymmetrical gene expression in the spinal chord might help determine handedness. The researchers looked at gene expression in the spinal chord of fetuses between the eighth and twelfth week of pregnancy. Differences in gene expression on the left and right side could already be detected and those areas of activity correlated with arm and leg movement. The researchers also suggested that differences in left and right gene expression could be due to environmental factors.

The study of changes in genetic expression that occur without changes to genetic sequences is called Epigenetics. Environmental factors can act as a trigger for expression of certain genes both in our fetal development and throughout our lives. It will be interesting to find out more about how environmental factors determine handedness and perhaps we may also find out why left-handed people are superior 🙂

About the Illustration: Watercolor with some Photoshop magic. I kept the illustration pretty basic because handedness is a very basic part of our identity. The title is a play on the first line of the “Foot Book” by Dr. Seuss. It was his birthday a few weeks ago and I have read that book enough times this past year that it’s content might rattle around in my brain for all eternity.

Strawberry Squid…Forever

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The “Strawberry Squid” or Histioteuthis heteropsis is a deep-sea squid that is known for it’s resemblance to a strawberry and it’s mismatched eyes. It is also affectionately called the cock-eyed squid by it’s squid friends and a few marine biologists. Particularly after it’s had too many strawberry daiquiris 😉 Sorry, I couldn’t help myself…

Recently researchers at Duke University determined why the Strawberry Squid has a large, light colored eye that is angled upwards and a smaller, darker eye angled downwards. After analyzing hours (and hours) of underwater footage from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Duke graduate student Kate Thomas determined that the larger eye evolved to detect marine life in the water column above it while the smaller eye evolved to detect bioluminescent light from marine life found below it. So one eye looking out for predators and one eye looking out for prey.

In the past, studying and observing organisms that inhabit the deeper parts of the ocean was challenging. But with the advent of remotely operated vehicles (ROV)  and and other related technology, researchers can get to know some of the odd fellows that populate the deep, deep sea. If you are curious about what MBARI finds at the bottom of the ocean, check out their YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/MBARIvideo. Another favorite is NOAA’s Ocean Exploration and Research YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/oceanexplorergov. And you thought YouTube was only good for watching cat videos.

 

Happy Darwin Day!/Get To Know A Living Scientist

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On this day in 1809 Charles Darwin, the English biologist and geologist, was born. He is best known for his contributions to the theory of evolution. In this illustration I have him posed in front of a cladogram (a diagram indicating the evolutionary relationship between organisms) of finches of the Galapagos. The most well known subject of his research into the theory of the evolution of species. So Happy Darwin Day!

Okay, that was my post from last year. I am adding on to it this year by suggesting you become acquainted with a living scientist. Don’t get me wrong, Charlie deserves his own day and eternal admiration. However, knowing present day scientists will help you better understand how far science has gone and where it is going. How do you do that you ask? Dr. David Steen, a wildlife biologist, made it easy for you by creating the Twitter hashtag #actuallivingscientist. This came out of the concern that most Americans could not name a living scientist. So now scientists all over the world and from different disciplines are tweeting about their research and a little bit about themselves. It is fascinating to read and it is critical, in these crazy times, to get to know a scientist.

Sugar in the Morning, Sugar in the Evening

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Back in the 1960’s the sugar industry, under the guise of the Sugar Research Foundation, funded research by Harvard scientists to basically dismiss sugar as a serious health concern and instead point their fingers at fat. This went on for years. At the time of these studies researchers were not required to disclose funding sources to peer-reviewed journals so no one knew the truth. A recently published paper in the  journal  JAMA Internal Medicine uncovers this sweet (or rotten) tale.

Today with dwindling federal research dollars, corporate sponsorship of research is even stronger. In some cases that is not a cause for concern but when corporations stand to benefit from that research it can be a different story. One well known example being Coca Cola funding obesity research that, surprise surprise, questions the role sugary drinks plays in obesity.

 

About The Illustration: Watercolor, gouache, acrylic ink, micron pens-I used all the stuff. Unfortunately it scanned a bit funny. I will fix it…at some unknown time in the future when I have the time.

On My To Read List: The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes. His book focuses on how sugar impacts our health and the sugar industry’s role in shaping the American diet through the years.