Rob Denton

Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology

Starting at the University of Connecticut

After successfully defending my PhD at Ohio State this summer, I’m now settling into my new home in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Connecticut. I’ll be spending my time working on the Pyxicephalus adspersus genome with Dr. John Malone, and also continuing some projects on unisexual Ambystoma salamanders. For more about my current work, head over to the updated research section of this site. While blog posts here have been rare, I’m still going strong as a member of The Molecular Ecologist team. You can go here to read any of my posts or check out […]

New site, new address, same blog

Welcome! I’ve moved all of my previous work at Salamander-Schmalamander over to this blog that is hosted on my own personal website. Although I haven’t been posting here recently, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing! Most of my blog effort is being put into The Molecular Ecologist, where I’ve been a regular contributor for almost a year now. Follow along with my updates here. Here is a handsome Smallmouth Salamander (A. texanum) for all the trouble I put you through:

Required reading: What are we going to do about saving salamanders?

The fungi are coming for all the animals I love. Frogs have declined across the world. Bats are disappearing from North America. Even snakes! From the outside looking in, our American biodiversity is a hodgepodge of invasive species surrounding smaller and smaller pockets of protected native flora and fauna.  And now, you may be able to add salamanders to the list. Nooo! Eastern Newt in red eft phase (Notopthalmus viridescens) A recent publication in the journal Science describes the threat of a skin fungus that causes massive die offs of salamanders in Europe. Like the fungal pathogens that have caused declines in […]

How We Work: Dr. Tyler Smith talks standing desks, cranberries, and coding to the Tron soundtrack

Our next guest for the How We Work series is Dr. Tyler Smith. Tyler is currently a research scientist for the Canadian government, but we first me while he was a faculty member in the department of biology at Eastern Kentucky University.    Prepped and ready for sedge hunting in turkey season Location: Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, Ottawa, Canada Current Position: Research Scientist, Taxonomy of native crop wild relatives One word that best describes how you work: Inertia would work. Reactive would be accurate too much of the time as well. I aspire to be a more mindful and deliberate […]

Old Man of the Forest

Our department’s graduate students took our fall camping trip over the weekend to southern Ohio, and we were treated to a really special animal: That’s a big timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) hiding out under some fall leaves. This endangered species is both secretive and well camouflaged, so you could easily walk right past one of these bad boys even if you were lucky enough to be near one. This particular snake is part of a long-term study to understand the movements and behavior of these snakes in Ohio. A radio transmitter guided the volunteers who track these snakes directly to this individual, and we […]

What’s Going On in Science, September 2014

Why student evaluations of teaching are worthless “The paper compared the student evaluations of a particular professor to another measure of teacher quality: how those students performed in a subsequent course. In other words, if I have Dr. Muccio in Microeconomics I, what’s my grade next year in Macroeconomics II?Here’s what he found. The better the professors were, as measured by their students’ grades in later classes, the lower their ratings from students.” “This class should start an hour later in the morning. Also, theteacher shouldn’t wear sandals.” This NPR article summarizes a new study that tackles a problem that […]

How We Work: Dr. Paul Hurtado

Throughout my travels around academia, I’ve always been very interested in how other scientists work. Scientists in particular make for a great study of working habits for two main reasons: they typically juggle a variety of tasks and they largely determine their own work schedules. This results in a huge variety of work habits: night owls, early birds, multitaskers, focus-taskers, and on and on. I’ve been a long-time reader of Lifehacker’s “How I Work” series, an interview format in which folks from various organizations detail the secrets behind their work habits. I’ve always loved this idea: getting a peak into […]

Salamander Snapchats

With the school year starting up again, it means that the undergraduate crew that I work with in the laboratory at Ohio State are back on campus. They are great to work with. Really great. One of my favorite things about them, aside from their work ethic and trustworthiness, is that they have a fantastic collective sense of humor. Because levity is a big part of my own personal work environment, I encourage joking around extensively while doing scientific work.  One of our salamander caretakers, Paul, is particularly fond of updating me regularly about how the captive salamanders are doing. […]

Apps for Academia: Let’s Talk Tech

A big part of training to be a scientist is training to be productive. Grad students and faculty do a lot of different things in a set amount of time, and that amount of time always stubbornly stays the same or reduces. Improving efficiency not only allows you to have more time for non-work things, but also allows you to devote valuable time to tasks that need creativity instead of efficiency. My advisor often tells us that we are too busy and need more time to sit around and think.  As much as technology can be a rabbit-hole of wasted time, I […]

First publication from SciFund support

The reason I started this blog two years ago was to connect to those who helped fund my science through the SciFund Challenge. Crowdfunding has come a long way, even since then, and I hope that my funders have been able to check back time and again to see how my PhD is progressing. However, after the t-shirts were sent and the thank-yous were written, I haven’t shown much about the salamander for for which I was so graciously supported by a group of science-loving citizens. One thing that is difficult to appreciate about science: it takes a long time. Creating new […]