Rob Denton

Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

Live slow and die old: why are we studying salamander cells?

The following post was written as part of a practice exercise for the Scifund Outreach Class. But it isn’t doing any good hidden away, so here you go:A few years ago, Ligers were all the rage. You remember Ligers don’t you? Here is a Liger looking right at you Ligers, of course, are the result of a mating between a lion and a tiger. I predict that the reason a hybrid animal like a Liger is so captivating to you and me is that it causes the imagination to run wild. You can’t help but think of wild combination of […]

NPR and the progress of science crowdfunding

As I was on the way to work this morning, I heard NPR’s science reporter Joe Palka doing a story about a very familiar theme: scientific crowdfunding. The impetus for this blog was my crowdfunding campaign from last year’s SciFund challenge, and has been only one example of how crowdfunding has affected my scientific career. I’ve had much more practice explaining why my research is interesting and important. I’ve learned how to incorporate principles of marketing and design into the way I present my work to other scientists and the public. The coolest perk of all? It has to be […]

Salamander Photoshoot

As part of the process of preparing the rewards for my SciFund donators, I’m trying to figure out a good way to get pictures of the salamanders in our lab. I decided to build a small photo studio, inspired by the designs here, and put it in the lab.   Not pictured: the work I should probably be doing. I put this setup together this morning and got some of the animals out to try it out, and the results ended up being better than expected. I am going to try and get profile shots for all of the captive […]

Salamander research featured on The Weekly Wienersmith

  Cool news! I got to talk about our salamander research on this week’s episode of Weekly Wienersmith, a really neat podcast about science. You can listen online or download here. The episode features the work of Dr. Ryan Earley at the University of Alabama. I got to meet Dr. Earley when he came to give a seminar at Ohio State in the winter, and he is one cool scientist. Check out his webpage for some fascinating research on the mangrove rivulus. Zach and Kelly are super nice and fun to talk to, so go to their webpage and give […]

Plenty of thanks to give on SciFund day 3

SciFund Challenge Day 3 update: I’m now 32% ($511) on the way to my goal! I’ve got plenty of folks to thank from the last two days. Tim Earnest – Tim was my boss during my summer jobs as an undergrad and one of my groomsmen in my wedding. He told me that his oldest daughter wants to name their salamander “Glitter Shine” or “Tim Mannix”. Thanks Tim! Tim Mitchener and Kari Bragg – The first donations to come from family members! Thanks so much Mom and Tim! My Mom was the first to break the $100 barrier, so awesome. […]

Columbus Public Schools Exceptional Science Fair

When I’m on campus, I’m often tied to a computer or a lab bench. While I love the work that I do, this can often get tedious, and many grad students can describe the malaise that sets in after months of working on a project. Sometimes it is difficult to remember the essence of why you love science in the first place. To remedy this and provide some service to the community, there is always science outreach that can be done. I really got interested in outreach work with my former advisor at Eastern Kentucky University Dr. Stephen Richter and […]