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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Three things from Evolution 2014

I just got back from Evolution 2014, a scientific conference for those who study all aspects of organismal evolution. The conference was held in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I had an absolute blast during my first time at Evolution.One of my favorite events was Saturday’s Evolution film festival. A bunch of short films created by scientists and science educators were screened to a rowdy audience. There were a lot of laughs and nerdery-induced groans. My favorite film (“Dinosaur”, below) was catchy and cute, where others varied from humorous explanations of evolutionary principles to fantastic visualizations of scientific studies. You can […]

Small rattles, big personalities

In the dark recesses of Aronoff laboratory, many are surprised to know that our lab has an entire room filled with rattlesnakes. In fact, most visitors don’t believe us until we show them. Behind a plain, gray door lives a group of dusky pigmy rattlesnakes (Sistrurus miliarius barbouri). This group of animals has been one of the main sources of data for our lab’s efforts in studying pit viper venom and how it relates to these animals diets and behavior. This work is currently being done by our principal investigator, Dr. Lisle Gibbs, and current PhD student Sarah Smiley. Right now, […]

Who Works 80 Hours a Week in Academia?

Part of being a graduate student is working hard. Whispers of disappearing faculty positions and decreases in funding percentages are heard at most social gatherings. You have to be in the lab 80 hours per week to stay at the front. Right? In this really good blog post, Dr. Meghan Duffy (follow her on twitter here!) presents her argument for why the myth of the 80 hours/week = success equation is pretty silly.  When I read Dr. Duffy’s post a few weeks ago, I had already been intensely thinking about the way I work for about a month. After reaching […]

A research lab that herps together, works together

Back in August before the semester began, a good portion of the Gibbs lab headed down to Florida for a week of science and reptiles/amphibians. We were visiting some colleagues/collaborators at Florida State University as well as helping Sarah Smiley catch pigmy rattlesnakes for her thesis research.Believe it or not, I’ve just recently downloaded the photos from my camera. Here are some of the interesting things we did and interesting creatures we found: I almost ordered two slices because I didn’t believe that they were “as big as your head”. David and Lisle appreciating the alligators Sarah took us swimming […]

Science links: Science Studio educates, entertains, and inspires

Whew, I’ve been away from the blog for a bit while I finished my PhD candidacy. Now that I’ve been deemed a competent scientist by my senior colleagues, I have a backlog of blog posts to get to. I’m going to start by pointing you towards Science Studio, a collection of the best science multimedia on the web. This idea comes from Rose Eveleth and Ben Lillie, who are two people behind the equally excellent podcast Story Collider.  So, why is Science Studio cool? Well, finding really good science media isn’t easy. Unfortunately, the best and most effective science multimedia isn’t […]