Welcome to Superoceras, a blog about science and natural history, slightly biased towards paleontology and zoology, but inclusive of all sciences. Started in October of 2009, my goal is to communicate scientific knowledge (and the occasional piece of nonsense) in an informative and entertaining manner. Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, concerns, or criticism at superoceras(at)gmail(dot)com, and follow me on Twitter @Superoceras for all that and more in 140 characters or less!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blogging on the Bay (Part 1)

An oyster bed at low tide. Notice the thousands of individual oysters encrusted on top of one another. Photo taken by JohnCub, from Wikimedia Commons.

The Chesapeake Bay is home to a wonderful variety of plants and animals. One of the invertebrates that makes a home here is the Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica.  This bivalve mollusk, which was once abundant in the Bay, has faced many hardships in the recent past. Over-harvesting, poor water quality from over nitrification and pollution, and in increase in sedimentation from runoff has caused populations to decline to less than 2% of their historical numbers. This is a problem for the oysters, and other denizens of the Bay.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Break! Again!

I'm sure that many of you have noticed that my posting here has been intermittent in the last month or so. That is in part because I've been gearing up for another trip with the University of Maryland's Alternative Spring Break program. This time around, me and a group of eager students will be headed to the Chesapeake Bay Foundations headquarters at the Philip Merrill Center for the week to camp out and help clean up the bay! I don't know what my internet situation will be like when we arrive, but I'm going to try to keep active on Twitter via my mobile, posting pictures and info along the way if I can't do it here on the blog. Feel free to keep tabs on us at the official ASB Chesapeake 2011 blog as well.

Photos of the week are starting to flow onto my Flickr account. Check out the set here!

Interweb Science of the Week #10

This week, ISW goes to a website that, like last week's awardee, is primarily aimed at school aged children interested in learning about biology. Ask a Biologist aims to provide the best scientific information to anyone (not just children) interested in learning in the ins and outs of the biological sciences, including paleontology - huzzah! It's a really brilliant concept: go to the website, ask a question, and have a professional scientist answer it. Too easy, right? I know, it's awesome. Lots of questions have already been asked, but there are still plenty more out there. If I was going to ask anyone, it would be this lot.

Coincidentally, ART Evolved is also sponsoring an "Ask a Biologist Initiative" at the request of Dave Hone. They are looking for printable posters and blog icons to be used on their site, so if you want to break out your mad art skills and contribute something in honor of them being awarded with "Interweb Science of the Week", now would be a pretty good time.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The new "Bone Wars": Greg Paul, science, and the art of paleontology.

*Let me start by saying that I have been sitting on and rewriting this post for nearly a week now. As the conversation has been taking place in e-mails and on the web, my opinions on the subject have been all over the place. But I finally feel that I have something to add the conversation, so here it goes.*

The only time I ever met interacted with Greg Paul was at SVP in Pittsburgh in October 2011. I had picked up a copy of his new book, the somewhat controversial The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, and was thumbing through it, when a voice from behind said, "I hear it's terrible." As I turned around I said, "I don't know, I've always been a fan of his work." I nearly fell over when I realized it was Mr. Paul whom I was speaking with. My girlfriend, who was with me at the time, can attest to this fact. I was speechless for a few seconds, but in the end, I was glad to see that he was capable of having a laugh at himself, and I admired his dry wit as much as I admired his work.

For those of you who don't know Mr. Paul, he is a dinosaur illustrator and researcher who has been influential in establishing the "new look" of dinosaurs over the last several decades. He has published a number of books, scientific papers, magazine and newspaper articles, and illustration guides. He has also hand drawn an extensive collection of skeletal restorations, muscle studies, and life reconstructions that are unparalleled in their accuracy. As is indicated above, I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the work he has done over the years. But my opinion about him started to shift around

a week ago, when he sent to an e-mail to the Dinosaur Mailing List regarding the use of his dinosaur restorations.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Interweb Science of the Week #9

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of science and the natural world. It's also not hard to see that I think that science education, starting at a young age, is one of the most important things that any child can have access to. Sadly, in some places, providing this education is difficult for those responsible for shaping the minds of tomorrow. Low funding, fear of starting a controversy, and lack of proper training for science educators are all roadblocks that teachers today face. It's a sad but simple fact: the United States is falling behind in science education. This is something even President Obama recognized in the State of the Union address in January. He wants "to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math", and "teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair". I could not agree more.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Well, this is long overdue.

A while back, I posted an image on the blog of a few skeletal elements that had been found in the backyard of some friends of mine, and posed a challenge to my readers to try and identify them. About a month has passed, and they are still sitting out on the deck, uncleaned, judging me every day as I walk past them to go work on other things. But I do think it's about time that I get around to talking about them a bit more, describing the process I went through in identifying them, and telling you what animal I believe they came from.

The three bones in question, properly identified by Scott Elyard as a pelvis (top, in left lateral view), femur (bottom left, in anterior view), and tibia (bottom right, in anterior view), all from the left side of the animal.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Interweb Science of the Week #8

This is probably long overdue, even if we're only eight Fridays into "Interweb Science of the Week". This edition features a website that, for the last two years, has been "the home of Paleo-Art online", hosted 12 galleries, written over 450 posts, and showcased the work of more artists than I can count. That's right folks; this week, ISW goes to none other than the "crew" over at ART Evolved: Life's Time Capsule.

The recently updated ART Evolved banner, from ART Evolved, by five different, uncredited artists.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Boneyard 2.7

Welcome to another edition of The Boneyard, a blog carnival specializing in items of paleontological interest. Paleontology, defined, is the study of ancient life and their remains. It seems straightforward. And in many ways it is. But it's also a very eclectic field of study, encompassing geology, chemistry, physics, genetics, mathematics, biology, computer sciences, ecology, engineering, art, systematics and so much more. You don't just find paleontologists in the field digging up bones, or in museums alongside them, but also in labs, studios, classrooms - even on the internet. And paleontology not only has the ability to teach us about the past, but the present and future as well. Is it really any wonder then, that paleontology of all sciences seems to capture the attention of people all over the world, both young and old? I think not. I hope that in this edition of The Boneyard, I manage to share with you, some of the fascinating things happening in the world of paleontology today.