What We're Reading

A genuinely eclectic collection of articles this week, including mites and pumpkins, historical context from two centuries ago and news from last week, and yet more ways that scientists are studying how humans are affecting our planet and how warming is affecting every ecosystem. You will be prepared to be scintillating company at all your holiday parties. Personally, I think the mites are the way to go if you're having a hard time getting a conversation started...
  • From Copenhagen to Paris: How I Have Changed the Way I Teach About Climate, Center for Teaching Quality, December 13, 2015 -- A social studies teacher decides that "facilitating a debate about the causes of climate change was probably the wrong move ... Now when I teach about climate change denial, my goal is to help students understand the political polarization of climate change in the United States."
  • What the Mites on Your Face Say About Where You Came From, Science, December 14, 2015 -- Your face is full of mites. Get over it. They are doing you no harm, and probably some good as they live their lives feeding off your dead skin cells. Like the trillions of bacteria in your microbiome, mites are just part of the great cooperative, multispecies venture that turns out to characterize every multicellular organism. So don't be hatin'. Anyhoo, it turns out that mites go way back; sequencing the mites from the faces of 70 human hosts from all over the world revealed that there are four dominant clades with a common ancestor predating human evolution, so the mites and the humans have evolved in tandem. The kinds of mites you carry reflect where your ancestors came from. Anyway, it's not gross, it's super cool. Read it.

The ever-alert Glenn Branch points out that mites have played a starring role in the world of evolution before, in Jay Hosler's The Sandwalk Adventures, a graphic novel in which Darwin explains evolution to Mara, a follicle mite living in one of his eyebrows ... reviewed by Glenn here.

  • Lakes Warming at Alarming Rates, York U-Led Global Study Warns, York University. December 16, 2015 -- A recent study has found that the North American Great Lakes are among the fastest warming lakes in the world. This phenomenon contributes to algal bloom and harms fish directly. The Great Lakes may be warming fastest, but freshwater fish and other lake resources are often crucial in the developing world, and will also be negatively impacted by global warming.
  • Greenland Ice Loss Accelerates 110 Year Old Record Reveals, Scientific American, December 17, 2015 -- A study using direct photographic observation instead of model-based data has recently examined ice loss in Greenland.  The record shows that ice sheet loss in Greenland has been underestimated by computer models.  
  • The First Major Evolution Controversy in America, BioLogos, December 17, 2015 -- the third installment of a series of three posts by Monte Hampton, based on his book Storm of Words: Science, Religion, and Evolution in the Civil War Era South (University of Alabama Press, 2014).

photo credit: SLD 2010; https://www.flickr.com/photos/sidknee23/5243297311; used under a Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.