Linda Hall Library Discussion of “At the Water’s Edge

Hello to all with an interest in attending the Periodic Round Table Book
discussion on April 7th. We will be discussing the book, At the Water’s
Edge: fish with fingers, whales with legs, and how life came ashore and
then went back to the sea by Carl Zimmer. It is a fascinating
explanation of two of the most dramatic evolutionary transitions in the
history of life on Earth. I hope that you are enjoying the book as much
as I am.

If you’d like to learn about what has been discovered since the book was
published, check out Carl Zimmer’s suggested articles from his blog.
Some relevant articles are listed, along with additional links, on a web
page that we’ve prepared about the book.

I am developing a list of potential discussion questions. If this list
will be sent to those who’ve registered a few days before the
discussion. If you have some questions that you’d like added to this
list, let me know.

Most of Zimmer’s chapters are quite readable individually. For those
without time to read the whole book, I recommend reading chapters 1 and
2 to learn more about how land animals evolved from fish or chapters 5,
6 and 7 for an introduction to the return of mammals to the sea.

For more information:

Jenny Bruenger
Reference Librarian
Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering & Technology
5109 Cherry St., Kansas City, MO 64110
816.926.8725 –
fax: (816) 926-8782

Here’s direct link to the Linda Hall library web page on the round table: 

Another summer workshop opportunity

The Dolan DNA Learning Center (DNALC) is a pioneer in modern biology education. Since it’s founding in 1988, more than 8,000 teaching faculty have received intensive training at DNALC-sponsored workshops conducted in 42 states and several foreign countries. For 2008, we are offering a series of exciting opportunities covering cancer, neuroscience, RNA interference, molecular biology, bioinformatics and genomics. For applications and additional information, please visit our Educator Training website at:
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Rapid Plant Evolution

Check out this article about Rapid Plant Evolution.  Not only is this neat research but it is very accesible, easily understood by students and it should be very transferable to your own particular teaching environment.  The researchers are only reporting on one particular plant’s rapid adaptation to a patchy urban environment but there are many other plants that may have similar adaptations ripe for study in similar environments.

Though the study only examined C. sancta, its findings, detailed in the March 3 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, likely would apply to any plants or other organisms that can make a similar reproductive trade-off, Cheptou told LiveScience.

The original research in PNAS will be freely available in a couple of months

The University of Kansas Field Station and Ecological Reserves

One of the really neat things about being a biologist is that your vacations times can do double duty. For instance by spending the day in the Lamar valley in Yellowstone observing grizzlies and wolves or spending a day exploring dinosaur trackways in an eastern Colorado canyon I get the benefits of relaxation and experiencing our natural wonders while at the same time increasing my own background and resources that help to make me a better biology teacher. Doing these kinds of activities with other biology teachers is simply the best. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here, again; I really enjoy going on field trips with fellow biologists–we share so much in common in our interests and in what we find to be important about life, itself.

Over the years one of those really neat experiences reserved for biologists, amateur biologists like birdwatchers and biology students have been the field station workshops that are available from any number of university field stations. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time at a field stations in Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas and Washington either in workshops or simply visiting. Field stations are truly valuable resources for biology teachers.

Not many know this but the University of Kansas has a field station here in NE Kansas–The University of Kansas Field Station and Ecological Reserves. These properties are, in a sense, some of my “home” turf–where I grew to become a biologist. Mostly these properties, over the years, while accessible have been primarily dedicated to research and public access has been somewhat restricted. Also, for the most part the facilities did not include any residential accommodations and really not much in the way of labs or other structures. That has changed now. I recently attended a meeting offered by the Kansas Biological survey that began an exploration of the how biology and environmental science teachers and their classes might be able to access the field station as an educational resource–not in a nature center type of way but in a field station research kind of way. The staff really wants to see the station used in an educational way. Exciting stuff.

The field station now includes a new Armitage Education center–a lab and classroom with showers and restrooms:

Armitage Outsid

Armitage inside 1

Armitage inside 2

Along with some primitive cabins–very reasonably priced–for overnight stays.

Cabin 1

cabin inside

Kansas biology teachers; think about how you might want to use this resource as a destination field study site for you or your students. If you have an interest or some ideas of how to develop this opportunity share it by adding a comment to this thread. You can also let me know with a comment if you need contact information if you are the type of teacher that wants to lead on new opportunities.  As the ideas mature and the field station staff develop a good idea of how they wish to structure teacher and student access, I’ll let you know, here on the KABT Bioblog


p.s. I think we will try to work in a trip to the field station at the Fall KABT meeting.

Brain Discovery Fair in association with Brain Awareness Week

The KC Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience at KU Med Center

  • When: Saturday, March 15th, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Where: KU Medical Center, KS Life Sciences Innovation Center, Beller Auditorium, NE corner of 39th & Rainbow
  • Who: Students, parents, and teachers – No admission

The e-mail I received about the event listed the following items of potential interest

  • learn about your most amazing brain
  • look at some real brains
  • peek into the microscope to see brain cells
  • have some mental fun
  • take a virtual tour in the brain
  • meet with neuroscientists
  • public lecture from 2-3pm, “Brain, The World Inside your Head

Contacts for further information include:,, or call
913-588-9899 or 913-461-9547.

Craig Venter is Coming to Town

Speaker for the 10th Higuchi Memorial Lecture Series at KU

Craig Venter, Founder, Chairman and President, J. Craig Venter Institute will be in town Thursday, May 1, 2008.

9:30 am – “Genomics: From Humans to the Environment”
Scientific Presentation –
130 Budig Hall

5:30 pm – “A Genomic View of Life”
Public Presentation – Woodruff Auditorium (Kansas Union)

During this past year Craig Venter has publish his autobiography A Life Decoded: My Genome, My Life. It is a good read, and a different perspective on the sequencing of the human genome than you may have seen in the Nova’s Cracking the Code of Life or read in Nobel laureate John Sulston’s The Common Thread (a good read too).

I hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it because you’re too busy celebrating with the workers of the world, you can view a recent lecture of Craig’s at Oxford, Genomics: From Humans to the Environment, or view/listen to interviews at or the Guardian (a number to choose from).

Stowers Institute- STARS Program on April 12

For the past couple of years Abby Freeman, Vice President for Administration at the Stowers Institute, has been running a couple-times-a-year Saturday morning program in which teachers hear about the research being conducted at Stowers from the PI’s and postdocs themselves. The next program is offered on Saturday, April 12, from 8:30 to 12:30.

8:30 – 8:45 Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:45 – 9:15 Teacher Introductions and a Look inside Stowers

9:15 – 10:00 “Lessons Learned from Yeast about Human Leukemia”
Ali Shilatifard – PI

10:00 – 10:45 “All You Can Eat Buffet – Perspectives from Worms and Humans”
Ho Yi Mak, Assistant Investigator

10:45 – 11:30 “Location, Location, Location: Regulation of Gene Expression
through Chromosome Positioning”
Sue Jaspersen, Assistant Investigator

11:30 – 11:45 Tour of the Stowers Institute

11:30 – 12:30 Lunch Stowers Cafe
(a box lunch is provided for those that register)

Register as a new STARS participant and/or RSVP for the Symposium at It is open to all educators. The Stowers institute for Medical Research is located at 1000 E 5th Street in Kansas City, Missouri. Hope to see you all there!

Milkweed Phenology

No we’re not talking about bumps on the head–that’s phrenology….

Common Milkweed

The Monarch Watch is always looking for new collaborative research ideas that will contribute to the every growing knowledge on monarch biology. The latest project is trying to get a handle on the phenology or calendar timing of the various events in the life cycle of different species of milkweeds, larval host plants and selected nectar plants. Consider participating in this project–it’s just getting going. You can read more, become involved and keep track of the project at the Monarch Watch Blog:

Coming soon to a website near you – a new project to record the phenology of milkweeds and nectar plants used by monarchs. Phenology is the term given to the study of the seasonal progression of natural events involving plants and animals. In this case, we are interested in recording a series of “firsts” (first emergence of shoots, first flower bud, etc.). This study is needed to monitor the effects of proximate seasonal conditions and long-term effects of climate change on the plants on which monarchs depend.

These kinds of data are also needed to help us sort out the impacts of human-induced (anthropogenic) changes in the environment and those due to weather and climate. In short, we need to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the changing availability of the host and nectar plant resources utilized by monarchs. We will monitor 6 species of milkweeds and 10 nectar plants. Our goal is to create maps with isoclines that show the progressive greening up of the resources used by monarchs. For this to be a successful project, one in which we can make comparisons of one year with another, we will need hundreds of you to contribute your “firsts” from all over the country. We hope you will participate. If you have a Monarch Waystation, this project is another good way to put it to use for monarchs.