Our Man in Savana

hmmm what to put here

See what I did there? Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Our friend the mesquite seems to pop up in the most unlikely of places. Mesquite, a genus which includes thorny desert shrubs/trees from various parts of the Americas, perhaps most clearly demonstrates the importance of context. It’s not that a species is inherently bad because it’s invasive. Or, to go as far as some naysayers, that to want to prevent or remove invasive species is a sign of xenophobia. What that argument glosses over, is that context is key. For example, mangos are delicious… unless you are allergic.

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It gives me the duck face

Like this, only it last for a few days... Image from Emergency Brake from Wikimedia Commons.

Like this, only it last for a few days… Image from Emergency Brake from Wikimedia Commons.

There is still time to contribute to the science of science communication! See the bottom of this post to do so AND also win prizes. Survey closes Nov 20, 2015.

This may, perhaps, be more than you needed to know. But I am allergic to poison ivy. No big deal, you might think. You’re a botanist. Surely you know what it looks like! Just avoid it.

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News and a Survey

Hi cats and kittens.

Next month I’m starting a postdoc position at Colorado State University working on a whole new weedy plant! (Don’t worry, knapweed, I still love-hate you.) I’m planning some (hopefully) fun sci-comm gems related to this project, perhaps even a small citizen science project that YOU could help me out on. We’ll see how it goes. For now, let’s say I’m getting just a *tad* closer to my childhood dream of being Indiana Jones.

But no need for YOU to wait, YOU can help science now. Continue, dear Reader!

SCIENCE WANTS YOU! By James Montgomery Flagg (http://www.usscreen.com/american_spirit/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

SCIENCE WANTS YOU! By James Montgomery Flagg (http://www.usscreen.com/american_spirit/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Help us do science! I’ve teamed up with researcher Paige Brown Jarreau to create a survey of AlienPlantation readers. By participating, you’ll be helping me improve AlienPlantation and contributing to SCIENCE on blog readership. You will also get FREE science art from Paige’s Photography for participating, as well as a chance to win a t-shirt and a $50.00 Amazon.com gift card! It should only take 10-15 minutes to complete. You can find the survey here: http://bit.ly/mysciblogreaders

What is going on with invasive knapweed? OR How I spent my PhD

Over the course of my PhD work (published here, and most recently here), I have found evidence for evolved differences in phenotype (in other words, in their morphology, development, phenology, stress responses) between native and invasive populations of diffuse knapweed. Why is that interesting? Well the invasive populations didn’t even exist until barely 100 years ago. And something about them has let them succeed and spread over vast areas of their new habitat. Perhaps what has made them so successful can be revealed by comparing the invasive diffuse knapweed populations to their closest relatives, the native diffuse knapweed populations.

Knapweed in the greenhouse, 2009.

Knapweed in the greenhouse, 2009.

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How have we never talked about knapweed before???

Surely I’m not the only one that thinks of their study organism in terms of fictional criminal geniuses?

Wow, sorry folks, I’ve been slacking, and that whole PhD thing is a sorry excuse! Let me tell you a little natural history about a plant called diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa), the  Dr. Moriarty to my Sherlock Holmes.

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Super secret project: Revealed!

plague-of-species-headerHello gentle reader! It’s been ages, I know. But I’ve been scheming schemes. I’ve been working on a little secret project with game designer Elizabeth Steward. We are designing a game about invasive species (with a dollop of evolution, and a smattering of economics)! It’s still in the works, but perhaps you would like to check out what we have so far? PLAGUE OF SPECIES!!! Every time I start thinking about this, I get almost too excited for intelligent speech. So that could be a problem.