En garde

As a sophomore at Sweet Briar College, I received an honors grant to study the recreation and practice of Western European historical swordsmanship. Here is a video of me talking about the experience at the Pannell Scholars Fair in the spring of 2013, and here is an article with a few highlights.

 

Also see “En Garde” from xkcd.

Why get the flu shot?

herd immunity

Photo credit: http://www.vaccines.gov

Imagine that you’re at the mall and you see someone you don’t like – maybe an ex or that annoying kid from high school – but the mall is crowded that day and you can easily blend into the crowd and escape. Now imagine that the mall isn’t crowded. This unsavory person sees you and walks over. Because there aren’t a lot of people around for you to hide among, now you have to talk to someone you’d really rather avoid. In the case of infectious diseases, what actually happens is your body becomes the feeding ground of an organism whose numbers have been so long controlled by preventative medicine that they have all but faded from cultural memory.

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Save the (empty) rainforests

Today, I am going to challenge the way you think about habitat. A habitat is the place where an animal or plant or other organism lives, like tigers in the jungle, poison ivy in areas of forest floor with generally poor soil, and archaea in the hot springs at Yellowstone National Park and in the rumens of cows. Well, most of the time that’s what it is. There is an important biological exception: metapopulations.

A metapopulation is a group of organisms of the same species that occupies discrete patches of suitable habitat within a continuous range, but which is considered to be a single population because individuals migrate from patch to patch within their lifetimes.

metapopulation

The range of a metapopulation (dotted line) encompasses many patches of suitable habitat (shaded areas).

migration

Organisms can migrate among the patches during their lifetimes.

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