Policy / Science / Technology / Travel

UndertheCblog top ten: In honor of our 100th post

We just hit 100 posts here at UndertheCblog and we couldn’t have done it without you!

Thank you all very much for reading and for supporting us on Twitter and Facebook. We started this blog about 9 months ago with the goal of learning how to effectively communicate science to broader audiences. We spend so much time inside of our super-specific academic bubble that we felt it was important to find a new outlet to stay connected to the rest of the world. Thanks to all of you this blog experiment has been a huge success! All of us have learned (and are still learning) a lot from this!

Now, without further ado, our 101st post on this site is a top 10 list of our most popular articles thus far (all have over 100 views!):

1.) Who’s lying about lionfish? 

Photo by Abel Valdivia

Photo by Abel Valdivia

Serena explores the debate centered on whether or not lionfish populations in the Caribbean are controlled by predators.

“There has been a recent debate in the scientific literature about the effect of predators on invasive lionfish. Are Caribbean predators controlling the lionfish invasion? Two studies seem to have conflicting results. Is someone “lyin’” about lionfish?

Mumby et al. 2011 performed a small scale study and found fewer lionfish on sites within Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park that have a lot of grouper. They suggested that grouper can control the lionfish invasion. Hackerott et al. 2013 performed a large scale analysis and found no relationship between the amount of lionfish and grouper. However, they included other variables in their analysis and found that there were fewer lionfish in marine protected areas, most likely due to lionfish removals from reef managers. They concluded that native predators (like grouper) are not controlling lionfish, but that active management (like removing them from reefs) can reduce their abundance.”

2. On climate, weather, skepticism, and the “polar vortex” that is freezing the US



Remember that Polar Vortex? This article discusses why that happens and what it means in the context of climate change.

“3 days ago I was in Boston. It was roughly 0 degrees Fahrenheit and 2 feet of snow had just fallen while I was asleep.

Today it is above 50 degrees in Boston and it is raining.

Conversely, in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio the high today is -5 and Ohio State is shut down today and tomorrow due to -30 degree wind chill (It should be noted that Ohio State has had less than a handful of snow days, ever). It gets more ridiculous… Minneapolis (home of OSU’s Big Ten Rival, Minnesota), not wanting to be topped by Ohio, decided it needed to be colder. The high in Minneapolis is around -15 and the wind chill is down to -50. People can get frostbite withing 10 minutes of stepping outside in those conditions.”


3. Film Friday: Welcome to the Shark Circus (Gone Wrong)! When “trained” sharks attack…

sharkattack-lionfishCan we feed speared lionfish to sharks in order to train them to eat live lionfish (spoiler alert: No).

‘“Training” wild sharks to eat lionfish might sound like a good idea. But what happens if they are actually being “trained” to attack divers? Since the lionfish invasion hit the news, people have suggested that native predators will eat and control invasive lionfish. For more information check out our previous posts The Great Debate: Predators vs Lionfish and Who’s “Lyin’” about Lionfish?. But with current evidence suggesting that the current level of predation by native predators is not enough to control lionfish (Hackerott et al. 2013 and Raymond et al. 2014) people have started to suggest “training” native predators to eat lionfish by feeding speared lionfish to sharks, grouper, barracuda, eels, and other predators.”

4. The “Nature” of scientific publishing. Are high impact journals distorting the scientific process?



This post consistently gets a few hits a day. Is aiming for a high-impact journal damaging the scientific process? And what about those pesky pay walls?

“Nobel Prize winning biologist has announced a boycott of high impact journals such as Nature, Science, and Cell.

When a Nobel Prize winner says something like that, people listen.  The question is really whether or not that stance is well founded. Randy Shekman, the Nobel winner in question, is the editor of an open access journal called e-Life, and is former editor-in-chief of PNAS (impact factor >8).

So, why the boycott? Shekman says that the pressure to publish in high impact journals leads scientists to focus on glamorous projects and cut corners in order to get more exposure. High impact publications are more likely to accept flashy projects with definitive results. Shekman argues that people are focusing on flashy science instead of important science because they want to be published in one of these publications.”

5. Wave energy conversion: the physics and the applications

WECEver wonder how wave energy devices work? This post will teach you all about it (Cool GIFs inside).

“Wave energy may be very important to the renewable energy industry as more traditional green energy sources meet more and more opposition in the political and economic arena. In this post, I’ll show you how ocean waves work, and some of the ways people have been attempting to harness wave energy for use by humans in the form of electricity.

An ocean wave behaves similarly to any other mechanical wave you may encounter, such as a sound wave or a wave you might make with a jump rope or slinky. The key element to any wave is the propagation of energy. That is, the wave serves as a means for energy to move from one place to the other. It’s important to recognize that it is the energy that is being moved, and not the matter. ”

6. Winter Is Coming: Oceanography in Game of Thrones

GOTmapThis post needs no intro. GoT plus oceanography = goldmine

“The new Game of Thrones season is right around the corner, and I know one UndertheC blogger who is really excited! It’s me. I’m really excited.

One of the driving plot points through the entire series is the season differential that George Martin’s world has to deal with. Unlike the annual cycle that our Earth goes through, wherein summer occurs for three months every year, and winter for three months every year, the seasons in Westeros last for years at a time, and no one there has figured out a way to predict when one will end. You can imagine this makes things like saving food for winter – or undertaking a land war in Asia – quite difficult. There’s been quite a few posts floating around the internet attempting to explain this phenomenon using science like planetary rotation and gravitational pull. I’m going to add to these posts with an explanation of my own focusing on oceanography. I’ll ask you to forget the futility of explaining a fictional, magical world with the scientific principles of our own world and instead ask you to try to remember that science is fun and can also be magical in its own way.”

7. Top 5 Things I Learned at The Benthic Ecology Meeting 2014 + Top 5 Things I Learned at Science Online Oceans 2013

BEMLOGO2_500We went to a few great conferences. Namely, the Benthic Ecology Meeting and Science Online Oceans. Coming in 7th on our list are the recaps of these two weekends. Conferences are a great way to learn about interesting new research, meet new people, and develop better networking skills.

“This past weekend I traveled to the 43rd Annual Benthic Ecology Meeting in Jacksonville, Florida. This years event was hosted by the University of North Florida. If you haven’t heard of them before, check them out. They have a nice new biological sciences building and they are doing some cool research! This was my first conference as a member of the UNdertheC blog team. I had been to several major conferences before, but this was my first attempt at live blogging and really trying to integrate science communication into my conference agenda. After nearly 8 hours in the car, we finally arrived at the conference.”


8. Bill Nye the Science Guy versus Ken Ham the Creation Man: Who Won the Debate?

Bill Nye took on Ken Ham in a creation vs. science debate. Intrepid reporter, Kelsey Ellis, tells you who “won” and why.

enhanced-buzz-831-1305134958-8“Instead of doing my homework, last night I sat down and watched the entirety of the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate/showdown. For those who avoided the whole thing, Bill Nye (a famous science educator) and Ken Ham (a Christian author who believes that Creationism should be taught in schools alongside evolution) agreed to meet at the Creation Museum in Kentucky to debate the question “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” The whole thing lasted about 2.5 hours and included a lot of powerpoint slides, as well as some great shots of Bill Nye’s bow tie. You can still watch the debate here for the next few days, if you’re so inclined. I’m going to admit right off the bat that I went into this biased–as a kid, I loved Bill Nye’s show, and as a scientist I love how passionate he is about science education. But still, I tried my best to watch the debate with an open mind, giving credit where credit is due (best accent goes to K-Ham, for sure).”

9. The Great Debate: Predators vs Lionfish

LionfishPart 1 of Serena’s predator/ lionfish debate series (featured as #1 above).

“There has been a recent debate in the scientific literature about the effect of predators on invasive lionfish. Are Caribbean predators controlling the lionfish invasion? Two studies seem to have conflicting results:

Lionfish are predators, native to the Pacific ocean, that have recently invaded the Caribbean region. Lionfish are voracious predators, eating fish up to half their own length, and their stomachs can expand up to 30 times their initial size. They also prey on a wide range of fish: about 40 different species have been found in their stomachs. Lionfish are expected to have many negative impacts on the Caribbean coral reefs they have invaded.”


10. Invisible technicians on the seven seas

oldfashioned diverHistory of ships as scientific tools and a look at the ever popular Ocean Observatories Initiative!

“Ships have an allure in oceanography.  Even the most misanthropic scientists become oddly affectionate when describing research vessels, whether those ships exist only in the misty memory of graduate studies or are used in ongoing fieldwork.  RVs are not simply a means of accessing offshore study locations, but provide the physical and mental space for “doing science.”  Last fall, Antony Adler published an article in the Journal of the History of Biology, which I had never heard of but am delighted by its existence.  Adler’s premise built on an earlier article by Richard Sorrenson stating that, beginning in the 18th century, ships themselves were scientific instruments, rather than simply platforms to process and/or transport samples.”


Bonus Content:

We haven’t been doing this alone. In fact, we often feature guests posts from friends, other students, undergraduates, or collaborators.

Here are our top two guests posts:

1. My Un”Belize”able adventure with ReefCI

Me and my dive partner after completing a 1.5 hour dive surveying marine invertebrates!

Me and my dive partner after completing a 1.5 hour dive surveying marine invertebrates!

UNC undergrad Aubrey Germ wrote about her winter break diving/research trip with Reef CI in Belize

“I watched helplessly as a giant wave crashed over the bow of the boat, drenching my suitcase containing my possessions for the week. Rain was slicing at my face at 30 mph, my rain jacket serving no more purpose than to protect my skin from the sting. I looked behind me and saw that, even through the jarring pitches of the boat against the eight foot waves, the cartons of eggs stacked at the back of the boat were still intact. How could it be, I thought, that eggs, one of the most fragile foods on the planet and our breakfast for the week, are surviving this tumultuous, harrowing journey? What a wild storm!  I felt like there was no doubt I was about to get whisked overboard into the blackened sea. It still beats me, but somehow two hours later I finally found myself on the firm, sandy ground of a tiny Belizean Island known as Tom Owen’s Caye. If that was the beginning of my journey, I had no idea what else to expect from my week-long trip to volunteer with ReefCI, but I was positive the adventure would only continue!”

2. Can something in the ocean kill superbugs?

(wikipedia commons) Why use antibiotics to treat your syphilis when you could just slap one of these suckers onto your arm? Before antibiotics, you may have had no choice

(wikipedia commons)
Why use antibiotics to treat your syphilis when you could just slap one of these suckers onto your arm? Before antibiotics, you may have had no choice

UNC grad student Maya Nadimpalli wrote a super interesting piece on antibiotic resistant bacteria and the potential of “something” in the ocean to kill them (you will have to read it to learn more)

 “Some of you have likely heard or read something about the growing epidemic of antibiotic resistance– it’s a pretty hot topic right now. Antibiotics have been used to treat bacterial infections since the 1940s. Prior to their advent, strep throat could be fatal, ear infections could spread to the brain, and syphilis was treated with arsenic or malaria. Yes, malaria – you read that correctly. Not fun times.

But, for as long as we’ve been using antibiotics to treat infections, bacteria have been developing clever ways to prevent them from doing their job. Genetic code that allows bacteria to survive in the presence of antibiotics – what we microbiologists refer to as “resistance genes” – can be passed by bacteria to their offspring, as well as to other bacteria in their environment. Eventually, these resistance genes can become so common that an antibiotic may become totally ineffective against certain types of bacteria. Unfortunately, this problem is only getting worse – potentially as a result of overuse, or maybe due to improper use and disposal of antibiotics.”

Once again, thanks to everyone for the support! We will keep the content coming!




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