Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Review: The Eighth Day of Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Biology

After I graduated, my Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Joel Griffitts, presented me with a book. When other students have departed the lab he gave them copies of David McCullough's 1776 or the autobiographical John Adams, by the same author. So when he threw a going-away party for me following my dissertation effense, I expected to be given one of those two books. But, to my pleasant surprise, I received The Eighth Day of Creation, by Horace Freeland Judson. The book is touted as the history of the origins of molecular biology, but it's actually two histories because Judson often takes time to describe the interviews he conducted with all of the major players in said origins. So it's a history of molecular biology and a history of Judson's meetings with the very scientists whose work he was curating.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Distribution Maps XI: Actinorhizal Plants

I've mentioned before my interest in the symbiotic association between a specific type of soil bacteria, called rhizobia, and legumes.[1] However, this isn't the only symbiosis found in nature where a bacterium fixes nitrogen for a legume host—it's not even the only symbiosis where the plant host forms a root nodule for the bacteria to inhabit. Besides rhizobia, there is a genus of bacteria, called Frankia, that form root nodules on several non-legume plants. These plants are known as actinorhizal plants. I've made distribution maps for some of the actinorhizal genera.

Friday, July 26, 2013


Lilli has been able to sing The Alphabet Song for quite a while now. She can also sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; I Am a Child of God, several nursery rhymes, and a few songs from Disney movies…but never when the camera is on. If she sees Leann or me taking a video the song immediately degenerates into silliness and babbling. We've tried for a long time to get a decent video for Lilli's admiring public, but in vain.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


The night I got back from the 22nd North American Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation Conference [1], Leann had to come pick me up at the bus station. I didn't get in until after Lilli's bedtime, so we had a friend come over and babysit (read: watch The Singles Ward while she slept) while Leann came to get me. While bringing my luggage into the apartment I spotted a medium-sized American Toad (Bufo americanus) hopping across the sidewalk. Of course, I had to catch it. The next morning I showed it to Lilli and then we let it go.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Last week I attended the 22nd North American Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation Conference.[1] This time it was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota (my first venture into that state). I've also attended the 21st North American Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation Conference, which was held in Colombus, Missouri in 2010 [2] (I brought back two ticks with me from a day trip we took at that conference) and the 16th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation, which was held in Big Sky, Montana in 2009.[3] I presented a poster at the meeting based on the research I've been doing since I started a postdoc in Wisconsin earlier this year.[4][5] There were lots of interesting topics covered, including identification and characterization of key plant and bacterial genes involved in the development of root nodules, genetics of rhizobia, genetics of legumes, genomics, and a fascinating talk from a fellow who is part of the N2Africa project funded by the Gates Foundation.[6]

Friday, July 19, 2013


There are several things we don't like about Wisconsin [1]: the winters are wet and slushy, the summers are humid and muggy, most of our friends and family are far away, ceiling lighting doesn't come standard, there are no mountains, etc. But…

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Petting Farm

As part of Lilli's birthday celebration [1], we took her to Eugster's petting farm [2], which is about 20 minutes southeast of us in Stoughton. The staff was very friendly and inviting and so were the animals.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lilli Turns Two!

A week ago yesterday Lilli turned two years old. While I was at work, Lilli helped Leann make the cupcakes for her birthday. Well, maybe she just helped lick the frosting off the beater… I came home half an hour early just for the occaision. When I walked through the front door I saw that the apartment had been transformed during my absence. There was yellow crêpe paper strung all over the kitchen—including streamers attached to the blades of the ceiling fan (which is actually pretty cool when you turn it on). Lilli was running around with two punch balloons (Leann prefers these because they're less likely to pop). And there was a big pile of presents in the living room. For dinner we ate her favorite food: beef pot pies.[1]

Monday, July 8, 2013

Horsey Ride

I've been waiting for a long time to post this video because I expected to accumulate more. It's me pretending to be a horse with Lilli riding on my back. She also likes to crawl around with me pretending to be kitties or bears. But the weeks are stretching out and we still don't have videos of the kitties or bears. So here's the horsey video.