Blog Pick of the Month – September 2011

Macaque Portrait By Michael Ransburg, http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelransburg/4592983842/

The winner of the PLoS ONE Blog Pick of the Month for September 2011 is Paul Norris from AnimalWise for his post on a recent study about how macaque monkeys use both sights and sounds to identify, and remember, their peers.

As Paul said:

The researchers found that the macaques, who had never been trained to use vocalizations to guide their test responses, continued to be good at choosing the “correct” photo, but that when they made errors, they were statistically more likely than chance to pick the image of the vocalizing monkey, rather than the one in the video.

Congratulations, Paul!

Photo via Flickr / Michael Ransburg

Category: Blog Pick of the Month | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog Pick of the Month – August 2011

vaccinia_poxvirus By Agriculturasp, http://www.flickr.com/photos/agriculturasp/5257572890/

(Yes, we are a little bit late announcing this, but…) The winner of the PLoS ONE Blog Pick of the Month for August is Connor Bamford from the Rule of 6ix for his post on recent advancements made in sequencing pox genomes.

By comparing the entire genetic sequence of pathogens like cowpox, smallpox, and monkeypox, researchers were not only to see how similar these able to virus were to each other, but they also started to uncover how these strains evolved in space and time:

Cowpox viruses were found to cluster in two major groups – cowpox like and vaccinia virus like suggesting that our smallpox ‘vaccinia’ vaccine potentially originated as a cowpox virus (as we thought) yet it was endemic to mainland Europe, something that goes against the tale of Jenner’s isolation of cowpox from the UK.

Connor, along with all of the authors of the paper, will receive a complimentary t-shirt from us.

Photo via Flickr / Agriculturasp

Category: Blog Pick of the Month | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Blog Pick of the Month – July 2011

Lichen sur tronc 1 By Humpapa, http://www.flickr.com/photos/humpapa/4963764274/

The PLoS ONE Blog Pick of the Month for July is Jennifer Frazer of The Artful Amoeba for her post on prions, the proteins that are notoriously difficult to kill:

If you had to choose the world’s most indestructible biological entity, it would be hard to do better than the prion. It’s the Rasputin of biology: cook them, freeze them, disinfect them, pressurize them, irradiate them, douse them with formalin or subject them to protein-cleaving proteases, and yet they live.

But a recent paper had data that suggested that certain types of fungi (lichens) may battle these deadly proteins, and win.

[A] few [lichens] seem to produce a molecule — likely a serine protease — or molecules that can take out prions. And they may do it, surprisingly, because fungi seem to get prions too.

Jennifer, as well as all of the authors of the article, will receive a complimentary PLoS ONE t-shirt for their work.

Photo via Flickr / Humpapa

Category: Blog Pick of the Month | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog Pick of the Month – June 2011

German Shepherd By Magnus Brath, http://www.flickr.com/photos/magnusbrath/5339853870/

Last month’s winner is Elizabeth Preston from Inkfish, for her post on dogs’ ability to discriminate identical twins based on smell:

According to a new study from the Czech Republic, though, a dog can do one better than a DNA technician. A group of trained German shepherds were able to reliably tell apart the scents of identical twins.

Preston goes on to discuss the implications of this line of research:

In this country, perhaps we should consider giving dogs a larger role in forensic investigations. As long as identical-twin criminals don’t strike, DNA is still a reliable and (usually) convincing form of evidence. But it’s easy for us to forget that other animals have access to a whole layer of information we can’t begin to decode.

Elizabeth, along with all of the study’s authors, will receive a complimentary PLoS ONE t-shirt and our heartfelt thanks.

Photo via Flickr / Magnus Brath

Category: Blog Pick of the Month | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Blog Pick of the Month – May 2011

Enterobacteria phage T4, T4 phage, FernForest By PHYLOMON!, http://www.flickr.com/photos/phylomon/4520268413/

The PLoS ONE Blog Pick of the Month winner for May is Iddo Friedberg from Byte Size Biology, for continued excellence in promoting novice scientists.

Last January, PLoS ONE published a paper cataloging the results of the HHMI-sponsored National Genome Research Initiative (NGRI), where college freshman isolated and analyzed 12 new phages as part of their curriculum.

The program is now expanding, and Miami University will join other institutions across the country in bringing the process of discovery into the classroom. As Iddo said:

And I get to teach the bioinformatics bit: annotation and comparative genomics. Woo-hoo! The great thing about this course, is that unlike most lab courses, the students (and faculty) will be setting up experiments intended not only to teach, but also to discover something new. Also, the results of the research are meaningful. Genomics data generated by student participants will be used by other researchers to answer medical, ecological, and evolutionary scientific questions.

To show our support of citizen science, we will send each institution mentioned in the paper (as well as Miami University) a custom PLOS poster as token of thanks.

Category: Blog Pick of the Month | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog Pick of the Month – April 2011

The winner of PLoS ONE’s Blog Pick of the Month for April is Alistair Dove, for his post on Deep Sea News that chronicles his group’s recent publication about the largest whale shark gathering ever recorded.

In a post that was over two years in the making, Dove tells the back-story of his findings on his own terms, instead of using the traditional press release. What develops is a fascinating look behind the scenes:

To help set the scene I need to take you on a trip to the flat, karst beauty of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico in the summertime, in the state of Quintana Roo. Real tropical summer too; not the namby pamby Zone 6 or 7 stuff so many of us experience back in our temperate homes, but the oppressive blanket of sweltering tropical stillness that smothers you in equal parts humidity and blinding UV. You know the sort, where going outside is like being slugged in the face with a pillowcase full of batteries, the breeze has gone somewhere else to escape the heat, and every day comes with a side of thunderstorm at 5PM. It’s during these sorts of dog days that the whale sharks appear.

Distilling journal articles for researchers in other disciplines as well as the general public is an important undertaking for the future of science communication, and part of the reason we have a ‘Blog Pick of the Month’ in the first place. But scientists using social media and blogs to not only promote their work, but to tell their story and engage the community in scientific discussion, well, that deserves a separate nod of respect. And for the second month in a row, we’re proud to recognize the efforts of authors going the extra mile.

Dove’s research team will receive complimentary PLoS ONE t-shirts and our gratitude (but only the former shipped via UPS).

Category: Blog Pick of the Month | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Blog Pick of the Month – March

Gone Yachting By DBarefoot, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dbarefoot/7283486/

The winner of Blog Pick of the Month for March is Jonathan Eisen from The Tree of Life blog, for posting the back-story on his recent PLoS ONE publication, “Stalking the Fourth Domain in Metagenomic Data: Searching for, Discovering, and Interpreting Novel, Deep Branches in Marker Gene Phylogenetic Trees“.

The PLoS article describes how the researchers poured over genetic data acquired from micro-organisms living in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, ultimately identifying a unique sequence that may have origniated from a previously undocumented form of life.

Here’s what they did and found, in Jonathan’s own words:

In the paper, we searched through metagenomic data (sequences from environmental samples) for phylogenetically novel sequences for three standard phylogenetic marker genes (ss-rRNA, recA, rpoB). We focused on sequences from the Venter Global Ocean Sampling data set because, well, we started this analysis many years ago when that was the best data set available (more on this below). What we were looking for were evolutionary lineages of these genes that were separate from the branches that corresponded to the three known “Domains” of life (bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes).

In the paper, we searched through metagenomic data (sequences from environmental samples) for phylogenetically novel sequences for three standard phylogenetic marker genes (ss-rRNA, recA, rpoB). We focused on sequences from the Venter Global Ocean Sampling data set because, well, we started this analysis many years ago when that was the best data set available (more on this below). What we were looking for were evolutionary lineages of these genes that were separate from the branches that corresponded to the three known “Domains” of life (bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes).

We then propose and discuss four potential mechanisms that could lead to the existence of such evolutionarily novel sequences. The two we consider most likely are the following
(1) The sequences could be from novel viruses
(2) The sequences could be from a fourth major branch on the tree of life

Jonathan’s paper was chosen because he used his blog to break the mold of science communication, as his post 1) was used in lieu of a traditional press release, 2) collated media and blog coverage of his PLoS ONE paper, and 3) acted as a continuing forum for updates and discussion on the research.

As always, the blog winner and all of the study authors will receive complimentary PLoS t-shirts along with our heartfelt thanks.

Image via Flickr / DBarefoot

Category: Blog Pick of the Month | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog Pick of the Month – February

Tiesto live @ TMF at the bridge by Rick Smit, http://www.flickr.com/photos/ricksmit/17858396/

Is our proclivity for music due to societal and cultural influences, or is there a resonance for beats in our brains?

The winner of this month’s Blog Pick of the Month is Ben Good from the B Good Science Blog who covered two papers, one from PLoS ONE, the other from Nature Neuroscience – describing how the enjoyment of a song correlates to changes in brain activation, as well as fluctuations in other body metrics, like respiration rate, body temperature, and skin moisture.

So what songs are likely to cause these kind of effects? Well another study by the same research group came out with a list of instrumental songs most likely to cause the ‘chill factor’ according to their observations. They asked their participants to select 3-5 songs which caused the chill factor for them. They were not allowed to pick songs that they had an emotional connection to (e.g. “Aww this our song!”) or songs from films (unless they hadnt seen the film), this was to try to reduce any prior associations with the song. The songs ranged from from classical to jazz.

For their work, Ben and the authors of the study will receive a complimentary PLoS ONE t-shirt.

Aside from providing insight into music and the brain with a really intriguing post, Ben also drove my MP3 choices for the remainder of the day. Nicely done.

Photo via Flickr / Rick_Smit

Category: Blog Pick of the Month | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Blog Pick of the Month – January 2011

The winner for the month of January is Kelsey Abbott who blogs at Mauka to Makai for the post, “Leapin’ Blennies“.

On a quest for information about these extreme mucous fish, Kelsey stumbled on some rather interesting facts:

My disappointment in the saber-toothed blenny left me searching for a cooler blenny—a mucus fish that could walk or talk or…leap. Meet the Pacific leaping blenny. These fish begin their lives in the ocean as planktonic larvae and then move to the supratidal zone, which is the rocky, splashy section of land above the high tide line. That’s right, these fish live on land.

Obviously, any normal fish living on land would be totally screwed. First, there’s the issue of breathing. Normal fish use gills to extract oxygen from the water. That same process would work just fine in air if it weren’t for the fragility of the lamellae (the part of the gills responsible for gas exchange). Out of the water, a fish’s lamellae will collapse, rendering gas exchange—and therefore breathing—impossible. To thwart suffocation, Pacific leaping blennies don’t breathe through their gills when they’re on land. Instead, they take oxygen in through their skin.

We selected Kelsey’s post because it’s a fantastic multimedia journey, citing examples of how fish adapt to being out of water. As always, Kelsey and the study’s authors will receive complimentary PLoS t-shirts.

Congrats!

Category: Blog Pick of the Month | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Blog Pick of the Month – December 2010

Sugar pill by Lilbenne, http://www.flickr.com/photos/lillianbennett/4453721326/

In December, a PLoS ONE manuscript titled ‘Placebos without Deception: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Irritable Bowel Syndrome‘ generated a lot of buzz on the Web.

The study suggested that placebos can work even if the patient knows the pill is a phony.

Many bloggers disagreed about the interpretation of these results. And we completely support people’s decisions to debate research findings in the blogosphere, provided they do so in a civil and professional manner. So in the spirit of open scientific discussion, we’ve decided to call this month’s winner a tie between PalMD at The White Coat Underground and Steve Silberman at Neurotribes.

As always, the bloggers and all of the study authors will receive a complimentary PLoS t-shirt for their outstanding work.

You can read the full posts here:
The White Coat Underground: You wouldn’t lie to me, would you?
Neurotribes: Meet the Ethical Placebo: A Story that Heals

photo via Flickr / Lilbenne

Category: Blog Pick of the Month | Tagged , , | Leave a comment