BioScience Talks

American Institute of Biological Sciences

We hope you enjoy these in-depth discussions of recently published BioScience articles and other science stories. Each episode of our interview series delves into the research behind a highlighted story, giving listeners unique insight into scientists' work.

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Dams and Their Evolutionary Consequences
Dams and Their Evolutionary ConsequencesDrought Response and the Decline of Eastern OaksPublic Engagement Benefits Scientists
The positive effects of scientist engagement with the general public are well documented, but most investigations have focused on the benefits to the public rather than on those performing engagement activities. Writing in BioScience, Nalini Nadkarni of the University of Utah and colleagues "reverse the lens" on public engagement with science, discovering numerous benefits for scientists involved in these efforts.The authors distributed pre- and post-event surveys to individuals who are incarcerated in a state prison and a county jail as part of the Initiative to Bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated (INSPIRE) program, through which scientists present informal scientific lectures in carceral settings. This sort of engagement is particularly important, say the authors, given the growing emphasis among funding agencies and in academia on broadening the reach of science to include scientifically underserved groups.The results of the surveys were striking, with 100% of the scientist participants reporting that they would recommend the program to their colleagues. Scientists who gave lectures also reported an increased interest in taking action on issues related to social justice, with one respondent stating, “It has motivated me to take more actions. A couple of years from now, I plan to design programs for young adults from minority families.”The experience also produced significant counterstereotypical effects, in which negative preconceived notions were dramatically shifted by their experiences. "My interaction with incarcerated individuals really opened my eyes. Previously, these individuals were a number or statistic that I hear on the news. After meeting individuals, I felt empathy for people in this situation," said one respondent.The authors are hopeful about the prospects for the expansion of such programs, for the benefit of scientists and people who are incarcerated alike. They note that the program is cost-effective and accessible, as they calculated that if only 10% US scientists were to engage in similar work, that would result in a ratio of 95 scientists per correctional facility, and "every incarcerated person in the United States would have access to a scientist’s presentation."Authors Nalini Nadkarni, Jeremy Morris, JJ Horns join us on this episode of BioScience Talks to discuss the article and the promise of greater public engagement with science.Additional ResourcesThe Go To Prison Handbook  More peer-reviewed publications. Learn more about science in prisons.The youth in custody program.
Feb 23 2022
41 mins
Minority-Serving Institutions and Grant Review Representation
While numerous studies have described the funding discrepancies faced by scientists at minority-serving institutions (MSIs), there is a relative paucity of information available about MSI-based scientists' participation in grant review, the process used by research funders to allocate their budgets. A new article from the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) sheds further light on grant review and the factors that underlie scientists' ability to participate in it. Writing in the journal BioScience, AIBS scientists Stephen A. Gallo, Joanne H. Sullivan, and DaJoie R. Croslan describe the results of a survey disseminated to thousands of MSI-based scientists aimed at elucidating discrepancies in grant review participation between MSI-based scientists and those who work at traditionally White institutions (TWIs). The survey questions addressed a range of topics, including the scientists' recent funding and peer review experiences, as well as their motivations for engaging in the grant review process.  The survey results point to serious issues in grant review: Only 45% of respondents from MSIs reported participating in the grant review process, compared with an earlier survey's finding that 76% of scientists from TWIs were. This mismatch cannot be accounted for by differences in frequency of grant submission (which is roughly the same) or in scientist preferences, say the authors—76% of MSI scientists reported an interest in taking part in grant review. In this episode of BioScience Talks, we're joined by the article's authors to discuss these and other findings described in their article—as well as the ways that these issues might be best addressed.
Feb 10 2022
39 mins
Resist–Accept–Direct, a Paradigm for Management
Natural resource managers worldwide face a growing challenge: Global change increasingly propels ecosystems on strong trajectories toward irreversible ecological transformations. As once-familiar historical ecological conditions fade, managers need new approaches to guide decision-making. In a special section in BioScience, three dozen authors, led by National Park Service (NPS) ecologist Gregor Schuurman and US Geological Survey social scientist Amanda Cravens, describe the Resist–Accept–Direct (RAD) framework, designed for and by managers. The collection of articles is focused on understanding and responding to the challenges of stewarding ecological systems in a time of intensifying global change.            According to the section authors, the RAD framework gives managers three general pathways for responding to change: They can take actions to resist the change, they can accept it, or they can try to direct the change to produce desirable outcomes. The NPS has honed the RAD framework with an expanding circle of parks and adaptation partners over the past half-dozen years, with federal natural resource management agencies collaborating to develop guidance for stewarding transforming ecosystems. The special section can be found in the January issue of BioScience. For this episode of BioScience Talks, we are joined by Dr. Schuurman to discuss the RAD framework and the special section that describes it. More about the RAD framework can be found on web pages maintained by the NPS and USGS.
Jan 6 2022
33 mins
In Their Own Words: Thomas Lovejoy III (Republication)Coral Reefs: Insults and ProspectsBiodiversity Collections Enable Foundational and Data Skills
The task of training an effective cadre of biodiversity scientists has grown more challenging in recent years, as foundational skills and knowledge in organismal biology have increasingly required complementary data skills and knowledge. Writing in BioScience, Dr. Anna K. Monfils, of Central Michigan University, and colleagues identify one way to address this training conundrum: biodiversity collections. Biodiversity collections operate at the nexus of foundational biological practice and contemporary data science, a product of their role as curator of not only specimens themselves but also the specimens' associated data and network of data resources (referred to as the "extended specimen").            The authors describe a module that leverages this feature of biodiversity collections to produce a holistic student learning experience. The module, “Connecting students to citizen science and curated collections," was designed by the authors with six learning goals in mind, ranging from plant specimen collection in the field to the deposition of data in national or international databases. Students also learned about the value of large data sets and the role of community members' contributions to them.            The authors reported strong learning results, stating that, according to a postmodule assessment, "the students felt well prepared, very well prepared, or totally prepared to use foundational and emerging plant collecting skills including maintaining a field notebook (89%), collecting specimens in the field (94%), and depositing specimens (89%) and digital data (92%) into national and international data repositories."            Joining us on this episode are authors Anna Monfils, Professor at Central Michigan University and Director of the Central Michigan University Herbarium, Erica Krimmel, Information Scientist with the iDigBio Project at Florida State University, and Travis Marsico, Professor of Botany at Arkansas State University and Curator of the Arkansas State University Herbarium. They discussed the learning model they designed from implementation to next steps.
Dec 8 2021
41 mins
Disease Transmission: The Case of Sarcoptes ScabieiValues and Water Security in a Dry EraEmpowering Communities through Local Monitoring
Over recent decades, community-based environmental monitoring (often called "citizen science") has exploded in popularity, aided both by smartphones and rapid gains in computing power that make the analysis of large data sets far easier.             Publishing in BioScience, handling editors Rick Bonney, of Cornell University, Finn Danielsen, of the Nordic Foundation for Development and Ecology (NORDECO), and numerous colleagues share an open-access special section (already downloaded thousands of times) that highlights numerous community-based monitoring programs currently underway.             In an article on locally based monitoring, Danielsen and colleagues describe the potential for monitoring by community members—who may have little scientific training—to deliver "credible data at local scale independent of external experts and can be used to inform local and national decision making within a short timeframe."             Community-based monitoring efforts also have the potential to empower Indigenous rightsholders and stakeholders through their broader inclusion in the scientific process, writes Bonney in a Viewpoint article introducing the section. Moreover, he says, "Indigenous and local peoples’ in situ knowledge practices have the potential to make significant contributions to meeting contemporary sustainability challenges both locally and around the globe."             In this episode of BioScience Talks, Bonney and Danielsen join us to discuss the special section as well as the broader future for community-based monitoring.
Oct 13 2021
48 mins
In Their Own Words: Nalini NadkarniThe Climate Emergency in a COVID Year
In a year marked by unprecedented flooding, deadly avalanches, and scorching heat waves and wildfires, the climate emergency's enormous cost—whether measured in lost resources or human lives—is all too apparent. Writing in BioScience, a group led by William J. Ripple and Christopher Wolf, both with Oregon State University, update their striking 2019 "World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency" with new data on the climate's health. The news is not good.            Although fossil fuel use dipped slightly in 2020, a widely predicted result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors report that carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide "have all set new year-to-date records for atmospheric concentrations in both 2020 and 2021." Furthermore, 16 out of 31 tracked planetary vital signs, reflecting metrics such as greenhouse gas concentrations, ocean heat content, and ice mass, have also set disquieting records. However, there were a few bright spots, including fossil fuel subsidies reaching a record low and fossil fuel divestment reaching a record high.            In this episode of BioScience Talks, coauthor Jillian Gregg, who is with the Sustainability Double Degree program and the Department of Crop and Soil Science at Oregon State University, joins us to discuss the latest climate update and the urgent actions needed ensure the long-term sustainability of human civilization. Notes: For our discussion on extreme climate event attribution, we would like to clarify that current methods do not assess whether individual events are caused by climate change, but instead assess whether these events (floods, hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, fires) are larger, more intense, or more frequent, as a result of climate change.Links to some of the resources we discuss: Carbon Brief summarizes extreme weather eventsAl Gore Climate Reality Training Exeter University YouTube on how they are becoming carbon neutralWe refer to the "Princeton group," which is the Climate Central Surging Seas site for visualizing sea level rise
Aug 25 2021
32 mins
Blackologists and the Promise of Inclusive SustainabilityThe COVID-19 Pandemic, Viral Evolution, Vaccines, and VariantsEnvironmental DNA and RNA May Be Key in Monitoring Pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2In Their Own Words: John E. BurrisUrban Ecology, Segregation, and the Work of the Baltimore Field StationUsing Citations to Find Scientific CommunitiesIn Their Own Words: Thomas Lovejoy