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ISSUE 26 - SPRING 2020




“In schools, the history of science, when taught at all, is generally deployed in ways that are intended to reinforce the rightness of current thinking. Past scientists are valorized when their views seem to prefigure our own, or treated with condescension or even contempt when they do not. . . . Were students to reflect on why intelligent and serious people held views now considered erroneous or even absurd, it might prompt the realization that some views they now take to be self-evident may well meet the same fate.� -DIANE PAUL

Cover art by Rebecca Heald

The production of Elements magazine is possible due to the funding and support of the Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound (ASUPS). We thank Media Board, ASUPS, and, by extension, the student body for making this publication a reality. This magazine was printed by Print NW (Lakewood, WA).


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR I think it’s safe to say that this semester didn’t go how any of us were expecting it to. On the bright side, we can now proudly call ourselves computer scientists after all of the online software we’ve had to master over the past few months. I’m sure a computer scientist would be quick to tell you that knowing how to change your background in Zoom isn’t exactly computer science, but I’m still putting it on my resume. In all seriousness, one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light is how, as much as we look for solutions in new technologies and innovations, we also look to history for guidance. But history is not only relevant in times of crisis. The history of science, in particular, provides considerable insight into what we research, what we teach, and even the language we use. Time and again, it also offers humbling lessons regarding the falsity of scientific objectivity and the constantly changing nature of truth. A significant portion of this issue is devoted to examining a part of science’s history some of us would rather forget: eugenics. This feature, as well as wider conversations on campus pertaining to the history of eugenics, was prompted by the recognition that eugenics was offered as a biology course at the University of Puget Sound from 1920–1951. This course, taught by James R. Slater, the Slater Museum’s namesake, has raised questions surrounding the ethics of commemoration and how best to acknowledge a history of racist and ableist teachings. To this end, a website titled The History of Eugenics at Puget Sound and Beyond, containing both digital archival materials from the Collins Memorial Library and recorded talks from scholars of the history of eugenics from a number of institutions, has been created to serve as an educational resource and promote further discussion on our campus. The second half of this issue contains our regular Elements content—stories about student interests and research ranging from potatoes to peptides to Pacific Wrens. For those of you thinking about the future, we have an article with advice on applying to graduate school; for those just thinking about your next read, we have a column of science book recommendations. In addition, in response to our switch to virtual learning this semester, we have compiled an article exploring how professors and students have managed to turn lab work into laptop work. I am delighted that, despite all the uncertainty and disruption this spring semester has brought, we are still able to share our passion for science with the campus community through this issue. I’m doubly grateful to all the Elements staff, writers, artists, and other contributors for willingly pushing forward to make this issue possible. Read on, and I hope you enjoy the fruits of our virtual labor.





TOP: Noah Bader-Fourney


Erin Stewart

Rachael Stegmaier

Noah Dillon

Becca Miserlian

Beatrice Bugos

Kaela Hamilton









In this Issue 8

Featured Section: History of Eugenics The History of Eugenics: A Primer

Erin Stewart and Katherine Gladhart-Hayes


Religion and Eugenics

Elizabeth Nielsen ‘14


Scientific Motherhood and Eugenics

Annelise Phelps


Eugenics and Birth Control

Katherine Gladhart-Hayes


Slater Museum

Grace Eberhardt


Elements Magazine Potato Phylogeny

Maya Sealander


Campus Birds

Hayley Rettig


Nurse Log

Sean Grealish


Australia’s Brumby Horses

Maria Leuzinger


Africa Misconceptions

Nico Heyning


University of Utah REU

Alex Guzman


Grad School

Kaela Hamilton


Laptop Labs



Book Recommendations



The Allium CosmoNerd


Model Organisms Alignment Chart



Sandwich Phylogeny

Kaela Hamilton





Special Feature: History of Eugenics

Inspired by questions regarding the ethics of commemorating a former teacher of eugenics in the name of the Slater Museum of Natural History, Puget Sound faculty and students organized a symposium with international scholars of the history of eugenics that was set to be held on March 28, 2020. That symposium was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The articles in this section of Elements engage with some of the past and current issues raised by this history. The symposium talks are being posted online at sites.google.com/view/historyofeugenicspugetsound, along with archival material from Collins Memorial Library. Please visit the website to learn more about the history of eugenics on campus and more widely.​

Special thanks to Kristin Johnson and Peter Wimberger for assisting in the review of articles in this special feature.



The History of Eugenics: A Primer BY ERIN STEWART AND KATHERINE GLADHART-HAYES Eugenics provides a case study in historical amnesia, or the simplification, alteration, or complete erasure of past events in the public consciousness. For many, the term “eugenics” brings to mind Nazi Germany and the mass genocide of the Holocaust. Yet this narrative obscures the fact that the United States had begun implementing eugenics policies in the early 1900s, and that these policies heavily influenced Germany’s own eugenics programs. And while the Holocaust was arguably the most horrific manifestation of eugenic ideologies, the spatial, temporal, and sociopolitical scope of eugenics was—and still is—much larger.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

to social norms or standards of economic productivity “backwards” and “feeble-minded,” and appropriate candidates for sterilization (5). Two potential policy routes emerged from eugenic thinking, termed “positive” and “negative” eugenics by Galton. Negative eugenics, at its most extreme, focused on preventing “unfit matings” and involved forced sterilizations and ultimately, in Nazi Germany, euthanasia. In the United States, for example, approximately 60,000 state-sanctioned compulsory sterilizations were carried out from 1907 through the 1970s, one third of which were in California (1). Occurring throughout the early 20th century, these policies influenced eugenic thought in Germany. Forced sterilization continued to be practiced for decades following World War II in many of the 32 U.S. states that had implemented sterilization laws (6). Negative eugenics also included anti-miscegenation (“racemixing”) laws, immigration restrictions, and the targeted promotion of birth control to specific populations. In the United States, anti-miscegenation laws remained in place in 16 states until judged to be unconstitutional in the 1967 Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia; in South Africa, an act banning marriage between white people and any other racial group wasn’t repealed until 1985 (7, 8).

Coined in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton in his book Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development, the term “eugenics” comes from the Greek for “good in birth” (1). A British scientist and explorer, Galton was heavily influenced by the theory of evolution through natural selection laid out by his first cousin Charles Darwin (2). Applying his knowledge of plant and animal breeding Positive eugenics, in contrast, focused on using various and his belief that physical, means to encourage certain groups of people to marry and have mental, and moral features children. In Nazi Germany, for example, the state dispensed were largely heritable, ABOVE: Sir Francis Galton subsidies to “racially meritorious couples” in proportion to Galton defined eugenics as the science of improving human the number of children they had, while in the United States society by giving “more suitable races or strains of blood state fairs staged “fitter family” and “better baby” contests in a better chance of prevailing over the which families and infants were judged “Positive eugenics less suitable than they otherwise would much like livestock based on “health and have had” (2, 3). In other words, eugenics inherently reinforced, heredity” (2, 9). Positive eugenics also meant promoting the reproduction of “fit” took the form of educational programs, and in some ways individuals while restricting that of those public health campaigns, and restrictions institutionalized, considered “unfit.” in birth control and abortion access (1).

ideas of hierarchy and

Positive eugenics inherently reinforced, Exactly how different eugenics superiority, targeting and in some ways institutionalized, ideas programs defined relative fitness of hierarchy and superiority, targeting and and disadvantaging depended on the prevailing social norms of the time. For example, in Mexican historically marginalized disadvantaging historically marginalized populations. eugenics programs, mestizos (mixed-race populations.” individuals with European and indigenous Many different groups were the target ancestry) were elevated as the superior race (4). In the U.S., of negative eugenics. In Germany, Nazi programs targeted supporters of eugenics considered those who did not conform Jews, gay people, communists, Roma people, and people with


SPECIAL FEATURE: HISTORY OF EUGENICS disabilities (1). In the United States, compulsory sterilization policies targeted the “feeble-minded,” which nominally referred to those who were “mentally deficient,” but in actuality served as a catch-all term for anyone who did not conform to social expectations (5). This included people with schizophrenia, manic depression, psychosis, and epilepsy; prostitutes and women who had children out of wedlock; criminals; and the impoverished (10). In addition, a disproportionate number of sterilizations in the United States were conducted on African Americans, Mexicans, and immigrants from Britain, Scandinavia, Italy, Germany, Poland, and Russia (10). Public health programs in California targeted criminals, prostitutes, alcoholics, and Mexican people meanwhile, in Canada, birth control campaigns focused on indigenous women in the north (4, 11). Both eugenics and related public health policies played a key role in shaping social and political constructions of the U.S.-Mexico border between 1910 and 1930, as concerns about diseases like typhus and eugenic fears of miscegenation influenced immigration policy and the practices of sanitation and quarantine facilities (12).

ABOVE: Karyotype of trisomy 21 Underlying all of these policies was the notion that markers of “biological inferiority” were heritable or otherwise transmissible from parents to children. However, while some traits do show clear patterns of inheritance, many of the traits that were commonly the target of eugenic policies, such as mental illness, either do not have a clear genetic basis, are influenced by both genes and the environment, or are polygenic, making it difficult or impossible to determine whether they will appear in offspring (13). Additionally,

ABOVE: United States sterilization legalization as of 1929

eugenic policies were based on the assumption that different groups of people are of more value than others. Many of the groups targeted by these different practices were oppressed socially, politically, and economically. Once certain traits were defined as both heritable and harmful, people and institutions argued that eugenics was morally justified on the grounds that it benefited the good of society. While in retrospect eugenics seems an obvious example of political misuse of science and biased thinking, it is important to note that most biologists working between 1900 and 1950 believed in the importance of bettering future generations via eugenics, though they often defined what that meant differently. For example, though the anthropologist Franz Boas and geneticist T.H. Morgan criticized the classist and racist versions of eugenics that were influencing immigration and marriage laws, both thought that the prevention of breeding among those with “congenital defects” was an appropriate use of eugenics within a medical context (14, 15). Yet it should be noted that even when such “defects” show clear patterns of inheritance, it is still society, and not science, that defined these as defects. There is also a general tendency to assume that eugenic policies were only carried out in a few places. As scholar Alexandra Minna Stern writes, “before the 1990s, it was difficult to find any publications on eugenics that did not focus exclusively on the United States, Germany, or England” (4). Despite this geographical bias, the eugenics movement was extremely widespread. The Eugenic Archive lists over 55 countries and former colonies—on every continent except Antarctica—that were in some way impacted or influenced by eugenics (6). These countries didn’t necessarily apply eugenic


SPECIAL FEATURE: HISTORY OF EUGENICS principles in the same way as the United States or Germany. For example, Latin American countries, Spain, France, Italy, and Romania practiced a form of eugenics heavily influenced by Catholicism and “neo-Lamarckian theories of the inheritance of acquired traits overshadowed Mendelian tenets of strict heredity” (4). In China, eugenic thought was incorporated into birth control campaigns during the 1930s and ’40s. After 1949, Mao’s government publicly denounced eugenics as classist, but eugenic thinking continued to influence their pronatalist policies, and later formed the rationale for the explicitly antinatalist One Child Policy in 1979 (6). In Australia, mixedrace Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their parents with the goal of promoting “racial purity” from 1909 into the 1970s (6). As recently as the 2000s, HIV-positive women in Kenya were both pressured to undergo sterilization and sterilized without consent (6). As the case of Kenya demonstrates, eugenic thought remains an issue today. Many argue that “top-down” stateorchestrated eugenics programs are being replaced by a “bottom-up” form of eugenics in which reproductive technologies enable some individuals to control the genetic makeup of their offspring. Specifically, technologies such as in-vitro fertilization, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, and prenatal screening for chromosomal abnormalities like Down syndrome have raised questions regarding the implications of selective implantation and abortion. The recent advent of CRISPR technology, which allows for the direct editing of genes, has stoked these concerns. One scholar has suggested that, as CRISPR technology removes the logistical barriers to germline editing, “what seemed like a moral or technical issue in the past is—in this society—very likely to become a consumer question of who can afford it” (2). Yet modern-day eugenics isn’t only an issue of emerging reproductive technologies and individual choice; indeed, “the vast majority of present-day eugenics strategies are bureaucratic and mundane, just as they were in the past” (16). Of particular relevance to Tacoma, it has been suggested that mass incarceration in prisons and detention centers can function as a tool of eugenics control. A stark example of this comes from California prisons, where almost 150 women were illegally sterilized from 2006 to 2010 (16). However, according to historian of eugenics Molly Ladd-Taylor, even without actual forced sterilization these institutions still “break up troublesome families, reduce the number of babies born to the ‘defective, dependent, and delinquent’ classes, and promise to protect society from danger by keeping people considered dark, oversexed, and menacing ‘out of sight and out of mind’” (16). Therefore, the outcome of mass incarceration is arguably similar to that of past eugenic strategies, but because it is


ABOVE: Poster promoting China’s One Child Policy, 2005 predicated on different grounds it is easier for justice systems and the public to reconcile and disregard such imprisonment. The contemporary COVID-19 pandemic has also raised concerns regarding the differential valuation of human lives. As New York Times writer Ian Buruma notes, in debates on the extent and duration to which quarantine measures should be implemented “there is a tendency, not least in the White House, to speak in Darwinian terms about sacrificing the old and sick in the current crisis for the sake of the economy” (17). In addition, various U.S. states are developing triage plans in the likely event that the number of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care exceeds the number of available intensive care units. These triage plans include guidelines on how to prioritize patients for care based on factors including the presence of pre-existing medical conditions and age (18). The plans have prompted many to speak out online with the hashtags #noICUgenics and #NoBodyIsDisposable, expressing worries that people who are disabled, high-BMI, elderly, HIV+, and chronically ill will be passed over for care. These statements and hashtags, which implicitly and explicitly connect triage plans to eugenics, illustrate how important issues of eugenics remain today. The articles that follow explore various facets of the history of eugenics, including the role of eugenics in biology curricula and at Puget Sound, and how this history continues to shape the present.


Religion and Eugenics BY ELIZABETH NIELSEN In the 1927 court case Buck v. Bell, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a Virginia law that allowed the forced sterilization of individuals deemed (intellectually or socially) “unfit.” Between 1909 and 1942, Washington State also had a compulsory sterilization law on the books. In 2002, Oregon’s governor apologized publicly to those forcibly sterilized while in state care between 1923 and 1983 (1).

Saxon, Protestant) race and fearfully described “race suicide” as on the horizon (4). In his 1913 critique of eugenics, Lester Ward described how “Roosevelt lost no opportunity to weave [fear of race suicide] into his speeches and warn his audiences of the insidious dangers to mankind” (4). Roosevelt and others rejected the growing diversity of the American population and firmly believed the solution to the social problem of race suicide could be found in eugenics.

While it is certainly disturbing to have these ideas encoded in law—not to mention shockingly long-lasting—these ideas did not just circulate in the minds of lawyers, politicians, and scientists. Ideas about the importance of eugenics seized the imagination of ordinary Americans during the early 20th century, helped by outreach efforts and rhetoric employed by science communicators. Historians have done much great work understanding the scientists and scientific justifications of laws like those in Virginia, Washington, and Oregon, but sometimes understanding the rhetoric of an individual can demonstrate how this movement became so popular.

Wiggam seized upon these Progressive-era fears and anxieties over the future of “the race” and concerns about morality and sexuality in his writing, marrying these concerns with modern scientific language and encouraging scientific solutions for these social “problems.” He found a welcome audience in an era during which many saw science as a solution to the questions and issues supposedly plaguing society. In a series of books—The New Decalogue of Science (1923), The Fruit of the Family Tree (1924), and The Next Age of Man (1927)—Wiggam drew analogies between eugenics scholarship and theological phrases with which readers would have been familiar. The New Decalogue even provides a new Ten Commandments based on eugenic ideals. Wiggam drew on common, relatable themes and real-life examples of problems that, he argued, needed a scientific solution. His “crusade” (as he called it) focused on bringing eugenics forward as a new framework for religion, morality, and activist science to the public. His books provided a guide for how, through implementing eugenic policy, individuals worried about the potential apocalyptic downfall of civilization could use science to produce a better future. While some scientists complained about his use of religious language, he was able to amass dozens of testimonials from professional scientists that praised his work for translating the implications of biology for the American public.

One such figure is Albert Wiggam, a Midwestern boy turned newspaper editor, Chautauqua lecturer, and prolific author. Wiggam strongly advocated for eugenics and popularized the concepts in his work during the 1920s. A contemporary described him as “the leading interpreter of the human sciences and their bearing upon America’s future, and the making of a better and happier world” (2). Wiggam popularized eugenics and helped connect the movement to values and fears held by influential segments of the American public. “Civilization is making the world safe for stupidity,” he lamented in a New York Times editorial in March 1930. The reason? Because, Wiggam argued, as the final stage of supposed “progress,” civilization encouraged altruism and sympathy, which in turn helped so-called “moron types” (eugenicists’ term for those with an IQ between 51 and 70) and the “physically and mentally unfit, through charitable institutions, prolong their lives and propagate others of their kind” (3). Statements like this, though disturbing, were not uncommon during the first part of the 20th century. Ideas and anxieties about race improvement or race degeneration flourished in a time of rampant racism, classism, and ableism. In 1904, for example, Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech in which he lamented the degeneration of the (white, Anglo-

For Wiggam, science clearly laid out a path of action, a duty, even, for “bettering” the human race. “Eugenical truth,” Wiggam urged, “is the highest truth men will ever know” (5). Clearly, for Wiggam, without eugenics, humanity was doomed. Despite all the medical advances, he argued, a social organization based on orthodox ideas of Christian sympathy and charity would take care of the unfit, thereby allowing degenerate individuals to reproduce. Amid what he called “the rising tide of degeneracy,” Wiggam turned to eugenics as “the field of hope and inquiry” (5). Indeed, Wiggam perceived


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


ABOVE: Early 20th Century cartoonist Samuel D. Ehrhart’s depiction of “race suicide” all social issues through the lens of eugenics. “Prohibition,” he wrote, “is above all a eugenical question” (5). He argued that prohibition was harmful to the health of the race, as “alcohol is probably an agent of race improvement,” and “if they had reflected a little further, it might have occurred to them that nothing better could have happened for the race, especially if alcohol carried the foolish persons off before they had children” (5). One of the most interesting components of Wiggam’s work is how he appealed to religious sentiments and beliefs to defend eugenic thinking and policies. Modernist Christianity developed out of a strong tradition of liberal theology, in which the Bible was examined as a story, but an important story that contained a code of morals that good Christians ought to follow. Since the 19th century, theological liberals had modified central doctrines, such as the reliability of the Bible or the means to salvation, in order to adapt Christianity to modern values, especially science (6). Wiggam’s book The New Decalogue of Science described eugenics as the final step in the divinely-approved progress of mankind and produced, as the title hinted, 10 new commandments arising from biology (including the “duty of eugenics”). When presenting at Chautauqua lectures and standing in small-town auditoriums across the United States, Wiggam employed religious language to both connect to his audience and orchestrate this “new religion” of eugenics. Wiggam was not alone in appealing to religious sentiment and values to justify eugenic thinking and policies. The American Eugenics Society held eugenics-themed sermon contests for clergymen with a monetary prize (one contest was advertised in the University of Puget Sound’s student newspaper The Trail in 1930), sponsored lectures, and also published eugenics pamphlets, brochures, and other media. In addition, The Eugenics Record Office’s pamphlet entitled “A Eugenics Catechism” became wildly popular. “A Eugenics Catechism” provided answers to questions about eugenics, inheritance, and the environment. For example, “Which counts for more, heredity or the environment?” received the


answer, “They are interdependent” and the existence of slums was attributed to “Inferior people in inferior places” (7). In addition, the American Eugenics Society (AES) published the costs of the environmental improvement of the human race (in 1926, $1,385,220,000) and the economic cost of genetic improvement ($300,000). The AES said that sterilization surgery was “as easy as pulling a tooth” (7). Wiggam described eugenics as approved by God and the “enlightened” Christian. “If His will is ever to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” Wiggam wrote, invoking the Lord’s Prayer, “it will have to be done through the instrumentalities of science, that is, through the use of intelligence” (8). He added: “Eugenics is a method ordained of God and seated in natural law for securing better parents for our children, in order that they may be born more richly endowed, mentally, morally, and physically for the human struggle. (8).” Science and religion were not antagonistic for Wiggam, or for Wiggam’s audience. Wiggam’s writings connected an individual’s religious, modern Christian duty with new scientific morality. Science could create a new Heaven on Earth, which also implied that Hell would result should the “biological imperatives” of eugenics not be adopted. After describing the prospect of racial degeneration without eugenics, he concluded: “These warnings at first should make you tremble, they should secondly make you pray, and they should thirdly fill you with the militant faith of a new evangel” (8). Wiggam’s language appealed to modernist and liberal Christians who believed in progress through science, and that the future of the human race must be valued over and above the rights of the individual. For more on the relation between eugenics and religion, see Christine Rosen’s Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement. Popular science accounts like Wiggam’s can tell us a great deal about the social, economic, and political factors that nurtured interest in eugenics, including among scientists intent on reconciling religion and science. Understanding stories like Wiggam’s allows us to watch how and why particular scientific ideas moved into the popular consciousness, how the translation of these scientific ideas depended upon religious categories and language, and how what we are tempted to call a pseudoscience was in fact firmly supported by the scientists of the day. In addition, this history should inspire us to pay closer attention to the language, metaphors, and assumptions that we use to talk about the aims of science.


Scientific Motherhood and Eugenics BY ANNELISE PHELPS

In the early 1900s, texts on “scientific motherhood” were central to spreading the messages of the American eugenics movement. Scientific motherhood was based on the idea that mothers can and should look to science as a guide for how to raise the “fittest” children. Probably the most famous practices to come out of the movement for scientific motherhood were the “better baby contests” held at state fairs, including Washington’s (1). These contests tested not only the fitness of the babies but the child-rearing capabilities of their mothers, all based upon certain ideas about what constituted science, motherhood, and fitness.

The Science Better baby and fitter family contests reflected the close ties between eugenics and research on animal breeding. Supporters of the eugenics movement often used agricultural language to promote their messages. For example, a pediatrician and eugenics supporter in the early 1900s wrote: “[The] highest attention has long been paid to the breeding of handsome and healthy animals, and but little to the breeding of beautiful and healthy children” (2). The use of agricultural rhetoric in these new conversations about motherhood seemed to give scientific merit to the practice of eugenics. Indeed, the better baby contests were set up similarly to livestock competitions to promote the goal of creating “a better crop of children.” During the contests, judges performed measurements and tests on the babies and reviewed their families’ eugenic histories in order to determine which baby was the most fit. These contests promoted the idea (common within eugenic literature) that science could objectively rank human beings based on an assessment of physically measurable qualities. They also implied that a woman’s primary role in society was to follow eugenic teachings in order to give the next generation of Americans the best possible health and quality of life (2).

Motherhood Eugenic literature on motherhood made clear that a woman’s success as a responsible U.S. citizen was based on whether or not her genes were eugenically fit enough to pass on to the next generation. Doctors and biologists who supported eugenics told American women that they should only procreate if they fit a certain eugenic image of the ideal mother. That ideal was an able and obedient woman, ready to lead a life of domesticity to support her husband and children. Additionally, guidebooks outlined particular ways women should behave prior to marriage, in marriage, and while pregnant. For example, Eugenics, or the Laws of Sex Life and Heredity suggested that in determining one’s own fitness for marriage and reproduction, “accomplishments, social position, health and beauty should all be considered” (3). Eugenic guidebooks also told women when to have children. The optimal age for pregnancy was that which produced the least birth defects and instances of infant mortality. Most sources pegged that prime age as the early 20s: women were not ready to be mothers in their teens, and women in their late 20s and beyond experienced more complications with child-bearing (4). All of the eugenic guidebooks stressed the importance of having the right number of children at the right time in order to optimize the eugenic fitness of one’s offspring and thus future generations. Additionally, the guidebooks urged that a woman must choose the right man in order to ensure the eugenic well-being of her children. Women were told to avoid marrying men who were poor, non-white, or physically or mentally disabled. “Don’t fail,” women were warned, “to consider the grade of the one you are to marry” (3). Racism, ableism, and classism all influenced contemporary views of what constituted the right “grade” of mate.



Eugenics and Birth Control Eventually (and ironically), given the concern with child and maternal welfare, the eugenic motherhood movement intersected with the birth control movement. The birth control movement often utilized the ideology of the American eugenics movement to advance its agenda and appeal to a wider audience. Contained within information distributed by advocates for birth control were themes of promoting good heredity and improving the human race. As historian Linda Gordon notes, “It would be hard to find a single piece of writing on voluntary motherhood between 1890 and 1910 that did not assert that unwanted children were likely to be morally and/or physically defective” (5). Citing a presumed correlation between the mother’s desire for the child and good quality heredity, some proponents of birth control argued women should be given more choice regarding motherhood as central to eugenic measures. Advocates for reproductive rights, such as Margaret Sanger, often used classist eugenic ideology to supplement their arguments for why women should have increased access to birth control. Many supporters of the birth control movement believed that promoting increased access to contraceptives among members of the lower socioeconomic classes would encourage them to have fewer children, thereby helping to lift the burden of the poor from society. Some eugenicists, by contrast, argued against birth control on the grounds those most likely to have the “foresight” to use contraception were the ones the nation most needed to reproduce. Ultimately, the idea of eugenic motherhood pressured those deemed eugenically fit to make particular life choices (namely, to reproduce for the good of the race). This movement also entailed judgments about eugenic fitness, and in doing so ultimately contributed to support among the public, scientists, and politicians for legalized coerced sterilization.


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

ABOVE: July 1919 edition of the “Birth Control Review,” a periodical published by Margaret Sanger


Eugenics and Birth Control BY KATHERINE GLADHART-HAYES


tories about changing laws that impact reproductive health and rights are constantly in the news. Most often (in liberal media, at least), such stories portray a long push towards access against traditional moral arguments. Many people are unaware that abortion was legal in the United States until the 1840s. The history of these bans, and of other policies and practices around reproductive health, is closely tied to the biases and prejudices evident in the eugenics movement. Indeed, policies around birth control and abortion have both been shaped by eugenics or eugenics-like thinking.

While the early abortion bans of the 1840s predate the eugenics movement (which began in the 1880s), they reflected many of the same ideas and assumptions about the relative value of different groups. For example, proponents of these bills were concerned about declining birth rates among upper-middle-class white women relative to low-income women and women of color (1). At the turn of the century, some eugenicists began using the phrase “race suicide,” to express this long-standing fear that the white population, through greater access to abortion, would decline in numbers relative to people of color. The prevalence of racist assumptions about who “should” be breeding meant that just as white, middle class women achieved more access to birth control, other women were denied reproductive autonomy. The history of birth control, including sterilization, further demonstrates the tight ties between legislation related to reproductive rights and the history of both “positive” and “negative” eugenics (see page 8). Policies based on positive eugenics sought to encourage the “breeding” of those deemed “fit” while negative eugenics sought to limit the “breeding” of the “unfit.” The negative eugenics policies of forced sterilization targeted both communities of color and people with disabilities. Writing about forced sterilization of Indigenous women in the U.S., some scholars use the term “sterilization abuse” to encompass a range of non-consensual and coercive procedures (2). As late as the 1970s, some women reported that they were asked to consent to sterilization procedures while they were in labor (2). One woman reported being given “vitamins” that turned out to be birth control pills (2); another woman, at the age of 20, consented to a hysterectomy after being told the procedure was reversible (3). In studying the prevalence of such practices in the U.S., Dr. Connie Pinkerton-Uri concluded in 1974 that they targeted “full-blood Indian women” (3).

ABOVE: Margaret Sanger, a 20th-century birth control activist who helped found what is now the Planned Parenthood Federation of America


SPECIAL FEATURE: HISTORY OF EUGENICS Distribution of birth control methods presented a range of practices and ethical gray areas. Some cases, such as those in which individuals were explicitly lied to regarding their care, demonstrate clear ethics violations. In other instances, the line between coercion and empowerment is less clear, as with distribution of birth control to Indigenous women in Northern Canada. Scholars Erika Dyck and Maureen Lux write that “[d]istributing birth control in the 1970s cannot be neatly described as uniformly coercive or unilaterally requested” as women found there to be both empowering and controlling aspects to birth control access (4). For married, middle-class white women, the language of eugenics and public health offered opportunities to advocate for greater control over their reproductive decisions. Dyck writes of women in Alberta between the 1930s and ’60s “conceptualizing reproductive rights as a form of modern, perhaps even scientific, feminism”

(5). These individuals pushed against ideas that only the “unfit” could access sterilization procedures or birth control options and make decisions themselves. The story of eugenics and birth control is complex. Eugenic policies both restricted and supported reproductive autonomy in different ways for different groups of people. While the U.S. and Canadian governments sterilized many individuals without their consent, negative eugenics policies allowing for sterilization also allowed some women greater access to reproductive care. Many proponents of birth control access are also strong supporters of abortion access. A nuanced understanding of how eugenics and eugenics-like thinking has shaped policies around these issues in restrictive ways allows for a thoughtful approach to justice and access, recognizing that access is not the most important question, if it isn’t accompanied by justice.

LEFT: Pamphlet published by the U.S. Department of Health and Wellness in 1974 to promote sterilization among Native Americans Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons



The Slater Museum of Natural History: The Story of a Name BY GRACE EBERHARDT

Introduction My sophomore year of college was the first and last time I was lab partners with another student of Color. I remember we would speak Spanish to each other as we attempted to reach the light pink coloration a titration lab required of us. I felt a sense of belonging and freedom to be myself, something I hadn’t realized I was missing. To a student of Color in the sciences, Thompson Hall can feel lonely as monochromatic crowds of students and professors pulsate in and out of classrooms. And as my concerns about isolation and loneliness took over, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable when I learned that the Slater Museum of Natural History was named after a professor who had taught eugenics from 1919 to 1951, well after the end of the Second World War, when many people assume eugenic thinking disappeared in the wake of the Holocaust. What makes matters worse is that the historic timeline in front of the museum makes no mention of Slater’s eugenic teachings. This history, perhaps unintentionally, has been erased. My heart sank every time I passed the museum, which was most days on my way to class. I had to do something about it. I decided to research the history and ethics of the name with the guidance of Professor Kristin Johnson (in the Science, Technology and Society Department) and Professor Peter Wimberger (the Director of the museum). Professor Dexter Gordon, of the African American Studies Department and the Race and Pedagogy Institute, helped me find my positionality and narrative during this research. I needed to know: Who was Professor Slater? What was taught in his eugenics courses? Were Slater’s eugenics courses taught relatively late compared to other local universities? And, given the history, should the Slater Museum of Natural History be renamed?

Slater: A Pacific Northwest Herpetologist Professor James R. Slater obtained his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University after serving in the U.S. Air Force during World War I and later received his graduate degree from Syracuse University in 1917. Slater then went on to teach biology at the College of Puget Sound (CPS) from 1919–1951. During that time, Slater founded the natural history museum, serving as its director until 1951. Contrary to popular belief,

Slater was not the first professor of science at the College of Puget Sound. A woman named Mabel R. Simpson A.M. taught the first botany and biology courses from 1908 to 1918. Slater did, however, direct the biology department for over three decades (1). Slater was a herpetologist, researching amphibians of the Pacific Northwest. Although his research interests had nothing to do with eugenics, and he probably taught the course because it was a standard component of biology curricula by the 1920s, evidence suggests he supported a range of eugenic ideas. This evidence includes Slater’s teaching of eugenics throughout his entire career at CPS, his membership in the American Eugenics Society, a eugenics pamphlet he kept from 1910, his notes on eugenics in his journal dated 1917–1955, exam questions he wrote for his eugenics class in 1939, and his advisee James Legg’s 1947 thesis in support of eugenic sterilization.

“Mental Hygiene and Eugenics”: A College of Puget Sound Biology Course Slater taught the course entitled “Mental Hygiene and Eugenics,” later titled “Eugenics,” at the College of Puget Sound from 1919 until his retirement, when Professor Gordon D. Alcorn took it over until (presumably) removing it from the bulletin in 1954. Though there are few archival documents that show the course content, I was able to find the course description in the Puget Sound bulletin (Figure 1) and Slater’s 1939 eugenics test questions (Figure 2). The most compelling evidence as to what Slater taught and supported can be drawn from his advisee’s 1947 thesis on eugenic sterilization. CPS student James Legg’s thesis “Eugenic Sterilization” can be found in Puget Sound’s Collins Memorial Library. Legg defended eugenic sterilization after the removal of Washington State sterilization laws, indicating late support for sterilization. In his thesis, Legg wrote a synopsis of state eugenic laws across the country and the different sterilization procedures done on women and men, but he did not tackle the ethical questions regarding sterilization being raised by others at the time. Furthermore, Legg wrote multiple statements in support of negative eugenics (policies aimed at preventing those with “undesirable” traits from procreating) (2). For example, Legg wrote:


SPECIAL FEATURE: HISTORY OF EUGENICS “It seems to me immaterial whether we hold that a boy is a bad citizen because he has inherited bad traits for his forebears or whether we blame his childhood environment for these; in either case, if he is the child of bad parents he has not had the right start, and they ought never to have produced him. (3) ” Given some might be tempted to dismiss Slater’s teaching of eugenics as simply representative of contemporary thinking, one of the most helpful parts of Legg’s thesis for my research was his testimony regarding opposition to eugenic thinking in Tacoma Public Schools and in local colleges at the time he wrote his thesis. Legg wrote about an instance where a college student was asked to discuss the field of his interest on the radio station KMO. Once he announced his topic as eugenics, the radio host, hired by the station and Tacoma Public schools, refused to allow the student to speak on the subject. Legg then criticized the popular idea that eugenics was, as he wrote, a “Nazi persecution measure” (3). This shows that the general attitude in Tacoma in the late ’40s probably leaned against eugenics, yet Slater continued to teach his course and presumably endorsed certain kinds of eugenic thinking and policies. Since Slater’s student defended eugenics as late as 1947 amid criticism inspired by knowledge of what happened during the Holocaust, it is not historically accurate to claim that Slater was “a man of his time” who can or should not be judged by a later standard.

Figure 2. Eugenics test questions found in Slater’s grade book from 1939. (Visit the online archive at the link on page 7 to view hypothesized answers to these test questions.) school, and Washington State University (WSU), formerly called Washington State College (WSC), a land grant university (LGU). Land grant universities like Washington State College influenced the science curriculum nationally (4). Thus, I am using WSC, an LGU, to represent the national standard for science curriculum, and thus the national and local standard for eugenics course offerings.

Figure 1. Course descriptions for Mental Hygiene and Eugenics from the 1927-1928 Puget Sound Bulletin

Eugenic Teachings: When Were Eugenics Courses Typically Taught in Pacific Northwest Universities? In order to determine whether Slater’s eugenics teachings were taught past the time when such courses were considered socially and scientifically acceptable, I compared CPS to other local universities (Figure 3), including Willamette University (WU), a liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest, University of Washington (UW), a public state


When comparing these four schools, I expected larger state schools and smaller liberal arts schools to have similar start and end dates for eugenics course offerings, since larger state schools tended to provide the model for science curricula at smaller schools (4). However, this prediction did not match with the years the UW, WSU, WU, and CPS offered eugenics courses. As seen in Figure 3, CPS offered eugenics courses for 35 years in contrast to their liberal arts college counterpart, WU, which taught eugenics for 14 years. Additionally, WSC stopped eugenics course offerings four years prior to CPS and UW stopped offering eugenics courses five years prior to CPS. Although Slater’s eugenics offerings do not seem late compared to WSC and UW, they were late when compared to the liberal arts college WU.

Figure created by Grace Eberhardt


Figure 3. The start year and end years of eugenics course offerings at four different universities: Washington State College (WSC) now called Washington State University, Willamette University (WU), University of Washington (UW), and the College of Puget Sound (CPS) now called the University of Puget Sound

accepted component of biology curricula, he continued the course after it was being removed from other universities and local, state, and national criticisms were growing. Although Professor Slater founded the museum and the museum was renamed in 1979 to honor him as the founder, in making my recommendation I prioritize the symbolic meaning and values conveyed by the names we choose to commemorate the past. There are many accounts of students of Color not feeling a sense of belonging in STEM disciplines (5, 6, 7). I believe the priority of the University and of the Slater Museum of Natural History should be one of inclusion. Given that STEM fields are mostly made up of White students and professors (8), we need to improve the learning environment and culture of STEM altogether. Providing a historical exhibit about Puget Sound’s history of eugenic teaching and changing the name of the Slater Museum of Natural History is a good place to start.

The Slater Museum of Natural History: What Should the Name Be? Given the research I did over the summer of 2019, here are my recommendations as to how we should move forward with the name of the Slater Museum of Natural History. First and foremost, we cannot let this history be hidden any longer. Thus, I recommend that there be a permanent historical exhibit on this topic placed in front of the museum. Secondly, I do recommend that the name of the museum be changed. I do not believe we should memorialize Professor Slater because, though he may have started teaching eugenics when it was an LEFT: Professor Slater and Alcorn in the natural history museum, circa 1948 Photo courtesy of Collins Memorial Library Digital Collections



Art by Melina Christensen


The Curious Case of Potato Phylogeny: A lesson in convergent evolution BY MAYA SEALANDER


alk into the grocery store and head toward the produce section. You will find yourself passing displays of meticulously stacked fruits and perfectly organized vegetables. In the far back corner, you’ll eventually reach the potatoes. Sitting there in their tuberous glory, the tan russets, the appropriately named yukon golds, maybe a pile of red or purple-skinned spuds. And next to them are the sweet potatoes. Or are they yams? Aren’t they the same thing? The humble potato can trace its roots (er, tubers) to the Andes Mountains of South America, where over 360 cultivated and wild varieties of potato flourish (1). Today’s potato plants, Solanum tuberosum, share a genus with tomato, eggplant, and over 1,500 other species (2). Variations within the species come from cultivars, plants selected over time for specific traits like tuber size, color, and shape in a process similar to animal breeding. The natural variation lends itself to the diverse physical characteristics of the potato varieties we see today.

Despite not being closely related, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams are an example of convergent evolution, a phenomenon where organisms evolve similar traits despite their lack of relation. In this case, all three groups have developed starchy roots or tubers. Yet, comparing related species such as the tomato and potato show that only the potato grows large tubers. Convergent evolution appears everywhere in biology, although there is a lack of consensus surrounding its precise definition and cause (6). So the next time you’re out shopping, think about the millions of years of evolution that separated sweet potatoes from potatoes, or how yams are phylogenetically closer to grasses than potatoes. Despite their genetic differences, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams ended up in the present day as delicious bundles of starch for plants to store energy and for us to eat. While it may not seem obvious at first glance, the produce section contains a rich history of convergent evolution.

Now that we’ve covered the potato, what about its sweeter cousin? The sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, is a vine from a botanist’s view (3). The sweet potato and potato both belong to the order Solanales, and their respective families diverged around 88 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period, long enough ago that dinosaurs were still roaming the earth (4). What is labeled in the grocery store as a yam is most likely a sweet potato, but true yams are not even relatives to sweet potatoes! The genus Dioscorea contains the species of yams most commonly grown today, and they are so distantly related to sweet potatoes that the smallest taxonomic group containing both is the angiosperms, or flowering plants, which encompasses almost 300,000 of the 374,000 known plant species (5).


sweet potato

potato Art by Anna Perlmutter


Campus Birds BY HAYLEY RETTIG ART BY MELINA CHRISTENSEN Have you ever wondered why every Friday there’s a crowd of 20 people in front of the Slater Museum? Have you ever been walking around campus and had people with binoculars blocking your path? Have you ever tried to spot whatever they were staring at and not seen anything? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’ve had an encounter with the campus bird walks! These bird walks have been occurring on campus since 2016 and are led by Will Brooks (’20). Bird walks are open to anyone and everyone. There does tend to be a slight attendance bias towards science students, but many faculty members and non-science students regularly participate. Sometimes even people from the offcampus community join in. Walks usually last about an hour (depending on the weather) and consist of strolling around campus looking for local birds. Some of the regular stops along the walk include President’s Woods and the large trees near McIntyre. However, not everyone has time to dedicate an hour each week to walking around campus looking at birds. That’s what this guide is for! This is your DIY identification guide to some of the most common birds on campus that might otherwise fly under the radar.

Our first bird is the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis). These songbirds are a type of sparrow that can frequently be found foraging on the ground in any patch of dirt on campus, as sparrows often do (1). Juncos are recognizable from their characteristic dark head that makes them look like they’re wearing little robber hoods. Another characteristic trait are their white feathers on either side of the tail, which can be seen when Juncos are in flight. Once you start looking underneath bushes and shrubs, you’ll immediately start noticing these little birds. Their song is a two-note trill that sounds like someone rapidly playing the same two notes on a piano over and over (but a little less musical). While Juncos might not be the flashiest birds on campus, they certainly are some of the most abundant.

ABOVE: Anna’s Hummingbird Another surprisingly common bird on campus are Anna’s Hummingbirds (Calypte anna). Ask anyone on campus who owns a hummingbird feeder and they’ll tell you that they love these charismatic little birds. Anna’s Hummingbirds are no longer than four inches, but make up for their lack of size with their big personalities. Multiple times, there have been hummingbirds that hover no more than three or four feet away from the bird walk group. Anna’s Hummingbirds truly have no fear. These birds have light green bodies that stand out when they’re perched on top of small trees. The males have a set of reddish-pink feathers covering their face and because of their iridescence, these feathers look best in direct sunlight (2). The hummingbirds that you’ll see most often on campus are the males, who set up and defend territories from other rival males. This means if you see a hummingbird hanging out in a certain spot over and over again, you’ve probably just found its territory. One good spot to look is in the smaller trees between Thompson and Wyatt. You can also listen for its song, which consists of high thin buzzing and chipping notes.

ABOVE: Dark-eyed Junco 22 | ELEMENTS

While on the topic of very small birds, another little bird on campus is the Pacific Wren (Troglodytes pacificus). While you probably haven’t ever seen this bird, you’ve almost definitely heard it singing from across campus. Pacific Wrens are not very flashy birds; they’re small, brown, and very elusive. If you ever catch a glimpse of them, Pacific Wrens are recognizable by their small round body and tail that sticks almost straight up (3). Realistically, you’re going to hear this bird long before you ever see it. If you’ve ever been walking around campus at night and wondered what bird is singing at the top of its lungs, that’s the Pacific Wren. Their song consists of all kinds of jumbled-up notes and lasts anywhere from 15–20 seconds (3). So, the next time you hear birdsong out by the library at night, you can rest easy knowing it’s just a little brown bird singing its heart out. Moving to a slightly larger scale we have the most obvious woodpecker on campus, the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus). These are the ones that you see drilling holes into the S.U.B. every spring. Flickers are medium-sized birds with brown backs, black speckles, and a black “collar” across their front. Males have two bright red patches on both cheeks (4). Like the Pacific Wren, Flickers are another bird you’re more likely to hear than see. Their call is often described as a “kleer” and the sound carries over a great distance (4). Unlike most woodpeckers, you can often see Flickers foraging for food on the ground. When startled off the ground, Northern Flickers reveal their characteristic white rump. While not the only woodpeckers we get on campus, Flickers certainly are some of the boldest.

RIGHT: Barn Swallow

LEFT: Violet-Green Swallow

LEFT: Pacific Wren

ABOVE: Northern Flicker Our last birds are those whose arrival indicates that spring has sprung. Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and Violet-green Swallows (Tachycineta thalassina) migrate to campus from their wintering grounds in Mexico in order to breed (5). If you have any friends who are birders, you might have heard about the Barn Swallow nest on top of a light fixture near the S.U.B. When not using outdoor lamps as nest sites, both species of swallow can be seen performing aerial acrobatics over Todd Field. When looking at all those swallows flying around, telling Barn apart from Violet-green can seem pretty daunting. But it’s actually pretty simple! Barn Swallows typically have yellow bellies, heavily forked tails, and dark blue backs (5). Violet-green Swallows (as the name suggests) have violet and green backs, no fork in their tails, and white bellies (6). Keep an eye out this spring as you enjoy the warmer weather! While this is not a completely comprehensive guide, hopefully now you can walk around campus with a little bit more knowledge about what’s out there in the President’s Woods. So, the next time you see that group of people with binoculars blocking your way to class, ask them if they’ve seen anything cool that day. Don’t forget to always keep an eye (and an ear) out for the birds that call our campus home! Good luck and good birding!


The Nurse Log Perspective: The process of temperate rainforest succession f rom the point of view of a Sitka Spruce BY SEAN GREALISH ART BY BISMIKADO Over 180 years ago, a typical winter storm battered the Olympic Peninsula, shaking the temperate rainforest ecosystem established there. It is certainly strange to have a rainforest this far north, but as clouds come off the Pacific Ocean they hit the Olympic Mountain range and drop 14 feet of rain on the coast there every year. As a McCormick scholar in Professor Woods’ Ecology lab last summer, I had the pleasure of getting up close and personal with this fascinating ecosystem and its succession processes. The following is the approximate story of a single nurse log from the night it fell around 180 years ago until I sampled it over last summer. To experience this story, please enjoy briefly “stepping into the bark” of a Sitka Spruce tree just as it begins to fall: In the heart of the gale I am thrown around by gusts of wind and with a splintering noise my trunk finally gives out. After growing for more than 200 years and standing at many hundreds of feet tall, all of my majesty tumbles to the ground with a massive crash, destroying boughs of neighboring trees and crushing the understory beneath me. Then, everything is quiet. A bird occasionally flutters past me and elk cross the raging Hoh River nearby, but no heed is paid to me, the giant on the ground. For years I lie silently on the forest floor while the moss communities that grew on my trunk while I was upright continue to thrive in their new horizontal habitat. Only a few centimeters tall and sparsely distributed, they stand in stark contrast to the dense and thick forest floor mosses that surround me on all sides and suffocate any new tree seedlings attempting to germinate upon them. It has now been 40 years since I fell, and

ABOVE: Stag beetle Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock seedlings are starting to find the safe haven of my trunk high above the inhospitable ground moss. To start, only a few manage to grow upon my trunk, but after 90 years on the ground there are up to 40 germinates (<5cm tall) and seedlings (>5cm tall) growing on a single meter of my trunk! This is where the name “nurse log” originates, but to say that I am consciously caring for these little trees like children does seem a bit anthropomorphic. At this point I begin to decay; most of my bark has fallen off or rotted away, and if you were to kick me (please don’t!) debris would fall off me. Nevertheless I stand strong and would support your weight if you walked on me. However, the ground mosses are turning the tide against me, and 120 years after I fell in that cold winter storm they now cover 50% of my surface. After 140 years the seedlings are less numerous, only those that had previously found a foothold remaining on my trunk. As the ground moss continues to crowd out my original tree mosses, I slowly become just as inhospitable to new seedlings as the forest floor that surrounds me. Finally, I reach the final phase of my journey on the


ground. It has taken 180 years for me to completely decay, but I now exist as just a hump in the ground, completely covered in ground mosses like a paper mache sculpture over a disintegrating mold. In reality there is hardly any of me left; if you stepped on me you would find a 20-centimeter-deep moss layer with an empty hollow underneath where I used to be. The only things growing successfully on me are the trees that established themselves many decades ago, who no longer rely on my support for their growth. They too will grow up tall and strong for over 200 years, and they too will eventually fall to the ground. Just as I have, they will spend the next 200 years supporting a new generation of towering giants in this unique temperate rainforest ecosystem as the cycle continues slowly and silently in the falling rain. The story above is rooted in the field research that I (the author) conducted on the Olympic Peninsula last summer. By taking cores of nurse logs and aligning their tree rings with those of standing trees, I was able to establish when the nurse log had fallen. Combining these measurements with surveys of the nurse log surface community allowed me to trace how the community on the surface of a nurse log changes as the log decays into the forest floor. While the story above has been slightly embellished, all numbers or percentages are taken directly from the data collected to yield a fascinating story of temperate rainforest succession.

ABOVE: Yellow-rumpled warbler


Free Range or Tight Reins? Climate Change and the Future of Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Brumby Horses BY MARIA LEUZINGER


In May of 1787, seven horses set sail on a voyage from able to tread over scorched land to reach food that animals Portsmouth, England to Botany Bay in New South Wales, with vulnerable padded feet cannot. This process also makes Australia. Aboard 11 settler ships known as the First Fleet, the land more susceptible to future wildfires as vegetation is these horses included hardy working breeds such as never given the chance to regrow. “When [ecosystems] have a Clydesdales and other draft horses. After eight months at sea, really massive disturbance,” says Andrew Cox at the Australian the horses landed in mid-January of 1788, and would later Invasive Species Council, “all of sudden they tip over into a become some of the first ancestors to the invasive and feral different kind of ecosystem and you end up with species Australian horses now known as brumbies (1). These horses that can tolerate the constant fire, the constant drought, the are thought to have belonged to James Brumby, a farrier constant disturbance from development” (3). Climate change who often let his horses roam freely in New South Wales. and brumby horses are altering Australia’s landscape faster The horses allowed early settlers to explore large swaths of than it can keep up. Australia’s terrain, and later played important roles in the First and Second World Wars. Brumbies have since come to In the southernmost mountainous regions of New South Wales symbolize Australian values, and while the red Kangaroo holds lies Kosciuszko National Park, home to many endangered tight to the prestigious title of Australia’s national animal, the plant and animal species. The fires forced brumbies into the brumbies are a close contender. They even have a professional alpine regions of Kosciuszko at much larger concentrations rugby team named after them. But despite what their than would be typical. Here, they contribute to the loss of endearing nickname might suggest, these alpine moss and peat, pushing species rugged equines have wreaked extensive “Safeguarding a nation’s like the water skink closer to the brink havoc on native Australian species and cultural heritage is as of extinction. These scaly critters require ecosystems, and the damage they cause is important as protecting tall, thick grasses to hide from predators only being further exacerbated by climate and regulate their body temperature, its environmental change. heritage. But a fantasy, and with more brumbies to graze and trample their protective grasses, they however appealing, Surprisingly, many invasive species will now face a much longer road to recovery initially benefit from rising temperatures should not be allowed to (4). Likewise, the poisonous corroboree and extreme weather patterns spurred outweigh good science.” frog, with its distinctive yellow and black on by climate change. Natural disasters splotches, lives around rivers and small weaken local ecosystems and decrease food competition for streams in the mountains. As the brumbies erode the banks of invasive species. Because they lack natural predators, and these alpine streams, their urine causes the water pH levels to do not fulfill a specific ecological role, the populations of fall, killing the frogs (5). invasive species often go unchecked. They are able to wipe out food sources before native animals can rebound. In turn, the Although the ecological harm caused by brumby horses is damage they cause will worsen the effects of climate change not under question, just how to tackle the issue remains a hot in those already fragile ecosystems. This is painfully evident topic between policy makers, ecologists, and animal rights in the case of the recent Australian wildfires and the invasive activists. Even the subtle usage of “feral” versus “wild” can brumby horses. indicate where a group’s values lie. Some consider them a pest, others as an embodiment of the Australian spirit. Small The Australian fires originated in New South Wales and, amphibians, rodents, reptiles, and insects do not typically since their beginning in November of 2019, have decimated garner the admiration given to brumbies, despite forming an estimated sixteen million acres of land and killed millions the foundation of Australia’s ecosystems. In his op-ed “The of animals (2). Australia has no native hoofed animals and as Alarming Allure of Australia’s Brumbies,” A. Odysseus Patrik such its landscape never adapted to endure the horses’ hard states: hooves. Brumbies, as well as invasive deer and goats, are

Photo by Christine Mendoza on Unsplash

LEFT: Brumbies in Kosciuszko National Park


“The environment is being sacrificed for a national myth… The cultural bias for brumbies has helped the tourism industry — reinforced by anti-scientific sentiment among rural communities — to successfully lobby government officials to end an annual culling of the horses. Safeguarding a nation’s cultural heritage is as important as protecting its environmental heritage. But a fantasy, however appealing, should not be allowed to outweigh good science” (6). After the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Bill passed in 2018, allowing brumbies to remain in Kosciuszko National Park, environmental scientists feared the alpine landscape would never be given an opportunity to recover. Many scientists believe that non-lethal forms of culling, such as sterilization or relocation, will not be sufficient to harness the steadily increasing brumby population. The bill even prompted one

Photo by Australian Alps on Flickr

ABOVE: Frog in Kosciuszko National Park


ecology professor to resign from his chair on the New South Wale government’s threatened species scientific committee, saying he could “no longer continue to justify committing [his] time, energy and professional insight” (7). However, groups such as the Hunter Valley Brumby Association believe that a sustainable brumby population in Kosciuszko National Park is feasible, and advocate the trapping and private adoption of brumbies from the park (8). It remains uncertain whether this strategy could decrease the brumby population fast enough before reaching an ecological tipping point, after which species such as the water skink and corroboree frog may never bounce back. As with most climate-related issues, the challenges presented by Australian brumbies are not solely climate issues. Rather, this ecological dilemma intersects with public policy, ethics, national values, and even economics. Addressing this issue will require a willingness to consider opinions other than our own, and finding a solution that satisfies everyone while still protecting the environment will be no easy feat. But by doing so, perhaps we can find ways to rein in our own environmental impacts before time runs out.

Beyond Simba: Broadening Our Perceptions About Africaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Wildlife ARTICLE AND PHOTOS BY NICO HEYNING



hen you think about Africa, a specific image may come to mind. I certainly had preconceived notions about the continent before traveling abroad to study wildlife management and conservation in Tanzania and Kenya, East Africa. When people think of Africa, they often think of hakuna matata from The Lion King or the great kingdoms of Egypt. However, let’s set these stereotypes aside. First of all, instead of hakuna matata, use hakuna shida. It’s more commonly used than the westernized hakuna matata. Secondly, Africa is much more than these two examples, which don’t even scratch the surface on how complex the organisms and ecosystems are. Focusing only on The Lion King or Egypt means neglecting the complexities of the different cultures, histories, and wildlife species in Africa. Wildlife conservation is important everywhere, Africa included, but it is a complicated field. Conservation work requires an understanding of the wildlife, ecosystems, and social and political stances in an area. Sometimes, we try to make conservation a black-and-white problem, where it is really a spectrum. Understanding the human and wildlife aspects helps researchers, local communities, and governments make sustainable choices that benefit all parties. In order to understand wildlife, we must focus on all organisms, not just the most visible. Most people associate Africa with the Big Five: lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalos. Although these creatures play important roles, it’s important to learn about lesser-known wildlife, from the smallest gecko to the waterbuck. Birds in Africa play critical roles in both tourism and the ecosystem. Around 14% of Tanzania’s gross domestic product (GDP) is generated from tourism, with the industry employing around 460,000 Tanzanians annually (1). One major aspect of ecotourism is birding, which involves individuals tracking the number and species of birds seen on a particular day. While studying abroad in Tanzania and Kenya, I documented 85 species of birds, ranging from the small Blue-capped Cordonbleu to the largest bird in the world, the Common Ostrich (2).


Besides being an underrated aspect of African wildlife, these birds also play important roles in their ecosystems, serving as pollinators, seed dispersers, and predators. Sunbirds fill the same ecological niche as hummingbirds in the Americas, pollinating a vast array of plants (2). The Secretary Bird can kill venomous snakes and other reptiles by stomping on them (3). Martial Eagles predate on small and large antelopes by grabbing them and dropping them from great heights (2). These organisms, along with the classic carnivores, help keep herbivores in check. Close your eyes and think about hyenas: chances are the unintelligent, ugly joker hyenas from The Lion King come to mind. Spotted hyenas and other members of the Hyaenidae family have had a bad reputation over the years due to poor portrayal in popular culture. While I was in Africa, these were some of my favorite animals. Hyenas are complex animals, socially, behaviorally, and anatomically. Efforts are currently being made to understand the social and behavioral aspects of hyenas, which are poorly known. A misconception about hyenas is that they have a completely matriarchal society. Research in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania has shown that although female hyenas have social dominance over males who immigrate to the clan, spotted hyenas inherit their rank from their mother, meaning that a male can be in a socially higher position than a female (4). However, the structure of the hierarchy can change with the birth, death, migration, and immigration of new hyenas. Their social structure isn’t the only complex aspect of hyenas; their reproduction is also unique. Female spotted hyenas have a fused urinary and reproductive tract, meaning that they have a psuedopenis that can become erect, preventing unwanted mating (4). Although there is still more information to be learned from these animals, the myth that they are unintelligent is far from the truth. The perception of hyenas doesn’t do the creatures justice when examining their complicated anatomy and social structure. With over 9,000 species, reptiles are one of the most diverse groups of vertebrates in the world. Reptiles disperse seeds and other vegetation, predate on organisms, and are a food source for larger creatures, making them keystone species in the ecosystem (5). However, they are poorly understood and documented throughout the world, especially in East Africa (6). In East Africa alone, the number of new reptile species discovered has increased by around 26% in the past quarter century (5). While I was there, we conducted research about the herptile (reptile and amphibian) species in Yaeda Valley, Tanzania. Over the course of a week, we found 28 reptile species and 2 amphibian species, reflecting a small portion of the reptile diversity of the area. What made our work

poaching, environmental poaching (taking of sand or wood for stone-making and fire), or commercial poaching (taking animals for money).

unique were three small gecko species. Currently, there is no known description of these species in any scientific database, leading us to believe that they could be new species. Further documentation of reptiles is desperately needed for future research. The understanding of reptiles and their role in the ecosystem is vital in order to help protect the environment. Each organism occupies a niche that is important to the stability of the environment, so if a whole class of animals were to vanish, then the environment could lose stability and crash on itself. The aforementioned Big Five animals are highly soughtafter in the tourism industry. They are also some of the animals most threatened by illegal hunting. Poaching has negatively impacted populations of elephants and rhinos, a fact that has spurred many organizations to raise money to stop poachers from taking these animals. Although this is good, commercial poaching (poaching aimed at elephants and rhinos) is only one component of the larger problem that is poaching. Poaching doesn’t only affect the Big Five but also greatly affects smaller organisms. Every creature is vital to its habitat, but when research and conservation efforts focus too much on the Big Five, smaller creatures can be left vulnerable. In western culture, there is often a simplistic perspective that views poachers as bad and elephants as good. Poaching is more complicated than that narrative, and multiple perspectives needed to understand the situation more clearly. When I was in Tanzania, I had the opportunity to speak to two bushmeat poachers, who kill wildlife for food consumption. These men hunt smaller ungulates (hoofed mammals) like lesser kudu and impala to feed their families or to provide another source of income. Though it is illegal to hunt wildlife in Tanzania for consumption unless you are a member of the Hadzabe Tribe, one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer societies, opportunities for sustained income can be hard to come by for many groups of people. Thus, some turn to other trades to gain money, whether that be in the form of bushmeat

Ultimately, the people hurting animal populations the most are usually hundreds or thousands of miles away. Probably the biggest problem with poaching is the demand for the wildlife products. The use of wildlife for medicinal or other purposes is a major contributor to the decline of wildlife around the world. Finding ways to limit the demand for wildlife products can dramatically benefit these animals. Additionally, promoting local conservation efforts is another key way to help local communities and wildlife. Finding ways to provide a stable income to families through wildlife can help reduce poaching and finding means to end the demand for poached animals can be more beneficial to the organisms themselves. Conservation is an intricate subject that requires an understanding of the organism, the environment, and local people. The actions by one lead to consequences for others, whether it be decreased tourism income or declining animal populations. Understanding how it all connects allows for better decisions that not only help wildlife and ecosystems, but also promote sustainable usage of the land and the search for solutions to end social issues like poverty. If conservation efforts are based on inaccuracies and misconceptions, they can greatly hurt local communities, even if intentions are good. So let’s get away from The Lion King and form new opinions about these very complex issues. I’m not saying that donating to organizations like the World Wildlife Fund is bad or The Lion King is a horrible movie. I like how people care about these animals and The Lion King is my favorite Disney movie. However, if you want to really understand African conservation, go online and learn more about the issues around wildlife ecology and poaching. Read about how the implementation of chili fences help prevent elephant-human conflicts. Learn more about the diversity of birds and reptiles in Africa. Go visit a zoo, but spend as much time at the hyenas as you would have at the lions and try to figure out their social structure. If you have the opportunity, go to Africa; it changed my life forever. I’m forever grateful for the students and local community members who welcomed me into their homes and lives. They helped me learn that it’s okay to be uncomfortable and that I should be open to finding friendships no matter where I am or how long I will be there. My time in Tanzania and Kenya made me think differently about how I view the organisms, ecosystems, and people that call these countries home. Asante sana rafiki (Thank you, friend).


University of Utah REU


During the summer of 2019, I had the opportunity to conduct organic chemistry research at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City through the universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Funded by the National Science Foundation, REU programs at universities nationwide provide students with the resources to conduct cutting-edge research and attend professional and academic development events. Additionally, REU programs often organize social events aimed at fostering a fun and inclusive cohort. Most programs offer an attractive stipend and university housing for the 10-week research period, allowing REU participants to engage in their research and enjoy what the local region has to offer. I had been considering attending graduate school for chemistry since my sophomore year, but I was unsure whether it was the right fit for me. By conducting summer research at the University of Puget Sound in the laboratory of Professor Luc Boisvert, I became accustomed to how a research laboratory operates, and I gained a genuine interest in pursuing more research. Nevertheless, I still felt the need to immerse myself in a graduate research setting before I decided whether I would apply to graduate school. I found the opportunities provided by REU programs appealing because I could gain first-hand insight into the graduate research world. I learned more about the various REU programs by exploring the REU websites. To better refine my search, I specifically searched for programs at universities that have notable organic chemistry or sustainable chemistry research. Location was also a factor that helped me determine which programs to apply for. The University of Utah gave me the opportunity to explore the stunningly beautiful state and experience a region of the United States that was previously unfamiliar to me. The University of Utah is well known for its exceptional medical school and bioscience research. Consequently, there are many faculty members in the Department of Chemistry conducting interdisciplinary studies to solve some of the greatest challenges currently facing the medical field. Professor Andrew G. Roberts, my REU project advisor,


investigates synthetic peptide chemistry with the aim of achieving more effective and far-reaching peptide-based therapeutics. Composed of amino acid monomers (single units), peptides are polymers, which can be thought of as a chain of amino acid constituents. Each amino acid monomer has the same general chemical structure that is shown in Scheme 1. The R group in Scheme 1 represents the amino acid side chain that varies for each amino acid and defines the particular amino acid. Scheme 1.

Peptides are fundamental to many biochemical systems and are most commonly known as the building blocks of proteins. Recently, there has been a greater interest in the medical and chemical fields to utilize peptides for their antiviral, antimicrobial, and antitumor properties (1). These therapeutic peptides are in the contemporary spotlight because they exhibit relatively low toxicity, and they bind more effectively to target proteins when compared to traditional small-molecule drugs. However, one of the great challenges for developing effective therapeutic peptide drugs is the susceptibility of peptides to metabolic degradation, which hinders the active lifespan of therapeutic peptides (2). Natural metabolic peptide degradation is carried out by proteins called proteases, which act like scissors that sever

peptide bonds (see Scheme 2). Although the problem of rapid metabolic degradation has stunted the development of effective therapeutic peptides, not all therapeutic peptides are broken down at problematic rates. Studies have shown that macrocyclic peptides, peptides with a cyclic structure consisting of 12 or more atoms, reduce metabolic degradation rates (3). Macrocyclic peptides can be synthetically achieved, but current synthetic methods face several limitations. Scheme 2.

The most crucial, yet difficult, step in macrocyclic peptide synthesis is ring formation or peptide cyclization. Several cyclization methods introduce chemical linkers, which are not native to the peptide system (1). The introduction of non-native components may alter therapeutic effectiveness, and such methods cannot be used to achieve naturally occurring macrocyclic peptides. Furthermore, the chemistry used for several cyclization methods is not compatible with a given peptide system, meaning that the peptideâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s amino acid constituents are altered during ring formation (1). Finally, there are few methods that are chemoselective. Chemoselectivity is a characteristic of chemical reactions that describes the ability to preference reaction outcomes. Therefore, in the context of peptide cyclization chemistry, low chemoselectivity translates to unpredictable and unwanted cyclization locations. The problems associated with macrocyclic peptide synthesis have produced a need to find a more general and predictable technique for peptide cyclization.

a macrocyclic peptide synthesis technique that is both chemoselective and widely compatible with amino acid side chains. Tryptophan (Trp) (see Scheme 1) is a commonly occurring amino acid in peptides, and it has been shown that tryptophan may undergo a chemoselective reaction with triazolinediones (TADs) (4). My project aimed to employ the Trp-TAD reactivity in the context of peptide macrocyclization, essentially using TAD as a linker for ring formation. The technique involves appending a TAD precursor to one side of a non-cyclized peptide and then reacting TAD with Trp to form a cyclic structure. The critical Trp-TAD cyclization occurs after an oxidation reaction that forms TAD and initiates the spontaneous cyclization reaction of Trp and TAD (see Scheme 3). By the end of the summer, I had successfully synthesized the non-cyclized peptide precursor shown in Scheme 3. I tested several oxidation conditions in an attempt to form the first Trp-TAD macrocyclic peptide; however, the oxidation conditions that I tested did not form the macrocycle. Nevertheless, I am proud of the progress that I made, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to share my summerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work at the University of Utah Summer Symposium. I am also proud to have contributed to a project that could influence the development of new therapeutic peptide medicines. Beyond the chemistry skill set I gained from my research experience, the University of Utah REU helped me determine that I am ready to pursue graduate studies and continue researching fascinating chemistry.

The goal of my summer REU project was to develop Scheme 3.


Tips and Tricks: Applying to Grad School BY KAELA HAMILTON

ABOVE: Phi Sigma’s annual senior prank. Unlike Willie, we students can’t stay in Harned forever. Photo by Noah Dillon.

Are you a freshman? Sophomore? Junior? Senior? Literally anyone except a current graduate student? Then you might be in luck! It may seem far-off now, but if graduate school is even a consideration for you, take a look at some of the things that I picked up on while applying. Hopefully these are helpful, so you don’t have to learn things the hard way (like me).


1. Start early! Applications usually open around August or September. Before they open, you should have an idea of where you might want to apply so that you’re not scrambling to find programs before deadlines (which, by the way, are usually late November/early December). 2. Schedule taking the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) about a month out so you have your pick of locations and times. Make a point to study for it consistently—it’s an arduous testing process made easier when you are prepared! There are lots of free online practice tests you can take. However, before you start worrying about the GRE, make sure that the schools you are applying for require it—not every school does! Why take it if you don’t have to? 3. Figure out your approach—there are generally two ways to go about finding places to apply (not mutually exclusive). One way is to think about what subject you might want to get your degree in and search for schools with that specialization. Figure out the keywords you need to search in order to find programs that you would be interested in. Another way is to search for principal investigators (PIs; professors leading the research in the lab) that conduct research related to your interests. Find the specific faculty members you would like to work with (hint: look at authors of journal articles you enjoyed!) and apply to their schools. 4. This one is important: you have to actually contact the people whose research you are interested in. If you haven’t already, once you’ve identified the programs you’re interested in, find out who is doing what and what appeals to you. Send emails to PIs asking about their availability to take on graduate students in the coming year, and express how interested you are in their current projects (another hint: read the abstracts and conclusions of a few of their more recent papers and mention something you found interesting about their findings).

5. The hard truth is that most replies will be in the “I’m not currently taking grad students” or even “I don’t want you” arena. That’s okay. Keep sending out emails and building relationships. Your chances of being admitted rely heavily on the impressions you make on potential mentors!

6. Once you’ve received positive replies from some

7. Make use of resources we have here on campus to help you through your applications! Several professors work as faculty consultants at the CWLT to help students refine personal statements and other application materials. Get feedback from people who have actually been through this process and know what admissions committees are looking for! 8. Don’t forget about letters of recommendation! Identify a few professors (or non-academic professionals) who know you well and will probably say good things about you. Ideally, you should have at least one recommender who can speak to your research experience. If you are thinking about applying to research-based graduate programs (natural and physical sciences) and you haven’t done independent research yet, definitely think about starting a project in a lab you’re interested in here at Puget Sound. You can get funding to work over the summer, or academic credit for doing research during the semester. Having recommenders who know you are comfortable with the research process and can speak about your ownership of a project is very compelling to graduate school PIs. 9. Also, give recommenders plenty of heads-up before applications are due! It is generally good practice to ask for letters at least one month in advance of deadlines. Remember that many of our professors are very busy, so sending a friendly reminder when the due date gets closer is not a bad idea. Good luck! Play to your strengths but be transparent about how you hope to grow in the future. Believe in yourself and don’t let the stress of waiting to hear back totally cripple you (speaking from experience here). Finally, remember that it is not the end of the world if you aren’t admitted the first time you apply. Take a step back, and gain some real-world experience in a job that will help you grow as a researcher. Then, decide if you want to try for another round. Grad school is a long-term investment in your future. There is no pressure to jump in immediately! Prioritize grad school preparation as a way to improve yourself as a person, not just to jump through hurdles. YOU got this, no matter if you choose to pursue grad school or not. Be glad to be a grad!

PIs you like, suggest a call or video chat to discuss what opportunities are available in their lab. They will want to know about your research experience, and you can get a better idea of the projects that the lab is currently working on. To ensure you make a great impression, prepare for the call by looking over the PI’s lab website, skimming a few of their papers, and coming up with some questions about their research, mentoring style, and the application process.


o t p La


s b a pL




he switch to virtual learning has presented a particular challenge when it comes to labs and research. In light of this, Elements Magazine has compiled an article to showcase the creative ways in which professors and students have adapted lab classes and semester research projects to a virtual environment. While nothing can replace the joy of trying to use a P10 micropipette to put a single microliter of DNA onto a tiny pedestal, these online alternatives allow students to continue applying concepts, learning techniques, and working collaboratively to further their education.



Ecology Fossil Records Although fossils are about the exact opposite of computers (though some may argue that their computers are essentially fossils), Professor Kena Fox-Dobbs has found a number of different ways to adapt the lab for Fossil Records, a geology course, to online learning. First, “since students are no longer able to work with fossil specimens in our teaching collection they are interacting with 3D models (scans) of fossils via the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life’s Virtual Collection,” Fox-Dobbs states. Second, a planned field trip to the Methow Valley, a fossil-rich region in north-central Washington, has been replaced with “Virtual Field Experiences” put together by the Eastern Pacific Invertebrate Communities of the Cenozoic project. Additional lab experiences are being modified to a fully digital format; for example, students will be “interpreting paleoenvironmental conditions of local lakes by analyzing diatoms previously extracted (and imaged) from a sediment core” or “using fossil leaf margin analysis of paleofloras to reconstruct climate conditions, based upon leaf images (not specimens).”


In Ecology lab, the second half of the semester is generally devoted to designing and carrying out independent research projects. Because students can no longer carry out research on campus, Professor Carrie Woods has worked with them individually to develop projects they can do elsewhere. These projects span a broad range of topics: “some are growing plants at home” and others “are doing field-based studies on birds, lichen, marine life, mushrooms, and plants all over the US,” Woods relates. At the end of the semester, students will come together virtually to present their research findings to the rest of the class.

General Chemistry As many of us can attest, Gen-Chem lab can be pretty confusing even when it’s in person, but provides important reinforcement of lecture material. Luckily, Professor Jill McCourt has managed to move labs online for the more than 130 students taking the class. To design these labs, McCourt describes how she “found existing demos online, recorded [her] own lab demos, and found virtual labs for students to practice collecting their own virtual data.” This will ensure that students are able to have valuable, meaningful learning experiences, McCourt says: “Although students are missing the hands-on aspect, they are still collecting and analyzing data and thinking about chemistry concepts in an environment different from their lecture setting.”

Introductory Physics

Developmental Biology

Physics labs often involve dropping things or spinning them around at high speed—neither of which should be done with a laptop. To get around this problem, Professor Amy Spivey says that physics professors have collaborated to “craft online computer simulations to replace in-person laboratory experiments for the introductory physics courses.” The goal of these simulations is to “supplement what is happening in class and allow students to practice what they are learning in a more active way than they are able to do in virtual class sessions.”

For students in Developmental Biology, no lab access doesn’t necessarily mean no experimentation. As Professor Alyce DeMarais relates, the class designs experiments and then she sets them up in the lab and sends the resulting images and data to the students. Students are also able to engage in at least some hands-on experimentation, such as the dissection of flowers to study comparative anatomy. In addition, labs are supplemented with online developmental biology resources which include “repositories for movies, images, and text such as the University of New South Wales Embryology site and the FlyBase site.” While these measures provide a good substitute for in-person labs, there are some things that remote learning can’t replace: as DeMarais shares, “we miss the spontaneity, camaraderie, and chance to talk science afforded to us by being in the lab.”

Unity of Life Professor Oscar Sosa teaches Unity of Life, an introductory biology course in which, he states, “labs provide a space for experiential learning.” In a typical semester, this may mean clamping bird wings up in a custom-built wind tunnel or getting a close-up view of the bacteria in your yogurt. To make sure that students are still able to practice important lab skills in the virtual environment, Sosa is utilizing a number of different tools and approaches. These include using “photos and diagrams [to explain] an experiment we would have performed in the lab that tests the effect of varying light intensities on photosynthesis,” running “statistical software to analyze an existing data set and practice graphing and presenting results in scientific format,” applying “bioinformatics approaches to explore online genetic databases that are available to the scientific community,” and taking advantage of “interactive, online tools that allow students to model cellular processes such as the development of cancer.”

Ornithology If you think you can’t go birding on a computer—think again! To replace field-based or museum-based independent research projects, Professors Peter Hodum and Peter Wimberger have turned to Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Cams, which live-stream bird feeding stations and nests from around the world. Students are also using citizen science data from eBird to analyze trends in the distribution and abundance of species. In lieu of a bird dissection lab, the professors are collaborating with Slater Museum Collections Manager Gary Shugart to provide videos of dissections, as well as using digital software to allow students to examine various aspects of internal anatomy. In addition, students are conducting socially distanced bird surveys either in their yards or near their homes to practice their identification skills and become more familiar with local birds.

Modern Physics According to Professor Andrew Rex, his 200-level physics course requires a slightly different approach than the introductory physics courses when it comes to modifying labs. Rather than have students work through simulations, he sends them data “so that they can do the kinds of modeling and statistical analysis that they have learned throughout the year.” In one lab on radioactivity, for example, they used provided data to calculate half-lives and beta particle penetration depths. As a result, Rex says, students “still get to practice their analytical skills, even if they miss the part of the lab experience that involves adjusting equipment and taking measurements.”

Analytical Chemistry Though many jokes are made about the name of the course, analytical chemistry truly does require extremely careful and precise technique and measurement (re: titration lab). It’s hard to practice your technical skills from the comfort of your couch, but as Professor Dan Burgard says, “most of the techniques were at least introduced in the first half of the semester,” making them familiar to students. In lieu of inperson labs, Burgard is now providing students with videos of him doing the experiment, which they are expected to watch in conjunction with the lab handout prior to lab. Then, during lab, students are given LoggerPro datasets and placed in small groups to analyze the data and answer questions, which are then uploaded through a Canvas quiz. Burgard relates, “the synchronous group work on crunching the data seemed to be more successful than I anticipated and I have been really impressed with how well they all get to work in the groups.”


Student Perspectives Biology Senior Thesis – Noah Dillon “How do you grow marine microbes to finish your thesis project while not in lab? Well, you can’t. Thankfully, I have an amazing advisor, Oscar Sosa, who is finishing up the lab work! It is not an ideal way to finish my senior year as I have been in lab since freshman year; however, we need to do our part in keeping the community safe. Missing lab work and social distancing is a small sacrifice to make in the grand scheme of things. I do think that science education has been affected by the switch to online learning. The good news is that people may appreciate the power of science in keeping us safe. We may see a boost to science education and research as a result.” Photo courtesy of Noah Dillon

Biology Senior Thesis – Gabe McHugh “I’m a senior working on my writing and researching for my thesis. Right now with no access to my lab notes or data I’ve been focusing on writing a lot more than researching. I’m lucky to have 4 years of past work to write about, but because I can’t get into the lab I have scrapped unfinished projects that would have been part of my thesis and am now writing about the past 3 years of work instead of 4. It certainly isn’t what I wanted to have happen but I’ve adapted. I’m still running into some challenges with reporting accurate lab reagent recipes and manufacturers; however, I’ve been able to rely on my research mentor to send photos of the materials I need. Hopefully I will be able to return and collect some of my data to work on for the lab after graduation and this pandemic.” Photo courtesy of Gabe McHugh


Biology Directed Research – Daniel Balderrama

Photo courtesy of Daniel Balderrama

“While there is no substitute for actually working physically in the lab, thanks to new technologies there is still a lot we can do virtually and from home. In the Madlung lab we do a lot of genetic work to help us better understand the ways certain light receptor proteins affect plant development. When we are in the lab, on top of all of our individual projects, we all spend a lot of time in our greenhouse growing tomatoes as we try to breed new mutant lines for our research. Luckily we were able to extract DNA from a lot of plants, and have the DNA sent for sequencing. Now with the switch to doing everything virtually, we have the perfect opportunity to analyze all the genetic sequence data that’s been piling up. This is really important for the lab, because this will let us know if we have plants with the different genotypes we are looking for so we can collect fruit and seeds from them. This ensures that future students will have new genetic mutants and plenty of seeds so they can continue to conduct research for the Madlung lab. Even though my own personal experiment can’t continue, I’m glad I can do this to make sure that when students return to campus, the Madlung lab will be ready to start up again, and future students will be able to conduct their own experiments with the plants I bred, just as I was able to use mutants that past students had helped create.”

Biology Directed Research – Helena HeyerGray “I’ll admit it, I’ve been doing bioinformatics at home in my pajamas. I’m fortunate to be able to do some of my work (using DNA sequences to identify strains of fungus) outside of lab. This entire experience has been a pretty incredible demonstration of the resilience and adaptability of science— even a couple of decades ago, what I’m doing would have been impossible or prohibitively expensive; now it is possible, because of rapid sequencing and collaborative data processing programs. Virtual research has also highlighted just how important personal connections and a supportive community are in science. Ultimately (corny as it sounds) that’s where we get our strength from.” Photo courtesy of Helena Heyer-Gray





Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World

by Noah Strycker

“On January 1, 2015, Noah Strycker embarked on a yearlong journey to set a record for the most bird species seen in one year. He recounts this travels in this book, not only introducing the reader to all manner of colorful and rare bird species, but also documenting the truly global nature of the birding community.” - Erin


From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time

by Sean Carroll

“This book talks about concepts ranging from thermodynamics, space-time, quantum entanglement, and black holes, showing how they all relate to time. The concepts are high-level (I’ve read it multiple times hoping to get a good grasp on them) but they are explained in a really engaging way. If you’re looking for something that will totally change your perception about the nature of time and the universe itself, this is the book for you.” - Becca

Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel

by Virginia Morrell

“This popular science book covers research in animal cognition from the smallest ant to the largest elephant, seeking to determine how non-human animals experience the world. It’s a quick, thought-inspiring read focusing as much on the stories of the people performing the research as on the explorations of intelligence and empathy in the animals themselves.” - Kaela Image courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Image courtesy of Penguin Random House

Image courtesy of Penguin Random House

s much fun as it is to read textbooks and journal articles, everyone likes to read something a little more engaging on occasion—our staff included! We asked our staff for their top popular science book recommendations and compiled their responses in this column. So, the next time you are looking for something to read other than Organic Chemistry by David Klein, make sure to check out some of the titles below!

Image courtesy of Princeton University Press

Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World by Marcia Bjornerud

“Marcia Bjornerud takes readers on a journey through time to provide a shocking perspective on how geology can give critical insights into environmental challenges. This book dives into how anthropocentric mindsets can cause endless issues in the fight against climate change, while perhaps a geological perspective provides the tools we need to fight such a complex issue.” - Anna

Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom

by Sean B. Carroll

Image courtesy of Vintage Books

“How is the complex diversity of life possible? Carroll writes of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) and how small changes in genes can lead to significant changes in organisms. Through the use of examples and analogies, any reader will understand the fundamental laws of evolution and be inspired by the endless forms most beautiful surrounding them every day.” - Noah D.

Image courtesy of W.W. Norton & Co.

Lab Girl

by Hope Jahren

“This autobiography follows a female geobiologist through her scientific journey. Jahren will take you through the scientific process with a narrative of her studies on plant life. Not only will this book inspire you to work in a lab, it will make you laugh at the loveable, absurd relationship Jahren has with her lab partner Bill.” - Beatrice

One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest

by Wade Davis

“A book that blends ethnobotany, history, and anthropology and does a great job of describing discovery, wonder, and perseverance. It is the story of Richard Evans Schultes, an early ethnobotanist, as told by Davis, one of his students, who revisits many of the places Schultes visited from 1930– 1960.” - Peter Wimberger


by Meredith Wadman

“This book is a wonderful exploration into the history of vaccines. In it, Wadman seamlessly intertwines the political and scientific narratives that underlie the development and evolution of vaccines. And now, especially, in the time of COVID-19, this book is all too important and meaningful. Give it a read; you won’t be disappointed.” - Noah B.F.

Image courtesy of Penguin Random House

The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease

Image courtesy of Penguin Random House

The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan

“This book explores mankind’s connection to four different species of plants and our processes of domestication. Pollan describes our relationship with apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes through their respective four human desires— sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control. It is full of interesting and humorous anecdotes from Pollan’s research and personal experiences cultivating all of them.” - Rachael


“Produced by Scientific American, this is my favorite podcast to listen to when I only have 60 seconds. Ok, you got me... maybe not 60 seconds; more like 3 minutes. In just a few minutes you can learn more than you could in an hour by reading an entire article. The topics are sometimes related to current events and sometimes challenge you to learn and think about something that you didn’t know existed.” - Noah B.F.


“I’ve listened to Science Friday for as long as I can remember. If you’re someone who doesn’t always have time to sit down and read about your favorite topics, this podcast makes it easy to stay up-to-date with current happenings in the science world. Ira Flatow (the show’s host) always has a wide variety of guests on the program and it makes listening an absolute joy. Recent topics have ranged from the nitty-gritty of the COVID-19 vaccine development to the specifics of how the first image of a black hole was captured! Check it out!” - Noah B.F.






COSMOPOLITAN d r e n ur o y e Cur s e urg an with mist e alch

Forget Viagra— Try thes e exhilira ting exilirs.

Do you and your crush have chemistry?

m A long li o r f s fe p i T isn’t the o t l e only thi Flam ng r u o a y n alchemi stoke st can give e m fla ALCHEMY EDITION



• A fin-tastic buddy

• Long boi

• Big sugar habit

• Super e-fish-ient worker

• Likes to be the little spoon

• A (single-celled) fun guy

• Hasn’t seen the sun in a while

• Kinda gassy

• Transparent with their emotions • Loves school

• Loud

• Sometimes is sedimentary

• Cold-blooded

• A literal fossil

• An open book

• Good under pressure

• Part of PSO

• “Gneiss!” • Solid friend

• A lil drunk all the time

• Always going in circles • Social • Uses a metal straw • Loves PB

• Alwayz stressed

• Small, crappy friend

• Stinky

• Grows on you over time

• Has RBF

• Loves fruit

• #thineslab

• A molecular workhorse

• Will eat your soup

• “Weedy”

• Always in your house

from top left: zebra fish, C.elegans, yeast, frog, rock, mouse, Arabidopsis, E. coli, Drosophila


Sandwich Phylogeny

ectothermic baked


pop tart

Wikipedia defines a sandwich as â&#x20AC;&#x153;any dish wherein bread serves as a container or wrapper for another food type.â&#x20AC;? I say that definition constrains sandwiches around the world into a cookie-cutter mold of what society says a sandwich should be. Thus, I propose a more inclusive revised definition: any food item that follows the following order: carb - filling - carb.



open sided

oreo macaron




eggroll close-sided

calzone empanada



wrap burrito


folded carb

quesadilla panini deli sandwich

hamburger taco

hot dog outgroup: pizza


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Back cover image courtesy of Melina Christensen 50 | ELEMENTS

Profile for Elements Magazine

Issue 26  


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