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How to become a successful parasite ecologist, Part V: Tara Chestnut

Students just discovering the joys of parasite ecology often find themselves wondering: how do I get there from here? Or perhaps wondering what a career in parasite ecology even looks like. So I’ve organized this series of posts from well-known parasite ecologists who can give us some insight into how they got started and their suggestions for success. So far, we’ve heard from Dr. Armand Kuris from the University of California Santa Barbara, Dr. Pieter Johnson from the University of Colorado Boulder, Dr. Robert Poulin from the University of Otago, and Dr. Kelly Weinersmith from Rice University. Today, we’ll continue with some unique and valuable insights from another parasite ecologist who followed a ‘non-traditional’ route to her current position: Dr. Tara Chestnut from the National Park Service.

Who is Tara Chestnut?

We usually only talk about cool science on this blog, without discussing the cool people behind the science. This post series has been so much fun for me, because I’ve been able to talk to and feature awesome scientists who I might not cross paths with otherwise. Tara is one of those awesome people. I’ve never met her in person, but she kindly volunteered to chat with me on the phone for an hour to share her story and her great insights for students.

Tara is an ecologist with the National Park Service at Mount Rainier National Park and the North Coast Cascades Network Inventory and Monitoring Network. Through that position she’s involved in a bunch of neat conservation and monitoring projects at Mount Rainier and other network parks for species like the Cascades Red Fox, Northern Spotted Owl, American Pika, and Elk. When the first bat infected with Pd, the white nose syndrome fungus, popped up in Washington in 2016, it was just 30 miles outside of Mount Rainier National Park. Tara was there, and she has been a leader the NPS WNS surveillance efforts on the west coast ever since. She has also done important work with Bd, the chytrid fungus, and it’s impacts on amphibians in the United States.

Through her position at the NPS and affiliated positions with two universities, she is able to mentor interns and graduate students, so she’s worth looking into when you’re seeking cool research projects. You can also get her advice for students for free, right here, from her answers to some questions that I asked her during our phone chat:

You took a “non-traditional” route to your parasite-related career. Can you tell me about that?

“Health and ecology have always been two themes in my life. My mom was an RN in a maternity hospital, so I grew up sitting in on birthing classes and tagging along during home visits and other aspects of her job. I also grew up collecting toads in buckets with my siblings and cousins.

I went on to be a first-generation college student, and I had ample opportunities for field experiences at The Evergreen State College. At the same time, I needed a job that was flexible with classes and field trips, so I worked the graveyard shift at a domestic violence shelter and as a doula.

When I decided to pursue my masters, I had to pick one theme or the other. I picked ecology. I focused on studying sexual selection in toads, with a relevant environmental policy component.

Around the same time I got accepted into my masters program, I landed a job working as a state agency biologist. The program offered evening classes so I could continue to work and I accrued vacation leave at my job so I could take time off for field work. Lucky for me toad breeding is explosive so I was able to do all of my field work in about two weeks. The week after I defended, I was able to renegotiate my salary.

When I was working as a Department of Transportation biologist, chytrid fungus was detected for the first time in Washington State, and I suddenly found myself studying toads and disease and policy. I knew that I had found the career that I wanted. But to properly study this, I needed to leave my comfy state job and get my PhD. I did my PhD at Oregon State University with Drs. Dede Olson and Andy Blaustein, and was funded by the USGS Amphibian Monitoring and Research Initiative.

After my PhD, I moved into my current job at the National Park Service. I also teach a disease ecology course as a masters elective and still occasionally do doula work when my schedule allows. My current job is pretty perfect in that it allows me to engage in research and monitoring related to the management of our most protected places, and if I choose, I can do outside work that keeps my foot in academia, and have odd hobbies like helping people have babies.”

Students often ask me if they should “take time off” and/or “work a real job” before graduate school, and I don’t have great insight for them. Was it hard for you to “go back” and get your PhD after time away from school?

“Graduate school was something that was an intimidating mystery to me. I didn’t have anyone close to me that went to grad school. I didn’t have trusted mentors to help guide me. After a few years of working seasonal field biologist jobs, it was clear that I needed an advanced degree to achieve my professional goals. When I started my masters program I had a ‘going away’ party and told my friends I’d be back in two years. I didn’t really take time off to ‘work a real job’, I worked while I went to school. These experiences gave me practical insights to my research that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, but my path was in public service; it wasn’t to become a tenure-track professor.

My advice to folks going into the trades is to consider college, because it will give you life experiences, and cause you to relate to people and think in ways that you wouldn’t experience elsewhere. Likewise, my advice to folks seeking an academic path is to seek experiences outside of academia for the same reasons.

Going back for a PhD was a whole different ball game though. In some ways it was easy, because I knew that I needed a PhD for the career that I wanted and by then I knew more people with advanced degrees. I was able to save money beforehand, which was important because my family didn’t have the resources to support me financially through graduate school. There were hard parts, though, like catching up on ecological theory and statistics after my career in the field, and learning new lab skills.”

What advice do you have for students just embarking on their careers? 

“Networking is important. When I was an undergraduate student, one of my professors made every student join a regional professional society, The Society for Northwestern Vertebrate Biology. It cost $15, which he included in the course fees. Membership subscribed us to print copies of the journal, and made it cheap to register for the society’s annual conference. I volunteered to help organize annual meetings and workshops related to emerging issues in parasite ecology, then became a board member. That early involvement in a professional society was important throughout my career, for things like finding seasonal field jobs and graduate advisors. It was easier to contact people for jobs when I had met them or at least knew of them, and because of my involvement in SNVB, some of them knew of me. It’s still important now, although my role is reversed. I met several prospective interns and employees at the meeting this year.” 

[That’s an excellent idea! Just chipping in to note that there are several student-friendly regional societies for parasitologists. Abstracts for the Southeastern Society of Parasitologists’ 2018 meeting are due March 15th]

“I also support being in school for as little time as possible. For me, school couldn’t be a luxury. It wasn’t an option for me to go back to grad school just to see if it led somewhere. I came from a working-class family, and the years that I spent in school were key salary-making years. So I was only in school as long as I needed to be to achieve my career goals – which turned out to be a lot of years. When I talk to kids about how long it takes to earn a PhD, I tell them I went to grade 24, which often gets quite a reaction.”

You’re the first person that I’ve featured who now studies parasites as a government scientist. Do you think there are many parasite ecology government jobs out there?

“I’m currently employed as a general ecologist, not as a parasite ecologist, but I’ve been able to incorporate parasites into my research when it’s relevant. Having a background and perspectives related to health and disease and some job flexibility has led me to explore parasite-related topics. For instance, the Cascades Red Fox has experienced recent, dramatic population declines, and no one knows why. My student and I are exploring whether parasites play a role in that decline, but another person in my position with a different background might focus on different things. Another example is how my previous work in environmental policy and more recent work on environmental detection of Bd have given me insights into limitations from both the policy side of things as well as the analytical methods. Because of this, I can better inform NPS surveillance and early detection/rapid response planning for other emerging infectious diseases such as Pd and Bsal.”

Tara’s last answer reminds me of a previous Parasite Ecology post regarding government parasite jobs:

“Here’s the take home message: you’re going to find very few ads for parasitologists, whether you’re looking for jobs in academia, government agencies or NGOs, or industry. You have much better odds of finding a job if you can sell yourself more broadly as a trophic ecologist, zoologist, microbiologist, etc.

However, it may be really easy to add parasite research into an otherwise parasite-free position. The world needs people to study emerging infectious diseases, but it may be that in order to be one of those people, you need to wear multiple hats in a job where you get to study parasites sometimes, but not all of the time.”

That was all great advice. For more info, you can find Tara’s website here and her Twitter here. Many thanks to Tara for contributing to the blog and our future careers!

Advice on how to become a successful parasite ecologist, Part IV: Kelly Weinersmith

Students just discovering the joys of parasite ecology often find themselves wondering: how do I get there from here? Or perhaps wondering what a career in parasite ecology even looks like. So I’ve organized this series of posts from well-known parasite ecologists who can give us some insight into how they got started and their suggestions for success. So far, we’ve heard from Dr. Armand Kuris from the University of California Santa Barbara, Dr. Pieter Johnson from the University of Colorado Boulder, and Dr. Robert Poulin from the University of Otago. Today, we’ll hear from our most broadly famous parasite ecologist yet: Dr. Kelly Weinersmith from Rice University.

Who is Kelly Weinersmith:

I don’t think that Kelly actually needs an introduction, but it’s an honor to write one, so I’m going to! Kelly has done a bunch of awesome parasite ecology, her dissertation work focused on an adorable parasite, and she embraces the parasite puns. But I’m not going to focus my introduction on those main ingredients of her awesomeness, because I think it’s more important to talk about her secret ingredient (which I shall now reveal to the world, mwahahaha!):

Like many people who love parasites, Kelly and I were both pulled into the gravity well that is the UCSB Parasite Ecology lab, so we are academically related in a way that defies analogy (step sisters?). But I never actually overlapped with Kelly. Instead, my first interaction with Kelly was as a rapt audience member during one of her ASP talks. She is an excellent communicator. And she’s taken those communication skills far beyond sharing her parasite science with other parasitologists. For instance, she’s done all kinds of outreach and teaching regarding parasites and science more broadly, including creating excellent podcasts. She also co-authored a best-selling popular science book (see below) that tricked millions of everyday people – including me – into reading an entire book about emerging technologies and enjoying it. I routinely try to unlock my house with my car key fob, and yet I devoured the chapter about affordable space travel. She’s truly a communication wizard.

I emphasize some of Kelly’s accomplishments that aren’t parasite-themed because most masters and PhD students studying parasites will not go on to be tenure track faculty who study parasites. Instead, they’ll take their many marketable skills and use them to do other cool things. And if they have secret ingredients, like excellent communication skills, they’ll be more tantalizing for future employers, funders, etc. Kelly hasn’t stopped studying parasites, but as you’ll see below, she’s doing several exciting things with her degree that you might not have predicted. Her career has been an inspiration for me, and I hope that you’ll be inspired, too. Without further ado, here are her insightful answers to some questions that I asked her:

1.      How long have you been a parasite ecologist, and what do you study?

“I started to study parasite ecology in 2009, when I became a visiting scholar in Dr. Armand Kuris’ Lab at the University of California Santa Barbara. I study parasites that manipulate the behavior of their host, and ask questions such as: What host behaviors change following infection? Through what mechanisms does the parasite manipulate host behavior? To what extent does manipulation increase parasites fitness?”

2.      How did you get into parasite ecology?

“For most of my life, I didn’t really think about parasites. If I did think about parasites, the thought was something along the lines of “ugh, parasites are the worst…I wish I wasn’t sick.” Then I read Carl Zimmer’s Parasite Rex, and I saw parasites in a new light. While I still recognized that parasites can cause immense pain and suffering, I also saw how exquisitely fine-tuned they could be to their host. It was amazing to me the ways that parasites could evade our immune systems and manipulate behavior. Parasites suddenly became so much more than just a nuisance.

But I still didn’t plan on studying parasites. Then I was fortunate enough to get into Dr. Andy Sih’s behavioral ecology lab at the University of California Davis. Andy is full of great ideas for dissertations, and one day he asked me what I thought about studying parasites that manipulate host behavior – and he pointed me towards Dr. Jaroslav Flegr’s work on how infection with Toxoplasma gondii is correlated with responses to personality tests in humans. I was studying animal personality at the time, and the idea of studying how parasites influence host personality kept me up at night. It sounded so awesome! So Andy hooked with me up the Ecological Parasitology lab at UCSB so I could get some training in parasitology….and the rest is history!”

3.      What has your career been like since you finished your PhD?

“After finishing my PhD I started as the Huxley Fellow in Ecology and Evolution in the BioSciences Department at Rice University. I loved this job. It’s somewhere between a postdoc and an assistant professor – you don’t run your own lab, but you have control over the research projects you conduct, mentor undergraduates and graduates, teach one or two courses, and attend faculty meetings. The department was really amazing. I started to work with Dr. Scott Egan on a parasitoid that we believed was manipulating the behavior of a gall wasp, which expanded my research into a new study system.

While working at Rice, my husband (Zach Weinersmith, the creator of SMBC) and I also got a book deal with Penguin Press to write a book about emerging technologies. This was a little insane, since it meant that all of our “free time” needed to spent writing this book. We also had parenting to contend with, as we already had a young daughter and a son on the way. But around this time we were also getting excited about the possibility of starting a small ecology research station, and a successful book seemed like a way we could make this dream a reality. So for 3 years we worked like crazy, hardly ever taking a day off. (Note – I don’t mean to glorify working this hard. It was bad for our health and happiness in a lot of ways, but we hoped that a successful book would allow us to take a different path that would bring our family a lot of happiness for years to come. So we decided that short term hardships would be worth the long term gains.)

The book (Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve And/Or Ruin Everything) hit the New York Times Bestseller list and now we’ve moved to Virginia, where we’re looking for land on which we’ll set up the research station. The goal is to start a small station that will hold occasional workshops, have housing for collaborators, and host short and long-term field studies. I’m excited about mentoring students, spending lots of time studying natural history, and working from home. I’m adjunct assistant professor in the BioSciences department at Rice University, and hope to maintain my affiliation with Rice (I really love the BioSciences group, and hope to continue working with them for years to come) while starting up a non-profit associated with the station.”

4.      What are the most important things that (graduate) students can do to prepare for a successful career?

“Here are some things that were either helpful to me, or are things I saw my successful friends doing:

1) Read a lot, and read broadly. The importance of reading a lot of the work in your field probably doesn’t not need to be outlined here, but it’s critical to read outside your field as well. This will give you new ideas, and give you the ability to speak intelligently with a broader audience (which is critical when, for example, you’re applying for jobs). Also, read things other than journal articles, and think about what makes for good writing in any genre. You may be surprised at the ways in which reading broadly improves your scientific writing.

2) Take the time to really learn statistics and coding.

3) Write as you go! This can be so hard, but it’s so important. There is always something else you need to do that can get in the way of writing, but if you haven’t written up an experiment then as far as the world knows (and in particular as far as job search committees know) you haven’t done it. Figure out a way to ensure that you have time to write regularly. For example, pencil out two hours every day on your schedule, and tell people you absolutely are not free to meet during this time. You need to make your writing time sacred.

4) One thing that was really helpful for me was to organize a symposium at a national conference. Dr. Zen Faulkes and I organized a symposium on parasite manipulation of host phenotype for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, and applied for (and received) NSF funding to coverage travel and lodging costs for our presenters. This was a great experience, because it allowed me to gather together and work closely with lots of big names in my field. It was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun and was a great networking opportunity.

5) Write grants. Then write more grants. Try to fund your own research during your dissertation, and try to fund yourself.

6) Make yourself competitive for more than one potential career path. For example, if you really want to be a professor, consider incorporating into your dissertation a chapter that involves creating a new molecular technique. This way you’ll be competitive for academic jobs, and a job in industry or government. Alternatively, you could include a chapter looking at how something like a pollutant impacts parasite ecology in your system, which could make you competitive for things like environmental consulting jobs. I also strongly suggest diving into coding and statistics. Being a pro in these areas makes you better able to leverage your data to answer scientific questions, makes you an attractive collaborator, and gives you skills that could be applied in other careers.”

That is all great advice that I strongly endorse. Many thanks to Kelly for volunteering her time and insight!

Do fungi have parasites?

Parasite ecologists spend copious time studying parasitic fungi. For instance, we’re interested in controlling the fungal pathogens responsible for the wildlife diseases that have decimated populations of amphibians, bats, and snakes. And we’re fascinated by the Cordyceps fungi that manipulate the behavior of ants and other insects. But how often do we study parasites that infect fungi (i.e., host = fungus)? Before I tackle this question, here’s a little backstory:

Last week, I went grocery shopping and bought some baby portabella mushrooms. I was feeling lazy, so I bought them pre-sliced and packaged in a cardboard box, which had an open top and was clearly labelled “sliced baby portabella mushrooms”. When I was checking out, the adult human bagging my groceries picked up the box and asked, “Are these vegetables?”

Yes, a piece of my soul died. But the educator inside me immediately announced, without distress or pause, “Oh, no, they aren’t. We generally eat three types of organisms: (1) Animals, where meat comes from, (2) plants, where vegetables come from, and (3) fungi, where mushrooms come from.” And while the woman nodded, seeming to confirm this information from some previous memory, a different, dark voice in my head added, “…and they all have worms.”

Fortunately, some intelligent internal filter kept me from saying the last bit out loud. But as I made my way to my car, I became increasingly concerned that even though I could tell you what kinds of parasites infect most plant and animal host taxa, and I knew that fungi must have parasites, I didn’t know which parasites infected fungi.

I did some googling as soon as I arrived home, and I learned that fungi have fungal, bacterial, and nematode parasites. Larval flies in mushroom gills can also be considered parasites of fungi. But overall, I didn’t find much information about parasites of fungi in my (admittedly not exhaustive) search. It might be that (1) I gave up too soon, (2) we don’t use classical parasitological terms for parasites of fungi, and/or (3) we study parasites of fungi less than those of animals and plants.

If you’re an expert on the parasites of fungi, please share your wisdom with us!


Moa extinctions caused even moa parasite co-extinctions

Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone! I only ever blog about papers that I love, and today is no exception. But in honor of this holiday, I’m going to break from tradition and blog about a paper that I love and I co-wrote, and I hope that you’ll forgive my shameless plug.

Within the parasite conservation literature, there exists a paradox: we expect that many, many parasite species should be threatened by co-extinction with their threatened host species, yet we have documented few parasite co-extinctions. If parasite species are so vulnerable, why haven’t we seen more co-extinction events? It might be that parasites are not as vulnerable to co-extinction as we originally assumed. (I could write several blog posts about that possibility, and perhaps one day I will.) Another possibility is that many co-extinctions have occurred, but we failed to notice and/or document them. The latter possibility is the topic of today’s post.

In order to document an extinction (or co-extinction), we need to know two things. First, we need to know that the species once existed. To document which species once lived, we usually rely on historical resources: fossilized remains, museum specimens, published scientific studies or surveys, and even old books/diaries/letters. But many species don’t fossilize well, and many more are too small, cryptic, or seemingly important to end up in museum collections, scientific studies, or other historical records. Second, we need to know that the species doesn’t exist anymore. Documenting the absence of a species is incredibly difficult; its only really possible via exhaustive surveying. That’s why we are sometimes pleasantly surprised when a thought-to-be-extinct species is suddenly found living somewhere unexpected, still hanging in there.

For parasites, I like to think of these two documentation steps as compiling/comparing passenger lists. To know that a parasite species once existed on a host species, we need to create a historical passenger list for that host species. It is hardest to (re)create a complete passenger list for a host species that went extinct (=sank) long ago. But it’s also very difficult to document the parasite passenger lists for host species that are currently threatened (=sinking), because they might have already lost some passengers (e.g., if we de-loused the hosts when we brought them into cavity), or the hosts might be too rare or difficult to thoroughly sample for parasites. Once we have recreated the best historical passenger list that we can – which are probably incomplete, but better than nothing – we need to compare it to all of the parasite passenger lists for all extant host species, to see if any extant host species served as “life boats” that carried some parasite species into the present. As I mentioned last week, we are far from having sampled all extant parasite species on all extant host species, so we’re currently working with incomplete present-day parasite passenger list.

Given all of the difficulties described above, it’s not surprising that we have documented so few parasite co-extinctions! But this week in PNAS, Boast et al. (2018) published a great paper that convincingly documents the co-extinction of a few parasite species that once infected the now-extinct moa (giant flightless birds from ancient New Zealand). They used ancient DNA to reconstruct the best ever ancient passenger list for several moa species, and they were able to show that some parasite species survived to present day on other bird species (e.g., the kiwi), while others did not. You should definitely give their paper a read!

But if you want a shorter, bloggier version of the parasite story, you could also go read the open access commentary about Boast et al.’s paper that I co-wrote. It was super fun to write, because we were allowed to talk about parasite co-extinction and fossil poop at the same time, and it was especially fun because I was invited to co-author the piece by my science hero. (Thanks, Kevin!)

I think those are enough warm, fuzzy, parasite valentine feels for now. Happy reading!


Which (parasite) species should we study?

Over the past 2-3 years, I have become increasingly (and perhaps obsessively) interested in parasite extinctions and parasite conservation. I’ve blogged about parasite conservation a few times (here and here), but I’ve half-written about three times as many posts that I never published. Apparently, it’s quite difficult to distill topics near and dear to you into 500 word essays! But in celebration and preparation for an upcoming ESA organized oral session (yessssssss, we were accepted!), I’m going to power through and write a series of blog posts that try to encapsulate perspectives and theory regarding parasite conservation. I’m going to start easy today, though. Instead of asking which parasite species we should conserve (if any), I’m going to think about which parasite species scientists should study.

These thoughts require some backstory. Two weeks ago, I found out that all of John Lawton’s View from the Park essays from Oikos have been compiled into this list. I read a bunch of them, of course, and one of them really resonated with me. His essay, “On the behaviour of autecologists and the crisis of extinction”, is about birds and all other  species, but it could easily be interpreted as an essay about the study of parasites. Here’s the first quote that made me think about parasites:

“One of the most repeated facts wheeled out in current discussions about biodiversity, be it in learned articles, newspaper reports or political debate, is that taxonomists have described approximately 1.7 million species, whilst the best current estimate for the total number of species on earth is 12.5 million. This is clearly a serious problem, and one that demands urgent attention (e.g. P. H. Raven and E. 0. Wilson (1992) Science 258, 1099).”

This idea – that we have named/described a tiny fraction of all existing species – is also popular in the parasite literature. People are still revising and debating estimates of the total number of parasite species in the world (e.g., here), but no matter what the current best-estimate is, we still haven’t described most of them. Therefore, everyone seems to agree that we have a (parasite) taxonomy crisis, that we desperately need more people naming/describing more (parasite) species, and that Taxonomist Appreciation Day should happen more than once per year.

But here’s a quote that hit me harder:

“Intriguingly, I have never seen anybody discuss what we actually know about the 1.7 million [species] that do have names. Overwhelmingly the answer will be nothing, except where they were collected, and what they look like…To use an analogy, not only do we have a hopelessly incomplete white pages telephone directory for the planet’s inhabitants, we have an even worse set of yellow pages.”

Ouch. As the author of the Parasite Ecology Blog, I’d love to tell you that we know tons about parasite ecology. Collectively, we do. But we know nothing about the ecology of most named/described parasite species. Why is that? Here are three reasons, which are neither mutually exclusive nor a complete list:

Potential reason 1: Parasites often have complex life cycles, where different ontogenetic stages occur in different host species (or the environment). For instance, when we find a new adult trematode in a bird host, name it, and describe it – which, coincidentally, requires much time/work – we’re still missing all the details about the rest of that parasite’s life cycle. Does it have one other host species? Two? 25? Which species? Etc.

This problem is relevant for some free-living species, too (e.g., which caterpillar turns into this butterfly?). But it’s a particularly common and difficult problem in the study of parasites.

Potential reason 2: Parasites often live inside their hosts, making it difficult for us to observe them in action, or to know if/when hosts became infected.

Potential reason 3: We lack the interest/incentive to dig into the ecology of most parasite species. I’ll come back to this in a second.

The Lawton essay goes on to ponder which species we should study in detail. He notes that we currently focus on specific taxa (e.g., vertebrates) in specific geographic regions (e.g., temperate areas), and argues that we should develop a stratified sampling method, instead – some kind of “major, coordinated effort by whole organism biologists to attempt a systematic sampling of the autecology and behaviour of the earth’s biota.”

Parasite ecologists also focus on specific taxa in specific regions. We’re highly motivated to study parasites that infect people and our domesticated species, especially in temperate regions. We also give much attention to parasites that have strong impacts on populations of important game species and some wildlife species. That isn’t to say that we don’t know anything about the ecology of parasite species from other host species. For instance, we know a lot about some of the cool parasites that manipulate their hosts’ behavior. But are we missing important basic ecological principles by focusing heavily on parasites in particularly important host species or particularly “cool” parasites?

You won’t be shocked to learn that I don’t have immediate answers to these questions. Lawton’s proposal to systematically sample more species for detailed ecological studies sounds awesome, but it also sounds highly difficult to organize and implement, even if we only consider parasites. But this is definitely something worth thinking about! Because as Lawton said:

“The problem has close parallels with the agonising debate over which species to conserve, assuming we have any choice at all in the matter.”

For parasites, there will be little to no support for conserving the parasite species that we know the most about: those that harm humans. (In fact, we’re actively trying to eradicate some of the most heavily studied parasites, like the Guinea worm.) How does one work towards conserving taxa whose best-known species are detrimental for people?

Very carefully?

January Parasite Haiku

To reach my 2018 #260papers goal, I jumped on board with a useful accountability system: tweeting my progress.  Tara Stewart was doing the same thing, and she found a brilliant way to motivate me to read more – we’re summarizing the papers that we read with haiku!! I thought y’all might like to see some of the parasite-themed haiku. If you want to join us, feel free to tweet me yours, and I’ll share them next month!


Vicarious Parasitology

I’ve lost count of how many times some awesome parasite ecologist has told me that Armand Kuris’s parasitology course changed their science/life. Since I find myself living in SB this quarter, I’m taking this amazing opportunity to sit in on Armand’s class at UCSB. If you haven’t had the same opportunity and you want to live vicariously through me, you can follow along on Twitter (@parasiteecology), where I’ll be posting the best nuggets.