My Recent Work

Changing Policies on COVID-19 Transmission

Despite its top-notch scientific institutions, the United States fared especially poorly during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were many missed opportunities that led to such an epic tragedy. One that has loomed especially large has been confusion around airborne spread of the virus. Precautions such as improving indoor air quality or wearing masks were ignored or downplayed until far too late. Linsey Marr, an engineer who studies aerosols at Virginia Tech, suddenly found her expertise needed in 2

Physicians Need Caregiving Support Policies

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, rates of promotion and retention for women physicians were known to fall far short of gender parity. Although just over 50 percent of medical students are women, only 37 percent of practicing doctors are women. A 2020 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that representation of women in academic medicine declines as one climbs the promotional ladder (see the figure below). One 2019 study showed that nearly 40 percent of women

How Hummingbirds Budget Nighttime Energy

Hummingbirds push the extremes of what is energetically possible in the animal world, zipping around with the fastest wingbeats of all birds, up to 80 beats per second in the smallest species. To keep up that pace, hummingbirds eat lots of nectar. If scaled to human size, their sugar intake would be equivalent to drinking a can of Coca-Cola every minute. Hummingbirds must get enough food to maintain their busy lives, without accruing fat stores that would weigh them down. Maintaining such a high

Ancient Fire Scars of the Petrified Forest

When Bruce Byers brought home a piece of petrified wood he inherited after his father died in 2012, he didn’t plan to make it the subject of a new area of research. His father had collected the hunk of rock in Bears Ears, Utah, in the 1980s and had long used it as a doorstop. But with the 210-million-year-old fossil newly situated in his home, something niggled at Byers. The ancient log looked to him like it had a fire scar (below, on right), a wood growth formation that happens at the base of a

Four things newsrooms can do right now to counter science polarization

At SRCCON in June, we hosted a discussion about countering polarization in coverage of science topics. On the heels of two years of pandemic weirdness, not to mention years of entrenched discourse about climate change, the topic feels especially relevant.

We brought together an audience of journalists with four scholars studying this topic from various angles: researcher and reporter Jaime Longoria of the Equity First Vaccination Initiative and the Disinfo Defense League; psychologist Stephan L

An Antidote to Climate Despair

The book All We Can Save is an anthology of essays and poems by a diverse group of feminist climate experts and activists. A project has grown out of the book that aims to nurture a climate community "rooted in the work and wisdom of women."

All We Can Save is a collection of essays and poems that aims to serve as an antidote to climate despair while also fully conveying the gravity of the situation we confront. Its title is inspired by a line from Adrienne Rich’s poem “Natural Resources”: “My

Bringing Clarity to COVID-19 Testing

What I’ve been pushing for is to entirely rethink what the purpose of testing is and what the downstream actions of testing must be. In this case, making the testing approach not so much a top-down public health surveillance, but rather a bottom-up personalized empowerment screening tool—meaning that I know my status, much like HIV—changes the whole game. We can have many people using simple rapid tests in their home, twice a week. Without that frequent testing, people never know they’re positiv

Why Gentle Honeybee Hives Are Less Resilient

Animal behaviorist Clare Rittschof of the University of Kentucky has been studying honeybee aggression for more than 10 years, so it might come as no surprise that she’s lost count of the number of times she’s been stung. But she used to keep count. “I got 88 honeybee stings just in one summer,” she recalls.

That’s because it can actually be better for her and the bees if she does occasionally get stung. “I don’t really go for 100 percent no sting,” she says. “I don’t wear gloves or anything on

What Might Happen to COVID-19 Over Time?

The novel coronavirus is unlikely to go away completely after its first outbreak. People are only beginning to grapple with what comes next.

To deal with the global pandemic of a novel coronavirus, people all over the world have scrambled to enact social distancing so as to reduce the speed with which the virus is spreading—key to reducing the strain on health care systems. But even as different countries have met that threat with varying degrees of success, they need to prepare for the afterma

The Giant Tadpole That Never Got Its Legs

The biggest tadpole ever found—at a whopping 10 inches long—was discovered by a crew of ecologists in a pond in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona. Alina Downer, an intern at the American Museum of Natural History's Southwestern Research Station, came across the monster bullfrog tadpole as her crew was draining a manmade pond as part of a habitat restoration project for the endangered Chiricahua leopard frog. As the water level lowered, Downer and her colleagues were assessing what organisms we

An Ethics of Land Relations in Science

Scientists who strive for justice and equity in their institutions face an uncomfortable quandary: The knowledge systems that form the foundation of scientific research are entrenched in colonialist practices. This book is for them. It maps the path the author has followed in attempting to avoid scholarly and scientific practices that reproduce colonialism while conducting research on plastic pollution. Liboiron acknowledges that anyone taking on a similar goal will face difficult, paradoxical d