Category Archives: Science

Small winter stonefly

I was out looking for the elusive snow fly yesterday but found this, instead: an eastern stonefly (Allocapnia recta), a member of the Capniidae (small winter stoneflies). At least that’s what I think it is. Larvae are active during the winter, and adults can fly and mate even when temperature is in the teens. Pretty incredible to see them flitting around on a cold day when other insects cannot even move. At Hildacy Farm in Media, PA. Probably emerged from the nearby Crum Creek. 

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Eastern stonefly (Allocapnia recta) Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Eastern stonefly (Allocapnia recta)

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Trigger warning for creationist visitors to National Zoo

Here’s a photograph I took several years ago at the National Zoo’s “Think Tank” exhibit on primate cognition. Darwin Day is one week so I thought I’d share.

Colin Purrington Photography: Evolution graphics &emdash; Think Tank warning for creationists

The text is a little hard to read so here’s transcription:

“This exhibit is about animal thinking. It contains some things you may agree with, some you may disagree with, and others that may even trouble you. Come explore and see what you think.” 

The warning sign was crafted by Smithsonian staff to cater to snowflake creationists who complained about the “Changes over millions of years have resulted in today’s humans” panel that covered the age of the earth, human evolution, and how natural selection works. 

The “see what you think” part suggests to visitors that the facts presented within are up for debate and thus shouldn’t undermine somebody’s alternative views about human origins or the age of the earth. But, of course, the warning signage undermines the experience for all visitors. I.e., a curious but uninformed visit might assume that the exhibits are just wild guesses about what might have happened. A shameful use of tax dollars, in my opinion.

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Apple oak gall

Apple oak gall (Amphibolips confluenta or Amphibolips quercusinanis), backlit to show leaf-like venation. Second photograph is a cross section showing where the wasp larva develops. I’d love to know what the spotting does, if anything.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Backlit oak apple gall (Amphibolips sp.)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Backlit cross section of an apple oak gall (Amphibolips sp.)

Cynipid wasps love oaks for some reason — over 3/4 of the 1300 species use Quercus as host. People argue about why that’s the case (e.g., Ronquist et al. 2015). Even Alfred Kinsey the sexologist weighed in, back in the days when he was obsessed with gall wasps. 

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Make conference posters great again!

Make conference posters great againRight after the U.S. Presidential election I traveled to Canada to give a talk on how to design large-format posters for medical conferences. Obviously, I couldn’t resist basing my title on the silly Trump slogan, “Make America great again.” But my title actually makes sense: most posters currently displayed at conferences are bad, whereas the United States was until a few days ago a pretty great country and thus didn’t need to be made great again.

I’m not going to post my slides online, but here are some of my posts on how to design conference posters, if you’re interested. Link #1 is my tome on the topic that I’ve been updating since 1997.

  1. Designing conference posters
  2. Layout for conference poster
  3. Templates for portrait-style science posters
  4. The fine print on poster sessions
  5. Charts with bling
  6. Justified
  7. Logos on conference posters
  8. More on placement of logos on scientific posters
  9. Boxes of bling for scientific posters
  10. Fabric conference posters
  11. Example of bad scientific poster
  12. Open letter to poster session organizers

It was great to leave the country. Really, really hard to come back.

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Copulating stilt-legged flies

Copulating pair of Taeniaptera trivittata, a type of still-legged fly (Micropezidae). Males (or females, according to one source) apparently brush the eyes of the partner during mating, though this frame didn’t capture that. When flitting around leaves they wave their white-tipped forelegs and look just like small ichneumon wasps. They have thin waists but the pattern on their wings makes them look even thinner, waspier. Known to feed on rotting Typha, which was abundant nearby (John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Tinicum, PA).

If you come across a pair, please take a video so I can see the legs in action. I like to watch, and I know of others who are interested in this species.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Copulating stilt-legged flies (Taeniaptera trivittata)

Huge thanks to John S. Ascher and John F. Carr on Bugguide.net for help identifying them.

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