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    Week One.





    What are our goals in this class? To talk about monsters, and link the imagination to what is real and what we are trying to learn about. Our first meeting we will just get to know each other and talk about the semester. What we will doing is progressing from monster to popular understanding of science to the science itself, each time, using several pretty awesome examples.

    Today, our first day, we'll get started with Godzilla! This mythical beast was born in a time of great fears of what manmade radiation could do to our natural world (and to us). Your assigned reading prior to next week will require you to think about what happens when we find something unusual in nature, and our first fear is that it is caused by radiation. After you read this, set a timer for 5 minutes and write about what this means to you, and bring this to class next week.

    Week Two.

    Today we will get to talk to a scientist who is studying the effects of massive radiation release on wildlife. Cara Love, PhD student in the Odum School of Ecology, will come to discuss her work near Chernobyl (click the link to learn more - this disaster happened well before you were born!) and at the Savannah River Ecology Lab during today's class.

    We will read some of our thoughts on Godzilla, mutated daisies, and radiation, and think about how our fear of monsters can be related to what we know (or don't know) about science. Before next class, try to log in and post some or all of your thoughts on man-made monsters to the blog on this website! Or, you can comment on other blogs or pages as appropriate. Be sure to include information about your resources, whether you Googled for other stories, videos, etc. or read something from a science journal!

    Week Three (Sep 2).


    Librarian Ian Thomas gives a great presentation on how you can find the science papers (and other types of resources) you need to succeed in your time at UGA! Following class, you should read this paper by Gopen & Swan linked here, to get us all warmed up for reading about science in the primary literature as well as more popular websites, blogs, and other sources.

    Week Four (Sep 9).


    Today we are going to shift gears to a different kind of beast... a presumably natural, evolved one that we just don't know very well.

    SASQUATCH!!! (Dr. Wares note to self: iPad can't run Flash, use classroom computer)

    second take:
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    Bigfoot Caught on video in Boone North Carolina

    Bigfoot Caught on a video Boone, North, Carolina

    Posted by Normangee Texas on Monday, August 10, 2015

    Note the date of that report. What do we think? What did you see? How could we learn more about the organism captured on video? What sort of science would you envision doing, and what training would you need ahead of time?

    Here's another, not too far away. Hmm, two data points.

    Before next week, read and write a report on this page that discusses genetic diversity and possible yeti fur! Don't worry, we will come back to Sasquatch...and remember your reports can be on the blog, or you may even start new pages on this wiki if you choose!

    Week Five (Sep 16).


    Today we are ready, I think, to talk about reading through the actual science literature. Some papers can be real monsters to get through, others can be relatively easy. Either way, this is how scientists communicate what they know and what they are learning to the rest of the world.

    We will discuss some of the terminology and methods and results from the yeti study that you read this week. Now I think we are ready to read a full paper for next class, and as always please post your responses and related thoughts to the blog! In fact, not only is it worth thinking about whether or not there are sasquatches out there.... how would you decide whether or not an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker had been seen in Arkansas a few years back?
    Download file "j.1365-2699.2009.02152.x.pdf"

    Week Six (Sep 23).


    Today lets try to see how well we understand the sasquatch paper. What terms are hard to unpack and understand? What methods do we wish we knew better? Use today's discussion as a jumping-off point to find a science study where we try to figure out the distribution of an organism, or the source of something previously unknown!?

    Week Seven (Sep 30)

    Sharks are scary monsters - even though you are more likely to die taking a selfie than from a shark attack - and so lets first find out from a presumably reputable source about Megalodon!


    Following this we will discuss what we know or DO NOT KNOW about monsters of the deep. Your reading and response material for next week will be links from http://dinosaurs.about.com/od/otherprehistoriclife/ss/10-Facts-About-Megalodon.htm, and think about what you have heard about shark attacks this year in the Atlantic as you read these reports.

    Week Eight (October 7).

    This week I will run a demonstration on DNA barcoding using a program called Geneious so we can LOOK at DNA sequence data and what it can tell us about a species. For your reading and response, please look at


    Week Nine (October 14)

    Today Dr. Bud Freeman from the Georgia Museum of Natural History will be our guest (or we may be his guest!) to talk about how DNA barcoding is used even in the absence of large hairy hominid mythical beasts....


    Your reading/response for TWO WEEKS FROM NOW is this paper from PNAS:

    Download file "PNAS-2004-Hebert-14812-7.pdf"
    and if you want to know more about the Joro spider, you can also read this paper by Dr. Freeman and his colleagues.

    Note that this is our most "serious" reading to date, so take your time and feel free to send me questions by email if you get stuck.

    Week Nine (October 21) NO CLASS TODAY

    This week Dr. Wares will be entirely wrapped up in PhD defenses by his two doctoral students. If you are interested, on October 21 Katie Bockrath will be defending at 11am in room B118 Life Sciences, talking about freshwater mussels and the obligate parasitic development stage they go through to mature, how this reflects fish diversity, and so on. Sort of tiny monsters....

    Week Ten (October 28)

    Finally, we are going to tackle zombies! Just in time for Halloween, of course. Nothing much you need to do to prepare for today.... except maybe have some brains for breakfast... no actually we will wrap up any questions you may have about the Hebert paper that I assigned after our GMNH day, and of course that is what you will have posted to the class website about.

    Then we will get started with zombies:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VthdqAFRqgs (I'm going to assume nobody is too squeamish)

    For NEXT week, you should read the attached paper so we can discuss it. Warning: this is a hard paper. Some of you may feel phobia about math (if not zombies). I don't expect anybody, even myself, to feel competent with some of the math in this paper as it represents not only algebra, but linear algebra, which is probably unfamiliar to most of you. Our goal is to talk about why they used this approach to understand, uh, zombies.
    Download file "Zombies.pdf"

    After you give this paper a good shot, your assigned writing is to discuss how you think 'zombie' happens. That is, are they re-animated dead, or living things made kind of dead, or both? Is it a virus? Is it magic? Are there zombies, really?

    Week Eleven (November 4)

    Today we are going to talk about the theory paper we read, and how it applies to our real world. This may end up being your reminder to get a flu shot...

    Week Twelve (November 11)

    Caterpillars, salmon, ants, ... more to come.

    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/09/14/science/a-wasp-that-turns-a-spider-into-the-walking-dead.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimesscience&smtyp=cur&_r=1&referrer=

    http://thefisheriesblog.com/2013/11/11/the-swimming-dead-videos-of-zombie-fish/

    Today we will look at examples of 'zombies' in nature, and discuss whether we think these qualify as zombies, as reported by the scientists and writers, or are they simply trying to exploit our fascination with monsters?


    For next week, your last writing assignment, and I'd like it to be longer than usual - a 1-page report, either on the blog, on the wiki, or by paper (Caroline!), WITH AT LEAST ONE REFERENCE FROM A SCIENCE ARTICLE. Your question is:

    "What does 'monster' mean to you? Do you believe there are monsters in real life, and what form do they take? What does it require to prove to others they exist, or to prove to yourself that they do not?"


    We will discuss these in class next week!



    Last Class! (November 18)

    With Thanksgiving break coming after this week, and the pressures of Finals week, I think you will have enough monsters to deal with. Today will just be our wrap-up session.


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