Friday, April 11, 2008

As I see it: the idiot's guide to the history of animal classification

Chapter 1: Classification is a universal human attirbute. There seem to often be two categories.

Traditional Micronesians seem to classify living things into two groups: Animals and Plants. But remember how german classifies the noun "maedchen" (maiden) as neutral, taking the neutral article "das"? Chuukese does something like that with counting classifiers. English uses counting classifiers trivially; but other languages incorporate explicit syntactic rules for applying them. In Chuukese, the classifier is obligatory (or WAS, because younger speakers don't learn their more sophisticated aspects).

The classifier for a long skinny item is "foch". Like a stick of gum, efoch gum = one stick on gum. ruefoch gum = two sticks of gum.

The classifier for an animal is "men". Emen pik = one pig; emen mwan = one man. Ruemen pik = two pigs, etc. But interestingly, for the octopus, ew kuus = one octopus, it is not given the classifier for animals!

And then, here's a stranger one still, I think: a saw or a knife IS given the classifier "men": Emen ngerenger = one saw.

Chapter 2: Early thinkers also posited two higher categories.

More to come

Friday, March 7, 2008

Monitoring / Red Flags / E. Coli

Beginning from where? My Biology classes have been studying Mitosis. A bit out of sequence, but I stumbled upon several excellent Mitosis videos that clarified the air. Also included were two videos that cleared up confusion about Protein expression. With a self-congratulatory smile, I listened to students, again and again, saying "Now I get it." Just three hours collecting together Google Videos: time well worth wasting.

Along the way, the second day, students were finishing their seatwork on the stages/snapshots of mitosis. I also showed 2 time lapse videos of bacterial fission. One of them concluded that in 48 hours of unbridled division at 20 minute intervals, the progeny of one E. coli would have a mass 4 times that of the Earth.

May I digress?

What is E. coli? Escherichia coli is a symbiont in the human gut:

Escherichia coli (pronounced /ˌɛʃɪˈrɪkiə ˈkoʊlaɪ/) (E. coli), is a bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded animals. Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some, such as serotype O157:H7, can cause serious food poisoning in humans, and are occasionally responsible for costly product recalls. The harmless strains are part of the normal flora of the gut, and can benefit their hosts by producing vitamin K2, or by preventing the establishment of pathogenic bacteria within the intestine.

E. coli are not always confined to the intestine, and their ability to survive for brief periods outside the body makes them an ideal indicator organism to test environmental samples for fecal contamination.

The DEQ posts on line Beach Reports. Red Flags refer to the beaches listed in these reports. Red Flags are also posted in the local newspapers. A separate web page explains the beach monitoring program.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Chicken to the Egg / Egg to the Chicken

Starting from a basic coral reef life cycle, an odyssey.

Why is it relevant to study coral life cycles on Saipan?

  1. Corals are cool
  2. Corals live here: we would have no such island without corals
  3. Coral development parallels development across the gamut of animals
  4. We can allude to various points in the life cycle where corals are susceptible to human activities
    1. Fertilization (chicken first point of view), due to varoius causes
    2. Settlement
    3. Adult life
  5. Leads to animal embryology
  6. Specificity is a ubiquitous theme