Methods Draft 2

Submitted by nskinner on Mon, 09/09/2019 - 20:13

To find evidence of phytophagy you must first find a place that would be a habitat to plants. The plants should be easy to access and show clear evidence of the consumption of their leaves. First bike or walk to the Lot 12 parking lot of University of Massachusetts Amherst. In the very back of the parking lot, which is the very west side of the parking lot is a guardrail. Behind this guardrail is a multitude of plants growing. Approximately 100 feet north from the very south corner of the parking lot there is a plant located about 2 feet behind the guardrail. Step over the guardrail to get closer to the plant. The plant has lanceolate serrated leaves, with purple flowers on the end of a long pinnacle. The leaves of this plant have 50-100 wholes in each leaf. The holes are likely caused by insects eating the plant. Take a picture of one of these leaves from about 5 inches distance. Be sure to focus the camera on the leaf when taking the picture. Take another picture of the entire plant itself from a few feet away. Step back over the guardrail and back into the parking lot to take another picture of the entire plant. Walk about 20 feet away from the guardrail to take a picture of where the plant is in relation to the rest of the lot. To identify the plant, you can use a dichotomous key, or an app on your phone. I used an app called inaturalist that uses filters and gps to suggest possible ID’s for the plant. The app suggested that the plant was Blue Vervain

Draft 2

Submitted by zalam on Mon, 09/09/2019 - 18:59

Today I was reading a neuroscience paper on the zona incerta of the brain. This paper was the first time I had ever heard about this incredibly underrated brain region. The ZI is a subthalamic region that has proven to be of great importance in terms of treatment for various psychological issues tested in mice model. The paper that I had read shed light on the activation of the ZI leading to the attenuation of fear, but only maladaptive fear. The mice were classically conditioned into being fearful of a certain stimulus. Upon trigger of the stimulus, they had tried to escape. When the ZI was activated using viral injections, the rate of expressing fear had significantly gone down. To further confirm their results, they used viral injections to inhibit the ZI, and as expected, the mice had a higher rate of exhibiting fear. They even tried to activate the GABAergic neurons to the ZI, which lead to the decrease in fear generalization. This had confused me slightly as GABAergic neurons are responsible for inhibitory responses. However, my professor later explained that it worked as a double negative - the GABAergic neurons inhibited possibly another set of neurons which were stopping the ZI from getting activated. The paper provided hope for PTSD, anxiety disorder etc. to combat maldaptive fear and quite frankly interested me into looking further into how the ZI affects our cognitive abilities and how it can be used for other disorders.

Methods Draft 1

Submitted by nskinner on Mon, 09/09/2019 - 18:46

I biked to the Lot 12 parking and scanned the back of the lot for evidence of phytophagy. I had to step over the guard rail into the knee-high brush located directly behind the guard rail. Amongst the golden rod and low shrubs stood a plant with small purple flowers blooming from long pinnacles. The leaves of the plant are lanceolate and have serrated margins. It is easy to distinguish from the surrounding plants behind the guard rail. The phytophagy evidence is easily found on almost all the leaves on this plant. Each leaf has many holes in it that are possibly chewed away by insects. Using my phone, I photographed one of the leaves from about 5 inches distance. I then stepped back and photographed the whole plant. I stepped back over the guardrail, back into the parking lot. I then moved 5 feet away from the guardrail and photographed the general area that the plant was growing. To better show the area, I moved about 20 feet away from the guardrail and took another photograph. To better identify the plant, I used a identification app called inaturalist. I uploaded the photo to the app and allowed the filter to suggest plants that match the description of this plant as well as the location of the plant. The app identified the plant as Blue Vervain.  

Draft 2

Submitted by dfmiller on Mon, 09/09/2019 - 17:48

Artificial intelligence is a topic of discussion throughout the country. Blue collar workers and some white collar workers are equally terrified of this prospect, as many jobs are in line to be completely automated away. These at-risk jobs are varied, from truck driving and warehouse work to low level law and accounting. While it is true that AI could change the landscape of our current work environment, it can also assist us in medicine, genomics, and even crop improvement in agriculture. Neural networks have an extraordinary ability to process and analyze extremely large data sets; such as the human genome. In doing so, AI has the ability to make connections, reccomendations, and even diagonse efficiently. AI will shift the labor market, that is for certain. But with the proper response from policymakers, with plans in place to protect workers most vulnerable of these labor shifts, AI can prove to be a tool that can benefit all of humanity.

AQ 9/9 Draft

Submitted by atquang on Mon, 09/09/2019 - 17:11

During my time in Genetics Lab, I found out about someone special. Her name is Tasha the boxer. This female boxer dog was the first canine to have its entire genome sequenced. What makes Tasha special is that its specific breed had little variation in its genome, which makes it a reliable reference genome sequence for public use all around the globe. Tasha has a brown coat with a white underside. The skin around the nose droops past the mouth, giving a bulldog-like look. Its nose and mouth are black. Her face is mainly white starting from the t-zone of the forehead and moves down the face, with a black perimeter around its facial extremities. It’s forehead and ears are brown. I’d imagine the dog is taller than knee-height, but shorter than the waist. Genomic sequencing of Tasha allows scientists to create a “blueprint for how complex traits [evolve] in all breeds of dogs.” Although dogs are less closely related to humans than other mammals, such as chimps, evolutionary biologists can test their hypothesis against Tasha’s reference genome to see how mammals had evolved. “Much of the non-coding DNA in dogs is the same as that in humans,” indicating there is more to what meets the eye.

Lawn Weed

Submitted by mpetracchi on Mon, 09/09/2019 - 14:34

Near the campus pond, on the side opposite the library by the water's edge there are many lawn weeds in the grass. These plants are very abundant in this area. So many in fact I cannot even begin to count them without losing track. The area in which they are found receives a moderate amount of sunlight, however, it appears the majority of them grow under some shade. It is likely they prefer this. They have a leafy base of about 10 to 15 leaves and a few small stalks, 3-6, protruding from the center of the base. The leaves are very rugged. They start fairly skinny near the base and open up as they reach the tips. The end broadens out, but they still end at a point. The edges of the leaf do not have any kind of serration or ridges. However, on many of the plants, the leaves have had some sort of damage done to them. Most likely from small insects eating away at them, but they are in an area where other students could trample them and produce similar tearing. Compared to the leaves from class these are much rougher on both sides. Many leaves have discolorations like white and black streaks across the tops and bottoms. The stalks have a firm stem. About 2 cm from the bottom of the stem seeds can be found which are present until the tip of the stem. These seeds are very densely packed leaving no room for the stem to be visible without moving them apart. They point upward. The seeds are held by some sort of connecting piece which also seems to provide protection. This connecting piece is a small group of leaves somehow attached to the seed capsule. Removing a seed from the stem requires little force. When it comes off the connecting piece remains attached to the seed, but can be removed easily. The actual seed is within another shell. Upon further inspection, the seed capsule contains multiple seeds instead of one. The seed capsule also contained some liquid which enclosed the seeds, possibly water. The seeds are a light green color and are very small compared to the size of the seed capsule.

Draft #2

Submitted by rmmcdonald on Mon, 09/09/2019 - 11:55

At first glance, one might assume the brute cement appearance of Herter seems unappealing. With its off white cement exterior that is stained with grey and black streaks from years of abuse from the elements, it seems rather uninviting. However, when the coloring of Herter is overlooked the finer details of the building cannot go unnoticed. This building may be the aptimy of brutalist architecture. Each cement block is carved with perfectly uniform minor details. Holes of the same circumference are carved at the same points along the side of a building. These holes perhaps bring a sense of texture and interactiveness with the building. Similarly when looking up at the roof while standing right below it, concentric squares are carved in. This again gives the brutalist building a sense of greater symmetry and texture. An otherwise unsightly crack also adds to the character of building. The crack defies the perfect geometric shapes imprinted around the building almost alluding to a sturdy, old Roman column cracking. Overall, I would argue that Herter is rather beautiful building. Its consistent and brutal character induces a unique feeling that I cannot quite place. Compared to other UMass buildings I will conceed Herter is far from being the greatest architectural feet.

Spider Web

Submitted by mpetracchi on Sun, 09/08/2019 - 20:55

Outside my apartment, under the stairs, there is a medium-sized spider-web. It is fairly sturdy. Some wind swept by and the web didn't move too much. It’s already caught a couple of bugs. There are an ant and a small flying insect, and both appear to be dead or at least not moving. The web itself is packed into a corner and the bulk of the threads are in the center of the corner with decreasing amounts of threads near the edges. As well as possible food, there's also some debris on the web. A small dried leaf swept into the web and got caught. It’s approximately half an inch long and very dry. It appears to be fairly old and may be a part that has broken off a larger leaf. It has a couple of small holes on the bottom left. They are about the size of a push pinhole. The web is not very tightly packed, as seeing through it is not much of a problem. When a light is shone onto the web it reflects some of the light. Around this spider web, there are some older cobwebs, which seem out of use. They are unattached to any major structure. I am assuming they are old because they seem deteriorated and have accumulated dirt. They sway if any wind is present and otherwise hang from single points. The spider who spun this web is not currently present. I am not going to touch it for a number of reasons. Mainly I am not too fond of spiders and their webs because for whatever reason they make me feel slightly uneasy.

AQ 9/8 Draft

Submitted by atquang on Sun, 09/08/2019 - 15:07

It’s currently 2:36PM on a Sunday afternoon. This would be my second draft for this class. I plan to write about the events that happened Friday after class as well as Saturday morning. To start off, I met with my cousin at the campus pond to catch up on news and hang out. We talked for quite some time. I believe I left class around 4:00 and went to the activities fair that afternoon until 5:30. After meeting up with my cousin at the fair we went to the campus pond to talk for almost 2 hours, just sitting outside in the nice view while greeting friends that sometimes passed by. As someone who doesn’t go outside often, it felt nice to sit outside and do something different for once. We would occasionally have these talks through voice chat via Discord past midnight, but doing it face-to-face was different in a good way.


The day after was my EMT psychomotor (practical) exam, which took place at Ware High School. I was expected to pass 4 different stations, including resuscitation, medical and trauma patient assessment, spinal immobilization, and upper and lower extremity immobilization. At the end of the day, I was able to pass all 4 stations. I now have to complete a 2 hour and 15 minute written exam on 9/14. With this in mind, I should use my time to write drafts for this class not only to complete the assignment, but I could also use it as a tool to take away some stress, even if I don’t typically write about my feelings or stresses.


I understand that these drafts should typically be centered around a scientific topic, but I felt it may be easier to get a better feel of writing by starting out with what is on my mind. Writing descriptive and detailed observations can be easy to read, but I feel that there is emotion and a “sense of human” being left out when all we read is bullet points of observations over and over again. This idea of scientific writing in my head may be wrong, and if so, I hope Professor Brewer can answer that for me. Because this is my second draft, I hate that I cannot revise what I write, even though I see flaws as I write. I hope this idea of having things on paper versus revising on the spot solves itself as I get more used to writing. I will admit I am a student who typically does their writing assignments last minute. I hope I learn something new as I start a new routine of writing everyday.

Draft #2

Submitted by ashorey on Sun, 09/08/2019 - 13:54

Something Life Science related that I have my mind on to write about is the crippling reliance of capitalistic gain to drive basic medical rights in our country. An example is how the geriatric focus in medicine is diminishing. Medical schools are closing geriatric branches, geriatric teachers are few and far between, and less people want to go into the specialty. Even geriatric units in hospitals are decreasing in both size and number. This would all make sense if the need for geriatric specialists was also decreasing, but it is not. These changes all come at a time where our world population is maximizing longevity and new technology is advancing life expectancies everyday. Why then, when the need is so great for geriatric practices, is the availability disappearing? The answer is money. Because people are living longer lives, the regular age of retirement leaves people with much more time after they stop working to rely on their savings. When is comes to medical needs, they also increase as the patients age: more prescriptions, surgeries, maybe a nurse assistant or nursing home, and thats where medicare comes in. Often times, medicare patients lose money for hospitals, therefore making hopsital CEOs and the primary earners disenchanted to serving them. If a majority or medicare patients are geriatric needs, simply closing the geriatric unit helps hospitals maintain a higher ratio or earnings to expenditures. And so all these people joining the aging population are greatly in desire for something that people don't want to provide them with, all because of money. To me, that is wrong. Medical care nowadays can do so much in achieving solutions to novel problems, so why not extend that ability to all the people who need it, not just the ones who make the hospital profit the most. 


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