No funny jokes about the US Shutdown here…

The US government shutdown has been wreaking havoc on everything. The government has deemed Nobel Prize-winning physicist David Wineland and his research non-essential.  US government researchers are barred from scientific conferences.  Outdoorsmen (and women) can look here to see how it affects them.  It will likely have disastrous long-term effects for biomedical research.  It has even suspended Antarctic research for a YEAR!  That’s vital data lost forever and it doesn’t just matter to Americans; read about it here, here, and here.

I especially love the trending twitters hashtag #ShutdownPickupLines

My favorite one “NASA may have shut its Curiosity down, but you just turned mine on”

I had of tragic stories of the unintended consequences of the shutdown like cancer patients denied treatments then I heard horror stories of student projects interrupted by the US government shutdown.  Thank god I’m doing field work in US, I thought.  Then…. it affected me, in less severe, albeit annoying manner.  I’m trying to mimic the natural lunar cycle so I needed to access a dataset from NASA on lunar intensity as it relates to the phase angle of the moon.  This is what I get.

I heard that this was one of the most infuriating things you would read… Until I saw this picture of a child with a bear hat who can’t get into the zoo, how sad.  I should stop complaining.


Can you help me get to ACRS 2014?

The Australian Coral Reef Society (ACRS) is the holding the 88th annual meeting on X, taking place in Y from (dates).  This will be my first year attending the meeting, and I’m really excited to be meeting a lot of folks that I’ve come to know through, academic papers, media, and as well, the blogosphere and Twitter.

Here’s the catch: as a graduate student, I typically have access to travel fund through my university, my department, or the grant that’s funded my dissertation research.  Unfortunately, I’m ineligible for university funding because I’m not technically “presenting” research funding.  I think the fact that I don’t have any results –because I’m a first year student- to present shouldn’t exclude me from this great networking experience. That means I have to make it to ACRS14 on a graduate student budget the first year, and I need a little help.

Here’s why it’s important to me to participate. As a publicly-funded scientist, I strongly believe that I have a responsibility to communicate my research with the public (that’s one of the reasons I started tweeting and blogging). I’ve the better half of my career learning many valuable skills, but communication skills aren’t typically included in a scientist’s toolbox.  Also, we know that scientists engaging with the public is an important part of increasing public science literacy, as well as diversity within the STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) fields.

At ACRS14, I’ll not only be learning how to be a better scientist, but I’ll also be part communicating through my blog and Twitter handle under #ACRS14 because I believe this sort of communication will shape what science communication looks like in the future. 

I’ve already registered for ACRS14, and my goal is to crowd-fund $600 for my travel expenses. If you would like to make a contribution, I’ve come up with three options:

1) Contribute a donation through my RocketHub where you can read more about my research.

2) Send a donation via Paypal to (as I am not a non-profit, I can’t have a donation button)

3) You can send a donation via the postal service to my work address: 2500 University Dr. NW, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4

Don’t miss it: Live-Stream Coral Spawning

I have not yet had the immense pleasure of viewing a real-life spawning event (although I will in November!) and I’m sure many of you haven’t had that chance either.  Well, have no fear Teens4Oceans is here, now you have a chance to witness the event in silico (on the computer).

This student-based nonprofit teamed up with a local dive center Ocean Frontiers, imaging company Wild Goose Imaging, and an online education organization Oceans Classrooms to live-stream footage of coral spawning near Grand Cayman Island.

Spawning events happen usually within the same time frame (to the minute almost) every year and its predicted the corals will spawn at 9:15pm MST, you can view it here

Of course since it is a Friday night many of you might not be able to catch this live so you can catch footage from last night’s spawning event here; action starts at 1:50.

Quick Biography (and personal thoughts on blogging)

I’m Matthew Oldach, a Masters student at the University of Calgary under the tutelage of Peter Vize.  Previously, I did my Undergraduate(Honors) with the great Roger Croll at Dalhousie University where I studied the effects of estradiol on freshwater and marine gastropods.  After graduation, I worked briefly as a fisheries observer in Nova Scotia, as a scientific diver at an NGO (CEA) in Mexico, as a Research Assistant at the University of Alberta, an environmental consultant for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and as an intern on the guppy-mark-recapture project (Trinidad) run by David Reznick from UC Riverside.  A busy year of working various jobs/internships, and copious amounts of reading, helped me develop a better picture of who I am, and what scientific questions interest me.  I’m broadly interested in genomics, bioinformatics, cnidarians and image analysis.  I work in the lab with the sea anemone Aiptasia pallida and use various techniques including microarrays, proteomics, gene cloning, cell biology and bioninformatics to explore how circadian and circalunar cycles of gene expression influence synchronous spawning in the Cnidarians.  Lab work on Aptasia pallida is empirically tested with field studies on the stony coral Acropora millepora from the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Barrier Reef.

Asking me how and why I became a marine biologist is kind of like asking a back-country snowboarder why they check the weather religiously.  Research has become part of my identity – It’s just what I wake up thinking about.  It wasn’t an issue of reinforced pedigree which led me to graduate school.  Sure, I may be a middle-class Caucasian – a common denominator in educational and career achievement- but there was no push from my parents to get a high-powered profession, or their underpaid status equivalent – a research scientist.  I had always been encouraged to do what I liked and my gravitation to marine research is….. I am the first to go to University of the family.

I was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta and grew up in a tight-knit family.  I spent a lot of time as a teenager skateboarding and snowboarding and learning martial arts, individual sports which require a lot of self-teaching and patience.  I got beaten up, bruised and bandaged up and still kept pushing through failure in my formative years.  Simply put, passion, patience and persistence=success.

My first post on my blog inevitably will be “why do I blog”.  Well, I have made contributions to another blog and I thought it was time to create my own.  I feel that the discussion of scientific thought and progress through a public forum is just as important (in other ways) as writing peer reviewed publications.  As a MSc candidate this is my outlet to rant about ideas related to my field of research.  In my opinion this will be a good way to develop my skills as a writer, share ideas, and discuss my career progress.