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Big Biology is a podcast that tells the stories of scientists tackling some of the biggest unanswered questions in biology.

Big Biology Art Woods and Marty Martin

    • Levenswetenschappen

Big Biology is a podcast that tells the stories of scientists tackling some of the biggest unanswered questions in biology.

    Ep 32: Diluting Disease

    Ep 32: Diluting Disease

    How is declining biodiversity affecting the occurrence and spread of Lyme disease? Is there a way to reduce the transmission of tick-borne diseases using ecological approaches? On this episode of Big Biology we talk with Felicia Keesing and Rick Ostfeld, two disease ecologists working at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York. Felicia is a professor at Bard College, and Rick is a staff scientist at the Cary Institute. They study the ecology of tick-borne illnesses including a remarkable phenomenon called the dilution effect. In front of a live audience, we discussed the dilution effect, a term Felicia and Rick coined 20 years ago that is based on their study of ticks, mice and the causative agent of Lyme disease, a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. White-footed mice, which are common in the forests of the eastern and central U.S., are especially good at carrying Borrelia and are often responsible for passing it on to ticks. Felicia and Rick observed that biodiverse ecosystems tend to have fewer infected ticks and hence lower rates of Lyme infection. In other words, high host diversity dilutes the risk of disease.

    • 50 min.
    Ep 31: Methusalicious

    Ep 31: Methusalicious

    If natural selection is constantly ridding lineages of detrimental traits, why do all organisms wear down with age? Why does restricting the diet slow down the aging process?

    On this episode of Big Biology we talk with Jenny Regan and Dan Nussey, scientists at the University of Edinburgh who study why some organisms age at different rates and what phenotypic plasticity might have to do with this with variation.

    We discuss how aging happens, why species vary, and some of the major theories scientists use to explain it. We also discuss a paper that Jenny and Dan recently published in Functional Ecology, which proposes an evolutionary explanation for the life-extending effects of diet restriction. Their idea is that mechanisms that evolved to coordinate phenotypically plastic responses ultimately underpin aging.

    Read Jenny and Dan’s recently published Functional Ecology paper that describes why diet restriction has anti-aging effects.

    • 1 u. 7 min.
    Happy Holidays!

    Happy Holidays!

    Make a donation to Big Biology through Patreon at Patreon.com/bigbio or at bigbiology.org

    • 6 min.
    Ep 30: Know Your 'Ome

    Ep 30: Know Your 'Ome

    What can direct-to-consumer genetic companies tell us about our health and ancestry? How do scientists figure out which genes affect particular traits? Is Art related to a Nigerian prince? Is Marty a Neanderthal? On this episode of Big Biology we talk with Samantha Esselmann and Ruth Tennen, product scientists at 23andMe, about how the company uses its massive trove of data to help people learn about the genetics of their ancestry and health. We talk about the accuracy of results and what the numbers in their reports say about us. Samantha and Ruth work closely with 23andMe’s population geneticists and content writers to develop engaging scientific content for 23andMe's health reports and educational initiatives. Samantha has a PhD in Neuroscience from UCSF. Ruth got her PhD in Cancer Biology from Stanford and served as a science policy fellow at the State Department.

    • 50 min.
    Ep 29: Lick Your Kids

    Ep 29: Lick Your Kids

    How important are pathways other than DNA for transmitting traits from one generation to the next? On this episode of Big Biology, we talk to neuroscientist Frances Champagne from the University of Texas at Austin. Using rodents, Frances studies how early-life experiences affect epigenetic marks and how those marks are passed from one generation to the next. We asked her how those marks influence rat behaviors, why this mechanism alters modern evolutionary theory, and whether the growing interest in epigenetics is vindicating Lamarck’s old ideas about the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

    • 54 min.
    Ep 28: Evolution Now

    Ep 28: Evolution Now

    How do new species form? How long does it take for evolution to happen? What can hybrids tell us about the process of speciation?

    On this episode we talk with Peter and Rosemary Grant, two Princeton biologists who spent decades studying finches on the Galapagos Islands. Their work on bird beaks provides some of the strongest evidence for how fast natural selection can occur and more recently the genes involved. Their newest work on hybridization could fundamentally change how we think about speciation in animals.

    • 51 min.

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