Cubic Wombat Poop

One of the many reasons why I love biology is when a great and weird story gets told about some kind of living phenomenon. This week I was surprised to learn that wombat feces are cubic. Evidently it’s been known for quite some time that the wombat’s poop is cube shaped and it is hypothesized that wombats use it to mark their territories and the fact that it is cubed means that it doesn’t easily…

Continue reading


Planning a New Course in Science Communication

Next term I’m launching a new 4th year undergraduate course in Science Communication. I’ve wanted to teach a course on this topic for a while as I think that teaching our students how to communicate science to a range of audiences will be useful to them. Ideally we’ll get to a point where they can enter into dialogues with others about science, rather than having the interaction be one sided. It’s been fun to think…

Continue reading


Movies from my childhood: Not as awesome as I remember…

More often than not on Friday evenings my family has a movie night at home. My kids are 15 and 11 and we are finally at the point where we can regularly watch films that are rated PG rather than G. This has been pretty neat and recently we’ve been introducing our kids to several films that my husband and I really enjoyed from our own childhoods. The first one up was The Last Unicorn.…

Continue reading


Putting Dog Waste to Good Use

Our dog Sullivan turned 9 this past weekend. Sullivan is awesome, but like all other mammals, he generates a good amount of biological waste. When we moved to Waterloo, we were happy to see that a green bin program was in operation. We used biodegradable pet waste bags to collect his waste and put them in the green bin. Unfortunately, many weeks the bags weren’t accepted by our waste collectors (not sure why) and we…

Continue reading


Quick Tips for Improving Writing at the Level of Sentences

This term in my course I am having my students write short reflective pieces in response to a writing prompt. As they have gained experience in completing these assignments, the writing pieces have become more reflective, and are usually interesting and engaging. There are a few common problems that I continue to see as the term has progressed and these issues are found at the level of individual sentences. These include typos, switching between tenses,…

Continue reading


Writing for a Media Organization

I’ve always liked writing as an activity. When I was in Grade 5, my awesome story about a young chicken was published by the school board in a collection of children’s stories. Writing style needs to change with your audience. The majority of my writing for the past 20 years or so has been writing academic projects for fellow scientists. Several years ago I attended a great workshop by Shari Graydon who is the founder…

Continue reading


Paying for convenience: what is your time worth?

I like to think of myself as technologically savvy, but I have been pretty slow to jump on the online purchasing bandwagon. There have been a couple of reasons for this and the main two have been that I like to actually touch and/or try out a product before I buy it, and the fact that I don’t like some of the employment practices of the larger companies that almost have monopolies in the online…

Continue reading


Doctor Al Digest 28

A few things that I’ve found interesting in the past few weeks: A nasty case of alleged sexual harassment drives home the point the dangers that are inherent in a system where a graduate student has only one faculty member as their research advisor. It’s important as a grad student to develop a network of mentors. In some cases, it is worth your time to improve a skill that you are poor at, especially if…

Continue reading


Book Review: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

This is the first book that I’ve read by Daniel Pink, but it likely won’t be the last. I read it because I’m interested in being efficient and effective using time-management techniques and the book certainly has much to offer in this area. It also contains lots of other interesting insights into human relationships with time. The book is divided into three parts and each has its own focus. The first part focuses on daily…

Continue reading