HOW CLIMATE WORKS (Part 7) — Shawn Marshall on The Cryosphere

Part 7 from the How Climate Works symposium features Shawn Marshall of the University of Calgary on the cryosphere. We published his excellent book on the subject in the Fall or 2011 called THE CRYOSPHERE.

HOW CLIMATE WORKS (Part 6) — Michael Bender on Paleoclimate

Continuing with our series on talks from Princeton’s HOW CLIMATE WORKS symposium, here we see Princeton University geoscience professor Michael Bender discussing Paleoclimate. His new book PALEOCLIMATE will be availble July 2013.

HOW CLIMATE WORKS (Part 5) — David Archer on the Global Carbon Cycle

Renowned University of Chicago geophysicist David Archer discussed the Global Carbon Cycle. We published the book of the same name, THE GLOBAL CARBON CYCLE, in the Fall of 2010.

HOW CLIMATE WORKS (Part 4) – The Morning’s Q&A Session

For those following our HOW CLIMATE WORKS symposium videos, our latest addition is the morning’s Questions & Answers session.

New Biology Catalog

We invite you to download and browse our 2012-2013 Biology catalog:
http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/bio12.pdf

Be on the lookout for these new and forthcoming titles (just to name a few):

Nature’s Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation
by James L. Gould & Carol Grant Gould

Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life
by Enrico Coen

Darwinian Agriculture: How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture
by R. Ford Denison

Solid Biomechanics
by Roland Ennos

How and Why Species Multiply: The Radiation of Darwin’s Finches
by Peter R. Grant & B. Rosemary Grant

Atmosphere, Clouds, and Climate
by David Randall

The World’s Rarest Birds
by Erik Hirschfeld, Andy Swash & Robert Still

and more. There are too many great titles to list here. You’re just going to have to check it out online: http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/bio12.pdf

If you are attending the First Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology in Ottawa, stop by and visit us at booth #105!

How warfare and altruism go hand in hand

Whether one is for war or against it, humans generally agree that warfare is a terrible thing.  Wars happen when people are unable to settle disputes using our higher faculties, the capacity to reason and compromise that differentiates us from animals.  War is, therefore, a degenerative act for humanity.  …right?

Nicholas Wade’s article in the New York Times this week explains that over the course of human history war may have been the strongest factor in promoting the evolution of human altruism, the trait on which human societies have been founded.  It’s the same problem proposed by Rousseau in The Social Contract: “The problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before.”  Humans are a strangely independent and dependent species.  Evolutionarily speaking altruism is nonsense: why should I sacrifice my own self interest to yours?  How would that help an individual survive?  And yet humans are constantly sacrificing their own interests for those of another–a spouse, a family unit, a community, or in the case of modern warfare, a vast nation of strangers.

The seemingly paradoxical evolutionary development of altruism is easily resolved if you consider natural selection as a group effort.  By banding together, people were more easily able to promote their own survival, and thus the instinct for group preservation developed in conjunction with self preservation.   As Wade notes, “Warfare may not usually be thought of as a form of cooperation, but organized hostilities between chiefdoms require that within each chiefdom people subordinate their individual self-interest to that of the group.”

Wade concludes with the conjecture proposed by A Cooperative Species authors Bowles and Gintes: that warfare “may have contributed to the spread of human altruism.” Communities that are successfully able to organize and raid others gain advantageous resources that increase their potential for survival.

The article is well worth a read.  And pick up a copy of A Cooperative Species–you may be surprised by what you learn about the human race!

New Biology Catalog

We invite you to browse our new 2011-2012 biology catalog at:
http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/bio11.pdf

The catalog’s cover image is Pale-madibled Toucan (Pteroglossus erythropygius). The beautiful photo is by John Kricher, author of Tropical Ecology, one of the many great books featured in this year’s catalog.

Check out these favorites in new paperback editions:

The Origin Then and Now:
An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species

By David N. Reznick
With an introduction by Michael Ruse

How and Why Species Multiply:
The Radiation of Darwin’s Finches

By Peter R. Grant & B. Rosemary Grant

A Mathematical Nature Walk
By John A. Adam

Be on the lookout for these new and forthcoming titles (just to name a few):

Honeybee Democracy
By Thomas D. Seeley

Pollination and Floral Ecology
By Pat Willmer

Chemical Biomarkers in Aquatic Ecosystems
By Thomas S. Bianchi & Elizabeth A. Canuel

The Cryosphere
By Shawn J. Marshall

The Crossley ID Guide:
Eastern Birds

By Richard Crossley

The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs
By Gregory S. Paul

There are too many new and forthcoming titles to list here. You’re just going to have to check it out online: http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/bio11.pdf

Avian Architecture praised in the New York Times

Last week the New York Times ran an article on Peter Goodfellow’s Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build, and the public response has been positively overwhelming!  Yesterday the article was at number 11 on the NYT online list of most emailed articles.  Here is what some fans have had to say:

Star Tribune author Jim Williams, the “WingNut” columnist, writes: “I read “Avian Architecture” cover to cover without putting it down. I’m fascinated by nests, being built, in use, or abandoned at season’s end. Goodfellow now has me actively looking for nest constructions I haven’t seen…”

From the blog No Charge Bookbunch: “…a book review about Avian Architecture caught my interest in the New York Times today…the author’s scientific explanation of Australian bowerbirds’ nests gave a good model to emulate…”

The design-oriented blog zee. writes “I love books that make you look at the world a little differently…I never thought of birds as builders and engineers (no offense, birds), but they clearly are, in their own right,” while notcot, a blog of “ideas+aesthetics+amusement” was taken with this photo of a hanging nest:

The blog Co.Design also praises both the imagery and content of Goodfellow’s book.  “This isn’t a lavish coffee-table book — information is privileged over visuals — but there’s plenty to marvel at… Our favorites are the examples of biomimicry — instances of us mirroring nature in our own architecture. But most of the nests are remarkable feats – especially when you consider that they’re built with the assistance of a single tool — a beak — which, as Goodfellow writes, is a little like “trying to make a ham and cheese sandwich with one hand behind your back.”” (That would be very tricky!)

Whether you are a bird nest enthusiast, architecture fan, or just enjoy beautiful and inspiring images, Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build is well worth picking up!

Bobbi S. Low, co-author of An Introduction to Methods and Models in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology

HP_ecology Effective, accurate models matter now more than ever, especially in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology. Princeton University Press is privileged to publish the most up-to-date textbook on quantitative models and methods in these fields. Pioneering an “active-learning” approach that encourages hands-on experience, Bobbi S. Low and her co-editor Stanton Braude have assembled a top-tier group of contributors to delve into an array of topics ranging from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and population effective size to optimal foraging and indices of biodiversity. 

Biology and Earth Sciences editor Alison Kalett spoke with Dr. Low about the new textbook and the benefits of “active-learning.”


 

Your new book takes an “active learning” approach to teaching key ideas in biology. Can you say a bit about what that means?

There is a wealth of evidence by now that students learn better if they are engaged with the material, no matter what the topic. Rather than being talked to for an hour, if we can find ways that students can (individually, in pairs, in small groups) question and discuss the material, propose inferences from it, take apart case studies, even role play—they are likely to understand and remember the material better.

Why do you think the approach you take in this textbook is a particularly good way of teaching students ecology, evolution, behavior, and conservation?

These are some of the most “engaging” topics in all of biology. Getting hands-on experience is important, and it helps (if done right) to engage and remember the theoretical aspects correctly. In behavior, for example, you can start simply, with having students do an ethogram. They must figure out what constitutes “a” behavior, and how to describe it in a completely reliable, repeatable way. Watching, say, mallard ducks, and then discussing what everyone has seen, then collaboratively putting a “list of behaviors” together—all that engages students cognitively (and usually physically, as well). They don’t forget what they themselves have put together. It is true, tough, that almost any subject, no matter how abstract, can probably be taught this way by someone who really understands it deeply

How did you come to teach biology in this way? Why do you find it effective?

Oh, my. Well, first, the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching has a number of biology/ecology specialists who really know this approach. And Stan Braude, the senior author, independently had begun to work this way. So we were both doing in-class short collaborative exercises (<5 minutes)—small inference problems like optimal group size for werewolves hunting humans or cows (the data, of course, are on wolves with smaller and larger prey). Or, though solving a problem together, to discover why a dominant Groove-Billed Ani might kick her sister out of a collaborative nest, but not evict a stranger! And in discussion, because groups are smaller, one can do even more (and more types) of collaborative work. Last week in my behavioral ecology course, for example, groups of 3-4 presented their research (begun the week before) on the life history of some particular species, and what that life history implied for management and conservation.

More broadly, it’s probably useful to know that the Ecological Society of America, and the American Biology Teacher have good resources on why active learning is a useful tool, and how to do it effectively.

Can you talk about one example from the book to illustrate your approach?

Well, each exercise is structured this way! One I particularly like is one that Stan devised: for optimal foraging, it uses Halloween trick-or-treaters. The problems are all there, but every student has been a trick-or-treater. It’s hard to discover your early foraging was sub-optimal! All the exercises begin with some individual work, then sharing and critiquing all the ideas individuals have raised. Then the group interaction expands, and students must master many details for the final part, which may be a proposal, judging proposals, role-playing as an environmentalist or a hunter, and more. We find the approach really helpful: students think it is fun, and they learn and remember a lot!

Princeton Global Science, Issue 5

With the excitement of Halloween this weekend, I am a little delayed in getting this “issue” of Princeton Global Science published, but there are plenty of goodies this time around.

Just this morning, I’ve posted two terrific math problems drawn from A Mathematical Nature Walk and Guesstimation. We had terrific feedback to last issue’s pumpkin guide, so I hope you enjoy John Adam’s ruminations about fall foliage and rain.

Thomas Seeley, author of The Honeybee Democracy, contributes the 5 rules of democracy we can learn from honeybees and Tom Tyler is interviewed about his new book Why People Cooperate.

Physics and Astronomy editor Ingrid Gnerlich provides an overview of the In a Nutshell series and we also have a relevant excerpt about global climate change from the Princeton Guide to Ecology.

Birders will rejoice because we’ve posted another sneak preview of Joseph Forshaw’s new guide to Parrots of the World.

Like Princeton Global Science? Subscribe to our RSS Feed here: http://blog.press.princeton.edu/category/pgs/feed/.

The Princeton Guide to Ecology, edited by Simon Levin

HP_ecology Many of the topics covered in The Princeton Guide to Ecology, edited by Simon Levin, appear regularly in the news. A good demonstration of how this indispensable resource can enhance our understanding of world issues is the Guide’s treatment of global climate change. In their article “Conservation and Global Climate Change,” Diane M. Debinski and Molly S. Cross explain some of the research methods scientists use to learn the effects of climate change, but also the questions they face in determining how to preserve biodiversity in changing conditions:

 


The Princeton Guide
to Ecology
Preface
Table of Contents
List of Contributors
Sample Articles


“The science of managing for climate change is currently in its infancy, and the language of this field is still developing. Strategies include whether to manage for resistance options (e.g., those that delay the effects of climate change), resilience options (e.g., those that increase the ability of the ecosystem to return to previous conditions following a disturbance), or response options (e.g., those that facilitate ecosystem changes brought about by a changing climate). Monitoring to establish baseline conditions and quantify change is a first step in providing scientists with the tools to understand how ecosystems are responding to a changing environment. Adaptive management—modifying management approaches over time as the manager obtains a better understanding of the system—will be an important approach to dealing with climate change. For example, if wildfire frequency increases with warmer temperatures, a manager might want to modify the way that wood is harvested to maximize the placement of fire breaks or minimize the amount of standing dead trees that could provide fuel for a fire. However, even if a manager knows the current status of the system, there are several challenges inherent in dealing with climate change: (1) developing a baseline for comparison; (2) understanding time lags; and (3) consideration of entirely new management approaches.”

–from “Conservation and Global Climate Change” by Diane M. Debinski and Molly S. Cross, in The Princeton Guide to Ecology, edited by Simon Levin

Click the article title above to view the complete entry.


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Deborah M. Gordon author of Ant Encounters

HP_ecology Ants are tiny and mighty, but as Deborah M. Gordon explains in this Q&A, they are not quite the selfless, moral workers Aesop and other fablers might lead us to believe. Deborah studies ants in hopes of illuminating collective behaviors and complex systems. Here she gives us a glimpse into how and why it all works.

 


When did you first realize you wanted to become a scientist? How did you come to the study of ants?

I majored in French as an undergraduate and didn’t really know for sure I wanted to be a scientist until I was in graduate school. I came to the study of ants through reading about the history of developmental biology, and the debate about reductionism around the turn of the 20th century. I was looking for a system that works without central control, like an embryo, that would be easy to observe. I chose ants because it is easy to see what they are doing.

Your current book, Ant Encounters, uses ants as a model for understanding collective behavior and complex systems in general. How so?

What many biological systems have in common is that there is no central control, and the system functions because of the local interactions among parts – whether those are neurons or ants. But we still have a lot to learn about how brains or ant colonies work. We need to learn more about the details of particular systems before we can say for sure what are the properties of all complex systems.

What can we learn about human society from studying ants?

Ants have a lot to teach us about how systems of interacting agents respond to changing conditions. Throughout history we have used ants in fables with morals about hard work and selfless loyalty to the group. But we can probably learn more from ants about how our social networks function than about how we ought to behave. To be more specific, our stories about ants always have morals about how people ought to behave: soldiers should die for their country; we should conserve resources and plan for the future; a dutiful factory worker should cheerfully perform his or her appointed task. These morals come from stories about ants that are not true. Real ants do not offer lessons in behavior. They do, however, provide insight about the dynamics of networks. Ants can show us how the rhythm of local interactions creates patterns in the behavior and development of large groups. There are no morals to be taken from the ants, but there is much to learn about systems without central control.

Can you give readers a bit of a sense of what it’s like to study ants. What are some of the more surprising things you’ve observed?

The best part of field work is when the ants show me something I’ve never seen before, or when I figure out what they are up to. They often surprise me. Sometimes it’s because the colonies are doing something really clever. A few years ago, during the summer monsoon season, I realized that the ants piling twigs around the nest entrance were making a levee to keep water out of the nest. During this year’s field season I was surprised to discover that the ants construct tunnels to constrain the flow of interaction between incoming and outgoing foragers. This makes the regulation of foraging much more precise.

What is the field work like? What is the best part? The most frustrating part?

I have worked for many years in southeastern Arizona and it’s great to be outside in the desert early in the morning; I love the silence and the big sky. For the past few years I’ve also been working in a tropical forest in Mexico, and even though it’s hot and I don’t like mosquitoes, I’m fascinated by the incredible diversity, splendid colors, and rapid growth of everything, including the ants but also the lizards, butterflies, songbirds, and much more.

It can be frustrating when things don’t go as planned but I try to remember that ecology is all about change. Field work would go more rapidly if conditions stayed the same and every day was like the one before, but that never happens.