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How can local and state governments repair the damage done by COVID-19? Is there a vaccine on its way to a pharmacy near you? And what should you expect about lockdowns, facemasks, and new COVID-19 therapies in the coming months? On this episode of Big Biology, a panel of experts discusses the virus’s trajectory and impact, and our options going fo…
 
What is the role of chance in explaining variation in biology? How has it shaped the history of life on Earth? And how do scientists incorporate chance into their performing experiments? In this episode of BigBiology, we talk to Sean Caroll, an award-winning scientist, author, educator and, film-producer about his latest book, A Series of Fortunate…
 
Are whales the biggest animals to have ever lived? Why have they evolved to become so gigantic? What key adaptations support their immense size? On this episode of Big Biology, we talk to Jeremy Goldbogen (@GoldbogenLab), a scientist at the Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford University. For the past few years he has been tracking blue whales, aimin…
 
How did life originate on Earth? Why is it that eukaryotes but not bacteria or archaea evolved large size and complicated body forms? How likely is that life has arisen independently elsewhere in the universe? On this episode, we talk with Nick Lane, a biochemist and professor at University College London, about his 2015 book The Vital Question. Ni…
 
How did the Brown Recluse get its powerful bite? How widespread is venom across the tree of life? How do spiders use their venoms? On this episode of Big Biology, we talk with spider venom expert Greta Binford (@gretabinford), a Biology Professor and Biology Department Chair at Lewis & Clark University. Her lab explores the vast chemical richness o…
 
Where, when, and how did Homo sapiens appear? What do we know about the complex set of ancestral hominins that preceded us? How recently did other hominin lineages live and what happened to them? In this episode we talk with Kate Wong, a senior editor at Scientific American, about her latest article, The Origin of Us. Our understanding of hominin e…
 
Which animals are conscious, and how can we tell? Does it matter? Although many people think of insects as simple organisms that react in preprogrammed ways to their environments, scientists know increasingly that insect have subtle and complex forms of behavior and learning. But are they conscious? On this episode, we talk with Lars Chittka, a bio…
 
This podcast was originally broadcast by Complexity, a podcast from the Santa Fe Institute on April, 20 2020. Big Biology has featured several scientists connected to the Santa Fe Institute, and now SFI has its own podcast called Complexity. You can listen to all of their episodes here: https://complexity.simplecast.com/ This episode, as well as sh…
 
Today we’re replaying of our discussion with science writer David Quammen. We talked with him in 2018 about his most recent book, the Tangled Tree, which explores the influence of horizontal gene transfer on the evolution of life on Earth. But right now, it’s one of his previous books that is essential reading. In 2012, he published a book called S…
 
This episode was originally published in 2018. It's one of our most popular episodes of all time, so we decided to run it again while we're in between seasons. Look for new Big Bio episodes in August. What is life? How did life arise from non-life? What did life look like at its origin? Tune into this podcast to hear Art and Marty talk with Sara Wa…
 
How are early stage scientists pushing biology forward? What’s it like to be a graduate student during a global pandemic? Over the last several months, we’ve been collecting short audio clips from biology students describing their research. Associate Producer Michael Levin spearheaded the project, which we called the Student Spotlight. On this epis…
 
What’s the slimiest fish on Earth? Why are they so slimy? And can we leverage our understanding of slime to make better bioengineered materials? In this episode we talk with Doug Fudge, an Associate Professor at Chapman University, about his research on hagfish slime. Over the past 20 years, Doug and his lab and collaborators have figured out how a…
 
What can we learn from animals by constantly tracking their movements with transmitters? How can we use information from collectives of animals to study and predict disease spread, earthquakes, and outbreaks of pests? How do you transform a massive, international scientific idea into a reality? On this episode of Big Biology, we talk with Martin Wi…
 
We’re getting ready for season three next fall. We already have a bunch of great guests lined up to talk about the evolution of venom, insect intelligence and human evolution. But we need your financial support to make that happen. Our goal is to raise at least $1,500 from listeners. If we aren’t able to accomplish that, we’ll need to drastically s…
 
How do hormones like testosterone coordinate important activities in an animal’s life, and how might those activities tradeoff with one another? How do the microbial communities living on birds affect the scents they give off, and how do those scents influence the birds’ choices of mates? In this episode, we talk with Ellen Ketterson, an evolutiona…
 
How do animals construct tissues, organs, and limbs in the right places during development? How do some animals manage to regenerate missing body parts? On this episode of Big Biology, we talk with Michael Levin, a biologist at Tufts University who studies how electric fields inside animals guide cells during development and regeneration. His work …
 
What forms of consciousness exist in the natural world? What roles did associative learning and episodic like memory play in its origins? Does consciousness have a function, and is it an adaptation? On this episode of Big Biology, we speak with Eva Jablonka from the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv, and M…
 
Is there a role for agency in evolution? Do organismal efforts to maintain homeostasis represent a form of biological intentionality? On this episode of Big Biology, we talk with Scott Turner, a physiologist and emeritus professor of Biology from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Scott’s book, Purpose and Desire, discusses how…
 
What is Maxwell's demon, and what is its role in biology? How do molecular demons underpin life? Does life really defy entropy? On this episode of Big Biology, we talk with Paul Davies, a cosmologist at Arizona State University and the Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. His recent book, "The Demon in the Machine," ta…
 
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 Yor…
 
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 p…
 
Why did conventional thinking in aerodynamics fail to explain how insects fly? What can robots teach us about how insects do it? How do insect brains direct their incredible aerial feats and get around in the world? Michael Dickinson is a biologist at Caltech who uses robots to study how insects fly. More recently, he has focused on insect neurobio…
 
How does a tiny insect migrate thousands of miles from Canada to Mexico each year? What does the decline of monarch butterflies tell us about the ecological health of our continent? How are scientists using gene editing to understand how insects have evolved to tolerate poisonous plants? Anurag Agrawal is a biologist at Cornell University who studi…
 
What does neuroscience have to say about morality, politics, and cross-cultural communication? How are neurobiology and philosophy connected? Pat Churchland is a neurobiologist and philosopher at UC San Diego, where she has spent years studying connections between mind and brain. Tune into this episode to hear Marty and Art discuss these questions …
 
Why hasn’t natural selection eliminated human diseases? Are bad feelings like anxiety and depression adaptive? Can we use evolutionary biology to improve medicine? Randy Nesse is a doctor and a scientist at Arizona State University who uses evolutionary biology to inform the practice of medicine. In his latest book, “Good Reasons for Bad Feelings,”…
 
Why are animals loud and conspicuous when that increases their risk from predators? How does noise pollution affect mating behaviors? How can robots help biologists study complex topics such as sexual selection and mate choice? Gail Patricelli is a behavioral ecologist at UC Davis, where she studies how individual variation in animal signaling and …
 
Season two of Big Biology starts on August 29. On this preview, Art and Marty talk about some of the guests they’ll be interviewing and some of the topics they’re most excited to discuss. This season we’ll be featuring scientists who study talking plants, consciousness and epigenetics, and much more! Hold on to your pipettes folks, Big Biology is b…
 
Is intelligence similar in humans and dolphins? Do dolphins and whales have their own culture and language? How do they perceive the world around them? Janet Mann is a biologist at Georgetown University, where she studies how dolphins form social groups, use tools, and communicate with one another. Tune into this episode to hear Marty and Art talk …
 
Why do some rove beetles look like ants? Why do living things evolve similar solutions to common problems? Is there predictability within the evolutionary process? On this episode, Art and Marty talk with Joe Parker, an entomologist at Caltech. Joe has been collecting beetles since the age of 16, when he first became amazed by their incredible dive…
 
In this episode, we've taken a break from our regular format to answer some of your questions such as what's the chance of human-like intelligence on another planet and if we had the technology, what organism would we want to bring back, Jurassic Park style? Tune in to this episode to hear Marty and Art answer questions like these and what goes int…
 
How does our indoor, modern lifestyle affect our microbiome? How does this novel microbiome affect our health? On this episode, Marty and Art talk with Rob Dunn, an applied ecologist at North Carolina State University. Rob studies the organisms that we come into contact with every day, from the microbes in our bodies to the insects in our homes. Tu…
 
How can cicadas eat nothing but tree sap for 17 years? How do endosymbiotic relationships evolve? What do bacteria-insect symbioses teach us about the evolution of mitochondria and chloroplasts? On this episode, Art and Marty talk with John McCutcheon, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Montana. John studies symbioses between bacteria a…
 
How did sex evolve? Why are there sexes at all? what are the evolutionary costs and benefits of sex? On this episode, Art and Marty talk with Hanna Kokko, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Zurich. Hanna studies the evolution of sex and the vast panoply of strategies that organisms use to reproduce. Check out this nice graphical illustr…
 
What role does one part of the federal government, the National Science Foundation, play in biological research in the US? How will their new funding initiative help us discover Rules of Life? On this episode, Art and Marty talk with two NSF directors, Joanne Tornow. the head of the Biological Sciences directorate, and Arthur “Skip” Lupia, the head…
 
How is climate change affecting the distribution of animals? How will these changes in species distribution affect us? Tune in to hear Marty and Art talk with physiological ecologist Jenn Sunday about how climate change is affecting the distribution of life on Earth. Jenn is a professor at McGill University who attempts to answer these questions at…
 
Does plasticity always help organisms adapt? What happens if it doesn't? Could it speed up evolution Tune in to hear Art and Marty talk with evolutionary ecologist Cameron Ghalambor about the role of non-adaptive plasticity in evolution. Cam is a professor at Colorado State University who tackles these questions by studying guppies. We interviewed …
 
Do single genes cause variation in traits or are gene effects more complex than that? How do genes interact with one another, and how do those interactions alter the pace and direction of evolution? Do those interactions constrain or facilitate evolution? Tune in to hear Art and Marty talk with Mihaela Pavlicev about these questions and more! Mihae…
 
Will cancer ever become just another chronic but manageable disease? What can a squirrel biologist teach us about treating cancer? In this episode, Marty and Art talk with Joel Brown about how to contain cancer using basic ideas from ecology and evolution. To Joel, cells in tumors are like organisms in ecosystems, and fighting cancer means using wh…
 
Why do some animals have weird genitalia? Why is there conflict between males and females when it comes to producing offspring? Tune into this podcast to hear Art and Marty talk with Patty Brennan about how sex in the animal kingdom is not always about love and cooperation; often it's also about conflict. And, this conflict can lead to some pretty …
 
Why do some animals have weird genitalia? Why is there conflict between males and females when it comes to producing offspring? Tune into this podcast to hear Art and Marty talk with Patty Brennan about how sex in the animal kingdom is not always about love and cooperation; often it's also about conflict. And, this conflict can lead to some pretty …
 
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