natural science

Under Water, Under Earth is a newly released science, nature, and technology book from the authors of Maps, a huge favorite of ours.

Chock full of fascinating facts and delightfully illustrated details, one side of this oversized book explores coral reefs, submarines, the colossal squid, diving suits, the deep sea, etc, while the other side focuses on ant tunnels, roots, fossils, plumbing and heating, tectonic plates, the planet’s core, and more. My kids will definitely be poring over these hidden scenes for hours. Such an amazing gift. 

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Partners in Paleontology: BLM Co-chairs Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s International Conference

Story by Kimberly Finch, BLM Utah 

Paleontologists and specialists from around the world gathered at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Oct. 26-29, 2016 for the annual meetings of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP).  Many of the world’s experts in the fields of paleontology attended in order to present papers on the latest in technology and research through speaker sessions, exhibits and posters, and in order to network with their peers.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Natural History Museum of Utah co-hosted the 76th annual meetings, which have been held at a variety of international destinations such as Berlin, Germany, Bristol, UK, and next year in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Salt Lake City last hosted the meeting in 1998.

BLM Senior Paleontologist Scott Foss co-chaired the four-day event while BLM-Utah, Canyon Country District Paleontologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster served on the host committee as Field Trip and Workshop Coordinator. Foss arranged for six dinosaur skulls found on BLM-Utah sites to be showcased throughout the venue, providing both a local touch, and highlighting the awesome discoveries on BLM land.

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Botanists and stand up comedians rarely hang out together but when they do, it’s in The Space Cave. I recently had the honor of being a guest on comedian David Huntsberger’s (you may know him from Professor Blastoff) podcast The Space Cave. We talked about botany, evolution, and ecology over some beers. It was a lot of fun! Here’s to science communication!

Part 1

Part 2
Amazing hidden worlds become visible through a forgotten Victorian art form
Diatoms, a form of algae, are invisible to the naked eye. But when placed under a microscope, the symmetrical organisms offer grand displays of nature’s remarkable diversity of colour and form. The Diatomist follows Klaus Kemp, one of the last remaining practitioners of the Victorian art form of diatom arrangement, as he hunts down specimens in the UK’s ditches, troughs and gutters to create new displays. His wondrous creations offer a lovely portal into the world of Victorian art and its intersection with science, of aesthetics entwined with investigation.
Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis

By José Carlos Cortés on @ryuukibart

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Name: Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis

Name Meaning: Ornamental Face Horn Force

First Described: 2015

Described By: Han et al. 

Classification: Dinosauria, Ornithischia, Genasauria, Neornithischia, Cerapoda, Marginocephalia, Ceratopsia

Hualianceratops is an early genus of Ceratopsian known from the Shishugou Formation in Xinjiang, China, dating back to the Oxfordian age of the Late Jurassic, approximately 160 million years ago. It was very closely related to yesterday’s dinosaur, Chaoyangsaurus, and probably resembled it in appearance. It is known from portions of the skull including the upper beak, allowing it to be known as a Ceratopsian. It would have bene a small, bipedal herbivore, like other early members of Ceratopsia. 


Shout out goes to @skeletaldrawing

Tentacles and Beaks of Cephalopods | December, 2015

Investigating the anatomical differences of cephalopod beaks and tentacles with regards to their diet.

Because most of us spend the majority of our time indoors, NASA conducted a Clean Air Study to determine which common houseplants are the best for filtering harmful toxins like ammonia and formaldehyde from the air.  

**Please note: Several of these plants are known to be toxic to cats, dogs and other pets. If you are a pet owner, please do check the toxicity of plants before introducing them to your home.**

Source Source 2

Octopuses may not be so antisocial after all!

Just when you thought octopuses couldn’t get any more fascinating, they do!

A paper published on January 28th, 2016 in the journal Current Biology found that there is more to octopuses changing colors than camouflage or anti-predator behavior. Using close to 53 hours of recorded video and 186 interactions in a heavily octopus-populated area in the waters of Australia, the scientists found that some displays of colors are signals that actually mediate combative interactions with one another. 

( Octopus in foreground turn pales when retreating from confrontation with another octopus, seen standing tall and menacing in the background. Photo by David Scheel)

This is the first study to document the use of signals during aggressive interactions among octopuses.

David Scheel recalls for NPR the first time he observed this behavior: “I took a look fairly early on at one sequence in which one octopus approaches another in a fairly menacing way. He gets all dark, stands up very tall, and the other octopus crouches down and turns very pale. And then, when the approaching octopus persists, the other one flees. And this is immediately followed by the first octopus approaching a third octopus that’s nearby. And the third octopus turns dark and doesn’t crouch down. He just stays where he is, holds his ground.”

Excerpts from the paper:

Interactions in which dark body color by an approaching octopus was matched by similar color in the reacting octopus were more likely to escalate to grappling. 

Darkness in an approaching octopus met by paler color in the reacting octopus accompanied retreat of the paler octopus. Octopuses also displayed on high ground and stood with spread web and elevated mantle, often producing these behaviors in combinations.

(Source: Scheel et al. 2016)

[An aggressive] octopus will turn very dark, stand in a way that accentuates its size and it will often seek to stand on a higher spot,” explained Professor Godfrey-Smith to the BBC.

The scientists in this research actually dubbed the pose “Nosferatu” because the spread of the octopus’s web was reminiscent of a vampire’s cape, and they looked like Dracula was approaching his prey.

In the end, the color displays ultimately are correlated with the outcome of the interaction. 

(Source: Scheel et al. 2016)

Scientists don’t exactly know why octopuses engaged in such heated and feisty exchanges. “It could be an attempt by one or more animals to control territory, as we saw males excluding males but not females, but this isn’t always the case,” Professor Godfrey-Smith said. 

It had been previously thought that octopuses were mostly solitary creatures, and changes to body color and shape were viewed as tactics to avoid predators or to hide. This study however not only shows a very interesting range of behavior, but also may indicate complex social signaling

Octopuses actually have a pretty exciting  and dramatic social life after all.

The video above shows a dark-colored octopus, standing in the Nosferatu pose before attacking another dark-colored octopus, which eventually turns white and retreats. 

You can find and download the full article on Current Biology.

Fogbows are like rainbows without color. Also known as white rainbows, you can only see them in the fog if the sun is at your back. Though rare, they occur when water droplets that would normally form a rainbow are too small to reflect the light wavelengths that create colors. Source Source 2 Source 3