ABOUT GrrlScientist

Profile Photo

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ecology and ethology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked as a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the phylogeography, speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands.

A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Unfortunately, her legacy of abject failure continues here too: she now is a discarded science writer/journalist after writing her eponymous science blog for The Guardian (UK) for longer than six years; The Guardian suddenly and unceremoniously dumped her without formal explanation at the end of October 2015.


GrrlScientist: All Posts


Recipe: GrrlScientist’s Wild Rice and Mushrooms with Fresh Sage Stuffing

Posted 24 December 2015 by GrrlScientist

GrrlScientist's Wild Rice and Mushrooms with Fresh Sage Stuffing 1 cup (250 mL) wild rice butter 4 cups (1 L) bread, cubed 1 onion, diced 4-6 cloves garlic, diced 1 astem lemongrass, minced 1 cup (250 mL) Shiitake mushroom caps, sliced* 1 cup (250 mL) Cremini mushrooms, sliced* 1 cup (250 mL) oyster mushrooms, sliced* 1 red Bell pepper, diced 2T (30 mL) or more fresh sage, cut using herbs scissors 1t dried parsley 1t dried thyme 1/2 teaspoon (2... Read more

Watch: Camera Trapping Mammals of the Canopy at Tambopata Peru

Posted 25 November 2015 by GrrlScientist

SUMMARY: A treetop camera trap in Tambopata Peru reveals the secret lives of the regions' mammals -- and it also finds some species that are new to the region! I know it's not "Caturday" yet (although every day feels like Saturday when you're unemployed and bored to tears), but I had to share this lovely video with you anyway. This fascinating video is comprised of clips of the wildlife that live in the treetops in the rainforest at Tambopata, Peru.... Read more

Why do Songbirds Sing in the Autumn?

Posted 1 November 2015 by GrrlScientist

Song is used by passerines (songbirds) to attract mates and to maintain breeding territories in the spring and early summer. Yet weirdly, many songbirds also sing in the autumn. If these birds aren't breeding in the autumn, then why are they singing? There are at least three physiological mechanisms that apparently underlie autumnal singing in temperate-zone passerines. These physiological mechanisms could also underlie out-of-season singing in tropical and subtropical passerines that are kept and bred by American aviculturists, but we... Read more

Birdsong: It’s More Than Just Music to Your Ears

Posted 1 November 2015 by GrrlScientist

The early morning sky blushed pink as it was greeted with songs produced by a flirtatious ensemble of starlings on the power lines overhead. A robin's cheery carol and the intricate whistle of a wren drifted lightly through this concert. As in ages past, the dawn chorus had begun. "Birdsong serves the two main functions of advertising a territory and attracting females" says Eliot Brenowitz, a professor of both Psychology and Zoology who studies birdsong at the University of Washington.... Read more

Catching Dinner on the Fly … The Night is Alive With the Sound of Echoes

Posted 1 November 2015 by GrrlScientist

The evening was peaceful as the sun settled below the horizon. Suddenly, the orange and red sky was dotted with flying blue-grey silhouettes zigzagging above Lake Union. Bats! Some bats dipped low over the water's surface to drink in a manner similar to swallows, while others followed erratic courses above, consuming mosquitoes and other insects in flight. How do bats find and capture insects in darkness? All insect-eating bats produce sounds — either with open mouths or through an elaborate... Read more

Take a Peek at Nature’s Website: Spiders Spin Steely Silken Splendor

Posted 1 November 2015 by GrrlScientist

On foggy mornings, Charlotte's web was truly a thing of beauty. This morning each thin strand was decorated with dozens of tiny beads of water. The web glistened in the light and made a pattern of loveliness and mystery, like a delicate veil. -- E. B. White, Charlotte's Web . Perhaps the highest achievement of spiders is the orb-web. Orb-weaving spiders (Family: Araneidae) are remarkable artists fabricating intricate webs from the finest silks. Late autumn and early spring is when... Read more

Journal Club: Evolving toxins makes frogs more likely to become extinct

Posted 19 October 2015 by GrrlScientist

SUMMARY: Prey species evolve a variety of ways to avoid predators, including camouflage, conspicuous colouration, and chemical toxins. But a new study of amphibians indicates that evolving toxins against predators increases the rate of extinction for prey species Prey species evolve a variety of ways to avoid their predators, including chemical toxins, camouflage, and conspicuous colouration. But what are the potential costs associated with anti-predator defences? According to a study of amphibians published today in the journal, Proceedings of the... Read more

Journal Club: What happened to wildlife when Chernobyl drove humans out? It thrived

Posted 5 October 2015 by GrrlScientist

SUMMARY: People were evacuated after the Chernobyl accident, but what happened to the local wildlife? A new study shows that wildlife in the Chernobyl disaster zone is thriving, indicating that the presence of humans is more damaging to wildlife than is radiation poisoning After a fire and explosion destroyed the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986, more than 100,000 people were permanently evacuated from the area to avoid radiation levels that were twenty times greater than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki... Read more

Journal Club: Schemochromes: The physics of structural plumage colours

Posted 2 October 2015 by GrrlScientist

SUMMARY: Blue plumage colouring is NOT the result of pigments, as other feather colours are, but rather, it is created by tiny structures that reflect blue light, creating the illusion of blue feather colour Most avian plumage colours are the result of different types of pigments that are deposited into feathers while they are regrowing after moult. However, pigments alone do not produce all avian feather colours. Blues, such as those seen in hyacinthine macaws, Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus, and white, such... Read more

Journal Club: Love thy enemy’s enemy: why hummingbirds nest near hawks

Posted 30 September 2015 by GrrlScientist

SUMMARY: Hummingbird eggs and babies are a favourite snack for nest-robbing jays, so what’s a mother to do to protect her family? According to a new study, it’s best to build her nest near or under a hawk nest Tiny hummingbird eggs and babies are a favourite snack for nest-robbing jays, so what’s a mother hummingbird to do to protect her family? According to a study published recently in the journal, Science Advances, the hummingbird cleverly builds her nest near... Read more