Monday, October 31, 2011

Crowd Funding: the Grants of the Future?

Internet crowd-funding campaigns are all the rage right now. If you don't already know, crowd-funding is a process where a person or collective group posts a proposed project (be it musical, theatrical, or educational) on a credited website, such as Amazon's or, in the hopes that web-surfers will donate money to the project. There is usually a time horizon on the person's ability to raise their project monetary goal, and contributors to the project are often rewarded with gifts for their donations.

Traditionally, scientists fund their research through grants or fellowships. However, crowd-funding may be the new alternative approach. Crowd-funding is similar to grants in that it is funded by the general public (i.e. - several grants are funded with tax payer money). However, through crowd-funding, the public is made aware of and has a stake in the research that they are donating to. Scientists may be able to form a better connection with the general public through internet publicity...why not try out crowd-funding? This was the idea of Jai and Jarrett (of UCSB) who started the #SciFund Challenge, a project that brings together scientists from all over the globe to raise research money through crowd-funding. Check out their blog here:

I was excited about the #SciFund Challenge, especially because I had heard of successful crowd-funding campaigns for other liberal arts projects. I signed up immediately, and I am pleased to announce that all projects go live tonight on! Please check out all the awesome projects and donate any amount possible to those you find intriguing. Below is the promotional video for my campaign, please enjoy:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Desert Kangaroo Rat Confronts Sidewinder!

Desert kangaroo rats are known to approach snakes to within striking distance and footdrum (making seismic vibrations by rapidly hitting their hind feet on the ground). They also kick sand at snakes, presumably to disturb the snake forcing it to move to a new area. While conducting research in the Mojave Desert this summer, we filmed footage of a kangaroo rat confronting a sidewinder rattlesnake. The rat investigates the burrow where the sidewinder is hiding, and kicks sand into the burrow. It also moves a distance away and footdrums repeatedly. After the kangaroo rat abandons the area, the sidewinder exits the burrow and moves to the ambush site it utilized the night before. The kangaroo rat's antipredator behavior seems to not have an immediate effect on the snake's behavior. However, like rattlesnakes that are confronted by California ground squirrels, these sidewinders may abandon their ambush sites sooner after receiving antipredator displays than if they had not received them.

This recording may be the first public footage of a kangaroo rat confronting a sidewinder. As a PhD student in the Clark lab at SDSU, I am investigating the nature and function of these interactions. Unlike California ground squirrels, kangaroo rats are not known to be resistant to rattlesnake venom. Thus, close confrontations with sidewinder rattlesnakes could be extremely risky. These behaviors should, on average, elicit responses from the snake that benefit the rat. We think that kangaroo rat displays either remove the snake from the area and/or help the rat safely approach the snake to gain information on the predator risk level. Enjoy this video of a rarely seen behavior.

VIDEO DISCLOSURE: audio does not start working until about 1 minute in, but it is well worth the wait because then you can hear the footdrumming!