What is this thing called life? Biologists are life's detectives, discovering how life works and what makes animals, plants and microbes "alive." Organisms don't remain the same forever. Without change, life on Earth would stagnate. Species are in a constant dance with their environment. When an environment changes, the species that live within must change too, evolving to better adapt in order to survive. The end result is the diversity of life we see around us.

Image modeling for biomedical organs

Professor Jessica Zhang discusses the interdisciplinary nature of the Bioengineered Organs Imitative and how her research in mechanical engineering can contribute to the initiative.

Early primate ancestor may have come from North America

New research by University of Florida doctoral graduate Paul Morse shows that Teilhardina brandti, a species found in Wyoming, is as old or older than its Asian and European relatives, upending the prevailing hypothesis that this early primate first appeared in China

New genomic resource is sweet science for tomatoes

Researchers from Boyce Thompson Institute and colleagues from partnering institutions have created a pan-genome, establishing a resource that promises to help breeders develop more flavorful and sustainable tomato varieties

How bees recognize nest mates

New research shows that honey bees (Apis mellifera) develop different scent profiles as they age, and the gatekeeper bees at the hive's door respond differently to returning foragers than when they encounter younger bees who have never ventured out

Crops versus wild

This video describes a food chain that extends from consumers, producers, breeders and the wild crop relatives that breeders depend on for crop improvement.

Tomato crops hinge on adaptation and biodiversity

A team of researchers visits a seed bank, the Tomato Genetics Resource Center, where scientists try to preserve the genetic diversity available in wild tomato relatives and make it available for crop breeders

The role of the hippocampus in discerning memory

Without an intact hippocampus, forming new memories is impossible. Researchers from Arizona State University and Stanford University have found an equally important role for the hippocampus: feeding information to brain areas responsible for learning

A whale of a ride

Barnacles are sticky little critters that hitch rides on the backs of humpback and gray whales. They hold a wealth of information that is helping scientists better understand how whales might respond to the current changes in Earth's climate

What you see is what you know

National Science Foundation-funded cognitive neuroscientists at George Washington University have found that a person's knowledge about the size of everyday objects impacts how our brains process and interact with the visual environment

How hard are these protein droplets?

University at Buffalo physicists are using innovative tools to study the properties of a bizarre class of molecules that may play a role in disease: proteins that cluster together to form spherical droplets inside human cells

NSF Science Now: Episode 63

In this week's episode, we learn about developable mechanisms that reside in curved surfaces of structures; explore wrist bone motion using 3D technology; and, finally, examine Adelie penguins' past and future. Check it out!

Fires in the West may be changing the future of forests

Following the Yellowstone National Park wildfires of 1988, Monica Turner, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of integrative biology, immediately got to work studying the recovery of the forests, and has continued to do so in the decades since

NSF Science Now: Episode 62

In this week's episode, we explore 3D technology to look inside capillaries; learn about a new species of dinosaur with a heart-shaped tail; and, finally, we examine a new kind of thinking cap for online learning

3D Bioprinting

National Science Foundation-funded researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder recently developed a 3D printing technique that could one day lead to the creation of blood vessels, artificial arteries and even organ tissues

Gecko's latest superpower revealed

Geckos are renowned for their acrobatic feats on land and in the air, but a new discovery that they can also run on water puts them in the superhero category, says a University of California, Berkeley, biologist

Burst of morning gene activity tells plants when to flower

An international team of researchers has discovered that the gene FT -- the primary driver of the transition to flowering in plants each spring -- does something unexpected in Arabidopsis thaliana plants grown in natural environments, with implications for the artificial growing conditions scientists commonly used in the lab

Acidic oceans pose increased risk of reef loss

Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, along with study-lead Southern Cross University in Australia, have found that sands that provide material for the building and maintenance of some coral reef ecosystems face a decline

The genetic path to biodiversity

With support from the National Science Foundation, developmental biologist Arnaud Martin and his team at George Washington University are using cutting-edge genomic techniques, such as CRISPR, to better understand how the rich stripes and swirls of a butterfly's wing take their shape

Rice scientists study ants in the Big Thicket after Hurricane Harvey

With support from the National Science Foundation's Rapid Response Research program, Rice ecologists Tom Miller, Sarah Bengston and Scott Solomon, along with their students, are evaluating whether Hurricane Harvey increased opportunities for invasion by exotic ants in southeast Texas

Butterfly cam catches cancer

National Science Foundation-funded researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis have developed a surgical camera inspired by the eye of the Morpho butterfly to more accurately find lurking cancer

Cheetah superpower

National Science Foundation-funded researchers at the American Museum of Natural History reveal how the world's fastest land animal keeps its head steady and gaze locked on prey while hunting at speeds of up to 65 mph

Recreating Earth's largest extinction in a laboratory

Jeffrey Benca exposed dwarf pines to 13 times the level of dangerous UV-B radiation we get on a sunny day and found that the conditions, similar to what some think occured during Earth's largest extinction 252 million years ago, made the trees sterile

Why study mouse lemurs?

The Duke Lemur Center's non-invasive research on mouse lemurs, our tiny primate cousins, could help explain the initial stages of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases

NSF Science Now: Episode 55

In this week's episode, we learn how infants retain information; how loud noise can affect birds; the underpinnings of snake locomotion and, finally, the existence of a hitherto unknown ancient Native American population

Engineering for Humanity: HEALTHY

The Robotics And Rehabilitation (RoAR) Lab develops innovative robots and methods to help humans relearn, restore, or improve functional movements.

Secrets of butterfly wings revealed!

George Washington University evolutionary geneticist Arnaud Martin is using CRISPR Cas9, a gene editing technique, to determine how changes in the "painting gene" WntA result in different wing shapes and patterns in butterflies

The beginning of a new species

The direct observation of the origin of a new species occurred during field work carried out over the last four decades by a wife-and-husband team of scientists from Princeton University on the small island of Daphne Major in the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean

Bumblebees in peril!

Researchers have discovered that climate change, warmer temperatures and earlier snow melt are causing flowers to bloom earlier, affecting bumblebees

NSF Science Now: Episode 54

In this week's episode, we discover why some bumblebees are in peril and that some of the earliest primates were adept leapers. We also explore a new technique that can print drugs, and learn about a new app capable of detecting concussions right on the sideline

How mosquitoes get away

Scientists have found the key to mosquitoes' stealth takeoffs: They barely push off when making a fast getaway, but instead rely on strong and rapid wing beats to quickly get aloft without anyone noticing

NSF Science Now: Episode 53

In this week's episode, we discover a new species of titanosaurian dinosaur and how airline boarding procedures might be making you sick; we explore a compact mass spectrometer for use in the field; and finally, we learn how vertebrate tails actually provide greater speed

Bug battles

With support from the National Science Foundation, University of Florida entomologist Christine Miller and her team are researching mate selection and animal weapons as a key to better understanding animal behavior, diversity and evolution

Digital eye in the sky

David Johnson, assistant professor of the practice of marine conservation ecology at Duke University, has found that drone technology allows his research team to collect huge volumes of data from remote or extreme locations

Palau coral reefs have a global impact

Humans are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Through a process called ocean acidification, about a quarter to a third of this carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, causing a decrease in the pH of ocean water

Was this how dinosaurs began flying?

If a Pacific parrotlet needs to get to a nearby branch, it uses its legs to jump. If a target falls just outside of its jump range, however, it can add a "proto-wingbeat," a small flapping motion that allows it to travel farther without using as much energy as full flight.

SupraSensor: A super tool for precision agriculture

The SupraSensor device is designed to give farmers a highly accurate, virtually constant stream of data on nitrate levels. The device is an excellent example of highly applied science with roots in basic research -- in this case supramolecular chemistry at the University of Oregon.

Researchers assemble 5 new synthetic yeast chromosomes

A global research team has built five new synthetic yeast chromosomes, meaning that 30 percent of a key organism's genetic material has now been swapped out for engineered replacements. Jef Boeke discusses the importance of yeast as a research model and how new research may lead to synthetic genomes to address unmet needs in medicine and industry.

How do fish adapt to extreme environments?

Extreme environments allow for the investigation of life's capacity and limitations to cope with far-from-average environmental conditions. Springs rich in hydrogen sulfide (H2S) represent some of the most extreme freshwater environments because H2S halts energy production in animal cells.

Cell migration

Cells move and migrate to new locations in the bodies of developing animals, an important step for the correct formation and function of organs. The research featured in this video uses a simple genetic model, the fruit fly, to investigate how cells move as organized groups within the animal. This video is part of a series produced by students at Kansas State University.

A grassland bird’s changing world

Prairies are characterized by highly variable climate, yet we lack the theoretical knowledge to predict whether adaption to such conditions offers organisms greater resilience to additional change, or whether they already experience conditions near the limits of their physiological capabilities. This video describes a study that capitalizes on a 28-year dataset of avian abundances and the infrastructure and experimental manipulations made possible by the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program at the Konza Prairie in NE Kansas.

Mismatched eyes help squid survive the ocean’s twilight zone

By watching cockeyed Histioteuthis heteropsis squids glide and pirouette through over 150 undersea videos, biologists at Duke University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have gathered the first behavioral evidence that the squids' lopsided eyes evolved to spot two very different sources of light available in the ocean's "twilight zone."

The Flint water crisis: Engineering researchers find answers for alarmed residents

In 2015, engineering researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) helped to uncover the dangerously high lead levels in Flint water, and listened to a community in distress. Through a NSF Rapid Response grant awarded to Virginia Tech civil engineering professor Marc Edwards, researchers received federal funding to collect data on the chemical content of residents' drinking water, providing vital insight into one of the worst human-made, engineering disasters in recent U.S. history.

Urban heat island: Improving data for sustainable cities

This video is part of "Changes and Choices in the Yahara," a mini-documentary series showcasing the major research implications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Water Sustainability and Climate project, a five-year research endeavor funded by the National Science Foundation.

Groundwater and agriculture: tapping the hidden benefits

This video is part of "Changes and Choices in the Yahara," a mini-documentary series showcasing the major research implications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Water Sustainability and Climate project, a five-year research endeavor funded by the National Science Foundation.

Water, food & energy

Scientists and engineers, including Greg Characklis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are studying the connections between water, food and energy in the human water cycle to develop new, sustainable ways of meeting our water needs.

Drinking water

Safe, clean drinking water is a fundamental human need. Orlando Coronell at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is developing improved membrane technology to purify drinking water more effectively and efficiently.


Soil salinization prevents crops from taking up water and nutrients due to an excess of salt in the soil. Meagan Mauter at Carnegie Mellon University is developing technology to monitor salinity levels to allow farmers to make better watering decisions.

Why fungi rule the world

Assistant professor of biology at Boston University, Jennifer Talbot, studies a group of organisms called mycorrhizal fungi, which infect the root tips of over 90 percent of plant families on Earth--in a good way.

NSF Science Now: Episode 49

In this week's episode we learn about a new app for bird watchers, girls and stereotypes, beluga whale migration and, finally, the discovery of a 250-million-year-old shark-like fish. Check it out!

Are we a sixth extinction?

Stanford University Earth professor Jon Payne puts modern extinction in context by comparing them with Earth's five previous mass extinctions.

NSF Science Now: Episode 48

In this week's episode, we learn about a new wall-jumping robot, using sensor-integrated blocks to better identify developmental disabilities, creatures with camouflage, a new procedure to detect exposure to dangerous nuclear materials and, finally, the discovery of the oldest known fossil tumor.

Swinging hips help turtles take greater strides

Turtles have a reputation. "They're slow, they're clumsy and the shell just gets in the way of everything," said Richard Blob, a biologist at Clemson University who specializes in studying how animals have evolved to move the way they do. But, Blob adds quickly, "I don't think that's the case anymore." Fueling the pokey reputation is a long-held belief that a turtle can't move its pelvis or hips. Until recently, however, nobody has been able to see under, or through, a turtle's shell to confirm that notion.

Shark acceleration research

Students in the Small Hall maker space at William & Mary create devices for Virginia Institute of Marine Science professor Kevin Weng to use in his shark research at the Eastern Shore Lab.

Lens of time: slime lapse

What these single-celled, gelatinous blobs lack in brain power, they make up for with surprisingly complex decision-making

NSF-funded biofuel research at Kansas State

Meng "Peter" Zhang, visiting assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering at Kansas State University, describes his National Science Foundation-funded biofuel manufacturing research.

Turn your eyes to the skies for the latest explorers

In episode 68, Charlie and Jordan head outdoors to show how National Science Foundation-supported researchers are finding new ways to use small, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)--also known as drones--to gather data, improve communication and explore environments where humans and larger aircraft dare not go.

Bat ballet

Hundreds of thousands of bats emerge from a hole in the ground, and scientists with high-speed video cameras are there to make sense of the overwhelming spectacle.

Empowering Maine’s mightiest pollinators

For the last 30 years Frank Drummond, professor of insect ecology at the University of Maine, has studied the biology, ecology, disease susceptibility and pesticide exposure of Maine's 275 native species of bees, as well as the millions of commercial honey bees annually trucked into the state to aid in crop pollination.

Breaking summer records

In episode 60, Charlie and Jordan return from summer break to investigate the future of summers. According to NSF-funded research at NCAR, in 50 years, summers across most of the globe could be hotter than any other experienced by people, ever.

When eels attack!

Electric eels zap fish and other underwater prey, but what would make them leap out of the water and shock an animal like a horse?

Research at the ends of the Earth

Over the last year, Rhian Waller, associate professor of marine science at the University of Maine, has been to the ends of the Earth to study how changing oceans are affecting cold-water corals and what those changes may eventually mean in places like the Gulf of Main

Saving salmon, one embryo at a time

For the past 15 years, aquacultural salmon farmers in Maine have struggled with plummeting embryo survival rates, forcing them to drastically increase the number of eggs they produce -- which comes with a hefty price tag.

Lens of time: Bumper bees

See how scientists use high-speed videography to investigate--and learn from--the clumsy flight of the bumblebee.

Citizen science research, improving student motivation

In partnership with Bowling Green State University, Perkins Local Schools and Sandusky City Schools, the iEvolve with STEM project seeks to increase student motivation and engagement through the integration of Citizen Science Research into classroom instruction across the curriculum.

Benthic underwater microscope

Scripps Oceanography graduate student Andrew Mullen discusses the research being conducted using the Benthic Underwater Microscope, an instrument recently developed by the Jaffe Laboratory for Underwater Imaging at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

The yin and yang of nitrogen

There's more to nitrogen than the letter N. The element and its biogeochemical cycle is the focus of research by Amy Marcarelli, an associate professor of biological sciences at Michigan Tech.

NSF Science Now: Episode 44

In this week's episode we examine electric eels, test out a new at home screening test for people on blood thinner, learn about a new app for reporting floods and finally examine how RoboBee uses static electricity to stick to surfaces.

Apple maggot fly

The movement of fruit contributes to the spread of certain pests around the world. One such pest, the Apple Maggot Fly, is threatening to spread to northern portions of the country that would normally never see the pest.

Snakes on a super science show

In episode 55, Charlie and Jordan explore the venomous relationship between rattlesnakes and squirrels and how it helps scientists better understand how these natural enemies have co-evolved.

Greener silica from rice

Two University of Michigan researchers turn useless waste from rice processing into the high-purity silica compounds that are used in everything from toothpaste to tires.

Lemur family tree shake-up

Stony Brook University researchers James Herrera and Liliana M. Dávalos locate extinct and living lemurs in one evolutionary tree

Happy B-day NSF!

For more than six decades, the National Science Foundation has funded science and engineering research that has led to discoveries and innovations that transformed our world.

Human evolution: teeth tell the story

Alistair Evans of the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University has led research showing that the evolution of human teeth is much simpler than previously thought, and that we can predict the size of teeth missing from human fossils and those of our extinct close relatives.

NSF Science Now: Episode 42

In this week's episode, we explore origami-inspired devices, examine family technology rules and, finally, we examine how changing ocean chemistry may threaten the Antarctic food chain.

What makes diamondback terrapins tick?

Mihai Pop, an associate professor of computer science in the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of Maryland (UMD), is working with UMD freshmen to sequence the genome of the diamondback terrapin.

Fishy business

In episode 47, Jordan and Charlie explore how scientists at the University of Texas at Austin have solved the longstanding mystery about how some fish "disappear" from their predators. A fish's ability to go invisible in polarized light may one day help the US Navy hide in open water.

Changing ocean chemistry may threaten Antarctic food chain

National Science Foundation-funded researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have collected the first long-term evidence that links rising levels of carbon and changes in ocean chemistry in Antarctica to the inability of tiny animals, such as sea snails, to build the shells that help them survive.

Paying attention to neglected diseases

Najib El-Sayed, an associate professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland, fuses wet bench experimentation with sophisticated computer analysis to gather and interpret large amounts of genetic data.

NSF Science Now: Episode 41

In this week's episode, we test out a wearable robotic limb, follow beluga whales in the Arctic and, finally, examine how warming temperatures have caused an increase in forest droughts across much of the U.S.

Carbon sequestration

This video profiles "Understanding Process-Level Physico and Biogeochemical Mechanisms Controlling Soil Carbon Stabilization," a project led by Ganga Hettiarachchi, associate professor of agronomy at Kansas State.

Maize mosaic virus

This video is about the"Molecular Mechanisms of Virus-Vector Interactions" project by Anna Whitfield, associate professor of plant pathology, who is studying how corn plant hoppers spread a devastating virus.

Butterflyfish behavior

Tje University of Delaware's Danielle Dixson and Rohan Brooker report their findings after studying Butterflyfish in Fiji

Cell Talk

In episode 40, Charlie and Jordan demonstrate how the cells responsible for relaying information from the ear to the brain adapt to noise levels in an environment

Turbo tongue

In episode 39, Charlie and Jordan discover one of the most explosive moments in the animal kingdom: the powerful tongue of the tiniest chameleons. This research illustrates that to observe some of nature's best performances, scientists sometimes have to look at its littlest species.

2015 editor's pick: enormous underwater fossil graveyard found

In January 2015, anthropologists and paleontologists uncovered what could be the largest single collection of lemur remains ever found. The remains were hidden in a series of underwater caves in a remote desert region of Madagascar. Described as a "lemur graveyard," the discovery of hundreds of potentially 1,000-year-old skeletons make it one of the most unique animal gravesites in the world. This discovery could be important for understanding animal and human ancestry, and result in a new era for underwater paleontology.

Make like a tree

In episode 37, Jordan and Charlie explore two different ways the ponderosa pine and the trembling aspen deal with drought. In the face of adverse conditions, people might feel tempted by two radically different options--hunker down and wait for conditions to improve, or press on and hope for the best.

The complexities of social behavior

What goes into fruit fly courtship? It might seem like an odd question, but understanding its neural underpinnings--and studying the male-female interactions at the milliscale level--could help us better understand the complexities of social behavior.

College highschool aquaponic mentoring partnership

In this video, Tulsa Community College students discuss researching, designing, building and maintaining aquaponic systems where fish and plants are grown symbiotically, and then establishing mentoring partnerships at the high school and junior high level.

Bob the drifter: How do we know where spilled oil will go?

Bob the drifter is an animated representation of the custom-made, GPS-equipped surface drifters used by the Consortium for Advanced Research on the Transport of Hydrocarbon oil in the Environment during the 2012 experiment, Grand LAgrangian Deployment (GLAD).

Wheels: Connected vehicle research

Change is coming quickly to road transportation decision support systems commonly called "connected vehicles." The use of vehicles to collect weather data offers an opportunity to revolutionize the weather enterprise by significantly increasing the density of weather observations near the surface and providing unique datasets for deriving and inferring road condition information.


In (spooktacular) episode 32, Jordan and Charlie delve into the Batlab and learn how researchers are using recording from echolocating bat brains to understand how mammals view 3-D space.

Microbial monsters: algae, Vampirococcus and Halloween

Learn how algae can suffocate a pond of all its life; discover the vampire bacterium known as Vampirococcus, who literally sucks the life out its victims; and watch out for those sweet Halloween treats that can leave holes in your teeth!

When Nature Strikes: Tsunamis

The massive wave of a tsunami can start thousands of miles offshore, but travel quickly across the ocean and devastate coastal communities. Anne Trehu and Dan Cox of Oregon State University are studying how tsunamis form and behave in order to prepare people for their potential devastation.

When Nature Strikes: Wildfires

Wildfires can burn thousands of acres, devastate communities, and sometimes even claim lives. Janice Coen at the National Center for Atmospheric Research is studying how weather and fire interact in order to develop a wildfire prediction system to forecast fire behavior.

NSF Science Now: Episode 37

In this week's episode, we examine tunable prosthetics, explore origami engineering and duck-billed dinosaurs, and discover how king crabs are migrating to the warming seas off the Antarctic Peninsula. Check it out!

When Nature Strikes: Space weather

Space weather has the potential to wreak havoc on everything from satellite communications to electric power. Sarah Gibson at the National Center for Atmospheric Research is studying the behavior of the sun to help warn against a serious solar storm should it threaten Earth.

When Nature Strikes: Tornadoes

Tornadoes can form in minutes, making early and accurate warnings crucial to saving lives. Howard Bluestein at the University of Oklahoma and Adam Houston at the University of Nebraska are trying to understand why some storms produce tornadoes and others don't.

Life on the (urban) farm

In episode 27, Jordan and Charlie discuss a new mammilian fossils find in New Mexico, Using molecular analysis to clarify dinosaur colors and the Urban Hydrofarmers Project.

When Nature Strikes: Landslides

Landslides occur when material like debris, rock, and soil become dislodged from the earth and slide downward at speeds that can approach 100 miles per hour. David Montgomery at the University of Washington studies past and present landslides to try to understand what causes them.

When Nature Strikes: Flash floods

Flash floods can happen anywhere, but factors such as heavy precipitation, geography and soil conditions can put some areas at greater risk. Russ Schumacher at Colorado State University is studying these factors to make more accurate forecasts.

When Nature Strikes: Hurricanes

Hurricanes are one of nature's most powerful natural hazards. Jenni Evans of Pennsylvania State University and Jeff Donnelly of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are studying how hurricanes form and what factors influence where and when they make landfall in an effort to save lives.

When Nature Strikes: Volcanoes

Volcanoes are one of the most powerful natural hazards on Earth, but supervolcanoes are so large that they have the ability to alter the world's climate. Michael Manga from the University of California, Berkeley, is investigating a supervolcano that erupted hundreds of thousands of years ago, and could do so again.

When Nature Strikes: Earthquakes

John Vidale and his team at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network are monitoring ground motion across Washington State and Oregon to prepare residents for one of the most powerful natural hazards on the planet--a magnitude 9 "megathrust" earthquake.

Bacterial litmus test measures micronutrients

A bacterium engineered to produce different pigments in response to varying levels of a micronutrient in blood samples could give health officials an inexpensive way to detect nutritional deficiencies in resource-limited areas of the world.

Assessing water health

Freshwater is a precious resource to all. Yet despite the importance of clean water to everyday life, nearly three quarters of Virginia rivers and streams fail to meet simple state standards.

Home grown

In episode 29, Charlie and Jordan talk about life at home... microscopic life, that is. This research highlights the impressive amount of microbial diversity in the average household and the degree to which these organisms can tell a story about the homes they inhabit.

Your home's microbiom moves with you

The Home Microbiome Project is an initiative aimed at uncovering the dynamic co-associations between people's bacteria and the bacteria found in their homes. The hope is that the data and project will show that routine monitoring of the microbial diversity of your body and of the environment in which you live is possible.

Nerd stuff

In episode 25, Charlie and Jordan examine a rare nautiluses (not seen in 30 years), how to fold a shell and enrolling more girls in computer science classes.

Coral behavior

In episode 23, Charlie and Jordan explore coral offspring's inherent traits, how invasive marine species become invasive and take a peek inside turtle shells.

Grayling young of the year

Before Alaska's upper Kuparuk River freezes solid, Arctic grayling forge upstream to the deep waters of their winter haven: Green Cabin Lake.

Mercury, dolphins, fish consumption and human health

Mercury pollution can have significant adverse health effects on both humans and wildlife.The high mercury concentrations found in dolphins may reflect environmental differences in mercury contamination which can impact the concentration of mercury found in fish species that local human populations consume.

To sporulate or not to sporulate

At Rice University, Oleg Igoshin and colleagues discover an interesting mechanism whereby bacteria sense the completion of DNA replication to synchronize the sporulation process.

Life in a puddle

In episode 21, Jordan and Charlie chat about the origins of life, polar bears in the summer time and what it takes to limit energy consumption at home.

The math of shark skin

The rough surface of shark skin helps sharks move faster through the water. Mathematicians have developed an equation for how this roughness translates into less viscosity for a swimming shark.

The age of fish

Scripps Oceanography graduate student Elizabeth Sibert describes how a mass extinction event helped launch the modern "age of fish."

Scientists uncover how caterpillars created condiments

An international team of researchers led by the University of Missouri and Stockholm University has used cutting-edge genomics to analyze the co-evolution theory and identified the mechanisms responsible for this phenomenon. Scientists believe that understanding how co-evolution works could help provide genetic clues for producing heartier plants and food for a growing global population.

Researcher shines light on origin of bioluminescence

A scientist has discovered that bioluminescence may not have originated as a means to ward off predators, but instead evolved as a way to survive in harsh climates--at least in one millipede. The finding, based on the discovery of a millipede that hadn't been seen in 50 years, shows that even the seemingly most complex and intricate of traits can be traced in evolution as small steps leading to a complex feature we see today.

Woolly mammoth

In episode 19, Charlie and Jordan delve into a study of mammoth proportions, chat about a new 3-D printed soft robot and an advance in breast cancer research.

The island rule

In episode 18, Jordan and Charlie chat about the island rule, how spiral galaxies get their shape and the small brains in social wasps.

Do social insects share brain power?

The society you live in can shape the complexity of your brain. For vertebrate animals like humans, and even birds and fish, there is a lot of support for the idea that our complex brains developed along with complex societies.

Solar cycles

In episode 17, Charlie and Jordan chat about wastewater catalysts, solar cycle disruptions and an "iron shield" for rice.

World Oceans Day

In a special World Oceans Day episode, Jordan and Charlie chat about ocean temperatures, new marine species and metacognition in chimpanzees.

Mahi mahi migration

In the ocean there lives a fish known as the Mahi Mahi. Very little is known to science about how they migrate. Fishermen are helping scientists study their migration by catching Mahi Mahi with fishing rods, placing fish tags in them, and releasing them back to the wild with hope that their fish will be re-caught with the tag still in them.

Part of the pack

In episode 13, Jordan and Charlie chat about the importance of a pack, discover a new antibody that may combat urinary tract infections and chase down storms with Doppler on Wheels.

Gigabit-networked microscopy used to create a cross-country learning environment

The University of Southern California is partnering with a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) high school in Chattanooga, Tenn., and using gigabit networks to send high-definition 4K images of microorganisms directly into a biology class. This gives students live access to researchers and microscopic images, observations and knowledge, while also enabling them to manipulate the microscope from 1,800 miles away.

Rescuing the gentle giants

Giant clams are ecologically important because they clean seawater, and their huge shells are home to other marine creatures.

DNA Scientist is honored by President for mentoring science students

DNA scientist Bruce Jackson Bruce Jackson heads the Biotechnology Programs at Massachusetts Bay Community College. His work focuses on how DNA - in conjunction with other tools - can help solve mysteries of ancestry, forensics and evolution. Through his African-American Roots Project, he helps reunite African-Americans with their ancestral roots in Africa.

Slick and slender snake beats short and stubby lizard in sand swimming

Using X-ray equipment that allowed them to watch the animals move through a bed of dry sand, Georgia Tech researchers have studied how the shovel-nosed snake and sandfish lizard use their unique body plans to swim through sand. Information provided by the research could help explain how evolutionary pressures have affected body shape in sand-dwelling animals.

New technology makes tissues, someday organs

A new device for assembling large tissues from living components could someday be used to build replacement human organs the way electronics are assembled today: with precise picking and placing of parts.

Enormous underwater fossil graveyard found

Anthropologists and paleontologists uncovered what could be the largest single collection of lemur remains ever found. The remains were hidden in a series of underwater caves in a remote desert region of Madagascar. Described as a "lemur graveyard," the discovery of hundreds of potentially 1,000-year-old skeletons make it one of the most unique animal gravesites in the world. This discovery could be important for understanding animal and human ancestry, and result in a new era for underwater paleontology.

Antarctic seals may use the Earth's magnetic field to survive while hunting

Antarctica's Weddell seals have biological adaptations that allow them to dive deep--as much as hundreds of meters--while hunting, but also an uncanny ability to find the breathing holes they need in the surface of the ice that covers the sea. Now, a team of researchers supported by the U.S. Antarctic Program, which is managed by the National Science Foundation, believe they have figured out that the seals navigate so well by sensing the Earth's magnetic fields.

Origins of bird species

In a landmark study that researched the origins of bird species, evolutionary biologists have made discoveries about the age of birds, and the genomic relationships among modern birds.

Conserving biodiversity

Funded in part by the National Science Foundation, the Central African Biodiversity Alliance is an international partnership of scientists, students and policy makers working to build a framework to conserve biodiversity in Central Africa. The partnership spans three continents, and includes researchers from the U.S., Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Otolith signals

About the size of a diamond and comes from the inner ear of a fish, this tiny construction holds a treasure trove of information--a calcium carbonate microchip made of bone and accessed by a laser. Let's take a look at the science of otoliths.

The anglerfish: The original approach to deep-sea fishing

On November 17, 2014, researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute used a used a remotely operated vehicle, a kind of undersea robot, to videotape this rare deep-sea anglerfish in Monterey Canyon, about 580 meters (1,900 feet) below the ocean surface.

How rocks move

Thin sheets of ice push rocks across the desert when conditions are just right

Parasitic plant timelapse

This video shows the relationship between a parasitic plant, dodder, and two host plants, Arabidopsis and tomatoes.


The mission of C-DEBI is to explore life beneath the seafloor and make transformative discoveries that advance science, benefit society, and inspire people of all ages and origins.

Surprising new role for calcium in sensing pain

Researchers have made a surprising discovery in worms about the role of calcium in pain signaling. They have built a structural model of the molecule that allows calcium ions to pass into a neuron, triggering a signal of pain. These discoveries may help direct new strategies to treat pain in people.

Jellyfish swarms and environmental change

Jellyfish swarms in the Gulf of Mexico help researchers identify environmental changes in the water. Dr. Monty Graham at the University of Southern Mississippi studies these massive jellyfish swarms that can stretch for many, many miles.

Quest field notes: Dan Costa in Antarctica

In this video, Professor Costa describes his work studying the winter foraging ecology of weddell seals in Antarctica through the use of sophisticated satellite tags and physical examinations.

Unlocking ice sheets' mysteries

A University at Buffalo-led research team reports that prehistoric glaciers reacted rapidly to a brief cold snap, providing a rare glimpse of glaciers' response to past climate change.

Geoscience: Saving lives

A look at some of the exciting scientific and technological advancements being made in Earth and space science to ensure public safety and economic security in the face of natural disasters.

How wood frogs survive extreme temperatures

Freezing feats of wood frogs. University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student Don Larson and UAF Institute of Arctic Biology Director Brian Barnes search for Alaska wood frogs for their research project on extreme temperature survival.

Forest plant genetics

Matias Kirst, an associate professor in quantitative genetics at the University of Florida, explains how researchers study tree genetics to identify species best suited for forest plantations and those able to adapt to climate change.

The blanc conundrum

The siphonophore Hippopodius hippopus is usually transparent, but when disturbed it suddenly becomes milky white.

Crab research

Gustav Paulay, curator of marine malacology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, talks about larval crab development and how DNA analysis and comparisons of larval and adult crabs helps increase our understanding of different crab species.

Frozen fruit bats

Conservation Biologist Steve Goodman has been working in Madagascar for more than 22 years, enjoy one of his stories from the field

NSF Science Now: Episode 24

In this week's episode we discover secrets in buried soils. We learn how elephant seals protect their organs when diving. We learn about Amulet- the future in wearable technology and finally we explore the fast-moving Thwaites glacier in Antarctica.

Two urchins

The green urchin and the pencil urchin are alike in many ways, but their differences matter in a big way when it comes to their ecological impacts.

Evolutionary ecology

Evolutionary ecologist, Christine Miller, studies the relationship between insects' genes and environment


A look into the microscopic army in every cnidarian that's just waiting to sting you.

Lobster killing virus

Researcher describes the methods and techniques he uses in researching a virus that kills lobster

Visualizing leaf cells from within

"Visualizing Leaf Cells from Within" presents leaf cells simply and naturally, in bright orange, yellow, and red colors, and it provides viewers with basic knowledge of the pavement cell system.

Summer Systematics Institute

The Summer Systematics Institute addresses critical issues such as, world-wide threats to biodiversity, the origins and diversification of life, phylogenetic systematics and evolutionary biology, which have become critical components of undergraduate education.

Biodiversity: A boon for brain research

How two unlikely microbes (that don't even have brains) led to the development of one of today's most promising brain research techniques: optigenetics, which is being used to study many diseases including schizophrenia and Parkinson's.

No clowning around: Juggling study shows us how senses help us run

Juggling may sound like mere entertainment, but a study led by Johns Hopkins engineers has used this circus skill to gather critical clues about how vision and the sense of touch help control the way humans and animals move their limbs in a repetitive way, such as in running.


Many organisms move with cilia. Most, like Stentor, are small

NSF Science Now: Episode 21

In this week's episode we discover the oldest fossil evidence of modern, venomous snakes in Africa. We discover what was going on in the earliest moments of our universe just after the Big Bang, and finally we learn about a new weather radar network in Texas.

Nudibranchs and defense

This episode explores how nudibranchs steal jellyfish stinging capsules to defend themselves while also getting a good meal

The fish detective!

Kate talks to Cara Simonsen, a marine biologist, about stalking fish in the name of science


This is the story of a parasitic barnacle with a fascinating lifecycle

Climbing Mt. Evolution

There's no peak in sight - fitness peak, that is -- for the bacteria in Richard Lenski's Michigan State University lab.

Tyrian purple

Nina Ruelle tells the story of Tyrian Purple, a dye created from the marine snail known as Bolinus brandaris

Echinoderm skin

This episode of CreatureCast tells the story of how echinoderms (starfish, sea urchins, and their relatives) can change the stiffness of their skin at will.

What lives where

The Academy's Stan Blum works in Biodiversity Informatics- he documents what lives where.

Pioneers in science: William Rowan and the junco

How do animals know when it is time to migrate or breed each year? Through a groundbreaking experiment with the junco, William Rowan discovered "photoperiodism" for the first time in animals-but his success didn't come easily!

The pistol shrimp

Kevin Rogers, a student at Brown University, explains how a little pistol shrimp manages to pack a big punch through creating cavitation bubbles.

The Nautilus

How does the nautilus swim underwater, even though it has no fins and lives in a shell?

Why Science? Studying The Diversity Of Life

Keith Willmott, an assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History, describes why he decided to become a scientist, and how his fascination with the world around him makes his job the best.

Inventory Of Freshwater Fishes

Larry Page, ichthyology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History, describes the museum's planetary biodiversity inventory of freshwater fishes.

Butterflies Of Ecuador

Keith Willmott, an assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History, explains his research and the importance in creating a broader insight into the diversity of butterflies in Ecuador.

Say Hello To The Junco

Juncos! Readily observed in backyards, city parks, and forests alike, these little gray birds--sometimes called "Snowbirds"--can be easily overlooked. But for scientists who study animal behavior, ecology, and evolutionary biology, the Junco is a rockstar.

Appalachian Spring: Long-Term Studies At Mountain Lake

This segment introduces viewers to the junco, the researchers, and the core methods they use to study birds. Set in field, lab, and aviary locations, one landmark study is highlighted in detail: a long-term field experiment investigating the complex effects of the hormone testosterone on behavior, physiology, and evolutionary fitness.

Diversification I: The Dark-Eyed Juncos

Exploring the definition of 'species,' hybridization, and the role of new DNA technology in studying evolution, this segment features footage from junco habitats across the continent. From Dr. Alden Miller in the 1920s, to Dr. Borja Mila, a modern day explorer and ornithologist, join researchers on their quest to understand the riddle of the Junco's evolutionary history.

Diversification II: South Of The Border

Building upon findings revealed in "Diversification I: the Dark-eyed Juncos," this segment will allow the viewer to join researchers from around the world as they travel to remote high elevation habitats to study unique Junco groups.

The Mysterious Juncos Of Guadalupe Island

Continuing the journey begun in "Diversification I" and "Diversification II," this segment opens with researchers hitching a ride with the Mexican Navy to visit a breathtakingly beautiful but critically endangered island habitat.

What We Can Learn From The Junco

Recapping themes from the prior modules and previewing the junco research of the future, this closing segment reinforces the broad range of important scientific findings involving the Junco.

Scientists Discover Oldest Known Primate Skeleton

An international team of paleontologists has discovered a nearly complete, articulated skeleton of a new tiny, tree-dwelling primate dating back 55 million years. The Eocene Epoch fossil was recovered from Hubei Province in central China.

In The Grass, On The Reef: Can Mud Crabs Hear?

Dr. David Kimbro and Dr. Randall Hughes study fear on the oyster reef. A predator gives off a chemical "scent," and its prey changes its behavior to avoid being detected. Now, Randall and David are asking, "Do mud crabs hear their prey?"

In The Grass, On The Reef: Apalachicola Oyster Reef Survey

A study headed by Dr. David Kimbro is tackling the Apalachicola Oyster Fishery crisis. In the first phase of this research initiative, small sample areas across the bay were sampled to determine the relative health of reefs in different areas within it.

In The Grass, On The Reef: Oyster Spat Tile Experiment 2.0

The idea of this experiment is to measure how well oysters grow and to see where they grow best. Dr. Randall Hughes, Dr. David Kimbro, and associates devised the spat tile. They affixed an equal number of spat - juvenile oysters - to hundreds of tiles and set them on oyster reefs across the American Southeast. It was a huge undertaking that required a high level of coordination. Only, on the researchers first attempt they encountered a major problem. See how the researchers improved upon their experiment and made it a centerpiece of their Nation Science Foundation-funded oyster study.

In The Grass, On The Reef: How Fear Rules The Oyster Reef

Fear is at work throughout the food web; working its way down from predators like catfish, toadfish, and stone crabs. Large predators eat smaller animals such as mud crabs, oyster drills, and crown conchs. This predation, in turn, keeps the smaller animals from eating the oysters. More powerful still is the mere presence of the large predators on the oyster reef. Smaller animals sense the predators and allow it affect their behavior. The smaller animals are so frightened by the large predators that they will stop eating oysters and go find a place to hide instead.

In The Grass, On The Reef: Fear And An Oyster's Choices

Oysters have no brains and they look like rocks. Looking at a reef filled with seemingly lifeless oysters, it can be difficult to imagine that this is an animal that exhibits any behavior at all. Oysters do make choices and some of those choices are influenced by the predators. In this video, Dr. David Kimbro examines the two choices that oysters make in their lives and how those choices affect an oyster's health.

In The Grass, On The Reef: Oysters And Nutrients

When algal blooms kill all the fish in a body of water, people say that nutrients are to blame. When the Apalachicola oyster fishery failed, people said that there weren't enough nutrients in the water. All life on Earth needs nitrogen to survive and the process that brings the nitrogen to plants and animals is a natural one. But nature provides only a limited amount of this nutrient. Humankind has found a way of synthesizing its own nitrogen for agricultural use and it can be too much of a good thing. See how an excess of nitrogen can be of harm to the environment and how oysters might be able to help remove that excess.

Coelacanth Genome Surfaces: Unexpected Insights To An Ancient-Looking Fish

An international team of researchers has sequenced the genome of the African coelacanth -- a giant, ancient fish thought to have gone extinct around the time of the dinosaurs but discovered a few decades ago off the coast of Africa. Their research reveals insights into how some vertebrates adapted to life on land, while others remained creatures of the sea.

CreatureCast: Getting Around When You Are Round

Humans have a front and a back and two legs. We walk around on our two legs. When we need to change the direction we are moving in, we first turn our body to face the new direction and then use our same two legs to keep going. It works for us. But, what about a round animal that also has an odd number of limbs?

The Synergy Project: Sacred Intersections

Synergy is an experimental program that catalyzes partnerships between artists and research scientists. Ellie Bors studies deep-sea life. Laurie Kaplowitz creates mixed-media drawings and paintings.

NSF Science Now 9

In this week's episode of NSF Science Now we explore an experimental motion control car, a gliding robot called Grace, how song sparrows protect their domain, and finally a four-wheel vehicle capable of detecting deadly cracks in Antarctic ice.

The Art Of Science

Science isn't just electron microscopes and high-tech instruments. Researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech are examining the intersection of art and science.

Researching Cold Water Corals

Pioneering faculty and students at UMaine's Darling Marine Center dive into the rarely seen world of deep sea coral bringing new and exciting discoveries to the surface.

NSF Science Now 5

In this week's episode of NSF Science Now we explore negative thoughts, robotic fish, sensitive alligators and finally the discovery of a camp used by explorers a century ago during the "Heroic Age" of Antarctic exploration.

What's In A Name?

Species names are important, and much like the species they refer to, names often change over time, too. Taxonomists have been struggling to keep track of them all since the origins of natural history. Binomial nomenclature, the standardized way in which scientists name species, was a major breakthrough.

Whales In Fjords

Researcher Eric Keen describes his research about fin whale occurrence and vocalizations within a developing coastal corridor. Produced for the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program Video Contest.

Turtles In The Deep

This short video explains how Lindsey Peavey's PhD research is shaping the field of sea turtle ecology by taking investigations from nesting beaches into open ocean habitats where threatened turtles spend the majority of their time and encounter major threats. The open ocean foraging ecology insights that result from her research will be instrumental in informing marine resources managers tasked with balancing species protection, fisheries production and ecosystem preservation. Produced for the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program Video Contest.

Sonic Reef

The navigational cues used by larval fish as they journey from the pelagic zone to the reef remains a great mystery. It is possible that they may navigate by listening for the reef "soundscape," which is comprised of abiotic sounds (wind, waves, rain) as well as biological sounds. Erica Staaterman's PhD research explores whether these fish can navigate acoustically, as well as the implications for population connectivity and conservation of reefs. Produced for the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program Video Contest.

Creaturecast: Hollow Trees

Here is a little plant that starts it's life high up in the tree tops, where it can find more light than the dark understory of the rainforest. As it grows though, soon getting enough water becomes limiting factor, and the plant will drop a shoot to the ground.

Understanding Viruses

Where do these Viruses occur in nature, how many of them are there, and how do they switch into new hosts?

Science Behind The News: Tomato - Decoded

The size, shape, skin thickness, color and taste of tomatoes are all traits determined by their genes. Now, scientists from 14 nations, including the U.S., have sequenced the tomato genome ¿ the order and location of the tomato's 35,000 genes.

Turtle Ants

Large workers of turtle ants have dish-like heads that they use to close the entrance of their nest and protect it from intruders. Check it out!

Science Behind The News: Influenza & Flu Vaccines

Every flu season, Americans battle coughs, fevers and body aches. The flu is a respiratory illness caused by a virus, a pathogen that causes disease in the human body. To understand how the flu is caught, spread and treated, Duke University's Katia Koelle explains the biology of a virus and how it is transmitted.

A Bird Of Paradise

The bird that never lands? Field Museum curator, John Bates, tells the story of this beautiful bird

Cabinet Of Wonders

A cabinet filled with lost specimens from Alfred Russel Wallace's personal collection is rediscovered

Fossil Carrion Feeders

Take a closer look at the world's oldest fossils of carrion beetles and experience a unique view of these 165 million-year old fossils.

Orangutans In The Mist

Cheryl Knott's NSF-supported work helps us understand why orangutansrequire protection and conservation.


Heterotrophic bacteria playing an important role in the ocean


Some of the experiments conducting on the C-MORE cruise

The Call Of The Arctic

Scripps scientists deploy new technology to track global warming-related changes facing marine mammals and the people who depend on them on Alaska's north coast.

Spiky Sight

Just because sea urchins don't have eyes, doesn't mean they can't see

Orangutan Copy Cats

Monkey see monkey do is something we humans do well. Turns out our primate cousins the orangutan are good copy cats too - but only at certain times.

Unbroken Thread

Exploring the diversity of life forms on Earth and the intrcate relationships they share

Microbial Hair: It's Electric

USC professor has found that microbial colonies may survive, communicate and share energy in part through electrically conducting hairs known as bacterial nanowires.

Tawa hallae: Dinosaur Ancient History

Excerpts (without audio) from the NSF-supported IMAX® film titled "Dinosaurs Alive!" show a Tawa hallae dinosaur fossil being covered with plaster, removed from the Ghost Ranch site and opened at the American Museum of Natural History.

Prehistoric Crocs

Paleontologists scouring a river bank in Tanzania unearthed a highly unusual, 105 million-year-old crocodile. The relatively lanky, cat-sized animal with mammal-like teeth and a land-based lifestyle reveals that crocodiles were once far more diverse than they are today.

Octopus Tool-Use

The octopus is widely regarded as the world's smartest invertebrate, and a new study adds evidence to that claim.

Pacific Dead Zones

Most dead zones are caused by human activity, due to river runoff and an overabundance of nutrients from land that flow into oceans, gulfs or estuaries, but the marine dead zones in the Pacific Northwest are different.