Author Archives: Martha Merson

Senator Heinrich is standing up for STEM and takes a stand against removing words like climate change and evolution from proposed new standards

From NM’s senator Martin Heinrich

Dear Friend,

Improving education is the key to unlocking the economic potential in our state and more must be done to support New Mexico’s students and teachers. This is especially true in science, technology, engineering, and technology (STEM) fields. If we want to compete in the 21st century, we need to be sure our students have the knowledge and skills necessary for high-tech jobs.

That’s why I was so disturbed to see the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) propose new standards for our K-12 public schools that remove references to rising temperatures, climate change, and evolution. Senator Tom Udall and I wrote the column below in outlining why these proposed standards would be so harmful to New Mexico’s future.

I encourage you to make your voice heard as PED seeks public input on these proposed new science standards. Public comments must be emailed to or faxed to (505)827-6681 before October 16. PED will host a public hearing on Monday, October 16 at 9:00 am at the Jerry Apodaca Education Building at 300 Don Gaspar Ave. in Santa Fe.

We have enormous potential to create jobs in major new industries if we can prepare our students with STEM skills. High-tech industries are America’s future — and they are an area where New Mexico can shine, but only if we make the right choices today.



United States Senator

Science education is essential to NM’s future

By U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich

As senators who proudly represent the world-class scientists at New Mexico’s national laboratories, research universities, military installations, and high-tech businesses, we call on policymakers to use science as a guiding light. Our capacity to seize opportunities and face the many challenges ahead rests heavily on our ability to make decisions driven by scientific data. And our state’s economic future depends on ensuring that the next generation has the knowledge and skills – especially in science and math – to qualify for jobs in cutting-edge fields.

That is why we were so disturbed to learn that the New Mexico Public Education Department has proposed watering down science education standards for our public schools by removing any references to rising temperatures, climate change, and evolution. If we weaken our science standards to advance an ideological agenda at the expense of scientific facts, we will put New Mexico at a distinct disadvantage. And we encourage all New Mexicans to speak out against this plan to undermine the quality of K-12 science education.

For decades, advances in science have fueled New Mexico’s economic growth. Investment in scientific research during and after World War II drove the greatest era of prosperity in our nation’s history, when millions of families joined the middle class and reaped the benefits of America’s technological superiority. Our state was home to breakthroughs that changed the way we power our electric grid, protect our national security and connect the world. Our scientists continue to play a major role in creating the technologies and materials that will grow our small businesses and drive our nation’s economy.

We want New Mexico to lead in the modern high-tech economy, and that means we must continue to welcome scientific thinkers and innovators on the cutting edge of biomedicine, advanced materials, computing, and clean energy development. Censoring science in our schools will slow the growth of our businesses and dissuade future investment into New Mexico from those looking to relocate their business or company here.

We can only keep our place at the center of scientific innovation if we educate the next generation of New Mexico students with a strong foundation in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. Our students need to be equipped with the most rigorous standards if they are going to compete in a global market. Providing an ideologically scrubbed curriculum short-changes our children and intentionally leaves them behind the rest of the world, all in the name of some obscure political agenda.

Building a better education pipeline from cradle-to-career that prepares all New Mexicans for STEM careers is the one sure way to build a better economic future in our state. Our students who are learning science and technology skills in the classroom right now will be the researchers, entrepreneurs, and highly skilled labor force that create new jobs and major new industries in New Mexico.

It is also critical for us to meet the challenges of climate change head on. In the coming years, New Mexico will face the realities of extended droughts, increased wildfire activity, and greater floods. We can’t adequately respond and adapt to these climate disruptions if we pretend they don’t exist or hide the truth from our children.

We urge all New Mexicans to make their voices heard as the Public Education Department seeks public input on their proposed new science standards. There is a better way forward that gives our students all of the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed.

Echolocation and bat evolution–new study


Did you all catch word of this new study? I wish there were pictures with this article. Maybe someone has interest in contacting the researchers to see if they have visuals they would be willing to share?

If you search Facebook for emma teeling bat research, you get lots of links to talks and some images, etc. Not specific to Brazilian free-tailed bats, but about the cutting edge of genetic research on bats.

Bats without sonar shed light on evolution of echolocation

Bats are perhaps best known for their sophisticated use of sound: Like a ship’s sonar, the flying mammals make high-pitched noises and listen for returning echoes to navigate and hunt, an ability known as echolocation. But one family—the fruit bats—doesn’t use this sort of advanced tracking. Now, a new study suggests that all bats were once able to echolocate in this fashion, providing new evidence in a decades-long debate and shedding light on the origins of bat sonar.

Evolutionary biologists have long been divided over how bats developed their sonar. Fruit bats are closely related to a group of bats that are expert echolocators. Some say this means that advanced echolocation evolved once; an ancient bat developed the ability and passed it on to successive bat species, but fruit bats lost it along the way. Others argue that advanced echolocation evolved twice—once in an ancient ancestor bat, and again in the close relatives of fruit bats—and that fruit bats never had it.

Scientists have tried settling the question by looking for hard-to-find fossils of ancient bats, and by examining the genes of modern bats for clues about their past lifestyle. But Emma Teeling, an evolutionary biologist at University College Dublin, and colleagues from Shenyang Agricultural University in China, looked at a different window into the past: modern bat ears.


Hi, I’m posting this here AND on because there’s some, but not total crossover in the blog subscribers. Thinking of everyone who made this Thanksgiving weekend a memorable and fun one for visitors. You rock. –Regards, Martha

On reading an interview with Galen McKinley, an expert in ocean, carbon interplay with the University of Wisconsin, one particular passage stayed with me. The interviewer said:

President Obama has called climate change trends “terrifying.” Can you explain these trends and why they are such cause for alarm?

And Galen McKinley said, “The trends are “terrifying” because our human society is built on the assumption of a stable climate.”

So true, right? Other points ring equally true.

“And we depend on now-dwindling snow packs and mountain glaciers in many other places for our drinking water. We depend on growing our crops in certain places. All these systems are threatened by climate change and this is scary because it will disrupt the ways and places humans live. … Climate change certainly doesn’t mean that all life on the planet will go away, but it will be very inconvenient …” (

I’ve been thinking quite a bit in the post-election era about volatility and how to plan for it rather than planning for stability. Staff in the Resource Management Division of the Park Service have a head start on this kind of thinking. How do they do it? There are two approaches I know of, mitigation and adaptation. Both require the ability to imagine and embrace scenarios we might prefer not to envision. That makes me think about an assessment for science curiosity by Weible and Zimmerman (2016). They call their instrument SCILE, Science Curiosity in Learning Environments.

Basing their work on attitude and behavior survey items for adults, Weible and Zimmerman tested a set of 30 items related to science curiosity with 663 youth ages 8-18. Through their analysis they found three critical factors : stretching, embracing, and science practices. They were then able to pare down the 30 items to 12.

I know you’re a little curious about it, so here are the items. The person being assessed would answer: This sounds like me … (always, often, sometimes, not often, never, with points ranging from 5 to 1)

I would like to invent something new.

I mix things together to see what happens.

I compare things to see if there are any changes or differences.

I like to work on problems or puzzles that have more than one answer.

I experiment with stuff to see what will happen.

I like to make things that no one else has made.

I apply new information to an existing problem to see if that helps.

When I see a word I don’t know, I look it up or ask someone what it means.

I try to learn as much as I can in new situations.

I see a challenge as a way to grow and learn.

I like to do things that might scare me a little.

I like doing exciting and unpredictable things every day.

There’s so much more to say about this research and how NPS interpreters and educators might use it. But for now, what strikes me is that I would benefit from an elevated level of science curiosity as we move into 2017. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Accessing research articles

Hey iSWOOP Friends,

I recently learned that you can join for free and then access journal articles through their Research tab. They subscribe to EBSCO, which affords access to many publications. I’m curious to see what environmental education journals are available. You may find some but not all scientific journals relevant to your work as well.

Please share any discoveries you make here.

While I can’t tell you more about EBSCO, I can tell you that is supported by the National Science Foundation. It’s the website for CAISE, Center for Advancing Informal Science Education. On the website you can learn about all kinds of projects happening in outside of school, in museums, zoos, parks, after-school programs, libraries, and more. I get an email from them once a month, an electronic newsletter. No other strings attached that I know of.


Experiments and Replication: How much of published scientific research is false?

Hi, I just finished listening to a Planet Money segment that made me think of the conversation the iSWOOP group had in December 2015.

Check out the podcast from January 15, 2016.

How much of published scientific research is false? Scientists are trying to figure it out.

Communicating Science to the Public: Insights from American Association for the Advancement of Science

I liked this way of contrasting how scientists communicate with each other compared to how the public tends to want to receive science information.

Scientists tend to communicate about their work this way:


Supporting Details

Results conclusions.


The public tends to want the reverse: Bottom line, then so what, then some supporting details.


Don’t think of it as dumbing down, but rather finding relevance for the target audience.

Pretty much affirms what interpreters do and why it often works better than when scientists try to talk to people about their work.

Mounting an immune response to WNS

Hi, I’m at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology conference with Tatjana, Nick and Louise. Here are a couple notes from a talk I went to yesterday. It all went by so fast, that I didn’t get a ton of details, but I know you field lots of questions about White Nose Syndrome, so thought it would be useful to pass on some information on this subject.

If you’re interested, you might want to contact the researchers. See below.

Researchers include: Richardson, CS, Forbes, Mewherter, Pong, and Suciu.

Bats are ideal models for studying impact on metabolic rate of immune function. They thermo-regulate and then they have to use energy to fly and for pregnancy, so those activities can be interesting variables.

Expect trade-offs. If you mount an immune system response, you might not have as much energy for other things.

Little brown bats have high rates of mortality from WNS, esp compared to Big brown bats.

Finding—metabolic rate is higher for post-infection recovery of wing damage repair compared to the initial immune response to the fungus.

How did they know?

Used respirometry to determine metabolic rate. Removes air from a small chamber to analyze it.

Researchers looked at white spots on wings which indicate scarring and new tissue and grouped them into three groups so they could look at the metabolic rates at different stages of recovery.


16-3  Monday, Jan. 4 10:45  The Impact on Metabolism and Immune function of the Immune Response of Bats to White Nose Syndrome RICHARDSON, C.S.*; FONTES, G.; MEWHERTER, J.; PONG, T.; SUCIU, N.; Northeastern University; Northeastern University; Lesley University; Northeastern University; Northeastern University

White-nose syndrome (WNS) has decimated populations of hibernating bats in the U.S. Among the bat species affected by WNS, Eptesicus fuscus (big brown bat) appear to be the least affected while M. lucifugus (little brown myotis) appear to be one of the most affected. Understanding the energetic cost of immune function in M. lucifugus and E. fuscus is important for understanding the immune response and recovery of bats to WNS. We examined basal metabolic rate (BMR), an important measure of energy expenditure, and bacterial killing ability of blood (BKA), an important measure of innate immune ability, in both species. WNS can damage a bat’s wing, which can impact flight cost and energy use. Additionally, the extent of wing damage reflects the course of immune response and recovery to the Pseudogymnoascus destructans fungus, the cause of WNS. We hypothesized that wing damage would be positively correlated with BMR. After accounting for body mass, little brown myotis with moderate wing damage had a higher BMR than little brown myotis with both minimal and severe damage. Thus, wing damage due to WNS is energetically costly in little brown myotis. However, in little brown myotis, BMR was highest during the recovery phase to wing damage (when damage is moderate), but not during the phase of active exclusion of fungus from wing tissue (when damage is severe). We found BKA was positively correlated with the extent of wing damage in little brown myotis. Thus, complement protein activity is greatest during the active exclusion of fungus. Our initial analysis suggests that the impact of WNS on BMR and BKA is less in big brown bats than in little brown myotis.


While looking for a link, I found a related study.