When David Shiffman ‘07 applied to Duke University in 2002, he wrote his application essay about the first time he swam with sharks. The then-landlocked Shiffman, who grew up in Pittsburgh, included an anecdote about consoling his father before his dive into the deep with an 11-foot tiger shark -- "Don’t worry Dad. They don't usually eat people."Seven years later Shiffman has interacted with more than 3,000 sharks on five continents -- and he's still pushing boundaries and challenging stereotypes through his work as a… read more about Why Sharks Matter »

When Bob Cieri first arrived at Duke, he envisioned becoming an ecologist who worked in the field, not someone who’d flourish in a lab.All that changed during his four years at Duke. Now, three years out and happily ensconced in his first year of graduate school in biology at the University of Utah, Cieri recently was lead author on a published study that started as his honors thesis at Duke. The study theorizes that human society advanced when testosterone levels dropped and people started being more cooperative.The… read more about Lead Author Learned to Love Research at Duke »

Modern humans appear in the fossil record about 200,000 years ago, but it was only about 50,000 years ago that making art and advanced tools became widespread.A new study appearing Aug. 1 in the journal Current Anthropology finds that human skulls changed in ways that indicate a lowering of testosterone levels at around the same time that culture was blossoming."The modern human behaviors of technological innovation, making art and rapid cultural exchange probably came at the same time that we developed a more cooperative… read more about Society Bloomed With Gentler Personalities and More Feminine Faces »

A study of dominance in female baboons suggests that the route to a higher rank is to maintain close ties with mom, and to have lots of supportive sisters.A female baboon’s social status is dictated not by size or strength, but by the rank of her mother -– the higher the mother is ranked, the higher-ranked her daughter will be. For this reason, dominance rank in female baboons is thought to be determined at birth. Females born to high-ranking mothers are guaranteed a good spot in the pecking order, whereas females born to… read more about Supportive Moms and Sisters Boost Female Baboon’s Rank »

A Chinese biotech firm has pushed biology professor Kathleen Pryer and her team over the top in their quest to fund the sequencing of the azolla genome and its associated symbiotic bacteria – a project ultimately aimed at combating global warming and boosting agricultural yields.Pryer shared the news with more than 80 crowdfunding backers late last week. “We are thrilled to announce that the Azolla Genome Project has found its ultimate advocate,” she said. A leading international genome sequencing center -- Beijing Genomics… read more about Crowdfunding for Azolla Fern Research Hits Target »

Junior Julian Kimura came to Duke with an interest in developmental biology and he found a home on his first day at the university in the lab of biology professor David McClay Kimura is investigating the evolutionary relationship between sea urchins and sand dollars by studying how their embryos develop. He hopes to understand how the two organisms have changed or stayed similar over millions of years.From Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Kimura said he has long been interested in the complexity of the processes involved in… read more about Julian Kimura: Evolutionary Paths of the Sea Urchin and the Sand Dollar »

Before biologists can understand the role of specific genes, they have to be able to determine whether those genes are "on or off." Howard Hughes Undergraduate Research Fellow Mitchell Lee is looking to make take process easier.Working with Nicholas Buchler, assistant professor of biology and physics, Lee is developing methods that will give synthetic biology researchers greater control over the expression of different genes.His research involves creating artificial two-gene circuits that can switch on and off in E. coli, a… read more about Mitchell Lee: Student Studies New Processes for Gene Expression »

Oh, the people you will meet when raising money for science. Biology professor Kathleen Pryer knows this now, after first writing an op-ed and then joining grad student Fay-Wei Li in launching a crowdfunding project on behalf of the tiny aquatic azolla, sidelined as a "lowly fern" in plant genome studies."This has been so much fun," she says. "I haven't felt so popular since ... well, never."Pryer is leading a group of researchers at Duke and Utah State University who are raising money through to sequence the… read more about Going Public With Research Funding »