Many years ago, when the internet still had braces and pigtails, I started writing about science online. Eventually, people actually paid me to do it!

As a freelance writer, my work has appeared in Nature, Science, Entomology Today, and the Washington Post. I occasionally work as a “ghost writer” for manuscript editing, and I am a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

Because the web is a fluid and evolving thing, I have archived some of my work here, in order to have a permanent record.


Dark Data, Amber, and Attenborough

Dark Data, Amber, and Attenborough

WIRED — When Sam Heads started his new job at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) in 2009, he heard rumors of buried treasure. As a paleoentomologist, his research focuses on insects of the past. While Heads ramped up his research on the evolution of insects as recorded in fossils, he also started digging around in random closets and cupboards. He was looking for a treasure in amber.

Silent and Deadly: Fatal Farts Immobilize Prey

Silent and Deadly: Fatal Farts Immobilize Prey

WIRED — The beautiful animal in the photo above is a Beaded Lacewing. While the adults are delicate and lovely, they begin life as ferocious tiny predators lurking in the nests of termites. These larvae live unmolested in their nest, silently striking down termites from behind-and for one species, with their behind.

Glowworms harness a surprising ingredient to keep their threads sticky

Glowworms harness a surprising ingredient to keep their threads sticky

Science Magazine — This isn’t a photo of the Milky Way; it’s a deep, dark cave in New Zealand. And those blue things aren’t stars; they’re maggots. A chemical reaction in their Malpighian tubules–structures analogous to kidneys–makes their posteriors glow.

New technique unlocks the mystery meats used to make ‘uterine vellum’ for ancient books

New technique unlocks the mystery meats used to make 'uterine vellum' for ancient books

Washington Post — The beautiful medieval illustrated manuscripts of Europe were carefully inked on parchment; animal hides crafted into something resembling modern paper. Called “uterine vellum,” records hinted it might be made from the hides of calves, sheep, or maybe squirrels and rabbits. And did it really come from a uterus? (Ew.)

Great news! Cases of these horrifying, 31-inch parasites are dropping sharply.

Great news! Cases of these horrifying, 31-inch parasites are dropping sharply.

Washington Post — The CDC and the Carter Center released some great news about Dracunculiasis this Halloween season. It’s not victory over sparkly vampires, though; cases of guinea worms ( Dracunculus medinensis) decreased by 85 percent in 2015. The Latin name of “Little Dragon” refers to the fiery burning pain of these yard-long worms that live under human skin.

Want to repel mosquitoes? Don’t use citronella candles

Want to repel mosquitoes? Don't use citronella candles

Science Magazine — Citronella candles are great for setting a mood, but they’re not so great for the very thing they’re advertised to do: repel mosquitoes. That’s one conclusion from a new study that tested 11 types of repellents on Aedes aegypti mosquitoes-the vectors of Zika, yellow fever, dengue, and other diseases.

You’re Worrying About the Wrong Bees

You're Worrying About the Wrong Bees

WIRED  “Save the Bees!” is a common refrain these days, and it’s great to see people interested in the little animals critical for our food supply around the globe. But I have one quibble: you’re talking about the wrong bees. Honey bees will be fine. They are a globally distributed, domesticated animal. Apis mellifera will not go extinct, and the species is not remotely threatened with extinction. The bees you should be concerned about are the 3,999 other bee species living in North America, most of which are solitary, stingless, ground-nesting bees you’ve never heard of.

When Did Insects Evolve?

When Did Insects Evolve?

WIRED — In an incredible international effort, 100 scientists combined their molecular, computational biology, statistics, paleontology, and taxonomic expertise to uncover some surprising conclusions about when major groups of insects evolved.

Pesticides and Bees: It’s Complicated

Pesticides and Bees: It's Complicated

WIRED — Bees are weird. A honey bee hive is an entire insect society dedicated to stealing plant sperm (some of you call that pollen)…. The consensus among bee scientists is that honey bee declines are the result of multiple factors, working independently or synergistically.

Tick season is here, and it’s time to learn how to stop the suckers

Tick season is here, and it's time to learn how to stop the suckers

Washington Post — Worried about ticks? There are good reasons. Ixodes scapularis, the blacklegged or deer tick, transmits Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that can affect the nervous system and joints. But there are a host of other tick-borne diseases as well, and in some cases, they can make you pretty sick.

You’ve Got Face Mites

You've Got Face Mites

WIRED — Every single one of you – 100 percent of you reading this right now – has face mites. Before you break out the exfoliating scrubs and disinfectant, it’s completely normal to have little animals living on your skin.

Bee Tongues and Flowers Reveal Evolution in Overdrive

Bee Tongues and Flowers Reveal Evolution in Overdrive

WIRED — Living on a mountain is hard for bees and flowers. It’s cold. There’s extreme weather. And new research has found it’s getting even harder for both flowers and bees to make a living in alpine evironments lately. Scientists compared over 40 years of mountain bumblebee and flower records on three Colorado mountains, and found major decreases in both bees and flowers. But they also found clear evidence of rapid evolution by the bees, suggesting it’s not time to give up on mountain bumble bees just yet.

Royal Jelly Isn’t What Makes a Queen Bee a Queen Bee

Royal Jelly Isn't What Makes a Queen Bee a Queen Bee

WIRED — For decades, scientists thought an excess of something special, a substance called royal jelly, elevated a regular honey bee larva to a queen. New research suggests we had it backward: It’s what future queens aren’t fed that matters.

Will We Still Have Fruit if Bees Die Off?

empty supermarket

WIRED — A photo has been circulating for a while that suggests our grocery stores will look like this in a world without bees. Is that true? Will our food choices be radically limited, come the future Beepocalypse? We already know what raising fruit without honey bees looks like. In a remote area in China, humans pollinate 100% of fruit trees by hand. Armed with pollen-loaded paintbrushes and cigarette filters, people swarm around pear and apple trees in spring. The reason why they hand pollinate is not what you think, though.

Caffeinated Underpants Won’t Make Your Butt Smaller

Caffeinated Underpants Won't Make Your Butt Smaller

WIRED — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an Enforcement Order this week: two brands must stop claiming caffeinated underwear will make your behind smoother and slimmer. What did they do to get the FTC’s knickers in such a twist?

Reindeer Bot Flies Are Not Particularly Festive

Reindeer Bot Flies Are Not Particularly Festive

WIRED — Bot flies are not generally considered festive. This is especially true if you are a reindeer, which often have reindeer nasal bot flies, or snot bots, as they are affectionately known. The nasal bot fly life cycle is a marvelous example of evolutionary WTF-ery.

Just Give Up. It’s Impossible to Bug-Proof Your Home

Just Give Up. It's Impossible to Bug-Proof Your Home

WIRED — How many insects do you think are in your home? None? One? A hundred? Some new research suggests you need to step that number up by a factor of 10. Or more. But don’t panic: Insects and their relatives are living peacefully in your home. They aren’t bothering you.

Sex is why this bug has a thing that looks like a penis on its head

Sex is why this bug has a thing that looks like a penis on its head

WIRED — This male lacewing has a glenofinger. That’s not an obscure Bond villain, but an inflatable “come hither” signal to females. The bulging gland gets bigger when the male is interested in a hookup.

Remain Calm: Kissing Bugs Are Not Invading the US

Remain Calm: Kissing Bugs Are Not Invading the US

WIRED — Chill. Kissing bugs are not invading North America. They’ve been here for at least 12,000 years, probably longer. The link between Chagas disease and kissing bugs ( Triatoma) is real, and Chagas disease is a serious, untreatable disease you do not want to acquire.

These Lovely Birds Do More Than Sing-They Sleep Around

These Lovely Birds Do More Than Sing-They Sleep Around

WIRED — At dusk in North American forests, wood thrushes ( Hylocichla mustelina) fill forests with a rising and falling ” ee-oh-lay ” song with a strange reverb. Like Tuvan throat singers, these pot-bellied brown birds have the ability to sing their own harmony and descant.

Pubic Lice: Still NOT Going Extinct

Pubic Lice: Still NOT Going Extinct

WIRED — Every few years an alarm is raised; habitat loss puts this species at risk. Will the noble pubic louse Pthirus pubis, which once grazed the rolling plains of our crotches in great herds, be driven into extinction? Do we need to erect habitat reserves for crab lice conservation in New Jersey?

What Does the Giraffe Say? Scientists Find the Answer

What Does the Giraffe Say? Scientists Find the Answer

WIRED — Cows moo, lions roar, and pigs oink. But for many years it’s been assumed that, except for the occasional snort, giraffes spent most of their lives in a tight-lipped silence. New research from a group studying animal sounds at the University of Vienna suggests giraffes might not be so quiet after all: They spend their evenings humming.

6 Extra Pairs of Genitals Is Just Too Much of a Good Thing

6 Extra Pairs of Genitals Is Just Too Much of a Good Thing

WIRED — All the instructions to make an animal’s body are in each one of its individual cells. But how does an embryo know that a scrotum should be built in the groin, and not on your forehead? During fetal development, a complex dance of proteins turns genes off and on.

Bees Are Great at Pollinating Flowers-But So Are Vibrators

Bees Are Great at Pollinating Flowers-But So Are Vibrators

WIRED — In the media buzz about bee losses, a lot of proposals have been floated about how to replace natural pollinators, come the beepocalypse. Robotic bees seem like a fairly simple proposition; fly the robot around to flowers, collect pollen, transfer pollen, done. Just one problem: Some plants don’t give it up that easily.

Glowing Tampons Help Detect Sewage Leaks

Glowing Tampons Help Detect Sewage Leaks

WIRED — “You do get people looking at you strangely, but the tampon is not that obvious.” That’s Professor David Lerner, explaining what it was like to conduct a research project where feminine hygiene products were inserted into streams and sewers around Yorkshire, UK. Why? It turns out tampons are an accurate and cheap way to sample water quality.

GMO Spider Venom May Be the Next Viagra

GMO Spider Venom May Be the Next Viagra

WIRED — Humans have been chasing longer and stronger erections for centuries. From ground-up ants and “Spanish flies” to modern drugs, men hope to bring back some magic into a cocked-up sex life. How far would you be willing to go for an erection? Would you take a drug made from genetically modified spider venom?

50 Shades of WRONG: Disturbing Insect Sex

50 Shades of WRONG: Disturbing Insect Sex

WIRED — You think you’re naughty and transgressive? Bah. Humans just don’t get that freaky compared to insects. An ongoing evolutionary tug of war to control fertilization has led to appallingly rough sexual practices in bugs. Male penises are covered in spikes, scoops, harpoons, and stabby daggers. Females occasionally kill and eat their suitors.

These Adorable Owls Will Not Kill You With Plague

These Adorable Owls Will Not Kill You With Plague

WIRED — Plague! The word conjures images of horrors past, piles of festering medieval dead overrun by rats. It’s not a disease of the past though; the bacteria that causes plague can be found in the United States, and a few cases of human bubonic plague happen every year.

Let’s Nerd Out About Ants Before You See Ant-Man

Let's Nerd Out About Ants Before You See Ant-Man

WIRED — Bug scientists are buzzing with excitement over the new Ant-Man movie. Insect-themed superheroes abounded in early comics, but they tended to lack a certain … gravitas. I mean, the Red Bee had poofy pink sleeves, yellow and green striped tights, and kept a bee named Michael in his belt buckle.

Planet of the Apps: Social Media, Outreach, and your Research

Planet of the Apps: Social Media, Outreach, and your Research

Nature — The world of social media is just like the print and email worlds: billions of messages are competing for attention. How do you break through all that competition, and get the attention of the public? How can you mobilize and engage people to create a community of supporters (and possibly donors)?

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