New paper on student understandings of climate change!


Meghan has a new article out entitled, “Preaching to the choir or composing new verses? Toward a writerly climate literacy in introductory undergraduate biology”. This work is a collaboration with JW Hammond (from the UMich School of Education) and Susan Cheng (at UMich’s Center for Research on Learning & Teaching). Some key findings:

  • Almost all students (98%!) arrived in the Intro Bio course we studied already accepting climate change. Does this mean we were preaching to the choir? Maybe, but it has value! Students came to better understand the science underlying climate change and the severity and immediacy of its impacts.
  • At the same time, there are clearly areas where instruction could improve. A key is that we need to consider how our instruction influences not just what students think, but how they feel. One student reported a panic attack mid-lecture while learning about climate change. Many became more worried. And most left class thinking that humans will not act to effectively address climate change. So, we need to think more about how to cover the seriousness of climate change while not leaving students feeling powerless or like climate disaster is a foregone conclusion.
  • In our paper, we call for a shift from a focus on “readerly” climate literacy, to a “writerly” one, where we focus not just on whether students know facts about climate change, but also whether they are prepared to use them. The discussion gives a series of suggestions about how to do that. It’s open access, so you can check it out if you’re interested!

Here’s a Michigan News release about the piece:

Teaching about climate needs to empower students toward change

Welcome to postdocs Laura and Patrick!


We’re a little late in getting Patrick’s start announced, and very late for Laura’s, but on the principle of better late than never:

Dr. Laura Lopez started as a postdoc in August (I told you we’re late in getting this announced!) Laura is earned her PhD in 2017 from the University of Wollongong in Australia, where she worked with Andy Davis and Marian Wong. She then did an Australia Awards Endeavour postdoc at UC Davis, where she worked with Andy Sih. Laura is interested in behavioral ecology and natural enemy ecology, as well as the conservation of freshwater ecosystems. She’s working on projects at the interface of behavioral ecology, disease ecology, and predation.

Dr. Patrick Clay started as a postdoc in April (phew, we’re not so late in announcing his start!) Patrick just earned his PhD from Rice University, where he worked with Volker Rudolf (but also collaborated with the Duffy Lab!) Patrick is a disease ecologist who is especially interested in co-infections and in how processes that occur at the within host level scale to populations and communities.

We’re very excited to have both of them in the lab!

Daphnia go to Washington to argue for the importance of basic scientific research!


Meghan visited Washington, DC for the Coalition for National Science Funding exhibition, where she talked about the importance of basic scientific research. She got a chance to introduce lots of folks, including Congressman Jack Bergman, to Daphnia!

Meghan’s day was filled with meetings with staffers on the Hill, followed by her poster presentation at the CNSF exhibition. More information on the trip can be found here.

Duffy Lab research featured by PBS NewsHour!


PBS NewsHour recently featured Daphnia! Their piece includes both video and a write up, which begins:

From a human perspective, the clear, calm waters of Michigan’s lakes — surrounded by trees, filled with fish, reflecting the sky — could hardly be more peaceful.

For the tiny critters below the surface, it’s a life-or-death battlefield. “Water fleas” dart from place to place, collecting food, dodging predators and fighting diseases.

We’re really excited about how it all turned out. Click through to read the whole article! You can watch the video either in that article or here:

Two recent papers on interactions between parasites!


Patrick Clay, a visiting grad student from Rice who will return as a postdoc this spring, is lead author on two papers exploring how interactions between parasites influence ecological dynamics. Most studies focus on just a single parasite infecting a host, but the norm in nature is that there are multiple parasites circulating in a population at a time. (If you doubt this, just visit the nearest daycare.)

In a Clay et al. paper that just appeared in The American Naturalist, we show that the order in which two parasites arrive in a single infected host influences the effects they have on each other and on the host. That, in turn, influences how likely it is that the two parasites will coexist. This paper uses data collected by former Duffy Lab undergrad Kailash Dhir.

The second paper (in press at Oikos) is a theory paper that shows that parasites that harm each other within individual hosts can actually facilitate each other’s spread at the population scale. These results suggest that within‐host priority effects can change host population‐scale infection patterns in systematic (and initially counterintuitive) ways, and that taking them into account may improve disease forecasting in coinfected populations.

Pasteuria bf 1 sr

The Daphnia on the left is uninfected; the one on the right is infected with Pasteuria ramosa, a common bacterial pathogen. Pasteuria was one of the parasites studied in the new Clay et al. AmNat paper. (photo credit: Meghan Duffy)

Clara to teach at UMBS this spring!


Clara Shaw will be teaching the Spring Term section of General Ecology at the University of Michigan Biological Station this May-June. Clara received a Master’s in Education from the University of Mississippi before joining our EEB PhD program, so this will be a great way to combine her love of ecology and her love of teaching.

More info can be found here! And congrats, Clara!

person smiling at the camera sitting in a small boat on a lake