Amber Williams is a student in the NYU science writing program. She is currently writing for the Audubon magazine. See some of her latest work here and here is a choice of about half of her recent articles, for your pleasure:
Have you ever walked through the woods or even a doorway and received a face full of spider web? It’s not a pleasant experience. The invisible threads of the web stick to your skin and because they’re incredibly thin and delicate, removal doesn’t happen nearly as fast as you’d like.
While a Charlotte’s Web-esque sign of “Danger!” would be nice, the spider’s web is a trap for unsuspecting insects, so it’s typically inconspicuous. Some orb web spiders, though, do something unusual: They decorate their webs.
The higher on the social ladder, the bigger the brain. At least for white-browed sparrow weavers. These African songbirds live in groups where only one male and female pair mate, and according to a new study, the lucky male has the largest brain because of his status. Another reason his subordinates are… subordinate.
Blue-streak cleaner wrasses live in harems. Dwelling amongst the coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific, the male carefully watches over his group of consorts, making sure that other males keep their distance. But the sole male cleaner fish also faces a threat from within his group: A female can usurp his spot. In fact, any of the females can change their sex – producing sperm instead of eggs within a few days – if they get large enough. To keep his ladies as ladies, the head honcho strictly enforces a diet.
It’s not necessary to employ the words “creepy” or “crawly” or “crunchy” to make you shudder over this animal. The name is enough.
Hunting in the animal kingdom can be violent. Ripping, breaking, and poisoning are common. Humpback whales, though, employ a less gruesome tactic to capture their meals: They use bubbles.
Charles Darwin had 1,480 books in his personal library. What was he thinking as he read through them? Now you can find out for yourself. The Biodiversity Heritage Library scanned 300 of them so far, many of which have Darwin’s comments scribbled in the margins.
Prehistoric birds in book illustrations come in all different colors: flashy blues, bright reds, and neon greens. But were the birds really those colors? Well, Confuciusornis sanctus, one the oldest fossilized birds, wasn't.
Usually the question ‘What is normal?’ is a subjective discussion-starter that probes the society we live in. It challenges our thoughts about conformity as well as our values. But when asked about the climate, ‘What is normal?’ is no longer a question without concrete answers. What is normal, in terms of temperature, is changing in the United States, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is tracking it.
A big red ball of something was pulsing on the surface of the water. Jon Schwartz, out on a fishing excursion with his friend in La Jolla, California last month, wondered what it was and if he could slide into the water and snap a few photos before it disappeared.
Leda Meredith, an expert urban forager, stepped off the park’s cement walkway and into a clump of knee-high greenery. “We could get our lunch right here,” she says to a group of want-to-be and practicing harvesters with notebooks and cameras at the ready.