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UnDisciplined: The Tropical Ecologist And The Microbiologist

University of Utah
Herbivores might be a big part of the reason the same species of tree rarely grow next to each other in tropical forests, according to new research from scientists at the University of Utah.

This week on UnDisciplined, we're talking about scientific puzzles. For instance, why is it that hundreds of tree species can exist within a single acre of rainforest, but the same species is almost never found next to itself?

Or, here's another one: Why is it that individual animals from the same species — dogs, for instance — can exhibit such tremendously different traits when it comes to aggressiveness?

Our guests might just have these questions answered. 

We're joined first by Dale Forrister, a doctoral candidate at the University of Utah who just scored his first-ever first authorship of a paper in the journal Science. In that paper, he and his colleagues propose a partial solution to the question of why similar species rarely grow next to one another in tropical forests. 

Also joining us, from Oregon State University, where she is also a doctoral candidate, is Nicole Kirchoff. She also just scored her first-ever first authorship of a paperthat explores the relationship between the aggressiveness of dogs and the microbes in their guts. 

Matthew LaPlante has reported on ritual infanticide in Northern Africa, insurgent warfare in the Middle East, the legacy of genocide in Southeast Asia, and gang violence in Central America. But a few years back, something donned on him: Maybe the news doesn't have to be brutally depressing all the time. Today, he balances his continuing work on more heartbreaking subjects by writing books about the intersection of science, human health and society, including the New York Times best-selling Lifespan with geneticist David Sinclair and the Nautilus Award-winning Longevity Plan with cardiologist John Day. His first solo book, Superlative, looks at what scientists are learning by studying organisms that have evolved in record-setting ways, and his is currently at work on another book about embracing the inevitability of human-caused climate change with an optimistic outlook on the future.