Two years, countless animal facts

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This means I’m also saying goodbye to the Midwest.

I’m wrapping up my current job at the American Society of Animal Science. It has been a crazy couple of years, and I’ve learned so much.

For example, a sheep’s placenta is very similar to a human placenta. That’s why sheep make good models for human reproduction.

After attending a two-day conference on swine castration, I can also tell you WAY too much about pig scrota. Like – I could tell you that a compound produced in the testes of male pigs causes a foul odor and taste in pork.

These are the facts that stick with me. These are the facts that make my mom “SHUSH!” me when we’re chatting at Starbucks.

This job transition (I’ll be writing about medical trials for my new job) has me thinking about when I stopped working at the nematology lab in college.

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Hey, tiny worms!

Nematodes are tiny roundworms. The ones we studied in the lab were parasitic. They mostly attacked insect larvae or plant roots. I was just a lab assistant, but I got to work on some insane projects. For one trial, we tested how nematodes moved through different soils. We found that nematodes got lost in saltier soils. Why was this? Well, the lead researcher hypothesized that the salt content altered the electric current coming from the live larvae in the soil. Perhaps the nematodes needed this electric current to find their prey. Like the nematodes were tiny sharks.

I left the lab job senior year of college so I could focus at the school paper. Since then, I’ve wondered if my weird amount of worm knowledge will ever come in handy. But nematodes aren’t on the nightly news. They barely even pop up in science articles (except for C. elegans, whatever).

I guess I could see these jobs — where I get a crash course in some fascinating, bizarre subject — like I used to see math courses. Like “when am I going to use this in real life?”

This is why I like being a science writer. When I find the right jobs, the secret world of biology gets to be my life.

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About Madeline McCurry-Schmidt

I'm a science writer specializing in biological sciences and animal behavior.
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