Monday, December 12, 2005

I Love Positive Feedback

The last good textbook in chronobiology was The Clocks That Time Us by Moore-Ede, Sultzman and Fuller. It is now two decades out of date, yet recent attempts to produce a new textbook did not satisfy instructors of Biological Clocks courses taught around the world.

One thing I am hoping to do with this blog, especially the Clock Tutorials category, is provide essential background material covering major areas of the discipline in a manner that is accessible to students - in a sense as a Supplemental Reading for the courses.

Apparently it worked for at least one person, someone taking a class (Update: that particular post has mysteriously disappeared!) on Biological Clocks with Dr. Martin Ralph at University of Toronto. Amidst gushing and promises of sending chocolates and muffins (hey, there are PayPal and Amazon buttons on the sidebar!), she writes:

"This incredible, amazing, generous, brilliant man has basically summed up my JZP326 course but in a CLEAR, CONCISE, and EASY TO UNDERSTAND manner."
It is great to hear those words. Perhaps I am doing something right.

Not that Dr. Ralph has anything to worry about - he seems to be rated quite well on ratetheprofessor site. If his name seems familiar to you, it is because I have mentioned him before. He discovered the hamster Tau-mutant and was smart enough to realize what he had in his hands, to breed her and do cool experiments with the progeny. His famous SCN transplantation experiment paper showed that circadian clocks in mammals are endogenous, have a genetic basis, are inherited in a roughly Mendelian fashion, and are located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus. Pretty big, I'd say.

His student also wrote that she was "visiting your site 1023478087253 times a day", which, sadly, my Sitemeter could not confirm. Perhaps that is a long-term project for the future.

Although, she did voice "one complaint: You did not cover the orientation of birds and amphipods...."

Well, my work here is only half done, if that. I have stalled here a little, but intend, once I finish my Dissertation, to put much more effort in covering up the remaining topics, of which there are many, as well as to revisit some of the topics already covered with new posts containing more details and references for more advanced readers.

I need to cover circadian (and photoperiodic) physiology in separate posts for various groups of organisms (e.g., Molluscs, Crustaceans, fish, fungi, etc.) or even individual species (e.g., fruitflies, hamsters, or zebrafish). There are several posts to be written about development of the circadian system (including developmental timing, maternal transfer of circadian and photoperiodic information, ontogeny of photoperiodism, etc.), as well as more on seasonality and photoperiodism.

Circannual, circalunar and circatidal rhythms deserve at least a post each. Much more needs to be said about the molecular basis of circadian rhythms and the nitty-gritty neurobiology of the SCN. And Continuously Consulted Clocks will also be covered in several posts, including those focusing on control of migration, orientation and navigation (including, yes, birds and amphipods).

All this will probably take at least a year, more likely two. Once it is all done, I may turn the Clock Tutorials category into a Blook, so people can download it online and use in classes as a textbook.


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