Bonobos, Odds, Ends, And A 'Range Of Respected, Science-related Career Possibilities'

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | April 3, 2009 12:50 pm

1) As Carl already pointed out, my good friend Vanessa Woods is working with bonobos in Congo and unfortunately they are suffering from a mysterious virus:

lola.pngThe virus has infected over 20 bonobos and counting, and has already killed four. Another 3 have died, we aren’t sure of the cause, so it could be as many as seven, which means the sanctuary has already lost over a tenth of its population.

The symptoms are a dry cough, followed by a runny nose. But then the bonobos start hyperventilating, it’s like they can’t get enough air. They die as quickly as 72 hours after the initial symptoms. The problem is, the virus hasn’t seem to run its course, it’s been through the nursery twice, and is bouncing back and forth between the enclosures.

If you have heard anything about this illness in great apes, please write to To donate to Lola ya bonobo sanctuary where they desperately need medicine for these orphans, please visit

2) Because I’ve been traveling much of the week, the final panelist at the 2009 Science and Technology in Society Conference, Reynold Galope, will be featured on Monday.  I expect his topic, ‘Defining a Comparison Sample to Measure the Effect of Institutional Factors on Highly Creative Scientific Research: Issues and Options’ will provoke an interesting discussion.

3) A new science blog carnival will be published on 6 April at Scientia.  It’s for posts related to science, nature and medical topics and you can still submit entries here

4) For those with access to Science, there is a terrific editorial (very much related to a prominent theme of Unscientific America) by Bruce Alberts on page 13 of today’s issue:

One senses that we are reaching a tipping point, where students who prefer to work in the world of public policy, government, precollege education, industry, or law will no longer be viewed as deserting science. Faculty and students can then begin to talk honestly about a whole range of respected, science-related career possibilities. This is crucial, because we must promote the movement of scientists into many occupations and environments if our end goal is to effectively apply science and its values to solving global problems.

Exactly.  There are many ways to work in science and I’m pleased to see this emphasized by Science’s Editor-in-Chief. Read on here


Comments (5)

  1. Linda

    So sorry to read about the bonobos dying from this virus. With all that these poor animals have to cope with in their often dangerous environment, now this. I hope Ms. Woods and her crew find answers very soon.

  2. Bonobos are awfully close to us on the ol’ evolutionary ladder. Should we be concerned that this disease could jump to humans?

  3. Ade

    Hi Sheril-Thanks a lot for the Science article link, hadn’t heard of the CCST before!


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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