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The SciFund challenge on RocketHub is off to a good start. After day one (44 more to go), we’ve raised a bit over 10% of our goal of $5,000.00. Many thanks to Betty Scarpino and Joseph Bradshaw for their generous donations at the “100 liter fuel” mark. I think it’s kind of cute how donations are measured in liters of fuel rather than in dollar amounts.

I want to give some background on the SciFund challenge. The easiest way to sum it up is to print the press release that’s been floating around on some of the social media sites, and I’ll do that at the end of this post. But, first, I want to tell you a bit about what we’re doing in the lab on the Hyobanche project this term.

I currently have three undergraduate students (Paul, Erin and Theresa) who are Fellows on the RUMBA project working on population genetics of Hyobanche. RUMBA is a dyslexic acronym that translates to Research for Undergraduates: Adventures in Mathematical Biology, which is funded through the National Science Foundation and sponsored by the Ohio State University Mathematical Biosciences Institute (MBI). Laura Kubatko is my collaborator on the project, and this is our second team of students for the RUMBA project. Right now we are in the process of screening a couple of dozen microsatellite loci (thanks Matt Klooster!) for their potential to amplify across all the species. This is a pretty time intensive project, but we’re just about through the first pass of the data. We’re already discovering some fun things that will first be reported at the Botany 2012 meeting and, hopefully, submitted for publication next year as well.

Here’s a press release posted on boingboing:

Over the next two months, you can fund scientific research through Rockethub.

The SciFund challenge runs from November 1 through December 15. Essentially, it’s an experiment by a group of scientists who think that they might be able to use crowdfunding to fuel their research. Forty-nine different projects, in a wide variety of disciplines, have signed on to the challenge.

You can browse the projects, decide which ones you’d like to help support, and make a donation. As a bonus, many of the projects are offering nice little gifts for crowdfunders. For instance, if you donate $75 to help researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst study the biology and physics of duck sex, you’ll earn a pass code to access a regularly updated research blog, a collection of duck postcards, a “Duck Force!” mug, and a USB flash drive loaded with videos of explosive duck ejaculations that the scientists filmed for their research. (Naturally, this is one of the projects that have currently raised the most money.)

Not interested in duck sex? You’re a rarity on the Internet, but there are plenty of other options. There are studies on depression, urban butterflies, cellulosic biofuels, and the mathematics of direct democracy.

Check out all 49 projects. And pledge your support to science!

Here’s the link to our SciFund site on RocketHub: Cats Nails: a parasitic plant of South Africa

Check out the video about the project on YouTube: