Rothfels Lab Secret Santa

Extensive Geographic Sampling Reveals Potential Role of Gifts on Facial Responses in Human Test Subjects


Six scientists (‘Secret Santas’) randomly drew (without replacement) the name of one of the other scientists (‘Santees’). Scientists were broadly distributed throughout the Pacific Ocean and the Continental United States (Fig. S1). An algorithm, DrawNames, was used to ensure that no one drew their own name (see SI Appendix for details). A gift was purchased by each participant. Each gift was then anonymously delivered to each participant’s Santee.

Upon receipt of a gift, each Santee diligently avoided opening their gift prematurely. Gifts were then opened during a special ceremony held on Dec 16th, 2021. Zoom was used to allow remote Santas to attend the ceremony. Sliver was used to make pizza.


One of six Santas was unable to ensure their gift was delivered anonymously. One of six Santees reported contamination from another Secret Santa study; in this case, the contaminant gift was discarded and the protocol repeated until an uncontaminated gift was recovered. The null hypothesis that Santees would be unable to guess the identity of their Santa was rejected (p = 0.0013).

A good time was had by all (Fig. 1).

Author Contributions

IGR conceived the research; IGR conducted the experiment; IGR, CMT, JBE, DA, CJR, MRM participated in the study; MRM drafted the manuscript.

Figure 1. Top left) Participants located in Berkeley, CA, met at VLSB to conduct the experiment. (top row, left to right: Mike, Carl [in comfortable Christmas Ghost costume], David; bottom row: Ixchel). Top right) Participants in Hawaii lounged on their couches with their sleepy dogs (left to right: Carrie, Kula). Bottom) One participant in Idaho actually received a small infant as their Secret Santa gift (left to right: Jenna, Leo).

End of Semester Barbecue

slash Dr. Mick Song Extravaganza!


After several failed attempts, rlab-and-friends finally managed to convene for our first in-person gathering in 2021! (Of course, all participants were fully vaccinated.) Despite a heat wave pushing temperatures into the mid 90s (F), a good time was had by all. In particular, we were all glad we weren’t in a some boring place, like Hawaiʻi.

Highlights included: an epic water melon contest between a traditional green watermelon, and some sort of yellow “watermelon”; a cuddly musteline; funny hats; impromptu bird watching; and something called cheerwine, which is basically just Dr. Pepper. Speaking of doctors, Carl also took this opportunity to induct Dr. Mick Song into official Doctorhood! Congrats Dr. Song!!

Also, Isaac and Sophie enjoyed the barbecue so much that they got married a few days later! Congrats Isaac and Sophie!!


Drs. Rothfels and Song presiding. Melons in foreground. Left to right: Priscilla, Ixchel, Mike, Isaac, David, Carl, Dr. Song, Marianne, Fern and Forrest (too cool for school). Musteline not depicted. Photo credit: Sophie and Carl’s iphone.

Chaos in the Forest

Chaos in the Forest

A poem by Joyce Chery

Through the chilly months of COVID-19,
I observed the central PA forest and boy, it was serene!
With the branches bare, plant skeletons can finally be seen.

The trees are erect and the branches are straight
Their architecture predetermined by fate
But if you squint, you will soon see
The chaos disturbing the obedient trees

A tangle of thin branches, attach to anything in sight
They wrap, they grasp, they do everything but bite
They twist, they twine
They wrap and they climb

Disturbing the peace, is of course, the woody vines.


Joyce enjoying the chaos in the forest.



The Lichenarium

The Lichenarium

A poem by Klara Scharnagl

Thank you to all the places,
That, knowingly or not, allowed
Explorer’s trespass, whose eyes caught,
While notes were furiously scribbled,
Their cryptic quarry.
The scraping of field knives
The hammering of chisels
The folding of paper packets at dusk
Against the backdrop of frog and insect chorus

Thank you to the border crossing
That stopped plants, soil, dung, blood
But not the lichens –
Air dried, considered benign
Now safe in their cool dark cabinets

Thank you to the rocks and trees
The many substrates that supported
These strange creatures
Then, chipped and hewn,
To collect the stories of
The place that once had been

Thanks to the signposts, recipes, lore
Thanks to remaining mostly overlooked
But to those who stopped to notice
To, with hand lenses, illuminate
Thanks to all who came before
Who sought to understand
These tough yet brittle forms
These mysteries symbiotic

To those forms most wonderful
And those more deeply hidden
To your ponderful slow growth
And to your medicine
The weaving of the hyphae
The photosynthesis
The lichen as a landscape
And all who dwell within

Behold the Lichenarium
And the lichens waiting there
Of your names and of your stories
We will take the utmost care

Before we step into this library
We take pause our thanks to give
To all that are of lichens
That once did, and now still, live.




Carrie Talks About Project Fe

Carrie Talks About Project Fe

Two weeks ago, Carrie attended the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Math First Annual Action Collaborative Summit on Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. She presented a poster on the work of Project Fe [], an organization dedicated to preventing sexual violence in biological fieldwork. Armed with new contacts and resources from the Summit, Carrie and Project Fe are ready to start rolling out new anti-violence protocols at Berkeley.