Melissa Mayer

Freelance Science Writer. Occasional Editor.

United States

I have been science blogging and writing since 2010 when I began covering proteomics, microbiology, and biotechnology.

I love entomology, cell biology, all the -omics, microbiology, neuroscience, and occasional forays into policy. Oxford comma and singular they for life.

[email protected]


Science Books

The Micro World of Viruses and Bacteria|Paperback

The world is full of tiny viruses and bacteria that can be seen only through a microscope. Some bacteria can be helpful, but others cause diseases such as typhoid fever. Viruses can cause deadly diseases such as COVID-19. Young readers will get all the facts about bacteria and viruses, including...

The Micro World of Dust Mites and Other Microscopic Creatures|Paperback

Did you know that there are animals all around you that you can’t see without a microscope? Sometimes it’s good you can’t see them. As you shed dead skin cells, thousands of dust mites gobble them up. Gross! Tiny water bears are super tough. They can survive in Earth’s...

Why We Worry: The Science of Anxiety

Can't sleep? Too many things to worry about? Or do you get lost in your mind thinking about all the ways tomorrow could go wrong? Why does this happen? The

Entomology Writing

Entomology Today
Study Shows American Dog Ticks in Western U.S. Are a Separate Species

Rocky Mountain spotted fever spreads when Rickettsia rickettsia bacteria pour into a bite wound while an American dog tick takes a blood meal. Unlike some other tick-borne diseases, which require a longer bite to transmit, Rocky Mountain spotted fever infection may take place within the first 30 minutes of the tick bite.

Entomology Today
It's Complicated: Mitochondrial DNA and the Future of Insect Ecology

Insects, like all eukaryotes, have specialized organelles called mitochondria tucked into nearly every cell. Most famously, these act like tiny generators, transforming the energy from food into energy that powers the cell. Mitochondria have their own set of DNA separate from the DNA held in the cell's nucleus.

Entomology Today
Cuckoo Combo: Bombus flavidus Deemed Most Widespread Bumble Bee

Most people picture bumble bees as fuzzy insects whose social colonies epitomize the idea of working together for a common purpose, but one group of bees has a less friendly approach: cuckoo bumble bees (subgenus Psithyrus) steal into other bumble bees' nests, take out the queen, and force the workers to rear their brood instead.

Entomology Today
Ants in the Nest: A Possible Emerging Pressure on Sea Turtles

Hatchling sea turtles face huge perils on the journey from nest to sea. They're also sometimes beset by a tiny one: ants. In a new study published this month in Environmental Entomology , researchers looked at the interactions between ants and loggerhead sea turtles ( Caretta caretta) on Georgia's barrier islands.

Entomology Today
Another Study Confirms Mosquitoes, Midges Don't Transmit Coronavirus

If you take anything from this post, Juergen Richt, Ph.D., DVM, hopes it's this: Entomologists and veterinarians play a vital role in public health and biodefense. In fact, Richt considers his biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) facility and 20-person team an elite unit. And that crew is taking on COVID-19.

Entomology Today
Flexible Reproduction 'Mite' Explain Invasion Success

Invasive species are an expensive problem, with invasive insects alone racking up at least $70 billion a year in costs around the globe-and it's only going to get more expensive. Scientists expect an 18 percent increase in arthropod invasion by 2050, according to climate change projections.

Entomology Today
How Science Wiped Out the Invasive Pink Bollworm in the U.S.

The very hungry caterpillars emerged from their eggs and bored into nearby cotton bolls, sinking their mouthparts into cottonseeds and blocking production of valuable lint as they burrowed through the bolls in their quest to tank up before their final molt.

Entomology Today
How Invasion Ecology and Biological Control Can Improve Collaboration

When you think about it, invasion ecology and biological control are two sides of the same coin. One field studies the mechanisms that drive the movement of non-native or invasive species into new habitats and the effects of that invasion on local resources. The other uses intentional, controlled introductions of non-native species as a pest management technique.

Entomology Today
CDC Reveals Distribution of Lyme Disease-Causing Bacteria by County

Scientists think ticks could be up to 300 million years old. The fossil record even includes amber-encased ticks still engorged with their last dino meal. Which is amazing. Those blood-sucking arthropods have been doing their thing for longer than humans have existed-and their thing includes carrying disease.

Entomology Today
Shut the Front Door! Researchers Find 'Endangered Living Fossil' Trapdoor Spider

The first time Jason Bond, Ph.D., saw the Moss Landing State Beach spider he would eventually know as Cryptocteniza kawtak, it was 1997, and the University of California, Davis, professor was still a doctoral student. More than two decades would pass before Bond would trap a male specimen and confirm the spider as a new genus.

Entomology Today
Little Organisms, Big World: Insect Gut Bacteria Partnerships

Gut bacteria are exceptionally tiny, but the roles they play for their insect hosts are huge. And understanding those roles may even offer insight into some of the biggest questions-like how symbionts evolved into their roles in the first place. In a paper published August 20 in the Journal of Insect Science , Clemson University M.S.

Entomology Today
There's an App for That! Digital Image Analysis Counts Flies

If you've ever found yourself staring at a ginormous pile of insects that need counting, good news: There's an app for that. It was precisely that sort of situation that inspired Christine Parker, doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduate research assistant with the Illinois Natural History Survey, to try something new.

Entomology Today
Filming Insects in 4K: A Look Inside KQED's Deep Look Video Series

From revealing how crickets chirp to spotlighting the way mosquitoes suck blood, San Francisco PBS affiliate KQED's award-winning video series is changing the way viewers see the world. Deep Look uses ultra-HD (4K) macro cinematography and video microscopy to uncover the wonder of tiny things-and that means insects frequently take center stage.

Entomology Today
Don't Poop Where You Eat: Bee Defecation on Flowers May Explain Disease Transmission

For most people, flowers call to mind many things-romance, appreciation, well wishes-but probably not ... bee poop. Insect pollinators are crucial to maintaining biodiversity and crop yields but face global declines. Clues that may help save these important insects might come from an unexpected place: apian fecal matter.

Entomology Today
A Promising New Parasitoid Drills Down on Emerald Ash Borers

The wasp flies through the forest, heavy with eggs, following the scent of beetle infestation. She locates a promising tree and lands, using sensory organs on her legs to detect beetle larvae feeding below the surface. She drills through the bark and deposits her clutch.

Science Writing

Testing the Tingles: The Science Behind ASMR

shutterstock/YuliaLisitsa For as long as she can remember, Giulia Poerio has experienced a tingling sensation in her scalp when listening to people whisper. "I asked [my sister] if she got this head tingling thing when people were whispering," the University of Essex researcher recalls.

Can Ebola Really Combat Brain Cancer?

You can tell right away that Margaretta Page is someone you want by your side in a battle against brain cancer. The clinical nurse specialist has been working with brain tumor patients and their families at the UCSF Medical Center for the past 30 years.

Society for Neuroscience's Brainfacts
The Neurobiology of Family Separation

Over the phone, Merida Grant’s voice sounds heavy as she lists the possible outcomes of early-life trauma like family separation: mood and anxiety disorders, substance abuse and addiction, even a shortened lifespan.

BRCA Gene Mutation Risks: Ethnicity, Genetics, and More

Your DNA is like a blueprint that can be broken down into pieces called genes. These genes tell your body how to build important molecules like proteins. Permanent changes in the DNA sequence of a gene are called mutations. These may affect the way your body reads the blueprint.

Technical Writing & University Comms

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
Behavioral Economics

FHWA fact sheet looking at traffic modeling and public safety through a behavioral economics lens.

Stevens Institute of Technology
Nothing is Random: Stevens Professor Nano-Engineers Designs Inspired by Nature

When Chang-Hwan Choi looks at the natural world, he sees potential. Choi, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology, has devoted his career to studying nanoscale structures in nature-like miniscule projections on the surfaces of leaves and insect wings-and applying those ideas to improve human technology.

Stevens Institute of Technology
Stevens Seniors Streamline Platform for Child Abuse Case Management

Within the US alone, nearly 700,000 children are victims of abuse and neglect each year. Children's advocacy centers provide critical interventions and case management, yet they reach less than half of these child victims-an estimated 311,000 in 2014.

Stevens Institute of Technology
Stevens Seniors Tackle Antibiotic Resistance, Gain Resilience

When Sesha Alluri began looking into the issue of antibiotic resistance, the statistics she read were shocking. "In the United States alone, there are almost 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections each year," explained Alluri, who is a lecturer and senior design advisor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Stevens Institute of Technology
Stevens Professor Hopes to Give Donor Lungs a Second Chance

For the 210 million people worldwide with chronic respiratory conditions, progressing to end-stage lung disease-the point where lung function becomes seriously impaired, causing breathing difficulties, fatigue, and confusion-means the only clinical option is lung transplantation. Many of those patients face long waits due to a critical shortage in donor lungs.

Stevens Institute of Technology
Stevens Students Mix Up a Win at International Symposium on Ultra-High Performance Concrete

A team of civil engineering students from Stevens Institute of Technology brought home a 1st place win at an international student competition focusing on ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) this month. The competition, which was part of the 2nd International Interactive Symposium on UHPC, was held June 2-5 in Albany, New York.

Stevens Institute of Technology
Stevens Students Float Prototype to Combat Effects of Climate Change

For one member of the Stevens Institute of Technology SeaWork team, the guiding principle of sustainable ocean farming has always just made sense. "There's not enough land in the world for people and farming, so one of them has to go toward the ocean," says Alexandria Austin.

Science Editing & Fact-Checking

Foxes Might Use Magnetic Fields to Hunt

How do foxes know where to pounce when they can't see their prey? There's evidence they're using the Earth's magnetic field to help.Hosted by: Michael Aranda...

The Protein That Switches on Puberty

Puberty is a wild time in human bodies, and so much goes on as they transform from a child to an adult. But it turns out, the whole process is controlled by ...

What Your Family History Can't Tell You

Thanks to the National Human Genome Research Institute for supporting this episode. If you're interested in learning more about the human genome and the latest in polygenic risk score research, head to #polygenicriskscores #science The first time you visit a new doctor, they'll probably ask you about your family history - but it turns out that family history doesn't tell you everything about the risks that can be hidden in your genes.

Clinical Lab Products

Interim Associate Editor, edited non-feature items, included Tech Guides, Product News, Product Spotlights, Lab Products

Clinical Lab Products

Interim Associate Editor, edited non-feature items, included Tech Guides, Product News, Product Spotlights, Lab Products

Clinical Lab Products
Multiple Sclerosis Mechanism - Clinical Lab Products

While an individual's DNA sequence remains the same throughout their life, expression of the encoded genes may change over time and contribute to disease development in genetically predisposed individuals. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute have discovered the mechanism of a major risk gene for multiple sclerosis (MS) that triggers disease through epigenetic regulation.

Non-Science Writing

Coping with Date Rape and Acquaintance Rape

Coping The statistics associated with date rape and acquaintance rape are staggering, especially for teens and young adults, who are at the highest risk. With warmth and candor, this straightforward guide offers frank advice and insightful context to demystify concepts like rape and consent, and provides advice for what to do after experiencing date rape or acquaintance rape.

Political Research Associates
Bringing Bad Sex Ed Back

A shocking thing happened at a closed-door United Nations meeting in March, during the annual meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). In a private session intended to set language for gender equality policies and to brief non-governmental organizations on U.S. priorities for women's issues, a senior advisor from the U.S.

What Is 'Free-Range' Parenting, and How Does It Affect Kids?

On a recent sunny day in Portland, Oregon, Dana Hoffman Ellis waited at a stop for the light rail train that crisscrosses the city. Ellis wasn't riding herself. Instead, she was waiting for the arrival of her 9-year-old child, Salmon, who had just embarked on a solo adventure across town using public transit.