Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Since the Discovery of Insulin 100 Years Ago: A Timeline

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, History of Science

Ed Hessler

This is the centenary of the discovery of insulin.

The science journal Nature allows a leisurely scroll through a timeline highlighting key advances that have occurred in diabetes research over the past 100 years--the development of synthetic insulin, new drug classes and technologies for the management of diabetes.

It includes video, related articles, Nobel awards, diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa, even a note on COVID-19 risk and diabetes. 

Twenty-four milestones.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Merlin Apps for Bird Identification: Seeing and Hearing

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biological Diversity, Nature, Wildlife

Ed Hessler

A free app from Cornell Lab of Ornithology now identifies bird sounds in real time, using AI technology. From the press release:

" Hear a bird singing? Today with the free Merlin Bird ID app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, you can make a quantum leap in bird identification just by holding up your phone. As Merlin listens with you it uses AI technology to identify each species like magic, displaying in real time a list and photos of the birds that are singing or calling.

"Merlin can now help you identify more than 400 bird species by sound throughout the United States and Canada (with more species and regions to come), adding to features that already enable you to identify 7,500 species around the world based on your bird photos or descriptions." And here are a few features: 

·  Customized to your backyard or wherever you travel so you’ll always have a bird guide in your pocket.  

·  Intelligent results. Merlin shows the birds near you that match your description, photo, or sound recording. No more scanning through hundreds of possibilities!  

·  Merlin is the only app that uses advanced AI technology to help you identify a bird in a photo or a sound recording.  

·  Expert ID tips, range maps, photos, and sounds help you learn even more about the birds you spot.  

·  Merlin lets you build a life list! Save the birds you identify to keep track of the birds you’ve seen.  

·  Merlin is completely free!  

Here are the details.


Monday, June 28, 2021

The 2021 Goldman Environmental Prizes

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Sustainability, Global Change

Ed Hessler

The 2021 Goldman Environmental Prize winners were announced recently. A prize is awarded to six everyday heroes, grassroot activists from regions around the globe: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands & Island Nations, North America, South & Central America.

Here you may learn about the prize, the recipients and the foundation awarding them. There are short recipient profiles/acceptance speeches, videos and recipient photos for each awardee.

I'm amazed by their accomplishments on behalf of the planet.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Home is Where the Heart Is

Environmental & Science Education, Stem, Society, Culture

Ed Hessler

There is a Museum of the Home in London which traces the evolution of domestic spaces from the 1600's. 

CBS Sunday Morning gave a tour (3m 42s) with correspondent Mark Phillips. You'll learn some things about how western domestic spaces have or have not changed over a few centuries.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

FALLEN: An Art Installation

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

The eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is one of my favorite trees; a part of my childhood. At one time in our history they were cut down, harvested is the appropriate word, the bark used for leather making, the tannin in the bark was the important ingredient.

A site-specific installation, FALLEN, was created in response to the loss of a single eastern hemlock at Olana by Jean Shin. The eastern hemlock from which it was made died of natural causes despite efforts to save it.  There are 15 views.

The eastern hemlock is now under severe threat from an introduced insect, the Hemlock wooly adelgid. Because of the role of eastern hemlock in so many forests, the ecological effects of their loss will result in large community and ecosystem changes.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

Good morning from Hamline University's Center for Global Environmental Education on June 25, 2021. The percent of the year that has passed is 48.22%.  Sunrise is at 5:27am and sunset is at 9:03pm which gives us 15h 36m 14s of daylight. Since the summer solstice on June 20 there are 18 fewer seconds of sunlight.

It is National Strawberry Parfait day and Foodimentary provides details and some food history for this date.

Quote. The history of our civilization has been one of intermittent war.--John Boyd Orr

Today's poem is by Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855)

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Lessons from Kilauea (Hawaii) 2018

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Earth Science, Geology

Ed Hessler

Writing for the British science journal Nature,  Charlotte Stoddart introduces a Nature video (7m 01s) on the Kilauea eruption in 2018.

In 2018, Hawaii's most active volcano took scientists by surprise. Lava started spewing out, not from the summit, but 50km away on the lower slopes of the volcano. This unexpected eruption destroyed farmland, roads and over 700 homes. Since then, volcanologists have been piecing together the events that triggered it. Using GPS trackers, high-speed cameras, chemical analysis and more, researchers have learnt what happens when volcanic craters collapse and how magma can move not just vertically but horizontally underneath a volcano. These insights help us to understand other similar volcanoes in Iceland, Italy and La Reunion. The hope is that next time Kilauea or one of these other volcanoes erupts, we will be better prepared.

There are two links, one to read more about the work and the second to read more about volcanic and other natural hazards.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A Brief History of the Delta COVID-19 Variant in the United Kingdom

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Society

Ed Hessler

BBC News Presenter Ros Atkins traces the trajectory of the Delta variant of COVID-19, from its arrival in the UK to its dominance, delaying the easing of restrictions in the United Kingdom in this BBC video (7m 15s).

It is a complicated story with twists and turns and is revealing about the way Prime Minister Boris Johnson made decisions throughout. It demonstrates the importance of timing. Delays in acting on data have consequences.

And what is a news presenter? See here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Middle School Science Education: A Survey on the Teaching of Biological Evolution

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biological Evolution, Education, Literacy

Ed Hessler

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports on a new study by NCSE and the Pennsylvania  State University on the state of "middle school evolution education through a representative survey of science teachers."

The release from NCSE notes that "middle school science teachers who teach evolution reported devoting a substantial amount of classroom time to the topic: 14.6 class hours, or about three weeks of classes, on average. In comparison, high school biology teachers who teach evolution reported devoting 18.6 hours, or about four weeks of classes, to the topic on average.

"The survey also found that a solid majority of middle school science teachers who teach evolution agreed that they emphasize the scientific consensus on evolution: 81.8 percent. In comparison, 85.8 percent of high school biology teachers who teach evolution agreed that they emphasized the scientific consensus on evolution, although they were more likely to strongly agree that they did so."

The graphic at the top of the brief suimmarizes differences between middle school science teachers and high school science teachers on creationism, avoidance, mixed messages and evolution as settled science.

A link to the results from the survey, published in the open-access, peer reviewed journal Evolution: Education and Outreach is included. 

You can also sign up to receive a newsletter from NCSE which includes current news, events and resources on science education.

Monday, June 21, 2021

SARS-CoV-2: Questions from Scientists

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

Much has been learned about SARS-CoV-2, e.g., according to Helen Branswell, "People who contract the virus are infectious before they develop symptoms and are most infectious early in their illness. Getting the public to wear masks, even homemade ones, can reduce transmission. Vaccines can be developed, tested, and put into use within months. As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way."

But much remains unknown about this virus. Experts--two dozen virologists, epidemiologists, immunologists, and evolutionary biologists--told Helen Branswell of STAT what they would like to know about the SARS-CoV-2 virus.There are questions that continue to "bedevil scientists." The scientists were asked to submit "their top question. (Some... cheated, submitting several.)"

As usual I include the section heads and urge you to read the article for the details as well as to learn more about the experts.

--What accounts for the wide variety of human responses to this virus?

--How much immunity is enough immunity?

--How often will reinfections happen and what will they be like?

--Put another way, how long will immunity last?

--How are viral variants going to impact the battle against Covid-19?

--What’s the deal with Covid and kids? 

--How big a role do asymptomatically infected people actually play in SARS-2 transmission? 

--What does the future hold for SARS-2, evolutionarily and otherwise? 

--Can we figure out who might become a superspreader? 

--Can we learn more quicker from the study of the genetic sequences of SARS-2 viruses? 

She continues this with a discussion of three other issues.

--The impact of the nonpharmaceutical interventions.

--The differences between SARS-2 and its older cousin, SARS-1.

--Last but not least: Where did SARS-2 come from? 




Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Anglers Song

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Biodiversity, Miscellaneous

Ed Hessler

In The Compleat Angler, Izaak Walton includes a story about four Anglers, the author, Peter, Corridon, and Vena, a student of the Angle, i.e., a Scholar, who meet after a day's fishing for dinner and night's lodging.  

Vena tells them that his "master left me alone for an hour this day...I sate down under a Willow-tree by the water side, and considered what (my honest Master) had told me of the Owner of that pleasant Meadow (who) had a pleasant estate, and not a heart to think so; that he had at this time many Law-suits depending; and that they...damp'd his mirth." 

Vena tells his fellow Anglers "a part of the thoughts that then possest me, and I there made a conversion of a piece of an old Ketch, and added more to it, fitting them to be sung by us Anglers." Peter remrked "I marry* Sir, this is Musick indeed, this has cheer'd my heart and made me to remember six Verses in praise of Musick."

Musick, miraculous Rhetorick, that speak'st sense/ Without a tongue, excelling eloquence;/ With what ease might thy errors be excus'd/ Wert thou as truly lov'd as th'art abus'd?/ But through dull souls neglect, and some reprove thee,/ I cannot had the, 'cause the Angels love thee.

"Pisc. (Walton) notes that Peter has well remembered those verses. "Come, we will all joyn together, mine Hoste and all, and sing my Scholars ketch over again, and then each man drink the tother  cup and to bed, and than God we have a dry house over our heads. Pisc. Well now, good night to every body. Pet. And so say I. Vena. And so say I. Cor. Good night to you all, and I thank you." (my emphasis)

The Anglers Song was "set by Mr. Henry Lawes for two voices: trebble and basse." Here it is sung by different voices,  sopranos Elissa Edwards and Allegra Hall.  I think Mr. Walton (aka Pisc.) would have liked it. Here are the lyrics.

*Marry was used frequently as an exclamation of surprise or emphasis.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

A Whale Super-Group Caught by a Drone

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Behavior, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution 

Ed Hessler

A "super-group" whale pod and their "bubble-net" feeding behavior had never been documented off   Australia until the event was captured by a drone. It was  taken off the New South Wales coast. The BBC film may be seen here (2m 23s).

Friday, June 18, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler 

Greetings from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE), Hamline University, June 18, day 169 of 2021 (46.30%). One hundred and seventeen work days. There will be 15h 36m 49 s of sunlight and the sun rises at 5:25am and sets at 9:02 pm.

And in just a two days, June 20 at 10:32 pm in St. Paul, we'll observe the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. This day is 6h 51m longer than on the Winter Solstice. Here are 11 facts about the June or Summer Solstice. The earliest sunrise occurred on June 15 and the latest sunset is on June 26.

This is International Picnic Day and Foodimentary has five food finds about picnics and some history related to food.

Quote: I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.--Neil Gaiman, writer

Today's poem is by Yehuda Amichai.

And here is "Summer," from Vivaldi's Four Seasons performed by Voices of Music and George Gershwin's "Summertiime" sung by Ella Fitzgerald..

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Life on Venus: Whatever Happened to It?

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astronomy, Cosmology, Solar System, Earth & Space Science, Nature of Science, History of Science

Ed Hessler

A while back I published two posts on finding traces of a molecule (phosphine) in the atmosphere of Mars. 

Life, at last, elsewhere in this solar system led the headlines the day it was announced. This was based in part on the simple fact that Venus's atmosphere doesn't have sufficient pressure and temperature to produce this chemical through physical processes. So biology came in. The molecule can be formed chemically and/or biologically. But the excitement cooled when it was learned that some of the data had not been processed correctly.

Sabine Hossenfelder provides a wonderful summary of the events with further explanation so if you want the full story complete in one entry you can read or watch it with my usual reminder to read the comments.

Another motivation for posting it is because of Professor Hossenfelder's final two sentences. 

And so, the summary is, as so often in science. More work is needed.  

The second sentence is the story of science in four words.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A Retirement

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Wildlife, Nature, Behavior

Ed Hessler

Magawa is a seven-year-old African giant pouched rat  (Cricetomys gambianus) who was awarded the PDSA Gold Medal for sniffing out "71 landmines and dozen more unexploded items in Cambodia." His early education in mine detecting was at the "Belgium-registered charity Apopo in Tanzania in their HeroRATS progam. He received his certificate after a year of training.

The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) has welcomed new replacements and his handler, Malen said "'Magawa's performance has been unbeaten, and I have been proud to work side-by-side with him."

The BBC report includes details on his size--just right to not trigger an explosiion, the details of his George Cross medal and his search capabilities. What would take a person with a metal detector between one and four days to search a tennis court sized field, Magawa can do in 20 minutes. The report notes that "Cambodia is thought to have "up to six million landmines," so there is much work remaining.

By the way, these rats have become an invasive species in Florida.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Grasslands, Carbon Storage and Biodiversity

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Climate Change, Biodiversity, Nature, Sustainability, global Change

Ed Hessler

University of Minnesota research conducted at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve has shown "that the degree of biodiversity in the world's grasslands is vital to their ability to continue functioning as carbon 'sinks'".

Deane Morrison reports on the work of a then PhD student (now a postdoctoral student at the University of Vermont), Melissa Pastore. She was advised by Professor Sarah Hobbie, College of Biological Sciences (CBS) and Regents Professor Peter Reich, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFAN).

Four grassland plots, "either with one, four, nine, or 16 species of plants" were studied Some of the plots were treated with CO2 at levels likely to occur at the end of the century. Some plots received standard nitrogen fertilizer at rates of current nitrogen deposition the Northern Hemisphere. Other plots received both treatments or neither. Additionally, they were also periodically burned with scheduled prairie fires.

And this is what the researchers found."On average over 19 years, increasing the species richness from one species to four, nine, or 16 boosted total carbon storage by 22 to 32 percent. But even though the soil was nutrient-poor, the added nitrogen and CO2 increased carbon stores by only about 5 percent. Soil carbon—which excluded any in above ground plants and roots down to 20 centimeters—accounted for 90 percent of total ecosystem carbon. Therefore, as soil carbon went, so also did ecosystem carbon."

There is a caveat. The treatments raised carbon loses. Those plots treated with nitrogen and CO2 "enhanced plant growth--barely outweighing the losses. The plots with more species both gained and lost more soil carbon "but the gains outstripped the losses by large enough margins that carbon storage rose by a substantial amount."

Currently, some models overestimate carbon storage as atmospheric CO2 increases, not taking richness of species into account. The key to soil storage of carbon is grassland biodiversity, at least maintaining it where it exists.

Monday, June 14, 2021

On Being Annoying (Physics Version)

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature of Science, History of Science

Ed Hessler

Sabine Hossenfelder who writes the blog BackReaction has a new video (5m 58s), one that is both informative and fun, nearly comic.

This is how Dr. Hossenfelder introduces it: "Today I will tell you how to be just as annoying as a real physicist. And the easiest way to do that is to insist correcting people when it really doesn't matter." Some of the ten examples are familiar even to non-physicists but not several of the real answers. 

This reminded me of a tactic often used by those who make claims about intelligent design who show a remarkable misunderstanding of biology, evolutionary biology, ecology, chemistry and physics. Conversation stoppers are used to replace them.

And Back Reaction means...? Wiki provides an answer, one intuitive and one deeper and more challenging to those of us who don't walk as confidently in the halls of theoretical physics.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Brood X--Other Views

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Society, Culture, Art and Environment 

Ed Hessler

Brood X did not escape Garrison Keillor's eyes (and ears). Prairie Home Companion did a show at Wolf Trap during the last emergence when PHC competed for the audience ears against a Brood X above ground event.

Keillor wrote a song and here it is with the Guy's All Star Shoe Band: Tribute to the Cicada.(2m 44s)

Catspeak by Brooks Riley has a perfect cartoon on how cats might think about Brood X.

And then, there is this from the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Nature: May's Best Science Images

Environmental & Science Education, Art and Environment, STEM, Miscellaneous

Ed Hessler

From the British scientific journal Nature, May's "sharpest science shots."

Friday, June 11, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment 

Ed Hessler

Good morning from the Center for Environmental Education, Hamline University on June 11. It is day 162 of 2021 and we have spent 3888 hours of it or 44.38%. Sunrise is at 5:25 am and sunset is at 8:59 pm. There are 15h 33m 46s of sunlight here in St. Paul, MN.

It is National German Chocolate Cake day. Foodimentary tells us the fact about the name and then facts about cakes along with some food history. You will learn whether a president ever served hot dogs, an American gourment treat, to visiting dignitaries.

Quote.“Writers don’t write from experience, although many are hesitant to admit that they don’t. … If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.”--Nikki Giovanni (The Writer's Almanac, June 7, 2021

Today's poem is by Nikki Giovanni who had a birthday this week (June 7).

Thursday, June 10, 2021

On The Trapline

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Children, Early Childhood. Education, Culture, Society, Wildlife, Biodiversity, Nature

Ed Hessler 

I had a muskrat trapline when I was a high school student. Before and after school, no matter what the wind was blowing up,  I "ran" the line, checked the traps, reset them if necessary (moved them sometimes), and at night I'd skin the 'rats and stretch them for drying. Sometimes when I was in the field, I'd bump into real professional trappers who put up with me mostly. Our exchanges were quick hellos or a head nod, an acknowledgement that there we were and that they would prefer I wasn't.

I carried my supplies--traps, extra nametags, hatchet--and dead rats in an old Adirondack Pack Basket, not as elegant as those pictured. It belonged to my Grandfather and had seen a fair amount of use during deer season.  I made my own nametags pounding out each, a letter at a time with name and address and then boiled them and new traps in water infused with sumac.When necessary I wore old fashioned snowshoes that were longer than I was tall. Cumbersome at fences which were everywhere.

A beautifully told and wonderfully illustrated new book about a little boy and his grandfather reminded me of those days. On the Trapline is by David A. Robertson, a member of the Norway House Cree Nation and illustrated by Julie Flett, a Swampy Cree and Red River Metis. This is not their first collaboration  But for both of them, this was the last book that they could show their fathers who died near the end of the project.

The book is reviewed by NPR's Samantha Blaban--print and listen--and includes some of the illustrations which I found simply perfect--the words and illustrations inform the other. Blabon remarks that along the way Swampy Cree words are used, e.g., Moshon means Grandfather, wanawi is the word for "go outside."

Robertson told Blaban that he "thought it's important that people recognize that it's still a way of life to a lot of indigenous people. And it's an important and vibrant way of life." He also emphasized to her that it is a "gentle book one that helps to dispel stereotypes and myths about life in an indigenous community, and to educate readers."

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Thomas Brock: Microbiologist

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature of Science, History of Science

Ed Hessler 

Thermophiles, more specifically, thermophile bacteria. Maybe you've heard of them.

The discoverer of thermophile bacteria, Thomas Brock, died in early April from complications following a fall. He was 94.

The Scientist published an obituary about his distinguished career by Lisa Winter. While doing field work in Yellowstone National Park Brock, as chance would have it, got out of his car and overheard a park ranger who was leading an interpretive talk that the color in the thermal pool was due to blue-green algae. "'I got interested right away.'"

Winter writes, "Brock returned to Yellowstone over the next few years to better understand its microbial life, and in 1966 identified a bacterial species he named Thermus aquaticus, which lived at temperatures of around 70 °C. The following year, Brock published his observations about life in hot springs in (the scientific journal) Science challenging the assumption of the day that life couldn’t exist at temperatures that high." 

The discovery opened the door to the now-famous polymerase chain reaction (PCR). "An enzyme T. aquaticus uses to replicate DNA in high temperatures" was later found and this in turn led to create PCR. And the rest, as is said, is history.

Following retirement Brock became in interested in understanding "the decline of oak barrens throughout the Midwest." The obituary includes a 3m 39s video in which Brock talks about his discovery and its later impact. This interest started when he and his wife created the Pleasant Valley Conservancy State Natural Area (WI). This link describes the preserve and also includes a blog by Brock and a history of his life.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Rat Free After Many Years.

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Nature, Wildlife

Ed Hessler

There is a short article in Scientific American on results from the "de-ratting" of Hawadax Island (formerly aka "Rat Island").

Rachel Nuwer who wrote the article for Scientific American describes the chain of events this way. "The voracious rodents colonized Hawadax after a Japanese shipwreck in the 1780s, and they quickly wiped out seabird communities. Kurle's first findings, published in 2008, showed that the rats affected not just birds but the entire food chain—all the way down to algae. Without birds to eat seashore invertebrates, populations of snails, limpets and other herbivorous species exploded and gobbled up much of the marine kelp, which provides crucial habitat for other organisms." Notice the range of impacts on the full length of the food chain, from the obvious to the barely visible.

Carolyn Kurle did her Ph.D. on the remote Aleutian archipelago, known as the "Rat Island Archipelago" in which it is located. Kurle's work led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to partner with The Nature Conservancy and Island Conservation in rat eradication program. These links amplify the work so nicely summarized in the Nuwer article.  Now eleven years later the marine ecosystem "resembles that of other Aleutian Islands that were never invaded by rats. 

Academic research and conservation: a powerful combination.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Origin of SARS-CoV-2

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Society, Nature, Nature of Science, History of Science

Ed Hessler

I'm not ready to take a position on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Was it the result of a laboratory accident or a natural outbreak or some combination? However, a surprising number of people seem  more than ready. I know that from our past experience and history., viruses come from nature.

Right now uncertainty is my position and my answer is "I don't know." The evidence is not only sparse but more importantly, insufficient to come close to pinpointing the source. Former President Trump had a habit of promoting the lab leak position and as was his habit without any evidence. President Biden has ordered an "intelligence review" to look for further evidence and this is a promising start. 

I've read enough to know that the search for viral origins is difficult even under the best of circumstances and scientists will want, demand sufficient evidence to make an informed judgment. 

I'm going to report on three stories that caught my eye, not in the interest of "balance" but in thinking about it origins..

Anne Reid, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education recently wrote an essay on the origin problem. I thought her closing comments were wise and emphasized the nature of scientific evidence as well as the kind of certainty science can provide (never full).

"Assuming that international authorities can come to an agreement on what would constitute a thorough investigation, and the scientists in the Wuhan laboratory are able to cooperate with that investigation (neither of which are inevitable, to be sure), the result will be a report with either of two possible conclusions. The most likely conclusion is that there is no evidence that any virus resembling SARS-CoV-2 was present in the laboratory and therefore SARS-CoV-2 is extremely unlikely to have escaped from there. The much less likely conclusion is that a virus very similar to SARS-CoV-2 (and I mean Very Similar — that is, much more closely related to SARS-CoV-2 than any wild bat viruses the lab might have been studying) was present and safety protocols were breached. The report probably won’t say the latter scenario is absolutely impossible. Science rarely deals in that level of certainty. So any future report is more likely to conclude that a laboratory escape is vanishingly unlikely and therefore that the virus probably emerged naturally from a wild source, even if we never find that source.

"Some people will not be satisfied. Indeed, they will continue to believe the deliberate bioweapon scenario... We’d all like a definitive answer; we’re unlikely to get one. But it’s worth having some patience while an unlikely but not impossible scenario is investigated." (my emphasis)

Here you will fine a very brief biography for Dr. Reid.

On a recent Sunday Face the Nation, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said "the theory that the source of the coronavirus was a wet market in Wuhan has been 'fully disproven' and "that the side of the ledger that suggests that this could have come out of a lab has continued to expand." Gottlieb also noted that "lab leaks aren't rare and 'mishaps' have occurred even in the U. S." In closing he said, 

"We may never really determine with precision whether or not this came out of a lab," he said. "I think what we're likely to end up with is an assessment, a probability, unless we get very lucky and we either find the intermediate host, we find a colony of civet cats or pangolins where this is epidemic and it could have first spilled over into humans, or we have a whistleblower in China or regime change, which we're not going to have. I don't know that we're going to find out with certainty that this came out of a lab."

What is needed is "blood samples from employees of the lab in Wuhan, "the original source strains and early samples of the virus" all necessary for sequencing. That lab by the way does not have the highest security of labs conducing such research (two on a scale of four with four the highest). 

Bret Stephens who writes for the New York Times is not a science reporter, wrote a recent essay taking media reporting to task. Consider some of the words and phrases used in describing the idea of a lab-leak: "fringe theory,"  "abetting an 'infodemic', "debunked claim," "a dangerous conspiracy theory." Stephens has a strong view of what good journalism means. "Like good science, (it) should follow evidence, not narratives. It should pay as much heed to intelligent gadflies as it does to eminent authorities. And it should never treat honest disagreement as moral heresy."

The lab-leak idea must be on the table in the spirit and practice of of multiple working hypotheses in science, including, to use  of Stephens;'s words, "even if (Senator) Tom Cotton believed it. Even if the scientific 'consensus' disputed it. Even if bigots -- who rarely need a pretext --drew bigoted conclusions from it."

And I add even if the reporter is a conservative columnist for the New York Times. The essay was reprinted in the Star Tribune but is not available unless you are a subscriber. Here it is in the Salt Lake Tribune (6.4.2021). It is on-line but behind a paywall. The essay is well worth your time.