Each year, the Dance Your Ph.D. contest challenges scientists to express their research through the medium of dance. Yeah, not easy. So you can image the lengths that contest winner Uma Nagendra had to go through to convey her paper on the beneficial ecological effects of tornadoes.

Nagendra, who hails from New Orleans, is a biology Ph.D. student at the University of Georgia. Her interest in the field was sparked by Hurricane Katrina, after which she developed a curiosity about how the natural world recovers from disasters. Her work shows that tornadoes — in addition to being a force of terrible destruction — can also do some good.

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Well, at least for certain trees. In a forest soil ecology analysis, she showed that tornado activity can help reduce competition between a parasitic tree fungus and tree seedlings.

It just so happens that Nagendra is also a performing circus aerialist. This is how she chose to express her research in dance form:

The contest, which is sponsored by Science, AAAS (publisher of Science), and HighWire Press, challenges scientists to come up with creative ways of expressing their work. This year's finalists were selected from four major scientific branches: physics, chemistry, biology, and social sciences.

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The finalists in the remaining three categories are also very much worth watching, especially the chemistry submission, "Reduced-fat mayonnaise: Can't maintain it's stability".

Check out the other finalists here.

[ Science ]