Thursday, May 31, 2007

Return to the Seasons

I know any tropical biologist will tell you that there are seasons, even at the equator, but after less than two weeks in Ecuador (see stories and photos at Sparkling Squirrel with many more to come) where it felt constantly on the verge of spring (except that it was dark well before 7), it feels incredibly seasonal to be back where things have changed dramatically in two weeks. The spring flowers, which were just blooming when we left, are completely done.

The grass is brown. The garden has grown. It's light forever. It feels like summer.

carex and other unknowns

Hi - I have my very own carex (or some kind of sedge) in my yard and wanted to add its picture to the collection (how'd I get my toe in at that angle?) plus a picture of something both Jennifer and I have that we independently decided to let grow to see what it is. Here is my backyard, from the roof. I wood chipped the back half. I love the woodsy feel. And here's Sally since she's so cute.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Medieval Rites

Just wanted to post a belated "shout out" to those being knighted (or something like that) last week: Jennifer, Heather, Bridgett, Natapot and others I'm forgetting.
(That's the first time I've typed "shout out" and I don't think I'll do it again.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Not an ordinary weekend

I had some gum surgery a few weeks back and missed a few blog events during the recovery, so to catch up I wanted to say congratulations to Molly about the post-doc and the upcoming trip (which just sounds really, really cool, I can't wait to hear about it). Also, congrats on your photo award, Abby. I'm glad we could all see the photo. I've actually been meaning to post an update on stuff here for us in Iowa but that post is going to get superseded by the story of an adventure we had this weekend....

We had been planning a Memorial Day weekend camping and canoe trip to Northern IA with some of Tim's relatives for quite some time, and so when it poured rain Saturday morning and the trip got postponed, many were disappointed. That afternoon the weather cleared up, and as we had the canoes and were eager to do something outdoors, some suggested that we just canoe on a river here in Ames. Here is a photo of some of us waiting to start our journey down Squaw Creek, which runs through town. We started out north of town several miles, with six canoes and twelve people. It was very lovely, paddling with the current, looking for wildlife, joking and laughing. But certain events had led to circumstances that we hadn't foreseen. Firstly, we had several ice storms followed by heavy snow this winter that knocked down many branches. And we also had heavy rains in April and early May that flooded parts of Ames, picking up these downed brush and branches. Squaw Creek is wadeable in places but after heavy rain that day and in recent days, it was quite swollen and had a very strong current. Maybe you can see where this story is leading.
We hit several log jams around a few bends, and at first it was really pretty fun to find ways around them. They became larger and harder to navigate the farther we got along, and when a canoe would hit a tree branch under the water or exposed slightly, it would stop the canoe, the current would swing it around and unbalance it. When one canoe capsized we began to take the river a bit slower and more seriously, because it was quite tricky to get the canoe, the paddles, and the occupants back safely into the canoe, while remaining ourselves in the canoes. Tim and I capsized next, and I think it would have been sort of fun except that the water was really very cold, very fast (thank goodness for life jackets), and although I think of myself and of Tim as good swimmers it was really difficult to get the overturned canoe over to the shore. In the end four of the six canoes capsized at some point. Along the way one overturned canoe escaped downstream. Ryan and Nolan (cousins) paddled after it in hot pursuit but got caught in a tricky place and their canoe became wedged and then sucked under a log jam. Ryan's leg had gotten pinned under the canoe for a few minutes and after he worked himself free, we decided to head for the shore and carry the canoes back to town.
We had to leave the submerged canoe and the other canoe, which had also become pinned against a log jam, in the river, but managed to collect the missing paddles, and in general felt like we had really escaped something much worse. And in the end, although it took us two days, we actually managed to pull out the other two canoes. The casualties for the trip were: one water bottle, one cell phone and one blue pen (plus sore muscles and some bad bruises). We were really thankful. All and all, it was quite an adventure, and two hours later, after warm showers, the family was cheerfully recounting it to others over dinner and even joking about taking on the larger and far more formidable Skunk River.
There were some really beautiful moments, aside from all the chaos. We saw some wildlife, including some herons, a frog, deer, a hawk, turkey vulture and, right after Tim and I made it back into our canoe after capsizing, we saw a beaver swimming in front of us. We watched as we drifted downstream and when it saw us, it slapped the water with its tail and dove under (we thought of you, Sparkling Squirrel!). I know this is a really long post but with such an unusual canoe trip I felt I had to share it. I hope you all had a lovely weekend!


I hope that everyone is having a good start to the summer. In honor of the start of summer and of Irene's new gloves, I have switched around the colors of the blog.

I have signed the contract at William Jewell and we are looking for housing in Liberty Missouri - much more difficult than in Lawrence. I have been doing field work in exotic places such as northeastern Nebraksa. It was absolutely gorgeous there!!

I also have a decision to make - should my new computer be a Mac or a PC? Any suggestions? I definately want to get a laptop.

Hope all is well for everyone!



Monday, May 21, 2007

Purple Gloves

I get to wear purple (nitrile) gloves at work, and this makes me inordinately happy. It doesn't matter that they make my hands sweaty and gross; three weeks in and I still haven't gotten over being delighted that they're purple. I also can't seem to help grinning whenever I catch a glimpse of my reflection in glass, wearing a white lab coat. For someone who was convinced for a while that they belonged outdoors for a living, I sure get a kick out of being surrounded by fancy machines that go "beep," and bottles and beakers and liquid nitrogen. Maybe it's just that I'm happy to finally have a real job, but I think it's not only that. When I was interviewing, there were several positions that were with biotech companies, but were basically cubicle jobs. At these interviews, I tended to find myself asking wistfully "Will I get to peek into the laboratory?" No wonder they didn't hire me! It definitely worked out better this way.

Happy Birthday Wishes

Happy Belated Birthday to Sparkling Squirrel. Hope you are having a great time in Ecuador!

Monday, May 14, 2007

The good, the bad, and the ugly

So I seem to have this bad habit of making infrequent posts and cramming entirely too much stuff into them. Sorry 'bout that.

The good: My new job is going quite well. I'm learning a whole lot of new stuff - how to culture mammalian cells, how to cut up plasmids and re-arrange the pieces in a useful fashion, how to do PCR, and what exactly a Western blot is (I had always just envisioned John Wayne riding into the sunset). My boss is out of town, and in the meantime I'm being trained by a sweet little old Indian lady with whom I get along really well.

The bad: A few days before I started the job, I had a miscarriage. While of course I wasn't happy about it, in truth it might be for the best - I can't imagine dealing with early pregnancy symptoms and new-job stress simultaneously. It sounds embarrassingly melodramatic, but the miscarriage happened just a week after my grandmother passed away. After a couple weeks of feeling sad about these events, though, I'm feeling like my usual self again. It's the conjunction of two timeless truths: sh*t happens; life goes on.

The ugly: Today, I survived a train collision! True story! Ok, actually it wasn't that huge a deal - everyone else survived too. But it wasn't a good day to be a train passenger in Philly... the mix-up that probably was responsible for our train getting rear-ended by another train was caused by a bomb scare an hour earlier. I sincerely hope that tomorrow, riding the train will go back to being uneventful. Today's scary events made me think all sorts of unwelcome thoughts about just how vulnerable the rail system is, and how helpless you are as an individual when riding a train.

In other news, I've been doing some gardening when I get the chance. Last weekend I went to a native plant sale at Bartram's Garden (Sparkling Squirrel probably knows the place) and bought some native woodland plants to put in a shaded corner of our yard. The next day, I tackled the poison ivy that's growing along our back fence. I thought I was so careful - long sleeves, gloves, washing afterward with Tecnu, and then showering. But despite my best efforts, I got an impressive rash - I think I've gotten more susceptible to poison ivy juice. I got my revenge, though. I got a gallon of brush-killer herbicide, and sprayed the rest of the ivy. It's been very satisfying to watch it curl up and start to shrivel over the last few days. The pansies that I planted a few weeks ago are doing well, and our azaleas have finally started to bloom. I also got some herbs and flowers started in containers on our deck. Maybe I'll get around to taking some pictures and posting them, but for now you'll just have to take my word for it!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Boobies and Azaleas

We are off to see the blue footed boobies in Ecuador.
I survived finals.
Graduation is even more boring as a professor than it is as a student or parent (okay, I haven't been as a parent but I think I can imagine).
I really will post photos of my azaleas someday.
Happy mid-May-- find some peonies and revel in them.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

AMS picture

Here is the picture that won the AMS award. It's pushing the boundaries of what the blog site will take in terms of size so this may or may not work. I like my picture that took 2nd better personally, but no one asked me.


Just got a job offer from WJ College in Liberty MO! I interviewed with them last Friday. This was my first choice of the positions I had interveiwed for. I am so excited.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A first and a last . . .

happened tonight.

I just posted my last lecture for Biology 100 online tonight.

Earlier I saw the first firefly of the summer.

Cruel and Unusual

We do oral exams for our graduation biology seniors during finals week. It is cruel. It is unusual at lease in my experience. It is annoying (it's hard enough to write and grade all of my other finals and papers without giving trying to schedule eight individual finals). It is particularly annoying when students don't do well.

I really really like them. Does that make me a bad person?

Sedges and violets

I was going to post this under Jennifer's sedge photo, then it got long and became it's own post.

I found a sedge in my yard. Would that be good to grow in the part of my yard that pools up? Could I get a little clump of it growing in my garden and keep it as a contained clump, or is that like someone growing a spot of regular grass in a garden? What is the public perception of sedges? Lisa gave me a bunch of violets years ago, and they're spreading so I'm planting a bunch of violets out front in the bare spots of my yard. My mom called them weeds.

The Flood

In Lawrence, I have not heard of any wide-spread flooding like there has been in Topeka and Parksville, Mo. Over the weekend, it was estimated that Topeka got 8 - 10 inches of rain. 8-10!!!! In Lawrence we received a more modest 3.75 inches in 24 hours. No massive floods but the river is sure was full.

It was a party down at the levee. Steve was amazed at how many people were there to gawk at the river (including me!).

Evidence that I am a nerd. As I was pulling weeds last night I was excited to see this plant.

Carex blanda, a species I did some work on with Helen last year. No smut on it, but I am going to keep my eye out.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Cheaters, Bricks and other Banes

I want to write a real post about my garden, but I must make a general reminder to the whole world: adult humans have more than 10 cells; staying late at a practical and writing down exactly what the professor writes as she makes the key is both silly and unethical (some call it "cheating"); when there are over 780 points in the class (and you have already been given points for turning in your pre-test, post-test, knowing that birds have feathers and showing the last day of class) an 88.5 is not all that close to an A and I won't give it to you; if you write a project proposal saying that you are going to write a "lengthy paper" and compare 3 things, it shouldn't be three pages comparing two things; and, last but not least, ZEBRAS are not well adapted to the tundra lifestyle, despite what a student apparently thinks.

botany jobs

For those of you into botanizing, I just noticed these 2 job openings:

Monday, May 7, 2007

confessions of a consumer

Since I initiated consumerism boycott, I thought I should fess up on my spending habits. 1st was the fake finger/hook I bought for my boss - he was with me when we found them and is missing 2 pinkies, how could I resist? Made in China, 95 cents. I bought 2 museum catalogs of the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at Union Station. I'll never see them again, the info was a bit overwhelming, my best friend in PA loves archaeology. Yes it was a book, but not a novel, $5 each. Dog treats - bought a bag at the Merc - the Good Dog brand made locally by homeless people. I also buy them at the farmer's market. So in sum, the finger is the only frivolous thing. Oh - and the 25 cent cheapo headband at the rec center. Forgot my scrunchie, miserable in aerobics with hair hanging down, had to do it.

On another note, I put my 35 gal. rain barrel together yesterday afternoon, and it's full. Once I make sure it's not leaking, I'll make my 50 gal. one. The back yard turned into a small pond of water, along the fence line which the dogs run, so I can't put my rain garden in the pooliest parts of the yard, but it's right next to it. Check out this ironic dog rescue:
Rescue teams from Douglas County and Osage County help Gail Jackson and her dog "Rocket" into a rescue boat at the FOB range near Lone Star Lake. Rising water stranded six women and five dogs that were part of a Boxer rescue program which used the site as a retreat over the weekend.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Some things I missed...

My picture that won that award got published in the most recent issue of Invertebrate Biology. But I may have mentioned that already.... I've been really out of it the last month or two and haven't commented on anything lately, but I wanted to congratulate a few people so I thought I would do it really quickly here.

So congratulations to
Irene for all the major life changes in her life recently (but particularly for the baby)
Cathy for getting engaged. That is super exciting!!
Heather for successfully defending (though that is no surprise)
Molly for getting to go to Turkey and Austria and landing (what sounds like) a good post-doc position

And Good Luck to Jennifer with all her job interviews, which is probably super late and may not do any good at this point (did you end up doing flatworms or Cnidarians?). I don't know about anyone else, but it would be awesome for me if you were somewhere in Ohio.

And finally, I'm very glad that Erin suffered no adverse effects with her brush with a tornado. Hopefully, no one suffered any effects of tornados in Kansas in the past few days (it seems that they mostly hit western Kansas).

I think that's everything. If I missed something, I'm sorry. I'll try to stay more on top of it.

Beautiful Flowers

Anyone know off the top of their head the name of this flower. I can look it up, but I thought someone might just know.


Saturday, May 5, 2007


After going to the farmer's market this morning and buying three tomato plants, I was inspired to do a bit of gardening this morning. I cleared out the weeds in my vegetable patch, transplanted a couple of coneflower plants, and planted my tomatoes. In addition I planted seeds: basil, sugar-snap peas, and Alyssum.

The lettuce and spinach are growing well - the lettuce is a bit happier than the spinach.


There are also buds on the larkspur and spiderwort that were left by the previous tenant.



Well - back to exam writing. I wonder if my tomatoes have grown any.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

2 Months of GBKD

Our little blog is 2 months old, and I believe it is serving a useful purpose so far. In two months we have had 1 pregnancy, 1 marriage proposal, several jobs offers and interviews, several hair cuts and lots of fubulous spring flowers. A busy two months.
I want to encourage all of the Gorgeous Biologist Knitters not to wait until you have big news to post. Obviously we are thrilled to find out when friends have great life changing events (LCE?). But, by their nature, life changing events don't happen all that often. Interesting knitting conversations are often based around the random (most marmosets are chimeras) and the practical (my hard drive just crashed, remember to save your data) and style questions (what to knit for beachware?) as well as the important. Echinoderms are cool is probably my favorite post so far (and the post where GBKs identified a blurry bee from a plant photo-- I was way impressed). Keep us updated with the little things as well as the big.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

news from DC

Just wanted to share my news-- especially since I now know what I'm going to be doing with my life for the next 2 years...
First off, I did not get the WWF fellowship, but in an unusual twist, received "honorable mention" and so am going to get $2000 in travel money to be used in the next 6 mos. So, I'm tagging along with my old AMNH boss an a field trip to eastern Turkey and then Austria. I am really excited to go, because I've always wanted to learn more about how to dig up bee nests and learn more about nesting biology from my old boss... and I'm super excited about getting to see Turkey. I'm hoping I'll get to at least spend a day in Istanbul as I have been dreaming about seeing the Hagia Sophia. In Austria I will get to meet with the world expert on another parasitic bee genus-- which is great because I just found out last week that I have a two-year postdoc at the Smithsonian working on the molecular phylogenetics of this very genus. The postdoc starts June 1, and the Turkey/Austria trip is probably between June 25 and July 16. The only thing I regret is not being able to witness the weddings of either Beth or my best friend from high school :(
Last weekend I was in Claremont, California at my 10 year college reunion. (Cathy, I saw Don McF., who says hello, and who wants us to start using the field station in Costa Rica which Joint Sciences is now running). You would think that out of a graduating class of 130 I would know pretty much all of my classmates... but no, I knew hardly any of them (partially because few of them took science classes). Anyway, I had a really fantastic time and now feel like I have gotten to know some pretty phenomenal women. Which is wonderful, considering I wasn't even planning to go and was worried that I wouldn't have a good time. I was struck by how beautiful the Scripps campus is... it makes me wish I could go back and do another year as an undergrad. It was also fun to see other Scripps women who are living in Lawrence, like the two women who own the Raven bookstore... I knew that they were almunae, but it seemed strange to see in them in CA rather than KS!