Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Symbioses and Other Suggestions

I'm teaching Economically Important Plants this fall, and, needless to say, I want to make it the coolest class ever. Suggestions are welcome for activities, content, and readings that could help make it so.
I'm thinking of having one day (generally during the agriculture section) on soil and symbioses. I'll have them review nutrient cycles in advance (I think students really need to understand nitrogen in order to get fertilizer in order to understand any ag. issues) and we'll talk about nitrogen fixation (probably using either soybeans or peanuts for case study, possibly the cool bacteria (Anabaena?) that fixes nitrogen with the waterferns (azolla?) in rice paddies). I also want to talk about mycorrhizal associations and pollination.
At the moment, the very cool pollination associations I can think of (yucca and yucca moth, monarchs and milkweeds, bats and saguaros aren't heavy on economic importance. Honey bees are plenty important, but not as useful for cool co-evolution discussions.
Ideas? Vanilla orchids couldn't be cultivated elsewhere for lack of a very specific bee: buzz pollination and the solanaceae?
Any specific mycorrhizal associations that are interesting?
Other soil symbioses?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Just checking in

Hi everyone,

I've done it again -- I've gone months without checking the blog! Horrible, I know, since I really do enjoy reading the updates from everyone, which I'm looking forward to doing again now. My excuse, if there is one, is that I post lots of photos and the occasional inane update on Facebook and figure that's enough of a mass dissemination; my relatives really enjoy being able to keep up with their Nebraska crew that way.

But anyway, everything's good here. Little Z is 20 months old already and is a big chatterbox. She's getting long and lean and is generally a blast to hang out with. W and I are doing fine. He continues to tinker with honeybees as a hobby, with 4 hives in our backyard. He's also just about to start an MBA program, a little bit at a time. I have the summer free to spend with Z-toddler and O-dog, but as I got a decent state-funded grant to do 1 year of research with some students, I do that twice a week this summer, too, and will have 1 course release in the spring as well as 3 weeks in Costa Rica during our J-term. A requirement of this state funding is that I submit a full NSF Career proposal; that July deadline is looming. In the fall, I'll be teaching comparative (supposedly vertebrate) anatomy, which is freaking me out a little. I've never had anatomy and have had ornithology and mammalogy but no other vertebrate-ologies. I'd frankly rather (and be more qualified to) teach botany or entomology. But I digress. Any ideas you guys have got would be welcome! I've assigned a typical textbook as well as "Your Inner Fish" by Shubin.

W and I just got back from a week in Alaska. My parents insisted we leave Z with them for a while, so it was our first time away from her. Everything was great on both ends, although the packaged tour was a little too packaged-tour-y for me. We got to see great views of McKinley and plenty of critters, too. My favorite part of the trip was an air tour of McKinley that turned into a glacier landing at the climbers' base camp.

Otherwise, we're just rolling along here. I'm looking forward to going through the last few months of posts and hoping that everyone's well.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Haiti fun

Hi from Haiti. Having a good time here, and seeing what the rainy season is like. Just found out the capital is flooding. No flooding here, just impassible roads that occasionally change our plans. I've been helping with women's church conferences and start teaching ecology tomorrow. I'll post pictures and updates on my blog.