The REUs went to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to learn a little about climate change, oceanography, and seahorses. After that, we all headed to the Gliderport at Torrey Pines to enjoy the view (and delicious sandwiches - seriously, if you are in San Diego, you NEED to go there). It was a great time, and as you might expect, if you put a bunch of scientists together, the conversation always turns to science, grad school, careers, etc. Nerdy fun!
That's right, the Fleet Science Center is having another of their "Two Scientists Walk into a Bar" events on Thursday, July 13. Twenty five bars around San Diego will have pairs of scientists sitting there to answer your questions about - well, anything! Check out the list - there will be geneticists, oceanographers, ecologists, physicists...lots of opportunities to chat with someone who does this stuff for a living.
I will be at Panama 66 in Balboa Park, but there is bound to be a bar near you hosting two scientists. I have had a great time in the past fielding questions from the public, like:
What is the scariest creature in the ocean?
How do you decide what you want to study?
What is a typical day like for a scientist?
What is the coolest thing you have learned?
If you ever wanted to chat with a scientist, Thursday will be your chance!
The University of San Diego serves as one of the National Science Foundation's "Research Experiences for Undergraduates" (REU) sites, and I have to say that this program is really making a difference both scientifically and to the lives of our students.
The scientific framework of this REU is "Climate Change Across The Various Scales of System Organization". That in itself is exciting - while this program is housed in the Division of Chemistry at NSF, ours is a multidisciplinary group of researchers, with a lot of chemists and biochemists, but also engineers, physicists, biologists, and ecologists. And these projects are really pushing forward our understanding in all of these fields, especially as they relate to climate change.
But perhaps more exciting is the pedagogical/broader impact framework for this program. Our site is working hard to engage more underrepresented groups (veterans. underrepresented minority students, first generation college students, etc) in STEM, and doing so by specifically targeting students from community colleges, where opportunities to get experience in science are fairly rare. We have an amazing group of 11 students working on various projects this summer, and I will hopefully provide some periodic updates, but for now, I just wanted to include a picture of (some) of our students and associates as we explored Mission Bay yesterday, enjoyed lunch on the water, and even found time to do some fish sampling and discuss graduate school, time management, and our favorite music.
With Team Fundulus in full swing, we can expect a summer that is rich in science, fun, and fundulus.
Spending Christmas night in LAX and then on a plane, headed for New Zealand with family. Should be an exciting trip - teaching an intersession USD Second Year Experience course in Auckland, But before that, we will tour the South Island, visit with our friend Simon Thrush, and look for onychophorans.
Hopefully will manage to update here, or on twitter, or maybe will try and resurrect my moribund instagram account (which has apparently been hacked). In any event, happy new year everyone!
Our Sustainability LLC went to the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve Saturday, followed by a trip up to Border Field State Park. A super interesting trip, from an ecological, social, and gustatory perspective.
Our visit allowed us to visit the "Model Marsh" - a groundbreaking restoration project using adaptive management to improve our ability to create and restore southern California wetland ecosystems. Planned by Dr. Joy Zedler and the Pacific Estuarine Research Laboratory back in 2000, this marsh has taught practitioners a lot about how best to mitigate the huge losses of salt marsh in southern California.
We also were at Border Field State Park on a pretty important day - surrounded by the press and Border Patrol, the gates were opened to allow a small number of families, separated by the border fence, to meet, talk, and embrace.
This combination of exmaining environmental and social issuies helped to put the complex issues at the border into context, and is one reason why this is always one of my favorite events in the LLC.
We also got to enjoy the ridiculously delicious burritos from North Park's family-owned "Panchitas" - if you havent had the chance to try their breakfast, dinner, and panaderia offerings, you are truly missing out.
On this thanksgiving week, I am extremely grateful to everyone who made this trip not only possible but such a success, in particular Dr. Jeff Crooks (Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve), Chris Peregrin (California State Parks), and the Border Patrol Agents, Border Angels, and all of the support staff who helped make this trip so informative and eye-opening.
yesterday was yet another fun outing with the University of San Diego Sustainability LLC. While we didnt get a great turnout (halloween weekend, maybe?), the students and faculty who *were* there were engaged, enthusiastic, and we all learned a lot. Oh yeah...and ate a lot of amazing food.
We were fortunate to have a docent from the Tecolote Canyon Natural Park join us - Jim Roberts, a retired physicist and now a plant and restoration expert, who agreed to spend the morning with us teaching us about the native and invasive plants, the managment challenges in tecolote, and the use of the canyon by native americans.
After a hike into the canyon learning about microclimates, oak trees and red-tailed hawks, we got to pretend we were fancy and hang out at brunch at La Gran Terrazza. As it always is there, the food was amazing, and having the whole restaurant to ourselves made us feel just a little decadent and pampered.
Looking forward to our next LLC event!
One of the essential tools I have in the field (although admittedly usually on my person, not in my bag) is a knife. This gets used pretty much every time I go in the field. I often find myself cutting line, bait, or kelp, prying samples off of rocks, removing cactus from my boots (or legs), and prepping lunch. Given where and how I work, this has led to a pretty rigid set of requirements:
Small and light, with a sturdy clip
One-handed open and close (either hand)
Not a clip, spear, or drop point (in other words, not a super pointy point)
It wasn't until about 8 years ago I found what I considered a great field knife. It was a Cold Steel Voyager, with a tanto blade. While it was never billed as corrosion resistant, any rust comes off easily with a kitchen scrubber, and the tanto blade (see that nice flat edge at the end?) allows for it to be slid under stubborn chitons or limpets to pry them off rocks.
The problem is, Cold Steel changed their design a few years ago (2011 I think), and while you can still get one with the same length blade, it is now wider, with a bigger, heavier handle. Still a good field knife, with an admittedly better grip to it, but that extra heft is more than I want or need.
Thankfully, I found another field knife that I also love. It is a Spyderco Saver Salt. Not quite as small as my old Cold Steel, but still light, with H1 steel that has incredible corrosion resistance, and a ~3" sheepfoot blade that makes it safer on rough seas and slippery rocks. Better still, it comes in yellow, which I like because it makes it easier to keep track of and also seem less threatening (handy when at border crossings, for example).
had a great time on our first LLC-wide event for the sustainability llc at USD. One of our talented first year students made this cool video....
This will be the first in a brief series of posts about what gear I take in the field with me for research. Obviously, things change depending on the specific fieldwork at hand, but in my years of doing wetland, rocky intertidal, and desert island ecology, some items have proven their worth broadly and repeatedly, and others clearly looked good on paper/amazon, but were either poorly made or simply inappropriate for my style of fieldwork.
It seems like a good place to start this is with my field pack itself - the Kelty Redwing 2650 (pictured below, in one of my favorite colors). Just look at that pack…it practically implores you to overstuff and abuse it. I purchased this with startup funds when I joined the faculty at USD in 2008, and have never regretted it for a moment. Let’s start with the practical features. First,it is orange, which is not only aesthetically pleasing, but shows up nicely against the palette my usual field environment offers - green/brown wetlands, sand colored deserts, blue & white pangas, and my decidedly monochromatic vehicles. So, the orange color makes it tougher to lose, and perhaps offers some advantage in emergencies by being easy to spot.
That feature is nice, but hardly distinctive… there are a number of other really useful features. The straps and the back panel are lined with mesh, which makes it lighter and cooler when hiking islands in sometimes 45C temps. It also includes a wide hip belt, similarly lined, but I confess I removed that right away, it being too bulky and not used enough to justify it.
Overall pockets and organizers are fantastic for research work. The main compartment is a roomy panel-loader (the bag holds 44L), with a back section that can be used for a laptop or a hydration pack. The smaller pocket is organized with a map pocket, places for pens/pencils, and a key hook. There is also a very small pocket on the top that is good for small items like a magnifying loop, research permit, etc.
On each side there are elongate compartments, which zip down the side and have a velcro flap closure at top. I often use these for water bottles, collecting tools, or long tubes of sunscreen. There are also two (loose) mesh water bottle holders nearby that are a little wobbly, but do have straps that you can arrange to stop bottles from falling out completely. This is one aspect I wish was a little better designed.
I rarely use the compression straps, but when making dangerous climbs, I am much more comfortable with everything cinched down tight.
Finally, the features that really make this pack work for me are the straps - a carrying handle on top, another on the back, an ice axe loop (I use for a small pickaxe for building pitfall traps), and a daisy chain so you can attach items (Spot®, for example…more on that in a later post).
This pack is still in great shape after 8 years of intensive, mostly year-round use. And I am glad, because I have not yet found a pack I would buy to replace this one, now that it is discontinued. The closest I have come is the Kelty Redwing 50, but it lacks some of the features I loved in the old 44.
If you have one you would recommend, please leave a comment!
Citizen science and the library collections - should be fantastic! Opens at the San Diego Natural History Museum August 20th!
An illustration from Georges Cuvier's "Le règne animal distribué d'après son organisation", 1828.
Ric has helped in the processing of hundreds of fishes this summer, looking at micro plastic consumption in our local wetlands. Nice to see him get such great coverage!
My two NSF REU students, Amber and Ric, have been amazing, and we have learned a lot about micro plastics in our local wetlands. Katie, the most recent addition to the Talley Lab graduate program, is well into research and mentoring, despite not officially starting until September. My research in Bahia de Los Angeles has been fun, and I expect (thanks to Sula) we will manage the get a publication out about our findings on the islands. Add to that working with the best group of Ocean Discovery kids ever, swimming with whale sharks, and doing all of this with my wife and daughter...what a great way to end sabbatical.
If I had to complain, it would be about having to shave again!
Basic ecology, spatial subsidy, anthropogenic influences, exotic species....I could go on and on, but the opportunities to teach students here are simply phenomenal. Add to that that we work closely with Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, and we get to integrate management, basic research, and education.
I feel guilty that I get to call this "work".
Amazing time out on the islands in Bahía de los Angeles today, censusing arthropods, spiders, and plants.
Best of all, doing it with A) eager students from Ocean Discovery Institute, who are learning first hand how to conduct science B) Dr. Sula Vanderplank, a phenomenal teacher and ecologist who is helping (ok, more really leading) the plant work, and C) surrounded by flocks of Sula nebouxii, the Blue-Footed Boobies.
Day one of the plant part of the research, and already found species that were previously unreported on the islands we visited. Great science, great people, and an amazing Biosphere Reserve.
Sabbatical winding down, and so this summer I spend my remaining time doing the things most important to me - family time galore; field research in Bahía de los Angeles with Ocean Discovery Institute's Ocean Leaders (and my dear friends and colleagues); working with phenomenal undergraduates (Ric and Amber - more about them later), my current grads, and my newest grad student.
This summer will involve sea turtle by catch reduction work; understanding kleptoplast in sea slugs, long term monitoring of island ecosystems, evaluating ENSO effects on insular plant communities, and several fundulus projects in Mission Bay. Add to that getting to do this work with people I love, including my wife, daughter, delightful colleagues, and an old jr high school friend who is still the dude....tough to feel more blessed, in any sense you care to use that word.
Anyone interested can follow my travels starting Sat by clicking on the following link. It is a fascinating project, supported by quite literally one of the best in the world education teams, working with talented, driven kids.
Every year I get to work in this spectacular place with these phenomenal people. Add to that getting to do it with both new friends ("merely a year") and old, comfortable friends (>40 years), I really am the luckiest man on earth.
So as we go share our knowledge and skills with each other, and do our best to tease apart complicated natural history patterns with our earnest yet blunt tools, it might be interesting to see how we will make insights and progress.
That, at least, is plan....
This is a great article (by the consistently-great writer Clare Leschin-Hoar) about bluefin tuna.
And no, that isn't bluefin in the picture below - just a delicious ceviche from Paralabrax, created during field work by the amazing pangero, Martín Cortés.
A really fascinating video (from a great website) about the interplay of science and art. Click the image above!