Nice to see so many students and colleagues concerned about gun violence.
It has taken me far too long to write about this, but I think in part that was my reluctance to engage in what felt like shameless self promotion.
Well, fear not - I am filled with shame as I engage in this self promotion!
I was staggered and honored to be presented the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation’s William A. Niering Outstanding Educator Award at this Fall’s conference. I wanted to take the opportunity to say just how humbling this is, and how grateful I am for the honor. This one has particular meaning for me for several reasons.
First, while I never met Dr. Niering, I heard his name and reputation frequently, beginning when I met Theresa (my wife) at San Diego State University in 1991. She had graduated from Connecticut College, and spoke often and warmly of Bill Niering. She praised his teaching, his knowledge, and his passion for his students and for nature. Despite never having the chance to meet him, he was (and is) nonetheless very much a presence in our house.
Second, to receive this honor from Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, which is the go-to organization for coastal and estuarine ecologists, makes getting this distinction all the more surprising. I am stunned to see my name on the list of nine awardees since 2001 that includes Joy Zedler, John Day, Ivan Valiela, and Alejandro Yáñez-Arancibia. Getting to receive the award with my wife, daughter, and in-laws just made it that much better.
And I was deeply moved by the kind words of those who wrote letters of recommendation - students, colleagues, and mentors who offered me praise I am not certain I earned, but that I will work hard to deserve.
As I said at the award ceremony, I feel as though I have somehow pulled off some sort of scam…I get to work on projects I love, with people I love, and in places I love, and somehow I get awarded for that? It hardly seems fair!
Here is a picture of me with my wonderful grad student, Katie Blaha-Robinson, who was also honored with a well-deserved CERF Rising TIDES award at the conference!
I have been asked a few times about what podcasts I would recommend, and yet on the spur of the moment I rarely recall more than 3 or 4 of my favorites. Seems like putting them in one place is not a bad idea.
Of course, treat this is a moment-in-time sort of list. New podcasts are released all of the time; my taste in podcasts changes with time; and some beloved podcasts end their run ("Hypercritical" comes to mind). And there are some GREAT ones that will not get mention here (e.g., RadioLab, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Invisibilia - if you arent listening to those you should be). I am assuming most people who listen to podcasts have heard of these large-scale, NPR backed ones.
Rather than try and create a taxonomy of podcasts, I will just break these into "tech" and "non-tech". When possible, I will also add a recommended "starter" episode, so you dont happen on an unrepresentative one.
Sawbones. One of my favorites - a physician and her husband take an often hilarious and always interesting trip through medical history. What is trepanation? How did we learn how Yellow Fever is transmitted? Not sure? Try listening to the Self-Surgery episode and see if you like it http://www.maximumfun.org/sawbones/sawbones-self-surgery
Gastropod. Fascinating mix of food and science. Learn about the history and science of vinegar; why consumers once had to dye margarine black - a really great podcast, and one of the ones where I wish they would publish more often! For starters, try the one on tea: https://gastropod.com/its-tea-time-pirates-polyphenols-and-a-proper-cuppa/
The Beef and Dairy Network. This is the equivalent of a mockumentary, with short episodes where the conceit is how seriously the people are taking their meat and dairy related topics. Not to everyone's taste, I am sure, but if you want to give one a try, I would recommend Episode 20, The Lamb Investigation Special.
Judge John Hodgman. You need this podcast. Hodgman and his "bailiff", Jesse Thorn, are funny, smart, and (I don't say this lightly) wise. People bring their disputes to his fake court of internet justice, and he hears both sides (usually something inherently minor, like arguing over whether the soap dispenser in the kitchen sink should be filled with dish soap or hand soap), and then they somehow provide thoughtful insight on broader issues. The best episodes are when Jesse Thorn is the bailiff (he is rarely replaced by guest bailiffs, who are also great, but not AS great), and episodes where they "clear the docket" (going through numerous cases in short order) are also great. If you are on twitter, both of them are good follows (@hodgman & @JesseThorn). Try episode 313, "The Sisterhood of the Gaveling Pants"
Also, consider checking out Hodgman's book, Vacationland, which is funny, poignant, and just beautiful.
Bullseye. Also on the Maximum Fun Network (I am sensing a trend). Here Jesse Thorn interviews...well, just about everyone. I Don't listen to them all, but I DO listen when it is, say, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jack Black, Fred Willard, The Pointer Sisters...you get the picture! Jesse Thorn is a thoughtful and talented interviewer. Pick someone you like, and listen to that episode.
Pod Save America. Based on the number of their T-shirts I am seeing these days, they have quite a following. Another one that I don't put on my "can't miss" list, but very very good. As they put it "This is a political podcast for people not yet ready to give up or go insane, hosted by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor".
Hello Internet. Another in a long line of podcasts by two white dudes who talk about stuff, that is where the similarities to usual podcasts ends. One former journalist turned You-Tuber (who does math and science videos), and one former teacher turned You-Tuber discuss anything and everything, from Brexit to fear of heights. I am not doing it justice, but try it. You'll thank me.
No Such Thing as a Fish. Toss a bunch of science geeks into a room, give them each the opportunity to talk about one weird/amusing/interesting story in science from the week, and this is what you get. Funny, educational, and should be on your list.
Roderick on the Line
I confess I didnt really know a lot of the music by John Roderick and The Long Winters until recently (although what I knew I did like). It turns out that he is also thoughtful, funny, candid, and astute, and together with one of my all-time podcast favorites, Merlin Mann, they create varied, funny, sometimes poignant podcasts that tend to take a long, entertaining path around their various topics.
My Brother My Brother and Me
OK, they mean it when they say "not for kids" (although I would be lying if I pretended my daughter has never heard any of them - what can I say, she loves Justin McElroy!). It can be a bit uneven (I suspect even the hosts would admit that), but I have laughed aloud many a time in the gym or car listening to them. Good stuff. Episode 351, "Omnidirectional Scampi Blast" is not a bad place to start.
Yes, I am a geek, and while I tend to gravitate towards Apple gear, I also like Windows and unix stuff, as well as Kindles and Synology and just plain old tech. That said, there are really only four tech podcasts I regularly check in on...
The Talk Show
This was a wonderful show when John Gruber did it with Dan Benjamin on the 5x5 Network, and it is just as good now as an independent. Gruber is an Apple fan without the "fanboy" traits, and really sets the bar as someone who can objectively and deeply analyze the tech industry, regularly providing really insightful commentary on everyone from Samsung to Uber to Amazon. Great guests as well as high production values make this a go-to for me.
Mac Power Users
David Sparks and Katie Floyd (mac geeks and attorneys) do a weekly podcast focused on Apple hardware and software. They keep things informative, fresh, and engaging, at least in part due to the chemistry between the hosts. This is a tech podcast that is accessible to non-geeks, but also great for those of us who are pretty deep in the weeds with tech. I look forward to every episode.
Mac Geek Gab
I have been listening to these two guys talk about mac-related tech (and other stuff) for years now, and I never tire of it. It has a lot in common with Mac Power Users, but these two are slightly more focused on helping people solve their tech problems. Again, I would not miss it, and have learned how to solve a ton of issues with iPhones/Macs by hearing other people's problems.
ATP (Accidental Tech Podcast).
One of my all-time favorite podcasts was Hypercritical, with John Siracusa. He is passionate, smart, opinionated, and engaged in social issues (well worth following if you are on Twitter - @siracusa). He, programmer Marco Arment (@marcoarment, creator of the best podcast client "Overcast"), and Casey Liss had a podcast about cars (Neutral) that I tried really hard to like, but just didnt have enough interest in the topic to stay engaged. It turns out, though, that they often strayed back into tech topics, which led to the creation of "ATP". These often run long (sometimes topping 2 hours), but if, like me, you find you love listening, that seems like a feature not a bug.
Some others I listen to but that are not, like these, on my must-listen list include:
The Critical Path
Under the Radar
Your Inner Child Is An Idiot
Am I missing some I should be listening to? Let me know in the comments!
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....