University of San Diego's National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates

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! 

Research Experiences for Undergraduates at USD

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.

Happy Holidays and a kiwi new year!

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!

Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve & Border Field State Park

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.

University of San Diego sustainability LLC outing to tecolote canyon

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!

whats in my (field) bag - field knife

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
Saltwater resistant
One-handed open and close (either hand)
Lock-back
Good grip
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).

My beloved and well-worn field knives - older model Cold Steel medium Voyager on top, newer model in the middle, and Spyderco Saver Salt on the bottom. 

My beloved and well-worn field knives - older model Cold Steel medium Voyager on top, newer model in the middle, and Spyderco Saver Salt on the bottom. 

2016 sampling done

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! 

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the gulf of california is an amazing place to teach and learn

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".

Sula, Sulas, and students

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.