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)
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! 


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.

Track a scientist

Okay, not nearly as exciting as tracking sea turtles or pelagic fishes, but still fun, I hope.

When I head to Bahía de los Angeles next week, I will bring with me (as I always do) my Spot® tracker. I use this both as a backup to our EPIRB when we are on the water, a possible way to get help when on the road, and a convenient way for my family to see where I am.

This trip, I will open the GPS tracking to anyone who wants to follow it. You should be able to see when I am headed out to the islands, which island I am visiting, and when I head back up the coast. Since we have occasional Internet in the field station (weather and satellites permitting), I hope to, at least a few times, tweet pictures from the field (@drewtalley). Consider it an experiment in social media. Or "Where's Waldo" for science nerds.

Click the image below to check it out (will not be live until Monday, June 22)

Another great summer

I know, you have all been anxiously awaiting my updates. So here goes:

First, I have two San Diego projects this summer, being run by two of my experienced undergrads - Yuri and Megan.

As part of USD's new National Science Foundation REU Program, Yuri will be looking at an invasive clam that has recently been reported in Mission Bay (see here for more info). In related work, Megan will be comparing historical data on resident salt marsh fishes in Mission Bay, and we are already seeing elevated densities of the invasive yellowfin goby (the handsome fish pictured below). 


The *other* Doctor Talley (Theresa) is also doing some work out of my lab, while her building gets refurbished up at Scripps Institution of Oceanography/California Sea Grant. She is working with a student from Mater Dei High School (A neat cooperative between USD and the high school, now headed by Dr. Nathalie Reyns of Environmental and Ocean Sciences, so could not be in more competent hands!), as well as one of our USD undergrads, looking at how plastics travel through our watersheds into the sea, and what effects they might be having. Already some exciting (albeit depressing) findings...my beloved Fundulus apparently have quite a taste for plastic, and are consuming lots!

I also will spend a couple of weeks in Bahía de los Angeles with my Graduate Student (Thais) and students and staff from Ocean Discovery Institute, continuing our long-term analysis of the effects of spatial subsidy on island ecosystems. While I am gone, Theresa will be helping out with the fishes and clams, and I will be checking email daily (satellite connection permitting), keeping the projects on track.

So, as usual, a busy but interesting summer, and a GREAT way to kick off my sabbatical!

come visit with #2scientists @panama66sd tonight!

Another fun event slated for tonight (this one is especially good for those of you who live or work near Balboa Park) - the Reuben H. Fleet Museum's "Two Scientists Walk into a Bar" is back! Tonight (Thu May 7) from 6:00 - 8:00, Liz Waters (SDSU, who does some fascinating work on evolution and adaptation) and I (@USDCAS, working on biological oceanography and ecology) will be sitting around at the beautiful Panama66 restaurant next to the San Diego Museum of Art. It is a cool new venue - outdoor seating, and food and drink from the people at Blind Lady Alehouse and Tiger!Tiger!.

Bring a jacket (it is an outdoor venue) and a question about science!

Another great trip

Back from another great trip to Bahía de los Angeles. This was our annual Spring trip, where Ocean Discovery Institute and associated researchers go down to present our results to Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, make arrangements for boat transportation for the summer research, and train with new staff and students for the field season to come.

Was lucky enough to get to come back in a car with my grad student (Thais) and Shara Fisler (yes, KPBS Women's History Month Local Hero Shara Fisler), so the whole way back was fun, informative, and exciting. No better way to make 11 hours pass by quickly than to spend it with great company.

The rest of our group was not as fortunate - they ended up stuck for a few days south of San Quintín, where the roads had been blocked by protesting farmworkers. Not that I am complaining...I have nothing but sympathy for the farmworker's plight, given their low wages, backbreaking work, and poor treatment. There is a great article on the issue here.