Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Year of Darwin 12/31/2014: from Origins to my Conservation Biology notes

 Charles Darwin

"Although in oceanic islands the number of kinds of inhabitants is scanty, the proportion of endemic species (i.e., those found nowhere else in the world) is often extremely large"  Charles Darwin, Origin of Species 1st edition (on Kindle)

I'm getting this through my daughter, but her high school teacher thought a blog about Darwin was stupid because his writing was "boring."  What?  Yes, certainly there are passages that are tedious but there are so many problems that Darwin brings up and we are still struggling to answer. The biggest of these, I think, is population regulation. Here Darwin makes an astute observation that I have used, almost word for word, in  my Conservation Biology class (I never use scanty... unless I talk about dating in my early days).

So today is the last of the "My year of Darwin" posts. I'm going to finishing mining quotes for a textbook I'm working on and I'll sporadically post them here. My New Year's resolution is to get out and fish and hike throughout the year (and maybe enjoy a cigar and a scotch or two). 

It was an amazing year for better or worse. Better relationship with my son and lost a dog (I haven't had a dog in 20 years). Professionally, I was elected to be chair of the Academic Planning Committee (a bit more significant than chairing the library committee), and I will have submitted five manuscripts (most previous was 2 in a year). 

Next year I will put two teenagers in college (Oi!) and search for a sabbatical. I'll run another round (at least) of the clay caterpillar project, we'll be in Louisiana for my son's high school graduation, and there is a bird meeting in Nova Scotia. It's going to be an expensive and exciting year. I wish everyone a safe and happy year. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Year of Darwin 12/30/2014:Darwin the mystic

 Charles Darwin

"Nature, like a careful gardener, thus takes her seeds from a bed of a particular nature, and drops them in another equally well fitted for them
Charles Darwin, Origin of Species 1st edition (on Kindle)

As nice as this sounds, it belies the reality that most propagules, as Darwin would state it, are utterly destroyed. We would call this directed dispersal and it's just animals and plants exploiting each other. Sorry Darwin, hate to be a downer today. 

Cold again here. Hoping it snows soon so I can bust out the snow shoes or the cross country skis. 

Feeling like I'm decompressing. I felt crushed into a singularity yesterday. Things just weren't real. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Year of Darwin 12/29/2014: Mountains as islands

 Charles Darwin

"A mountain is an island on the landCharles Darwin, Origin of Species 1st edition (on Kindle)

I think the first scholarly paper I read was Brown's Mammals on mountaintops. This was a criticism of island biogeography's simple (but useful) view of population dynamics in semi-isolated systems. But why compare islands to mountains at all? Darwin, and probably others, made the connection a century before island biogeography. 

Brown, J. H., 1971. Mammals on mountaintops: nonequilibrium insular biogeography. American Naturalist 467-478.

Bye Aubry

Today we put our dog of four years to sleep. Aubry probably had Lyme-disease associated glomerulonephritis although we don't know for sure. 

We picked her up February 27, 2011 from Mostly Mutts in Sunbury, PA. It was a snowy day and she (then Tia) was as icy as the roads. I was a bit skeptical because she made no hint that she was interested in humans. The first day she came by and sniffed us, ate her food, and slept on the floor. The second day was going the same then soon after lunch we gave her a bath.  Everything changed. I don't know why or what went through her head but she bolted down stairs and leaped on the sofa and she was my companion ever since. I guess she then knew that she was home. 

She was my best field technician. After spending the first 20 minutes bounding through the grass, she'd settle and stick by me and watch us catch or count birds. She regularly went with me to visit my parents in Cape May or to school once or twice. 

Aubry was there with her head on my lap to watch me write manuscripts, check email, chat with students. If you said "grab a toy" she'd grab a toy, if you said "go for a ride" she'd run to the truck, and if you said "time for a bath" she'd run and hide.

She would spring at the door if she was getting impatient for you to get your key in the door. She'd bark out of jealousy when I kissed my wife. She growled at boys and bit a flooring guy in the ass. She was sassy. We loved her and she loved us. 

The doctor came in around 1. My arms were wrapped around her neck and her head resting on my arm. One dose to put her to sleep. One dose to stop her heart. She was gone. We were heartbroken. 

We have one other dog. A very good old dog. He's the Keith Richards of dogs. He was another rescue. But the house is quiet and she will be missed. Bye Aubry, we love you.