Saturday, August 27, 2016

Alabama for Darwin, historically speaking

I haven't read this article but I want to post it so I go back and read it. 

Alabama fossil's role in the development of Darwin's theory. 

Undergrad projects for the ecology course

If I think back to my own undergrad and the aspects of courses that excited me the most. There were only a few lecturers I found to be engaging. At Rutgers, the late Ted Stiles was certainly one - his lectures in Vertebrate Zoology were exactly what I was interested in. At Southeastern, I loved Gary Shaffer's biostats lectures. 

Maybe my memory is failing me but most labs didn't excite me. The exception was Marine Animal Ecology lab. There were only a handful of us and they combined this course with a graduate level course. The highlight of this course for me was working with the graduate students on their projects. In fact, it was this interaction that led me to going to graduate school. 

I'm hoping that a more involved lab will get students more excited (is that the right word?) about ecology and have greater satisfaction than a bunch of smaller exercises. We'll see.

Here the draft statement on the projects from my syllabus. I think these are reasonable and students should get interesting results. Maybe the phrase I'm looking for is "intellectual satisfaction." That won't be on any university brochures but that's exactly what I hope students experience. 

  1. Food web at Nescopeck State Park
  • Students will observe and capture insects on plants that are either consuming or pollinating them. Insects and plants will be identified to species. At least 100 interactions are to be documented.  
  1. Insectivory and Frugivory and Urbanization
  • Students will use clay caterpillars and clay berries to investigate how ecosystem services change across urban-rural gradients. Caterpillars will be set up at nine sites (3 urban, 3 suburban, 3 rural). Fruit clusters will be located at the same sites.
  1. Decomposition and urbanization
  • Students will use tea bags and logs to determine decomposition rates along urban rural gradients. Clusters of 5 bags and 5 logs at 15 sites will be used.
  1. Deer density and urbanization

  • Students will use game cameras to quantify deer densities across an urban-rural gradient. Fifteen cameras will be used for three weeks and checked weekly.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Mushrooms of Wilkes University

Teaching ecology this semester so my mind is a bit broadened and, after a few large summer rains, I was reminded about the great recyclers: fungi.

It is move-in day at Wilkes University so I probably looked like a creep walking around campus with my camera but most of our buildings are surrounded by mulch - tons of mulch - and fungi are busy breaking it down into soil.

Hard to say how many species are on campus since we can only see the fruiting bodies. Most fungi live quietly underground doing their thing. I counted at least six different species so there are probably many many more species than this on campus. 

I have no idea what species they are except for the infamous Mutinus caninus, a species whose spores are dispersed by flies (see photo). 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Bombay Hook Avocet-ogeddon

Spent last week in DC at the North American Ornithological Congress. Went amazingly well despite being the largest meeting of ornithologists ever. 

Left Sunday in the rain and made it there with a 45 minute break in the rain. Greenheads (a nasty biting fly) were really dense and I was bit about a dozen times the 30 feet between the restroom and my truck. 

There were two pools for shorebirds and they were rocking! I haven't gone through the pics in detail but the obvious species was the avocet and they were there in huge numbers. Damn camera wouldn't focus correctly so not too many great shots, damn it. 

Avocet - they have awesome bills.

Avocets skimming for bugs

male American Avocet


Bald Eagle

So many birds!

Eastern Kingbird

Great Egret

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Townsend's Inlet, NJ

One thing about losing your dog (a very bad thing) and having amazing undergrads (a very good thing) is that I just don't see the outside like I should or need to. 

I took three days off to enjoy with my son, who's in town from Louisiana, and family down in Cape May. 

Went to the beach for four hours - a glorious four hours. Shorebirds are moving through. Highlights included sobs of semipalmated sandpipers, sanderlings, semipalmated plovers, a few turnstones (below), and a five lined skink that was stalking flies on my parent's porch. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Iraqi chicken apocalypse

A strain of influenza is ripping through Baghdad. This article doesn't have too many details but this episode has resulted in the death of 2.8 million birds - both directly and indirectly. During outbreaks, farms will put down all of their chicken. Crazy stuff. 

What floors me is that there are nearly 3 million chickens around Baghdad. I mean, it shouldn't be that surprising given the population.   

Eagle takes osprey

Nest cams are cool but they're not always heartwarming as I've shown here. Sometimes, the action can raise your heart rate. 

Check out this video from Audubon