Friday, August 29, 2008

The Wild Life of Hamsters - Interview from ISBE Conference 2008

Though this site is dedicated to introducing you to Wildlife Outside of your Window, I realize that for the average urban/suburban child, there are plenty of “wild animals” you may already know. We call them pets. Our pets are merely the domesticated descendents of wild fore-parents from many, many generations ago.

Domestication of animals – whether for pets or for agriculture – has a very long history. In fact, one the oldest domesticated animals is the honey bee!! No kidding. Domesticated animals carry many of the same biological tendencies, genes, and behaviors of their wild cousins. After all, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. But many “unique’ traits of domesticated animals is due to deliberate preferences of people – artificial selection.

While at the 2008 ISBE Conference I interviewed a friend and colleague who studies Golden Hamsters. They are also referred to as Syrian hamsters and yes, the same species of hamster that I and so many other youngsters had/have as children.
There are still wild hamsters left, but they are endangered.
This is an actual picture of a wild Golden Hamster in its native habitat in Turkey.

Check out this interview with Misty McPhee, Biologist and Post-doc, at Cornell University and learn more about the Golden Hamsters and the research she does with the wild version of the hamster in its native country of Turkey. By the way, the countries of Turley and Syria are neighbors. Below is a picture of her next to a poster about her research.
You’ll get to hear my voice!

Finally don't forget to cast your vote for my blog as the Best Science/Tech Blog in the 2008 Black Weblog Awards. Voting ending this Sunday, Aug 31st.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

iNaturalist! I am down with this

Sometimes I complain about the over use of technology. But today I am applauding this great new tool iNaturalist. It's like Google Maps, but focuses on wildlife sitings. I'm telling everybody -- starting with you. This is a perfect way to document your Urban Wildlife sitings. encourages the participation of all nature enthusiasts, including, but not exclusive to, hikers, hunters, birders, beach combers, mushroom foragers, park rangers, ecologists, and fishermen. Through these different perceptions and expertise of the natural world, we hope to create extensive community awareness of local biodiversity. This site combines common web technologies to provide a fun and efficient way to record, find, and share nature observations.

I love this site. One, it is so colorful. I feel like I’m watching HDTV. The site is arranged in 4 major pages.
Observations: this section allows you to post your observations and search for other observations from around the world.
Species: this section is a Biological Encyclopedia; everything is listed and defined according to its nomenclature, each Kingdom, phylum, order, and genus.
People: The members of this e-community and the number of observations they have shared.
ID Please!: Do you have a photo of something you don’t know? Then go to iNaturalist and post the picture in the Forum. Other members will lend their expertise to help you identify it. How great is that?

This is a perfect way to record your Urban Science Adventures! ©
Hat tip to Bora for posting about this. I love it!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

PolarTREC - Bringing Teachers and Researchers Together

Today, I learned about an organization called PolarTREC, which stands for Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating.

It is an educational research experience, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and managed by the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S., in which K-12 teachers participate in polar research, working closely with scientists as a pathway to improving science education.
In celebration of the International Polar Year (2007-2009), a global scientific campaign to advance our understanding of the polar regions, thirty-six U.S. teachers will spend two to six weeks working with a research team in the Arctic or Antarctic, exploring the environments, cultures, history, and science. PolarTREC teachers will learn about cutting-edge scientific research on topics ranging from atmospheric chemistry to seabird ecology and will share their experiences with scientists, educators, communities, and hundreds of students of all ages across the globe.

PolarTREC builds on the past TREC program (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating in the Arctic) to encompass learning experiences in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Visit the TREC website for more information about the 2004-2006 TREC expeditions.
I encourage all of the teachers out there to seriously consider participating in this program, especially if you come from an inner-city school district. This is be a wonderful opportunity to bring some exciting positive press to your districts and students. We need to get the word out that there are great educators and students in oft-overlooked districts. Research Scientists are asked to apply to host a teacher. The deadline to apply is September 8, 2008. The Arctic Adventure will take place during the 2009/2010 school year.
I'm really excited about the International Polar Year Commemoration so stay tuned for more news. I still have news to share from ISBE that's about Polar regions and International Polar Day is coming up - Sept 24, 2008. Be sure to celebrate it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Arctic Researcher wanted

Could you work here?
Beautiful, serene, cold, windy, and sometimes rugged. But always rewarding.
photo courtesy of Vanderbilt University
Seriously, here is a Job/Research Opportunity announcement from the Ecological Society of America

Research Assistant in Arctic Tundra Ecosystems

The Ecosystems Center is seeking a full-time, year-round Research Assistant I or II to participate in a new research project on CO2 exchange and vegetation canopy structure of arctic tundra ecosystems. Exact position will depend upon previous education and experience. In the field, the principal tasks of the assistant will be to participate
in measurements of whole-system CO2 exchange using an infrared gas analyzer system, to measure canopy reflectance using a scanning spectroradiometer, and to make ancillary measurements of soil and canopy microclimate, leaf area, and biomass. In the laboratory, the assistant will participate in data analysis and comparison, in drying and weighing plant and soil samples, and in chemical analysis of plant tissues and soils. Experience with any or all of these techniques is desired.

The expected starting date is flexible but should be sometime between
January and May, 2009.
Applicants should be college graduates with BS or MS degrees, with significant course work and/or field experience in ecology.

Candidates must be able to spend most or all of the summer months in a field camp, Toolik Field Station in northern Alaska; travel to other arctic sites is also planned. During the fall, winter, and spring months the assistant will work at the Ecosystems Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Familiarity with spreadsheets and data analysis and with laboratory chemical analysis of ecological samples is desired.

Physical Requirements
Applicants should be in good health, capable of rigorous outdoor activity (often in foul weather), and prepared to live in a field camp where cooperation with others is essential, personal privacy is limited, and living accommodations are spare and simple.

Special Instructions to Applicants:
Unofficial Transcripts are required documents, but may be uploaded with your application via this web-site or faxed to the Human Resources Office, 508-289-7931. If faxing, please reference this posting.

Apply online at
An Equal Opportunity Employer
If you're too young, just catalog it for future references. This might be your job one day and I'd love to hear about your Arctic Science Adventures!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Links to other 'Urban Science' posts

I was Google Hiking (like Blog Safari a la Electronic Village) and came across some GREAT discoveries out there! Please visit the links and enjoy reading more about urban nature and other urban environmental issues.

Nighttime Wildlife in Central Park New York - from NPR
More evidence that there is a host of interesting wildlife that call cities - even large a large metropolitan area - home. Also, parks are great examples of "refuges" for urban wildlife. Get to know your 'other' neighbors.

Science/Nature things to do with the kids in the Triangle, NC - from Blog Around the Clock
Hey, No Child Left Inside! I know in some places, school has started, but it still feels so good outside. So keep up the momentum and get those busy-bodies outside to play and learn. And trust me, you'll love it too. Lots of great ideas of things to do. But even if you don't live in the Raliegh-Durham area, these are some great starter ideas. And I love this picture of this little girl. She could SO be my little girl...She looks just like me, chubby cheeks and all. That was me at her age.

Trees for Grannies, a Thermoregulating Project by World of Warmth - from Treehugger
This is a neat project. First, it's about researchers who use thermo-imaging to study biological phenomena - everything from how a fever works to how your home's energy efficiency. And with that they found that areas near nursing homes and elder-care centers have some serious thermoregulation issues. So they are promoting eco-community service - Plant trees near nursing homes! It improves the landscape for the centers and provides affordable thermoregulation for these homes. This is a GREAT Service project idea for high school and college students.

California Set to Adopt Nation's First Anti-Sprawl Law - from Treehugger
This is an urban sustainability issues. Living in cities are great, but when cities grow too large, too fast it really stresses our resources - natural resources and municipal capacity.

No Bottled Water in London, Ontario - from Treehugger
What could be so wrong with bottled water? Remember my landfill posts? Well, this city is taking a stand against all of the unnecessary accumulation of these plastic bottles in their landfill. Plus, bottle water isn't always safer water. In this city, the water is clean and safe. Why buy what's already free and safe.

Until later,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Gorges of Ithaca, NY (from ISBE conference)

The campus of Cornell University has several beautiful gorges nestled within its campus.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

2008 Black Weblog Award Finalist in the Science/Tech Category

Thank you so very much for nominating this blog for the 2008 Black Weblog Awards. Urban Science Adventures! © is a finalist in the Science/Tech Category. The competition seems very stiff, so I would really appreciate your continued support. Help me spread my message of environmental education and science outreach to young people and educators.

Over 9,000 nomination votes were cast! Can you believe that?

Initially created to celebrate black blogs and bloggers, the awards platform has evolved from 11 categories (in 2005) to 30 for this year, with each genre awarding both a popular vote, chosen by the general public, and a judges’ pick. Thus, the anticipation for this highly sought-after accolade has reached an all-time high within the black blogosphere and now beyond, garnering the attention of major corporations all vying for cross-promotion and collaborations with the Black Weblog Awards. For more information about the awards and to see the Finalists list visit:

The final round of voting ends on August 31st and the 2008 Black Weblog Award winners will be announced on Thursday, September 4, 2008.
One thing to keep in mind, the voting process requires you to vote in every category.

Now, I need you - AND all of your email friends - to vote for me. Voting ends Aug 31.

Competition is VERY stiff.

Thanks so much again,


Monday, August 18, 2008

Scientist as a Science Outreach Professional

I admit it is a pleasant challenge trying to figure out HOW to present science on this blog for general audiences. Albeit my limited training in Interpretation has certainly made me more cognizant of how hard it can be for a traditionally-trained science professional to present science to lay people. It really is interpretation or translation in the literal sense -- finding examples or words to explain things (about science) that are more relevant and real and practical to everyday people.

While at conference or at departmental seminars I hear talks or read dense scientific papers and I am in awe. In the information is so real and interesting to me, but I imagine if any one of my friends were with me, he/she would fall asleep after all the snazzy pictures and videos. The method and format and delivery and presentation of the information for science audiences is its own beast. The framing or Theme Selection as I have learned is different, too. I definitely have my work cut out for me as I try to navigate in both worlds – Science and Science Interpretation/Outreach. But I know it is important work, and not just because it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

Interpreting current and relevant science research and discoveries and sharing it with the public is an essential professional duty of scientists. For one, the discoveries we make are designed to inform the entire world and contribute to the world catalog of knowledge. We do it to learn more so that our societies can make wiser decisions about our lives, our communities, and our future. It’s not “our” information to keep. Second, most science is publicly financed. Tax payers and general citizens contribute to government agencies like the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control, and many more. These agencies distribute money to teams of researchers and institutions to go out and discover and learn. And your state tax dollars fund science research, too. Distributions to colleges and universities include the salaries, equipment, and supply costs for professors and graduate students who are the researchers who do this work.

Because of the need to share the science with the public, agencies like the NSF are requiring research teams to outline how they will share science with general audiences. Whenever a researcher submits a grant request, he/she must explain how they will not only make a scientific impact but also a broader impact on society. In other words, how will they share their work or opportunities with under-represented groups of society? Will they share or disseminate the results of the study to people beyond other scientists? Will they establish and maintain relationships with other educational professionals, such as K-12 teachers, or instructors from junior colleges or rural or inner-city areas that seldom have the opportunity to interact with researchers or university faculty?

And if I can figure out a way to present science and research in a way that is engaging and relatively quick to produce, then I plan to establish a professional niche for myself. So look out for more.

Friday, August 15, 2008

ISBE Conference was great, but now I'm headed home.

The conference was everything I needed -- stimulating, great networking, reuniting with old friends, learning about future opportunities and having fun.

I know Scientists catch a bad rap at times, but really, we are human beings. We simply love what we do, it's just that not alot people can relate to a job where you ask questions all of the time, do lots of reading, writing and researching, and talking to other "egg-heads" as my mother calls it.

Behavioral Ecology as a lot of great things going on. I attended the most exicting and best plenary talk of my life my Ken Catania of Vanderbilt University.

I visited lots of poster presentations and will in turn share what I learned with you, so please be on the lookout for posting about:

  • Least terns that nest on the rooftops of warehouse buildings in Dallas
  • Rockhopper Pigeons of the Faulkland Islands
  • Mexican Jays that discriminate between larger and smaller food items
  • Great nature photos of Ithaca, NY -- there are Gorges on the campus!
In the meantime, if you have a facebook account Photos from Conference on my Facebook page. And please sign up to be my friend. I'd like that.

Rest up for the first day of school. It should be coming soon for most of you.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Urban Science Adventures gives a Shout Out to the Big Doc - Dentist from the Hood

Big Doc is the rap name of Dentist Marrio Thomas. Hailing from South Memphis, TN (a.k.a. Funky Town or 1-Town), Dr. Thomas is ra ole model to inner-city kids and promotes dental hygience with hip-hop. I'm also from South Memphis and went to college with Marrio and I am so proud of his success and outreach.

Dentristry in the Hood....That is an Urban Science Adventure!
Check out the full story: 'Big Doc' on the case: East Memphis dentist produces album of child-oriented rap
Check out his video Call Big Doc.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Cast my Black Weblog Nominations today - Updates from ISBE

I just posted my nominations for the Black Weblog Awards!

According to a note by the Black Weblog Award Founder/Administrator - Markus Robinson - on Facebook, over 1000 entries have been submitted as of last Thursday (Aug 7).

A big fat THANK YOU to all who have nominated this blog!

ISBE Conference updates

1. Cornell is impossibly hilly - and huge, but beautiful. This campus is so wide. I had hope to come across the famous founding location of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. No such luck as yet.

2. I'm having a great time. Catching up with conference friends and former lab mates, even getting some work done on one of my manuscripts. And hearing the best talks about urban wildlife and related issues. I heard the best talk ever about moles, shrews and earthworms. I can't wait to write an Urban Wildlife Watch posts about these animals. And I have been granted some great interviews. I can't wait to share some really great science research news with you.

3. It is confirmed, Jerry Wolff is with the Great Spirit in the Sky. I haven't been provided sordid details, but a former student of his confirms that he indeed returned his body and spirit to a VERY remote wilderness. It is what he wanted. But I prefer to think that he's living fat and happy on a Mormon Compound enjoying the pleasure of young blonde naive girls. Ahh!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Urban Whale

That is the title of a new text book published by Harvard University Press. There is an entire chapter on Urban Oceans and Marine Life. It gives accounts of the impact of commercial fishing and boating on marine communities that live near commercial fishing towns,

An Urban Whale – the thought had never crossed my mind. In fact an urban aquatic anything had completely escaped me. How is that possible? I’ve lived near the Mighty Mississippi River my entire life. How could I have completely slept on the fact that was indeed Urban Aquatic communities? I have an obvious terrestrial bias. I’ll work to remedy that. I’ll feature more aquatic organisms in my Urban Wildlife Watch Series.
And so as not to leave you hanging here is a list of common aquatic organisms.

  • Catfish
  • Buffalo fish
  • Trout
  • Minnows
  • Sturgeons
  • Asian Carp (invasive species)
  • Crawfish
  • Beaver
  • Muskrat
  • Waterfowl like geese, ducks, herons, egrets
  • Mosquito, worms and other invertebrates

Update: Related to this post I am linking to a new marine ecology blog I discovered - Right Whale of Fundy Blog, operated by the New England Aquarium. I'm adding it to the Blogroll, too.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Greetings from ISBE - Cornell University

I'm attending a scientific conference this week at Cornell University - the 12th Bienneal Congress of the the Internationail Society for Behavioral Ecology. Behavioral Ecology is the scientific study of animal behavior that evaluates animal behavior in the context of an animal's relationship to the environment, its social group, its predators, its prey -- everything. It evaluates the costs and benefits of behavior as it relates to a species ability to survive and thrive (reproduce).

This is one of the largest science conferences I've ever attended. There are over 1000 behavioral ecologists attending this meeting, most presenting their research to peers. I'm not presenting a paper, but I am making some great connections with some people. In fact, I'll be sharing some latest and greatest behavior research findings with you. Already, I've met some great researchers doing some interesting work with a variety of animals. Conference is great - There are hundreds of people talking about all of these neat and exciting findings in the Animal Kingdom. It's like a whole series of trailers for an upcoming Animal Planet/National Geographic?Discovery Channel special.

Be sure to tune back in.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Book Review: Pre-K Books

Today, I am recommending two lovely read-a-long picture books about flying animals. Both books are perfect for your toddlers through grade 1 children.

Hello, Bumblebee Bat by Darrin Lunde, Illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne

This is the story of the tiniest bat in the world– the Bumblebee Bat of Thailand. The bat is actually the size of a bumblebee! Using a simple Q&A style, the author introduces readers to this amazing creature of conservation concern. He describes how they hunt for moths to eat, avoid predators like owls, and how the bat lives in large colonies in caves. The illustrations are very eye-popping as well. The prose is simple and easy to read. Soon, your youngsters may be reciting the line to you.

Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre, Illustrated by Steve Jenkins.

This is the story of North America’s most common vulture – the Turkey Vulture. During Spring, Summer, and Autumn months in Missouri, you can see soaring black silhouettes circling in the warm sky above. The story of the Turkey Vulture is presented with several short poems on each page, along with bold illustrations of vultures at work. And they do important work for the environment – they eat meat from dead animals! The details in the back of the book provide more in-depth information about the species, its habits, and way of life. This is a perfect book to read before a nature outing with your young ones.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Book Review - Ecology and World Biomes

As a member of the Animal Behavior Society's Children Book Award Committee I get to review dozens of children's books each year. This year I had the pleasure of reviewin a phenonmenal series about Biomes. It is a perfect primer to ecology. Each book describes physical environment, features the plant, animal, and bug life of each biome, and introduces young readers, grades 1-3, to key vocabulary terms. Each book is very easy to read, 25 pages, and the photographs of animals and landscapes are breath taking.

The Series is produced by Scholastic News Nonfiction Readers.

A Home on the Tundra by Katie Marsico

A Home on the Savanna by Susan Labella

A Home in the Swamp by David C. Lion

A Home on the Prairie by David C. Lion

A Home in the Rain Forest by Christine Taylor-Butler

A Home in the Coral Reef by Christine Taylor-Butler

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Polar Bears and Climate Change

International Polar Year is scientific celebration and research program that celebrates the unique ecosystems and habitats of the North and South Poles. It is also an educational campaign to document these biomes before they are no more. Climate change and global warming are threatening EVERYTHING we know to be real in the world. Losing a biome is a travesty -- it would mean loss of innocent life, the compromised ability for people and animals to feed and shelter ourselves, and the complete altering our our weather and season patterns which impacts our agriculuture and ways of living.

Right now, polar bears, the top predator of the northern polar region is seriously threatened with extinction. The World Wildlife Federation has a new TV campaign to make people aware of how climate change is affecting polar bears and other animals. Polar bears are at risk of extinction due to melting and thinning arctic ice, and could disappear by the end of this century if we don't take action. Can you imagine how awful that would be.
Actor and WWF supporter Noah Wyle generously donated his time to record this important message about polar bears at risk. Watch this two-minute video right now.

Help me in sharing this message and working to make our world a place were NO animal dies from the face of the earth in our or our children's lifetimes.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Nominate this Blog for the 2008 Black Weblog Award!

The 2008 Black Weblog Award Nomination Process is now open until August 16, 2008. There are 30 categories and one is The Best Science/Technology Blog! I would REALLY appreciate it if you would nominate my Blog - Urban Science Adventures! © for the best science/tech category. I can't nominate myself, so it's all up to you and your friends.

If you are not an avid blog reader, I would certainly encourage you to check out some blogs. Check out this Black blog aggregator: to discover some great blogs. But I warn you it’s like going down a rabbit hole.
Be sure to nominate this blog for:

The Rules:

The Categories:

Nomination Form: can get started right from there.

Other Blogs I like and I will nominate are:
Best Culture Blog
This category is for blogs which talk about Black culture and/or the African diaspora in a multifaceted and dynamic way.

Best Group Blog
This category is for a single blog which is updated by a group of people (two or more people). This blog can be about any topic. Posts must indicate who the author is for each one; it cannot be one person masquerading as different people (for judging purposes).
Young Black Professional Guide

Best Humor Blog
This category is for humor blogs or blogs which feature humorous content.

Best International Blog
This category is for blogs of any topic that are based in countries other than the United States. The country of origin for the blog must be clearly identified (for judging purposes).
David McQueen

Best Photo Blog
This category is for blogs which feature the blog author’s photographs. A majority of the content (over 90%) must be photos taken by the author. No Getty Images snatching, please.
The People Could Fly

Best Podcast
This category highlights podcasts—serialized audio files available to download—on any topic. Podcasts must be available for download (mp3 format); no strict Flash audio sites unless there’s an option for downloading the shows (for judging purposes).
Delta SEE Radio

Best Video Blog
This category highlights blogs which feature original video content by the blog’s author on any topic. Blog content must be primarily video content (at least 90% of posts, for judging purposes). We are not looking for blogs with Youtube clips of music videos -- this must all be original content by the author.
People Could Fly

Best Writing in a Blog
This category is for blogs which have exceptional writing. This category is judged not on a single post basis, but on the overall posts of the blog.
The Black Snob

Blog to Watch
This category highlights the best “undiscovered” blog in the blogosphere; keep your eye on this one! This is for that great blog that not everyone knows about…but should!
Science To Life

Friday, August 01, 2008

Chicago Wilderness - Urban Ecology on a Grand Scale

I was wishing I could attend the annual Ecological Society of America conference this morning. I felt really bad when I learned there would be a special session on Studying Chicago Wilderness: An Urban Conservation Model as a Regional Interdisciplinary Laboratory.

Come to find out Chicago Wilderness is an organization - a 12-year-old consortium of 225 member organizations working together with the common mission of conserving the biodiversity of the Chicago metropolitan region. Chicago Wilderness is a regional nature reserve that includes more than 225,000 acres of protected natural lands. It stretches from southeastern Wisconsin, through northeastern Illinois and into northwestern Indiana.

The protected lands in Chicago Wilderness are forest preserves, state parks, federal lands, county preserves, and privately owned lands. There are also many unprotected natural areas that offer refuge to native wildlife. This is an urban ecology and conservation group – a large one. The coalition works together to develop and implement a comprehensive regional plan for biodiversity conservation which connects multiple landowners, as well as scientific and educational institutions, and engages the region's citizens in ecological restoration and biological monitoring. Wow! Isn’t that exciting?

The session at the conference will cover topics such as historical overview, key projects in conservation planning, education, and progress on developing research agendas in natural and social sciences. I wish I was there.

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