Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Thanksgiving

I took these photos at Litszinger Road Ecology Center (an Urban Nature Reserve) spring 2006.

Two Tom Turkeys (males) facing off.

Two Tom Turkeys trying to impress a Hen Turkey (female).
Can you see her? She's much smaller and to the right of the males.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Broken Urban Landscape

This post is a submission to this week’s Thematic Photographic 25 - Broken. These pictures were taken July 2006 when a tremendous windstorm blew through the Midwest. It was devastating.

Several hundred, perhaps thousands of trees, were felled and split. Most of them were seemingly healthy large trees. But upon closer inspection they all had a hollow saw dust center or deep black strikes in the interior. These are signs of tree sickness and decay. The storm did a perfect job of culling these sickly trees.

Less common were instances of younger healthier trees being split and taken down. The internal wood was light and healthy and moist.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Update on my Contest and Media Adventures

Last week was a whirlwind week. Remember? I told you all about it with the post Having my own Adventures! Contests, Media and More.

Here is how the week ended.

1. The Blogging Scholarship Contest by College - I did not win. But I am still very honored and excited to have made the finalist list. A hearty congratulations goes to the winner of the contest David Mauro (author of Burnt Orange Report); he gave the early favorite Dave Cameron (author of USS Mariner).
I am very satisfied with my showing, 547 votes total. Despite all of the feed reading services I subscribe to I am never certain of my reach. Thank you to everyone who voted, sent emails, solicited supported, and tried to vote but could not. But in a way I feel like I did win. My page gained a lot of exposure from this contest and I hope I have earned some new readers/fans.

2. AAAS Dance Your Ph.D. Contest. I did not win this one either. But, again I got a lot of exposure. Did you see me on ABC News? Seriously, check out the story on ABC News Webcast – Technology and Science. I make a quick cameo appearance. Tee hee hee.
Plus, my Microtus Shuffle Video has over 3000 views in a week. That’s the most popular video I have posted. I should also this and my other urban Science Adventures on ScienceTV. But just learning how to use Vimeo has me swamped.
3. Made new Friends. I made some new online friends.
a. Mario Armstrong. A BIG THANK YOU to him for letting me speak to his radio audience. Last Wednesday (19th) I was on his show - Digital Spin Radio Show on WEAA - 88.9 FM, Baltimore’s NPR and Jazz Radio Station.
b. Lisa of Lisa’s Chaos. I met her and her husband for breakfast this weekend. We discovered we share a love for the outdoors, nature photography, and Cracker Barrel.

Whew! I’m tired and must get back to work.
Thanks for your continued support and visits.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Increasing Diversity in the Sciences

“The very large racial Ph.D. gap in the natural sciences is striking when we examine black Ph.D. awards in specific disciplines.” * I am all-too-familiar with this fact. I am the only African-American Ph.D. student in my academic department. That will make me the second African-American to earn a doctorate in Biology from my institution. People spout off statistics all of the time, in fact I heard that on average there are only 10 Black Ph.D.s in Biology a year. That seems low, but the fact is Blacks who obtain doctorate degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is often a single digit percentage point.
* Quote from the article Doctoral Degree Awards to African Americans Reach Another All-Time High in Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

Faced with these numbers I am relieved to discover programs that aim to attract and retain more Black students to study math and science. I recently learned about the Benjamin Banneker Institute for Science and Technology. The Institution spearheads a variety of programs with one goal in mind: increase the participation of young people in science and technology. One of their programs is the Decade of Blacks in Science 2007-2017.

(From the website)
The Decade of Blacks in Science is a campaign to mobilize, co-ordinate and coalesce the human and material resources needed to solve the problem of the low level of participation by African Americans in STEM fields.

However, this lack of representation isn’t just a concern of Black Academics. It is on the agenda of the entire scientific community. Universities and Professional Science Organizations alike have committees that are devoted to this very topic – increasing diversity – in the classroom, the laboratory, and the professoriate.

But it all starts with one question. What is going on with the pipeline?
How can we encourage students to major in science in college? How can we encourage them to go to graduate school? Where can we find qualified students to recruit into Ph.D. programs?

First, students of color, and of particular interest to me, Black students need to accept the idea that science is a viable, realistic, and pursuable career and line of study. More and more we realize we need to reach students at younger ages. High school may be too late to cultivate an interest in science – at least it seems so. Second, recruitment strategies may need change. Most doctorate degrees in STEM are obtained at majority institutions, however historically Black institutions produce more students with bachelor degrees who go on to complete Ph.D.s.** HBCUs are essentially preparatory programs for future Black Scientists and Engineers.
** From the article Who Produces Black PhDs? In Inside Higher Ed

I plan to spend some time discussing pipeline and retention of students of color in the sciences at the ScienceOnline09 Conference this January during the Race in science – online and offline Workshop. In the meantime, I encourage you to share with me your thoughts and proposed solutions to this diversity issue.

Article originally posted at

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson Visits St. Louis

I was reading a local weekly paper – The St. Louis American – and there on the front page was *drum rolls* Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson! He was in St. Louis last week to talk with students from the St. Louis Science Center "YES” (Youth Exploring Science) Program. It is a great outreach program that works with local teens and gives them hands on learning and career opportunities in science.

* long pause and confusing frown on face*

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson was in St. Louis and nobody told me? The awesome and grand NdGT was in my town and it was not heralded from every trumpet and posted on the news and internet. Wha..What?!!

If you’re like the average person you’re probably thinking - Who? But if you’re one of those nerd-groupies (like me) you’re already jumping in the air with fists and voices raised in outrage.
You see, Dr. Tyson is the MAN. He is an astrophysicist and director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium. You may recognize his voice as the NOVA's "Origins" miniseries. He is a big deal. Moreover he is perhaps the most recognizable and popular Black Scientist of modern times. And as an aspiring Black Scientist and Educator, he is my role model for Science Outreach. I am still miffed; but be sure to read the article about Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s visit to St. Louis.

Also check out his official webpage and listen to his podcasts, including "Communicating Science to the Public" Point of Inquiry Podcast - November 16, 2007.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wordless Wednesdays: Leaf Litter

Various Maples Leaf Litter

Ash Leaf Litter

Sycamore Leaf Litter

Pine Needles
all pictures taken in St. Louis, MO-Benton Park, Tower Grove Park.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Having my own Adventures! Contests, Media and More

This has been an exciting time! Very exciting. I have several updates.

1. My ranking in the Nature Blog Network has peaked. I'm in the top 100, my best ranking so far - #87 out of 500+ Fabulous nature blogs. Thanks for visiting and leaving comments.

2. Wordless Wednesday seems to be my most successful series of posts. I;ll continue to share my photographs of nature and environmental science.

3. My Urban Wildlife Watch Watch Series has more entries. The one about Osage Orange Trees has been very popular, but the one about Winged Ants is still one of my most popular posts ever. I plan to do more of these and submit them to carnivals. I've previously submitted two posts to Oekologie Carnival this summer and I keep thinking about submitting something to the Carnival of the Green. Recently, I submitted something to the Festival of the Trees, oh and I'll be posting more about trees for the weeks to come. I haven't become a botanist or arborist, but trees are always there. I can always catch a great photo shot of a tree. Besides, trees are so dynamic, and now with many turning and losing leaves for autumn it's like a whole new thing to photograph and share.

4. The Blogging Scholarship Competition is heating up, but I'm still way behind. You can still help me. Email everyone about the competition and ask them to vote for me - Danielle Lee. Cross-post are very nice. Shouts to all of the support and cross-posts.
The Oyster's Garter
Women in Science
Black Web 2.0
Young Black Professional Guide (I wrote this one, just to be transparent)

I've also been invited to talk about the Blogging Scholarship and some of my other bogging ativities on Mario Armstrong's Digital Spin Radio Show on WEAA - 88.9 FM, Baltimore’s NPR and Jazz Radio Station. You can listen live on the internet Wednesday, November 19th, 7p-8p Eastern Standard Time. So please tune in...and vote!

5. My other Blogging Activities...
a. Co-moderating a workshop at the 3rd Annual ScienceOnline Conference, January 16-18, in Research Triangle, NC. I was also mentioned on AAAS Science Careers Blog. I'll be co-moderating the session on Race and Science: Online and Offline with Samia Ansari. Even if you can't attend the conference you can still participate in the discussion. Visit the Conference Program and wiki and share your concerns about diversity in the sciences and proposals to increase participation. These topics will be discussed and vetted at the conference and a final report will be posted online.

b. I submitted a video of a dance interpretation of my dissertation to the AAAS 2009 Dance Your Ph.D. Contest. I'm the first video on the official contest page, how crazy, but 1st place is attending the AAAS meeting in Chicago, guest of honor, 2 nights hotel accomodation, and seeing my dance performed by professional dancers. Aaah when arts and sciences come together. Results will be announced this Thursday (same day the Blogging Scholarship ends) Two questions: 1) can I list this video as a peer-reviewed publication on my CV? it is, kinda; and 2) can I just show this video for my public oral dissertation defense? I doubt anyone would fall asleep during this presentation.

DNLee - Taking Science Outreach Waaay Out There.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fellowships to Study Urban Ecology

Urban Ecology is a very new discipline within the fields of ecology and environmental sciences; and it means slightly different things to different people. Very broadly it is the study of plant and animal interactions with in an urban or human-built environment. But it also includes the study of how humans affect the natural landscape, how plants and animals survive human encroachment, and how we (humans) can create an urban world that is balanced and respects nature.

If you are college student (or know one) who is interested in Urban Ecology then you (or he/she) should seriously consider attending Arizona State University in Tempe and apply for a National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) Fellowship.

The main objective of the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) in Urban Ecology is to educate a new kind of life, earth, or social scientist who is broader, more flexible, more collaborative, and more adept at linking science and social issues.

Arizona State University's IGERT in Urban Ecology will be accepting applications for Fellowships and Associateships for students who can begin their studies fall 2009. The Fellowship applications are for 2 years and one summer of support for approved summer activities (Fall 2009/ Spring 2010, Summer 2010, and Fall 2010/ Spring 2011). Applicants may apply for one additional summer (2009) of support before they being their first academic year as an Urban IGERT fellow. This is the perfect amount of time to obtain a Master’s degree.

To be considered for this support, include in your Fellow application form a brief plan including who the supervisor will be. Recipients must be at ASU during the summer 2009 or working closely with an Urban IGERT faculty person. Visit the department website, School of Sustainability, the Nation’s first School of Sustainability to learn more about the faculty.

Deadline: Application review process begins February 1, 2009.

Residual questions regarding ASU's IGERT program should be directed to:
Gail Ryser, Program Coordinator IGERT in Urban Ecology
Global Institute of Sustainability
Arizona State University
Box 875402 Tempe AZ 85287-5402
P 480.965.6073 F 480.965.8087

Good luck!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Power of Plants Contest for K-12 Students in Missouri and Illinois

The Missouri Botanical Garden is sponsoring a contest that helps students learn about the awesome power of plants and gives them a chance to win $1,000!

How can you participate?
The Missouri Botanical Garden would like students to learn more about plants! Some plants are just AMAZING —they grow in special ways, can survive in harsh climates, or provide humans with things that we use everyday. So, here’s the challenge:

Choose a plant that does great things for people and tell its story!
Create something to tell the world about your plant and send it to the Missouri Botanical Garden. You must include factual information about your plant’s super powers. Winners will be displayed at the Garden and on our website.

How does the contest work?
Participants can enter as an individual and/or part of a group. Entries will be divided into elementary, middle, and high school age groups. There will be a first, second, and third place winner, as well as Honorable Mentions for each of the three age groups in the individual and group categories. All participants must complete the Entry Form.

It's easy. 5 hours of class or after-school time can easily result in a big payoff.
1 hour: Brainstorm about all of the important things we get from plants
1 hour: Pick a plant and research its special characteristics in the library or on-line
1 hour: Draft a way to tell the world about why the plant is powerful
2 hours: Create a final project and submit for the contest by January 31st
5 hours: Learn about the power of plants in a fun and creative way!

You must create a unique and creative presentation like this image below. It tells us everything we need to know about the plant and how it helps us and it is creative and colorful. And I'm quite partial to pink to green...I think this image is both beautiful and aspiring.
Deadline submission is January 31 and is open only to Missouri and Illinois students (sorry, but it's still a great project idea...I say do it anyway and present in your school fair or for a school project or extra credit).

Get the full details about the project, objectives, submission guidelines, and deadlines here.

Please let me know if you decide to do this project. I would like to know how it goes. Plus, I am willing to offer any help and advice possible. Remember this website is a resource. Don't hesitate to use it.

Have fun with it!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Deer found on Urban University's Campus

Photo credit – Washington University Students
Check out the Washington University Student Paper Story which includes more great shots of the deer on campus taken by students.

Earlier this week this yearling deer had been observed on campus - eating grass and just hanging around Washington University campus. The college is an urban campus in the heart of St. Louis, Missouri. It had been gently lead away from campus on Monday, but was back Tuesday morning. Since it wasn’t causing any trouble the grounds keepers let it be. It was an exciting day on campus but everyone pretty much admired the deer from a distance and did not startle it, which was the right thing to do.

When you encounter wildlife you may tempted to do one things.
A) Get excited and want to touch it, feed it, or help it – anything to get closer to it.
B) Get scared and want to shoo it away, throw something at or run – anything to get some distance from it.

I was that kid who did A, oh heck let me stop kidding, I’m that adult who wants to do A, that’s why I became a biologist. But the truth is both A and B are inappropriate.

Handling wild animals is risky and as a professional I have been trained to handle animals and more importantly, I assume the risk of handling an animal. That risk includes being injured. So I must insist you don’t do A, no matter how tempting….and I do understand how tempting it is. B is also wrong, too. Why? Startling can cause panic – in you and animal and panic results in unpredictable movements and actions. Panic leads to injury and we do not want that. If you remain calm, then very likely so will the animal. Remember, safety first, yours and the animals.

However, I’m convinced deer are very smart animals who can tell time. This time of year, autumn, is hunting season. I bet this guy was scouting out some ‘safe’ place to hang out for the season. And what’s safer than a college campus with students and faculty who are tolerant of cute woodland creatures? Almost nothing else. But seriously, this guy braved a few obstacles to get to the heart of campus. More than likely his primary home range is Forest Park which is across the street from the University. He had to cross a very busy five-lane street, so he is a lucky fellow. And I need to say this, I say he out of habit. I am not sure if the yearling is a male or female, but typically female young stay close to their mothers and males go off on their own.

Check out the news reel - Deer Turns Heads On Wash U Campus from KTVI -
Now, this was an Urban Science Adventure!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wordless Wednesdays: Scenes of Autumn

I'm participating in the Thematic Photographic 23 - Autumn. Written Inc. asked for something more than pictures of leaves, but lately that’s all I’ve been snapping.

Autumn scenes in St. Louis - various trees - Sycamores, Crab Apples, Oaks and some unknown species.

Scenes of Autumn in Tennesse - Cumberland Plateau, from Cookeville to Knoxville - various trees - Crap Apple, Gingko


I love Fall. Can’t you tell.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Blog for Science - Blogging Scholarship Finalist. I need your vote.

I am honored to be a finalist for the College Scholarships Blogging Scholarship Competition. I am one of 20 finalists for my blog Urban Science Adventures! ©.

To qualify for this scholarship I shared with review board Why I Started Blogging. Here is my short essay.

A few years ago, a friend casually joked that I should host my own television program. I was always recounting my laboratory and field adventures of studying prairie voles. He thought I would make a great host of a science program that was specifically marketed to urban youth. For a long time I chuckled at his suggestion, but then I started thinking how there aren’t any science programs for that market. So I started blogging as an outlet – a way to share environmental science and urban ecology to general audiences.

In a workshop for nature interpreters, I was challenged to develop an acronym from my name – DNLee: Demystifying Nature, Letting Everyone Experience – that is my purpose. I am an online guide that introduces urban ecology to my readers. Every living thing from microbes to lichens to squirrels, birds and trees are members of our urban communities. They live in our yards, neighborhood parks, empty lots, and public fishing ponds. Every day these microbes, insects, fungi, plants, and animals struggle to survive in our human-crafted world claiming space, searching for food, avoiding predators, confronting disease, dodging injury from lawn mowers, cars and other types of human activity, mating, securing a home, and raising young.

I imagine I am training a whole host of young urban naturalists and future scientists. My objectives are to cultivate keen observation and critical thinking skills of my readers and help them appreciate the nature that has been sharing space with them all along. I believe urban nature appreciation is a gateway to environmental activism and responsible living, as well as an inspiration to pursue studies in ecology, conservation and science.

I am a Biologist and a Blogger; and I share Science.


The final round of the competition comes down to a public vote. Will you support me?
My profile is listed here along with other finalists. I am the last one listed.
To vote click on this link.
Click on my name. Danielle Lee. The results are published in real time.
Voting ends at 11:59pm PST on Thursday, November 20th, 2008. The winners will be announced the following day.

Thank you,

Monday, November 10, 2008

Urban Wildlife Watch: Osage Orange Trees

This is the Osage Orange tree, scientific name Maclura pomifera. This tree and many others like it grows in a city park in St. Louis, Missouri. A friend and I were walking in the park and noticed the very distinct fruit of this tree, called Horse Apples. I grew up in the Mid-South and I remember these trees from my youth, but he grew up in north part of the Mid-west and he does not. This tree, a native species of the United States, does have a limited geographic range or distribution and is common in the Great Plains region.

Some Osage Orange trees bear fruit and some do not. The trees that bear fruit are female. Judging by how successful these trees are there must be some male trees nearby but I do not did not photograph any. I depend on distinct characteristics to help me identify plants and trees. I only took pictures of females because the fruit helps me to easily identify this species.

The fruit is large and heavy. As you can see here, about the size of a soft-ball.
And no I didn't photo shop the picture of the softball, that's its color, nearly the same as that of the horse apple.
Inside are the seeds and they look a lot like sunflower seeds to me. The fruit smells like oranges, and squirrels and other forest animals don't readily eat them. However farm animals like Horse, of course and cattle have been known to eat them. That's where the common names come from.

Finally check out my video, which also happens to be my very first attempt at a Video Blog.

Related Posts with Thumbnails