Friday, January 30, 2009

Summer Ecology Research Opportunity for Undergrads

Remember when I was saying that undergraduate research is a good thing? Well, fresh off of the Ecological Society of America ECOLOG presses, here is a FABULOUS opportunity.

Summer Research Program in the Arkansas Ozarks Assessment and Sustainable Management of Ecosystem Services

The University of Arkansas is conducting a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)this coming summer of (2009). The program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and will host up to 15 undergraduates students who have completed at least 3 semesters of coursework. The focus of this REU is on field-based research on ecological services, and each student will work with a faculty mentor on issues ranging from water quality to ecology of birds and black bears in the Ozarks. Doesn't this sound like a blast?

The program works primarily with federally recognized Native American tribes and Native American students. However, all other interested students are encouraged to apply. This means you.

It is a 10-week program, which includes a one-week emersion course on field methods, 8 weeks of intensive Research Experience and a one week Data Analysis and Symposia. Expect to spend alot of time outside working hard, thinking hard and learning new things. You'll also prepare a presentation to present to others at the end. If it's really great, you should consider presenting it at a professional science conference the following year.

Room and board are included at the University of Arkansas, as well as a $400 weekly stipend and a travel allowance.
Program Dates: 1 June to 7 August 2009
Stipend $4000, onsite room and board, round-trip travel costs
Detailed Program Information is available at

Application deadline is approaching - February 15, 2009
Start now and secure recommendation letters and transcripts.

For applications and more information, contact:
Heather Sandefur
207 Engineering
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701
ofc #: 479.575.7585
email: hsandef[at]
Questions about this program can also be directed to
Dr. Marty Matlock - mmatlock[at], or Dr. Kimberly Smith - kgsmith[at]
Good luck!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Snow Tunnel

I’m participating in Thematic Photographic 33 - Surprise.
I was in Racine, Wisconsin for the holidays and discovered this perfect hole in the 18 inch snow next to my parents’ home. There was also a trail of small animal tracks leading away from that hole. Everything was all white so my camera could not capture the tracks. But the family dog was very interested in the spot. I think it was a mole or shrew tunnel and tracks. What a great surprise-wildlife find.

Non-distinct animal tracks Tunnel

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Review: Books about Bugs!

Bugs Up Close

Author: Diane Swanson
Photographs by: Paul Davidson
Publisher: Kids Can Press, Limited

This is a great introductory book to bugs for kids. When I was younger I would run, screaming and kicking if an icky bug got too close to me. Yes, despite spending endless summer days outside, I was such a typical girl when it came to bugs. But if I had this great picture book, I might have taken the time to observe bugs more closely. The book is full of great up-close photos of all kinds of bugs, like bees, Daddy Long-Legs, spiders, wasps, and grasshoppers. It even explains the different parts of the body, mouth-parts, how different kinds of bugs eat, survive and reproduce.

B& N Synopsis

In real life, this katydid would be about the size of a raisin, but through Paul Davidson's powerful camera lens, you get to see it super-sized. What else will you see in Bugs Up Close? A fly magnified to the size of a man's shoe, the lenses in a dragonfly's eyes, the hair on a bee's legs and much more. Plus bug-lover Diane Swanson will tell you about the buggy bits, such as antennae, wings and weapons, that help make insects the most numerous and widespread animals on Earth.

Did you know?: Some insects molt more than 50 times, shedding their exoskeletons as they grow. A grasshopper can travel a distance 15 times its body length in one leap. Some small flies flap their wings 1000 times a second. Many insects smell with their antennae, and some taste with their feet. A single egg laid by some species of wasps may produce up to 1000 new wasps. Bugs Up Close features common North American insects, such as mosquitoes and ladybugs. The index of insects and superb close-ups will help learn about the bugs in your neighborhood.

Don’t Squash That Bug!
Author: Natalie Rompella
Publisher: Lobster Press

I recommend this book for young students and early readers in grades pre-K-2. It is mostly a picture book with snippets of information about bugs, their natural history and behavior. It is also a perfect outdoor activity book for the nature walks, outdoor adventures or nature hours. What makes this book so great is that it introduces young readers and adults alike to the twelve orders of insects. This is definitely a must-have book for your aspiring entomologist.

B&N Synopsis

This fun book introduces young readers to the insect world, presenting fundamental information alongside interesting, little-known facts. Bold, bright, and packed with colorful photos, fascinating sidebars, a helpful glossary, and tips for where to find bugs, this a must-have for curious backyard explorers. Once kids discover how amazing insects can be, they'll go from squashing bugs to studying them up close! Content evaluated by Zack Lemann, Staff Entomologist with the Audubon Nature Institute, and Steve Sullivan, curator of the Chicago Academy of Sciences and Notebaert Nature Museum.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Appreciating Sharks and other Predators in an Ecosystem

Today there is a Shark Fin Soup Protest in San Francisco's China Town. I'm sure the organizers planned this protest as an awareness campaign to coincide with the first day of Chinese (Lunar) New Year.

Shark Fin Soup is Chinese meal that has been enjoyed as a special occasion meal for hundreds of years, since the Ming Dynasty. The dish is tied closely to an entire culture for a very long time. However, human impact on nature and the ecosystems of the world has brought us to a new day. A day that requires us all to reconsider some of our traditions so that we can sustain our lives for the future. We can no longer consume resources and not think about the short and long-term impact of our decisions.

With today being to beginning of the Chinese New Year, and the protest being staged in America's most famous (and oldest) Chinatown, I am hesitant to bring unpleasant attention to a community when they/we are celebrating the greatness of a culture. However, it is a perfect time to garner attention to a very important issue. I support the boycott of shark fin soup because of the conservation implications of it.

Why Shark Fin Soup is A Conservation Issue?

Sharks are very important marine predators. Like wolves or bears or hawks that live on land, sharks are the top predators in the ocean. Predators are important for keeping prey species numbers and distribution in check. Without predators, prey species will breed and reproduce generations of babies with nothing more than weather or chance to keep them from over populating an area. When a species grows too big and too fast, the competition for food and space can become intense. Individuals of the same species will fight for food and space with an intensity unknown before. As resources become more scarce (because there are so many eating everything up) starvation becomes more common. And whatever you think of wild animals, starving is perhaps the most unpleasant way for life to come to an end. But that is exactly what happens when a population's growth out-paces the growth of its food resources. Moreover, communicable diseases become more common. With so many individuals living so close to each other, it makes spreading disease, viruses, and parasites too easy. This also leads to unpleasant die-offs of animals.
These are the reasons why predators are important.

Sharks are members of the ocean ecosystem and I would hate for the world to lose another great species. If you want to learn more about sharks and marine ecosystems, then
check out these great books about marine predators (and prey):
Tough, Toothy Baby Sharks by Sandra Markle
Or visit my friends Marine blogs and these websites to learn more.

Deep-Sea News including a post about Shark Ballet, you must check it out.
Southern Fried Science (I assure you, it is a Marine Blog)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Urban Wildlife Watch: Squirrels and Dreys

This is my second post in honor of Squirrel Appreciation Day. When I first asked myself - "What wild animals live in big cities?" Squirrels (and birds) were the first animals that came to mind.

Squirrels are rodents, so that means they are cousins to chipmunks, mice, rats, voles, and beavers. They are members of the Sciuridae family, which means 'bushy tail' and is a perfect way to describe the many members of the squirrel family - tree squirrels, ground squirrels, even chipmunks and groundhogs. But, my focus here are the typical tree squirrels. Through-out much of the Mid-west, Mid-South, and Eastern United States and Southeast Canada, the Eastern Gray Squirrel is a very common wildlife neighbor in cities and towns, big and small.

Eastern Gray Squirrels are arboreal (the live in trees) and are tied to forest or wooded ecosystems. They depend on trees for food - various types of seeds, nuts, berries, and fruits - and for shelter. For a long time I believed squirrels only lived in hollow trees. They will live in tree hollows, but they also build nests. I learned this in college when I completed a biology class research project on squirrel animal behavior. The nests are called dreys. Squirrels gather dead leaves and twigs. The dead leaves make great insulation and they wedge the materials in the forks of trees, at the higher parts of the tree.
Very large hollow in a Sycamore tree, that looks like it might be a great squirrel home.

Squirrels will make and live in several nests. As fleas and ticks become a problem in a single nest a squirrel will abandon its nest, and the female will transfer all of her babies of she has any.

Squirrel nest in a Sycamore tree in the summer time. I'm standing under the tree to get this shot. Looking at the tree from a distance, the large green leaves of the tree make it hard to detect the nest. Now that it is winter time, dreys are much easier to spot.Squirrel nests in a sweet gum tree.
Two squirrel nests in one tree. Very likely, these nests belong to the same squirrel.Close-up of one of the nests. Notice how the drey is wedged in the fork of the tree.

The series of pictures below are of a squirrel I spied in my backyard with a mouth filled with nesting material. There are some squirrel nest in my backyard, but sometimes they will build nests in "artificial hollows", like an attic, as you will see in the video below. Here is a video of the same squirrel.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Squirrel Appreciation Day

Chubby Squirrel in a Crab Apple Tree on my campus.

Yesterday was Squirrel Appreciation Day. I didn't know that fact at the time of my wordless wednesday preparation. Surely I would have prepareda two-for-one post. But anyway, I decided I could still celebrate squirrel appreciation post-hoc and share some really great photos and videos with you over the next couple of days.

Squirrel Appreciation Day is celebrated every January 21 since 2001, thanks to Christy Hargove of Asheville, North Carolina. (Interestingly, there is also a National Squirrel Appreciation Week October 7-13). She was working at a local Wildlife Rehabilitation and Rescue Center when she founded this cause.

So I'll share my photos and videos of squirrels, from a Wildlife Rehab and Rescue Center in my neck of the woods.
Eastern Grey Squirrel

Fox Squirrel

Other Squirrel Appreciation Day blog posts:

Stop by tomorrow for Urban Wildlife Watch: Squirrels and Their Nests, part 2 of my Squirrel Appreciation Day tribute.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Wintergreen

All photos taken in Chicago, Illinois.
This post is dedicated to the Memory of Robert Fourte, Sr.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Book Review - Blog Carnival is up

A happy and hearty Good Day to everyone.

Monday is Book Review day, but since am still recuperating and beaming from the 3rd Annual Science Blogging Conference, I'm trying to do a two-fer.
I learned at the ScienceOnline09 Workshop - Blog Carnivals: Why You Should Participate moderated by Mike Bergin that if you participate in a carnival you should also help promote the carnival.
My last two book reviews (In My Backyard and Birds of Prey) made it in Juvenile Nonfiction section of the 9th Edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival at BreeniBooks.
So, please check it out.
I realize this doesn't necessarily help me meet my committment to post a book review, but come back next week. I have two really good children's science books to tell you about - both about bugs. In the meantime, enjoy these great photos of bugs I saw when I visited the North Carolina Life and Science Museum. Thanks Kristen, Troy, & Jeff for inviting me out and many thanks to
Leon (the Entomologist) for entertaining me. (My new friends I met at the ScienceOnline09 Conference).

A leaf bug

Rhinocerous Beetle
Cock Roaches
Madagascar Hissing Roaches
Leaf-cutter/Fungus Farming Ants

Sunday, January 18, 2009

100 + Things You Can Do Outside!

In a previous post, I recommended spending more time outdoors by taking a walk through your neighborhood or local park. It’s a perfect (cost-effective) way to make memories, get some fresh air and exercise, and nurture those scientific minds.

I take strolls through my neighborhood all the time – that’s how I come to share all of these photos and narratives with you. But if this idea of urban nature strolling sounds too vague or aimless, let me offer some ideas. I have put together a list of things to get you and your family (or students) started. I was inspired by the Handbook of Nature Study post 99 Outdoors Sorts of Things to Do. Items marked with an asterisk are activities I’ve checked off my list.

Creating Outdoor Recreation & Education Memories

1. Make maple syrup.*
2. Read a book under a big oak or willow tree.
3. Ski down a mountain. *
4. See a wild bobcat.
5. See a wild fox.*
6. Find a shell on a beach. *
7. Skip a rock on a lake. *
8. See a sunrise. *
9. Pick an apple from a tree. *
10. Grow a sunflower. *
11. Sleep under the stars in a sleeping bag or hammock. *
12. Find the Big Dipper.*
13. Climb a sand dune.
14. Walk in the rain with or without an umbrella. *
15. Find a fossil.
16. Take a photo of the Grand Canyon.
17. See a sunset.*
18. See a raptor fly. *
19. Be able to identify ten birds by sight or sound.
20. See a mushroom. *
21. Visit a tide pool.
22. Visit a volcano.
23. Feel an earthquake. *
24. Find four-leaf clovers. *
25. Make flower garlands. *
26. Catch snow on your tongue. *
27. See a deer in the wild. *
28. Touch a dolphin.
29. Go ice skating on a pond.
30. Go fishing. *
31. Go snorkeling.*
32. Whittle a stick. *
33. Gather chicken eggs.
34. Milk a cow or a goat.*
35. Ride a horse. *
36. See a moose.
37. Gather acorns.*
38. Pick berries and eat some.
39. Watch a lightning storm. *
40. Build a campfire.*
41. Press a flower.*
42. Use binoculars to spot a bird. *
43. Identify five or more wildflowers.
44. Take a photo of the night sky.
45. Identify ten types of animal scat. *
46. See a tumbleweed. *
47. See a wild snake.*
48. Watch a spider spin a web. *
49. Climb a tree. *
50. Take a hike. *
51. Watch ants in a colony. *
52. Hatch a butterfly.
53. Climb a rock. *
54. Go biking. *
55. See the Northern Lights.
56. See a bear in the wild.
57. Dig for worms. *
58. Grow a vegetable and then eat it.
59. See a bat flying. *
60. Feel a sea star. *
61. Swim in the ocean.*
62. See a geyser erupt.
63. Walk in the fog. *
64. Observe a bee.*
65. Find a bird’s nest. *
66. See a beaver’s den.
67. Go whale watching. *
68. See a banana slug.
69. Stand on the edge of a cliff.*
70. Blow a dandelion. *
71. Throw a snowball and build a snowman.*
72. Visit a wildlife rescue shelter or hospital. *
73. See a lightning bug. Or do you call it a firefly?*
74. Visit a cave. *
75. Make a sand castle.
76. Hear a cricket. *
77. Catch a frog. * (I’m actually pretty good at this.)
78. Watch for the first star in the evening.*
79. Smell a skunk. *
80. Feel pine sap. *
81. Feed a duck or goose. *
82. Learn to use a compass or GPS.*
83. See a buffalo. *
84. Get wet in a waterfall. *
85. Swim in a lake. *
86. Walk on a log. *
87. Feel moss.*
88. Jump in a pile of leaves. *
89. Fly a kite. *
90. Walk barefoot in the mud. *
91. Hear a sea lion bark. *
92. Hear a coyote.
93. See a coyote. *
94. Crack open a nut. *
95. Go snowshoeing or snow sledding.
96. Feel a cattail. *
97. Smell a pine forest. *
98. Sit under a palm tree.*
99. Walk across a stream on rocks.
100. Collect a mold of a mammal track.
101. Watch a bird build its nest. *
102. Do a tree bark rubbing. *
103. Do a leaf rubbing.*
104. Catch butterflies with a net.
105. See wild elk.
106. Catch a crayfish. *
107. Go searching for ground hogs on Groundhogs’ Day. *
108. Walk along a stream. *
109. Start a nature journal to record all of the great things you've checked off of your list.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Discussing Diversity in Science - online and offline

What do scientists look like?
If you weren't told about the identity of the scientist, what image comes to mind? For many people, school children to adult, the image of an older European male comes to mind. However, there are scientists who are young, female and represent every nationality and ethnicity known. So why does this perception persist that field of science is so homogenous? Is it? Or is it a misperception based on sampling of scientists at meetings.

Is this a representative sampling of science bloggers and scientists in the real world?

I don't know. But that's one of the things I and AcmeGirl will be discussing with other science bloggers at the ScienceOnline09 conference during the Race and Science Workshop. I am definitely not the only person of color participating in the conference. It is truly an international conference with peope from every corner of the globe in town - UK, Serbia, Canada, Australia, The Phillipenes, Italy, Brazil, Finland and all regions of the USA. Yay! But so far, I'm the only one of two several African-Americans in attendance.
Does that sound about right? Maybe. African-Americans make up less than 3% of the Ph.D. Biologists and Chemists in the US.
But that few? Really.
Surely there's something we can do about that. We'll see what we come up with at the workshop.
Here's What we'll be discussing.
What can be done to promote minorities to science blog and/or pursue science?
- Science Blogging -- Pros. I'm cataloging the science blogs written by persons of color. Cross-reference, blogroll, etc some or allof these blogs, particularly if you blog about similar topics/issues.
- Science Blogging -- Cons. Blogs can be a liability for faculty members and even for post-docs and grad students. Senior faculty and administrators percieveblogs as a distraction from 'real' work. This may be especially problematic for a person from a minority group.

How can blogs by minorities be used to attract kids into science careers?
- open to discussion, but this is why I blog.

How to get and make allies? What allies can and should be doing?
1. Reach beyond comfort zones (yours and your institution's)
Leverage relationships scientists of colors you know or have access to, eg. speak at newarby HBCUs or ask faculty from nearby institutions to speak at your department.
Host public events and use target advertising to reach under-represented audiences.

2. Be inclusive. Talk, introduce yourself, introduce them to others.

3. Proactively engage students in extra-curricular science activity.
Cultivate science interests in undergraduate and pre-college students.

4. It's okay to mentor students that do not look like you

How the Web provides new methods and means for action and effecting positive change.

1. Profiling science discovery and scientists
2. Opportunities for netwoking, research, interviewing scientists of color
3. Promoting science and diversity initiatives e.g. Year of Science, DNA Day; Decades of Blacks in Science, Black History Month, Latino History Month, Chinese New Year

Growing catalogue of Science Blogs written/contributed by persons of color
Asymptopia (perhaps the longest running science blog) Urban Science Adventures! (c)
49 Percent
Reconciliation Biology
Scientist Mother
The Urban Birder
SES: Science, Education & Society
Not Exactly Rocket Science
Thesis With Children
Physics for Girls
Life's A Lab Science Chicago (w/ the Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry

add more in the comments


Oh, I leave you all with a picture of my 'sister' P. Lee, because I'm obviously an Asian-American female because of my last name. I bumped into her at the Women in Science Networking Event.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

ScienceOnline09 Conference Begins

Okay, so I flew out of St. Louis very early in the a.m. today headed to the long awaited science blogging conference - ScienceOnline09. The weather in St. Louis was cold. So cold in fact that the Rivers were frozen.

The plane to Raleigh-Durham was small, as you can see, but it was a direct flight, so that was great. It's always great to see the earth from above. It gives you perspective into the ecology of our neighborhoods.

The midwest is quite flat and has been converted into farms - the quilt -like patches. Historically the land was prairie grass land with some hardwood forests.

I also snagged some shots of these fluffy clouds. Are these cumulus, cirrus, nimbus or what? I learned about clouds in 6th grade science. I love it. The first science lesson I actually loved.

I was warned of cold weather when I arrived to NC that I was pleasantly surprised by the warmer weather - the 30s. I could shed my fleece. Unlike the waters in the midwest, the was not frozen and the abundance of pine trees gave the appearance of warmer weather. Very nice. Reminded me of how much I love forests of East Tennessee, the Carolinas and Virginia. But these are more mixed forests - with both decidious trees that lose their leaves and pine trees which are evergree. That's why there's so much green in the forest landscape despite being winter.

After resting and spending some time with my gracious host and cousin, I participated in the first ScienceOnline09 Activity - Early Bird Dinner at the Town Hall Grill. I had the Grilled Poblano Chiles stuffed with cheeses and served with tomato and corn salsa. Delish! And a super rich chocolate ganache cake. If you're inthe reearch triangle and want a nice dinner then come here. Mmm. Mmm.
I met lots of people and including several conference participants from the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia. I met some people I've only ever known through email or from blog profile pictures andmade some new friends and learned alot about the English - the language and how very dynamic it is. I also listened in on a great conversation about the technical details of blogging, social networking and communicating via the internet. Tech talk is really new to me, so I just listened in...learning. So far, this conference is turning out to be more than science or blogging. That's great!
Okay, I'm sleepy now and must rest up for tomorrow's activities and prepare for my session on Saturday. But you can follow what's going on with the Science Blogging Conference - online.

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