Thursday, October 06, 2011

Science Bloggers for Students - Supporting public school science programs

I blog for science! This you know. But now through October 22, 2011, I’m throwing my gauntlet down in the biggest philanthropic online Battle Royale in support of public education: The Science Bloggers for Students Challenge. I’m representing the Scientific American Team.

I just created a Science Bloggers for Students Page at, to help support low-income classrooms on And I'm inviting you to help support it! is an online charity connecting individuals, like all you – my most awesome readers and supporters, to classrooms in need. When I was an NSF G-K12 Fellow, I saw firsthand how much public school teachers either go without necessary supplies and equipment or pay out of their pockets or jump through all kinds of hoops to get just a smidgen of what they need to educate our children.

Here are some of my students doing hands-on science - studying birds at feeders. Litzsinger Road Ecology Center in St. Louis, Missouri

The average public school teacher spends $500 - $700 on classroom supplies out of his/her own pocket, but the maximum IRS tax deduction is only $250! This is insane and egregious! is the bomb because teachers can post requests, like microscopes, DNA kits, even field trips to the zoo, and you can help fund them.

And if you don’t think this campaign makes a BIG difference, then I’ll let Janet Stemwedel tell you all of the details. Check out her her post: Introducing DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students 2011 (with a wag of the finger for Stephen Colbert). and video at On Doing Science Right.

My goal – to raise $2,000 dollars for Urban Science Classrooms!

In keeping with my science outreach interests for middle and high school students from urban areas AND my academic interests in experiential education, general biology, environmental science and urban ecology, I have selected programs that fit the bill, including projects from my very own neck of the woods, St. Louis, Missouri.

You can visit my Science Bloggers for Students Page: Urban Science Blog Page to make a donation. Or click on my super grand Donors Choose Banner up above. It will get you to the right place.
Thanks in advance for your support!

demystifying nature, letting everyone experience

This post was originally published on The Urban Scientist on Scientific American Blog Network.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Scientific Americam Special Cities Issues

Go out and get the September 2011 issue of Scientific American.  This special issue is all about Cities! Yes, the urban environment!  It's one big grand issue and the Scientific American website and Blog Network will off additional remarks, insights as responses to articles in the hard copy magazine.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Who are biologists and what do they do? Faces of Biology Contest

What does a biologist look like? Who are biologists? Where do they work and what exactly do they do?

For many grade school and middle school children, the image of an older (usually Caucasian) male with wild gray hair comes to mind. He's holding a test tube or flask and wearing a white lab coat and goggles. Other than the wild hair, none of those phrases describe me.

But why do so many people recall that image? I don't know, but  I do know that the Faces of Biology Photo Contest presented by the American Institute of Biological Sciences is an excellent opportunity to expand everyone's preconceptions what a biologist looks like and what he/she does.

The contest is an opportunity to showcase the varied forms that biological research can take.  Photographs entered into the contest must depict a person, such as a scientist, researcher, technician, or student, engaging in biological research.  The depicted research may occur outside, in a lab, with a natural history collection, on a computer, in a classroom, or elsewhere. ~ from the official contest website.
Like this one of me (and my wild hair, hahaha)

Seriously, you should consider a picture of your own to the contest. The grand prize is this
 plus $250 cash.

Learn more about the contest and read the orginal full post at The Urban Scientist at The Scientific American.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: I'm the luckiest nerd in the world

This is exactly how I'm feeling lately. The law of attraction is very real thing. A little more than a year ago I made list of things that I would like to have happen and low and behold if they didn't.

The University of Missouri - St. Louis Newsletter came out today and it included a feature of my recent exploits as a blogger for the Scientific American Blog Network. If you haven't checked out the new science blogging network, then please do so. It is awesome and I'm in the company of many other awesome online science communicators.  And also 'sign up' that way you can leave comments.

And I also got some really, REALLY exciting news: I have a post-doctoral research position with the awesome and amazing Dr. Alex Ophir at Oklahoma State University.  Alex & I go waay back, researching voles and social behavior.  He's started this awesomesauce research endeavor the Giant Pouched African Rats (of Tanzania) and the questions were right down my alley.  I was like, "Hey Alex, you know I'm all about the individual differences, behavioral variation, maze running, field biology, and mammalogy?" So some wands were waved papers by deans and administrators were signed and he gave me the news Monday night when I arrived at the Animal Behavior Society/International Ethological Conference. I'm still flying high.

Details of everything will come. In the meantime, check out the recent posts from the conference at the Scientific American blog.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Dragon Fly

This dragon fly is dead. I found it on the lawn of a friend's house, still in great condition.  Dragon flies are wetland bugs. They live near water where the females lay eggs.  The juvenile stage of dragon flies (and the closely related damsel fly) are called nymphs; and these little alien-looking bugs live in the water until they become mature exoskeleton-having, wing-bearing adults.  You can always tell a dragon fly because of its large size and when it lands it holds its equal-sized double wings out, like the pictures above.  And they come is a variety of pretty colors.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

2011 Black Weblog Awards Live cast tonight!

The 2011 Black Weblog Awards are tonight and LIVE for the first time ever in Los Angelos, California.  It seems to have become the capstone of the weekend of events of the Blogging While Brown Conference, now in its 4th year.  Tonight's award ceremony is hosted by actress Kim Coles. Recognizing the best and brightest African-American bloggers, the Black Weblog Awards will announce winners of the coveted awards in over 30 categories including Best Science/Tech Blog and Best Green Living/Outdoor/Nature Blog - the two categories I, Danielle N Lee, was proud to be a finalist for.

I'm not there, but I will be tuning in this evening - on the web and tweeting, too.
The ceremony is 6:00 - 10:0 pm (PST)
You can join me if you like.  I'll be down at Whiz Tech Cafe at 8:00 pm (CST).  It's the greatest, newest internet cafe in the midwest (and it's female/African-American owned).

So come on down, pull up a chair and order a tasty coffee drink, too.
Location Whiz Tech Technology Cafe
1629 Locust
Downtown Saint Louis, MO

In the meantime, here are some important links and folks to follow for the event.
Black Weblog Awards website and Twitter @BlkWeblogAwards
Blogging While Brown Conference website, Twitter @BWBConference and hashtag to follow - #BWB
Me - on Twitter @DNLee5
Kim Coles on Twitter @KimColes
The Whiz Technology Cafe Twitter @WhizTechCafe
Live cast here:

Video clips at Ustream

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A really BIG Announcement - I've joined the Scientific American Blog Network

You may have noticed how quiet it's been lately. I have been busy trying to work and pay bills.  Doing non-traditional work has been quite an experience for me. Don't get me wrong, I love outreach and I enjoy sharing what I know with others as a consultant, but doing it as my full-time wasn't my strong suit.  And I'll admit I miss academia culture - the teaching, research, and going to journal clubs - and doing hands-on outreach. What can I say, I'm a nerd and I am proud.

So imagine how geekily excited I was when I was asked to join the newest Science Blogging Network on the Globe -- @ScientificAmerican Blog Network. If that sounds a little familiar to you, then you can certainly understand my excitement and pride over joining the network.  It's the name of a rather popular science magazine.

Perhaps you may have noticed one or both of these magazines on the shelves in your local bookstore or public library. I'll be an official blogger for them, meaning I'll continue to write in my usual tone and form for them online.

The blog I have at Scientific American will be called The Urban Scientist - which will feature posts about urban ecology, evolutionary biology and diversity in STEM. Essentially it is a combination of both this blog and my other blog SouthernPlayalisticEvolutionMusic.  I'll continue to write about science for non-scientists and I hope everyone finds some new favorite science blogs to enjoy while you're over there. Dive deep, please.

What that means for this blog

I can't write unique content for three science blogs. And since I will be paid for writing for Scientific American Blog Network, The Urban Scientist will be my blogging priority. The good news is that I am allowed to syndicate my content at my blogs, which I will do for some time initially.  But I will have to make a decision soon.  This blog is my baby, I'm not ready to let it go, at least not just yet.

So please come check out the new blog and the awesome blog network. Please leave a comment at the new blog. It includes some amazing bloggers. I think it's a great neighborhood and I hope everyone enjoys all of the great science reading to be had among my new SciAm blog siblings, including Papa Smurf himself - Bora! Yay!
 Thanks for love, the support (moral and financial), the prayers, the encouragement, and critiques.  You made this modest little blog and me - a student who struggled fiercely with her writing - a better blog/writer and it was with your kind thoughts and wishes that this blog was noticed and asked to be apart of something grand.

Thank you very much. With all of my love.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vote for my blog to be the Best Science Black Weblog Award, please

Urban Science Adventures! © was nominated for Best Science or Tech Blog again this year. As the sole science blog among the finalist this year, I would love for the blog to win the honor - and justify having separate Science and Tech Categories in the coming years. Many people and readers have reached to me and let me that they have voted already. Thank you, thank you, thank you. For those of you who have yet to vote, today is the last day.

What to know be fore voting:
1.Only one ballot is allowed per computer and email address. The ballot is 5 pages long. My blog and category are on page 4 so don't lose heart. I encourage you to vote in every category you wanted to vote in before submitting. A complete list of all finalist for the 38 catergories are here.
2. If you don't see a submit button, try pressing the tab key several times.
3. Vote here.

Winners will be announced live July 9, 2011 in Los Angeles. I will be there for the ceremony. If you would like to co-sponsor my attendance, then please consider making a donation. Any and all contributions are appreciated and give shout outs to my supporters!

4. You can attend the Blogging While Brown Conference and the Black Weblog Award Ceremony in Los Angelos, California, too. General Admission is open to all of the attendees of the Blogging While Brown Conference. Or purchase VIP tickets to attend the ceremony online.

5. Category sponsorships are available contact for more information.

Thank you again!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Urban Wildlife Watch: 13 Year Cicadas

Cicadas, sometimes called locusts or katydids, seem to be everywhere right now. Here in my part of the country - St. Louis, Missouri and as far away as Nashville, Tennessee - the flying insects seem to be everywhere. And the numbers of them seem to be in biblical proportions. That's not a mistake or judgement day occurance, it's simply Mother Nature at play. The ones that we are witnessing right now are called 13 year Cicadas. Scientific name Magicicada.

 from Bungalow Bill's Blogspot

Coming from the south, I have always been familiar with Cicadas, in fact I think fondly of them. That characteristic an an an sound from the trees actually lulls me asleep on warm humid nights. However, I never actually laid eyes on a cicada until last year. I had only heard them! There are thousands of species of cicadas that live all over the world. But this year, we are seeing a whole lot of these:
 from Bates County Live

These 13 year cicadas are about an inch and half long with dark brown bodies with orange coloring and red eyes. Despite their annoyance, they are not harmful. They don't bite or sting; and I have heard some people say they don't have mouth parts or eat. (But I need to get an up close look at these guys to see if that part may be true. Look out for a blog post about dissecting a cicada.) So other than just being a pest, they really aren't a problem for people or pets. As to your plants, that's another story. Cicadas feed on the juices from plants, as well as lay their eggs in the bark of trees.

Overview of a cicada life cycle
from Enchanted Learning
Adults emerge in the summer and life approximately 6-8 weeks. The tend to be found in wooded areas and perched in trees and chorus on hot summer days and nights. They mate during this time and all adults by the end of summer.

Eggs are laid by the females in brood patches of up to 20 eggs or so in the bark of trees. Incubation can last 6-8 weeks. When they are hatched tiny nymphs emerge and drop to the ground.

Nymphs burrow holes in the ground (near the tree where they were 'born' and live the majority of their lives underground as juveniles no wings) Nymphs live in the soil eating tree root juice or sap, before finally emerging to the world above. Depending on their species, they remain underground 3, 4, 7, 13, or 17 years (periodical cicadas) or one year (annual cicadas) to feed on juices from roots of plants and trees. Once they are mature, they burrow to the surface and leave distinctive holes in the soil (about the diameter of a fat pencil or dime) often near trees, bushes and other tall green vegetation. The nymphs then hold on tight to a leaf or stem or tree tunk and begin its final metamorphosis into an adult cicada with fancy wings. The shell or exoskeleton of the nymph is left behind and serves as a great indicator of the abundance of cicadas in a particular area. (pic)

To answer some questions posed by others already:
Why are there so many of them all at the same time? 13 year Cicadas are what biologists referr to as a developmentally synchronized species. They all emerge at the same time and time their activity together. Right now, we are witnessing the finally stage in the life cycle of this cicada – the adult stage when they mate, lay eggs (the next generation) and soon die. This timing is actually benefical to them. With so many coming out at the same time they actually overwhelm predators such as birds, wasps, and praying mantises. With so many cicadas available the predators get plenty of food and there are still plenty of cicadas left to mate and continue the species.

Why do they make so much noise? That distinctive sound is the mating chorus of male cicadas announcing they are available for mating. So, that's their mating call we hear. Males perch in trees and chorus together in a rhythmic sound to attract females for mating. There are other calls for courtship as well as for distress - as when attacked by a wasp or praying mantis - but most people are not familiar with those sounds. I certainly am not.

Where does the sound come from? The sound comes from vibrations of tiny membranes lining the outside of the abdomen or belly of males. Males perch in trees and chorus together in a rhythmic sound to attract females for mating. There are other calls for courtship as well as for distress - as when attacked by a wasp or praying mantis - but most people are not familiar with those sounds. I certainly am not.

It seems like they make more noise when it's hot and sunny outside, does the weather condition have anything to do with how loud they are? Yes, the amount of noise they make seems to correspond with the temperature. For example, Saturday, June 11th was an overcast day and it was considerably cooler than it was earlier this week. Some people noticed that the cicadas in their yards and nearby parks were not as noisy yesterday compared to how they sounded before when it was very hot outside. The thinking is that it has to do with body temperature regulation. When it is cooler outside, the insects spend more energy staying warm and less on singing. It may also have something to do with sound traveling faster in warm air.

Those bugs are really annoying. They fly in my face, in my car, make a lot of noise and get everywhere. What good are they? As nymphs, cicada live underground and dig through the soil. This aerates the soil to benefit plants. Although we don't know very much about their behavior at this stage, I am pretty sure that nymphs are food for underground insect predators like moles and shrews, plus they are an important part of the food chain above ground for many animals.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Great American Backyard Campout Blends Outdoors, Family Fun and Science

Memorial Day is the kickoff to the summer and where is the best place to spend the summer? Outside, of course, and family camping is one of the most popular summer time actitivites. On Saturday, June 25, 2011, the National Wildlife Federation is asking everyone to go camping! The Great American Backyard Campout is a grassroots initiative to Leave No Child Indoors! The National Wildlife Federation is raising awareness and also trying to raise funds for more outdoor youth programs. They are also encouraging families and communities spending time together outside camping. And while you're spending time outside - in the fresh air - why not explore nature (and science)!

So get your family and neighbors together and go camping - at a local campground, state or national park, or in your backyard. Being outdoors is a perfect time to connect to science. You can explore biology, conservation, ecology, astronomy, geology, geography, environmental science, and more.

I wrote a piece for COPUS - the Coalition of Public Understanding of Science encouraging its readers to participate in the Great American Backyard Campout and use that time to not only connect with family/neighbors but hace fun exploring science, too.  Check out the blog post (link here) and read the whole list of recommended Citizen Science and Arts and Science activities recommended.  Plus here's one I overlooked: Waving at the International Space Station as it orbits over your night time sky! The International Space Station is visible in the sky, assuming the weather agrees, so you could actually keep an eye out for it while you tell campfire stories and eat s'mores. Visit the website for details on how to plan your wave. You can also follow them on Twitter @twisst for a tweet when it's visible from your skies.

Or if you're ready to sign up right now, then go for it.  You can register your 'camp site' - your family, church or community event with the National Wildlife Federation Great American Backyard Campout website (link here).  And visit my friend, Rue at Outdoor Afro for camping recommendations.  If camping is still new to you it might prove helpful to get some tips to make the night stress-free adn enjoyable.
In the meantime, let me know if you plan on participating and how.  And be sure to do a little exploration, too.  Can't wait to hear all about your Urban Camping Science Adventures! ©

Friday, May 27, 2011

My summer is off to an amazing start! Happy Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend is the official start of summer and I plan on having a grand time. I'm doing what I love to do each summer - working the summer day camps.  I have a seasonal position as the Supervisor of Summer Programs with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources the State Parks Urban Population Outreach Program. Basically, I get paid to take church and community center groups from the city to daily field trips to nearby State Parks. I get paid to play outside!

I also have some very promising longer term opportunities in the hopper, but nothing I can announce just yet. Stay tuned. I'll be making a big announcement by the end of the summer. In the meantime I can share this....

I was named the Young Professional of the Year by the Urban League Of Metropolitan St Louis Young Professionals. It is a great honor bestowed upon me and two other local young professionals. I will receive my award at the 2011 Urban Renaissance Gala on Saturday, June 4, 2011. I would love to see your faces there, if possible. Tickets are $50 and includes a cocktail hour, dinner, awards presentation, and after-party at the Renaissance Hotel Airport location in St. Louis, Missouri.

The other good news is that this blog was named as a finalist for the 2011 Black Weblog Award for Best Science and Technology category. I am humbly asking your support to vote for my blog in this category. I also ask you to vote in the other categories, too.  It's an awesome line-up of finalists in 39 categories, finalist list here.  I'm throwing support behind some of by bloggy friends in the following categories

Best Business Blog
BDPA Foundation
Best Fashion or Beauty Blog

Best Humor Blog
Awesomely Luvvie

Best Podcast Series
Blacking It Up with Elon James White, Bassey World and more.

Best Political or News Blog
The Black Snob

Best Science or Technology Blog
Urban Science Adventures! ©

Best Sports Blog
Black Sports Online

Best Travel Blog
Jay Travels

Best Lifestyle Blog
The Cubicle Chick and Ashy 2 Classy (both of St. Louis)

Best Green/Nature/Outdoor Blog
Outdoor Afro
This blog was nominated in this category, too.

Best Book/ Author/ Literature Blog
Notorious Spinks (of Memphis)  and Reads for Pleasure (of St. Louis)

If you haven't taken to reading blogs, this is a great place to start. if you're a blogger, then I recommend working to get your blog on this list for next year. It's a perfect way to expand your audience (and brand).  The link to vote is here. Voting ends June 17, 2011, and only one chance to vote per email address, so you can't save and comeback to vote for others later. Winners will be announced LIVE in Los Angeles at the very first Black Weblog Awards Ceremony at the Blogging While Brown Conference. I will be attending, with fingers-crossed, hoping to get my trophy. (And if anyone would like to contribute to my travel fund, then I certainly appreciate it.)

If you're flirting with the idea of attending either Blogging While Brown or the Black Weblog Awards, then I highly recommend that you do it. It is a great networking and learning opportunity.  In the meantime, have a great and safe summer; and thank you again for all of your support, encouragement, and prayers.

demystifying nature, letting everyone experience

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When playing outside isn't safe: Gun fire on the playground in St. Louis

It was the middle of the day. A little more than a dozen children from the Peabody Apartments (near downtown St. Louis) were outside playing on the playground and jungle gym. Then shots rang out. Apparently a disagreement between two men who were nearby escalated with at least one of them wildly firing shots at the other. Did the assailant land a shot at his intended? No, instead one of his unaimed bullets hit a young 7-year-old girl in the head. The suspect is now in custody but the little girl is still in critical condition.

image courtesy of
His arrest offers little solace to the parents and neighbors of the little girl. There could have been more victims. This is a prime example of why so many inner-city residents do not spend times out-of-doors: fear of safety. Those of us who promote outdoor education and recreation do go on and on about the beauty and serenity and awesome of the outside; but the reality we often skip over is that the environment right-outside for many people in big cities ain't that beautiful or serene or awesome. It can be a war zone – an ugly place where illegal activities and spontaneous gunfire happens near or on playgrounds. It makes my job – as an urban outdoor educator/recreation promoter – very hard, indeed. How can I ask parents to let their kids come outside and play and exercise and get fresh air when bad stuff like this can and does happen? I completely understand why they would protect them at any cost – keeping them inside, letting them watch TV and play video games and snack on tasty treats. It's a natural reaction to bring those whom you love close to you and possibly soothe them.

Perhaps one solution - that still encourages outdoor time and addresses safety concerns is organized activities at public lands. Local, state, and federal parks sometimes offer planned activities and in those situations, security has been factored into the logistics. Safety is in numbers. When more people gather together, there are more eyes and ears on the scene to identify trouble and report it the proper authorities in time. Here are some upcoming National Outdoor Events going on that present a chance to spend time with family and neighbors in an organized fashion. I hope you're able to find a local participating park or site in your area.
  • National Trails Day - June 4, 2011: It's a volunteer event to help clean up and restore hiking trails at public lands all over the country. It's a great way to get outside and have fun. More info at Outdoor Afro.
  • National Get Outdoors Day - June 11, 2011: It is an initiative that supports First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move Campaign to fight childhood obesity. Lots of state parks and campgrounds have signed on as official location partners for this event.
  • Great American Backyard Campout - June 25, 2011: Many parks and campgrounds have signed up as partners. Check out the registry and events calendar and you could find a group near you.
  • More? Please offer additional recommendations, local, regional or national.
Finally,listen to Young People's Chorus to New York – NYC Playground (Gunshots) and please share your thoughts and suggestions for dealing with spending time out-of-doors and safety. What would you do to change gun shots on the play ground?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Summer of Science Book Reading Club kicks off May 23, 2011

Hey parents/grandparents/summer camp mentors!
Looking for fun yet academically engaging things to do with your young ones and teens this summer? Want to make sure they don't lose step and let all of that great knowledge slip out of their heads.  Want to keep them on task with reading and literacy? Want to subtly kindle that inner science/engineering/tech spirit in them?

Well check out this super great summer reading program by SCIENTICITY, this amazing online community of people who promote the public understanding and engagement of science.  They host a variety of science engagement programs, but the youth reading program is their summer emphasis.

There are actually two programs, broken down by age group.
1) Kids Read Science - for children ages 8-12 years of age
2) Teens Read Science - for teens 13-18 years of age

The rules for both are the same:
1. Choose a non-fiction book about nature, science, engineering, or math, or about people who work or worked in those fields. The book should help you understand more about what science is and how it works. Textbooks are not acceptable choices. If you need suggestions it's good to ask a science teacher or librarian for ideas.

2. Read your book.

3. Make a video about your book. It's like a video book report. The video must be less than 5 minutes long, and you must give the name of the book, the name of the author, and reasons why you would or would not recommend the book to your friends.

4. Post the video online. They prefer that you post it to your own account on and tag it with "KidsReadScience2011" or "TeensReadScience2011". There are other posting options in the long form of the rules. Visit the website for more details of both reading events.

5.Fill out our official online submission form, for Kids Read Science or Teens Read Science. This allows the judges to locate your video and they will know how to contact you if you win one of the fabulous prizes.  Sorry, so far only US residents are able to win prizes this year.

6. Do all this before the deadline: 11pm (CDT) on 23 September 2011.

When I was a kid I participated in summer reading programs sponsored by our city library. I loved them! It was the highlight of my summer.  At the end of the summer the library branch threw a party for all of us kids and had an award ceremony.  Prizes were awarded to children in different age groups who read the most books.  I was so competitive.  Although children and teens who submit videos are competing nationwide for prizes, there is no reason not to reward students locally for participating in this event, and it doesn't have to be fancy or anything.  Just something to keep them encouraged and let them know they are supported.

And why should the kids and teenagers have all of the fun? SCIENTICITY also hosts a Science Book Challenge for adults.  Read three science related books and drop them a note telling them how you liked each book and they'll post your book reviews for others to see. That's it.

And if you're not sure what to read or where to get started, check out my blog posts about great science literature I've read - for youth, teens, and adults.
Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Horizons of Barbados

I had a chance to visit the very beautiful island nation of Barbados on behalf of Outdoor Afro. While I partook in Barbados food, hosptitality, culture and scenery for my friend and kindred outdoor spirit Rue of Outdoor Afro (and blogged all about it), I also couldn't help myself and took in the beautiful nature. I'll be highlighting my wonderful nature and wildlife encounters of the Caribbean Island.

Today, I feature the beautiful landscapes photos of the islands.  I think the pictures give a good sense of not only the naturl beauty of the country but give you a big picture view of the ecology of the island, too.

Dusk - view from the patio of the hotel. That's the Caribbean sea in the distance with various palm trees all around.

Sailing out on the Caribbean sea. That's the island nation of Barbados in the distance.

Beach view. Crystal blue waters of the Caribbean sea.

Row of tall palm trees along the driveway of a former Sugar Plantation. Barbados was once a colony of the United Kingdom and the entire island was basically a series of big sugar plantations.

Though sugar isn't the main export anymore, the legacy of the sugar plantation is not lost. This was once a sugar plantation, with a small sugar mill towwe in the distance on the left. This land now is being developed for residental propoerties. Notice the wide open flat landscape.

Narrow shot of a gully. The island is only 14 miles long  by 21 miles wide, but there are hundreds of miles of gullies - series of small inland streams, sloughs, and water ways.  Lots of diverse species of plant, birds, amphians, reptiles and insects call these gullies home. There are some species that exist no other place on earth. But no snakes. Barbados has no snakes (they were all removed/extripated by the colonists long, long ago)

View from the hilly region of Barbados called the Scotland district. That's the Altantic Ocean in the far distance.

Scotland district, Atlantic Ocean in the background.

Standing in that spot from the previous picture. Don't let anyone fool you. People become scientists (biologists, ecologists, geologists) so that we can travel to beautiful places like this and do research. Aren't you ready to become a scientist, too now?

Geological formation from when Barbados was 'pushed out of the sea'. Barbados is a sandstone/coral island - connected to the seafloor, not a volcanic island.

Beach view of the East side of the island

Beach view of the East side of island, Atlantic Ocean. Notice the plastic trash deposited on the beach. I walked past hat plastic laundry detergent bottle (and thousands of pieces like it) on my brief visit to that beach. No telling how far that plastic traveled before getting washed up on the beach. Learn more about plastic trash in the ocean at my friend's blog. She's doing her dissertation research on the impact of this very issue, link here.
Stay tuned for more Barbados pictures.
In the meantime, check out my posts, to date about the visit to Barbados for Outdoor Afro.
Barbados Bound: An Outdoor Afro Adventure in the Caribbean
Barbados – An Outdoor Afro Adventure (at Jack & Jill Politics)
Outdoor Fun in Barbados: Fun at Sea!
Games Outdoor Afros Play – Dominoes

Monday, April 18, 2011

2011 Black Weblog Awards Nominations are open

It's that time of year, a little ealy this time, but it's award season - the 2011 Black Weblog Awards Nominations season is open. Time to nominate your favorite blogs about any and every topic. Of course, I'm throwing my hat into the race, in several races in fact. But I'm also sharing my other favorite blogs to check out, too. Nominate your conscience, but either, please help me spread the word about the online award program.


Nominations are open from April 18 - May 7th
The official Nomination site is here.
You provide the web address (url) for your favorite blog in each category as well as your name and email address on the nomination form and that's it.
There are 37 categories.


Finalists will be announced the week of May 15th and online voting commences May 16 – June 17, 2011. Again, you will need to cast your vote (your valid email address will confirm you are a person and not a bot).
Winners will be announced live at the Black Weblog Awards Ceremony during the 2011 Blogging While Brown Conference in Los Angeles, California.

Here are the categories, along with some of my favorites for select categories.
Best Blog Design (This category is for well-designed blogs that incorporate a unique and eye-catching visual web design, keen use of typography, and a killer layout)

Best Blog Network (This category is for Black blog networks. Blog networks should be comprised of at least three (3) blogs with content updated regularly, include some level of quality control, and include some type of blog network indication (badge, link, etc.) which links to the blog network’s site.)

Best Blog Post Series (This category is for a series of posts in a blog about a particular topic. Posts can be fiction or non-fiction, but post series must be linked by a common and identifiable theme with the ability to skip forward or backwards through the series for judging purposes (i.e., archives, pagination, etc.))
I’m a fan of my Feministing Friday posts at SouthernPlayalisticEvolutionMusic, just saying.

Best Business Blog This category is for blogs that talk about the modern business world (advertising, marketing, finance, business trends, etc.).

Best Culture Blog (This category is for blogs which analyze and discuss Black culture and/or the African diaspora with respect to art, dance, Black history, music, and other related content.)
Rooted in Earth

Best Cooking or Food Blog
This category is for blogs which focus on food and/or recipes. Blogs may also include restaurant and product reviews.

Best Faith-Based Blog (This category is for blogs which feature unique religious and spiritual content from any religion or faith.)

Best Fashion or Beauty Blog (This category is for blogs which cover the topics of beauty, fashion, clothing, cosmetics, design, accessories, personal styling, and other related content for either men or women.)

Best Film Blog (This category is for blogs which promote or discuss films, actors, film culture, and other related content.)

Best Gaming or Comics Blog (This category is for blogs which promote or discuss films, actors, film culture, and other related content.)

Best Gossip Blog (This category is for blogs that focus on the reporting, satire, and lampooning of celebrities and pop culture.)

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.)

Best Health or Wellness Blog (This category is for blogs that focus on health, fitness, living green, and overall physical wellness.)

Best Hip-Hop Blog (This category is for blogs that focus primarily on hip-hop culture, including urban fashion, current events, hip-hop music, and other related content.)

Best Humor Blog (This category is for humor blogs or blogs which feature humorous content. All sites comedy-related, including humor sites, sites spotlighting comedians, and sites that simply make you laugh.)
Awesomely Luvvie

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.)
Geotraveler’s Niche
The Urban Birder

Best LGBT Blog (This category is for blogs that relate to or are about the LGBT community, including news, pop culture, or personal stories)

Best Microblog (This category is for the following types of microblogs: Twitter profiles, Tumblr blogs, or Posterous blogs.)
Lola Gets Life
Blacking it Up!

Best Music Blog (This category is for blogs that focus on music; blogs can provide downloadable mp3s, and may cover more than one genre of music. The majority of the blog should be about music, not satire on pop culture.)

Best New Blog This category is for blogs of any topic which have been started on or after September 1, 2010.)

Best Parenting or Family Blog (This category is for blogs which center around the topics of family, raising children, families, etc.)

Best Personal Blog (This category is for blogs written by individuals about themselves or about others. Blogs do not have to adhere to a specific theme, but should specifically be about the blogger’s life.)

Best Photography Blog (This category is for blogs which present and feature photographs taken by the blog author.)
For most part, I feature nature photos taken by me at Urban Science Adventures! ©, just saying.
The Urban Birder

Best Podcast Series (This category highlights podcasts — serialized audio files available to download — on any topic.)

Best Political or News Blog (This category is for blogs which are about politics or current newsworthy topics.)

Best Science or Technology Blog (This category is for blogs which feature content about biology, chemistry, physics, technology, the Internet, and the various realms of science) Let me say how excited to let you know that there are more science blogs out there by black authors – other than mine of course. Yay! Glad to say, you have some deciding to do!
Urban Science Adventures! ©
The Hermitage
On the Tech side, there are some awesome blogs, too.
Anjuan Simmons
BDPA Education & Technology Foundation
But You're a Girl

Best Sex or Relationships Blog (This category is for blogs which discuss or analyze romantic or interpersonal relationship topics, sexual health, and/or other sexual or relationship topics.)
Lola Gets Life

Best Sports Blog (This category is for blogs which discuss or analyze anything sports-related, including professional sports teams, fantasy sports, sports players, and other related content.)
Black Sports Online

Best Teen Blog (This category is for blogs of any topic where the author is anywhere from 13-19 years old.)

Best Travel Blog (This category is for blogs which explore world travel, travel plans, tourism, travel writing, or other related content)
Jay Travels
Geotraveler’s Niche

Best Video Blog/Vlogger (This category highlights blogs which feature original video content by the blog’s author on any topic. Blog content must be primarily video content.)

Best Writing in a Blog (This category is for blogs which have exceptional writing.)

Blog of the Year (The blog of the year has it all: great writing, frequent posts, active comments, and a strong reader base)
Dare I dream, either of my blogs…LOL

Blog to Watch (This category is for that great blog that not everyone knows about…but should! It’s undiscovered. It’s a best kept secret)
SouthernPlayalisticEvolutionMusic – I think my mash-up blog of hip hop and science is awesome and the neatest things I’ve ever conceived, but I am biased.

Best Lifestyle Blog
Naturally Leslie
The Cubicle Chick

Best Plus-Sized Fashion Blog

Best Automotive/ Car Blog

Best Green/ Nature/ Outdoor Living Blog (I’m super excited about his category. I recommended it!)
Outdoor Afro
Rooted in Earth
The Joy Trip Project
Black and into Green
The Urban Birder

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Crab apple flowers

I've had this on-going relationship with crab apple trees since my childhood.  In the front yard of my paternal grandparent's house was a crab apple tree.  It was tall and thin and I would often wrap my arms around it when I was a little girl (and I'm drawing memories that go way back to the age of 3 or so).  I remember fat, round crab apple fruits, about the size of a jack ball that hung heavy on the limbs.  The fruits would litter the front yard, which interferred with my grandfather cutting the grass or my boy cousins playing touch football.

That tree was the focal part of the front yard.  I would guess that others thought warmly of the tree, too. I remember for my grandparents 50th anniversay there was a special framed portrait/clock that included individual photos of my grandparents flanking a photo of that crab apple tree in the middle, with the thin gold clock hands originating at the branching part of the tree. Tiny little tics encircled the tree, which represented each of the 12 hours of the day.

A few years later, late 1980's/early 1990's the tree was struck by lightning, bring down the front portion of the limbs and leaving a very bad scar.  It was large and quite dark.  I remember being sad about it. Without its full rounded crown of leaves in the spring and autumn, it just seemed to droop on one-side. It looked like it was slumped over, like a family-member in declining health, feeling sad and awaiting death.  Eventually, the decision was made to cut it down, because it was bad off afterall. I gasped with shock and lost when I saw missing one day.

Sigh....but in all of that, I never really paid attention to the tree in spring, so the memory of flowers isn't as salient for me. And in my fuzzy memory, I don't remember the flowers of that tree in my grandparents' yard being this pink or this colorful.  For some reason, I recall the flowers being white or blush. But now that it's gone, I can't confirm it.

Do you have any nostalgic memories of trees from your childhood?  Do you hold some wild spaces or things as special friends?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yuri Night - Celebrating 50 years of human space flight

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the very first human space flight, April 12, 2011.  On this night, 50 years ago, Russian Cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin completed an orbit around the earth.  He became an instant international celebrity and a heor of the Soviet Union.  Today, space flight and exploration isn't as new as it was then, but it's stilll exciting!  Everybody's doing the moonwalk.

There's a celebration event here in my town, St. Louis, Missouri; but it's a worldwide party and you are invited.  Ir create your own impromptu event like go outside and enjoy the beautiful night sky - alone or with friends and family.

You can also make a video about why you're excited about Yuri's Night.  Say something cool about science, engineering, space and planetary science, and you could be the winner of the YURI'S NIGHT 2011 VIDEO CONTEST. The Yuri’s Night 2011 Video Contest is an open source competition to engage the public to create tribute videos for the 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight to share at Yuri’s Night events around the world. As more videos become available they will be posted on this website and notifications will be circulated via Facebook and Twitter @YurisNight.

Learn more about Yuri Gagarin at these links.
Yuri's Night
Biography of Yuri Gagarin, via Wikipedia.
Yuri Gagarin's space flight 50th anniversary: the view from Russia, includes video

Yay! Space Exploration!
Me, next to Space Exploration Patches, Boeing Museum
taken at Boeing, St. Louis, Missouri - the Engineering company that designed and/or built most US space travel vehicle and equipment
Skylab Patch at the Boeing Museum

Commemorative glassware for US Space Flight, Boeing Museum

Model of US Space Shuttle, Boeing Museum

I know, my science geekiness surprises me, too.
See you outside, and tell me all about yur Yuri Night celebration!

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