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Posts Tagged "ecology"

The Artful Amoeba

The Private Life of Plankton — in HD

ceratium_plankton_chronicles

Artistic black-and-white photos of plankton — as we saw last time — are fabulous. But what if one hungers for HD? The Plankton Chronicles have got you covered. On Friday I wrote about the Plankton Portal, a project to enlist the public’s help in identifying and cataloguing weird, deep-sea life. Via their blog, I learned [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Ever Wanted to Observe and ID Weird Deep Sea Creatures? Here’s Your Chance

siphonophore_Forskalia_sp_umiami_pressreleaseperm_200

If you’re like me, you’ve pondered from time to time the goings-on of life in the deep. What’s happening down there this very moment? What do the creatures look like when they’re just hanging out? But most of us will never be able to take a trip in a submersible. Now, though fuzzy and in [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Glass Sponges Poriferify — and Beautify — Impoverished Antarctic Neighborhood

glass_sponges_Larsen_Fillenger_et_al_200

Glass sponges are taking over a newly sunlit strip of Antarctic marine real estate at a blistering clip, surprising biologists who had no idea they had it in them. And what’s in them, it turns out, is also fairly astounding. The story, as was widely reported last month, is this: Although more than 30% of [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Postcards from Rangitoto

img_0279_200

A week and a half ago I stepped off a plane and into the Southern Hemisphere for the first time in my life. In spite of 12 hours of cramped legs and loud children heedless of fellow travelers’ sleep needs, it was an exhilarating feeling. Location: New Zealand. Though David Attenborough ably prepared me for [...]

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Compound Eye

Recipe for a photograph #3: Pollinators in Flight

Apis97f

In this post I explain how to take a lurid sex photograph. Or specifically, a lurid photograph of plant sex. Pollination makes a fascinating photographic subject. Hundreds of thousands of plant and animal species participate in nearly endless permutations of the phenomenon. Plants bribe animals with floral rewards, animals show up to imbibe, and you’ll [...]

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Compound Eye

Visiting the Devil’s Garden

[the following is a modified repost from Myrmecos, February 2011] I had been following an army ant raid for half an hour through dense tropical forest when the trees unexpectedly parted to reveal a small clearing. Sun broke through the canopy and fell on a low tangle of furry plants.  It was a monoculture, looking as [...]

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Culturing Science

Bermuda Bluebirds Aren’t Native: They Moved In 400 Years Ago

bermuda-bluebird-small

The eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) has lived in Bermuda as long as recent human memory can recall. It’s considered a native species, and some people even consider the population to be a subspecies–the Bermuda bluebird (Sialia sialis bermudensis)–because it looks a bit different from its mainland counterparts: its blue is a little more purple, and [...]

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Culturing Science

A Natural History of Mistletoe

Mistletoe berries

Mistletoe is frequently spotted hanging above lovers’ heads in terrible holiday specials–but only during one month of the year. That makes it easy to forget that more than 1,300 species hang in forests year-round, parasitizing thousands of tree species around the world. Or, rather, hemiparasitizing, which means the plant is partially self-sufficient: it has its [...]

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Culturing Science

Urban ecology doesn’t have enough humans in it

citynature2

When you read the word “nature,” what do you think of? Maybe you imagine a dark wood with sunlight reaching a mottled floor of foliage, thrushes singing and chipmunks hopping. Maybe you peer through grassy dunes at sanderlings running back and forth in the surf , occasionally halting to frantically peck at the sand. Or [...]

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Culturing Science

DMS(P): the amazing story of a pervasive indicator molecule in the marine food web

dms-feature

In honor of Chemistry Day here on the Scientific American blog network, I’ve dug out partially rewritten a post on ecological chemistry from the Culturing Science archives. Enjoy! Dimethylsulfide.  Does that word mean anything to you?  “Why yes,” you organic chemistry nerds may say, “It clearly is a molecule of sulfur with two methyl groups attached.”  [...]

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Culturing Science

Collapsed cod fishery shows signs of life

cod-feature

Perhaps our species’s greatest misconception about the sea was that it is inexhaustible. The idea seems rather silly now, in a world where most people are familiar with the word “overfishing.” But men once gazed into the deep and imagined that it teemed with life so plentiful that we could take and take without ever [...]

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Culturing Science

Don’t forget the parasites! Reevaluating the pyramid of numbers

foodweb1958-feature

Just like astrophysicists seek underlying patterns in space/time, ecologists seek similar patterns in life on earth. And there’s one they thought they had pegged: the pyramid of numbers. The first known pyramidal of numbers was drawn by Charles Elton in 1927 to explain the flow of energy through ecosystems. Plants convert carbon in the air into [...]

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Expeditions

Call of the Orangutan: Welcome to Camp

The research camp centers around a cabin built by Leuser International Foundation that was renovated in 2013

It’s taken a bit longer than I’d initially anticipated, but I’m finally at my first field site, Sikundur in North Sumatra, which will be my home for the next eight months. The research and monitoring station is located in the east of the spectacular Gunung Leuser National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, which is [...]

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Expeditions

Scientists Explore New Zealand’s Deep Sea (Part II)

sea urchin image

We made five planned dives during our voyage, each one a day long. It is a long day for the sub team. It takes several hours to prepare the submersible for the dive, and after seven to eight hours on the seafloor, another round of work is needed to prepare the sub for its next [...]

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Expeditions

Scientists Explore New Zealand’s Deep Sea (Part I)

Shinkai 6500 submarine

The JAMSTEC research vessel RV Yokosuka sailed from Nuku’alofa in Tonga this morning, heading towards New Zealand to explore the animal life on deep undersea mountains, or seamounts. A team of 14 scientists from Japan and New Zealand, 41 ships officers and crew are on board. The Yokosuka is the mother ship for the human-operated [...]

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Food Matters

Breaking Food Down

Original Image U. Huddersfield.

What is food? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary entry says “Something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies.” How beautiful. That statement captures much of the emotion and feeling surrounding food, yet it’s only part of the full definition. So where does food begin? As with most big questions, it depends who you ask. Let’s start down the reductive [...]

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Guest Blog

“Gene Drives” and CRISPR Could Revolutionize Ecosystem Management

picture of adult cane toad

A note from the authors: With this guest blog post we want to share the key features of an innovative method for the high-precision genome editing of wild populations that has been outlined by our team at the Wyss Institute, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard School of Public Health. Our technical description of the [...]

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Guest Blog

In Indonesia, a Worrying Silence on Climate Change

Resilient coral. A colony of table coral that broke down, recovered and is now growing into other direction.

Dive into the limpid waters off Indonesia’s resort island of Bali and you’ll spot the beginnings of an environmental success story. Older reefs are recovering from the devastating coral bleaching of 1998 and 2009. New corals are now taking hold. On shore, local fishermen also see improvement. There are, at long last, more and bigger [...]

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Guest Blog

How Much Nature Do We Have to Use?

It’s so easy to slip into debt, but so hard to dig oneself out. Just ask the typical wage earner—even business and national leaders. People who know better still wait for that next paycheck, assumed pay raise or small miracle to help them catch up. As any accountant will tell you, accumulating debt is not [...]

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Guest Blog

Bird guts, not muddy feet, may help snails migrate overseas

When I’m not spending my time writing about the weird bugs I find in the garden, or even weirder creatures I just think the world ought to know about, I study land snails from Pacific Islands. That means every time I give I talk I spend the first couple of minutes convincing people that – [...]

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Guest Blog

Ant Thrills: Seeing Leaf-Cutter Ants through an Artist’s Eyes

When Catherine Chalmers headed to Costa Rica for the third time this past January, she had a script in mind that told a very specific story: the stripping of nature. With a cast of hundreds, if not thousands, she would film a leafy branch being reduced to wood to represent the larger picture of clear-cutting [...]

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Guest Blog

A World Ocean

Every year on June 8 ocean enthusiasts celebrate World Oceans Day. Last year over 300 official events in 45 countries recognized how the Earth’s largest and most complex ecosystem affects not only the rest of the planet and its inhabitants, but how the seas touch upon the essence of being human and the connectivity of [...]

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Guest Blog

Too Hard for Science? Bora Zivkovic–Centuries to Solve the Secrets of Cicadas

Red-eyed periodic cicadas emerge every 13 or 17 years, but finding out why could take millennia In ""Too Hard for Science?" I interview scientists about ideas they would love to explore that they don’t think could be investigated. For instance, they might involve machines beyond the realm of possibility, such as particle accelerators as big [...]

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Guest Blog

Seafood at risk: Dispersed oil poses a long-term threat

The two-hour drive from New Orleans to Venice, La., is like cutting into a slice of apple pie—it’s as American as it gets. Busy streets and high-rise buildings give way to farms, fields, and wetlands, in the perfect picture of rural, small-town America. With the exception of the occasional oil refinery or church, most buildings [...]

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Guest Blog

Why we live in dangerous places

Natural disasters always seem to strike in the worst places. The Sendai earthquake has caused over 8,000 deaths, destroyed 450,000 people’s homes, crippled four nuclear reactors and wreaked over $300 billion in damage. And it’s only the latest disaster. Haiti will need decades to rebuild after its earthquake. New Orleans still hasn’t repopulated following Hurricane [...]

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Guest Blog

Cheerleader for science: A chat with Mireya Mayor, author of Pink Boots and the Machete

Today is the publication day of Pink Boots and the Machete, book by Mireya Mayor, physical anthropologist, National Geographic Explorer, and former NFL Cheerleader. For this occasion, we have invited Darlene Cavalier to conduct a brief interview with the author. Darlene: You discovered the world’s smallest primate in existence in Madagascar. Walk me through the [...]

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Observations

Souvenir Seafood Menus Offer Glimpse into Hawaii’s Oceans of Old

A 1957 menu from Hawaiian restaurant "The Tropics." Image credit: Kyle Van Houtan

Kyle Van Houtan, a marine ecologist at Duke University and a researcher for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has spent the last few months scouring libraries, Web sites and private collections for Hawaiian restaurant menus dating as far back as the late 1800s. Why menus? Van Houtan and his colleagues are trying to learn [...]

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Observations

Allergies from Pollen Projected to Intensify with Climate Change

allergies pollen increase climate change

Spring and summer allergy sufferers might already have noticed a slight increase in days spent sneezing each year. And new research suggests that allergies triggered by pollen are set to increase—in both duration and severity—with climate change. The seasonal scourge ragweed has already been expanding its range in North America, thanks in large part to [...]

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Observations

Rumors of the Oblong Rock Snail’s Demise Were Somewhat Exaggerated

Last May, a University of Alabama graduate student was the first person to collect an oblong rock snail in over 70 years. The species, Leptoxis compacta, hadn’t been observed since 1933 and was declared extinct in 2000. Nathan Whelan, the biology PhD candidate who made the discovery, is glad that his research has a positive [...]

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Observations

Thank You, Scientific Research Diving at USC Dornsife

Today is the end of a series of dispatches we posted on our Expeditions blog – The ‘Problems Without Passports’ program at USC takes two experienced instructors and a number of students to do underwater research on the islands of Guam and Palau. I have immensely enjoyed working with the group and reading their posts [...]

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Observations

Can ecological models explain global financial markets–and make them more stable?

stock traders in global financial marketplace

Bananas, cacao and bee-pollinated crops are all threatened with collapse in part because of their monoculture management. When a biological or social system is full of uniform individuals—be they bean plants or banks—one shared weakness can spell disaster for the whole lot. Even when a new beneficial trait or tool enters the picture, if all [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

How To Grow a Patagonian Red Octopus

octopus eggs

Octopuses are tricky animals to keep in captivity. They’re smart, strong and slinky. But surely their eggs much be easier—being naturally contained and all. Not always, it turns out. Researchers in Chile have been on a quest to grow a local octopus species in captivity after it was overfished in the wild. The results of [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Hey, How Old Is That Octopus?

octopus age

Trees have rings, horses have teeth and even rocks have radiocarbon decay. But how can you tell an octopus’s age? This isn’t a frivolous question. In fact, the future health of octopus populations depend on it. To meaningfully study any animal population, scientists need to be able not only to count the individual numbers (already [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Happy International Octopus Day!

octopus day

October 8 is International Octopus day (naturally)—and kicks off International Cephalopod Awareness Days. Perhaps I am a little biased, having written a book about them, but I think these animals deserve at least one day of celebration. Octopuses have some remarkable assets, including eight semi-autonomous arms, thousands of smart suckers, cold-adapted blue blood, three beating [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

First Octopus Farms Get Growing

octopus farms

Fish farms now produce million tons of fish each year around the globe. But octopuses have largely escaped this kind of confined aquaculturing, despite a growing global demand and overfishing. Why? That’s the million-ton question. Based on their brief life cycles, prolific reproduction and efficient metabolisms, octopuses should be ideal candidates for aquaculture. They have short [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Unusual Octopods: A Flapjack Devilfish Octopus [Video]

flapjack devilfish octopus Opisthoteuthis californiana

The many octopus species that live beyond the reach of vacationing snorkelers, scuba diving researchers and even near-shore commercial fisheries are relative unknowns compared with the more familiar shallow-water species. But that doesn’t mean that they are not of great importance to science—and the ocean’s intricate food web. Last time we met the super-fecund cephalopod [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Mimic Octopus Makes Home on Great Barrier Reef

mimic octopus australia great barrier reef

Of all the amazing octopus species out there, the mimic octopus, Thaumoctopus mimicus, is perhaps the most bewildering. While most known octopuses are able to change color and shape for camouflage, mimic octopuses can also impersonate other animals to deter would-be predators. They can contort their bodies and long, striped arms to look—and swim—like other [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

How Do You Count Giant Octopuses? Color-Code Them with Silicone [Video]

giant pacific octopus tagging tracking populations noaa

Octopuses are clever, reclusive, dexterous, strong and slippery as heck—especially those belonging to the very largest species: the giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini). So how are researchers to catch and track them? Certainly not with traditional nets and tags, which the octopuses can (respectively) squeeze out of and rip off. Instead, try enlisting the help [...]

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PsiVid

The City Dark

CityDark

I was recently in Alaska as an invitee of GoPro cameras in support of a pretty cool science experiment by Project Aether. Briefly, I was there to assist as they launched weather balloons with GoPro cameras attached in order to collect intra-auroral images. After the weather balloons dropped, the GPS tagged cameras were then retrieved, [...]

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Symbiartic

Cartozia Tales: a Comic about Maps Made by Escaping Geography

Cartozia-LeahPalmerPreiss-m

Part of the purpose here on Symbiartic is to put forth ideas about how science communication can learn from art, the way art is increasingly informed by science. Cartozia Tales is a wonderful new example. Put simply, Cartozia Tales is a comic about the fantasy-land and map of Cartozia, and the adventures beings have there. [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

The ‘ghosts’ of extinct birds in modern ecosystems

Three moa species (Pachyornis elephantopus, Dinornis giganteus and Anomalopteryx didiformis) with the divaricating plant Myrsine divaricata in the background. Did browsing pressure from moa result in the evolution of divarication? Image by Darren Naish, CC BY.

It needs to be better appreciated that the vast majority of modern ecosystems and communities are ‘broken’ or, at least, very much incomplete compared to the situation present within very recent geological history: they lack an often significant number of key component species including some, many or all of the so-called keystone species. Why? As [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

STOP ‘feeding’ the ducks

Sorry for the silence here at Tet Zoo – Eotyrannus is keeping me busy, and no time for blog-writing. In desperation, I wanted to share this, originally posted on ver 2 in 2009. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in Britain there is a very entrenched tradition of ‘feeding the ducks’. [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Red Pandas

red panda tree

Here’s one thing you already knew: red pandas are adorable. While they’re not domesticated and therefore are probably not suitable as pets, some people keep them as pets anyway – especially in Nepal and India – and upload their adorable hijinks to the internet for the world to see. Here are seven other facts about [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Cooler Than #SharkWeek: What Can We Learn From the Brains of the Largest Sharks?

A whale shark feeds vertically

Shark Week is upon us, and rather than be fooled by sharky fakery or outright lies, how about some real, true, scientifically-accurate shark science? Here’s a piece I originally wrote in August, 2012. The largest fish in the ocean is the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). This massive, migratory fish can grow up to twelve meters [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Dolphin Societies Are Impacted By Human Fishing

bottlenose dolphin

Moreton Bay is a small patch of ocean bounded by Queensland, Australia, on the west and on the east by Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island. The bay is home, by various estimates, to between six hundred and eight hundred Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). A study conducted in the late 1990s found that the [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

What Does A Whale Shark’s Brain Look Like? (And Why Should We Care?)

A whale shark feeds vertically

The largest fish in the ocean is the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). This massive, migratory fish can grow up to twelve meters in length, but its enormous mouth is designed to eat the smallest of critters: plankton. While the biggest, the whale shark isn’t the only gigantic filter-feeding shark out there: the basking shark and [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Science Writers Who Write About Goats

goat

Several weeks ago, science writer Virginia Hughes wrote a piece about her trip to the Galapagos Islands. In it, she described a project in which scientists intentionally killed eighty thousand feral goats on one of the islands in the archipelago. The post led to an interesting conversation in the comments. Following the discussion, Ginny put [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Urban Science Adventure: Be on the look out for squirrels and dreys

from-the-archives

This post was originally published at Urban Science Adventures! © on January 23, 2009 as Urban Wildlife Watch: Squirrels and Dreys. ************************* 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 [...]

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The Urban Scientist

#FieldworkFriday: Field of Four Leaf Clovers

clover page

If you’ve been following my recent #DispatchesDNLee Adventures trapping prairie voles in Illinois, you may have notice all of the pictures of 4 leaf clovers I’ve posted, especially on Facebook. I’ve found nearly 20 4-leaf clovers since @RiceisReal and I arrived here to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois last week. Thanks to my mom, I started four-leaf clover [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Applications open for undergrad mentoring & travel awards to attend the Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting May 2014

SWS 2014 Mentoring Award flyer

The Society of Wetland Scientists provides travel awards and career mentoring to undergraduates from underrepresented groups at its annual meeting. The Society brings the students to our national meeting and matches them with mentors for the duration of the meeting. The goal is to increase diversity in wetland science fields. Are you an undergraduate student [...]

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The Urban Scientist

#FieldworkFriday: Capture & Release

Summer 2013 I completed the 2nd field season of an ongoing Capture-Mark-Recapture project for African Giant Pouched Rats (CM) Cricetomys ansorgei (formerly C. gambianus) in Morogoro, Tanzania. I capture rats, take measurements, give them an individual identifying microchip, and then release back into the wild.  It’s pretty simple. Sometimes I see them again, sometimes I [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Wordless Wednesday: What are you looking at?

The Urban Scientist

#FieldworkFriday: Field Research Preparations – Bricks and traps

Assembling the live traps.

Bricks and traps.  For those more verse with Urban Dictionary, you’d think I was dealing in contraband, but nope. I was doing the necessary work to expand my field sites this year. Instead of flags, I use these large bricks with painted numbers and letters to designate the coordinates of the trap station. It’s a [...]

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The Urban Scientist

#FieldworkFriday: Putting my foot down

African Pouched Rat foot pad, Cricetomys

Inspired by all of the Throwback Thursday posts on Facebook and Twitter, FaN Club Dad, @Nkrumah_Frazier, has started a new social media meme: Fieldwork Friday! You share photos of your experiences in the field. What a perfect way to keep sharing all of those random, goofy, fun, and exciting pictures from your research expeditions.  (Like [...]

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The Urban Scientist

#DispatchesDNLee: Mystery scat producer identified – African Civet

African Civet camera trap #DispatchesDNLee side by side photos

I opened up a new field site for this field season. It was a beast! Although I only caught two individual Pouched rats over the 80 x80 m square grid, it was a great effort. And much was learned. In addition to non-target captures in my live traps, I also put out camera traps. I [...]

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The Urban Scientist

#DispatchesDNLee: Giant African Land Snails

Giant African Land Snail Achatina fulica, Achatina achatina, Archachatina marginata, Limicolaria aurora Tanzania

I see these magnificent shells littered on the ground – in the woods, on lawns, everywhere. It’s the shell of the Giant African Land Snail. In Tanzania, they are native – living in terrestrial habitats or on land. But back in the United States they are an invasive species. Not only do they devour vegetation of most [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Society for Wetland Scientists Undergrad Mentoring Program application deadline November 16

SWS Mentoring 2013

Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS) wants YOU to attend its annual conference. Hats off SWS. It’s one of themost active and vocal professional societies that work to promote diversity and inclusion of students, especially undergraduates in the scientific experience. The SWS Diversity Program was created to increase diversity in the Society and the field of [...]

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