I'm packing up my office, and crying intermittedly. Today is my last official day at the University of Missouri-St. Louis Department of Biology. I'm packing up my life and departing St Louis at the first of the new year. And as cliche as it sounds, it really is the end of an era. I moved to St. Louis eleven years ago to attend graduate school. I never expected I would been here so long or that I would come to love this city so much.

St. Louis is now like a second hometown to me. In this city and within these academic halls, I matured. I became a woman here, found and rediscovered my professional self while I lived in this city. Made a name for myself and found legions of long-lost siblings and cousins who loved NPR, Jammin' at the Zoo, weekends at the winery, visits to the musuem, and dinner conversations about science, education, politics, and social justice as much as I do.

Damn! I never imagined I would feel like this when this day came. (I'm crying again.) But I am so beyond excited about my next move. Come the first of the year I will a post-doc at Oklahoma State University. Go Pokes! I'll be studying the natural history, behavioral differences, and behavioral genetic dispositions of the African Giant Pouched Rat, Cricetomys gambianus. No, it's not a marsupial, the pouches are mouth patches, like chipmunks. I'll be examining the individual behavior profiles of this rat plus trapping them in the field to learn more about their basic ecology such as habitat preferences, mating system, and dispersal patterns. The field work will take place in Tanzania. Yes, I'll be going to Africa!!! And the final part of the project will examine if behavioral tendencies have a hereditary or genetic component to them. It's pretty sexy science, and I'm super excited!

I loves the rodents, I really do. I think this guy is supercute, but I won't lie. The size of these rats intimidate me a bit. I'm use to small mice that fit in my hand. But I feel confident, once I get them in hand I will be fine. Plus, this species is known to be quite tolerant of human handling and some people keep them as pets. It is a remarkable species, with many individuals being trained to save lives.

But in between tears and packing boxes, I'm still singing!