Thursday, October 30, 2008


Here's a letter I received today in an ecology list serve. I enjoyed it, may you as well.

I was intrigued to find one of my favourite particles, the neutrino, show up on this list. As Dr. Novee says, they are hard to find. But I think that there is much about the neutrino that is relevant to ecology.

Ecologists often take it for granted that if theory and experiment disagree, the theory must be wrong. That is how the neutrino was first "discovered", because experiments on scattering produced results that were theoretically impossible - the Compton effect violated both conservation of energy and conservation of momentum. Did the theorists yield? No, they postulated an invisible particle called the neutrino which carried off the missing energy and momentum. No ecologist would fall for such a sneaky trick!

The neutrino concept was of course pure speculation, which many ecologists claim has no place in science.

For many decades there was no experimental evidence for the neutrino (as for the quark and the Higgs boson). And yet, physicists didn't give up, and astrophysicists even started hypothesizing that much of the matter ("dark matter") in the universe consisted of neutrinos.

So far only a handful of neutrinos have been "seen" (the evidence is really sketchy, just a few flashes of light in huge tanks of liquid), certainly not enough to satisfy the ecological standards for experimental proof. On the other hand, there is a noteworthy precedent for building theoretical castles on just a small mound of experimental mud - Kepler's theory of elliptical orbits was inspired by a minor discrepancy between the centuries old theory of epicycles and the observations of his great mentor, Tycho Brahe.

As regards science and politics, when I was a graduate student we thought it was a great joke to spead a whispering campaign about a new weapon, the neutrino bomb, against which there could be no defense. After all, since neutrinos can pass through the entire earth, what man-made shield could deflect them? Of course the reluctance of neutrinos to interact with matter also meant that they could do no harm, which made them the perfect weapon, no defense and no damage. But a wise professor told us to stop before the military heard of this, as they did not appreciate jokes and would spend billions on it before they caught on, and then we would be in deep trouble.

Bill Silvert

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


So spending some days in the Mojave gets you acquainted with the locals. While I've seen numerous native fauna, including pack rats, tarantulas and coyotes, there are a couple specialised little guys I really want to see. They're amazingly adapted for desert livin', and they're f'in cute.

Kit foxes (seen here being adorable)are the smallest member of the canid family and are found in the Mojave. image from

Kit foxes play a really important role in building really extensive underground burrows that other willife utilize. They are, like most desert life, only active at night. They have huge ears. Apart from detecting prey, large blood vessels running through the large ears of the kit fox close to the skin allow their blood to be cooled and transferred through out the body.

They drink no water, as it is obtained exclusively through the prey.

One of their prey species is the kangaroo rat, one of the most interesting developed little guys out here. I have yet to see one alive, but I've seen this...

So these guys are kooky. They have cooled nasal passages, cooler than their core body temperature. When the little critters exhale, agua vapor in their breath condenses in their nose and is reabsorbed. Genius!

Also, they have a crazy long loop of henle. Alot of animals (even us) have these. Its an actual loop. Urine runs through this U- shaped loop. Ions (K+ and Na) actively moved out of the loops descending quadrant. When these ions are moved out, they swing on over by the ascending quadrant. Cause of how gradients work across a membrane, the water exits the loops due to its attraction to the ions, and water is saved.

These little guys have a really looooong loop, meaning more h20 is returned to the system and not peed out. Their urine is 6x as concentrated as ours when we're super dehydrated.

Interesting eh?

I return to the desert Friday. I'll try to find some more science out there.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Oregon is full of rich organic soils, supplemented by potash and minerals from volcanic soils, along with the constant precipitation from the Pacific. It has dense stands of old-growth trees you and another person holding hands cannot completely reach around. I left there, driving south on 199, through the Willamette Valley, Through the linear dimensions of wine country that splay out across northern california, sown through San FRansisco, THrough LA, then turning East to head inland to the Mojave desert.

The Mojave is full of intense smells. Plants have similar tachniques to avoid having moisture rich foliage being eaten. Fragarnt tanins ward of herbivores, while making the desert smell intoxicating after a rain.

Sandy dry soils hold no heat, hold no cold. They reflect the atmospheric temperatures and amplify it, buffering nothing the way a moist climate would.

The locals say these are Joshua TRee forests. The Science in me hates that phrase... Joshua Trees are not trees, and cannot be a forest. And if they were, they would be a savvanah. But its allowable anyways. THese decadent plants fall all over themselves, colapsing and changing dirction . They are the only plant above my waist here. They stab you when they can.

SCA is very cult-like. We live together. We eat vegan food (delicious vegan food). We wear the same clothes. We can't leave for Thanksgiving. We stay in the desert for weeks on end and do not shower.

My job is restoring illegal inroads into wilderness areas made by OHV (Off-highway vehicles) drivers. The roads wind across mountains, you cann see them for miles. We go in and restore them, planting native plants, moving dead trees and logs and giant rocks. At the end of the day you don't see the road anymore, and its a strangely satisfying feeling. Our job is done when it looks like we were never there.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I finished a workin'. During my final week in Oregon my mom came up and we traversed the entire state. From Mountain to sea, we saw a ton! It was beeeeautiful. With that, I'll shut up and post a ton of pictures.

Crater Lake!

Rogue Brewery!

What a great state. I have since been on a whirlwind tour of Oklahoma, pictures soon to follow, but I am now on my way to Southern California to begin a position in Southern California. Yay!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The first month in Oregon

Well, its been awhile since I updated. Long days in the field...they're killer. I work an 8 day on 6 day off schedule, so it makes the breaks really mean more. Oregon is gorgeous. I live in a valley a few miles from the Rogue River near Ashland. The valley is really pretty, mount ashland is in the distance, and they're still clinging to agraian practices around here. There are great bike rides through gravel roads through pear orchards and grape orchards while smoke from the claifornia fires makes big red sunsets.

So its lovely, is what I'm saying. The people I work with are great, and the job is really nice, and I see amazing stuff. Like what, you ask?

That's a spotted owl!

There's only one downside. The couse I'm staying in is creeeeeepy. Here's the front door:


Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Having a summer before the real world starts was great. I suppose its not 'the real world' if your parents still help you out...but its a world without exams. So that's nice. Zion is the most amazing national park I've ever been to. My boyfriend is working there this summer: check out the house he lives in!

I got to stay in this amazingly beautiful park in a sweet house for freeeee. And the hiking was great: The Subway, The Narrows, Angel's Landing, Kolob Terrace, and Kolob Reservoir.

So that was UTah! And now I'm living in Oregon. Its a beautiful small town in the Rogue Valley. My co-workers are awesome. A couple from France, and Two guys from these parts. We get to see some amazing areas- huge douglas-firs and Ponderosas, even some sugar pines! I'm working an 8-day on 6-day off schedule with 10 hour days. Lets just say it makes you appreciate the weekends even more. But I get to travel on my days off! And I get to return to my other home, Arcata,CA, so that's lovely. I'll put up pictures soon. You can see all of the smoky mountains and pear orchards. Love love lovely

Friday, May 23, 2008


School's done with. I'm certified intelligent. And I got a sweet new compyer! Thanks dad. My senior thesis is done (somehow). I never thought I would finish it. The last three weeks or so has involved me mainlining caffeine and crying about how impossible this study is. My boss has been helping me out by looking over my drafts. She went to bat for me in talking to my advisor. So while I'm under this paper crunch I also had to present the study to some of the Natural Resource Ecology & Management department. This whole time I'm thinking my advisor considers me a moron. I was notified half an hour later he wants to fund my graduate school. Crazy. I would love to work with my advisor and Gail, but I just want some time off for a while.
I need to get out. So I'm hanging out In Arizona. Subshine, hiking, swimming pools, and mom's home cooking. Hell yea. I've missed road trips, ya know? Especially ones alone. I'm off to Oregon to start my new job in three weeks. Its a temp job, but its a research technician position for a project through Oregon State. I'm excited to learn a little more about dendrochronology,and hiking in Oreogn is always a good time. And I hear Ashland is amasing, So I can't wait. I get to see a bunch of friends who I love and have not seen for a very very long time.

Now if I can just over these finals week nightmares...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sharp Saws and Dull Wit. Last week I competed in Association of Southern Forestry Clubs Conclave in Gainesville,FL. What does that mean? Timber sports! We got to take off a week of class to visit beautiful sunny Florida. The 26 hour drive tried our patience, and tested friendships (and our livers)but we made it to Jacksonville. I know, I know, we over shot Gainesville by a couple hours. But we wanted to see the ocean. Can you blame us? The Atlantic was so much better than when I saw it in New Hampshire (imagine that!).

The waves were warm, and the team did some night swimming. We camped just south of Jacksonville outside of St. Augustine (illegally, I might add). Every camp ground was full, and damn if we were sleeping in a hotel with the best white noise in the world (ocean) to lull us to sleep on the best mattress in the world (sand).

It was possibly the best nights sleep I've ever gotten sober and outside. The on-shore wind blew in our faces just enough to keep us cool. We did have to move the sleeping bags around 4 am. I guess Lake Eufala doesn't have tides, so we were thrown off. Then we drove on to Gainesville for the competition. And then the rain began.

It sprinkled pretty regularly all night Thursday. The downpour began around 10 am. It didn't let up all day. My boyfriend and I had simply been tarp camping, which left all our stufdf soaked. We were both out competing in events, so we couldn't move our bags to higher ground, or to other tents, so they were completely inundated. I didn't see dry shoes for the next 36 hours.

For those outdoorsy types, you know what happens when your feet are that wet for that long. Aside looking like a corpse pulled from the river, they were bruised an swollen for days.

But Saturday was a gorgeous day. The sunshine dried up everything the sandy soils missed, and competition was awesome. And my crosscut partner & I took second place, an amazing feat with saws that cost $10,000 more than our M2 as our competition.

My boyfriend Competed in the Stihl competition. And we went home with some nice hardware. I had fun,FLA. If only I could see you on spring break.

Monday, January 14, 2008

So that's what I did over break. For those of you bad at pattern recognition, I'll describe it: hiking and beer.

now, back to school.

Its the second week of classes. I'm taking 19 hours, (whew!). Some of my classes are pretty exciting: Leave no trace, aboriginal skills, Invasive species, Productivity of forest stands, Forest Problems (which is my senior thesis), Evolution of the Earth. Some are not: Intro to leisure, and ow to get a job..or something to that effect. That one is through the school of business, which means it is absolutely useless to natural resource people. But hey, I needed an easy 1 hour, and it was there. I MUST get my gpa up.

I'm working on my thesis proposal. My last draft got a warm recetion, but it'll have to be piping hot by Friday, my first sampling day. Here's the first draft (well, the objectives any way):
1. Re-survey the nutrient content of these plots, previously tested in the late 1980’s in order to look at the long-term soil fertility of various burn intervals (Masters, 1993).
2. Test sites for variations in amount of nitrogen forms (ammonium, nitrate, and organic) based on time since last burn and burn interval.
3. Measure variations in C:N ratios based on time since last burn and burn interval
4. Measure variations in other nutrients to assess over all soil fertility based on fire return interval

We also hope to look at the change in these parameters immediately before and after fire. This will allow us to see the immediate effect of fire based on volatilization and burning of organic material, as well as the bacterial response to fire and pulse of nutrients.

The sad truth is, I know very little about fire, and little has been written regarding fire in the forest-grassland interface. I'm not sure my advisor knows as much about fire as I thought either.

Man, maybe I should go find a fire guy.