Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This past weekend I went to Great Basin National Park, in Nevada, to participate in mountain kingsnake surveys. Below are pictures of some of the scaly critters we found. The red, black, and white striped one would be the kingsnake.

The view from the campsite. The wildflowers are very impressive right now.

Desert Horned Lizard

Mountain Kingsnake

Gopher Snake

Work is going well. We have switched from hunting spotted frogs to searching for the slightly cuter Boreal Toads. Look at that cute little toad face...

Other noteworthy tidbits…
I took the Biology GRE in April and have signed up for the General GRE in July, so it looks like I really will be applying to grad school this fall.
My vegetable garden is actually growing, and I am immensely proud of it.
I went trilobite hunting this weekend. I got to bash open slate and find nifty fossils inside. There is something remarkably satisfying about creating large piles of rubble.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

work and play

too much work to write, so pictures instead.

I finally figured out how to work the macro function on my camara!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

toads and other photo-worthy subjects

Here's a stack of pictures from the last week or so of fieldwork.

Four wheelers! This is certainly an exciting addition to fieldwork. I got paid to ride this around looking for toads. What a life!

Spring has finally come to Utah, and it's really pretty.

Playing with snakes. What's new? (Thamnophis elegans)

Great Basin Spadefoot toads.

Scenery shot. Heber Valley, Utah. My "office" for the last three weeks.

It's Boreal Toad breeding time. Notice the egg strands. Very cool.

I don't think this fellow is going to be breeding this year. Found in a pond, somehow still alive despite the pink thing being its lung. Probably was attacked by a bird.

Toad eggs

herons in tree

Working hard, well... they are... I'm obviously not if I'm taking pictures.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My paper is officially accepted into Copeia!!
Party: my room, with the gecko, and maybe a sleeping dog. It's gonna be rockin'.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Birds are getting busy

Matt gets the friendly cows and I get the horse that flipped out and charged across the field... no fair.

Seriously? It's snowing and we are looking for frogs? I think the frogs are laughing at us. That's my boss, she doesn't seem to mind the snow.

I rode 30 miles on my bike today. It was a test run to see if biking to work is feasible from my new housing location. It is only 9 miles from the house to the office but I think adding an 18 mile ride to each day would really turn my usual routine of hiking and falling into the water into a full daily triathlon. I am not that hardcore. Thirty miles might sound like a lot, but 30 flat Utah valley miles are roughly equivalent to 5 hilly Bay Area miles. They have a lovely system of bike paths following the Provo River through downtown Provo. After finding this bike path I promptly went 5 miles in the wrong direction because I went upstream instead of downstream. The river flows into Utah Lake, I live next to Utah Lake…. Duh. I guess my inner fish instincts were erring toward salmonid tendencies.
I finally managed to roll home and was greeted by the two large mutts and one small daschund. Evidence of their afternoon of mischief was scattered across the backyard. One recently crotchless lacey thong and a shredded Book of Mormon. Grandparents, don’t worry, neither were mine. I picked up the religious confetti from the lawn (seemed like the respectful thing to do) but left the underwear.
Work is still fun and my waders still leak. It’s been less than two months and I am on my third pair. I would rant longer about the leaks, but the amount of water they let in is insignificant compared to the inflow every time I fall in. I have a tendency to leap first, sink, and then look at my soggy situation. We spend a lot of time going through wet meadows, which could be more accurately described as grassy streams. It is like one of those arcade games where the little digital dude has to jump across floating mushrooms. Grass blobs bob innocently, looking oh-so-solid until you jump on. This is a great balance building exercise; standing one legged on a floating ball of vegetation, arms waving like a windmill, mouth going like a sailor. Based on this description, it’s actually surprising that I only fall in two to three times a day. Falling in would be significantly less annoying if my waders didn’t immediately fill up with enough water to drown a large mammal. Theoretically all those leaks should let out the water, but apparently my waders only leak in the inward direction. I clearly wasn’t paying attention in the physics lesson when they explained this phenomenon (“ wet wader reverse osmosis”). At this rate I will soon perfect my techniques of wader-water-removal Yoga. “Downward Bog” is my favorite. Handstands work, but then all the nasty footy swamp water flows straight into the face. I can accept soggy toes (or perhaps zombie feet…), but I draw the line at duckweed in the hair.
Interestingly, all this time spent looking for frogs is helping me to become a better birder. One of my coworkers was pondering the identity of a marshy bird with a brownish head, black wings, and silly looking long bill.
“Oh, you mean the Avocet? They were with the snowy egret and killdeer…”
Oh, wow…. I guess all shorebirds are no longer “curved bill dowagers”. However, it’s certainly baby steps for the ornithological advancement: anything smaller then a starling and colored brown is presumed unidentifiable. I like the bigger birds, like the Sandhill Cranes we see on a regular basis. They are nesting in the wetlands we frequent and it is remarkable how well they blend in with the reeds and bulrushes. More than once I have been sloshing along, minding my own soggy business, when suddenly a huge bird (we’re talking 8 foot wingspan here) emits the cackle of an angry velociraptor and launches itself out of the reeds towards my head. Pretty cool for something with feathers.

(Sandhill Crane nest, after mama bird went kamakazi-crane and then stood cackling at me from a pond 20 feet away)
Also cool: Osprey courtship.

Geese also seem to have no issues with fecundity. A week later the eggs were replaced with a fluffle (originally a typo, but I think I like the word) of little gooselings, fulfulling my daily quota of cuteness.