Just some pics from earlier this week.
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Just some pics from earlier this week.
My extended work schedule has been reaping benefits. So far, I have managed to keep very busy. Thus, I have also managed to escape feelings of excessive loneliness or boredom for almost all my time insofar. My job has had me driving all over the State, visiting different farms, both conventional and organic, and monitoring for various insects. Here, I have constructed what will likely be the primary format for this blog from here on out, a photo journal of sorts.
So there you have it, most of what I’ve been up to this week. Tomorrow I’ll be spending the whole day on a field of elderberries. I’ll be observing and taking notes on visitors to the extra floral nectaries throughout the day. I’ll also repeat these observations throughout the entire season to get a better grasp on their role and ecological function.
I’m also happy to report that I have a list of ‘things-to-do’ now, as well. My coworkers and I have made plans to purchase, butcher, and consume a goat. I realize this is not exactly in line with my ‘vegetarian’ goals for the summer. I have no good excuse for this, other than it will be an interesting activity in observing one coworker on particular, who has never had goat meat before. I will also be part of a ‘spelunking’ trip, which is the operative word for caving here. My only experience with caves has been in reading Tom Sawyer and watching documentaries on cave diving in Florida springs, back home. As such, I figure this will be quite the adventure. Additionally, I will be spending at least one day fishing on the Osage River, courtesy of my coworker. I have also, hopefully, convinced my lab mates here to partake in a 5k with me in my effort to get everyone here in (somewhat better) shape. It still remains to pick a suitable one, so suggestions are welcome. Finally, thanks to a kind commenter for suggesting the Katy Trail to me. I will be making plans to take myself on a night hike within the next week or two.
All told, I will be participating in the mentioned activities at intervals throughout the summer as scheduling permits. Work must come first, of course, so the trips will be spaced out with respect to insect populations and densities. Ideally, I will be providing you with details of all these adventures throughout the summer, so I hope you take the list as a preview of what I have coming for you in this blog.
In other news, please take the time to visit my friends at Educational Biologists and ‘like’ their page. I will be contributing my photos as they build out their network. I would really appreciate your support as they will soon be applying for various grants to help support science education in poor and underserved communities. Hopefully, with enough ‘likes’ and a smorgasbord of new content over the next few months, they will achieve their goal in reaching out to kids both locally and globally.
As one final note, I will also gloat that I now have internet access at work as of one day ago!!! However, I have also realized that such internet access doesn’t mean much as more or less all of my work is outdoors, in the field, and spread around the whole State. So, I fear, my updates here will continue to be a bit sparse.
I’ve just completed a little over a week out here. Last time I left you with some pictures of the first leg of my trip. The second leg was decidedly ‘uglier’ in the sense that not much scenery can beat the Appalachians. Also, it was a bit wet most of the way from Nashville coming into Missouri.
A few more hours of driving had me in Kentucky and eventually Illinois. Both fit what I had heard of severely bad roads and boring scenery. I would note here that though Florida is just as flat, the wildlife and vegetation in Florida is much more interesting than corn fields.
Indeed, the highlight of the second leg of my journey out here was driving through St. Louis. I’m not entirely sure about this, but the city might be one of the biggest in the Midwest. My understanding is that St. Louis is considered the Westernmost Eastern city in the U.S., and I would agree with that sentiment.
After settling in on Saturday afternoon, and bumbling around on Sunday without much to do other than pick up a few non-perishables, I came into work on Monday.
Here, I should note that I unconditionally love my boss. Jaime Pinero is one of the hardest working people I know. He has a wide range of experience that I won’t detail here, but suffice it to say that I could hardly ask for a better leader.
Unlike most of my previous experience, my work here is not just limited to pure research. I also take part in extension activities. I know many of you know that I work a lot with kids, even back in Florida, whether it’s giving talks or teaching about ecology and the environment, I do some of those things here, too. Extension work in the Midwest also includes helping farmers out when they ask for it. One of the first farms I went out to for this purpose was an organic farm in the far south western corner of MO.
Even though a lot of my work involves driving around random parts of the State, things don’t get too dull because of the low population density.
For those of you who might think that I’m just carousing around, getting paid to chase bugs, I would remind you that while, yes, I do that, there is real work involved.
The green lacewing is another of my favorite insects. Not only are its wings extraordinary (hint: the name of the insect) but the eggs it lays are equally neat.
I don’t know everything there is to know about insects, though. Lots of eggs, for instance, look like other insects eggs.
I should clarify what my role is: A large part of my research and work here involves IPM (integrated pest management). IPM of insect species, whether in crops, or in urban settings, traditionally involved three categories: chemical control, mechanical / cultural control, and biological control. Chemical control has, since the ’40s and ’50s, been dominated by broad spectrum, environmentally damaging, human health problem – causing, compounds.
To some extent, this is changing today. Many of the most problematic chemicals have been phased out, or outlawed. Modern scientists are developing more targeted insecticides and herbicides that are also less persistent in the environment. There are also new, organically certified compounds (i.e. Spinosad, Pyganic, etc.) that can be used. Mechanical, or cultural control as it is sometimes called, is easier to implement, as it involves things like trap cropping, no-till agriculture, beetle banks, and the like.
If you want more information on any of these, it should be easy enough to find – I will attempt to keep this blog from being overly scientific. What I work on largely is the biological component of IPM, i.e. conservation of natural predator species and the like.
So there you have it. A small selection of the things I do.
Some notes on the culture here: it’s conservative, but a different kind of conservatism from the proverbial ‘Deep South’. Indeed, what passes as a very conservative person here might be construed as a moderate or even liberal in Mississippi. People here have the potential to be exceedingly friendly, in this sense.
Either way, things are a bit on the lonely side here. There isn’t a whole lot to do in Jefferson City. Of all the people I have talked to, it would seem that all the things-to-do are located in Columbia, MO, about a half hour drive.
I’ve taken the initiative to work a little extra every day, for every day of the week (read: including weekends) such that I can come home a little on the early side. I’ll hopefully be back in Florida by early August.
I should further note that I haven’t really had internet access, hence the delay in posting this update. The IT department here should have things figured out by the end of this coming week so I should be able to post more regularly after that.
And as always, feel free to ask any questions or post suggestions, or ideas you would like to see implemented.
Today was comprised of an early morning and a long, slow trek to Nashville.
As a representative of your average life long Florida resident, I managed to muster some excitement at the first sight of any hills north of Gainesville.
Lo and behold, however, even greater shifts in altitude were about to occur:
Of course, I have fairly poor multi tasking skills, so I’m a blurry shot when driving.
I should note here: The Insight is not the progeny of any mountain goats. The electric motor was constantly whirring and the ICE revving up at every opportunity. Somehow, the car still managed about 50 miles to the gallon, so there’s not much to complain about.
In all honesty, I haven’t seen this much green outside of the Everglades. I-24 from about the Georgia-Tennessee through about another hundred miles or so is just plain gorgeous. Admittedly, I’d be willing to bet that it doesn’t look so nice most of the year, but for now, it’ll do.
These canyons were truly a sight to see: rock slides, caves, and all manner of natural features dot the landscape. Lucky would be the man who got to spend a few weeks (or longer) hiking around these woods.
I’m cooling my heels at the hotel for now, but I’ll be headed downtown to take a look at what country music is all about in a few minutes. I hear Opryland is the thing to do if you’re only in town for a little bit.
I’ll still make sure to get off to an early start tomorrow, and likely be in Jefferson City by the early afternoon.
Next update to follow on Monday or Tuesday, as I won’t have access to the internet till I get to work.
Me ready to get on the road: T – 13 hours
As some of you may know, I’m spending this beautiful summer of 2012 out in Jefferson City, Missouri. I’ll be doing some more work with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) through a lab located at Lincoln University. If this sounds at all similar to my work last summer out in Tallahassee with USDA, that’s because it’s pretty much the same job, and I got it through my work last summer, too.
So anyhow, I’ve decided to document my time this summer in a blog format. Why? Great question. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to take some great, thought – provoking classes recently. Environmental ethics, urban ecology, etc., etc. Along the way, I’ve discovered the tree hugger in me, and I’ll be experimenting with some of those things this summer.
First and foremost, I’ve got a new car. A hybrid. A 2012 Honda Insight, black on black. For those of you who know me as a gearhead, this purchase may be the most unusual happenstance, and trust me, I felt the same way. Fact of the matter is, there’s something funny about driving a hybrid. Doesn’t feel quite right saving all that gas, but hey, what the hell, helps the wallet. My experiences with this car will be one of the main foci of this blog.
Second, I’m mixing up my diet some this summer. While meat is already lacking in what I consume, I’m going to be extra careful to take the vegetarian, or even vegan option when possible. Additionally, I’m committing to doing my best to ensure that the bulk of what I eat is as ‘local’ as possible. I’m already planning on eating a lot of corn.
Third, and perhaps most interestingly, I’m limiting my usage of electricity by not signing up with the power company at my new apartment. I’m already used to not having a TV, never had cable growing up after all. On the other hand, the lack of internet is not something I’ve had for extended periods of time (no power = no internet if you haven’t made the connection). No hot water either, bummer. Now, I’m not completely withdrawing from society, or anything close to it. In fact, I’ll still be charging my laptop and phone at work, and I’ll be taking hot showers at the neighborhood gym. So while far from a third world experience, I’ll still attempt to limit my impact by cooking on a camp stove, lighting my apartment with only a small hurricane lantern, washing all my clothes by hand, etc.
In addition to these three main goals, I’ll keep a mind towards the small things as well. I’ll try and make sure to not drive more than ten miles per week (work, library, gym, groceries are all within three miles of the apartment so I should be able to walk everywhere).
Overall, I’m a bit nervous about this whole adventure. Missouri will out me about ten times further from the ocean than I think I’ve ever been; I’m never comfortable that far away from the nearest palm tree; heck, I even hear it snows in the winter (!). This blog will hopefully illustrate to my friends and family what I’m up to on a fairly regular basis. I’ll post some pics and some notes about my drive up there (I leave tomorrow morning) shortly.
For now, peace out. If you have any questions, or anything you’d like me to document during my trip this summer, please feel free to let me know.