Wednesday, May 24, 2006

clover's has gone to arctic summer camp. please check back in the fall.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

so this article is ungodly long. it is about the unsuccessful search for the ivory-billed woodpecker and what that can teach us about birding culture, the power players of conservation ornithology, post-reconstruction mythology, and the power desire wields on the senses. Sufjan Stevens wrote a maudlin ballad to said woodpecker. This story is relevant to me in several ways. first, the editor of the Auk ( the best regarded ornithology journal in North America where the major refutation of the ivory-bill sighting was published), Spencer Sealy, works 4 doors down from me and is on my committee. And any article about birds is going to prompt some question from my grandparents about my opinion on it.

But more directly, the ivory-bill is interesting because it spans the grey area from naturalists to academics which is present in macrobiology in general and ornithology in particular. You don't have yurt-dwelling spiritualists and good old boys stepping forward to claim that they have discovered new elements or cancer geners like you do in this case. The accessibility of macrobiology is a big part of its beauty. Everyone has seen a bird. Everyone has been outside. Everyone has asked why the world works like it does.
The piece also touches on how science and conservation and relevant and communicated to the public, and how what makes a compelling public intellectual piece and what gets it done at an academic level rarely overlap. This notion of public science is directly applicable to me, because George, from the video clip, was also featured in an 8-page NYT mag article in 2000 which I read as a junior in college and was terribly inspired by, and had taped to my wall for a semester and a half. So although I am now an academic ornithologists, and am supposed to tut-tut these recreational birders, their anecdotal imaginations, and the excitable public, but I am chasing my own ivory-bill in Alaska every summer.

Friday, May 12, 2006


no summer plans?

Want to go to the North Slope of Alaska (Barrow) to watch rare ducks?

there is an opening. They even live in town and having running water and TV.

the email from Nora (she is a really nice lady) is copied below.

don't be worried by the ArcGIS stuff. Sounds like she might just take a warm body at this point. airfare to anchorage is like $700.

I'm down one volunteer to help with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Steller's eider project in Barrow, Alaska this summer and looking for a replacement. If you or anyone you know may be interested, please contact me ASAP, either by email at or by phone at (907) 456-0276. Ideally I needed a 5-week commitment from folks, but at this point I would take someone for a shorter period, but for at least two weeks. Airfare from Fairbanks or Anchorage would be covered, as well as food and lodging in Barrow. Here's the original announcement for more information: ALASKA VOLUNTEER FIELD ASSISTANTS needed 7 June to 15 July 2006 to assist with nesting biology studies of threatened Steller’s eiders in Barrow, Alaska. Barrow is the northernmost city in Alaska and the U.S.’s farthest northern community, with approximately 4,500 residents. It’s is an active Arctic research community, with a variety of ongoing projects on marine mammals, snowy owls, shorebirds, passerines, and lemmings. Volunteers will primarily assist with two surveys: 1) ground-based breeding pair surveys for Steller’s eiders, as well as spectacled eiders (also a threatened species) and avian predators (snowy owl, 3 species of jaegers, glaucous gull, and common raven) to determination abundance and distribution; and 2) nest searches to locate Steller’s eider nests, which will be monitored to determine reproductive success. Qualifications: Persons with previous experience in ornithology, especially waterfowl, are encouraged to apply. Applicants must be able to work as part of a team, willing to live in shared quarters in a remote village, and be willing to work long hours. Must also be willing and capable of walking up to 10 miles per day, in hip waders, on wet tundra in cold, windy weather or possible warm, buggy weather (maximum temperatures are 10-15 C). Preferred qualifications include experience in identifying and observing birds (especially waterfowl); locating nests; conducting surveys; navigating by aerial photographs and GPS; use of ArcGIS; and ATV operation. Airfare from Anchorage or Fairbanks to Barrow provided. Lodging and food provided plus $3/day for miscellaneous expenses. Hip boots and binoculars provided; you must provide your own field clothes. To apply, email or send a letter of interest, resume, and name and contact information for 3 references to: NORA ROJEK, USFWS – Fairbanks Fish and Wildlife Office, 101 12th Ave., Room 110, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99701. Email: (Phone: 907-456-0276, Fax: 907-456-0208). Applications will be reviewed in January 2006 until the positions are filled. Thanks, Nora

Thursday, May 11, 2006


my memory has just been sold

So, it turns out the study I am doing my degree on was featured on ABC news in the fall. You can see me for exactly 0.5 seconds of the 6 minute piece. (I'm wearing my green jacket.) I remember being on the island while they came to film the piece and being moved out of all the shots. In an obvious way, I felt upset at being ignored and having the discomfort I endured go unrecognized, but ultimately, it is George who has made the study happen by endured far more discomfort than I, and it is he who deserves the recognition.

and no, george is not the only inhabitant of cooper island, and yes, that means the two of us live in that cabin.

If you are interested in what it is I do all summer and what it looks like, you can now have streaming video.


ICE!!!!! (said in the voice of Doug E. Doug in "Cool Runnings")

Ice fishing, Ice hockey, Ice climbing. (aka I just figured out how to upload pictures yesterday)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Living in the Middle of Nowhere isn't so bad part IV

On sunday I engaged in another Central Canada adventure--the emergence of the red-sided garter snakes. The red sided garters, (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis), one of 7 distinct subspecies of the common garter snake, would not normally be able to live this far north, but central manitoba has a porous limestone geology which creates a system of underground cracks and caves. the snakes enter the caves (called dens or "hiburnacula") and are able to get down below the frost line to overwinter in large groups. The approximatley 70,000 snakes emerge en masse in April and May to breed at the den openings. garter breeding involves one female surrounded by, potentially, hundreds of males in a "mating ball" which looks like a huge pile of writhing snakes It is insanely cool. After mating the snakes slither off as far as 30km to spend the summer eating frogs and baby mice until thier oviviparous* eggs hatch. They then return to the dens to overwinter. There is actually a Wildlife Management Area (a kind of provincial park) in Narcisse, MB (pronounced NAR-siss) to protect 4 of the dens There were upwards of 100 cars in the parking lot and even a mobile mini-donut vendor. It was like a rock concert for snakes.

*ovivipary is a life history strategy where the mother retains the fertilized, non-placental eggs within her body cavity until hatch. They young then emerge live. Sharks are also oviviparous. The strategy is often adopted when there are no suitable habitats or not enough environmental stability to allow extenal eggs deposition.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

when I post something like this, I run the distinct risk that my friends aren't nearly as engaged by the hateful and snarky as I am. but that is a risk I must run. enjoy, friends, enjoy.

I also recommend WASP's nest.

thanks to terry for the find.
canadians, if you are reading this, ask me about NYT wedding announcements and I will explain.

I have a really strong desire to interview Stavros Niarchos. who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Stavros knows!!

In other news, canadian student government officials are french-style socialists. This can seem juvenile, but when one compares them with American student government officials, at least they have heart.

Heath Schuler's a Dem! better than steve largent.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Chicken sandwich, Carl. And make it snappy!

the title, I admit, is only marginally relevant. but such fun.

I have found a new favorite TV show. Godiva's

It is a ensemble drama about the staff of a restaurant in Vancouver. Canadian TV drama has a different visual sense than AMerican drama. Canadian culture is somewhere between British and American, and American tv looks like everything was shot in an LA set (because it was) and you always know you are watching British TV, because it has that outdoor, camcorder feel to it. Godiva's has intermittant production value which establishes the joys of american TV (there are beautiful people in nice clothes and trashy plots) without EVERYONE being pretty and glamorous. There are globetrotting DJs, yoga-cultists, money launderers, hard-nosed aboriginals, queens, self-involved celebrity chefs, it's great. Good clean fun. and you can say "fuck" and "bitch" on canadian TV (which is highly ironic given the draconian radio editing laws).

on the subject of young-adult ensemble shows, what the hell is going on south of the 49th, people. The loop? What about Brian? Cheap rehashes of Friends and Scrubs (the former) and Friends with a dash of 30something for the latter. MAKE UP SOMETHING NEW!! poseiden? Basic Instinct 2? This is just pathetic.

Monday, May 01, 2006


$240 worth of pudding.....awwww yeah.

Sit back, and I, I may tell you a tale.

So in Manitoba, we have these things called "socials." It sounds like a quaint midwestern word for a party, and to some degree that is true, but they are a very specific kind of party. They are held by an afianced couple several months before the wedding as a fundraiser for the wedding itself. They are held in community centers and have cheesy DJs. there are cover charges, and you can buy drinks, and there are raffles for stuff that the bride and groom get local businesses to donate The purpose is to go and have fun and spend money to support the young couple. It is interesting socialogically, because it only makes economic sense if all your friends attend one another's socials. It is a reciprical altruistic construct. Because no one has many thousands of dollars in savings, but every has $50, a extended family and or community essentailly puts on a wedding for each of its young couples.

But I digress. There is an odd mix of generations from the two families, and any other friends you can con into coming. So a friend's ex-boyfriend's brother was having a wedding social on friday. (The ex is a more distant friend.) At midnight, the "late night lunch" (traditionally cold cuts) is served to the guests. The family added a bit of Ukrainian flair and buttery goodness by adding pierogies. An established game at socials is to attempt to place cold cuts on the shoulders of others without them noticing. (by midnight you are tipsy and a bit antsy.) I am abjectly horrible at this.

There was an impressive demonstration of the "boot scoot boogie." Upon extended analysis of said boogie, it is simply the electric slide done while holding one's belt-buckle. swear to god. Is this true of all country line dancing?

so as 1 am rolls around, the drawings for the raffles begin. and I find myself the winner of........26 pounds of elk. not 25 pounds of elk, 26 pounds of elk. (Elk is apparently not measured in kilograms). Frozen. Butcher wrapped. I have ground elk, top round of elk, t-bones of elk, elk sirloin, and more. Who knew there was ground elk? Well, the elk was the prize of choice among the guests. It was singled out and drawn last except for the grand prize. I received a fair amount of good natured swearing from other guests. Thanks to the good people at Headingly Meats in Headingly Manitoba for donating 26 pounds of elk to the social. It will certainly make for an entertaining and proteinaceous 2007.

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