Friday, February 26, 2010

I'm in!

After already being accepted to a few other schools, it was thrilling to finally hear from my top choice.

University of Connecticut's Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department graduate program, here I come!

Starting as a PhD student, will have teaching assistant duties for 20hrs per week, and life is going to be AWESOME.

If I get the NSF grant I applied for (highly unlikely, I imagine), I'll be studying the coevolution of cicadas and their bacterial symbionts.

But so far it's looking like my focus will be on Lepidoptera, and some combination of evolution and biogeography and phylogeny. I'm interested in learning how to unravel history using morphological and molecular data, and of course, traveling around the world.

I can't get too excited, have lots and lots of work to focus on here in my last semester. Well, ok, maybe I'll allow a little excitement here and there. The dream I've been working toward since I was 7 is another step closer.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New lightbox

For a while now, I've been using a lightbox made from a pizza box, duct tape, and poster paper.

It finally bit the dust, and I needed to make a new one - not only that, but I wanted to make it collapsible. In my tiny apartment at school, having a big bulky lightbox takes up too much room.

I saw in the etsy forums, someone mentioned using PVC pipe to make a lightbox. Sounded like a great idea to me, so off to the hardware store I went.

$15 later (and slightly sore arms from sawing the pieces to the right length) I have exactly what I need, along with a few different backdrops. I glued clips onto one post in order to hold the poster paper in place.
Still need a sheet to cover it, hoping to find an old one around the house to cut to the right size.

Next project - sewing a bag to keep all the pieces in :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Who is hiding in the cabinet?

I'm home for reading week (my university's version of "spring break") and enjoying the company of my animals.

Our parrot, Pepper, is a rescue caique (they're known as clown birds, for good reason). He has mostly free range of the house when we're watching, and last year he claimed a favorite hiding place - the bottom drawer of a cabinet.

Originally it was filled with bags of noodles, and for the first week or so, we didn't realize he was sneaking in there. He took it upon himself to shred open the bags and chew the dry noodles to pieces. We found out he was in there when he started throwing them out onto the floor! Obviously, we threw them away.

This cabinet door does not close all the way, and we have not found a way to fix it. We tried to keep him out, but realized he was so happy in there, and above all - he was QUIET! Only making a few silly happy noises, and not his usual "pay attention to me" smoke alarm scream.

So we've cleaned it out a few times, still leaving some noodles to chew but also throwing in newspaper, paper towel tubes and an old tennis shoe. He loves to chew, so this is like a playground for him.

I caught him making some silly sounds today. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Schmancy Olympic Challenge

I've finished my entry for the Schmancy Olympic Challenge - as you may recall, I received the bobsleigh category, and provided a sneak preview of the sled itself.

It now has occupants!

I'm not sure if I'll try to sell the whole sled/snowflea combo, or just sell the snow fleas separately in my shop. What do you think?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

New plushies hitting the shop!

I can't ship until next weekend, as that's when I'm bringing all my plushies home - but I've started listing them in my shop.

Lots more on their way, but here are the ones that have made it so far:

I've started a new collection that I'm quite fond of
Two trilobites in a rock - "Fossils in situ" collectionRed planarian - "Biology lab" collectionTarget beetle - "Coleopterans" collectionPompeii worm - "Extremophiles" collection

Friday, February 12, 2010

Which one doesn't belong?

One of my shelves of stuffed animals... can you guess which doesn't belong?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Shmancy Olympic Challenge - in progress

I'm participating in the Shmancy Olympic Challenge
I was selected to be in the "bobsleigh" category.

I have finished the bobsled itself today, and the participants are in progress.

Here is a sneak preview!Keep on the lookout for when the team is done!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Back where it all began

It has been suggested that life originated at hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, also called "black smokers". These occur at plate boundaries and hot spots, spewing hot water and are generally inhospitable to life. However, some extreme organisms live there today, and it is thought that life could have originated near hydrothermal vents on the surface of iron sulfide minerals (source). The iron-sulfur world theory was first put forward by Wächtershäuser, whose body of work provides a convincing case.

While these environments potentially have much to tell us about life's history, they harbor many current day mysteries as well. With water reaching up to 400C at depths completely devoid of sunlight, they do not seem like very hospitable places to live. Yet with an abundance of chemosynthetic bacteria in place of photosynthetic organisms, communities are able to form.

I decided to create a few of these extremophile organisms in plush form (you could just tell where this was going, right?)

I have yet to take shop-worthy photos, but this will do for now. These will be in the shop in about two weeks. I seem to be biased toward worms here, but they're some of the prettiest examples I could find. I might make some more diverse offerings on this theme in the future.

One of my favorites is the giant tube worm (Riftia pachyptila). My roommate said the plush is very... suggestive... but hey, I tried to make it as accurate as possible! There is a cluster of five all attached to a black base.

The creature on the left is the Pompeii worm, (Alvinella pompejana), a really furry looking thing.

The pink one in front is a hydrothermal vent scale worm, I can't find a scientific name.

And the fish is an eelpout fish (Thermarces cerberus).

I used this site for reference photos: Deep Sea Photography

Not sure what I'll be working on next, might go back to my tetrapod evolution series and get cracking on Tiktaalik!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Toads are so cute, even when they're dead

For my science and museums class, we each have to do a project using museum specimens. I'm looking at Fowler's toads (Anaxyrus fowleri) from different localities and attempting to quantify their dorsal spot patterns.

The premise is this: Fowler's toads exhibit a wide variation in their spots - the number, size, the warts per spot, and the % area they take up. Some herpetologists think they can tell the locality of a toad simply by looking at their spots, and many field guide descriptions don't apply to Fowler's toads outside of certain ranges. So I'm setting out to see if these differences are real/statistically relevant.

I'm using photos of live specimens, and have also spent time taking my own photos of specimens sent to us from the AMNH. I spent about three and a half hours this afternoon taking photos and measurements.The toads are all so cute! Especially the little ones, some were only about 2cm long.

Once I have the photos, I'm using photoshop to select the back and get the area in pixils, and then creating a layer to color over the spots. Then using a program called tpsdig2 I can easily get the area for all the spots. Then all sorts of calculations must ensue, of course.
It's quite a fun project (tedious, but I like that) and I'm excited to see what sort of results I get.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

They're stuffed

Hehehe! Won't be available in the shop yet, as I need to bring them home so they can ship from the US (being at school in Canada is a nuisance sometimes, as Canada Post is so expensive, so I try not to ship from here).

Already sold one to a friend, so if you'd like to reserve a Planarian of a certain color, send me a convo through etsy or email me to let me know!