Sunday, October 25, 2009

"like bacteria on a plate"

The  words making up this post's title (from my Rawlins friend Hillary) adeptly describe the urban sprawl of Vegas/Henderson.  The only difference between a growth of bacteria and the mindless sprawl of Henderson is that you can describe bacterial growth as a "culture". 

Here is the complete list of street names in the gated community next to mine:

Dow Jones St.
Commodity Way
Day Trade St.
Investment Way
Capital Gains Dr.
Large Cap Dr.
Stock Option St.

Now you have the evidence:  this town was built by crazy people.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tortoise Show


A photo collection depicting some of the aspects of my work here in the Mojave Desert.  Pictures were taken around Ft. Irwin, near Barstow, CA, and east of Las Vegas.

A tortoise in his burrow.  You can see the radio transmitter on his carapace.

This is my friend Rob performing the "tortoise tap".  He is trying to tap on the tortoise's shell with the tape measure so that it comes out of the burrow.  Besides tracking tortoises by their radio transmitted signal, we spend a lot of our time fruitlessly trying to get them out of the burrows this way.

Perfect tortoise footprint.

We found these tortoises right after they had finished mating. 

She walks away, tired of the business, and he hides in his shell because he knows we are going to fuss over his electronics.

A black tailed jackrabbit that I was very close to!

A tarantula!

The strange and sharp Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia).  They are the closest to trees out here.   I would call this a joshua tree forest.  I miss real trees so much.

Very sharp.  I try hard not to trip and fall onto joshua trees.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Post that is about living in Las Vegas.


I started this post almost a month ago now and it never saw the light of day because I lost internet mid-publication.  So fed up by this turn of events, I abandoned writing and in the meantime had given in to adjusting to my DRAMATIC and DAZZLING new life in Nevada.  I am now adjusted. 

I live now in Henderson, NV, a big-box bedroom community nestled neatly to the southeast gut of Vegas.  My travels leading up to my re-settling were improved by the presence of my father, who wished to make the journey with me.  We had a fantastic time visiting Zion NP on the way.  It is a stop I wish to make again, even having been there twice already.

First impressions (from the first day):

Tortoises are cool!  I met some babies today as well as a large male (~60 yrs old).  There were all friendly and wanted food, except one baby that bit my latex glove as I pulled him out of his "burrow" (buried tube).

The office and USGS scientists are all really nice and seem like they will be excellent to work with.  I am excited to be working on some very research based projects and learning some statistics and experimental design.

Las Vegas really doesn't seem like it should be here.  Its not a very nice city.  I saw part of it that seemed  a bit dumpy, and the Strip was pretty gross.  Like dirty gross, even though it looks extremely expensive.  Its like somebody purchased a Rolls Royce, plated it in gold, covered every inch of window with flashing rainbow neon lights, and them promptly vomited nicotine tar all over the whole shebang. It is hardly worth visiting again, unless I find some outrageous eating deal or ironically fun and affordable entertainment.  Maybe white tigers.

There is a street named after Roy Horn.

[Since I wrote this, I have visited it again, but only to investigate the giant black pyramid where Carrot Top lives, as well as to collect "escort" cards from the strip-side Latinos who snap them at you.  Later on, my co-interns and I decorated/defaced my roommates bed and walls so he would have a nice surprise when he arrived back from his 2 week wilderness survival training in Utah.]

I have met many tortoises, but most of those I track end up being deep underground in their burrows.  We are told to "tap" them with tape measures so that they will come out to be probed by us scientists.  This "tapping" hardly ever works, I think I have had a 1/20 success rate so far.  This lack of success is probably because the tortoises are running out of juice and are about to pass out in their burrows for the winter.  I can't blame them. 

This job is pretty frustrating at times, and resists being interesting to me because I'm not included in the planning and we aren't told much about the studies we are working on.  This is much different than my last job, and I feel like I enjoy it less so far.  The living situation is fine, but the job is hardly more than physically challenging. 

I really appreciated being put at the helm of a research project that was largely designed and executed by Brandon and myself.  Now that we are jumping into a project halfway through, and because we are very temporary interns, I don't feel that same ownership and interest in what we are doing.  Besides this, I miss the beauty of Wyoming.  The Mojave is at times very beautiful, but is less comfortingly lush than the sagebrush I came from.  I know that the desert can bloom unbelievably in the spring.  Sadly, I probably won't see that.  We'll see what winter has in store, but the weather has been fine and always sunny.

Overall, I haven't disenjoyed my time here so far.  I really liked visiting my girl in Hollywood, and I look forward to future adventures in the West.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wolves Post Addendum

So I am in Barstow, CA right now on a two day tortoise tracking campaign.  I have been in Vegas for about two weeks now and I will be updating regarding that shortly.  I started a post last week, but my internet was so bad that I lost half of it, which caused me to give up.

Anyway, for the time being here is an article detailing a greater biological issue regarding the extermination of wolves and other SCARY predators like mountain lions.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pre-Workweek Pep Rally

Very touching, very hilarious.

From the blog, Biologically Curious.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Some Thoughts

I had an interesting day yesterday:

+ Drove around swabbing leopard frogs fro chytrid fungus testing
+ Snipped toes from leopard frogs for DNA testing
+ Found a dead Clark's Nutcracker in a spring.  I have never seen this bird before, and it is too bad that the last one I will probably ever see was expired.

All in all, it was a bit morbid, but I had fun.

Today Brandon and I finished our killer report to the BLM state office on our study.  It looks good! 

Brandon leaves on Thursday for grad school.  He is going to become an expert on Pacific giant salamanders and road-crossing ecology.  He will be missed.  We had an excellent summer.

Here in Rawtown the deer are all about.  This weekend on a final jaunt to the hot springs of Saratoga we saw a whole gang of bucks wandering through town together.  Can't catch a break from these guys!  I think they are "hiding" in town to avoid being killed by all the hunters in the hills.  Good for them!

And finally, in other news, I have decided to start a new blog, Idiotscape, in which I will complain about the current state of affairs as I see fit.  I realize that I have been griping far too much on Bachelor Diner.  I do feel like there is a whole world of stuff to gripe about, but that this is a place for my exploits of various types.  Now you will have an option to read about what bothers me.  I'm sure most of you are here for the fish stick sandwiches, anyway.  Too many links?  I guess I should probably start a new blog full of links since I love them so much.  Just kidding.  But I'm not kidding about this blog I found.  Check out this guy, he's nuts!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Good News?

Big news! Apparently a researcher at James Madison University has isolated a bacteria that may combat and inoculate against the chytrid fungus. This fungus is contributing greatly to the decline of amphibians worldwide, and it is also the reason why I need to swab the toads when I catch them. Combating the fungus has hitherto been considered unlikely. Good luck to him! Here is a link if you are interested in reading more.

Also, today I accidentally kicked a duck in the head. I was looking for frogs in some marshy grass and as I was walking I hit something small and alive with my boot. It was a duck that was hiding. I stared at it for a while and it pretend not to exist. Seeing how frightened and helpless it was, I really ALMOST reached down to pick it up. I wanted to take it home. I rationalized this by telling myself that my boot-strike had permanently damaged its brain. I decided against capturing it when I came around to the fact that it would never treat me with respect. When I stepped back a little, it ran away and flapped its wings frantically, expressing its desire to not be my pet/food.

Later on, as I was walking to a pond I stepped over a clump of grass and heard the telltale rattle of a pit viper (Crotalus viridis viridis (the prairie rattlesnake)). Hearing this, I leaped a few feet away and spun around to see if it was going to strike me, but it was just a dead flower that had some rattly seeds in it.