Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sunset disrupts class!

Let me preface this by saying that not only do photos not capture the reality of a beautiful sunset (duh!), but the colors in this image seem dull and muted compared to how they look in my iPhoto.

Anyhow, one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen occurred last night. Most evenings here have been cloudy, so last night's show was a real treat. We (the class I am TAing) were in the middle of reviewing for a test when I opened the door for some air. Folks caught a bit of the sherbet colors in the sky and immediately rushed outside. That is the kind of school I like, where gifts from nature need to be appreciated even if there is studying to be done.

I was especially struck by how the circular patterns in the water mirrored those in the clouds. After talking with the class about ocean circulation in the Gulf of Maine and getting a fresh mental picture of the basin somewhat enclosed by George's Bank and the cold northern water funneling in through only a few places, the gyres drawn on the blackboard just inside seemed a wonderful echo to the micro-circulation patterns we were seeing right off our island.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Adventuring in tide pools... Part 2

Here are some images of what we collected yesterday. The tide pools always amaze me with how many organisms and types of organisms can be crammed into such a small location. These mussel (Mytilus edulus) for example has barnacles (Semibalanous balanoides), encrusting red algae, limpet (Crepidula fornicata, yes that's its latin name), red coraline algae (Corallina officinalis), bits of some red and green algae, and a hydroid all growing on it... and that isn't even thinking about the microbial world!

I am also posting some pictures of the aggregation of species collected when I pulled up the Laminaria digitalis that I wrote about yesterday. I feel the need to note that I realize that the latin names should be italicized, but I haven't yet figured out how to do that through blogger, so... stand by!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Adventuring in tide pools... Part 1

Tide pools are some of my favorite places to explore. The best ones are teeming with life and ripe for personal disccovery. I have heard many astronomers describe the first time they looked up at the sky and saw Saturn or Mars, feeling a sense of awe as if they were the first person to discover it. I feel this way each time I turn over a rock and find a crab or a sea star. Today I got to spend a couple of hours in tide pools on Appledore Island about 6 miles off the coast of Southern Maine.

At one point I pulled up a large seaweed, Laminaria digitata to be precise (I was collecting for a class, otherwise I wouldn't removed it) and with it came the rock that its holdfast was attached to. On the bottom of the rock were two brittle stars, an urchin (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) a mussel shell with a curled up fish inside, and a few snails (Littorina littorea). A whole micro-ecosystem in one tug! I have to admit that this is at the top of my list of tide pool finds.

The image above is where I was collecting. I am heading up to the lab now and I will try to take a pictures of some of what we collected.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Muskoka Ducks

I recently got to spend a couple of weeks at a cottage on Lake Muskoka in Ontario. The cottage is at the end of a bay and is very well protected from wind and boat traffic. There were a pair of ducks that I saw almost every day (as well as a beautiful Loon) and was able to get quite a bit of video of. I put some clips together (above) for you. I think these are Black Ducks because of the male/female similarity and the coloration, but I know very little about birds so I might be wrong about that. One website I saw suggested that Black Ducks would have a darker body. I would love correction if anyone knows that these are a different species.

What I loved most about getting to watch this pair so close up for so long was how they moved in sync. I don't think I really capture this in the video, but when they were in the water they were synchronized swimmers elegantly moving as one. Another think that struck me was how the duck's webbed foot spread out and contracted again gracefully underwater to minimize drag and maximize power from each stroke. It is hard to see in the low-quality video posted here, but it was something worthy of a dance performance.

The ducks seemed to tolerate our presence as well. I was able to walk up to within 5 feet of them without startling them (if I walked slowly). Any closer than that and they would simply turn and walk towards the water. Normally I am NOT in favor of interacting with wildlife in any way, but wildlife doesn't normally hang out just feet from me!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Plugged in!

I have recently had the interesting, if painful, experience of having my computer's hard drive perish in a deadly crash. What it crashed into I have no idea, but it needed to be replaced. This meant no computer for the two weeks I was at my family's cottage in Ontario. I had planned to do a lot of work and was not able (I can hear you all... poor me!). I was also without cell phone (iPhone) access, and it all made me realize how plugged in I really am. I have no problem taking off for a month in the woods without being able to communicate, but that is pre-planned. The sudden loss of my technological security blankets (email, journal I keep on my computer, photos, music, access to work I need to get done) definitely stressed me out a bit. I do hate to admit it. I will admit to one more thing. After getting my repaired computer back this afternoon, I have been sitting here downloading, formatting, syncing, browsing, emailing, and even composing music (with GarageBand) for going on 5 hours now, and I am not close to bored yet!

Test fron iPhone

Trying to see if I can blog via phone...stand by.