There and back again

Field Season phase I, in which I play tour guide for my parents through the sights of the California and Nevada desert, is now complete. It was a great week.

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It’s that time of year …

Joshua trees are about to bloom. Which means I’m off to the desert until mid-April first to tour Joshua Tree National Park with my parents for a week, then to spend a month or more at a field site in central Nevada, extending studies of co-divergence in Joshua tree and its pollinator moths.

All of which is to say, posting to D&T is about to drop to near-zero for the foreseeable future. I’ll take lots of photos, and put them online when I get to an Internet connection, but really that’s all I can promise. After all, what good is fieldwork if not as an Internet detox?


Photo by jby.
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The trouble with studying desert plants

Some years, they don’t bloom. I’m just back from a week and a half of attempted fieldwork in Nevada, with a hiatus to Southern California for a lecture to a Desert Institute class. Very few Joshua trees were in flower, so the trip was kind of a bust. But it was still good to get out into the desert. The weather was only really cold a couple nights, and almost too warm in Palm Springs. When I drove back into Moscow this afternoon, it was snowing.

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How I spent my Summer Vacation

I’m back from time with the family in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, plus an afternoon at the New England Aquarium and a weekend visiting an old high school buddy in Chicago. It was good, at least until the flight home, which was canceled. (I got home only a day late, but my luggage still hasn’t caught up.) Highlights: climbing Dorr Mountain, whale (and bird) watching, visiting the Field Museum and the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Much bio-geeking, but nothing work-related. Although it turns out that the Field Museum has a fishbowl genetics lab in the middle of one exhibit, where you can watch actual scientists do basically what I do all day. Kinda creepy. Anyway, time for photos:


Photo by Jeremy B. Yoder.


Photo by Jeremy B. Yoder.


Photo by Jeremy B. Yoder.


Photo by Jeremy B. Yoder.


Photo by Jeremy B. Yoder.


Photo by Jeremy B. Yoder.
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Gone out. Back soon?

Getting up early tomorrow to fly east for a week of vacation with family: Bar Harbor, Maine, Acadia National Park, some whale watching, maybe Boston, maybe a jaunt north of the border. No idea what my Internet access will be like, and I’m inclined to think it wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have it. I’ve earned it; I got a manuscript submitted Thursday that I’ve been futzing around with for way too long.

I fully expect to take lots of photos like this:


Photo by Pear Biter.
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Evolution 2008: day four

Today, at the last day of Evolution 2008, I learned:

  • Interactions between wasp species living in and around fig trees vary in strength and significance from year to year.
  • The coalescent is the future of phyologenetics.
  • The coalescent is complicated.
  • Evolutionary theory will help defeat cancer.
  • Elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide doesn’t seem to have direct effects on plant growth, but might have indirect effects by changing plant communities.
  • I can stay awake through a whole week (well, four days) of scientific talks!
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Evolution 2008: day three

Today, at Evolution 2008, I learned:

  • Almost 150 years after The Origin of Species, evolutionary biologists still don’t really know why sexual (as opposed to asexual) reproduction is so popular.
  • Reconstructing evolutionary trees is tricky.
  • Sexual reproduction might help evening primroses to adapt more quickly in response to insect attacks.
  • Fungus-cultivating ants are way more diverse than I realized.
  • A nap before the poster session really, really helps.
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