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.

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.

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.

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!

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.