Photo: Sara Zimorski/Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries via Audubon
This summer, the first wild Whooping Crane hatched in Louisiana. That’s great news! Years ago, when I was an undergraduate student at University of Wisconsin, I was looking for a biology work study position. I ended up working for the Harlow Primate Lab, as part of the enrichment program. Essentially, this consisted of giving out fruit and vitamin-spiked Koolaid to the Rhesus Monkey descendants of Harlow’s studies and to NASA’s breeding colony of Squirrel Monkeys. One other position I considered was at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin. My job would have been to dress up in the big crane costume (so that cranes don’t habituate to humans) and feed juveniles.
Ah, what we do for science!
My dimly lit desk at USD.
Now that my time here at USD is winding down, I thought I would share this very accurate illustration of what it is to be a PhD student. No, not the picture above, but this delightful .gif. Enjoy!
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
When I was working on my first ornithology research project, I was admonished for showing up in a bright yellow shirt. It was my favorite shirt. Purchased at the Portland Zine Symposium, it featured a lovely giraffe illustration by my friend Anna Magruder. I was bummed. But, if I wanted to capture a bird, I was told it would be difficult to stay incognito with such bright colors, especially for an animal that can see colors all the way into the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. In fact, I have since become aware of a book called Good Birders Don’t Wear White. Since then, my field work clothes have become very drab — beige on beige with a splash of gray! Just to be on the safe side, I even chose not to buy an orange car so that it wouldn’t affect my roadside point counts.
This has not gone unnoticed. One biologist friend, a paleontologist whose study subjects are not so aware of his clothing, called me a “brown ninja.” I agree. I need to be sneaky. In shades of brown. Another researcher, a herpetologist who frequently wears tropical prints, a small fedora and flip flops into the field, gave me a hard time, too.
Now, it turns out that other organisms are aware of your clothing choice. Including reptiles! But not fossils.
I’ve detailed the sheer loss of grassland in North America in the past decade due to the push for biofuels, but the alternatives are problematic, too. This excellent article by American Bird Conservancy details the challenges of wind energy production for flying animals. Thoughtful balancing of industry needs and habitat for wildlife informed by rigorous science and creative engineering go a long way in alleviating the burden on biodiversity in the developed and developing worlds.