Graduation, Summer 2014 and Beyond

I finished my master’s degree in biology last month. This June I am working in lab finishing up final details of a couple of projects and in July I will be teaching two courses through UVM’s Upward Bound program. 

Spring semester flew by quite quickly and beyond experiencing lots of winter weather I did not do too much beyond write and think. The summer is off to a good start with some new exercise goals and many fun weekend plans. 

Charlie and I are moving back to Portland in October. We are leaving Vermont at the end of July to be transient humans for a couple of months— itinerary includes Peru and a cross-country road trip. We have enjoyed our time in the NE but are excited to get back to our friends on the West Coast and be closer to our families. 

Among other things, Charlie and I are (finally) getting married at the beginning of August and we are really enjoying the preparation for that event. Below are some pictures I managed to take while mostly working this spring. Notice the changing levels of ice on Lake Champlain, which by my estimate was completely frozen over for at least 4 months. The bottom photo was taken right after the ice finally melted. 

We will try to keep this blog updated while we travel in Peru and domestically this fall but you may notice a headline change at some point as the adventures are changing in nature from professional to personal for the time being. ImageImageImageImage


End of Fall 2013

It snowed. I guess that means we’re officially past Thanksgiving and moving forward toward finals/holidays etc. I am frantically trying to tie up loose grading ends before moving back into the research assistant phase. I am also travelling to Indiana and Arizona this month and am looking forward to seeing various family members.

Here is the promised link to the Speyeria paper. Let me know if it doesn’t work for you and I will email you a copy.

The Micrathena paper has also been accepted for publication and will be out in January. I will link it when it is up.

This month I am working on tying the field zoology materials together so someone else might be able to teach it next fall and on preparing the Deinopis data for publication.

The photos that follow are of the fun things I did amidst all of the work this fall.
2013-09-01 12.27.37Hike up Mt. Mansfield (highest in VT) in August. 

2013-10-11 12.05.37 HDR

A Nautilus from a visit to the Long Beach Aquarium with Patrick.

2013-10-12 18.05.18 HDR

Bridesmaids weekend in San Francisco! Right before Shira’s birthday sushi.

2013-10-11 13.27.31Patrick and I in sunny SoCal.

2013-10-19 20.55.03Charlie and I on our anniversary.

Happy Holidays!

Fall semester in full swing

The leaves are changing again in Vermont, and thankfully my parents showed up for the peak peeping weekend (what Northeasterners call looking at pretty leaves). That meant that I finally left my office (where I have been frantically writing my first manuscript on Micrathena) and got to take a look outside.

Since July, I have mainly been tying up loose ends for this first paper. But I managed a trip to Portland/Seattle/Smith Rock toward the end of August and have done a few local activities in September. Made it to Art Hop again this year, which usually just reminds me of Last Thursday on Alberta. Lots of street performers and live music.

While the folks were here I got to see lots of touristy things that Charlie and I have otherwise put off seeing, like the Ethan Allen homestead, Shelburne Museum, and Fort Ticonderoga (all not affected by the Shutdown, thankfully). The weather was pretty decent. We ate some tasty food and made a homemade apple crisp.

Mom and Dad headed to Halifax on Monday to explore Nova Scotia.

I have a short week this week before heading to San Francisco for a reunion with Kasey, Patrick, Christina, Shira and Emily. It should be another fun weekend.

Then it is nose back to the grindstone. I have two more publications in the works, and I am writing a grant that is due in November. And classes are picking up this term, with some independent studies on relevant topics like Caribbean Geology and Biogeographic methods.

2013-08-23 10.44.42

Smith Rock. Charlie before tackling the Heinous Cling.


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Writing manuscripts means  I get to spend lots of time thinking deep thoughts while watching the cats do silly things.

2013-08-16 16.53.44What a good face.

I will post a link to the Speyeria manuscript soon, which got accepted last month! That was satisfying as it represents 4 years of work and collaboration with some of my favorite people.

Until next time.

Finishing up Upward Bound

Today was the UB showcase. I am so proud of my students— they did a wonderful job presenting their data clearly and professionally. For more info on their webpage.

Lots of photos and stories from Carol, Lisa and I and the students.

Upward Bound, Summer 2013

So since I have been back from Taiwan I have been teaching an Upward Bound science class on the Arachnids of Vermont. I will write more later about the experience but for now will refer you to the new website I just put up for the class—

Hope you enjoy! This will be where I post lessons, presentations, and other resources for the class.

Exploring Taiwan through Spiders and Food

The final four days in Taiwan were a complete whirlwind tour of the Southern Mountains, Kaohshiung, and Taipei. On Saturday, Matjaz G., Ren Chun, Klemen, Jagoba and I ventured into the field to collect. During the day we worked on a project looking at the kleptoparasites (spiders that steal food from a larger host spider’s web) found in Nephila (golden orb weaver), Argiope or Cyrtophora webs.

Saturday night we went night collecting, which was awesome. We went about halfway up the mountain to a site that we later discovered had a small trail into the forest. The roadside was not super exciting, although I did find two perhaps baby snakes that were smaller than a blade of grass. But once we got into the patch of forest, I found Deinopis (so cool!), Ariamnes (a spider that specializes in eating other spiders), some sparassids, and many other fantastic arachnids.

We stayed at a drive in motel where each room had its own garage and awesome stained glass window into the bathroom.

We collected again on Sunday (June 30th) and it was hot and humid and the middle of the day. We found quite a few Nephila with kleptos and drove up the mountain which led to a panoramic view along the western coast of the island. We then headed into Kaoshiung so that I could get dropped off on the high speed rail the next morning.

That night we stayed at an army hotel in a room that had 6 beds on the floor (mattress pads, really). The accommodations were fine, but what was fantastic was dinner: we ate at a place that did Hot Pot. Ren Chun explained that this is a traditional winter meal in Taiwan. It is similar to fondue in that you cook things in a large, communal pot, but instead of cheese or chocolate you have amazing soup broths. I got my own pot with vegetarian broth. The broth itself was nothing special but two spices that came with it were fantastic. Perhaps 4 kinds of tofu, 6 kinds of mushrooms and more vegetables than one very hungry vegetarian can tackle on her own. We also got chilled plum drinking vinegar as a palate cleanser and mango custard as dessert which were both fantastic.

On Monday I took the morning High Speed train to Taipei, a taxi to the hotel and met up with Jeremy Miller (a colleague of Ingi’s) to visit the National Museum of Taiwan. We had dim sum for lunch, also awesome. Got to see the calligraphy and bronze collections as well as the jade cabbage which is apparently world famous and originally part of a woman’s dowry. It has two cicadas or perhaps a cicada and a cricket in the leaves and the coloring is natural.

We also had afternoon tea on the 4th floor which was cool because we could see the whole valley.

Visiting the museum with Jeremy was great because he has significantly more background that I do on Chinese/Taiwanese history so it was great to get some context on the many dynasties that were mentioned throughout the audio tour. Saw some paper that was from the year 700 with nature paintings and calligraphy on it— pretty neat stuff.

After the museum I went to vegetarian dinner with Ronald. Ronald is also vegetarian and from Taipei so it was really fun to go eat and learn more about the food culture/Taipei in general. We ventured into a basement food court in a mall and went to a vegetarian-only restaurant. The fried spicy tofu and seitan were excellent and all of the appetizers were also amazing. He also had some excellent advice about sights to see the next day. We also visited a night market near his house and explored some fried desert items and the many stalls contained therein. There was a small temple in the night market and lots of children playing carnival games all over the place.

On Tuesday, I got up reasonably early and headed for Taipei 101, which was the world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2008. I paid the admission and took the elevator to the top to check it out and boy was it cool to be above every other building in the city by at least 50 stories! Took lots of photos and then ventured into the basement food court. Had amazing indian food for lunch and then headed back out to check out the Longshan temple and Maokong Gondola. I ran into some Austrailian expats who pointed out that the Gondola shuts down in a thunderstorm so with the gathering clouds behind me I headed there. Anne and Taipei 101The gondola was really cool– it ventures up into the hills east of Taipei to tea plantations and tea houses and many different temples. I wish I had had more time to explore. I got to the top of the Gondola about 15 minutes before the rain started, enjoyed some tie guan yin tea and then took a cab down because the line for the bus was more than 2 hours. While I was enjoying my tea I was also watching lightening strike throughout the nearby mountains which was scenic but also a bit concerning.

I hopped back on the metro and headed straight for the Longshan Temple, one of the oldest in Taipei. It was right at prayer time, so the place was completely packed with people chanting Buddhist chants which was a completely novel experience for me. I wandered around and took some photographs and generally looked out of place and met a man who spoke english and took me on a tour, explaining the basic principles of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. I remember less of these details than I should, unfortunately, but it was very informative and helped make some sense of the whole experience.

Ingi and Matjaz and I went to dinner and dessert that night and had lovely food and mango shaved ice which is awesome.

I went to the Shihlin night market with Jesse Schouboe who is a friend of mine from Lewis and Clark who was just finishing a year stint in Taiwan teaching English. He has gotten back into climbing so we discussed this and other things while winding through one of the largest night markets in Taiwan and I then made it back to my hotel in time to sleep for a few hours before my very long and thankfully not terribly delayed series of flights home.

International Congress of Arachnology 2013

What a week! 

After a long, long series of events to make it to Kenting National Park and the Howard Beach Resort for the conference, talks started on Monday morning. Some highlights of what I have learned about spiders: 

Male jumping spiders use sound and movement to communicate with females during mating, who then either mate with them or eat them— a rather perilous prospect for the jumping spider male. 

Spider silk is extradinarily strong and flexible and the web’s structure plays a role in its ability to catch prey. 

Social spiders form groups to avoid predation and to reduce the variance in time between meals, but those groups fail due to the increased risk of disease and predation.

And many other cool things.  I am looking forward to integrating some of what I learned this week into my Upward Bound class for the month of July. 

I have been meeting many new people, including contingents from Berkeley, Australia, Cornell, Europe and Taiwan. It has been fun to have a few more vegetarians around than usual— I have eaten quite well this week, trying many diverse forms of tofu, noodles and vegetables and tropical fruits.

One of my favorite things I have tried so far is a different form of shaved ice, served with mango and condensed milk and ice cream on top. 

Today I am leaving at some point to collect spiders throughout Taiwan (not enough time). I am joining two of Matjaz Kuntner’s students in the field (as well as a few others) and we are departing for parts unknown. I am leaving the field Monday afternoon or morning to head back to Taipei, where I will eat dinner with Ronald, a Taiwanese vegetarian I met. Tuesday I hope to explore the National Palace Museum and some night markets before departing for 24 hours of travel home on Thursday (hopefully only 24 hours). 

I will update you on the collecting portion of the field trip when I reach the airport— hopefully lots more photos.