Saturday, July 24, 2010

Phriday photo quiz #12 - 6 hrs late... =)


Kind of a tough one this week, if you've not been to Yosemite. Oh, but that was a hint! What is this structure? (hint: it's historic, as in not a cute thing made to amuse, but was built for a purpose a ways back. Note its shortness)


Friday, July 23, 2010

quick gardening question for folks...

For you gardening smarties:

If I planted two corn seeds in every hole, same with squash, melon, and just about all seeds sprout, do I have to kill one of the paired plants 'cause they're now so close it's nutty?

I HATE thinning, but if you tell me I must, I will steel myself.



Thursday, July 22, 2010

FYI, it's been a little crazy around here...

If my posts have been reminding you of the Los Angeles International Airport, lately, as in LAX, I've been a bit busy.

Today is 11th day in a row working, and working tomorrow, too. Soon I take off for 2 days, then return, and the following day I may and the next day I definitely will be traveling again, and then I'm gone till the following Sunday, and maybe Monday (depending on how psyched I am to drive 4.5 hours after a most-of-the-day travel/flight day).

 kitties travel cheap...

I think the almost-week I'm gone I'm in a place with no phone and no internet, so will be rather isolated. AND, that trip is not about me, so I don't get to dictate what we do, when.

Not that it won't be a TON of fun and I WILL bring my camera. This remote(ish) place is GORGEOUS. I expect it will be fabulous.

Just not really sure what kinda posting will happen during. =) So if it gets a bit dull here, please be patient and check in later.

In the meantime I hope you are all enjoying your own adventures, big and small, even if it's just looking at a cool bug on the potted plant on the porch.



rewards all around...


Chilled, organic watermelon for the chickens while it's over 100 degrees for HOURS...

And for us, an egg with a flourish: downy feather, stylishly askew.



Wednesday, July 21, 2010

more Taftiness @ Yosemite...


Sedum spp.  I LOVE this plant. Have a weakness for succulents that are SO tough they grow on granite, not to mention where it's covered in snow and blasted by wind all winter. Wow!

Lovely, shiny little bug on a monkey flower, along the trail to Taft Point.

Wonderful rocks at Taft Point. Note how far the next rock wall is... !

Big burrow right along the trail. So intrigued: who lives there?!? Apparently they are not terribly shy...


P.S. Going to the east side (I think for the first time this year!!) of the Sierras this weekend--my deadline is finally done, so we're takin' off. Of COURSE will bring my beloved Nikon. =) So you getta go, too! xoxo

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Stephen Schneider: passing greatness

His obituary in the New York Times, a blog entry from Ira Flatow (NOT coincidentally of "making science friendly" Science Friday), an editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle, and a report from his professional home, Stanford.

I was so surprised to read this. It's such a huge loss.

He spoke a few times to a small graduate course I was in a million years ago.

Impression? 1) SMART (as in sparks-coming-out-of-his-head smart), 2) incredibly well-informed, 3) passionately devoted to getting people/government to grapple with climate change and start making things better, 4) extremely articulate, 5) great communicator, 6) very energetic.

 photo from

Just DETERMINED that this had to be dealt with, could be dealt with, but had to be done as QUICKLY as possible--it was then (years ago), and still is, terribly urgent.

Here's his home page at Stanford if you want to learn more about him, the projects he was involved in, not to mention his WAYYY-too-long-to-enumerate list of accomplishments and honors (MacArthur, Nobel Peace Prize (2007 part of Panel granted the prize, along with Al Gore), on and on). He's got tons of info there and a pop up note from him saying they're working on the site, trying to make it even more useful to everyone. Of course.

Anyhow, an amazing person who did SO much to try and save the planet and its climate. And to help US realize what we needed to know, what to do, and what to figure out next.

"I've been on the ground, in the trenches, for my entire career," he wrote in his book, Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth's Climate. I think he was terribly brave.

He was the first scientist I was exposed to who talked about the importance of scientists speaking (regularly) to congressional committees and hearings, how you HAD to bring the science to convey to decision makers in a meaningful way the exceeding, time-critical importance of diverting our present course toward global warming.

Like a giant cup of global-warming-awareness coffee. WAKE UP! DO SOMETHING! NOW!

Unforgettable person.

My heart goes out to his wife, Terry Root (also at Stanford), and all of his friends, family, and colleagues. What a shocking loss.

But also, my heart goes out to the planet.

This is one person the planet may have really felt.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

happy flowers shot + politically conservative grasshopper?


I take back everything I ever said about white flowers. I'm totally won over.

Found this creature hanging out on an argyle sock on our clothes rack outside. Thought he/she looked particularly dashing on that background. And click on it for a close up--amazing detail and speckled eyes!



Saturday, July 17, 2010

also charming...

technically there is biology involved. Mostly, though, I just think it's super creative.



These pictures of baby baby frogs (right between frog and pollywog) KILL me. SO CUTE!!

Thanks, SwampThing! I need that. =)


Friday, July 16, 2010

cutie Phriday photo quiz IMHO


Who is this little charmer?


Thursday, July 15, 2010

ho hum, more wild orchids...

One caveat: the mosquitoes were BRUTAL during almost this whole hike, so it was Quick Draw McGraw photography, and then back to hiking out of the then-gathered clouds of blood-sucking marauders, so no pretty shots. Pretty much just collecting data.

Yeah. My wrists and hands and face were covered with the very stylish giant welts I get from mosquitoes (kindofa freak that way). =) Keeps pesky strangers from trying to strike up conversations.

Anyhow, looked up some of the non-chlorophyll plants I saw, and there are 2 more orchids for our list!

striped coralroot, Corallorhiza striata, Orchidaceae

 spotted coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata, Orchidaceae

Must click on these to actually see them at all well.

Anyhow, hiking along I'd see something odd under the thick forest canopy and my spidey sense thought: unusual plant?!? And hop off the trail, toodle over to it and take a quick pic, HOPING it'd be something cool.

I think I've seen the striped coralroot before, tho' I know I looked for it at Mount Rainier and I never got to see it. I don't know if I've EVER seen the spotted coralroot. And I didn't know they were orchids. No idea.

So, short post today--full day, but there's still lots of pics from Sunday's hike (including the gorgeous columbine and a few "ah!" shots re: serious drop offs at Taft Point) that I'll share eventually.

ARROWHEAD UPDATE: Sent pics to 2 archeo friends (conveniently married) and they both said "OMG."  They think it might be "paleo." While I don't yet know exactly what that means re: how old it may be, I read that message LAST thing before bed and couldn't sleep. Too excited. So calling a California archeologist friend today to see what he thinks. My married friends REALLY want me to report it and want an archeologist to come look. They asked if I'd done any more digging. I said no, indeed, I've backed away from the shovel, keeping my hands where archeologists can see them.

Good biologist. (pat pat pat)


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Coffee not doin' it for ya? Try a scorpion sting!

That'll wake you up.

Moments ago, I was putting the finishing touches on my arrowhead post, then went to change out of my jammies, pulled on the jeans I'd folded this a.m. (they'd been piled on the floor) and ow...ow....?!?... OW!!!

The back of my left knee had very fine, very sharp, almost electric pulsing pains, growing worse and worse.

Jeans fall onto the floor (whump!). I'm doubled over holding the back of my knee, Bear is asking what's wrong, I say I think I got bit, and I start trying to turn my pants inside out to look, but my knee hurts too much.

I step away and just hold my knee in a crouch and say "Ow!!"

Bear takes jeans outside for a review of the contents and I crouch, shocked at what feels like a neuro-toxin-y kind of pain.

The biologist in me thinks: Not a black widow spider, I hope--I expect that'd hurt a LOT more, but maybe not right away? Feels like when I got stung by a jelly fish, so I do think it's some neuro-toxin-y thing v. a chunk of flesh getting bitten out.

Hobble-hobble, whine-whine, and I think: maybe that was a scorpion. I've heard (from better biologists than I) that it's like a bee sting (the ones in southern California, that is)--nothing deadly.

"Honey, come take a look!"  Bear is on the front porch, holding up my totally inside out  pants, looking down at the sidewalk.

A scorpion.

My first thought & words? "I thought it was a scorpion!"  As if someone is keeping score re: the accuracy of my guesses post-animal attack re: origin. whattadork.

I run back into the house in my undies--to get dressed? No. To grab my camera. Go back outside, still in skivvies, and take pictures:

That's a clover burr on the left, for scale

Poor thing's tail tip is broken off so I feel really bad. Don't know if it will survive.


So, that's a kind of sad ending--maybe. Maybe it'll live but not sure how it'll hunt/defend itself now, but this is a good excuse to learn about that. Do scorpions need their stingers to a) live, b) hunt?

Anyhow, I feel really bad for the thing. But there's not a lot I can do about it now.

Either way, though, is that an effective WAKE UP NOW!!!! tool. I was instantly WIDE awake, but now that the pain is gone, I'm feeling a little tired out.

So this is a lesson re: dropping your fresh laundry on the floor to fold "later." I'm thinkin' fold it NOW while it's piping hot, and put it away. Yikes.

Regardless of how this affects my long term behavior, though, TODAY I am DEFINITELY wearing a skirt!


I dug up an arrowhead?!?

Monday night I decided to do  a little work on the sad situation that is plot #2:

I had already dug out the soil above the chicken wire, and removed said c.w. Now I needed to expand the plot to what would become its 4-5 ft. x 14 ft legacy.  Not intending to dig LOTS that night, I nevertheless grab the shovel and begin at the section near the bottom of the picture.

Very soon I hit a layer that's riddled with roots and a little more reddish-clayey that the top soil we typically have, so I figure "No one's ever dug down this far before."  Folks had this house AND garden before us, and if/when I hit a layer like that, I'm pretty sure they never went there.

So, I'm digging around, right about here (bottom of screen, right side of plot:

My red hen is wandering around helping (with any bugs that appear), and "Chink!" The shovel makes a very odd, sharp sound--clearly it hit something. Much to my amazement, it was:

For scale:

First I thought "!" Could this actually be an authentic Native American arrowhead? It's clearly obsidian (I learned about that substance as a child growing up in what? The Sierran foothills...)

Then the skeptic (killjoy?) in me thought: well, maybe someone (from modern times) was interested in learning how to do that, so did it as a hobby. Then I looked closely at the fine, all-parallel chipping marks. Looked (to my totally untrained eye, but vs. other arrowheads I saw on-line) like fine, expert work.


And the soil around it (I'm not CERTAIN it was the same soil level) was interspersed with charred bits of wood. It MAY be from a soil amendment I'd made earlier that got intermixed (ashes from our fireplace), but maybe not.

Either way, I was done digging for the day. I took a picture of the plot to I'd know where I found it, and took the arrowhead inside, wrapped it up in cloth, and shoved it into a drawer.

Then I e-mailed an archeologist friend of mine re: what I should do. So, I've got some state paper work to fill as, what I gather is, a courtesy information-update to the state, but apparently that may be the extent of my duty. I had to ask. It's easy to break laws and not know when it comes to things like this so I'm into asking 1st, acting 2nd.

So, I'll be sending these shots to my archeologist friend and probably at least one other archeologist friend so maybe I can learn about this arrowhead, what it might have been used for, and what tribe it's maker may have belonged to. Someone who lived here a (presumably) long time ago. I do know it's a great place for deer, rabbits, and squirrel.

As an archeologist friend of mine (3rd one I've mentioned) explained to me years ago: If you're ever out on a hike, turn a corner, and see a really appealing spot with a great view, and you have the urge to sit down and just enjoy that space? That's probably an arch site.  Because it's very unlikely you are the first human to have that reaction, and that means people through the ages may have had that same inclination to spend time right there.

And so we have. =)


P.S. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

botanical pun...

How would botanists describe well-armed, clueless people?  As "having pistils but no anthers."


That's a direct quote (the 2nd sentence, of course) from when I asked the oracle (i.e. the web) to "define pistillate inflorescence."

Again: much amusement on the clock.


(earning my name every day)

another reason I love this job...

I get to encounter names like this: hogwallow starfish.

For any of you who DON'T already know, wanna take a stab at what it is?
(besides totally amusingly named)



P.S. looking it up on the web and THEN guessing is cheating, in my view... =) But feel free to comment on it if you did--I'll just withhold the answer till a few people get to guess.

Interpreting "Taste of Yosemite Mumday"


1. First shot was exciting for me, 'cause the violets on our property are yellow. These are VIOLET violets. So beautiful! Along the road between where you park and where you start the hike to Taft Point (McGurk Meadow sign). My first pics of the day.

So, being the geek I am (albeit short of time lately), I search for "Yosemite NP plant species list."

Blamo. Instant paydirt:  Taken from the a-MA-zing An Illustrated Flora of Yosemite National Park by Stephen J. Botti (2001)(I think we have 2 copies). Nice job, NPS!!

So, then I search for Viola (violet genus) and get this:

Viola adunca Smith
Viola arvensis Murray
Viola glabella Nutt.
Viola lobata Benth. ssp. integrifolia (S. Watson) R.J. Little
Viola lobata Benth. ssp. lobata
Viola macloskeyi F. Lloyd
Viola pinetorum E. Greene ssp. pinetorum
Viola purpurea Kellogg ssp. integrifolia M. Baker & J. Clausen
Viola purpurea Kellogg ssp. purpurea
Viola purpurea Kellogg ssp. quercetorum (M. Baker & J. Clausen) R.J. Little

Woah. Thatsalotta violets! So, thinking "purpurea" sounds promising re: purple, I look that up.

Yup, bright yellow.

Hmph.  Well, I WASN'T going to look them all up, but since I am a biologist, I was unable to NOT. (hint: that's a good thing about doing something professionally you are naturally interested it. You go the extra mile (or millimeter) just 'cause you're interested. And, therefore, do a better job.)

I did look up arvensis and it was at least purple... macloskeyi = white, pinetorum = yellow, lobata = yellow, glabella = yellow, arvensis = white and yellow and NOT native.

So, hm... that makes, uh, ONE violet species from the list that's actually violet, so it looks like I was right to be excited by the find. =) Therefore, going out on a limb and calling it Viola adunca.


2. Had 2 thoughts of this in the field: 1) eggs? 2) slime mold? I just vaguely thought #2 'cause they looked a little fuzzy for eggs, but really looked egg-like.

Well, looked up both and SLIME MOLD is my verdict! Check out the 2nd picture here. Looks just like them (if you zoom way in on my pic). Very exciting (to me). I'm a fan, probably because I had a teacher in undergrad who was very into them.

If you don't know anything about them, they have a very wacky lifestyle and ability to change when they are going from "cruising around" phase to "sending out spores" phase. Trippy things.

3. Obviously butterfly, but realllly don't have time to try and figure this puppy out, I am SO not expert, but if YOU are so motivated, here's Yosemite's butterfly list. PLEASE let us know if you figure it out--I'd love to share that with everyone.

4. Beautiful, idyllic meadow and ever-so-inviting trail. (Note the crowds)

5. My view from the rock where I ate my lunch. Yeah, it's okay.

6. Awesome tree/rock combo at Taft Point. The VIEW those things have is CRAZY. Take a few giant steps forward and you're SAILING down to Yosemite Valley floor, about 4,000 feet below. I actually got dizzy at one point looking down, which is very rare, so it's a CRAZY drop off. Beautiful and thrilling.

7. Corn lily. Ah, how I love thee. Those patterns and shapes KILL me. Oh, and btw, it's poisonous, so maybe that accounts for it's ungrazed and therefore perfect form.

Okay, running out of time, but couldn't resist. Corn lily in bloom mit pollinators:

It's worth a "click" to see those flowers up close--a-MA-zing things. Bees diggin' in.

So, a lovely day in the park. Oh, and I startled a beautiful sort-of-blondie bear. I was cruising down hill on the very soft dirt (so, unintentionally quiet) and turned a corner and there it was. Saw me and startled and ran off. Then stopped, looked back at now TWO people, and took off running.

Good bear.

Beautiful, glowing young adult. MAN those big things can move! It was a lovely "nature moment."

I seriously "heart" the NPS.

xo biobabbler

Monday, July 12, 2010