Friday, July 6, 2012

Day 19

A third straight day of the heat wave is forecast for today with a heat index projected to creep above 110 degrees. I opted to begin a potential new 5k client as early as possible today before the humidity of the day set in. We finished by 7am just as it hit 82 degrees and humid enough that sweat would begin to form on the brow without any running effort.
I arrived into the Indiana Dunes USGS office by 8 and found the team preparing for a day out in the field. I worked on the images that I took yesterday while the team finalized there preparations. Tonya and I finalized her interview and Ralph spoke to me about the two of us getting the rest of the bio-caching footage done while the rest of the team set up the new field chambers.

 Ralph spoke about the purpose of the data collection sites, how prescribed burns have impacted karner populations, and microclimates in the dunes at the three sites that we visited. He did a great job hitting all the topics, including the bio-caching activity. My only concern is the audio volume.  I took lots of extra footage so that if necessary his audio can be transcribed and edited in as voice over. I even got extra audio backups at some stops on the voice memo of my Iphone just in case. Ralph was a great sport in getting the footage done. I appreciate everyone’s help in getting this project done. 
The ladies worked on a mating chamber to go into the greenhouse at the end of the day.

I finished off the day with a 15 mile spin and a little over a half mile swim. I'm looking forward to a great running weekend with 2 races planned. The weatherman predicts a break in the heat wave on Sunday. I hope so!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day 18

It’s the day after the 4th of July so everything seemed to be running slow. I met a friend out at the local YMCA for a swim to get the morning going but even then I seemed to move slowly through the water. Even so, the weather has been so oppressively hot with thick humidity that the warmer than average water still felt cool and refreshing. According to the National Weather Service today’s temperatures were the hottest recorded temperatures in Chicago. I wouldn’t be inclined to differ.

My morning at the Indiana Dunes USGS office started off late. When I arrived the team hadn’t been out yet and they had a look as warn as I felt. We went out as a team into the Miller Woods in search of Karner Blue Butterflies to capture for genomic testing. I have to admit, it was fun to wonder around the woods almost as children in search of treasure. The team was joined by a ranger who has been doing this work for some time. Using an eastern swallowtail butterfly as an example, he showed us how to take the sample for genetic testing without injuring the test subject. It was a difficult procedure complicated by the tiny, delicate nature of the test subject. Everyone watched with baited breath hoping that a poorly times sneeze or unavoidable twitch wouldn’t spell the crumpled fate of the tiny butterfly. Instead, Randy handled the task with ease as though it had been orchestrated by a micro-surgeon.  Each of the 3 women on the team took a turn capturing a sample subject and giving their hand a try at the micro-surgery under the instruction of our team expert.  Although not all were successful in gathering the sample required for genomic testing, no butterflies were injured in the process.  

In the heat of the afternoon the team had given up the search for our illusive treasure and had begun to pack in for the trip back to headquarters when one of Randy ‘s team members came in with a hopeful smile and a net of treasure.  Randy and Ralph looked it over and confirmed the loot was genuine treasure. Randy swiftly moved into action and mechanically began the steps of processing the tiny karner blue butterfly. Ralph joked, only 29 more! It was supposed to be the practice that 30 karners would be sampled at each site. Randy finished collecting the genomic testing process and scampered back into the woods to release it at the location where it had been captured. Just as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. We had baked out in the sun for hours for a moment that had lasted a maximum of sixty seconds to collect data that would link generations and potentially entire populations of butterflies. I would say it was well worth the wait.

The ride back to HQ was quiet. Everyone fought to stay away and most lost. When we returned, everyone paused for fresh ice water, a slice of Ralph’s homemade bread, and a hunk of watermelon chilled from its stay in the refrigerator. Before I knew it, everyone was up and at it again, working on the karner mating cages in the small green house attached to HQ.  I had been taping interviews throughout the day out in the field and I finished up with Noel Pavlovic.

Tanya asked for an extension and tomorrow I’ll work on the data collection footage that I missed today. I enjoyed the time out in the field today, especially since we went to a location pretty much exactly where I was stationed last year. I enjoyed being there again for a new purpose.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Day 17

The only way to beat the intense heat was to get out early so I met the sun on a 5 mile run around campus. It was fun to find new roads and make new routes. I took it slow thanks to sore muscles and a sleepy body and felt good by the end. I love that a run can always wake me up no matter how sleepy I start.

Little bunny had Sara's back, even from the fridge!
 Why he's in the fridge? Well, some days..
A meeting with Disha and Dan set the rest of the day in motion with a check to see how everyone was doing on their portions and plans for interviews and video takes. We descended into the lab and set the lens on Sara. She let it be known that she was less than comfortable with the idea. After three takes Sara had enough. She was improving with confidence and comfort but not with tolerance. The team was supportive of her and everyone tried to help her relax with jokes and smiles. Even so, after a while, enough was enough and really the footage I had would do the trick. Sara was a trooper in getting the take finished despite her discomfort behind the lens.

Later, while Jason and Sara worked on feeding the larvae, they discussed a high mortality rate going through the colony. It seems that within 24 hours the lupin leaves that are being placed in the feeding chambers are losing all chlorophyll. In effect they are changing from green to brown overnight. The karners in the chamber are dying as a result. Jason and Sara discussed several possible causes for this quick change including a possible fungus or the use of ethanol to prevent cross contamination between insects, ironically a practice that was adopted to prevent the spread of disease. A leaf sample was exposed to ethanol in a separate container to test this cause.

Sean hides from the camera :)
As the afternoon rolled on it was finally time for Sean’s interview and honestly, I don’t know what he was waiting for. He was very natural in front of the lens. He had it done in one take but I pushed for two just in case there were any problems that I missed. I reviewed the footage as soon as we finished and was ecstatic. Disha will make quick work of it, I’ve no doubt.

When a karner gets loose,
one of the team always springs to action
The day closed with a discussion about the possibility of cutting broader impact requirements from NSF grant proposals. That would mean positions like mine would become a thing of the past. I see first-hand the impacts of educators that stay abreast of research. It can be quantified by the pass/fail rate of students of those who remain active in research vs. those who do not. While I don’t feel that continued research should be a requirement to maintain the status of a highly qualified educator, I do contend that it does play a defined roll in an educator’s skill set. It can be argued that it isn’t the responsibility of the university to maintain the quality of the public school system. However, I would argue, who then, aside from parents, should be charged with providing the future students for the university at caliber destined for success if not a high school teacher with an education maintained through meaningful and enriching professional development opportunities?
Got him!

Time to do some explaining about the bunny. It's widely accepted in the lab that this little guy is really something very bad. When you tap his head, he says "Happy Easter!" three times over. Which is fine except that often it isn't required that his head is tapped. He scares people and yet we love him. :) In the fridge today he went on with Easter tidings for about 20 minutes. Don't worry. After we returned him to his usual post on the lab desk, he continued to be the lab oddity, well one of them, no worse for the wear. More on the fridge later.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Day 16

Today started in the lab. I came in and set up the camera for interview time with Jessica, Sean and Sara. I learned later that Sean and Sara both had today off. I had to laugh since both had pleaded to allow them until today to do their video interviews. It doesn’t matter really since they will eventually come in and in the interim I have plenty to keep me busy. When Jessica came in Disha and I got her clip done in a quick two takes. She was very relaxed on camera and took to it with ease. Disha took it to the editing room and had it trimmed out in no time. She has really gotten the feel for the software and I am confident in her ability to handle the next project I’m getting ready to send to her. She’ll have the rest of the week to finish up the rest of the lab takes then next week to trim out the work I do out at the dunes.

2 Karner mating enclosers.
The Q-tips are saturated with a nectur for food.
While she finished with Jessica’s interview I started the framework for the Dunes project. I researched Geocaching that lead me to Earth-caching then to Virtual-caching. I ended up writing the activity on Bio-catching as a blend of geocaching and waymarketing (new school virtual-caching) but not a true form of either. On Thursday I’ll do the video clip of the directions, gather the coordinates and get the interviews for the site. Looks like Thursday will be a long day. Friday is reserved for touch ups, retakes, and fill-ins for missed footage. 

Next week will be all about data analysis, the following week about potential frame work application on applicable species, and a third tying up loose ends with a fourth week on uploading. Really uploading can begin at almost any time after this week, but if it hasn’t, there is a full week devoted to its completion.  If followed, this schedule will still allow for completion before the deadline. Still, it’s no secret as to what can be said for the best laid plans. J

Karners having a snack in a mating encloser

I went to McAlister’s for lunch and continued working between bites of chicken noodle soup and savannah salad (yum!)By the way, I love my local dining choices! Quincy’s is closed on Mondays and closes too early for dinner but McAlister’s fills in nicely. When I’m in the mood for something a little quieter, The hits the mark! Looking for something with more art to it? There’s Cambodian Thai, or if I want a taste of home there is always Jamba Juice, Jimmy Johns or Chipotle. Still, I try to eat in as often as possible. Every week the move in process includes mapping a diet for the week and packing my foods to go with it. This week was different since I’ll only be staying over one night. The shortened stay provides a little time off of my standard can of peas or avocado sandwich dinners. Not that I’d complain about them. In fact, even over the weekend I was on the prowl for an avocado sandwich! I design my meals away from home after all. It’s just fun to experiment every now and then. 

Back after lunch I cleaned up the Dunes activity a bit by adding details and links to resources. Sean came in late in the afternoon and asked for another day to wait on his interview. I had to laugh. At the end of the day temperatures were still in excess of 90 degrees so I turned to the gym for a three mile run rather than the road. I still hadn’t made it to my dorm by 8 pm and was starving for dinner. It was a long day and tomorrow promises for a repeat. Now close to midnight it’s time to turn in.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 15

Fun time with the new equiptment

Friday and things are in full swing. The microphone was in the lab when I arrived. I had started off working on some content development but when Jason handed me the camera I shifted gears without hesitation. It’s always fun to test out a new piece of equipment and find out its limitations. I took sample footage with audio variations and ran them through the lap top for a baseline. Again the video was great but it was clear that the audio needed work. Luckily the new microphone isn’t locked onto the camera so I set about making a boom for it.


Science has taught me the gift of ingenuity and it’s days like today that call on that skill to make things work. I didn’t want to affix anything directly onto the new microphone so I used several pieces of lab materials to construct the boom. In the end it wasn’t pretty but it was functional. Listening to the audio before the boom, in comparison to after, gives pardon for the less than appealing composure.


Once satisfied with the modifications to the new equipment I set about filming team biographies. Each member of the team was required to state their name, position, job responsibilities, length of employment with the team, educational background, related employment history and a note of scientific wisdom.

Simple enough except for the most part people are not comfortable being filmed. An entirely new personality comes forth with nervous ticks and uncontrolled habits. I am no exception to the rule which is why I find more comfort behind the lens controlling the scene. Sean and Sara both asked for reprieve from the lens until Monday and of course there is no issue with waiting. In the interim, Disha worked on editing the lab methods segments that I had already shot as well as trimming out today’s bios and I’ll keep plugging away on content.


With another week checked off the plan for next week is set to finish bio and methodology videos in the first half of the week. During the second half of the week the process will be repeated with the USGS side of the team. Along the way Disha will keep editing, while Dan and I will hopefully be able to get content material written.

Some days the phone just needs to be put on ice!

Day 14

It may be a good time to explain why I am publishing this blog otherwise it may come off as more than a bit egocentric to write about the happenings of my day, every day. It began several years ago when I earned a position on the Lake Guardian COSEE (Centers for Oceanographic Excellence Education) Ship and Shoreline team. I was one of three on the blogging team in addition to regular researching. The purpose of the blog on that expedition was to keep the team connected to friends and family back home since we had such limited communication through the duration of the trip. The following year I was honored to be selected to be the mentor for the other educators onboard. My job also included being the sole blogger for the team. In both instances the blogs served as record for the educators to take their students through the experience. It was also a great photo album of sorts to remember our experiences. During that second year I also worked for the National Park Service as a Park Ranger for the Indiana Dunes. That year I kept a second blog that served as a job description for my students concentrating on environmental sciences. Last year I worked with Brown University in the Miller Woods but was unable to maintain a blog due to the field work hours of the position. I noticed a disconnect in my ability to relay this experience more than any other. Today’s teen is reached in segments of pictures, videos and phrases. When I began to expose my classes to the materials that I produced last summer that were structured in a marketing format, they became interested and made requests for the story of the summer. I was able to provide the story but not to the same level as the previous year’s blogs could provide. This summer I return to the blog in anticipation of the request. Here it’s written in a story format marketed to the target audience on a broad base. I hope this makes clear the purpose of the blog as more than a self-centered public diary. Of course if my friends, family, and colleges, are curious as to what I’m up to this summer, it can serve for keeping them updated too.

On to today: I started off the day with a 3 mile run. It’s been the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures toping over 100 degrees. This morning was humid and uncomfortable when I set off. When I returned the sprinklers were out on the lawn catching just enough of the sidewalk for me to enjoy a little rinse.

Before long I was in the local coffee house typing away and not long after that shooting video in the lab. I picked up a small camera from the IT department and ran practice shots with it for half the morning. I found the video to be of good quality but as usual the audio lacked.

At a meeting in the afternoon I brought up the issue to Jessica and she put through the approval to order a microphone for the lab’s camera. Jason put the order through today and with a little luck and a prayer for Fed Ex, I’ll be shooting bio pieces tomorrow. In the interim, Disha and I worked on the editing software and learned the process in the trial by fire method. iMovie is a great piece of software as it’s very intuitive and we made fast work of it. I look forward to working more on the video segments tomorrow.

In all the fun, 5 pm crept up on me. It was time to head back to the gym for the evening workout. The day ended with a nice, quiet dinner at my new favorite haunt next to campus. I had been craving a good salmon salad for some time and wasn’t disappointed. For as much as I enjoy the work, the campus, and of course the chance to live as an athlete with so many amazing resources all around me I do miss aspects of home.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 13

I opted to save my workout for later so today began with a writing session in the lab. The camaraderie of the lab techs is apparent on these mornings. On a regular basis we have fun joking around while getting the work done. Everyone loves to take a turn on Pandora and we’re all foodies so everyday someone is bringing something to try. Today the techs brought in cookies, pastries, almonds, beef jerky, and pretzel chips. I brought pita and humus along with tomatoes etc. to make them into sandwiches. Tomorrow will be something new. I think after this summer I'll go back to being a foodie blogger :)

At 11 I left to the pool in the field house. I was in awe of the athletic facilities and honored to swim in such a beautiful facility. Perhaps it was this mental high that played a role in cutting another 5 minutes off my ½ mile p.r. time! I can’t believe I swam so fast! Well, fast for me J

Back at work we enjoyed the pot luck lunch before everyone headed off to a round of meetings. I met with Disha and Dan to talk about content on the site and assign tasks. After the rest of the work was distributed it was off to another meeting.

There Caroline Williams was on a conference call to the lab team giving a power point presentation on her research. Our role was to peer review her presentation before she gave it to a live on-line audience. This was peer reviewing at its finest. Everyone on the team gave feedback to Caroline before her big debut. When each of them has a day to do the same, the team will review for them too.

Finally the work day ended with a quick stop back at ICENCA to set up a video equipment and software with Reid and back to the lab to get approval from Jason to use a publication on the website. I’m glad I’ve become familiar with the layout of the campus. With meetings and meetings and meetings I need to know my way around!

I took the evening to become more familiar with the campus and find myself at on the patio of a great coffee house just across the street from the main campus enjoying an amazing salad while the orchestra plays on the lawn. If I need to work through the evening, this is how to do it!