Author: Naturalism in Texas (and Sometimes Other Places)

So I’m a general bio student at a 4 year…

So I’m a general bio student at a 4 year college and I’m quickly getting close to graduation and I want to go to grad school but I have no fucking clue what i want to specialize in. How the hell do I pick? Bugs are fantastic and plants and wonderful and fungus is just fucking wild as shit and mammals are so great and I absolutely adore reptiles but I kinda want to go into paleo but I have no idea what I want to do with my life and what to study. What do I do?

Well, study bugs, obviously.

But I mean, there’s no reason to jump straight from undergrad to grad school. I took a year off between the two to work in a couple different labs on campus before applying to grad school, and in retrospect I probably should have taken two or three years.

If campus lab jobs are an option available to you, I’d recommend doing that, and take that opportunity to experience working in or adjacent to fields of your interest. You can use that time to talk to people in those fields and consider what you want to do as a career ultimately, like if you want to be in academia, government, private industry, etc. Certain fields and subfields are more appropriate to different careers. My original plan for post-grad school was the forest service, so I applied to a lab that primarily deals in forest pests, for example.

Finally, regardless of what you do for grad school or your ultimate career, there are always ways to engage with these fields in a hobbyist or citizen scientist capacity. You can get a PhD in paleontology but still ID bugs or mushrooms on iNaturalist on the weekend or whatever. You could
also talk to @nanonaturalist​ about becoming a Master Naturalist which I don’t know anything about but sounds badass. 

I think that’s about all I can offer without knowing more about your interests or situation. If you or anyone has other grad school related questions, feel free to slide into my DMs, but keep in mind that I’m a total dumbass and have spent most of the last 6 years squandering every opportunity given to me. Anyway thanks for reading here’s a moth.



Adventures in Giant Caterpillars

Earlier today, I posted this ask from @witchyfishyfun [link] about a wandering prepupal Imperial Moth caterpillar. Well. Guess what?

We staged a secretive handover in a parking lot off an interstate.


I was right about baby being prepupal, he had turned PINK! by the time I picked him up! For whatever reason, many caterpillars tend to turn pink before pupating.

I love him!!!

Okay, enough nonsense, let’s let him pupate already. I gave him the Bowl o’ Dirt with Leaf Garnish, snapped the lid on, and put him in the nice, cool, dark garage.


November 8, 2018

platycryptus: nanonaturalist: Wiggly water wo…



Wiggly water worms

November 1, 2018

They’re tubificid worms- the same sort of detrivorous oligochaetes that were responsible for the North Carolina sewer blobs

Whaaaat?! Neat!! These things just randomly popped up in a bowl outside under a bird feeder after it rained. 

turboferret: the-queen-of-angsts: xhangryx: …






drained of blood, the heart is white


No, that is NOT what this is. You’ve taken an amazing medical invention, a total game changer, and made up some stupid, faux-deep sentence fragment for it that is a complete falsehood. You should be embarrassed and ashamed, honestly.

This is a ghost heart. What they’ve done is taken a pig heart and stripped it down to, basically, a cell framework that they can use to BUILD A NEW HEART UPON. You could inject stem cells into this framework so that a newly formed personalized heart can be transplanted into a donor with a significantly reduced chance of rejection. FUCKING AMAZING. It’s not been done with human tissue yet, but the promise this given to people who need hearts – or kidneys or livers or whatever – is beautiful. Science is beautiful.

And it’s IMPERATIVE to mention that a woman, Doris Taylor, at the Texas Heart Institute developed this. And she started with a rat heart and worked up to he bigger, more complex (and more human) pig heart. What a total bad ass.

So look, quit making shit up, learn to do a reverse image search on stuff you find on the internet, and STOP ERASING WOMEN IN SCIENCE.

Reblogging for:

  • The corrected information
  • The fact that rejection rate would be LESS which is VITAL

Reblog for science communication

Oh hey I studied this stuff in graduate school.

Any structure you can grow cells on (typically stem cells) is generally referred to as a “scaffold.” They’re usually polymers, composed of a mix of natural and artificial materials, and that’s what I developed. The properties of the scaffold will affect how the stem cells behave, and we still don’t know exactly what it is about the scaffolds that causes which changes in the cells, and it makes the prospect of growing tissues outside of the body for transplants extremely difficult. Basically, we know that we want the scaffold to match the tissue it’s replacing as closely as possible–same toughness, same elasticity, same chemical composition, etc. This is very hard to do.

What to do, then? We can’t just transplant pig hearts into people, because our immune systems will reject them. But… Internal organs are built upon a “skeleton” of acellular connective tissue. The photo above is a decellularized organ (that’s the term to google to learn more about this! “ghost heart” is not a word I’ve ever heard before and I specifically studied heart tissue!) created with a process developed by Doris Taylor several years ago. Here’s an article that describes the process more in depth [link], but basically, you pump a bunch of surfactant (a component of soap) through the organ, and it “washes” all the cells out. 

And now that the heart is “empty,” you can “seed” it (yes, that’s the technical term!) with stem cells from the person who will receive the transplant, to ensure no issues with organ rejection. This process can be done with many other organs besides the heart. In my lab, we had students working on kidneys and spleens.

We’re still nowhere near being able to use this (decellularized whole organs) in medical practice, but considering that tissue engineering wasn’t even a thing until the early 1990′s, we’ve come a long way.

I know this isn’t bugs but the “nano” in my user name is literally from my academic studies in nanotechnology and its applications in biomedical engineering and everything is connected blah blah blah bio-inspired design blah blah blah Hi guys I’m back!!!

November 8, 2018




Saved this larvae from the up coming storm and the cold weather outside. Small guy was crawling on a busy sidewalk and I decided to keep them until I get home and the weather clears up. What kind of larvae is this?

Can’t tell much from the photo but seems like it’d be a caterpillar. 

Looks like an armyworm moth of some sort! Don’t know where you are in the world, but in the US, the genus Spotdoptera is fairly prolific.

They grow up into these guys:

November 8, 2018


Imperial Moth Larvae?


@witchyfishyfun submitted:

He just wandered into where I work, I was wearing gloves when I handled him since I wasn’t sure whether or not he was venomous but I wanted to move him somewhere out of foot traffic.

I would love to help him stay safe but I don’t know what to feed him or what he needs.

This babe is a prepupal Imperial Moth caterpillar and needs a dark place to cuddle up in and pupate. He’s not going to eat anything at this point. They are typically a darker/brighter color, but when they are getting ready to pupate, they lose much of their fantastic color and texture. At this stage of their lives, the structures of the pupa are starting to develop inside of them, so they get kinda weird and sausage-y.

Imperial Moths are Saturniids like Io Moths and Polyphemus Moths, but unlike those species, they will burrow underground and pupate in the soil like Sphinx moths do. If you give this baby a nice cozy place to pupate, you can see him when he comes out as an adult:

November 8, 2018

caterpillar-gifs: Tawny Emperor Caterpillar m…


Tawny Emperor Caterpillar molting

New babies!

Wiggly water worms November 1, 2018

Wiggly water worms

November 1, 2018

Moth Variety Pack from the front yard tonight….

Moth Variety Pack from the front yard tonight.

I have been STRESSED OUT and BUSY and also I got bronchitis (but I didn’t lose my voice until AFTER I finished teaching a four hour workshop on iNaturalist Saturday morning, thankfully). The Master Naturalist Annual Meeting (and that four hour workshop…) was the major time sink the past few weeks so now I have no excuse for slacking in the blog department (besides the whole desperate employment search thing).


October 30, 2018

I love these buttheads. Hackberry Emperor cate…

I love these buttheads. Hackberry Emperor caterpillar (Asterocampa celtis).

October 26, 2018