Category: oh hey it’s my autobiography

Regular

underthehedge:

apenvssword:

systlin:

unique-and-just-like-the-others:

punksatanic:

itsursoyboye:

despazito:

despazito:

vegans who refuse to even eat backyard eggs….why

people who think its unethical to eat chicken eggs are like people who think bees should keep all their honey. they literally produce more than they need and your unwillingness to even buy local means you are doing nothing to help them, support your small farmers you heathens

I don’t usually get involved in vegan discourse but as far as honey goes they stress the hive into overproduction and regularly kill off the worker bees to get the queen to produce more. The bees they use to pollinate are trucked out to crops, they’re not the same ones producing honey. The egg thing is about how much stress it puts on chickens to produce, people who keep pet chickens usually have vets implant artificial eggs into the chicken so it’s not putting so much stress on the chicken’s body. That being said I eat honey. I don’t think we should go after people trying to prevent cruelty, we should look harder at mass farming practices and stop pointing fingers at each other.

I’m glad someone said it because I didnt know how to

OK, but do all local beekeepers stress their bees into overproduction? I understand if this is the mass production method, but is it also the backyard beekeeper method?

….that is literally not how it works at all.

You can’t ‘stress bees into overproduction’. If bees are stressed, they won’t produce. And will probably die, tbh. Or at least get sick far more easily, and then die.

The only way you get excess honey from bees is if you keep them somewhere where they’re happy and have lots of forage. Some commercial beekeepers will take the honey and feed back sugar water, which is unethical and no, backyard beekeepers like myself don’t do that. 

But you literally cannot stress bees into overproduction. Bees just. Like. They don’t have an ‘off’ switch. They gather nectar and pollen and bring it back to the hive. That’s what they do. They don’t take days off or vacations. They forage every day until they die. That’s hardwired into their behavior by millions of years of evolution. I’m not out there yelling at them to get up and get at it; they start foraging at first light and continue until dusk, every day. That’s what they do. That’s what evolution has coded into their genes and behavior.

So they will forage and store honey and pollen forever, so long as they have forage. They don’t reach a point where they go ‘oh hey we have enough to survive the winter, we can stop now.’ They just keep going.

What stresses bees is not being able to forage or not having enough forage. And that hardly leads to them making honey. The opposite, rather; they then have to survive off their stored reserves.

“The egg thing is about how much stress it puts on chickens to produce, people who keep pet chickens usually have vets implant artificial eggs into the chicken so it’s not putting so much stress on the chicken’s body.” – itsursoyboye

Chickens naturally produce eggs while they are fertile. If you implanted an artificial egg into a chicken you’d hurt it. They also don’t really have an off switch, the only time a hen doesn’t lay is when she doesn’t have everything she needs to produce the egg.

As for artificial eggs…you may see people giving chickens ceramic eggs, or something similarly shaped but that is only if a chicken is feeling like she wants to be a mom and you don’t want more chickens.

Ceramic and rubber eggs are also used when you have some arseholes chickens that have realised eggs are delicious to eat too. Making sure you collect eggs early and leave inedible bouncy/hard eggs in the nest usually teaches them not to bother…

*yet another massive sigh re: original post*

Y’all, I try to be loving and accepting of everybody and I also try to keep this blog relatively free of swearing because *handwaves* professional *more handwaves* is generally a good thing to do with diverse audience, etc.

But I’ve spoken on this general topic before and I’m going to do it again.

What the fuck gives you the right to (1) put words in my mouth (2) decide what I should/should not do with my body?

I love small farmers and I support them. I love my friends who raise backyard chickens (and I love the chickens). I have no ethical issues with eating eggs from said chickens.

But I’m not going to do it. And my reasons for doing so are none of anybody’s goddamn business.

If you weren’t around for previous rants, I eat honey, I wear leather and wool, I feed my cats meat, and all those jerkoffs going on non-sequitor pseudo-intellectual holier-than-thou monologues about synthetic fabrics and how vegans are destroying the environment via polyester need to stfu because (newsflash), almost all your clothes are synthetic blends.

I GET that it’s still acceptable to shit on vegans because of the obnoxious asswipes that call themselves vegan and police everybody else’s behavior (for the record, the peta assholes are not vegan and everybody hates them).

But remember some of those vegans you’re shitting on have been getting mercilessly bullied for what they personally chose not to eat starting 25 years ago, despite their best attempts to keep their dietary habits a secret because it’s not fun to have meat thrown at you in school when you’re a little kid with panic attacks and OCD-esque contamination issues when you touch meat 👍.

All I want to do is share my love of nature and science and bugs (INCLUDING THOSE COOL BUG SNACKS AT THAT ASIAN GROCERY, REMEMBER THOSE?????? DO YOU THINK THEY WERE VEGAN????), but wtf peeps I can’t even come to this blue hellsite without getting told that I feel a certain way and getting criticized for it??? Not cool, do better.

Vegans are not some theoretical enemy that exist off of this platform. I’m right here, I see these posts, I have had to unfollow people I would otherwise really like to stay connected to because of the rabid anti-vegan sentiment (why???), and … all of these posts, which are literally about me … are wrong.

Anyways, that’s my rant for now, I guess I should get back to posting bugs or something.

Me in 2013 attempting to liberate some backyard chickens kept under cruelly inhumane conditions, the horror

May 18, 2019

Arge scapularis – Elm Argid Sawfly ——- Blog’…

Arge scapularis – Elm Argid Sawfly

——-

Blog’s been on a bit of a hiatus… turns out after spending 10+ hours straight rewriting my resume for the 100th time, the last thing I want to deal with is tumblr deleting thoughtful posts I poured my heart and soul into. I’ve been updating my facebook page (nanonaturalist on there, too) more regularly, which isn’t much more than photos with brief captions.

Job hunting is more demoralizing than I ever could have anticipated. I would have had an offer in April but the position was “placed on hold.” I’m not getting called back for interviews. I can’t make plans because I need to keep my schedule open just in case I do get a call. Road trips are out of the question (what gas money???), I have to cancel all my outreach and bioblitz plans (I didn’t do City Nature Challenge this year…). The only plus side is I’m catching more yard birds because I never leave my house.

As much as I wish it weren’t the case, the job hunt is the only thing I have time for right now. I’m at Week 11 of unemployment, and the longer you are out of work, the less likely you are to get hired (because most hiring managers are privileged assholes).

Really, I meant it when I said it on a previous post: do not move to Austin thinking you can find a job. You can’t. I struck up a conversation with somebody at the park on Sunday who had been unemployed for four months. Degree in marketing. Work experience in real estate marketing. Couldn’t find a single job in four months in the fastest growing city in the US with an enormous real estate market. She found a job she’s starting this week—on craigslist.

Enough whining for now, back to resumepalooza 🙄

May 14, 2019

It’s like I’m a real writer now

Oh boy. I don’t half-ass things. Apparently that includes coming out of the HEY GUYS I’M AUTISTIC closet. Which I did earlier this week. In a nature magazine. They did a feature on birders with disabilities, and wanted to get a written piece from a birder with autism. And I was like *waves arms furiously*. (Because it paid and I’m unemployed right now)

image

A 200 word limit is VERY SHORT for an essay, holy carp. But the web piece will be longer (it’s not out yet). Do you like my kinglet?! I took that picture!

Anyway, this is a tiny little essay tucked into some obscure nature magazine nobody reads, right?

*cough*

image

Well, what are the odds that somebody I know will read this issue cover-to-cover and notice my name at the bottom of this short little article? I’m quoted in the Editor’s Note at the beginning of the Issue

The best part? When I was talking with the editor of this section in the beginning, I sent her some writing samples so she could get an idea of my ability to actually write. Those samples included some posts from this blog. 

I got my copies of the magazine shipped to me super quick, but I’m not sure when regular subscribers will be getting them. I did post about this on my NanoNaturalist facebook page, so all my IRL nature people who follow me there know my secret (although to be honest, I am highly suspicious of anybody who didn’t notice I was a little weird to begin with).

Life continues to be fun and exciting!
March 16, 2019

Sorry for all the questions but I got curious …

Sorry for all the questions but I got curious after your last post (the earring one): how do you, like, kill the insects animal friendly? Are you bummed out over it or is it just part of the job for you?

Hi there! I’m still working on your first question, I’ll post that tomorrow. 

I don’t kill the insects, my friend who makes the earrings does. There is a big long complicated discussion about collections in general, in terms of being able to have a historical catalogue of species diversity and populations, and you can’t have that without killing things. In some ways, it’s a harder conversation for animals like birds and mammals, because they live longer, reproduce less frequently, and are seen as more intelligent. 

But for me, it very much would bum me out. I have had to euthanize some of my insects (I do it by putting them in the freezer), and even that is really hard to do. I’ve never taken an entomology course because of it. When I was 12, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I was obsessed with fish and marine invertebrates since I was 4, I loved everything about them. But at one point, I realized… you can’t be a wildlife biologist without doing dissections. And I’m a vegetarian who couldn’t even eat fake meat for years because it freaked me out by looking too real (this was in the 90′s before they had good ones)–there was no way I would be able to do a dissection! So over 20 years later, I’m doing wildlife biology my way, but without any formal training, because every entomology course has a component where you create a collection–meaning, you kill insects, and you practice pinning them. 

For most insects, they are killed quickly in a jar with chemicals. Ethyl acetate is the most common, and it’s used in nail polish remover. Freezing is used for some other insects (like moths, to prevent them from damaging their wings with the chemicals). I don’t know what method my friend uses, but he doesn’t use chemicals since he feeds the leftover parts to other animals (his research lab has a lot of fish). 

The thing with collecting is, maybe it’s all part of the job for some, but I think most of the people who study any kind of biology were drawn to it by the living organisms. Very few people in this field take it for granted that the study of life necessitates death, especially when it’s at our own hands. Even my hardened entomologist friends have told me that the first few times are never easy. But in many cases, what you collect could outlive you many times over. There are insects sitting in collections that are hundreds of years old, which are still in good enough shape that we can still study and learn from them.

March 15, 2019

Regular

nanonaturalist:

spinebug:

i went to Explore UT today and got some cecropia moth eggs from @nanonaturalist !! thank you SO much, i’m so excited to watch them grow up!

i also got to hold a hissing cockroach which was fun

Yaaaay! Good luck! I haven’t raised Cecropias before (just kidnapped older caterpillars and cocoons), so I’m excited to try these out too!

It’s funny, I wasn’t planning to be at ExploreUT, but last night one of my friends told me they had volunteer cancelations and were hurting for people. Also, he suggested that I bring my Cecropia moths and stick insects. Both my and my babies’ surprise appearance was much welcomed, and oh boy, the Cecropia moths were mating the entire time. One kid asked if they were kissing with their butts. 😂

The entomology collections had four tables, three had specimens in drawers plus an interactive game at one, and the last table had the living specimens, which would have been only the hissing cockroaches and (well-contained) black widow and brown recluse spiders had I not been present. We were pretty busy all day, so I didn’t get a chance to get better photos of the tables, but loooook!

There’s the hamper with my babies! Their cocoons are off to the right so people could touch them. The sticks are in the tank you can almost see to the left.

(Funny story: that little pink book on the table in front of the bald dude, aka Alex Wild, is a baby album/scrapbook my friend who dragged me into this put together for his botflies. He had ultrasounds done on them and everything. Nerd)

The moths were Popular. I mean, Look;

People were leaning in on the tables to see the moths around the crowd so much that this is how offset they were at the end of the day. Also, here is a better view of the baby sticks. They were very well behaved. Only one escaped, that I know of. At one point I was informed I had a stick insect on my shoulder and I just sighed.

It appears I have successfully infiltrated the Biodiversity Center at UT!

March 2, 2019

@lieslol I was starstruck when I found out UT had hired him and we’d be living in the same city and now we’re on a first name basis

Academia is a small world. Some of my iNaturalist buddies are grad students at UT who have worked with him. And as the curator for the entomology collection, he’s involved in organizing the outreach events. The first outreach event I organized for my master naturalist chapter was Texas Wildlife Day at Texas Memorial Museum, on UT campus, January 2018. That was also the first time we were in the same room. Later, he came to give a talk to the Austin Butterfly Forum, and I asked a question. Then Texas Wildlife Day again this year, which happened after we had both been scheduled as speakers at the Dionysium [link], so when I mentioned harassing his cockroaches at Texas Wildlife Day in the email thread about Dionysium logistics, then snuck up during Texas Wildlife Day and started harassing his cockroaches, he probably recognized me as that weirdo who had harassed his cockroaches the year before and randomly started… answering questions at his table even though… my table was… over there?

Anyways, at said Dionysium, we talked a bit beforehand, then there was my caterpillar talk and my participation in the mosquito debate (just imagine one of my rants in here except I’m using my face hole instead of my hand noodles to do it), and uhhhh yeah I may have bumped up my credibility a little (he may have also double checked on my iNaturalist stats afterwards, based on how he introduced me to the guy in charge of the Stengl Lost Pines site [link], which I am desperately trying to crawl around in (*droooools over the biodiversity present in that protected area*)).

So yeah, one of my bug heroes is introducing me to people as an expert, and I’m the only person who was there for the whole day without a break (because I’m crazy and also MY BABIES!), and I wasn’t on the schedule (I’m not even affiliated with the College of Natural Sciences!)–I emailed him at 2 am to tell him I was coming. When I pass my PMP exam next Friday (because I’m passing this time, dammit), I’m hopping on some digitization projects for him, and I swear if he’s not intimidated by how much I get done, then I have failed.

March 2, 2019

Buy a Coffee for NanoNaturalist

Buy a Coffee for NanoNaturalist:

woefully-undercaffeinated:

nanonaturalist:

Alright, enough about boning moths for a second, cuz I’m unemployed now and I have a situation. I need a particular software package which costs an amount of money which is generally unwise for newly unemployed people to be spending on … anything. But it’s gotta happen for a presentation in about a week, and it’s gotta happen if I want to keep posting here as I have in the past–if you like essentially any post I’ve made that has photos in it, chances are you have enjoyed my having access to this particular software as much as I have.

I have a ko-fi account. I have not “advertised” it much because that’s just not my style and I generally assume that y’all are just as broke as I am. And I’m not desperate yet, but I have been Unemployed in bold with a capital U before and I know with certainty that I cannot survive 9 months without a job this time around. Because I’ve mapped out my budget for the next 9 months and it’s grim. There is nothing I can do that I haven’t already done in terms of job hunting. 

So what I ask: 

  • If you have enjoyed caterpillar butts and moth indecency and rants about bizarre things that you wouldn’t think humans would have opinions about, and if you have $3 to spare, please considering contributing to the cause of ensuring I can continue to raise caterpillars to take pictures of/post their butts and then perv on them doing it while taking very strong stances on what species of bird the bird seed companies put on their packaging (HOUSE SPARROWS?!?!?!!?!!?!?). 
  • If you have enjoyed all these things but do not have the $3 to spare, then please tell the next bug you see that they are beautiful/they are so fat/”What a handsome man!” 
  • If you think I’m stupid and my blog sucks (*gasp!*), then this is me mooning you:

March 1, 2019

Fun fact: Apache’s OpenOffice is 100% free and will easily create, edit, and save PowerPoint format files without issue, as well as being able to work with Microsoft Word files, Excel, and pretty much any other Office suite program you need it to. Share the good news with any other broke academic you encounter. 

warning: no bugs except for computer code ahead

Many people have suggested free alternatives to MS Office (there are a lot of them out there!), and for various reasons, my personal needs require MS Office. For the standard user, yes, you can import MS Office files into google docs/sheets/etc or OpenOffice and not have too many issues. That’s awesome, and I fully encourage everybody to fully take advantage of those resources!

Oh boy if any of y’all think I’m a standard anything, you are in for a surprise

I’m an engineer, right? I keep track of my budget with an excel spreadsheet containing 15 tabs, some of which cross-reference each other, and I *almost* included macros but I needed to draw the line somewhere. I program equations and graphical representations of budget forecasts to tell me exactly when to pay which bills. Currently, I am working on a mangled version on google sheets. Most of my graphs didn’t import. My color-coding is all gone. Some of my formulas didn’t transfer. It’s a mess and I essentially can’t manage my budget until I get office up–the imported version on sheets lost its core functionality.

In an ideal world, where I have a ton of time to learn a new software, I’d be up for giving google docs or OpenOffice another go. I tried to use both when I used a netbook for taking notes in class in the early 2010′s, and I found both to be frustrating and counter-intuitive. That’s not to say MS Office is any better, it’s just as bad, if not worse, but I’ve been using MS Office since Office 3.0/Office 92. It may be a horribly designed suite of programs, but I know how they work, and my resumes, presentations, and obsessive spreadsheeting habit are already in the MS Office format, and I don’t have to worry about formatting issues (… for the most part -_-) on top of a bunch of tight deadlines. 

It’s hard enough to put together a presentation for something you hyperfixate on without getting distracted by margins for 5 hours, when you need to be studying for an exam you’ve already failed once on top of that, with a one-week deadline. 

I would like to hear if other people have made presentations with any of these open-source alternatives with embedded video and animated gifs, because I use a lot of those. 

What about documents with embedded third-party objects? If I use a citation software plug-in with Word, but then import a document to another program, what happens to my citations? Do those open source programs support citation software? Image captions? Responsive TOCs?

March 1, 2019

Buy a Coffee for NanoNaturalist

Buy a Coffee for NanoNaturalist:

nanonaturalist:

Alright, enough about boning moths for a second, cuz I’m unemployed now and I have a situation. I need a particular software package which costs an amount of money which is generally unwise for newly unemployed people to be spending on … anything. But it’s gotta happen for a presentation in about a week, and it’s gotta happen if I want to keep posting here as I have in the past–if you like essentially any post I’ve made that has photos in it, chances are you have enjoyed my having access to this particular software as much as I have.

I have a ko-fi account. I have not “advertised” it much because that’s just not my style and I generally assume that y’all are just as broke as I am. And I’m not desperate yet, but I have been Unemployed in bold with a capital U before and I know with certainty that I cannot survive 9 months without a job this time around. Because I’ve mapped out my budget for the next 9 months and it’s grim. There is nothing I can do that I haven’t already done in terms of job hunting. 

So what I ask: 

  • If you have enjoyed caterpillar butts and moth indecency and rants about bizarre things that you wouldn’t think humans would have opinions about, and if you have $3 to spare, please considering contributing to the cause of ensuring I can continue to raise caterpillars to take pictures of/post their butts and then perv on them doing it while taking very strong stances on what species of bird the bird seed companies put on their packaging (HOUSE SPARROWS?!?!?!!?!!?!?). 
  • If you have enjoyed all these things but do not have the $3 to spare, then please tell the next bug you see that they are beautiful/they are so fat/”What a handsome man!” 
  • If you think I’m stupid and my blog sucks (*gasp!*), then this is me mooning you:

March 1, 2019

Y’all

I love you

As a token of my appreciation, please accept my full-grown adult Giant Leopard Moth 😀

I raised the caterpillars inside for a couple molts, but I just could’t take care of them over the winter (their food dried out too fast and the trees were dropping leaves), so I did the mature thing and let them go. They did their winter diapause, I saw caterpillars again early February or so, and this moth must have JUST emerged a couple nights ago when I found him because he peed all over me (visible in photo).

Thank you so much!!!

🐍💙🐌🖤🦆❤️🐛

Also some good news: got some job search tips from a guy I connected with on LinkedIn (the trick when you get into higher level positions: just start emailing people at companies you want to work at directly), and a recruiter trying to fill a project position with the power company contacted me directly (also via LinkedIn) and asked me to apply for it. Thanks to some resume feedback I got (also from a new connection on LinkedIn—I gotta say, writing a snarky comment to a trending news post at 4 am was a good move!), the resume I submit for that opening will kick some serious 9th abdominal segments. Here’s to hoping!

March 1, 2019

thelepidopteragirl: nanonaturalist: thelepid…

thelepidopteragirl:

nanonaturalist:

thelepidopteragirl:

nanonaturalist:

thelepidopteragirl:

the-awkward-turt:

myfrogcroaked:

zoologicallyobsessed:

Tommy McElrath‏ @monotomidae

The giant bee wasn’t “lost to science”. No one got grants to go study or monitor their populations for >20 years because no one would find it. That’s the real story here. We are constantly undervaluing and underobserving basic natural history about small creatures like bees.

In the light of everyone reblogging about the rediscovery of the Wallace’s Giant Bee (Megachile pluto) no one is acknowledging (besides us zoologists) the fact that this has already happened with this bee. It was thought lost since 1859 until it was rediscovered in 1981 and now 2019. This is because of lack of funding going towards conversing and discovering insects like this bee! 

This is the important missing part of the story!!!!!

I face the same challenge in my work to study and protect frogs.

http://www.frogrescue.com/

If you search a list of “critically endangered invertebrates” at least a third of them are listed as “possibly extinct”.

POSSIBLY. Because no one has the funding to even got and check if they still exist. That’s where we are at with invert conservation.

this is why i hate pandas

Hell, this is where we’re at WITH BIRDS.

I have some tiny bug friends on iNat who have been valiantly going through all the unidentified tiny bug photos and trying to identify them (and I mean, true valor). One of them will comment on some random photo of a thing I snapped with my phone in my yard two years ago before I knew what I was doing “Oh hey THIS IS A RARE BLAH DE BLAH” and I’m just like, oh yeah I just randomly found it in my yard I probably have hundreds of those.

Sometimes, I will find a bug, identify the bug, upload the bug to iNat, and iNat will helpfully tell me, OH YEAH THIS IS CRITICALLY ENDANGERED IN TEXAS. Like, one of the spittlebugs I find sometimes in the fields might go extinct because THE FIELDS KEEP GETTING DESTROYED.

Another aspect of this story that isn’t getting told: a lot of the natural sciences are no longer even teaching natural history and organisms the way they used to. Taxonomy is all about genetics these days. Museums are switching over to hiring… people who can’t identify specimens without running PCR??? Like, they cannot look at an animal and tell you what it is unless they analyze cellular tissue. So universities aren’t teaching the “old way” anymore? So, nobody tries to get grants and study ecology because all people care about is genetics and blah blah who cares??? 

Both are important, but the funding institutions clearly do not agree. And the way science is funded these days, people HAVE to go for what they know will get them money to do the work they know is important. Just add a little bit of genetics to get some money to do the ecology work, right? But over twenty, thirty years… ecology work doesn’t get funding anymore. 

Anyway, don’t listen to me, I picked engineering and I still can’t find a job. I’ll just be muttering to myself in this ditch over here collecting microscopic hemiptera and getting gnats in my eyes.

February 23, 2019

Sooo having been in museums & done projects that involved molecular work I have a few comments. Taxonomy =/= genetic work. We call classification w molecular work systematics. Molecular data has let us really learn a lot, but it needs to be balanced with morphology especially in cases with cryptic species complexes. I used museum specimens both for morphology & molecular work to describe new species.

In my experience, museums are not hiring people who only do molecular work, it it’s instead universities. Phylogenetics & systematics is sexy & gets funded. In museums, everyone I know & work with has training & background in their organism. You have to be able to identify things & know shit before they will hire you. That is part of why it can be so hard to get into museum work. There is a limited number of positions & you have to truly be an expert. This also goes for curators besides collections managers & assistants.

There simply isn’t the same amount of opportunities that there were 20-30 years ago to learn this stuff. A lot of people retired. Universities moved away from teaching natural sciences in some cases. However in my degree(s), natural sciences are taught & are very popular classes. It just really depends on your faculty on what is offered. If you’re going to be a entomologist, chances are you aren’t going to not take entomology bc it’s the fundamental course.

If we look at the popularity of courses like the bee course, the lep courses, etc that are offered to people taught by experts – it’s obivous there is this want for natural history. Even though I work w bee people I wouldn’t be able to get into the bee course bc the wait list is so long.

And that brings me to the final point. How do we get things listed as endangered? Museum specimens . That’s how we got the rusty patch bumblebee listed– there was the historical data. I am seeing a movement back to the importance of natural sciences.

Also if you’re going to do molecular work? You do have to know some taxonomy to be able to sort your samples from traps to prep them for pcr.

NSF had big funding for taxonomy & collections but with budget cuts that decreased around 2016.

I suspect my museum experiences are very different yours bc every insitution is different, but this is what I’ve seen in general.

There is a HUGE overlap between universities and museums in many places. I wasn’t able to get much museum experience besides taking a few general seminar courses where I was the only scientist in a room with historians and artists. I took this course the year UT Austin defunded the only science museum in the city and removed its collections. Any chances I ever had at working in this museum in an official capacity were destroyed by the state government. So all the context I have for discussing “Issues in Museums” (title of the seminar) were articles and news stories and experiences from all my classmates who did get to work in museums.

I am happy to hear it’s not as dire as some stories led me to believe. The genetics work is absolutely essential, but it’s just a small piece of a bigger story.

February 23, 2019

Yah fuck the government, my friends who worked at the Smithsonian got royally screwed over – especially the collection assistants who were contactors. (This is why u shouldn’t rely in government contractors to be your staff…😒).

It is worth mentioning: when I say “removed its collections,” I am using museum terminology that the random non-museum person probably doesn’t know, so let me clarify!

I am talking specifically about the Texas Memorial Museum. It is the only science museum open to the general public in Austin, TX. It is a natural history museum, it is still open (although admission is no longer free), and it’s still as great as a museum as it can be given the circumstances! All the permanent exhibits are still up, but they are… old and dusty. The top floor is a rotating exhibit space, which is for visiting exhibits, but I have no idea what they have in mind for that area (maybe I can ask the director and find out, bwahahaha). 

Before I add another huge wall of text with some kinda depressing stuff, here’s a photo and some great stuff and it’s not all bad!

I volunteer at their big Texas Wildlife Day event every January (which Texas Memorial Museum removes the admission fee for, so everybody can visit for free), and this year they had almost 1700 visitors that day! That breaks THEIR ALL TIME ADMISSION RECORD! Keep in mind: this is A TINY museum (not everything is bigger in Texas! Especially not our funding for the sciences!). Our table had mammal skulls, pelts, and tracks, and I brought in my alligator gar skeleton which people LOVED. And yes, all this stuff is for touching. Kids were going to TOWN on this fish skeleton, which (remember) I found by the river in Austin, which I made sure to tell all those kids so they could know, these guys are swimming in the river IN YOUR CITY, RIGHT NOW, and this was A SMALL ONE! They get TALLER THAN YOUR DAD!!!

Their scales are armored plates composed of bone covered in a mineral similar to enamel. Their scales are essentially like teeth. Back in the day, people used to use their scales as spear-tips. I had a kid who came up to the table, who was talking to me and told me that he collected arrow heads, and I was telling him that about the scales, and he thought it was really neat, so I secretly snapped a scale off and handed it to him. Hey, it’s MY fish skeleton, I can DO WHAT I WANT!

This event is just one of many ways that their director, Dr. Pamela Owen (she’s amazing) is helping the museum continue to be relevant even in the face of stagnant collections. She and her staff have put together these kits for educators to bring museum concepts to their classrooms free of charge [link].

And lest you think there’s no reason to visit the museum?

One of my friends was the Entomology Curator at TMM (coincidentally, this is also the guy who keeps taking me to the magical place with all the fish skeletons by the river!). He did this. My photo does it absolutely no justice. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in a museum in my life. To give you a sense of scale, the two Luna Moths are smaller than the Blue Morpho. There’s more than I could fit in the frame of my camera. 

He also makes earrings out of cockroach wings lol


What Are Museum Collections Anyway?!

When Museum People talk about Collections, they are talking about What’s In The Back. Museums are not just places for fun to learn about science (but they are definitely for that!), they are also places for storing knowledge, for academics to develop their expertise in their education, and for conducting research (creating NEW knowledge!). Those news articles you read about NEW MAMMAL DISCOVERED!!! Guess what? People didn’t see it scurrying in the forest. Some grad student was researching a rodent, and found a mouse in a drawer that didn’t quite look right, and looked into it, and it turns out it’s a NEW TO SCIENCE mouse, and oh no, wait, it might already be extinct, GO FIND IT!!! And *WHEW* they did find one, good, it’s just critically endangered.

Museum Collections don’t just happen. They accumulate over hundreds of years of dedicated, laborious work, and they are irreplaceable. In many cases, the only way for us to know how climate change has impacted biodiversity is by seeing what kinds of species somebody collected in a pit trap in a location 200 years ago.

Let me talk specifically about the Texas Memorial Museum collections. They still exist–don’t worry about that part! But, the collections that used to be owned by the museum included an obsessively detailed mosquito catalogue of Texas dating back to just before the invasive species arrived. How did the Aedes mosquitos affect the diversity of native species? Well, we can figure that out! Another example of what the collections contain: A ton of specimens from the Galapagos islands. Guess what you can’t collect anymore?

So what happened to these specimens? They are all still within the University of Texas at Austin. The more recently living specimens are all part of the Biodiversity Center [link] now (meaning, preserved animals, but not rocks and fossils). Good news, these specimens are all still available for research, education, and sharing with other institutions. Bad news, you can’t go see them. If they had remained part of the museum collections, and if they had retained enough funding to pay curators, they could rotate exhibits, and you could have seen them

(Small aside, though, curator for the Entomology section of the Texas Biodiversity Center is Alex Wild, bug photographer extraordinaire who you may recognize as the ant guy who gets grumpy about copyright and stupid politicians on twitter, who also Knows What’s Up and set up the Insects Unlocked program where they are trying to take as many high quality photographs of the items in these collections as possible [link], and make them available CREATIVE COMMONS – NO ATTRIBUTION online! So, if they’ve managed to get to it, and it’s a bug, YOU ACTUALLY CAN SEE IT!! [link TO PHOTOS])

Rotating exhibits on display is good for several reasons. 

1) The museums can come up with fun and interesting ways to make people who normally wouldn’t want to visit a museum… want to visit a museum. Some tired examples are putting together gimmicky “Real life Pokemon” exhibits (ya gotta do what ya gotta do). But what about the frenzy that overtook Seattle when the real life transformation mask that inspired the Seahawks logo was rediscovered and displayed at the Burke Museum? [link] When a museum doesn’t have the flexibility to change out any exhibits, they lose out on this kind of opportunity.

2) Constant exposure to light, dust, and little to no maintenance/upkeep results in slow degradation and diminished lifespan on specimens. Rotating specimens on display allows the museum to avoid looking “dated” as newer methods in preservation and modeling are more life-like. In some museums, looking old in dated in part of the experience (I’ll give the Natural History Museum in London a pass on the faded hummingbirds. TMM… please, just… have somebody vacuum the wolves?)

3) Even people who like visiting science museums will stop visiting if everything is the same ALL the time, especially if your museum is small enough that the entire thing can be visited in under two hours by somebody who reads all the labels. Some things should stay the same for nostalgia’s sake, yes, but… At least switch out the pickled fish, they’re expired!


In terms of My Personal Museum Journey who knows. For what it’s worth, prior to my subjecting a theater full of people to The Pooping Caterpillar Video [link](bwahahahaha), Alex Wild did tell me I was welcome back at UT anytime and not only did I tell him I’d hold him to that, but I *also* wanted money (and there might be a little bit of grant money for digitizing stuff, so we’ll see). He’s seen me around enough Bug Events and I know enough Bug People that perhaps he thinks I’m like a normal Bug Person* with Credibility and not a crazy engineer who really wanted to be a Bug Person and Who Needs Sleep When There’s An Extinction Going On?! I’ll end up being the digitizing productivity gremlin and I’ll mentor all the undergrads and they won’t be able to get me to leave.

*note: normal Bug People are still… I mean… they’re a bit off. The bug people think I’m weird.

February 24, 2019

Cute Fluffbutts Getting Me in Trouble, Don’t S…

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time (October 2017), I was volunteering at the intermediate school for our Junior Naturalist After-School program. We all went outside and the kids got to run around and explore the school yard around the classroom we met in. One of the kids dug around in a peppervine bush a bit, and called our attention to these things:

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Look at them, aren’t they perfect???

But what are they? all eyes turn to me Uhhhh well they’re caterpillars! But what do they turn into? Uhhhh probably a moth??? They don’t really care, they’re outside running around having fun (and staring at caterpillars go nuts on this peppervine bush I mean seriously guys). Meanwhile, I pull out the iNaturalist app, it tells me it’s probably the Grapeleaf Skeletonizer moth, and I tell the kids and show them a picture of the adult moth and they LOSE THEIR MINDS because check it out: 

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Above photo by Monica Krancevic, from iNaturalist [link]

Yes, friends, that is A MOTH. And the caterpillars look like fuzzy stripey sluggy things.

Except… Time passed. The horde of caterpillars disappears (though somehow the peppervine didn’t). Spring comes. And the last day of our program (March 2018), the side of our classroom is covered in moths. But… they’re not covered in Grapeleaf Skeletonizer moths. The moth in the photo above is a Grapeleaf Skeletonizer (Harrisina americana). Our moths looked like:

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There is a closely related moth to the Grapeleaf Skeletonizer that doesn’t have the little red scarf. It’s called Harrisina coracina. That’s right, it’s one of the bugs that doesn’t even get a common name. Interesting! I went to the internet, and looked up the caterpillars of this moth to see if they were maybe lookalikes with the Grapeleaf Skeletonizer. And! There were no photos of the caterpillars anywhere. It was enough to make me think that yes, in fact, they must be lookalikes.

Blast forward a few months to the summer (July 2018). I am dealing with VINE SPHINX MOTH DRAMA. They are eating possum grape like NO TOMORROW. I have to CLIMB A LADDER INTO A TREE AT 2 AM TO GET GRAPE VINES FOR THEM TO EAT. It’s a situation. I managed to find some small vines in the back corners of my yard, and I trimmed a bit of it off. And guess who was there?

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Well, hey there, strangers! I know EXACTLY who y’all are, and y’all ain’t skeletonizing those grapeleaves! And better yet, I’ve documented two hostplants, when bugguide’s best guess is “I think grape leaves?” [link]

Of course I raised them.

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So precious, so sweet. “LOOK MA, I’M PUPATING!”

And in August, guess who flew out? Of course it was H. coracina

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Because I have been so stressed out/busy/all of the above, I’m just now finishing up my August uploads to iNat. So I only uploaded the adult photo in the last day or so. 

In many cases, there are really only two reasons insects are studied: money (hobbies) and money (agriculture). The first reason is why you can find basically anything you could ever want to know about the life cycles of the big flashy moths and butterflies, and the second reason is why we know the basics about moths that can cause huge devastating damage to plants and crops. But oh boy there are a lot of moths out there and there just isn’t enough time and money to study them all. So there are some gaps, even for species that can have notable effects on crops (I mean, these things can destroy grapevines, don’t get me wrong).

So when I started posting the caterpillars and claiming that they were a species that has a gap in the scientific literature based on rearing the adult, one person bookmarked my iNat observation of my cutie little possum vine eating fuzzbutts after asking me how I knew the species. And when I finally posted the adult photo, this guy was very excited and needs to double check with the guy who wrote the caterpillar ID book, but essentially asked me to rear them again, going for complete life cycle (with eggs), and sending him the adults so he can confirm for 100% sure that my species ID is correct, and he’ll co-author the paper with me.

lol

I looked him up, guy is legit [link to his California Dept of Food & Agriculture bio page]


So uh, yeah. Unemployment looming, but I have three talks, an outreach event, research for a legit entomology paper (?!), and I’m planning to start a non-profit (for reals). At least I won’t be bored?

Will post about the public talks + outreach event separately, but if you’re in Austin, TX, come to the Texas Memorial Museum on UT Campus Saturday January 26!! Free Admission for Texas Wildlife Day! Me and a bunch of nerds will have fun activities relating to wildlife!

January 2, 2019

nanofishology: So I’m in the library rechargin…

nanofishology:

So I’m in the library recharging my phone so I can catch Pokemon all the way to @spacerobotcrew’s place, and this book about Mt. St. Helens was on the New Nonfiction display. You may have noticed the ash from St. Helens in my Burke Museum photodump, but if not, here it is again.

Normally I wouldn’t post about some random book about some random natural disaster that happened before I was born. Except, you see, my first botfriend’s dad is in this one.

STORY TIME!

From the ages of 14 to almost 17, I was in a highly dysfunctional abusive relationship with the child of a highly dysfunctional family. Said boyfriend’s dad had been drafted into Vietnam and had to leave college to go murder people in the jungle. When he got back, he had a total mental breakdown and didn’t finish his degree and at the time I knew him, worked as a janitor. He has the paranoid flavor of PTSD, and had a tendency to want to go to things he think will be a big deal to take pictures. You bet that during the WTO protests, he was in downtown Seattle with his camera.

Anyway, flash back to May 1980. He hears the mountain is about to explode. What does he do? Takes his wife and 10 year old child (my ex’s older brother), and enlists a photographer friend of his to go camping on the mountain to take pictures when it erupted. Thing is, being paranoid, he didn’t want his name attached to the photos so he gave all the credit to the photographer, Gary Rosenquist. But really, the whole thing was his idea.

Anyway, he’s actually in this book. Only two pages, but here they are. Wow! What the book doesn’t mention is the huge legal battle my ex’s dad had with the photographer over copyright, how Rosenquist ran off with his wife, and how his 10 year old kid who was on the freaking mountain when it exploded was super traumatized.

Back in 2000, we all went to the mountain for the 20th anniversary of the eruption: me, my ex, his older brother, and his dad. It was really interesting to hear about the eruption from their perspective.

Anyway.

September 2016