Posted by: atomfullerene | May 23, 2009

Springtime for…small furry animals

It’s memorial day weekend, a good time for another update.  Things have  been going pretty well since I last left off.  I’ve been working my way through paperwork and papers for Alabama.  Also, I finally got a job-lab tech over at the University.  It will last me for the summer.  I am working in a lab on the agriculture campus, and it’s interesting to compare the differences between there and the ecology labs I’ve worked in.  For one thing, they are loaded!  I mean, three rooms chock full of fancy gas specs and big tanks of nitrogen and multiple fume hoods all in a spiffy new building.  They even have a lab dish washer! (an actual machine-when I worked on the other end of campus I was the dish washer)  Secondly, the professors in charge are almost never in the lab.  And thirdly, I am supposed to throw away a lot of stuff, like test tubes and needles, which other labs I have worked in have washed and reused.  Although considering the chemistry we do that might not be practical.  Anyway, I like the job pretty well, and I find the work easy and rather lower stress than retail.

But you didn’t come here to hear boring details of my life, you want to see pictures!  So here goes.

First, the only painting I’ve done lately.  Go ahead, try to guess the title.


Even if it hadn’t been getting nice and warm lately, I’d still know it was spring.  Why?  Because of all the baby animals I have seen.  First off, a couple of months ago Caryn and I found a baby rat outside of Andy holt.  It was lost and pitiful looking, and we let it go.  I don’t have any pictures of that.  Later, my mother and Gerilyn found a little possum on my front porch.  They caught it and kept it so I could see it.  It was big enough to be on it’s own, but only just.

If you’ve never been around a wild juvenile opossum, I can tell you that they are kind of cute and extremely fiesty.  Despite being small and clumsy, there was no playing dead for this fellow, just a lot of baring of teeth and making this weird growling noise like an overburdened electric motor.



When we let it go the next day, in the back yard, it would walk a couple of feet, get startled, turn around and growl at us.  It was really quite comical.

The next animal I found was more placental and a lot more timid.  I was at the Aquarium, a local fish store, during a sale.  I had Caryn with me.  We were out back looking in the ponds and there was a tiny baby rabbit sitting in the mud on an eroded embankment.  It was only about the size of a hamster.  I pointed it out to her, and then went inside to get my fish.  A few minutes later Caryn comes up to me and says “I’ve got a bunny in my purse”.  I was skeptical, but when I looked there was the little rabbit sitting down in one of the pockets.  See, this is what I have to put up with!  Heh.  Anyway, we took the rabbit home and she brought it to the vet hospital the next time she went to work there.  Hopefully if made it to some wildlife rehabilitation center.  (as a side note, baby bunnies look really angry from certain angles.  Also, Beth I apologize for the lack of pancakes in the picture)


By the way, the fish I was getting at the store was Centropygi bispinosus.  I believe it was one of the fish we had to learn while in Moorea.  Gorgeous fish, but it seems to have injured its mouth somehow.  It’s still eating well though-cleaned out all the fuzzy diatoms in my tank.  It also will not stand still for the camera, so I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to look up a picture.  And that’s about it.

Posted by: atomfullerene | April 8, 2009

What I did on my Winter Vacation

It’s been more than a month, but I have finally accumulated enough things to make a monster blog post.  I’ve been at home since December, and at first it was slow going.  I sat around, applied for work, played video games, and whatnot.  But while I had fun digging out my old NES and beating Super Mario Bros., I eventually decided that I’d be better off trying to do something more creative with my time.  So I set off in search of things to do.


As I mentioned in my previous post, one thing I did was go hiking more often.  I’ve run around Knoxville and the surrounding area a bit (The above picture is from Cades Cove, in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park).  I saw some rock and read an article, which got me interested in geology.  The article mentioned a book on the subject – Basin and Range – which was very well written.  (By the way, if you are interested in other good books on subjects written by the actual people involved, check out The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen by Howard Carter)  Anyway, back to geology- what I really want is to go fossil hunting, but unfortunatly all the fossils are out in middle TN.  I did manage to find some good stuff though, including this salamander, a garter snake (Caryn found it, actually), and several little spring peepers.


I also managed to get a good deal on an easel, so I’ve been painting a bit.  Several of the things I’ve done are below- the painting I am working on now, and a couple of fish paintings I did before that.  It really helps to have a place set up to go paint in.  If I have to take everything down and put everything up, I tend to just not get around to it.




Speaking of fish- after Christmas the local fish store was having a big sale, and I got a great deal on some fancy new lights.  As a result, I decided to try adding in a few soft corals to my aquarium.  The have done great-far surpassing my expectations!  Here’s a broad shot of my aquarium.


In fact, my inverts are doing so well they are reproducing.  Here’s a close up shot of my mushroom polyp.  I put it in the tank, and a few weeks later it had moved about an inch.  Left behind it, and visible about an inch above it in the picture, was a perfect tiny little mushroom polyp!  (it’s side on in the picture, and looks like a vertical oval)  It must have left behind a little bit of the pedal disk, which grew into a new one.  Isn’t it cute?


My other soft corals are doing well too.  They told me green star polyps grew quickly, but I was amazed to see a centimeter of new growth coming out the side of mine scarcely two weeks after I put it in the tank.  Another thing in this picture:  the snails in the tank keep algae from accumulating on the rocks and walls…but they can’t reach their own shells, and all of them are coated with a thick layer of hairy brown stuff.  I find this amusing.


Finally, a week or so ago I found this old electronics set for 75 cents at my church garage sale fundraiser.  It still had all the parts, more or less, so I bought it and messed around with the electronics a bit.


I learned enough to inspire me to finish up a robot I’d been working on years ago.  The robot uses two sensors to home in on light sources.  It’s nearly done, but there are a few remaining bugs to work out–I think the motors aren’t getting enough power, so I need to crank up the voltage without frying the electronics.  Or I could try to replace the motors with lower voltage ones.  Right now only one motor goes forward, and the thing spins in circles.  But the circuit works, I have tested it independently!


Lastly, I heard back from the University of Alabama about graduate school.  So I may wind up there getting a PhD.  Nothing’s finalized yet, but it looks promising.

Posted by: atomfullerene | February 27, 2009

Back Again

Well, since I really have excessive amounts of free time these days, I’m going to start up the blog again.  Unfortunatly, I am not really doing too much interesting these days, so for the most part all I have to talk about are some random thoughts and musings.

I did recently go to Ijambs with Brad, you can read about that here .

Posted by: atomfullerene | November 3, 2008

Well, that’s all for now, folk

If you have been checking my blog lately you have probably already figured this out, but I am pretty much done posting.  I’m currently hanging out at Nahant, finishing up my internship.  While things are happening, none of them really seem worth posting about.  And besides, I am really busy trying to get my research presentation done.  One of these days I may re-invent this blog as something else, but for now it’s over.  Kinda sad.  But I managed to catalogue my three seas adventures and that was the goal in the first place.  Farewell!

Posted by: atomfullerene | September 3, 2008

Redwoods and home

I’m currently home now, for a total time of just under a week.  It’s very nice to be back in warm weather, and to see my friends and family, and to not see any buckets.  I have maybe been using my time a little suboptimally, although I am almost entirely packed.  If only writing up my project and finding work or school for this spring wasn’t hanging over my head.

But anyway, on to the redwoods.  I may not have gotten to do much besides work during my stay in Bodega Bay, but Matt did take me to see the redwoods one evening.  I really enjoyed it.  I took some pictures, but unfortunatly they weren’t the best.  These trees are really big in a way hard to capture on camera, and it was getting late so my pictures are blurry.  But the best are below.

There I am, for scale.  Like I said, these are big trees.

An upward facing picture of a redwood.  You can’t see it very well, but the undergrowth here is pretty thin.  You can see quite a long way between the trunks.

This picture is blurry due to low light conditions, but I think it conveys the size of the trees better than any other pictures I have taken.

As you can see, there is fery little undergrowth here.  It makes for a nice effect and better views.

One last shot through the trees.

These trees are all California coastal redwoods, although I did see a couple planted (but enormous) Giant Sequoias on the way out to the forest.  I also saw numerous little houses nestled into redwood woods.  They were really neat neighborhoods.

Posted by: atomfullerene | August 22, 2008

Acute temperature experiment

A lot has been going on out here lately.  I’ve had some animal encounters (which will be put up when I have pictures) and we have been invaded by art students from Davis (which is cool, I want to paint too!).  But today I post on my project.  I have just finished the lab portion of it, and I’m definitely getting results.

Basically what I did was expose some fouling community organisms to high temperatures for short time periods.  I initially wanted to do some sort of disturbance experiment, and Matt and Cascade suggested a temperature disturbance.

There’s my setup.  We looked at acute (25C) and normal (15C or thereabouts) temperatures,  with adults and juveniles.  Here are some tank close ups.

This tank is a cool temperature one.  The community is sitting there chillin’ and saying “we cool.”

This is a tank being heat shocked.  It is NOT happy–the community is going “ARRGH!!! It burns!!!  ARRGH!!!  Ohhh my lopophores! They are burning!  Ohh the Chordatity!!!”

I’m actually a bit worried that the heat killed somethings, and the crashing water quality killed the rest.  It would be hard to tease apart those effects without redoing the experiment.  Also, I wonder if we didn’t keep the critters too warm.  But still, I think things are going okay.  Stay tuned for data.

this is a picture of all my adult plates from the second run, the top row is the low temp, the bottom row is the high temp.  You can see quite a difference right there, with the healthy orange ones and the slimy grey high temperature ones.  Be glad you can’t smell them.  In the immortal words of Liz Bentley “You’re disgusting !”  And with that I will leave you for now.

Posted by: atomfullerene | August 15, 2008

Funny sea life and more

I have been so busy this week.  Cascade was out of town–she’s in Alaska.  This means I have been doing all the work.  I had a couple of really long days trying to get our experiments taken down and set up for the next species-but that is all done, and I managed to survive.  But you don’t want to hear me complain about that, you want to see cool pictures!  And here they are.  First we have a couple of shots of the local cliffs (of insanity)

And now some sea creatures.  First some anemones in a tide pool.  The tide pools here are way better than the ones in Boston, and have loads of cool critters.

And now for the funny sea life.  First, an urchin with a sombrero!

And an anemone sticking its tentacle in its mouth.  Doesn’t it look happy?

Posted by: atomfullerene | July 31, 2008

Now that’s Science!

Some other people in my lab are working on this project.  Doesn’t it just look cool?  The idea is to grow algae in each chamber and measure the use of nutrients or the photosynthetic rate. Their current experiment involves growing different communities of species in each chamber and seeing how their nutrient use differs.  All of that is pretty cool, but not as cool as the device itself.

Each chamber has its own pump to keep the water recirculating and all chambers are embedded in a seawater bath kept at the desired temperature.  The walls of the device are covered with bunches of compact florescent lightbulbs.

Posted by: atomfullerene | July 25, 2008

The Science

My previous post on Bodega was getting pretty wordy, so I decided to shunt the part about my experiment over to a new post.  I am here to help Cascade Sorte (interesting name, translates roughly to “waterfall attack raid”) with her project.  The system being studied is the community of fouling organisms.  More or less, this is the stuff that grows on hulls, docks, and piers.  It consists largely of mussels, tunicates, barnacles,  bryzoans, algae, and other stuff.  Cascade is focusing mostly on the squishy stuff, namely tunicates and bryzoans.  This is what they look like.

Foul is right, huh?  To get an idea of scale, the rectangular plates are 10cm on a side.  The UT orange bits are colonial tunicates, while the red patches and the brown hairy bits are bryzoans.  Anyway, these plates are pretty grown-up, but we are studying the babies.  We stuck out a bunch of those gray plates (which I made) and let larvae settle out on them.  These larvae (now baby colonies) are then put into this array of tanks and another array like it.

Individual tanks are kept at different temperatures–hopefully the babies will grow at different rates.  Each of the tanks get part of their water changed every day, which makes for a fun job for me.

As you can see, I has a bukket!  Two actually.  I use that wheelbarrow to carry inordinate amounts of water in the buckets from the inflow pipes out back to a culture tank, and then from the culture tank to fill up the little tanks.  You see, the water running to the lab is filtered, and therefore lacks microorganisms for the tunicates to eat. So I have to go get the unfiltered stuff.  I might actually be buff after a month and a half of this, if I can avoid throwing my back out.   (It may seem like I am complaining here, but don’t get the wrong idea–this is just how it goes, I don’t really mind)

Posted by: atomfullerene | July 25, 2008

Bodega Bay at last

Well, I am all moved in at Bodega, and now that I finally have some free internet time, I can make a post. I had a pretty good flight out here, starting very early in the day.  The most noteworthy thing was seeing this behind my airplane after I had landed.

It looks to me like they spilled some jet fuel while filling up the plane.  Glad I was already off of it.  Anyway, after another flight and a long bus ride (which went over the impressive Golden Gate Bridge) I finally arrived at Bodega bay and started doing Science.

They told me to stay in school so that I wouldn’t have to spend my days doing tedious repetitive work or laboring outside.  Yeah, guess what I am doing…

Still, it really isn’t that bad.  I get to travel to neat places and see neat things.  Even if I do tend to wind up doing things like grinding plant samples, making dozens and dozens of settling plates, and hauling a bunch of five gallon buckets of water here and there. But gruntwork aside, it’s pretty cool to be here.  In fact, pretty cool describes Bodega bay and its lab very well, both metaphorically and thermally.

The breeze blows moist, cold air from the cold ocean current offshore.  This washes up over the two or three miles inland, creating a thick, nearly permanent layer of low clouds and haze.  The temperature difference between shore and just a few miles inland is amazing.  It does get sunny here sometimes though, and when it does it is very pretty.

Bodega bay is also noteable for sitting next to the San Andreas fault line.  In fact, my dorm sits directly on top of the fault line.  I could practically cross the room into another tectonic plate.  It’s pretty cool.  I do like the dorm.  I am in a sort of barracks room, but only one or two other people are staying in here, so it isn’t problematic at all.  The furniture is new too.

The marine lab itself is a 25-30 minute walk.  Supposedly there is a shortcut across the dunes, but when I tried to take it I just got hopelessly lost.  I knew where I was, and where I was going, but I had no idea where the trail was.  I had to go offroad through the grass and scrub, which was inconvenient and time consuming, but pretty.
Lots of wildlife lives around here.  Swallows are nesting, deer and rabbits are everywhere, and someone even saw a mountain lion.  Here’s a rabbit I saw.

Now, when I say that there are a lot of deer, I really mean it.  Even Cades Cove might not have this many deer.  You see them every time you walk to or from the lab, and their scat is everywhere.  You can even smell them in places–that sort of petting zoo mammal odor.  I have a lot of pictures because the deer are always in your face, posing.

You get the idea.

Anyway, the lab itself is very nice, and also ENORMOUS.  It’s the size of all the three seas labs I have been to so far added together.  Nice facilities, with running seawater everywhere, wads of wet labs, a shop, a library big enough for a high school–all kinds of stuff.  All kinds of people too.

Here’s a shot of Bodega Bay itself.  Lovely, ain’t it?

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