Posted by: atomfullerene | July 22, 2008

Summer break is over

Summer break is over, which means it is time I started posting on my blog again.  I guess I will provide a brief (it has to be brief, i don’t want to miss dinner) rundown of the past events of the  summer.

I basically spent most of the time at my house, saw Caryn a few times, went to the beach, and worked a little at fins ‘n skins.  The beach was the most noteable part, (i mean, i probably liked getting to see Caryn more, but you all don’t want to read about it).  We went deep sea fishing on Gary Brown’s boat and caught a wide variety of fish.  Saw some neat marine life too.  It was nice.

Lately I also picked up Carcassone, a great board game.  Look it up sometime.

Anyway, thats all for now, I mainly just wanted to get chronologically caught up.  Expect some pictures from Bodega Bay (where I am now) soon.

Posted by: atomfullerene | June 10, 2008

Chocolate Covered Bacon

Well, several things have happened lately around here.  It has been hot, my two cousins have come to visit, and I went hiking near Clingman’s dome (I was parked in the highest parking lot in the state of TN).  But the most outstanding thing that has happened to me was, you guessed it, chocolate covered bacon.  I was over at a friend’s house, and we were dipping strawberries in chocolate.  Sitting on the table was some bacon for the salad, and, well, one thing just led to another.  It actually wasn’t bad, although eating a strip probably takes a month or so off of your life expectancy.  Anyway, I suggest you, O Reader, make some for your next potluck, just to be weird.

Posted by: atomfullerene | June 4, 2008

Back Home

Enough interesting things have finally happened at home for me to fill out a blog post, and I wanted to let all my friends from Three Seas know what I have been up to.  I got back a week and a half ago.  By brother was in town so I got to see him before he goes off to war.  He’s back in Texas now and going over to Iraq on Sunday.  After I had been here a few days, my brother called me at about 12 at night.  I had just gotten in bed and he had just gotten back to the house and found a big bullfrog out on the lawn.  I got up and went out and caught it.  Its nice to still be seeing some animals, even if they aren’t oceanic.

Frogs always look pretty comical to me.  I’m not sure why.  Anyway, a few days later we had a fish fry.  I don’t know how many of you northerners have ever been to one but in my opinion there is not much that beats catfish fried up a couple of minutes earlier in your own backyard.  And US farmed catfish is in the Best Choices column of the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch card.

It has certainly been different being at home with no school or job to keep me occupied.  I have been trying to get motivated to work on my independent research project, but it is so easy to procrastinate that I havent got a whole lot done.  I have been doing some odd jobs around the house (If you, O Reader, need any sort of odd job done in return for a donation to the “Adam gets to eat this fall” fund, give me a call).

I have also found a few more creative ways to keep occupied.  I did a painting.  This is based on a picture I took in Lubec Maine.  I think it turned out pretty well.  If anyone has suggestions for other things I could paint, I will certainly consider them.

I also added some fish to my saltwater fishtank.  Aren’t they pretty?

I saw a Chromis iomelas and several cute little Odonus niger at the pet store too!  It was like old times in Moorea.

Finally, and most awesomely, I played a great prank on my friend Eric.  To understand this prank you need to know what Rickrolling is.  The basic idea is to send someone a link that they think goes to one thing, but really goes to a music video of Rick Astley.  Here’s the Wikipedia page for more information.

Anyway, back to Eric.  He works at Chick-fil-a, and with the help of a friend who also works there I found out when he would be manning the drive through speaker.  Then I burned “Never gonna give you up” onto a CD and went through the drive through.  Unfortunately, some girl answered instead of Eric.  I backed up, making some hasty excuse, and waited a couple of minutes to try again.  When I tried again, it still wasn’t Eric!  I felt kind of foolish, ordered some waffle fries, and when I got to the window found out from my inside informer (Tammy) that Eric was working the other side.  So I drove around to that side, finally heard “This is Eric, how may I help you?”  and blasted out the song at him.  We  all had a pretty good laugh.

And that is all for now.

Posted by: atomfullerene | May 26, 2008

Santa Barbara and Monterey Bay and the end….

Well, It’s finally over.  I’m back at home from all my adventures-at least for now.  However, the last bit of my stay was quite a trip.  I got back this weekend, but the weekend before I went on a trip up the California coast.  I took a lot of pictures, so this post is going to qualify as enormous.

We started off on Wednesday, leaving the Island on the ferry.  Not much to tell about this portion of the trip, except that I saw a guy feeding a pelican, and had a pigeon land a foot away from my shoulder.   Once we got to the mainland we went up the coast to Santa Barbara, to visit the University of California, where our teacher Gretchen Hoffman is from.  This is a nice place, and the university is just beautiful and sits right on the coast.

The picture below is the building we spent most of our time in.

It has a nice view off the balcony!  It and it’s sister building are also very environmentally friendly in their construction.

The view was a nice break from our main purpose here, which was to work on posters.  We all made posters of hypothetical research projects relating to our class.  I like making up data, it’s always significant and you can do lots of crazy expensive things.  Maybe I will have to remember this in my future career (just kidding!).  But I had fun making the posters, and so did everyone else.  Mine was on  ocean acidification and long term pteropod survival, and it involved a kriesel tank!  Below are pictures of  us working on some of the posters and another shot of the final product with Sal included.  My poster is the one all in black and white-I got compliments on the color scheme.

We did a bit more on campus, including visit their aquarium (yeah, they even have a small touch-tank aquarium building-I am so jealous!) but soon enough it was time to head out.  We took the inland route north to Monterey Bay.  They do a lot of agriculture in the middle of California, and our travels took us past approximately 500 miles of lettuce fields.  You yourself have probably eaten lettuce from a field that I saw.  Some were interspersed with these giant plywood board farmer cut-outs (sorry, no pictures of that).   It wasn’t all lettuce though…we saw advertisements for the big artichoke festival coming soon.  Anyway, here is the lettuce, with an unintended-but-cool rearview mirror portrait.

We finally reached Monterey, just in time for bed.  We stayed in this shady Travel lodge hotel.   Not all travel lodges are  shady, but they do all feature this weird  bear on all their stuff.  I will let the picture speak for itself.


Anyway, we survived our night at the hotel (although Carmel did have some hookers mistakenly show up at her door) and went to the Monterey Bay aquarium, on cannery row.  Downtown Monterey is a nice place, with some historical charm.

But we were really there for the aquarium.  It is among the best aquariums I have seen, and I have seen a lot.  It sits right on the seashore and has lots of balconies to look off of.

The aquarium is noteable for several things: Jellyfish, the open ocean tank, the sea otters, and the kelp tank.  They were also doing a special on sustainable foods that day, and Alton Brown (my favorite TV chef) was there.  Sadly, I didn’t get to see him in the kelp tank, because i was eating.  Ironic, eh?

The aquarium pioneered the keeping of jellyfish, and they have a diverse collection of the critters.  As usual, they make good pictures.

The open ocean tank was pretty impressive, but the lighting wasn’t good enough for my camera.  This tank is pretty much an enormous three story oval of water, with nothing in it but fish.  Open ocean fish are the theme here-enormous tuna, amazing schools of hundreds of anchovies, Mahi-mahi, even a silly Mola mola.  Look up mola mola if you don’t know what they are.  We saw one get knocked over by a passing stingray, and slowly do a complete somersault in a very comical manner.   Sometimes they have a great white shark in the tank, but there wasn’t one when we were there.

Most people liked the open ocean tank, but my favorite was the kelp forest.  This tank contains a fully functional patch of kelp forest (with live kelp and everything).  It’s beautiful and it also looks exactly like it would in the wild.  They can manage this because they pump water in straight from the bay itself, which carries in all sorts of little critters to colonize the rock walls and feed the planktivores.

The aquarium also has sea otters.  They spend all day floating around on the water-it looks like a pretty good life to me.  One of the otters is named Maggie, like one of my friends in the program.  When you see the description you will see why I was amused.

I saw some other things at the aquarium too, of course.  It’s a big place.  There way one circular room with a continuous tank going around it.  Inside the tank was a continuous school of small silver fish, just swimming.  I also learned that when penguins excrete waste, they first lie horizontally, then squirt out a white jet of guano–like 5 feet!  That was not expected!  I also saw some humpback whales!  This was in the far distance through a scope (which was free, not one of those stupid pay 25c ones).  I also got a picture of this harbor seal, which spent a good 5 minutes chasing around this loon. The seal would swim behind the loon, finally get close, at which point the loon would fly a few feet away and the cycle would repeat.

In the end we returned down Hwy 1, as beautiful a route as it is reputed to be.  It drove me kind of crazy that we didn’t stop for pictures.  I tried to capture what I could out of the window.

We did stop in a few places.  One was for breakfast in a little diner in the redwoods.  A nice place, even if the redwoods were pretty short (only as big as a large normal tree).  A scrub jay kept stealing jam and cream packets off one of the tables in the patio, which was pretty funny.

Our other stop was to see the Elephant Seals.  These sluglike pinnepeds haul out on certain beaches every year for a month or so to shed their skin.  During this time they don’t eat or drink at all, but as you can see, they have plenty of fat to live off of.  There were also a bunch of ground squirrels hanging around the parking lot, trying to steal the show (and your food) by acting cute and coming really close (my photo was not taken using zoom).  Also noteworthy-elephant seals smell just as much as you would expect from that many large mammals.

And that was about it for the trip, except for awful LA traffic and a two hour stop in a clothing outlet mall, neither of which I really want to talk about.

We had one last week after that, which didn’t involve any official school work.  I did have to work on a presentation, but that went well.  I also did one last dive.  The water had gotten much warmer, which was nice.  I also did a chamber dive.  This is when they put you in a hyperbaric chamber (it holds about 8 people and looks like part of a space-station) and increase the air pressure to simulate diving to a certain depth.  They have one at the lab to treat decompression sickness, but we used it for fun.  At 135 feet (our equivalent depth) the air is much thicker (you can feel the difference moving your hands) you talk in a high-pitched voice that sounds funny, and you might get narced.  Narc, aka. nitrogen narcosis, is a side effect of increased nitrogen partial pressure and is supposed to feel like being drunk.  I never felt any effects, however.

Finally, it was time to leave the island.  It was cold and actually rainy on the day we left.  The one day it rains is the day all of our bags are outside to get soaked.  I said goodbye to everyone, and it was sad.  I spent the night with a few other people in an embassy suites hotel.  Sweet suites are the right word here, that place was NICE.  And not too expensive either.  Finally the last few people left, and it was just Kimmie and me remaining.  We both flew out on the red eye with American Airlines, so we spent the entire afternoon and evening hanging out in the airport.  It is a lot better with someone else.

Anyway, that brings us up to the present.  The only question is, what will I do with this blog now that I am no longer adventuring all over the place?   I guess I will think of something…

Posted by: atomfullerene | May 14, 2008

Graduation, Diving, Parents

A fair amount of stuff has happened recently, but I haven’t posted about it. I have a good excuse though, I was lazy! But it is undoubtedly time for an update now-sorry for this post being enormous. Marine birds and mammals ended a while back. It was a good class, and I was happy with it. And then Beth and Liz graduated, while Litzy had a birthday. We threw them a big party, which was a lot of fun. Zach and Maggie made graduation hats, there were garbage bag robes, diplomas, and speeches. We went to the park and had them walk across the stage, did the whole graduation deal, as well as birthday stuff for Litzy. Cakes and signs were easy because all three were named Elizabeth, we just combined them.  Here’s a picture of the graduates taken by Anya (I forgot my camera).

That same day we went diving for fun at ship rock, which was also fun. It was probably my favorite dive here so far. Ship rock is a little pinnacle of rock jutting out of the bay, which we circumnavigated over the course of our dive. There was a lot of cool stuff to see down there, and some underwater rocks that were fun to play on.  The pictures below were taken by Zach, who is lucky enough to have an underwater camera.

This is ship rock.  You can see there isn’t much to it.

There was a lot more beneath the water though.  The kelp is a whole lot of fun to dive in.  Its like flying through a forest.  It has a golden tint which just doesn’t show up in these photos.

There are a lot of colorful animals around too.  Perhaps not quite as much variety as on the reefs, but still a lot to see.  Here we have a Garibaldi, some anemones, and a couple of nudibranchs.

Here I am doing a Zissou pose on a handy rock outcropping.

Then our final class began. We spawned sea urchins to look at the response of their gene expressions to increased CO2 and temperature. I could do a whole post about this, if I had thought to take pictures. Spawning sea urchins is kind of funny. The basic strategy is to make them think they are going to die. This causes them to release eggs or sperm (they are external fertilizers) out of a hole in the top of their body. The two main methods are shaking the urchins (not a little shake either, we are talking a full minute or two of mariachi level action) or injecting them with KCl. Then you collect the gametes, mix them together in seawater, and vioala! baby urchins! We had a complicated mad-scientist contraption to keep them at different co2 levels, complete with bubbling hoses and numerous containers.  All forms of science are made better by bubbling hoses.

Finally, we extracted RNA from the larvae and some tube feet we pulled off the urchins (poor urchins!-but they do grow back).  We placed the RNA on a gel, ran the gel, and got results which really made no sense.  But we got nice clear lines on the gel, which is better than I have ever done before.

Stay tuned…Today I leave on a coastal trip to Santa Barbara (not the island or the channel, but the city) and Monterey.   It should generate some  nice pictures!

Posted by: atomfullerene | May 4, 2008

Boat trip #2

Finally, the next boat trip.   We headed out in a nice, big boat for  Santa Barbara Island, which is  west of Catalina Island.  On the way we split up into teams and did some birdwatching.  Here is my team…aren’t we cool?

The ride across the channel was about two hours long, and a nice trip, if somewhat sleepy.  When we got nearer to the island we ran into a pod of dolphins.  Again, I got some nice video of them jumping out of the water, but it won’t transfer to the internet.  This is the best photo I have, but it is nowhere near as good as the video of the dolphin jumping repeatedly straight out of the water.

When we arrived at the island, it was time for the main event, swimming with sea lions!  This totally rocked…all the juvenile sea lions would swim out to see us when we snorkeled over.  They circled around us, checked us out, and followed us back to the boat.  Pretty awesome.  My friend Zach got some video, which hopefully will actually show up below.  By the way, that isn’t me in the video.

If that didn’t work, here are some pictures of the ones that stopped by the boat.  They said something about a missing bukket.

Anyway, after hanging out with the seals a while we got some really tasty lunch, followed by excellent chocolate cake.  This was a snazzy boat!  After lunch we circumnavigated the island, which is quite small.  It had a stunning coastline with lots of sea caves and arches.

Very pretty indeed.   After all the excitement and all the food, everyone pretty much crashed and napped the whole ride back.

Posted by: atomfullerene | April 28, 2008

Boat trip number 1

I thought that the trip to Avalon was fun, but it was nothing compared to the next trip we took (which in turn paled in comparison to the next boat trip-but more on that next post). On this trip we took a tourboat called the Garibaldi down the coast to a camp for kids in order to look at their marine mammal bone collection. On the way down we observed marine birds and mammals.

We saw a lot of birds, but photography conditions weren’t great. Still, I did catch this bird (Cormorant, I think) trying to take off. When they are full and waterlogged, it takes some work for them to get into the air.

We saw a few birds here and there until we started getting towards the other end of the island. Then we saw a big flock off in the distance and went over to investigate. There were thousands of birds over this one patch of water, pursuing fish that had been stirred up by dolphins. Dolphins! A big group of several hundred (although at any given time you could only see 20 or so clearly-the rest were far away or underwater). Some came up and rode the wake and bow of our boat. I also tried out the video option of my camera for the first time. I got some cool video, but am having a very hard time getting it onto the internet.  WordPress does not take video directly, and youtube can’t process my .mov files for some reason.  I will keep working on it.

Anyway, those are the dolphins.  Soon after seeing them we spotted the odd and charming Mola Mola.  These fish are big, flat, and have no tail.  This one was sitting at the surface waving his top fin at us, a pretty typical behavior.

Again, I have some good video, which I can’t get to show up.  This sighting got us talking about how cool mola molas are, and since we had been talking about polar bears, I came up with the Mola Bear!  A comical creature shaped like a mola mola, but covered in white fur, with a bear face and two bear arms coming off where the fins are.  You may be seeing a picture in the future.

After the Mola mola we ran into a pod of bottlenose dolphins.  They stayed further away from our ship, but did some nice jumps.

We also saw a number of sea lions, both hauled out on a beach and in the water.  The first picture is of sea lions “jug-handling” or sticking their flippers out of the water to heat up in the sun.  The second picture is of a small colony we passed on shore.  The big dark colored ones are male, the light brown ones are female, and the little ones are juveniles.

Posted by: atomfullerene | April 24, 2008

Traveler’s Tales

In the past week I have made two big trips around the island, one by van and the other by boat.  I am glad I finally got to see more of it-I had been wanting to do that since I got here.  My first trip was this past Sunday, when a bit more than half the class drove to Avalon.  Avalon is the other town on Catalina, and the only one of reasonable size (Two harbors would barely rate an off ramp on the interstate).  Getting there requires an hour long drive on 20 or so miles of twisty dirt roads.

So we took off at 9 in the morning, driving down the road toward Avalon.  I had been hoping to see buffalo, and  I finally got the chance soon after we started driving.  This buffalo was standing on the side of the road.  We drove up behind him (It was definitely a male buffalo) and he walked down the road in front of us.  Then he started getting ornery.  He shook his head, looked at us, and then started gouging the side of the bank with his horns.  We decided to get out of there before he came after the van.  I got this picture, which isn’t great because I was sitting in the back of the van.

After that excitement, we continued on down the road through the island coast and interior.  This is a bay where we stopped to take pictures.  I think they do some surfing there.

We continued on a ways, until we reached an island fox sanctuary.  Island foxes are a species of fox found only on the island.  They are tiny and rather endangered.  They are also very cute.  We were there at just the right time to see this one, because her trainer was out cleaning the cage and the fox was excited and running around.  This particular fox was sick as a cub and had to spend time in the vet’s, as a result she never learned to live in the wild.  She played with the trainer like a dog would.

Awww.  Anyway, we made one more stop on the road to Avalon at a bald eagle sanctuary.  Not as cute, but more majestic.  Bald eagles also inhabit the islands, but it takes some work to keep them there because there is still so much DDT in the fish around the island that they still can’t incubate their own eggs.  The clutches are incubated elsewhere and returned to them.

We finally made it to Avalon after that.  Avalon is an interesting place because cars are rare and very limited in who can have them.  So a large chunk of the populace uses golf carts, which is amusing.  While in Avalon I went to church, because it was Sunday morning after all.  The preacher reminded me of Zach Spivey.  They were talking about their new program to build houses for people in Mexico.  Then I went next door to pick up some books in a little used bookstore.  I also walked around, ate some tasty fish taco, went to stores, and had ice cream.  Here are some pictures of Avalon.  Note the golf carts.

I also found this during my shopping.  Incredible…I almost want some.  No doubt far superior to regular soap.

And with that, I must leave you for now.  Stay tuned for my boat journey, featuring marine birds, mammals, and possibly even some video.

Posted by: atomfullerene | April 20, 2008

Mostly marine birds and mammals

My camera is big and bulky.  I can’t slip it in my pocket or take it in the water with me.  But I don’t mind, because it has awesome zoom capabilities, and this makes it great for taking pictures of animals in the wild.  I am very happy with this bunch of shots.

Most of these pictures were taken during my observation trips for my marine birds and mammals class, but some are terrestrial.  I will show those first.  This is a lizard of some sort.  He has lost his tail, but it should grow back with time.

And here are some swallows, perhaps en route to Capistrano?  I like these guys, they are lively and have nice color to them.

And now on to the marine stuff.  The base of the food chain is algae, but fish are what all the birds and mammals eat.  This is a school of fish-I don’t know what type.

And here are some cormorants about to chow down on them.  I really like how you can see one half under water.  This pair would dive at the same time, stay down for about a minute, and surface at the same time.

A huge group of pelicans and cormorants live on an island off shore of our lab.  This is just a small portion of the island-there was easily a thousand birds on the whole thing.  Guess what all that white stuff is.  Yeah, it is not nice when the wind is in the wrong direction.

Most of the birds in that picture were cormorants, but the pelicans are the showy ones.  We have brown pelicans here, although the adult ones generally look white around the head.

Pelicans look kind of silly, and sometimes cute, like in this first picture.   The bird in the second picture is scratching his pouch.  He did this several times, but I only barely got a picture of it.

Finally, on the way back from bird rock we saw the really cool stuff, mammals.  So we saw six seals sunning on the rocks.  Specifically, these are harbor seals.

Doesn’t he look like he is sitting there going “who, me?”  Anyway, thats all for now.  I hope you enjoyed them.

Posted by: atomfullerene | April 20, 2008


Part of my last class was GIS, which is basically the process of mapping things electronically using GPS.   This is the map I made in that  part of the class.

I enjoyed making this, and for my independent research project I am actually going to be making a rather more complicated set of maps.  I’m just getting started, but it’s going pretty well.

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