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Sedgwick braindump II

4 reasons why it's easier to run the circadian experiment here than in the lab at Berkeley:

1. Kitchen's right here, so I don't have to prepare 3-5 meals in advance and cart them in with me.
2. Bed's right here, so I can sleep in a real bed without an added commute.
3. We are collecting the crickets in the evening and then running the experiment the following day. While we hold them, we're giving them water, but no food. So I don't have to arrange to take away food several hours before the experiment. This means I won't have to get up early to take away food on any days where I run the noon timepoint.
4. Our schedules are consistently night-shifted, so sleep is much more consistent.

Main reason why it's harder: Very, very few long-winged crickets with pink flight muscle so far. But L pointed out that it's still worthwhile to run the oodles of short-winged crickets to get at least some sense as to metabolism in lab vs. field. And while we're getting some exercise, it's in smoke-filled air (Whittier fire), and it isn't rowing. Also, it's unsurprisingly hard to find any quiet space whatsoever to gather my thoughts.

Cool things observed during last night's circadian trial (9 pm timepoint): one female with a spermatophore, two short-winged females with underdeveloped ovaries, which means they're on the younger side, which is good. The 5x Granny Lamp works decently well for field dissections, which is great.

Yesterday during the day: hiked 11 miles, north up the main road to Gate 2 along Figueroa Mountain Road, then back down along Lisque Valley road, pausing to listen for daytime crickets every so often. Figueroa Mountain Road gave us better views of the Whittier Fire, which grew a lot bigger yesterday. It appears to be a favorite among local cyclists (argh should have brought my bike for multiple reasons). The others learned about how stupid it is to hike in the middle of the day in the summer in a climate like this (I knew but participated anyway because I'm stupid and was curious about the terrain). Lots of spots along Lisque Valley Road looked like decent cricket habitat, but we didn't hear anything. It appears that even the most desperate of males stop chirping during the middle of the day, from around 11 am to 3 pm, perhaps due to the heat. We confirmed this by listening near the fields where we've been doing our nighttime surveys towards the end of the day. Still, I feel like we learned a lot, and it also looks like our trip could add a lot of info to Open StreetMaps.

Speaking of which - at the last minute we got a GPS at REI, right as we were heading out of town. Based on [personal profile] scrottie's recommendation, we got a Garmin etrex 20x hiking GPS. (also, I've used his GPS before, so I had some familiarity with how to operate it). I am SO GLAD we got it. Totally worthwhile, and now I'm tempted to keep it instead of passing it over to the lab and getting a reimbursement for it.

Double nighttime surveys last night. Nighttime temperatures have been on the low side, compared to what I remember from last year. Yesterday I finally had the presence of mind to put an iButton outside near the crickets we're holding, so we'll have more information about daytime and nighttime temperatures in the shade, at least. We have been able to collect around 80 crickets within an hour, among 4 people. We saw much less activity during our second survey, from 11 pm - midnight, but part of that may have to do with the fact that we still had all the crickets from the earlier survey in captivity. We're having reasonably good luck with mark-recapture within our two survey plots so far - "classroom" and "garden." They're maybe 1/8 of a mile apart, and there isn't any evidence of movement across that scale yet. Collections are female-biased, because the females are running around, looking for males, while the males establish territories at the openings to burrows, to amplify their songs. When we get too close, they will abruptly stop chirping and dive into their holes.

As we add more people to the team, we'll keep adding to our survey areas, which will hopefully help with getting more crickets for my experiments, too. We're also keeping all of the last-instar crickets we collect, so we can wait until they emerge as adults and see what ratio of long-winged to short-winged crickets we get. That should tell us more about why we're getting an extreme short-winged bias again (same pattern as last year) - whether it's because the long-winged crickets are off flying somewhere where we aren't catching them, or whether there just aren't all that many long-winged crickets out there under the current conditions.

Other interesting wildlife: one rattlesnake (of course B pestered it more so he could get video of it rattling), a couple of big frogs, a tree frog, a mouse (eating a cricket!!), lots of large spiders (maybe tarantulas, but not all that hairy??), lots of black widows, lots of darkling beetles. We hear coyotes a lot at night.

Pitfall traps have been highly unsuccessful so far (1 male out of 5 traps). I think they're going to require a bunch of tweaking.

A lot of the long-winged males I've checked for flight muscle status also have a whole bunch of parasites glommed on to their armpits.

Today we'll take it easier than yesterday, probably with another trip into town for groceries and such.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1166358.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Sedgwick I Braindump

The 3 of us make for a really nice fieldwork Dream Team.

The drive down took about 5.5 hours, hitting periodic random traffic congestion, as one does in California. With an extra 1h delay at the car rental, load-up at the lab plus 3 houses, and a stop at REI for a GPS plus lunch, we didn't get on the road until 12:30 pm. Still not too bad.

I am SO GLAD I got to pack all the lab supplies. Last year was a nightmarish giant pile of stuff, whereas this year I know exactly where everything is / is supposed to be. Everything got packed very neatly into the 12-passenger van, with ample room to spare, and didn't feel like a hellish mad scramble. I have a certain hatred of stuff-piles stacked so high that things slide all over.

So far I think the cricket population density is on par with last summer. C and A got here a couple of days before we did, and in one evening were able to finish collecting what they needed, so they offered to help us. In an hour, the 5 of us collected ~80 crickets, heavily biased towards short-winged males and females. All of the 10 long-winged crickets we found had histolyzed (white) flight muscle. So we'll have to keep easter-egg hunting.

Today has involved a debriefing with one of the reserve managers, picking up some additional supplies in town, getting meals and groceries squared away for the next couple of days, setting up the full respirometry rig, and beginning to test out pitfall traps. Tonight we'll repeat our population survey (mark-recapture with last night's crickets) and will hopefully work towards gathering up crickets for some initial metabolic experiment test runs tomorrow.


Last year we had to stay in tent cabins because the ranchhouse was undergoing renovations and refurbishment. The cabins had healthy black widow populations (though no one was bitten), and we cooked in an outdoor kitchen adjacent to a classroom space where we worked. Showers and toilets were in a freestanding, rustic structure. It was pretty good for a fieldwork setup, all things considered.

This year, we're the first research group staying in the ranchhouse as the renovations wrap up. And OMG it is POSH. Apparently the UCSB donor who funded the project will be staying in the master bedroom on occasion. It has a panoramic view up the Reserve's central valley. It's fully air-conditioned. There were some interesting decisions during the renovation, such that certain bathroom fixtures are still adorably historic, and all of the new windows are still single-pane. Sad to see so much energy loss.

Still, there's countertop space in the kitchen that is PERFECT for the respirometry rig, and we're using the dining room for staging other projects and plotting and scheming about how to take over the world. The living room contains the most enormous television I have ever seen in my life.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1166118.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


Family was in town Saturday, so in the morning I set off to visit the fabric store and then acquire groceries and beverages to feed everyone.

One of the things I'll miss when I move away from here is the local fabric store, Stonemountain & Daughter. Most fabric stores make me want to spit in disgust, or they're specialized for quilting and don't carry any other, practical, workaday fabrics. Not so with Stonemountain. I was able to choose among multiple different kinds of pillow ticking, and they have an extensive selection of twills and denims.

Saturday afternoon was devoted to cooking and a brief introduction to sailing for my Mom, [personal profile] slydevil, and [personal profile] sytharin. I fed everyone pizza, salad, and daffodil cake, taking advantage of all the wonderful things getting ripe in RAC's garden these days.

Sunday morning, [personal profile] scrottie and I went over to the BAP to assess the state of the algae. It was thick enough that I proposed to S that we devote our time and energy to weed-clearing instead of paddling the plastic sit-on-top kayaks. Let me tell you, that was an adventure. I wasn't sure about how much we'd be able to accomplish, but I was somewhat optimistic. Altogether, we managed to clear a narrow launching/landing channel right next to the dock, and started to open up a narrow channel out to the open space created by the waterskiing boats. Very, very few people are visiting the boathouse and trying to get out on the water these days. I have no idea how things are going to progress or when there will be a chance of being able to row again.

In the afternoon, we came home, had a late lunch, and I tackled my next sewing project, combining two old down pillows into one new, fatter down pillow. The first night of sleeping on it was HEAVENLY.

I have today and tomorrow to gear up for fieldwork. It's going to be a crazy week. There's a wildfire close to the field station, so who knows what will happen.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1166066.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Another small nice thing

My brain is complete mush today.

But I needed to squeeze in a Skype meeting this morning with my long-distance undergrad, who has been determinedly plugging away at learning the basics with R. We have two main tasks left with the current stage of data analysis, which we basically need to translate from English into syntax. The first is figuring out how to read in a bunch of files from a bunch of directories. This should be straightforward.

The second task is one I'd been scratching my head over. When recording cricket activity, I set up the timelapse video to record 4 crickets at a time. Our tracking software assigns individual numbers to individuals, but for various reasons individual crickets wind up having between 1 and 10 different numbers assigned to them. So, how to separate out data for each individual cricket? I'd been thinking of coming up with a method to subset the track files by the assigned ID numbers. This would require figuring out how to import a ragged data file, then figuring out a kind of complicated reference scheme.

But then today C pointed out that because the crickets are spatially separated from each other, it would probably be a whole lot simpler to just subset based on each cricket's xy coordinates. We don't expect cricket 1 to ever show up in the area occupied by cricket 2, unless something went seriously wrong with the setup (nothing did).

Foreheadslap to self. Good job, undergraduate! You rock.

This startup is a VERY good idea. I need to pay a visit.

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Sweet things

Another overnight in the lab last night. But I got data back from efforts on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and the data look really good, which is what usually happens with pilot experiments with too-small sample sizes. Still, it's a start.

I managed to stay out of the lab until 12:30 pm, by heading to the BAP at 10 am to row. I'd originally intended to meet up with the Serious Double at 6:30 am, but stayed up too late reading a trashy fantasy novel, and really needed the sleep anyway.

It wound up being a good thing that I'd waited. The weeds have gotten so bad that the only open water is a narrow channel barely wide enough for one boat. It's like rowing on a river that requires constant steering and vigilance.

Algae at Berkeley Aquatic Park

Algae at Berkeley Aquatic Park

So it was way less stressful to be out there by myself and not have to worry about dodging other paddlers or rowers.

I should have put on sunscreen.

I also met up with [personal profile] scrottie for dinner at a nice restaurant on Gilman Street, Lalime's. S had poked around on the internet and discovered that they included the Tell-Tale Tart from Boulevard Brewing on their bottled beer list. I was delighted to have a chance to dine there because I bike past the restaurant on my way home from work every day and it had piqued my curiosity. It was an extravagant dinner by our standards, but we relished it. I don't dip into the foodie culture out here very often, but who doesn't appreciate the occasional beautiful and well-cooked cuisine?

Last night's overnight trials were a wash. One of my minions was very very eager to help out with the late-night timepoints, so it was his trial-by-fire time, which meant several screw-ups and the stress that accompanies that. I cannot simultaneously concentrate on high-precision tasks and think and verbalize in the face of mistakes, you'll be surprised to learn. The net result was we achieved the same amount of data that I would have gathered had I done everything by myself, but with less sleep and more stress to go along with it. If I'd done everything by myself, I would have just split up the crickets across two timepoints, which would have made for a really busy but productive evening. It all just reinforced my notion that for projects like the circadian experiment, adding extra people ("help") is counterproductive. On the other hand, my minion now has a much greater appreciation for everything that's involved in running a highly precise and time-sensitive experiment. Now he'll be back to a less time-sensitive project and I hope he will have more patience for it. Many aspects of science are tedious, so one must get used to it.

One other surprise happened: in the spring, I interviewed another potential undergraduate researcher, and was disappointed to discover he was already doing research in another lab and looking to piggyback even more research experience. I decided I had to draw a line - involvement in two labs at the same time is too much and can lead to a lot of awkwardness. I encouraged him to stick with his existing research, but said to come back if he decided to transition out of that project and was still interested in working with us. And yesterday, out of the blue, he showed up! During our initial interview he struck me as someone who has really great potential but hasn't had access to great mentoring, which is something I'll do my darndest to supply.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1165315.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Blessings / emotional processing

Two of the rowers that I coached in Texas are getting married this month. I won't be able to attend the wedding (fieldwork), but while riding in to work today I contemplated what to write on the RSVP card. My father's simple declaration, "Blessings," comes to mind. This couple brought a lot of blessings to the rowing program in Texas, and they are both the sort of people for whom I wish continued blessings.


It is taking a lot of time for me to just think and process things so I can get back to a point where I can focus and analyze data and write. Yesterday I just sat and didn't really try to do much beyond cricket care and the evening's circadian experiment. I just couldn't. I'm not quite at one of those stages where I _utterly_ loathe myself for frittering away time on the internet, but I do keep circling back to that thought of what kinds of actions have more lasting and fulfilling impact, wanting to reinvest myself in those actions.

With data analysis and writing, I also have to remind myself to be very patient. I want to get more stuff out the door, and soon, but I'm unwilling to send out poor work. There are a lot of decisions to make on things that don't have clear-cut answers. This slows me down, and then I get distracted by how many of my peers spend a lot of time tooting their own academic horns on social media about the stuff they've published. [And let's just note here that it's the male academic peers who seem to do the vast majority of this - the female academic peers tend to engage in different ways] And while I should spend *some* time trying to keep up with the current literature, I should also try to avoid spending too much time on it. I'm far enough out of routine to have lost track of how to manage these things.

There's still more "analysis paralysis" for choosing what to work on because I always have too many balls in the air. Do I work on data analysis for the circadian experiment, or do I roll up my sleeves to get back to work on the cricket lifespan manuscript?

Gearing up for fieldwork is yet another distraction. I have around four lists started, so far. I'm going to forget at least one thing.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1165169.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


It is time to start building up the mileage in earnest, in preparation for the rowing marathon in Petaluma over Labor Day weekend. Four days of rowing, back-to-back, feels really, really good, even with the BAP all choked full of algae.

I'm mostly doing steady-state rowing, emphasizing very good technique with drills thrown in periodically. For my body, a lot of the stabilizing muscles that contribute to a well-balanced and efficient rowing shell are muscles that are very difficult to train and coordinate properly via anything other than rowing itself. When I do enough rowing, I also observe more general postural/comfort benefits throughout the rest of the day. It is highly rewarding to work on extending the duration of time that I'm able to row cleanly.

The other major limiting factor for rowing a marathon is hand toughness. There, again, the only way to prepare is to row for long enough to challenge one's hands, but not so long that one develops endless skin rips and bloody blisters. So far, so good.

I won't row tomorrow morning because I'm also back to work on circadian experiments (ugh), but in the interest of prioritizing rowing to a greater extent, my schedule this week will look like the following:

Tuesday morning: erg
Tuesday - Wednesday: lab overnight + morning timepoint
Wednesday afternoon: row (hopefully during the 2-5 pm afternoon window)
Thursday morning: row
Thursday - Friday: lab overnight + morning timepoint
Friday evening: kayak

Next Wednesday, we're heading to the field for two weeks. No rowing there, so I'll just have to jog and do some strength-training instead.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1164865.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


The Great Tomato Stake-Up of 2017

Last year, [personal profile] sytharin built a set of raised beds for the bike driveway for squeezing in a couple more tomato plants into the yard. Overall, the project was highly successful - the retaining wall along the bikeway absorbs extra heat during the day, which helps nudge things just over the edge into temperatures that will actually produce tomatoes in the Bay Area.

But one aspect has been less than satisfying, as illustrated by something that happened just today:
Tomato staking strategies

I have yet to see a prefab tomato cage that is actually large enough to do a proper job.

So, some other strategy was needed. After some thought, I decided to try out something I saw in a book that involved two large posts and string running between them. Step one, acquire the posts. Step two, hmmm, how to sink them into the ground?

After feedback here and talking to RAC, I remembered an implement that my father had at home - what he'd called a "wrecking bar." I searched around a bit and discovered that most people refer to a slightly different implement as a "digging bar," which is used for digging post holes and tamping soil around the post hole. As luck would have it, the local Ace Hardware had one for sale, so I set to work using it to dig some post holes.

Tomato staking stratgies

That black shaft is the digging bar. It weighs 16 pounds, and so most of the work is accomplished just by lifting it in the air and dropping it down into the hole, where the chisel-shaped end bites its way through the ground.

Here's what I was able to accomplish after a bunch of pounding (snicker):

Tomato staking strategies

Starting to right the capsized tomato plants...

Tomato staking strategies

And, all strung up (for now; ran out of string):

Tomato staking strategies

Now my shoulders and hands are very tired. I suspect I'm going to be sore tomorrow. But it was satisfying to figure out how to tackle this project.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1164580.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


Finished objects

I spend so much time working on long-term projects. It's easy to wind up feeling discouraged by how long they take and how many wind up falling by the wayside.

For a while, I was knitting baby hats for friends with newborn babies. But after a certain point, my energy for knitting the baby hats just completely fizzled out. On the other hand, I still wanted to give [personal profile] annikusrex's kiddo a special hat. So I decided to compromise: I'd make a hat for Felix. Eventually.

So as it turns out, it may take a few years before he'll grow into this one:

Felix hat - front

Felix hat - back

It was fun and interesting to design this. The font is Monotype Corsiva.

It's not quite adult-sized:
Felix hat modeled

I also crocheted up a plant hanger while I was on the train. Overall, I'm ambivalent about it, but I might make another one anyway. You know, so we can get that whole three-level effect with a little path running down the middle.
Small plant hanger holding a fern

This entry was originally posted at http://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1164533.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


We are back in California. Theoretically, I could have gone to work today. But I am still so angry about how much of my life got flushed down the toilet when those samples were destroyed. That was a lot of nights sleeping at the lab, empty evenings where I couldn't get more work done and couldn't go home. Mornings where I was too tired or out of it or jet-lagged to go rowing.

I feel like I had more time last year to help [personal profile] sytharin with the garden. It's hard to garden long-distance. It's hard to get exercise in the lab.

I have had to put other projects on the back burner while working on the circadian experiment because it is too hard to jump around and keep that many projects in the forefront of my mind.

So I stayed home today. Went rowing. Am getting caught up on the interwebs. And I'll probably run off on some errands in a bit. Work will still be there when I get back on Monday, and July is going to be hellishly busy.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1164133.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


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