Some Year-end Updates

I’m sure the blog doesn’t look any different on your end, but it does on mine, since I’m now typing on a new 13” Macbook Pro! My old laptop had served me pretty well for about 4 years, which I guess is about their typical lifespan. The old one still works more or less (sometimes more, sometimes less), but I decided to be proactive about getting the new model so I didn’t have to deal with a dead computer somewhere particularly inconvenient, like, for example, a trailer in Wyoming.

I’ve also moved forward with hosting for my website. I’m going to wait until I’ve got something up before I pass on the url, but it will be through (the great local ISP in Berkeley). I’m also going to be tackling WordPress. Ideally I will have at least some of it ready to go by the time we head to the field. I think a likely scenario might be to shift the blog portion over to WordPress and wait on the static parts until after I get to the field. Those might benefit from some re-working rather than a wholesale copy-paste job, both in terms of the content as well as potentially distributing some of the media files to other hosts (e.g. linking all the videos to Youtube).

We had a great quarter in the lab. Lots of great students working on a few different projects, and it feels like we actually got some stuff done! We’ve made good progress on the analysis of our alarm call playback experiment. Preacher Lek is finished, and the Monument Lek data are coming in rapidly in spite of the challenge of having to work with data from a camera on the hill and a camera located in the playback blind diagonally behind the lek. Definitely requires some mental gymnastics to sort those out.

Most students were working on the female approach project. With our former student/current technician Becca, we wrapped up the female position data for one of the peak breeding days in 2007, which should complete our male strut rate data for that season. We have two remaining days from 2008 and one from 2006 that are in the finishing stages. Michelle, Tawny, and some others have been working on completing the lateralization dataset. That is really close to being done as well. And Becca has finished data collection on the mechanical sounds project. Cool! Now we just have to analyze these great datasets and write up (is that all?)


This is my new website. Stay tuned as I get it going- this is my first foray into WordPress. I will slowly be migrating content from my other website. Apple will be ceasing support for their .mac hosting by June 2012 so until then I may have things in both places.

Looking forward to adding much more here in the coming months!

Starting a YouTube Channel

I’ve decided to start putting behavior videos up on YouTube- this is partly so that it’s easier to point people to those clips, and partly because the future structure of my website is a bit up in the air with Apple’s decision to kill the .mac hosting. I guess I also have data archiving on my mind, and these clips will be around longer the more places I put them. So Voila! My channel is born. I’ll slowly be adding more videos to this.

I watched the PBS special on Wednesday night- My Life as a Turkey. Fantastic! It was not an analytically driven program, but that was not it’s purpose. Instead, a beautifully filmed and produced, intimate and emotional portrait of the relationship between Joe and his wild turkey “kids”. One of the surprising results was how this relationship changed Joe’s relationship to the entire ecosystem. As I commented to someone:

Possibly my favorite part of field ecology is the occasional quiet moment, where one can sit under a tree and "disappear"- to stop being an intruder and become immersed in the natural world. I can only imagine the thrill that the narrator felt to actually be invited into that world by means of his companions.

Wild Turkeys on PBS Nature

My Life As a Turkey

PBS Nature: My Life As A Turkey

I was pleasantly surprised to learn recently that PBS Nature was going to air a show on wild turkeys this month. I was absolutely blown over when I learned the program was to be an adaptation of a fantastic book: Illumination in the Flatwoods by Joe Hutto.
This book is not a scientific book. It details the more than a year that the author spent imprinting and raising some wild turkeys. By raising, I don’t mean keeping in a pen- Mr. Hutto became a turkey mother to these chicks, and spent his days with them exploring the natural areas around his house. While he is not experimentally driven in the tradition of Lorenz or Heinrich, he is, if anything more detailed in his insights into young turkey social behavior and development. The book is beautifully written (and at least in my older edition, filled with great little sketches as well), and quite emotionally charged.
In many ways, the book was everything that my dissertation research was not. The first year of turkey social life is still a black box- we know that male display teams form very early on in life, potentially in the first few days after hatching, but we still have no direct observation of what goes on at this stage. This book’s focus on development in “natural” wild turkeys is the closest we’ve come to uncovering these mysteries.

The PBS Nature show is called My Life as a Turkey, and looks to be a well done re-enactment of things that happened in the book. I don’t know a lot of details, but it looks like they basically repeated the whole context, with an actor instead of the author, who imprints a new batch of turkeys. Check your local listings!