Yes, it’s time to worship the tasty dinosaur again. Apart from the gluttony and family time, this season usually sees me revisit my graduate research on wild turkeys. Case in point: I was recently interviewed for the pet website VetStreet for one of those ‘Things you probably don’t know about turkeys’ articles. Luckily the author had already done a little research and we were able to get beyond the “don’t they drown in the rain?” questions.
Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday!
I’m emerging briefly from my fall teaching duties to make a quick announcement: I’ve posted the call for field assistants for our 2014 season! If you or someone you know meet the qualifications and want a fun but intense research experience in a beautiful part of the world, go ahead and send in an application. Ad text below…
FIELD ASSISTANTS (6) needed approximately March 2 – May 4 for investigations of the behavior and ecology of Greater Sage-Grouse near Lander, Wyoming and the scenic Wind River Range. The projects are part of a larger effort in Prof. Gail Patricelli’s lab at UC Davis to understand the environmental and social factors shaping sage-grouse display behaviors- see the following websites for more information (http://www.eve.ucdavis.edu/gpatricelli/) and (http://www.alankrakauer.org). Assistants will use video and audio recording technology to support an NSF-funded study of courtship dynamics and display plasticity on the lek. Duties include some or all of the following: maintaining camera and acoustic monitoring equipment, observation of basic courtship behavior and lek counts, GPS surveying, habitat characterization and vegetation sampling, capture of adult sage-grouse, radio-telemetry, data entry, and some computer and video analysis. Assistants must be flexible in their needs and comfortable living and working in close quarters in a remote field station, and able to work in adverse field conditions (mainly MUD, WIND and COLD). Work will be daily and primarily early in the morning, with afternoon and night work required as well. Applicants must have a valid driver’s license, basic computer skills, and have participated in at least one field biology project in the past. Wilderness First Aid or First Responder, and previous experience/certification with off-road driving and/or ATV’s is preferred but not required. Individuals with previous sage-grouse capture experience especially encouraged to apply. Must be able to show proof of United States employment eligibility. Assistants will receive a total stipend of $1600 (~$800/mo) plus food and shared housing, but need to provide their own transportation to Lander and their own personal gear. Please send a cover letter, resume, and contact info for two (2) references to: Alan Krakauer, Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California Davis, One Shields Avenue, 2320 Storer Hall, Davis, CA 95616, or preferably by email to ahkrakauer [at] ucdavis.edu. The positions will remain open until filled, and review of applications will begin immediately.
I recently had an email exchange with Kraig Adler, a behaviorist and herpetologist at Cornell. Kraig was one of the faculty members that I got to know best as an undergraduate. In fact, he really put more into undergraduate mentorship outside of the classroom than almost any faculty member I can think of. He was the advisor for the Cornell Herpetological Society, a student-run club that hosted speakers, went ‘herping’ (looking for reptiles and amphibians), and even took overnight field trips to important zoos and collections throughout the eastern part of the country. Kraig sent me a recent article about the CHS, which got me to thinking about some of the important things that go into having a successful time as an undergraduate, one of them being finding a home on campus.
I was pretty fortunate to get involved in research early in my career, starting with some work at the Lab of Ornithology with Charlie Walcott and with Katy and Maurice Tauber in Entomology. These were great experiences, giving me real research projects to get excited about and important one-on-one time with faculty mentors. The CHS provided a different sort of home- not only did we get an incredibly helpful and supportive mentor in Kraig, but also a peer group of motivated students to share in the journey.
When I moved to Berkeley, I quickly saw the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology provided a similar kind of home for undergraduates. Hooked by classes such as Natural History of the Vertebrates, students sought other upper division courses taught by museum curators, and many became regulars at the museum Wednesday seminars. Hanging around got them work study positions or other research opportunities, and as a result, the MVZ became their home-base at UC Berkeley.
A home such as CHS or MVZ gives one a set of familiar faces to seek out on the first day of class. You get study partners, friends, and confidants– these are all important things to make it through the hard times in college. None of these advantages are unique to academic “homes” such as I’ve been talking about; finding any group of folks with shared interest is important for creating a support network for yourself. There’s something a little more to the academic home to which I’m referring, in that these promote interacting with faculty and grad students. This seems important for building confidence and demystifying the academic world a bit. Graduate school is not for everyone, and getting to know people who have/are going through that is really key information for making that decision.
While I’ve met a lot of great undergraduates at Davis, including some who have worked in our lab, I haven’t seen something akin to the CHS or MVZ here. Maybe it’s out there, but I haven’t encountered it yet.
The six-week summer session Animal Behavior course (NPB 102) is over (or most of it, all that’s left is the grading). Thanks to my awesome co-instructor Jamie Bunting, who did a fantastic job this summer. Also thanks to Tom Hahn for the opportunity and all the advice and resources that helped make this a successful class. And Myfanwy, who is actually doing the grading, and Julie who stepped in to help proctor this morning. This was my first summer class and it was as challenging as I thought. Organization is tricky, with fewer lectures overall but each one being close to 2 hours, finding the balance of breadth and depth took a lot of thought.
The students seemed to respond positively- besides a general lack of drama, I’ve had one student approach me about research opportunities already, and another send a “ you guys are awesome” email. Anyway, nice to have this under my belt. Several nice “thank you’s” and “it was a very interesting class” as the exams came in as well.
Next up: I can start to turn my attention to teaching Introduction to Evolution (EVE 100) this fall. I think it will be a vastly different experience this time around compared with last year when I was teaching it for the first time. My practice with online assessments in Animal Behavior this summer is giving me some ideas of how to change the homework a bit, hopefully freeing up some time and effort for everyone involved to add in some more interesting assignments. I also think I did a better job of integrating the textbook reading in with the lectures this time.
To add to my last post, I’ll also be teaching Introduction to Evolution (EVE 102) again this fall! Looking forward to it now that I’ve survived it once, particularly because a) the lecture is not at 7:30 AM this time, b) I’ve got a set of lecture slides put together, c) I can work on improving things rather than just keeping my head above water, and d) did I mention it isn’t at 7:30 AM?