Request for Photos

Usually I’m posting my own photos here, but the tables have turned. Gail, Conor and I are finishing up a review paper, and would like some photos of some of the animals we mention in the paper. If you have pretty photos of any of the following (that you’d be willing to donate), please let me know ASAP via email.

Praying Mantis: Pseudomantis albofimbriata

wolf spiders (ideally MALES) Schizocosa rovneri

Either of the following anoles, ideally displaying on a tree trunk
Anolis cristatellus or A. gundlachi

Spotted egg butterfly Hypolimnas bolina ideally flying over a female

calling gray tree frog Hyla versicolor (still Hyla, right?)

International Grouse Symposium: Post-Conference Trip

Olafur Nielsen our guide

It would be a shame to head all the way to Iceland and then not make it outside of the “metropolis” of Reykjavik (Iceland’s capital has two-thirds of the nation’s population, but that’s only 200k people!) Thankfully I was able to spend 4 extra days after the IGS concluded as part of a conference-organized field trip to the north of the country. The trip was led by Ólafur Nielsen who also organized the conference. This probably goes without saying, but while the National Science Foundation did pay for my attendance at the IGS and pre-conference workshop, NSF did not pay for the extra play time (even though this was an actual conference activity with something of a focus on grouse biology).

The scenery anywhere in Iceland is just breathtaking (provided you get good weather). I won’t rehash everything we saw, but I can direct you to a flickr album with some photos from the trip. As with any tour, there’s a balance of getting to spend lots of time in each place versus getting to see many different things. The photographer in me was a little frustrated at times that we were often rushed, but looking back on it I can’t see anything that I would have skipped. Well, maybe the stops at the barren eroded “denuded” areas, but even those were interesting when we got to learn about the somewhat controversial soil conservation programs that were going on.

Rock Ptarmigan

In addition to finally getting to see the “real” Iceland, it was really special to have Oli tell us more about his research on the Rock Ptarmigan and their main predator- the Gyrfalcon. We went to a number of different study sites, including Gyrfalcon nest and roost sites and areas the ptarmigan use during different seasons. We encountered Ptarmigan at several places and got very good looks. They were mostly still in their summer plumage, but were beginning to molt into the white winter phenotype. We also saw 3 or 4 Gyrfalcons during the trip. Not a life bird for me, but definitely a bird that quickens the pulse every time I see one.

The tour included a full 40 folks from the conference. Our apartment during the IGS was a half-hour walk from the conference center– this cut down a bit on the post-conference socializing (for me, anyway). It was great to be able to get to know more people during trip. Wildlife biologists tend to be really fun people, especially when everyone is relaxed in the outdoors!

International Grouse Symposium: Conference

Aurora Borealis seen from apartment

After the workshop was complete, it was time for the main event- the 13 International Grouse Symposium! This conference brings together grouse specialists from all over the globe once ever three years. It’s an interesting interval, for example the Behavioral Ecology meetings are held every other year, while the International Ornithological Congress is every 4th. I suppose three years is a compromise between keeping momentum and maintaining contacts versus making sure there are new stories to tell. IGS had around 150 attendees, mostly from Europe and North America although a few from Asia as well. The next one is planned for Utah in 2018.

The topics on display at the IGS were pretty wide ranging. My talk was pretty far on the basic science/non-applied side (it was on reproductive skew on the leks), but people definitely seemed interested. As we learned from Ilse Storch, head of the red list committee for grouse at IUCN, almost every grouse species is in trouble, and things haven’t gotten better in the past decade. That means most of the talks were management and conservation oriented. There were a lot of really sophisticated spatial analyses dealing with how birds are dealing with changing landscapes. On the other end of the spectrum, there were some presentations on husbandry in some of the most threatened grouse populations. Greater Sage-grouse were probably the most talked about species, and I think more than half of the conference focused on one of the prairie grouse species. Some of the Europeans were heard lamenting “Wow- you guys sure do have a lot of money for research!”.

With such a small meeting spread over three days, there was only one talk at a time. This is in contrast to some of the bigger meetings where you are always missing something because invariably multiple interesting talks are lined up against each other, or the concurrent sessions occur far enough apart it’s not easy to jump between rooms. It was nice to be able to catch everything, and to get to hear some really interesting presentations that I might not normally have gone to.

For what it’s worth, a discussion with Tomas Willebrand convinced me to pick up my twitter and I did a little bit of live-tweeting of some of the talks.  I’m a relatively new Twitter convert, so this was the first meeting I had a chance to do that. It was pretty fun to think of short summaries of the presentations, although I don’t think I was as rigorous as some biotweeps who seem to come up with multiple entries for each and every talk.

The venue was at the Hilton near downtown Reykjavik. One highlight of the conference was an elegant banquet on an island just north of the city, in what was supposedly one of the oldest wooden structures on Iceland.

Taking the ferrry to the conference banquet

Anna, Peter, and Alicia getting entertained by some Dutch researchers

Gail and Marcella showing off their new grouse scarves.

Another highlight was getting to chat with Jacob Höglund, one of the authors of THE book on leks. Very cool to geek out about the differences between Black Grouse and Sage-grouse with one of the giants of behavioral ecology and someone who’s been studying grouse behavior (among other things) for many years.

International Grouse Symposium: Workshop

Photo: Lucas Spaete

This will be the first of three updates focusing on my recent trip to Iceland for the 13th International Grouse Symposium. I definitely want to thank my collaborator Jen Forbey (Boise State) for this wonderful opportunity. She provided the inspiration (and a whole lot of administration) to put together a workshop on the day before the conference. The theme was how new technology can help us meet management challenges for grouse. In essence, we were able to show off a lot of tools that many biologists have not gotten to see in action.

Jen Forbey (Left) and Marcella Fremgen (Right) discuss technology with workshop participants

We arrived in Reykjavik a couple of days before the workshop so we could prepare. We had five groups presenting at the workshop, including aerial mapping using a helicopter drone, terrestrial laser scanning, an “e-nose” chemical sensing device, and a field spectrophotometer for measuring plant characteristcs. Gail and I had a dual station- she shipped the robot and I brought the Encounternet system. Some of the stations went through dry runs at the venue, a small zoo/park in downtown Reykjavik, while the rest of us polished our presentations.

Just like real field work, our careful planning lasted until it didn’t. On the day of the workshop we had periods of intense rain and wind. After our initial introductory comments, Gail and I, as well as Donna the drone expert, remained in the tent area. Groups of workshop attendees rotated through the various stations. I think we were a popular one in part because we were inside and next to the coffee!

Donna Delparte takes advantage of a break in the rain to provide a demonstration of the aerial mapping using a copter drone.

We were certainly popular with this uninvited guest.

All in all it was an interesting workshop for everyone- I certainly learned a lot about some of the great new tools coming on-line now.

Photo Milestone

Photo G. Patricelli & S. Harter

One of my main hobbies is photography. Almost all of the photos on this site are my own. I only put a handful of pretty and/or relevant images here on my blog– most of my best photos end up on Flickr. Spurred by a lot of views of some photos I took for a sustainable farming non-profit, my Flickr account just logged it’s 100,000th view! Obviously an arbitrary milestone, but I’m not going to lie- it’s fun to know people are out there occasionally looking at my photos.


My most viewed photo is still one of my favorites. This is a night-shot from our Wyoming field work. We were out on ATVs spotlighting to find and catch sage-grouse. I took a 3-hour time exposure to capture the star trails as well as the lights from our activity.

For me this is a hobby, not a business. This is particularly true for the images I capture in Wyoming. I get the privilege of living and working in one of the most beautiful places on earth working with a fascinating but threatened species. I’ve earned this privilege because various permitting agencies see the value in our research, not because they like my photos and want to see me make money on them. That’s why I make my photos available on Flickr as “non-commercial, creative commons.” Any media, education, non-profit use that helps inform the public about our research, sage-grouse biology, or aids in the conservation of grouse and their ecosystem are fulfilling for me personally (and fit squarely under the “broader impacts” mandate of our research as well).

Happily, a few of my photos have been picked up recently, including for couple of Associated Press articles [1,2] as well as a Yale Environment article and an NRDC piece. Sage-grouse will be in the news more and more, and it’s nice that I’ve been able to help put at face to the name, so to speak.

If you are interested in using photos, I’d definitely love to hear about it! Sage-grouse photos are in a couple of albums: either Sage-grouse or, for typically more research related, Wyoming Field Work.