Archive for April 7th, 2010

Otter, Hail, and ….Twitter?


This whole week I’ve been having lots of fun looking up scientific papers in the library. I don’t think I fully realized that once you leave an institution, you also leave the privilege of having access to every journal article that they decide to subscribe to. It was like something lit inside me the other day when I started finding articles that are related to what I have been wondering about, then was able to click and save them on my desktop! I haven’t been this giddy about doing my own research maybe ever. Of course, compared to the research on earthworms (some of which had my best references in the early 1800’s) this is new, exciting, applicable stuff. I am right at the cusp of what is being done, and I can’t wait to get my hands dirty. I also think that I took too many to chew at once, but I will slowly make my way through the material.

I feel well-prepared for the tasks in front of me, and obviously, have taken to journaling quite well. There is something to be said about sitting on the back deck after dinner in your Chacos until you can’t see the keyboard or feel your toes. That being said, I am also having a hard time remembering how to sit down and come up with a specific topic, then write a scientific paper about it. I am devoting my Easter Sunday to figuring that out, reading a few applicable papers, and getting some words on a rough draft.

It is so dark and quiet at night that I find myself wishing that I knew the place well enough to be confident walk around without a flashlight. Don’t get me wrong, I keep neglecting to bring my headlamp for short trips to the library or computer lab because I have this innate need to prove that I can navigate without any aid, and then wishing that I had one. You see, campus is placed in the middle of a wildlife preserve which means that there is a high likelihood of an encounter with some woodsy creature. Most of the time, this would be a raccoon, but I have found that it is actually shadows that take away my comfortable confidence first. I have a vivid and ever-present imagination that sees skunks out of tree stumps and lagoon creatures out of rocks.

Sooner or later I will learn my lesson and bring a flashlight, but I also thoroughly enjoy the challenge in connecting to my surroundings with all of my natural senses. I enjoy the intense silence that the calm skies can bring, while I also am inspired by powerful winds on massive branches. There is nothing quite like a good storm in the middle of the woods. The other night I was grateful to be in my dry bed while listening to branches scratching the rooftops and rain pounding the gutters. The sound of the waves crashing on shore mixed with the cold chill of the breeze blowing up the bluff calms my senses until the wind finds the one spot where your skin is and it’s time to go in. I know that things are right with the world as long as the waves pound, the trees creak, and the wind chills my bones. Hopefully walking home without a flashlight will not turn into an unfortunate personality flaw that lands me in the hands of a rampant racoon looking for garbage. I must say that Beam Reach manages their trash well enough that I am not realistically concerned with this, but I have seen enough wild animals that my imagination is on full alert.

The night San Juan Island was struck, gail winds eventually blew the power out. It is harder to run classes, get research studies from the internet, cook/eat food, or even take showers with no power. These are things that are taken for granted until you live in a place where if the power is out, it might not come back on for days. Luckily, there is a backup generator on campus and the power was back on by the end of the day. We live in a world that is so driven by computers, internet and using energy that it is strange to go without it, even for a few hours.
Friday Harbor Hail....complete with sled

The wind was strong enough to disturb several wild animals out of their comfort zones. While sitting on the deck we watched a river otter run all around campus and even try to get into the basement of the house next door. For some reason, it decided to pose for long enough to grab some cameras and snap a few good shots. I am still trying to figure out why river otters would be here in the first place, but I am pretty sure sea otters never leave the water. This will probably remain a mystery to me.

Yesterday we walked to town to visit the Whale Museum. (  Being from Seattle, I knew enough to grab my raincoat and considered wearing rain-boots even though the morning was sunny and beautiful. The venture there was pretty uneventful, and the museum was about what I remembered from years ago. I have a better appreciation for the sound exhibit now though and was sure to spend some time gather details about J and K pod that I have never paid attention to before. While we were in the museum it rained like crazy, and then started to hail. There were large pellets of ice everywhere and streams of water with no where to go. I was grateful for my rain jacket and wished for my boots. A few scenes unfolded in the charming harbor town like an old shopkeeper shoveling the sidewalk and a young dad dragging two toddlers behind him in a sled. It was all melted in an hour, but for a moment it was like we were inside a precious snow globe with a major flurry before a calm.

Lastly, I also just found out that there is a close knit network of people that follow the whales pretty extensively and of course, they are up to date with the latest technologies. By this I mean that if anyone that lives near the ocean or is paying attention to where any whales are moving, they “tweet” about it. My instructors get text messages of “tweets” that inform them about the latest information of where the whales are, which pod it might be, and any other interesting information they can come up with. I understand the useful nature of all of this information and thoroughly enjoy the efficient ways to communicate with everyone about it. However, every time my instructor gets a text tweet in my presence, I have contained every joke that pops into my head and limit myself to a smile. Seriously, I know that whales communicate through clicks, pulsed calls, and whistles, but tweets? You’ve got to be kidding me.

These things just get better everyday.

Happy Easter!


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