Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fondue Pong

Ok, ok, so the Swiss hockey team got beat out by the US today...very sad. But I did come across a really awesome video where the Swiss and the US comes together for a friendly game of fondue pong. If you thought beer pong was difficult, watch how the Swiss do it!

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I found this video over at a great blog done by another lovely Swiss citizen known as SwissMiss (ok, she stole my nickname, but at least she treats it with respect).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Florida Flair

Oh Central Florida, how I love thee. After another lovely weekend in Tampa, I took the 4 hour drive back to Delray Beach. Central Florida is a very eclectic area filled with local Florida crackers, migrant workers, senior citizens, and good ol' hillbillies (this isn't a dig, I've got quite a bit of hillbilly in me.). Here's a gem I saw along the way. For those ladies who've always dreamed of a dress that goes with those awesome cowboy boots, there is fancy western wear bridal store in Central Florida waiting for your business.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Letting the ethanol get to my head

Today is another day in the laboratory for me. We have three crew members in the field per day and luckily we have two pretty awesome volunteers who come out three days a week, so that gives each of us permanent crew members one day in the laboratory per week. Wednesday is my laboratory day. So today I'll be heading to the field laboratory, a small building with a really awesome equipment storage facility (yes, other biologists would drool), where I'll be processing our fish samples from the past week and writing some Visual Basic script to help run some GIS programs a little more efficiently. I love my field days the most, but days in the laboratory are still much more awesome than being in a cubicle. I'm in the lab independently, so that means I can focus on getting the work done with my own music selections on Pandora playing in the background, the blinds open to let the sun shine in, and I can even talk or grumble to myself if I want to (not that I do that...). Processing fish samples entails the following:
  1. dumping the sample jars filled with tiny fish, shrimp, crayfish, etc. from one sample site onto a lab tray
  2. sorting the species into little piles of like species
  3. identifying, measuring, and weighing each individual species
  4. recording the data accurately
  5. storing the bird prey species in ethanol in each sample jar which is archived (aka. put in boxes) for future need or analysis
We've been gettings some interesting prey species including:
  • flagfish
  • lots of killifish species
  • golden topminnows
  • mosquito fish
  • cichlids
  • sirens
  • crayfish
  • grass shrimp
  • predaceous diving beetles
  • dragonfly larvae
  • damselfly larvae
  • beetle larvae
Anyone have some good sample processing music suggestions?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Garlic Festival

As I mentioned in my birthday post, I'm really starting to feel at home in Delray Beach. I've only been here for about a month now, but somehow it just feels right for me. Another indication of that came this weekend when Delray Beach held its annual Garlic Festival. Seriously? A Garlic Festival??!! The only thing I love more than garlic is bacon! Not only was this festival a celebration of all things garlic including heavily garlic laced food, but it also had concerts. Everclear played on Friday night and the Wailers played a great show on Saturday night. I saw both and had a blast at both! Oh, and to top it all off, some people even had hats that looked like garlic cloves and one guy was dressed in a full garlic costume. I was meant to be here.
So happy! Oh, and I'm wearing my new favorite t-shirt that says "Bacon makes everything better" (thanks Erik and Ashley!!)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Beautiful Day

Aster flower blooming in the Everglades (January)

Good morning everyone! I'm off to the great swamp again this morning. Mondays have never been on my favorites list, but Mondays in the Everglades are about as good as they could possibly be. I find myself completely at ease with the muck below my boots, water around the calves of my chest waders, and the sun shining down on me. There are no houses or buildings in view. The only sounds I hear are the wind gusting through sawgrass, birds gracefully winging over my sampling point, the occasional desperate horny gator mating call, and of course, the randomly entertaining stories from my coworkers.

What a transition. Mondays in the corporate world had always been so frustrating for me. There were usually some technical difficulties that had occured over the previous weekend that awaited me once I turned on my laptop. There were long organizational meetings used to determine my fate for the week. There was a slight letdown when I found out that I was spending that week working on tasks that confined me to my cubicle where I had no idea if the sun was shining outside, the air was tainted with termite dust and mold (seriously...they did air quality tests in the office to determine why everyone was developing allergies!), and there was the consistent "white noise" of lights, electronics, and air conditioning. Office Space's "case of the Mondays" scene would run through my head about 10 times each Monday. Now, don't get me wrong, my corporate job was amazing and gave me invaluable experiences in the industry. But if you've ever worked in an office you know how Mondays feel. Mondays in the office made Fridays seem like an eternity away.

But being outside changes so many things about my attitude. Even on mornings where I dream of more sleep, the natural crisp air wakes me up immediately and I forget about my bed. Fridays almost seem too close. I check the weather repeatedly to see if there will be rain. For the first time, I find myself hoping for a very dry spring/summer season because it means more suitable field days. I typically spend 4 days a week in the field and one day in the lab. But if there are heavy rains and the South Florida Water Management District decides to hold more water in the northern water conservation areas of the Everglades, our sites are too wet to sample and we spend additional time in the lab. After a weekend in the hustle-bustle, high-stress, high-energy east coast towns of Florida, Monday is a welcome reprieve and a breath of fresh air, literally!

I hope you are having a lovely Monday too! If you are in an office, see if you can find a few minutes to step outside, walk around the block, breathe some fresh air, observe the weather first hand, and take in some natural light.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Birthday Blog

Hello all! The evening leading up to my birthday was absolutely wonderful and after all that I enjoyed that night, I really feel in my place in Delray Beach. I got home from a long day in the laboratory measuring, weighing and identifying small shrimp, fish, crayfish and beetles drenched in ethanol. A short and very loud thunderstorm had just passed through leaving the sky looking like child smiling just after a temper tantrum. I grabbed my bike and headed to the beach. By the time I got there the sun had already gone down, moonlight was scarce, and the waves were softly crashing on the sand. I crept down to the beach catamarans, past a surf fisherman, and onto the hull of one of the beached catamarans. I laid there and watched the stars which were now peeking around the clouds. The night air was just the right temperature to keep me warm even in a t-shirt and shorts. Perfect. This is love.

After a while I rose from my beach getaway, hopped back on my bike and rode to town. I stopped at the grocery store for some dinner supplies and returned home. With the windows wide open, music playing and some candles flickering, I made this Chicken Scallopine recipe (turned out awesome!), drank from the wine I bought to cook with, and made a dish of gooey, fudgy brownies. What an amazing night! I feel so comfortable and homey.
Feb 3, 2010 was a great day and I can't believe I'm already 27. Thanks to all my amazing friends and family members! I love you all very much and I'm so happy that you are in my life.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Marshes and's all Greens and Blues

Today was a chilly morning to be in the Everglades. Yes, I fully understand that while the majority of the east coast of the United States is currently blanketed in snow, I'm commenting on a "chilly morning." And, while I have nothing to complain about, I just want all of you folks to know that on occasion, this subtropical ecosystem also gets a little cold. This morning was in the 30s.

During my introduction to the Everglades ecosystem, I have learned that historically, much of the area was topographically characterized by a simple ridge and slough system. The Everglades watershed, which historically included approximately 5 million acres (or 1/3 of the state of Florida), is naturally a relatively flat landscape where waters moves slowly as sheet flow toward the south. This means that water was not originally channeled through streams, rivers or canals in the Everglades as it is now. Water actually flowed very slowly in one large 30-mile wide swath, or slough, toward the south. The slough, known as Shark River Slough, was streaked with ridges running north to south composed of slightly elevated peatland where sawgrass grows thick. The areas known as slough, where water flows freely and the elevation is just inches below that of the "ridges," are characterized by open water with aquatic vegetation. Much of the area I am now conducting research in was once part of the natural ridge and slough landscape. Unfortunately, due to compartmentalization (the construction of canals and water control structures through the Everglades) and related water management activities, the natural ridge and slough system no longer exists in its original state. Many of the lower elevation sloughs have filled with sediment, resulting in a monoculture of sawgrass and cattails in many areas.

Evidence of the original ridge and slough habitat type can still be seen in some of the water conservation areas. Our view from the helicopter with the sun glinting off the water at just the right angle really helps to illustrate what this ecosystem looks like.

The green areas are the ridge and the blue/white areas are the slough. These streaks run north to south through areas of the Everglades. You can imagine the water running through these sloughs very slowly as it makes its way to the south.

In most cases, the water running through these sloughs is very shallow, about knee to waist height. And the ridges are only elevated several inches above the sloughs.

Many parts of the Shark River Slough now look like this photograph where the entire landscape is sawgrass ridge. This is the result of cutting canals through the Everglades to feed water to east coast communities such as Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and West Palm Beach. Additionally, canals were originally cut in an effort to drain the Everglades to make way for development and "reclamation."