Erik and I brought our cool new microscope over to the MSU Child Development Center (ages 3 - 6). The kids went on a collecting trip before we got there and found some cool plants, feathers, and insects; we brought some fresh stream sediment. We looked for microbial eukaryotes in the sediment, zoomed in on some tiny flowers and pine needles, and got some really close looks at beetles, lady bugs, and spiders. Lots of fun!!!
Erik Anderson, my future graduate student (August 2015), shows local 5th graders how cool the world looks through a microscope. Our new Leica dissecting scope takes photos/videos and looks great through the monitor. The kids thought the flatworms, mayflies, and cavity-ridden teeth were super cool.
Nick and I came across one of the nicest dogs I have ever met in the Communidad de Comandanzia on the Orosa River in Peru. We drove our boat up to a house asking if they had any dogs, and they introduced us to Rambo, who had just returned from a hunting trip in the jungle. We just called his name and he jumped in our boat, stood up with his front legs on the seat, and let Nick work him over for parasites. His recent hunting trip was fortuitous for us -- he had more ticks on him than all the other dogs in the jungle combined! Rambo didn't actually live at the house we had pulled the boat up to, so when we were done collecting his ticks we gave him a ride home a few minutes up river. We had a brief stop in Comandanzia on our return trip to Iquitos and Nick and Rambo had a heartfelt reunion.
We visited many small Amazonian communities in search of disease vectors. Gringos are always doing such weird things, that our quest for fleas and ticks did not seem to phase anybody. On one collecting trip, we picked up a few eager flea hunters at each house we visited. At one point, we had 15 kids on our boat, ranging in age from 18 months to 10 years. If I went around the USA asking kids if they wanted to come with me to look for puppies (and fleas), I'd get arrested -- the same thing in Peru generates a bunch of smiling kids and parents. Just another benefit of research in Latin America.
We stumbled upon this toad at Madre Selva Research Station in the Peruvian Amazon. Note the rather large tick on its back right leg. The tick's microbial community will be analyzed along with the other ~300 ticks we collected from dogs, ~300 fleas from dogs, and ~500 mosquitos collected in Iquitos, Peru and the surrounding jungle.
Mike Robeson came into town to see some bison, elk, big horn sheep, pronghorn, deer, and coyotes. He also came to help work on some fine scale evolution analyses of microbial communities from UV positive / UV negative sites in Yellowstone.
I had a great time in Sevilla, Spain giving a talk about using phylogenetic methods to compare microbial communities! The tapas and Rioja weren't too bad either!!!
I just experienced one of the highlights of my professional life -- lunch with E.O. Wilson. I was honored to hear his stories and advice for a couple of hours. Thank you very much, Montana IoE for organizing the event and for the invite. I guess the guy who took the photo was nervous in Dr. Wilson's presence and couldn't keep my phone still, but if you shake your head, you might be able to turn it into a clear image...