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Genetics to the rescue!

7 May

It’s somewhere between pet peeve, best compliment, and favorite inside-the-lab joke when someone says “do the genetics”.  As in “hey we found this piece of fur/tissue/excreta out in the field, could you do the genetics on it?” or “we want to know XYZ, couldn’t you just do the genetics and tell us?”

Who is that masked lab geek?

Of course I want to just swoop down like some sort of laboratory super hero – cape swirling around the tops of my knee-high boots, hands propped powerfully on my magical pipetter tool belt – and declare, “Never fear, I shall DO THE GENETICS!”  My battle cry would probably be “Multiplex!” or something geeky yet powerful.

In fact, my genetic super hero alter ego was recently called forth her biosafety-level-2 phone booth to do the genetics for a Department of Natural Resources in distress.

Chronic wasting disease was recently detected in a deer from northern Wisconsin – that’s almost 200 miles further north than anyone was expecting to see a case of this disease that, until now, had remained primarily localized in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.  This disease has been a constant concern for the DNR, a consternation for hunters, and a cost of many state dollars.  Needless to say, an entirely new outbreak was a bit disconcerting.  Questions were raised, speculations were rampant.  How did a diseased deer show up so far from the hot zone?  Was there a conspiracy?  Was someone illegally transporting deer?  Were captive deer farms leaking disease on to the landscape?  Was it just all a big bungled mistake?

Couldn’t someone just do the genetics and find out…Never fear!

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The Winter that Never Was…

28 Feb

This is what we expect of winter in Wisconsin…

The WI State Capitol and Monona Terrace viewed across the frozen lake.

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…picturesque views across fresh snow on the frozen lake…

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One good 2011 snow storm buries us!

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Living simple and hanging loose in Hawaii

23 Nov

This is me dissertating!

Well, OK, so I was supposed to finish up and turn in the last paper before The Wildlife Society conference whisked me away to Hawaii (and subsequent island vacation).  Well, turns out dissertations seldom run on tight schedules.  So, what’s a gal to do?  Find the most serene and remote location that still has some semblance of computer hook up, that’s what!

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On your marks, get set, GOURD!

27 Oct

Polish your deck shoes and straighten your ascot – it’s time for a regatta.  The 8th Annual Giant Pumpkin Regatta!

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A post card from an alternative car road trip

19 Sep

Massive thanks to my guest blogger – Jen S.!   Jen lets us tag along on her trip to the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair!

Strolling around the fair in the shadows of renewable energy.

An electric vehicle charging station that doubles as a carport, wind turbines slowing rotating high above the tall white tents, a myriad of LED lights, a green dragon guarding the renewable building materials hut, Will Allen (45 minutes late, but nobody seems to mind), Chris Paine, an Amish family, a polyurt, dreadlocks, rainbow PACE flags, cars running on vegetable oil, compressed natural gas, and all electric.  This is the 22nd annual Midwest renewable energy fair in Custer, WI.  People from across Wisconsin and the Midwest convene this weekend every year to talk renewable energy and sustainability.  It draws a diverse crowd.  I am here on a date with a guy I am just getting to know.  We drove up from Madison, WI in a converted compressed natural gas 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier.  This is our first weekend together and my first time at the renewable energy fair.

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The St. Croix Cougar reaches the end of its journey

29 Jul

It’s not common to find a cougar in Wisconsin.  It’s almost unimaginable to track one through Wisconsin on his way across the continent.  This week the journey of the “Saint Croix Cougar” came to a sad end.  The cougar was found hit by a car on a highway near Milford, Connecticut.

A cougar caught on a night camera. Photo credit - Not Me! From WDNR.

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Aldo Leopold, Jon Stewart, and the evolution of our ecological consciousness

23 Jun

Aldo Leopold, known as a great ecologist and visionary thinker, was also forecaster of great things to come for human society.  Decades ago, in one of his essays in A Sand County Almanac, he wrote of “The Land Ethic”.  It was something of a hopeful premonition.  For, writing back in the 1940’s, Leopold did not believe we had yet achieved an ethical sensibility about the human’s membership in the greater ecological community.  But, he flattered us with the suggestion that development of such an ethic was within our potential; and, even an imminent step in our social evolution.  After all, we’d developed moral standards for interactions between individuals, then norms of conduct between individuals and community.  Leopold thought it only logical that we next develop feelings of right and wrong concerning human’s interactions with the land;  “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.”

Well, what better way to judge the evolutionary position of a society, than through the progress of its popular culture?  Oh dear.  Perhaps Leopold would second guess his prophecy of our grand potential if he could see us now – bill boards, plastic crap, reality TV!  Well, while undertaking my own favorite pop culture indulgence, I was struck by an interview I saw on the Daily Show.  Recently Jon Stewart spoke with EPA administrator Lisa P Jackson.  Amidst congressional cries to slash EPA funding, and claims that they represent government over-reach at its most frightening, one could certainly doubt that we’ve developed much of collective consciousness of our responsibility for land stewardship.

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