Ancient religions rise out of the thin air of Kathmandu

30 May

Ask a Nepali whether he/she is Hindu or Buddhist, and the answer you are likely to get is simply “yes”.

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El Yunque Rain Forest

25 May

The sky drips with water and the forest drips with green.  The coqui frog dominates the forest conversation and tiny colorful birds flutter by.

Bird watching in El Yunque

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Yum Luquillo

20 May

It’s easy to eat like a tourist at the Latin fusion gastro pubs of Old San Juan.  It’s fun to eat like a local at the kiskos in Luquillo.

Walk up from the beach or pull off the highway into this little strip of garage door-fronted food kiosks.  Each a unique blend of colors and decor – from trendy Caribbean chic with beach glass and thatched umbrella tables, to plywood booths swollen by sea air and walls decked with random plastic cartoon idles.

Kiskos of Luquillo

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Viva Puerto Rico

16 May

Hola from the island!

For a little change of scenery the science geek is taking to the road this summer.  So these posts might be taking a turn away from musings on nature, and toward a some great travel sites.  First stop Puerto Rico!

An afternoon strolling through the rich historical sites of Old San Juan.  Over 500 years ago Spanish explorers came to Puerto Rico and established a fortress in the Caribbean.  The city was founded in 1521 and fortifications promptly began in 1533.

The coastal vista of Old San Juan.

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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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Saps Making Syrup

16 Mar

As the cold Midwestern winter gives way to crisp spring chill, the sap starts flowing and the saps make for the maple forest.  Maple syrup season is a fleeting spring fling!  Too cold, the sluggish sap won’t flow.  Too warm, bacteria grow and stimulate the tree to start heeling its wounds and close up the sap taps.  So in just a few short weeks between afternoon highs reaching the 40s and climbing to the 60s, the maple farmers have to make the most of their sweet time.  This year is warming up fast!  And the beautifully balmy spring days are cutting the sap season short!

I got a brief chance to spend a short weekend in the woods helping my family harvest sap from my uncle’s Ohio tree farm.  (Ironically, the “Pancake” tree farm was named for the nearby road years before the idea for a family-run maple business ever occurred to the Berg family.)

It’s a family affair!  The Berg family takes to the woods as a trio (or more when they can convince friends and family to help).

The serious sappers:

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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.



…picturesque views across fresh snow on the frozen lake…





One good 2011 snow storm buries us!


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