Thursday, December 16, 2010



It seems that this whole graduate school thing isn't so hard after all, of course, keeping my course-load light this time probably  has something to do with that.  Next semester is not going to be easy at all.  I've got environmental technology, evolution, and GIS.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thirty two weeks down. One to go.

Well, it seems I've reached the end of the semester again. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've written one term paper and I have one more to write by the end of this week. Life shall be grand. Until then, it's stress and coffee for me. But really, everything is gonna be alright.

Next semester is going to be a tough one. Because I want to learn. More on that later.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On hope.

How is it that in this world where life is brief and love is fleeting that we allow for waste? We life in a world where every moment SHOULD be spent protecting the fragile life that still, somehow, is only held together by, lets face it, mostly luck and very little planning.  We (citizens of Earth) have this mentality of us versus them, always trying to take more, to be better than our neighbors all around. When will we realize that there is only one planet for all to share?

A bit about ecology, urban ecology, and why insects are awesome.

I talk about ecology quite a bit.  It's pretty much my entire life.  But I realized that most people are not super-nerds like me, and don't necessarily know the background.  So here's a bit from a paper I wrote earlier in the semester about ecology, urban ecology, and why insects are awesome.  

Perception of Ecosystem Services (A blurb from Ecology)

Ecosystem services are ecological processes that humans can profit from  Urban forests provide valuable services including carbon sequestration, air and water quality improvement, energy conservation (shade), noise reduction, climate mitigation and recreational/aesthetic value.  Perception of the value of urban forests can be divided into two groups.  The first group consists of those who acknowledge the monetary value of pollution mitigation and associated health benefits.  The second group consists of those who value the aesthetic, recreational and spiritual aspects of urban forests.  Factors that influence an individual’s perception can be education, health, or proximity of their home to green space.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ultimate Wish List

Hammock.  This one. In the Tequila Color.  I've been toying with this idea for awhile now and it really seems like the most attractive, space efficient, comfortable and affordable option for all my sleeping, lounging and entertaining needs.

Trekking Poles.  Two of em. I hike. Often. I have knees.  I'd like to keep it that way.

Books! A whole list! Here are the most important ones!

Peterson's mushroom guide.  I want to forage in the spring.

Peterson's edible plants.  Again, foraging.

Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the study of Insects.  We have a copy of this book in the lab.  It's my bible.

Hedrick, Genetics of Populations.  I need this for the evolution class I'm taking next semester.

Kaufman's Field Guide to Insects.  I'm working out of the Peterson's guide right now.  Peterson's is good for technical information, and uses sketches/drawings.  Kaufman's has actual pictures of the insects, which can make identification easier because it is the most realistic representation.


I do have interests other than insects and evolution.  Although not really any different from chemistry, I love to cook.  I really would like to own, and cook my way through, Julia Childs' Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set).  While I will admit that this has been inspired in part by Julie & Julia (the movie about a young lady who cooks her way through the book, blogging as she goes),  I have always wanted to learn a specific style of cooking.  My family is polish/german, so growing up many of the meals I make use aspects from that-- although really it is at best improvisational cooking.  So, added to the list: 

Making Time

I'm a pretty busy person.

15-20 hours a week: tutoring
8 hours a week: Teaching
4 hours a week: Grading and writing lectures.
10 hours a week: Class
10-15 hours a week: Research
5 hours a week: Studying

That's 52-62 hours.

Now there are 168 hours in a week.  If I want to get 6 hours of sleep every night (42 hours for the week) after work, studying, and research I've got 64-74 hours(9-10 hours a day) left to travel, cook, eat, socialize etc. I can do that.  I can make it work.  But its exhausting.

If ever there was a time to develop super powers. . . I'd want super speed.  Seriously.  Take the flash.  Imagine how fast this guy can do the dishes.  His place must be pristine.  And the morning commute?  Its a flash. (haha)
The Flash

Monday, November 15, 2010

Class today was a whole spoonful of awesome.

I simply must write about it.  Here's the idea:  Cities are ecosystems.  They're divided neatly into blocks, which are further divided.  In the city you might get a series of planters, all exactly alike.  Perfect for experiments. Think about it.  Urban ecologists (like me!) need to study cities.  More specifically, we're not really sure what happens in all the green stuff we use to make things pretty.  So why not set up some experiments in the planters we already have in place? 

Planters on Euclid Ave. in Cleveland Ohio

More planters on Euclid Ave.  These are integrated into the Euclid Corridor Project which is pretty cool. 

There will be more on this later!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Research Update: 10.20.2010

Hello World.  So my research is going swimmingly.  I've reached the 200 hour mark in the lab and am FINALLY starting to see some preliminary trends in my data.  (yay data!) I've been pointing and counting my heart out -- slowly picking away at tiny detail work that will pay off in the end.  (See the pictures!)  I've been working pretty hard, but I'm anxious to start identifying the pan trap samples.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Doing My Part And Then Some

So I'm teaching and tutoring and studying like mad, but somehow I feel like I should be doing something more.  I just watched "The Cove," and as usual it's sparked my inner activist a bit.   The reason I'm studying ecology/entomology in the first place, why I'm trying to get a doctorate to become a professor is because the environment needs to be studied, it needs to be protected, and people need to be educated about how it works, how we impact it and how we can change the way we exploit the environment so that we aren't destroying it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stage Two: Divide and Conquer!

With the collecting side of my research complete I now face the the task of sorting, IDing, counting, and pointing the insects collected over the past four months.  I have two types of samples from two different collection techniques: yellow pan traps and beat nets.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My world rocks!

Gearing up for school again!

This semester I'm teaching at the ACRT, tutoring via CSU's TASC, taking a super-awesome course on urban ecology (with two of my favorite teachers), AND I'm finishing up my field work and (hopefully) generating some data for my master's.  If all goes according to plan, I'll graduate in May 2011.  Yep, it's a great time to be me.

In just a few short weeks I've got a Symposium to go to!  I'm not presenting (soon, though) but the talks look like they're gonna be great! (A la Tony The Tiger) 

I thought it would be nice to post a few goals I've been thinking of -- a little reminder to myself that I'm doing all of this for a reason.

Goal 1:  Sort through and identify (to family) initial set of sweepnet collections.
Goal 2:  Examine data from initial set.  (Was it worth it?)
Goal 3:  Invite my family over for dinner.  Cook fancy rustic French food.
Goal 4: Teach Charlie the Cat to walk on a leash.
Goal 5:  Apply to Michigan State University for dual entomology/eeb doctoral program.  (And Ohio State as a backup plan)
Goal 6:  ID and pin pan trap collections.  Afterwards, reek of awesomeness (and ethanol.)
Goal 7:  Get accepted and offered assistantship/stipend at MSU.  (That would be AMAZING)

Well, hopefully I manage to get a few of these in the next year.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Farewell to Summertime

Well, summer is coming to an end.  Of course, field season doesn't end until the snow hits the ground.  I'm happy with this summer though- I've learned so much about insects, entomology, lab techniques and field techniques.  I've worked SO hard to get where I am now.  I've got two semesters to finish this project and if everything goes according to plan I'll graduate in May.  (yay! graduation!)

As far as work goes I've got several jobs right now, and I'm so busy with work and school and research and family that finding time to sleep is hard, but I'm figuring it out.  I've got so much to do and so much to look forward to-- and I'm a little impatient about it, I keep reminding myself "the journey is more important than the destination."    I'm not really sure why I feel so rushed about this--like I'm ready for the next phase of life--and sometimes I get so caught up in planning for the future that I forget to appreciate the present.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Well, I've decided that I need and want a PhD.  I love teaching.  I love my research.  I love spending my summers outside doing research.  Combine all those and you get me, ten years from now, leading a crew of undergraduates students through a forest (wetland/stream/grassland/ecosystem of your choice) while calmly conducting a biology lecture.  Yes indeed.

So now, while I'm not working on my master's project I'll have this question to ponder:  WHERE?

I know I want a degree in entomology with an ecology/evolutionary biology focus.

I've done some browsing.  *I'll keep a list running here with options

Right now, my top two choices are:

Michigan State University:  Dual doctoral program in entomology and ecology, evolutionary biology and behavior.  This program seems incredible-- and when I'm done I'll have two doctorates, which is a bit baffling.  (And super cool!!)

Ohio State University:  Entomology program seems pretty good, know a few people from there as well.  Closer to home than Michigan.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Busy Busy Busy!


Research, working, and keeping up with friends and the family have me runnin!  :) I love it though.

The research is going really well.  I've added sweep nets to the collecting, so I've got a bunch of stuff to sort through!  It's gonna be a really busy winter!  Spent about an hour cleaning my corner of the messy lab-- looked like it hadn't been cleaned in a few years.  Some say a messy lab is just a consequence of genius, I say a messy lab makes it easier to lose things! 

Collecting is a lesson on patience, it's going pretty well-- I'm sorting through the sweepnet stuff when I can, but I'll probably do the majority of that starting in December.  The entire group does quite a bit, it's kind of funny cause we just pull up and descend on the sites, this giant crew that collects and measures and samples as fast as we can, then we jump in the cars and drive off.  In addition to my pan traps and sweep nets we've got pitfall traps, worms, isopods, birds, Mary's group from OSU that does pitfalls and sticky traps.  Collectively we're putting together vegetation height complexity survey--it's INCREDIBLY tedious, and with mowing being unpredictable it's bound to be interesting.  

Saturday, June 12, 2010

And they're off!

Wednesday: painted 200 Styrofoam bowls yellow.  

Discovered that too much spray paint melts Styrofoam.  

Thursday: kicked my way up and down Haskel run.  Found many cool critters, including two ticks in my hair.  

Friday:  Thesis research is go!  Set 110 of 200 pan traps at 11 different sites!  

Saturday:  Day with the fam! Parade the Circle + adventure involving a policeman saying "Seriously, I'm not trying to be funny.  You just cross the street"

Tomorrow: Collecting from the sites.  

Pictures to follow!

Monday, June 7, 2010

mental conditioning

What a whirlwind it's been.  Between hiking, teaching and getting things together for my own research, the past two weeks have been kind of wild.  I've been hiking through various streams in Ohio and looking at the critters that live in and around those streams.  I'm using this partly to "condition" my mind, prepping it for the mass amount of thinking to come.  My thesis research starts this weekend, after much anticipation.

Brandywine Falls

Riparian Habitat beneath Brandywine Falls

Not the best but still ok photo of various critters we found in the stream

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Haskel Run at Woodlake Field Station: First Hike of the Season!

First hike!  Got my feet wet!  Came home covered in mud!  Wooo!

I love field work.  For the stream ecology class we have four weeks of field work.  Four wonderful weeks surrounded by beauty and science and the most incredible creatures.  

Today I held various stream-critters in my hands.  Including crayfish, caddisfly larvae, two-line salamanders, dusky salamanders, dragonfly nymphs and many many more.  There will be pictures up in the next couple days.

Monday, May 17, 2010

To the moon and back . . .

I don’t quite know what I want to do with the rest of my life. 
Here’s what I know:
I like insects.  I like catching them: going out for a nice hike and setting traps or using a net to catch these incredible critters that have been around for more than 410 million years.   I like pickling them: filling up jars with little bodies with such beautiful structural complexity.  I like identifying them:  those that are exceptionally difficult to identify, with only minor structural differences between species are especially satisfying.  I like pinning them:  lined up neatly in nice boxes that will sit in a museum somewhere for the rest of eternity, there for all of history to look back on, giving a glimpse of the world we live in now. 
I like school.  Maybe more importantly, I like the concept of sharing ideas and spreading knowledge, especially when that knowledge can be used for good.  I like having classes and research.  I like to surround myself with interesting people. 
I like to teach.  I like to teach.  I LOVE it when I see one of my students become excited about the subject.   I’ll be happy if I influence just one student to make better choices for their future, to become active in their community and to start actively thinking about ways to better the world.  (Although, If all of them decided to do this, that’d be pretty awesome, too.)
I want a stable, steady and secure job, doing something that I love.  This is a tough one, really.  I’m scraping my way by, paying for school and building up my student loans.  A reliable income is important, but I would never be happy with myself if I settled for a job that I hate. 
The list of jobs I would love, from “most loved” to “eh, not perfect but I wouldn’t be miserable”: 
Government research scientist,
                    living on a remote park outpost. 
Museum scientist. 
Museum curator of invertebrate zoology (curators have to deal with all the bureaucratic headaches, which doesn’t really appeal to me.) 
University professor (at a school with a good entomology department, where I could spend my summers doing research.)  
High school biology teacher. 
Wow, the list is shorter than I thought it would be.  Huh. 
I want to travel. I’ve been to Australia.  That was pretty cool, I’ll never forget it.  But I want to see everything!  I want to go on safari in Africa, I want to wander though Europe, I want to see the pyramids, the rainforest, a glacier and a volcano.  I want to go whale watching.  I want to explore the world, different cultures and ecosystems.  Hell, if it was somehow possible for me to go to space I would do it, even if it was just to the moon and back. 
I want kids.  Yes, someday I would like to raise a child.  If I do eventually meet someone I want to procreate with, I will.  But if I’m forty and things aren’t looking good in the man department, I’m adopting.  There are so many kids out there that need homes.  I’ve always figured why make more when there are so many already?  I don’t care if they aren’t infants—That just means we can skip the diapers/not sleeping thing, and any kid that can talk and tell you what they want seems a lot easier than trying to interpret the shrieks of an unhappy little person who doesn’t yet grasp the language (even though they may try.) 

A year from now I hope to graduate with my master’s degree in environmental science.  Right now, I don’t know what I’m going to do after that.  But I’ve got a year to decide.  Maybe I’ll start a doctorate program in entomology.  Maybe I’ll get a job, halfway around the world.  Right now, the possibilities are endless.  I just have to make up my mind.  

Friday, May 7, 2010

It's been a year. . .

I've just about finished my first year of graduate school.

I have a research project.
I have an advisor and an almost complete committee.
I'm going to start research very very soon.

I'm excited and terrified all at once.  If I mess up I'll have to take another year.  I won't mess up.  I've got a lot of work ahead of me.  It should be fun.  Field days for my stream ecology class start May 25th.

I'll be doing all this and working two jobs.  Still looking for scholarships.  Hopefully going to get a car in the next few weeks.  Hopefully.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010


hellish week.

Between the funeral, classes, interviews, meetings and getting hit by "the sick" again, this week has been quite hellish.

Lets start with school.

Ah.  Graduate school.  Its a love hate relationship, really.  I've effectively buried myself in student loans, spend hours in the library studying stream ecology and the finer points of technical writing, I've read over 400 research papers on parasitoid wasps and am now trying to organize that information into a sort of review paper (more for my own good at this point than anything.)  I don't have a stipend or a scholarship, (not for a lack of trying here though.)

This summer I'm planning on getting some actual data, but I can't do that without a car.

So I'm planning on purchasing a car.  Probably a very used, not always reliable, inefficient one at that.  (see note about no stipend and student loans above)

What I WANT is a smart car.  (of course)  As I'm struggling to make rent as it is, that's highly unlikely.

Funeral:  A close family friend passed, peacefully, this past week.  The service was Wednesday, at the church I grew up in.    It was the first Catholic funeral I've ever been at, surprisingly enough.

Thursday I went to an on-campus employment fair held by the new tutoring center (TASC.)  Interestingly, it was the first job fair of any sort I've been to.  There was an hour long presentation about the tutoring center, then an initial interview.  If you did well there (and I did) you were asked to evaluate your interviewers and wait for a second interview with someone higher-up in the department.  So I waited, and was then interviewed by the director of the program!  That went well too, I'm hopeful.  I may have good news sometime tomorrow or Tuesday.

Friday I sat in on a board meeting.  It was long and tedious and I came out of it feeling a bit defeated.  I'll leave it at that.

And now I've got "the sick" again.  I don't know if I have some recurring sort of flu or I've got perpetual food poisoning or what, either way, I've got a bit of a fever and can't keep anything down.  Maybe it's the stress, or some combination of stress and bad luck.  Either way, I've got to get over it soon, I've got too much to do!

Here's to hoping--

Sunday, April 25, 2010

time keeps passing

The week has been. . . . interesting.  The job hunt continues-- I'm hoping to find something relevant to science, another teaching job or tutoring or working at CSU, maybe.  But if I don't hear back soon I'll be going to tower city to fill out applications for ::gasp:: RETAIL!!  That's not a beast I want to awaken, but a girl's got to survive!

I'm ready for the hikes to start.  Coming home muddy, drenched and exhausted and possibly with bug bites and poison ivy-- but life drenched in nature, life throughly integrated with life-- and the prospect of earning a degree while I'm doing it-- sends chills of excitement down my spine.  The anticipation is killing me.

My Minor Brush with the Law (Tuesday)

It was the end of an unbearably long day.  I had just spent the last hour toiling over minor points of technical writing in my review paper on parasitoid wasps and was ready to go home.  So I hopped on the bus to ride the six blocks to my apartment from the library.  Alas, I forgot my bus pass on my desk in my office . . . And the RTA cops caught me.  Blast.

Now, an RTA cop is a few notches above mall cops and rent-a-cops.  They can give tickets but can't take you to jail.  So I hop off the bus, apologize, explain that I left the ID in my office at school and will be heading back to retrieve it.  After they check out my license and ask where I live and why I have an office if I'm a student they let me go.  At least I didn't get a ticket.

Turns out my ID wasn't in the office at school, I had left it in the lab.  Which was locked.  So I walk home, past the RTA cops.  It was nice out, so I didn't mind too much.

Now, I fully appreciate the need for cops to enforce the rules of the RTA, but I realized when I was walking home that these guys had tasers, right next to their ticket books on their utility belts.  Given some of the horrifying things that can happen on a bus, this too is understandable.  But what happens when an RTA cop has a bad day?  Is he quick to use his taser?  Are RTA cops required to have a mental-health evaluation before they get their taser? Are they trained to use them?

The remainder of my week was typical, Thursday night after stream ecology I taught my environmental survey class.  This group is all women, and much more talkative than the previous groups.  I prefer an interactive, curious class than one with half of the students sleeping or texting or staring out the window.

This weekend I spent at the homestead, cooking and making music with my family and playing with the dogs (bullmastiffs.)   It's been long overdue, and I'm loving every second of it.

Off to bake a cake!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What a beautiful day. . . .

I've put aside my stress.  It's not productive.  

Today was beautiful--- I spent the day reading Dry Storeroom No. 1 -- since I've spent some time in the natural history museum here I thought it might give some insight into how museums work, from the perspective of a museum curator.  So far it's been informative and entertaining.  

I attended a composition recital at CSU that Carol was playing in.  The music was really interesting, a combination of various percussion pieces, some done on percussion instruments and others created digitally--after the concert there was a nice reception, I helped Carol put away instruments, got to play with the vibraphone (sort of like a xylophone, but with resonating chambers underneath.
Tomorrow starts a new week-- here's to hoping its better than the last.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Game day in Cleveland

I love Cleveland.  I live downtown and can see into progressive field from my apartment.  During baseball season now have a front seat to free fireworks every Friday night and every time the team wins.  I love the sound to the city, especially on game day.  Guys hawking tickets yelling all day, drunk fans shouting and cheering as the walk down the street in giant mobs, the fearless traffic cops, standing in the middle of the street, unflinchingly staring down city buses.  Even the out-of-towners, who don't know which streets are one way or how to respond to the homeless out collecting change, are endearing to a true city dweller.  

Game day--- brings everyone out to interact and mix-- the homeless, the street musician, the fans--all combining to celebrate America's greatest pastime.  Today couldn't be more of a Cleveland day, either-- the sky is gray, the clouds are hinting at rain with a greyish-purple warning, the wind blowing southeast of the great big lake Erie.  

Sure, I'm stuck in my apartment reading research papers on every aspect of parasitoid wasp ecology, but I can crack the window a bit and glance out at the filling stadium, smiling everytime someone crosses home plate. . . . .and the crowd goes wild.. . . . .

I still don't own a jersey. . . .

Friday, April 16, 2010

The week from hell

It's been a tough week.  

At work:
1.  The medical ethics course I was supposed to teach was given to another teacher because the program director "forgot" about telling me to teach it. 
2. How I found out:  I went in to teach the new class and another teacher was setting up.  
3. I spent the previous two weeks writing all the lectures for the course.  All of them. 
4. Lesson learned: Insist on a contract before doing anything.  (Looking back, this seems obvious, I'll chalk it up to being young.)
5.  My new environmental survey class has 1 that doesn't believe in evolution and 2 that are conspiracy theorists.  

At school:  Can't complain too much here, just have alot of work to do. 

So.  I'm looking for another job, I've renewed my online tutoring accounts. 

Know anyone who needs help with science? 

I'm worried though, rent and bills are enough alone, but I still haven't gotten my textbooks for my stream ecology class either.  Oy. 

Life usually ends up working out though.  Hopefully soon.  

Friday, April 9, 2010


Ahhhh Friday!  Nothing like sitting down at the end of a killer long week, sipping tea and thinking about the precious few days you have off before it all begins again!

It was an odd week-- sunny and beautiful on Monday and snowing today, but that's Cleveland for you.  Hoping it warms up again soon, I'm working on fixing up my bicycle (need This!) and eagerly anticipate a good ride.  Until then I'm happy to lace up my hiking boots and get good'n muddy!

In the world of research I'm getting ever closer to getting my data--- the real work will start in June, but I'm looking forward to it after so many months of planning.  I'm working on getting my advisory committee together now, tracking down signatures to make spoken agreements official and what not.

Employment-wise I'm going to be teaching at the ACRT again-- this time one course on Medical Law and another Environmental Survey.  I'm still surprised at how much I enjoy teaching--but I suppose if it's teaching something I care about than it works.

I'm hoping to put the finishing touches on some poetry this weekend-- haven't posted anything substantial Here in a while.

I'm growing a single, solitary tomato plant named Greg.  One of my students gave me a pack of seeds, so I thought I'd try and grow one in the sunshine-filled apartment I now live.  Greg is about four inches tall right now.  I see an excellent future from him.

I'm trying to convince my land-lady to let me up on the roof so I can garden up there, but she's convinced I'll jump or something.  It could just be a matter of liability, not sure how to argue against that.  Maybe I'll throw my science at her and see if that works.

Kyle is playing solo at the Beck Cafe in Lakewood tomorrow night, acoustic originals and possibly some classical.  (He's pretty awesome)

Some books I've been reading lately:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Moving, living, music!

I recently moved into a much larger two bedroom apartment with my best friend Carol.  The place is HUGE compared to the tiny efficiency I was in before.  Our cats have learned to tolerate each other in the month we've been living there-- although recently they've been getting all static-y from the carpet and shocking each other.

I love it.

I love living with someone, especially, because I can cook, have there be leftovers and have someone else to help me eat them!  Plus having someone to talk to at three a.m. is really nice too!

I'm getting everything together to start my research project for this summer.  I'll include all the juicy details of that in a future post.

Carol is the drummer and percussionist extraordinaire in my younger brother's band (The Kyle DeForrest Band.)   The band often practices in the basement of my parents house, so she usually sees my family more than I do.  The band plays a a mix of rock, blues, alternative and soul. The music is authentic and new, at times gritty but never vulgar, music meant to capture the many facets of life from a Clevelander’s perspective. 

The Kyle DeForrest Band is playing tonight at the Barking Spider Tavern (

I've been teaching environmental survey at a two year career school. . . .

So a student asked what I do in my spare time. When I stopped laughing I realized that I absolutely love everything I'm doing. Sure -life is nonstop- but teaching isn't work, classes aren't a burden and research isn't boring. I'm privileged. Teaching is an opportunity to spread eco-propaganda. I eagerly anticipate classes. Research is just a good excuse to hike and soak up the sun! Life is grand! :-)