Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
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Friday, April 02, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
There's a plant in our greenhouse--a stick, really--that's been sitting in the corner for a while. A faculty member brought it back from Hawaii, but we had no idea what it was, so we called it the Hawaiian Stick. All winter we thought it was going to die. Then, a single leaf popped out of the top. Over the past few weeks it produced a green mass at the top of the stem which turned out to be buds, and finally it bloomed. Turns out, the plant is a Plumeria--the same plant that Hawaiians make leis out of. Ours is beautiful, and smells equally as delicious. Below are some of the photos I took for the greenhouse identification book I'm working on, as well as a photo of my wonderful co-worker Zoe!
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Thursday, March 25, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
I just got back from the AT! I spent spring break in the Nantahala National Forest with eight of my classmates and a few members of the Blue Ridge Hiking Club, cleaning up parts of the Appalachian Trail. Apparently this past winter was the worst the area has seen since the seventies--there were blow downs along much of the section that we worked on, and hikers were getting injured trying to get up and around everything that had fallen in their way. In some places the trail was nearly impassable. We worked for four days and our group collectively cleared 30 miles of trail.
Going on this trip made me realize how difficult hiking the AT can be. Many times we had to climb 2,000 feet in elevation in just under a mile, carrying chainsaws, loppers, and backpacks full of gear. We were on our feet an average of 7 hours a day. Every day was intense, and every day we all sat down to dinner exhausted, our muscles and bones aching. But every day we got a little tougher, closer to one another, and more appreciative of the woods. We met through-hikers who told us stories about the trail and who thanked us for making their 2000 mile journey a little easier. And every day I became more confident that I would eventually hike the AT myself, from Georgia to Maine.
I managed to snap a few photos, and will be sharing them here throughout the coming week. Below are a few that I took along various parts of the AT.
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Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
I've never seen so much mold in my life.
I once did a school project on mold--I intentionally grew it on oranges, bread, and leather, to see what kinds grew on what, differences in color, form and function, and how long it took. I looked at it under the microscope. I kept each specimen in a closed container, away from my nose and mouth. Yes, I intentionally grew mold, watched it, encouraged it to grow bigger. And yet I had never seen as much mold as I did today when cleaning out the back cooler at work.
Drip, drip, drip. The vent leaks in one corner. Lilies, probably from March, quietly rot next to oranges that had cemented themselves to the back of the shelf. I smell pickles, but I'm not sure where they are. Perhaps there are some cucumbers hiding somewhere in the dark.
I start with the trays of pots on the ground. Their contents have been shriveled up for far longer than I've been employed here. The soil on the top is bone dry, yet when I take the foil off the pots I find wet mush in between the pot and foil. Forgetting that I recycle everything, the entire tray, pots included, are placed carefully, slowly, into a garbage bag, so as not to splash mush on my face. Trays and trays of plant slime mingle with opened, half-chewed brownies from June, muffin wrappers, and expired bags of opened chips. I toss it all out. Garbage bag one, bag two, bag three.... Water bottles are scattered across the floor, strewn about the moldy pots, and some have rolled to the backs of the shelves. I hold my breath and dive in after them.
I sort the remaining empty pots, trays, and baskets that I was able to salvage. I sweep the ground and discover a cement floor under a thick layer of dirt, dried petals, and wrappers. The garbage bags go out to the dumpster, and I look at an empty and (mostly) mold-free room.
I run to the front of the store, breathe, and tell everyone I can that I'm done I'm done I'm done. I take someone back to validate my work, walking proudly to the back. I open the cooler door, smell the putrid air, and stop. I never did find those cucumbers.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
"Anatomical dissection gives the human mind an opportunity to compare the dead with the living, things severed with things intact, things destroyed with things evolving, and opens up the profoundness of nature to us more than any other endeavor or consideration."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
This past Tuesday I saw Body Worlds & the Story of the Heart at the Buffalo Museum of Science. Body Worlds showcases Gunther von Hagen's technique of plastination, or preserving living tissue with plastic. In the exhibit, entire circulatory systems are in tact, intricate blood vessels, and minute capillaries that look like thin hairs covered in red acrylic paint. Individual tendons, white and thick, stretch from muscle to ridged muscle, all knit onto a bone frame. From one body, just the nerves are displayed--parts we seldom think of. In the center of the rooms individual organs lie in glass cases. Healthy, functional lungs are placed next to blackened and tumorous lungs, diseased hearts sit next to healthy hearts and enlarged hearts of athletes. The physical effects of smoking and obesity are emphasized.
Despite the excellent preservation, the bodies do not seem as real or disturbing as I anticipated them to be. Each full body is in a different creative pose, cut and separated to show some aspect of our internal organs. One body, the Cyclist, is cut in three vertical pieces. Her ovaries and uterus protrude from one of the slices and leave a negative space on the other side, showing the organ itself, how snugly organs fit together, and the complexity of each intertwined system. As well as the Cyclist, the Javelin-Thrower was presented, the Kneeling Lady, and the Praying Man. In the hands of the Praying Man rests a plasticized heart. It is as if he is holding it sacred, holding the heart to a higher level of understanding, power, and wonder.
Along with the bodies hang photographs of living people with quotations about the heart by various artists and poets. The line between our physical and emotional selves seems very distinct. Then we turned the corner and saw the Juxtaposed Couple.
Their shoulders are turned in, they lean towards each other, their arms are gently placed on the other, and the woman's head rests against her partner's. This piece gives us a clear shot of the brain, spinal cord, and lungs, yet is so tender. The physical and emotional fuse, as the piece conveys something more than muscles and bones.
The idea that these bodies used to be living and breathing freaks a lot of people out. The show brings up the question: what makes us who we are? All that constitutes our personality is not the difference in the thickness of our blood vessels or the shape of our gall bladders. Our bodies are incredible machines. But without consciousness, without perception, without memory and the ability to sense and make sense of the world around us, our bodies are just vehicles.
Anatomia del corpo humano, drawn by Juan Valverde de Amusco in 1559, shows a man holding his skin. According to Wikipedia, "The skin's distorted face has the appearance of a ghost or a cloud, suggesting that [his] spirit has been separated from, or peeled off of, the fleshy inner man." Gunther von Hagen recreated this anatomical sketch in an attempt to show that the skin is the largest organ in our body.
I enjoy controversy. I welcome anything that makes me think. Of course, this exhibit has received negative attention because of the "grotesque" manner in which our innards are displayed, the way some of the bodies were acquired (supposedly all the bodies were from consenting donors, although the copy-cat shows have been accused of using Chinese bodies without permission of the person and their family), and in many religious contexts the body is considered sacred and must be buried after death. Antigone, anyone? People were also upset when two bodies were positioned as if they were having sex, and museum visitors were uncomfortable with a pregnant woman on view, as well as a few fetuses in different stages of development. The pregnant woman would have been fascinating to see, but she was not at the exhibit that I went to. A few of my friends that went to Body Worlds said that she was the only body that made them queasy.
This show was one of the best things I've done this summer. I am finally able to piece together what I've learned from drawings and lecture and I can visualize all of the gushy crap inside of us. The educational value of the show was reason enough to buy a ticket, but the artful presentation made each piece even more beautiful.
"The older I get, the more I realize that death is normal and that it is life that is exceptional," said Dr. von Hagens. "I hope this exhibition will encourage people to strive to live with inspiration every day throughout their lives."
Monday, July 06, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
I've been to a few wild areas in the state to do this, but the most rewarding was visiting an acid bog. Because of the closed off, unique environment, I saw plants I had never seen before and a few that I had desperately wanted to find from the moment I saw them in a field guide.
My favorite find so far is the pitcher plant. Pictured above, the pitcher plant grows in only in sphagnum moss bogs, and the leaves look like small, green and red-veined pitchers with a gaping fish-mouth on the top and side. The plant sends up a long, thick, burgandy stem and produces one flower. The flowers are unique as they not only have a stem, sepals, petals, stamen and an ovary, but the stigma is flattened, like an umbrella, and covers the internal parts of the flower. The stigma is a part of the pistol, the female part of the plant, and in other plants it tends to be oblong and small.
At first, the parts of this flower seemed like one dried-up blob. The colors were muted. I thought it was dead. But up close, the petals have a deep-red sheen. The spherical ovary, fat and smooth like a fruit, has a slight blush as if it is embarrassed by my camera. The soft yellow stamens hover around the edge of the ovary, and to hold everything in, the thin, flat stigma branches out below, protecting the working parts of the flower as seeds develop.
Another unique bog plant is the sundew. This plant is a brilliant red and is sticky to the touch because it traps and digests insects. I tried to capture the goo a few pictures down.
Of course there were also plants that appear in other places as well as the bog. This includes the last two photographs that I'll post here--spreading dogbane and a water lily. I shot the dogbane with a Nikon microscope camera (which I've fallen completely in love with) and the lily with a handheld camera.
Overall, this course has been very satisfying. Going to different wildlife areas in Western New York has given me an appreciation for home just as I was getting frustrated with chain stores, cement, and summer boredom. I did not realize we had so many different wild areas outside the well-known destinations such as Zoar Valley, and I finally see that home is just as beautiful as the familiar Blue Ridge Mountains that I've been pining for. I've learned how to correctly identify a plant, preserve it, and show its best angle. Best of all, I've found that the smallest and most boring-looking "weeds" are complex, colorful, and brilliantly intricate organisms. They command attention when placed under a microscope, and now they hold my attention and respect even when they aren't.