the sometimes senseless ravings (and the occassional rant) of an aspiring marine ecologist who may enjoy killing things a little too much

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Still Here, I Swear

though it has been a while since i've shared thoughts from latina land, i have not fallen out of existence. strangely, i have been busy yet somewhat bored at the same time. i know, that makes no sense.

yesterday, i got the first comments on my prospectus from someone other than dr. v. hopefully, the rest of the committee will come through with their comments soon. so far, i don't think that the revisions will be too traumatizing. but i am only considering one set of comments out of 4. my experiments will push forward, regardless of a lack of opinions from the committee. i had to push things back a couple of days, though. i met with our vehicle check out guru yesterday morning to see what sea lab vehicles are available for when i need them, and nothing was available for next monday and tuesday. damn summer school. so, i'm going to PSJ (that's port st. joe, remember?) next wedensday-thursday instead. i also went ahead and signed out either a suburban or a club cab truck for all the dates i need through august. that was fun.

after my adventures in vehicle-checking-out, one of the directed studies students in dr. v.'s lab for the summer helped me cut the plastic mesh screening that i need to make the cages for my experiments. i was grateful for the help, since it was very hot outside (in the 90's), and things went much faster with two people cutting. he was like, "i have nothing to do, and i hear you need to build cages." so i took him up on his offer of assistance. hey, why not, right?

plans for today aren't as sweaty. i re-typed a protocol for another girl who needs to do some of the chemical analyses that i did last summer and emailed that to her. in a few minutes, i'm going to head down to the island to pick up a permit to take to PSJ next week, and then we have a meeting about the spain trip this afternoon. and that's all for the day.

well... i guess i do have some reading to do, and i need to stop in at the sea lab library for a bit.

okee. gotta run now. until next time...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Flammable Liquids

i have a couple of gripes for you guys today. the first one involves flammable liquids (and no, i did not set anything on fire). as you should know, i have been ordering a ton of supplies for my experiments lately. well, a shipment arrived for me at the sea lab yesterday, and the folks in the administration building gave me a call to let me know (which i'd asked them to do). well, i can't go back over there to pick everything up until tuesday, and the guy who called said that wasn't a big deal. then about an hour later, i got a call from katy telling me that someone else from admin had called the lab saying something about some kind of liquid. well, i ordered lots of liquids - two kinds of alcohol, acetic acid, and liquid phenol. she didn't know which one it was. i told her that i'd already to talked to someone in admin and he said i could pick it up tuesday. then i called admin again to see what the big deal was, and i got a different lady. she was freaking out because the box was marked 'Flammable Liquid.' it was the phenol. so, i had to call katy back at the lab and get her or susan or somebody to run over to admin and put the box in the lab for me.

now, it isn't like the package was going to spontaneously combust or anything. it wasn't sitting near anything hot. it was next to a bunch of mailboxes in an air conditioned building, packaged up in plenty of bubble wrap and styrofoam. now, how many other flammable liquids reside in the admin building? let's see, shall we? hmm... cleaning products, the air freshener in the bathroom, the nail polish remover in someone's desk drawer, the bottle of touch-up hairspray in someone's purse, and a million other little things that could be found in the average person's house. so, what exaclty is the difference between having that package sitting in the admin building and sitting in my lab? nada.

ok. i was really annoyed at the freak-out that the label 'Flammable Liquid' caused, and i just wanted to get that off my chest.

something else that irks me is the mobile botanical gardens people that do a gardening segment on the morning news. i never had a problem with them until yesterday morning, when i saw them promoting the growth of a very destructive invasive plant by local gardeners. most of the plants that i see them selling are natives like azaleas or some sterile hybrid varieties that pose no threat to local wildlife outside someone's garden. but there are no native species of Alternathera in our area (though there is one species native to south florida and several found in the southwestern U.S.), which is the plant that these people were promoting. this plant is a vegetative grower, meaning that if you break off a stem of Alternathera and throw it on the ground somewhere, it will grow into a new plant. many members of this genus are highly invasive and can overgrow native plants quickly, which in turn affects local animal populations, etc., etc. one of the most destructive forms of Alternathera is called alligator weed, and it is clogging drainage ditches and invading waterways throughout the southeast, driving down numbers of local plants. these problems seem small compared to the destruction of crops caused by alligator weed in asia, where rice crops are constantly threatened by this hard to destroy weed. the gardeners touting this plant often say that "it grows like a weed." well, that's because it is a weed, and a very destrcutive one that costs millions of dollars per year to control.

so, my point here is really a recommendation to gardeners everywhere: before you go buying plants for your garden, make sure that they are native plants. yes, the exotic ones might be pretty and attractive because no one else has them and they aren't plants that you can see every day, but you can't do anything to stop them from spreading beyond your garden. and that could have vast detrimental effects on your native flora and fauna. so don't buy invasive plants. and tossing the ones you have into the garbage will only spread them farther.

ok. those are my gripes for the day. everyone have a nice memorial day weekend, k?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Week in the Life of a Ph.D. Student

so, it's been almost a week since my last post. here's what i've been up to.

every (weekday) morning during the sci-fi channel rerun of Passions i work out on the elliptical machine and sometimes the weight machines, too, over in our little gym thingy by the pool. i am very proud of myself for this, since i've been super lazy for quite a while. then i shower, have some breakfast (not eating is not an option), and finally i turn to the day's work around 10 am. i've decided that early mornings are me time.

the department is footing the bill for my supplies this summer, and they use a totally different purchasing system than the one i learned last summer for the sea lab. so i had to get different purchase orders from our dept secretary, who has really been a huge help to me. then she had to give me a bunch of numbers (account #, tax exempt #, etc) that i needed to buy stuff from lowe's. apparently, the university's purchasing system has changed recently, so buying things has become a big pain in the ass. i had no trouble at lowe's or ordering materials from aquatic ecosystems, but fisher scientific was a different story. the university does have an account with them, but the department of marine sciences is not listed specifically, so i spent half an hour finding all this out before realizing that i wouldn't be able to do anything with it. so i left it to our lovely secretary. it took her a while, too (stupid accounts billing people, not the secretary, she's great), but everything i need has finally been ordered. now i'm just waiting for everything to arrive.

friday i bought a butt load of pvc (among other things) from lowe's, and my labmates kindly helped me put most of it away in our storage cage. that was an adventure. see, when i was planning on putting the 130 sticks of 10 ft pvc in there, i didn't take into account the fact that our cage is not 10 ft tall. so the putting the pipe in a corner was not going to happen. so katy had the bright idea of shoving it all up on the rafters. what a great idea! there was only one small problem. we're short. we searched for a step ladder, but to no avail. so, standing on cinder blocks and buckets, katy, charlie, and i struggled and finally found victory over our vertically challenged-ness and the pvc, but not before i got saw dust in my eyes. which sucked. so 110 sticks of pvc are now residing in the rafters of our storage cage (i went ahead and cut the rest of it into the 0.5 m pieces that i need), never to be retrieved. because we're short. we got it up there, but it is not coming down. i shall have to find a very tall person to help me with that. probably dr. v. he's such a tall advisor, but he has such short students... maybe he likes it that way, towering over his tiny subjects.

anyway, i'm meeting with dr. v. in a couple of hours to discuss the revisions on draft 3 of the prospectus. *sigh* good news, though. draft 4 should be the one that goes to the committee. i'm told that i just need to add a bit of detail on one experiment, and it looks like it's ready to go. yay! i guess four drafts isn't so bad. yep. it could definitely be worse.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Permits Have Taken Over My Life

i sent off my last permit application today, so hopefully i can move on to something else and stop boring everyone with permit talk. i also got my passport application stuff all done today for spain. my picture kind of sucks, but what else can i expect when i get it taken in an office with flattering-to-no-one fluorescent lighting? that was expensive.

speaking of expensive, i also made a list of materials that i need for all of my experiments for the summer and called around and surfed the net to get prices for everything. i need a butt load of PVC and PVC accessories. about $700 worth, to be exact. when i called lowe's this morning asking about 1300 ft of 1/2" PVC, the guy who was running around all over the store checking things out for me was like, "are you with the sea lab?" i guess no one else in town wants impossible to find PVC fittings and mass quantities of PVC. i also gave the guy the website address that was graciously provided to me by charlie where we finally managed to find the aforementioned PVC fitting so that he could direct anyone else who needs those things there. now i'm waiting for dr. v. to find me the money to order about $2100 worth of supplies. when it comes through, i'll get down to ordering stuff.

i'm planning to go to port st. joe to start an experiment the 1st week of june (so much for starting things before hurricane season, eh?), so the permits better come through before then.

some of you may know that monday was chad's and my anniversary. we had dinner at carrabba's, and that was about it. in a couple of years we'll start doing big anniversary celebrations... like going on a cruise.

well, that's about all that's going on in my life right now, so i'm outie.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Permitting Success

so, what have i done today? well, i have filed three permit applications. the number of permits required to do research in a state or national park is utterly ridiculous. i'm doing resesarch in three parks, two are florida state parks, and one is a national park. so, that means i should need three research permits, right?

you guessed it! that's wrong. i need SIX permits to collect seagrass in three parks. why? i have no idea. and it really doesn't make sense to me that i have to file a permit application with the florida department of the army. what does the army have to do with my research? nothing! and the vast majority of the permit application doesn't apply to my study. it sounds like it's more appropriate for someone who wants to build a pier or a jetty or something big and potentially destructive. i want to dig a few holes that will fill in within a week and put some cages out for two weeks. ahh! oh, and i had to fill out two of those stupid army permit thingies, one for each state park. it's a good thing that those applications were short. also, i filed them jointly with another chica here at the sea lab, so it was less work for the two of us. plus, i need permits from the parks themselves so i don't have to pay the entrance fees every time i have to go over there. oh, and then i need a permit from the florida fish and wildlife conservation commission to allow me to do the actual collecting of the organisms. that one at least makes sense.

the permit that has been the biggest pain in my ass is the one to collect at the gulf islands national seashore. that one i had to write a proposal for, and man are they ever picky. they want some serious detail. so i took the relevant parts of my prospectus and added tons of detail, plus all of the additional sections required by the national park service. whew. that was time consuming... but i finally finished it. i got everything submitted today, and hopefully if i keep bugging the contact guy for this area, it won't take forever to push it through.

and that, my friends, is what i have been up to. exciting stuff, eh?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Planning and more planning

that's all i've really done this week. yesterday i finished up draft 3 of the prospectus. i added six pages to draft 2, which had 4 fewer pages than draft 1, so draft 3 was really only 2 pages longer than draft 1. it turns out that i should have included some detail in my methods section, after all. oh well.

today has been spent gathering information on what collecting and resesarch permits we already have for the three areas in the florida panhandle where all of my research will be done, as well as trying to find out whom i need to contact to get the ones we don't already have. oh, and the one for perdido key requires a state and a federal permit. isn't that delightful? bless dottie, who has graciously provided me with most of the contact info i need. she's the permitting guru of the marine ecology lab. i'm sure i'd be pulling my hair out by now without her help.

i've also been trying to construct a timeline for all the stuff i need to accomplish by the end of october while keeping in mind that from the middle of august to the middle of september i can't really do anything. yikes. i don't really know how long a permit application takes to go through, but i hope i won't have a long wait. i'm planning to head over to port st. joe the week after next. i think i'm good for that, though. the permit we were using last summer doesn't expire until the end of the month, so that shouldn't be an issue, at least.

oh yeah. i also did a bit of light shopping while i was waiting to hear from people. i bought a new one piece swim suit (for only $13.86), since it's a little... awkward doing field work in a bikini even though that's what i've always done. i got some new snorkel gear, too. my old fins were full-foot, and that was a pain in the ass. allow me to explain. you cannot simultaneously wear dive booties (to protect your fragile footsies while stomping around a seagrass bed full of urchins, clams, empty shells, snails, crabs, and all sorts of other potentially painful critters) and full-foot fins. the booties must be removed in order to don the fins. so, i was having to wade into the water until it was deep enough to snorkel without my dragging the bottom (i sliced my knee up pretty awesomely last summer when i tried to snorkel in about a foot of water), then take off my booties, put on my fins, snorkel out to where the urchins are, take off the fins and put the booties back on so i could stomp rebar into the sediment to secure our cages, take the booties back off and put the fins back on to snorkel back in to shore, then take the fins off and put the booties back on to walk the rest of the way back to the beach. whew. life would be much easier with fins that you strap on over booties. that way, i won't have to take the booties off to put the fins on, etc., etc. so i bought fins that you strap on over booties. hooray for me.

tomorrow i'll finish up the timeline and hopefully start applying for permits. friday, i'll start gathering things and making sure that we have all of the materials i'll need to start my sampling. if we don't have it, i'll order it. we also have a meeting about the spain trip that day.

it's going to be a busy summer here in latina land, folks. busy, indeed.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Note to Self

substituting popcorn and peanut butter m&m's for real lunch = bad idea.

having microwave sausage biscuit and orange juice at 4:00 in the afternoon to fulfill the need of real of food does not make it better.

eat real food.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Let the Real Work Begin...

i just finished what will quite possibly be my last final exam. ever. i know, i know. i still have the field marine science and anthropogenic impacts on coastal ecosystems classes (that's maine and spain, in case you didn't get that) to go, but i don't foresee final exams for them. presentations, yes. final exams, no. i actually think there will be one exam for the spain class, but it's basically going to be a 'making sure we actually listened at the talks' sort of thing, so no real stress there. i feel so liberated at having finished my last real class exam. but that leaves comps looming over my head. oh well. i'll deal with those when the time comes.

with classes now out of the way, i can concentrate on the real work in getting a Ph.D. - the dissertation (and the project that must be completed for the dissertation to get written... and the prospectus that outlines the project). i'm meeting with dr. v. tomorrow to discuss the plan for the summer and the undergraduate slave i'll have working for me. ok. "slave" is too harsh. she'll actually have her own project (which will most likely actually be a facet of my project - mwhahaha), so she feels like she's not just the hired help. hopefully i'll be able to get something going in the next couple of weeks. let the traveling begin!

oh, and in case anyone was wondering, the second draft of my propectus went over much better than the first (though i still have a few [mostly minor] changes to make). dr. v. even read the entire thing this time. yay! perhaps the third draft will be the charm after all? i hope so, but i'm not holding my breath.

tomorrow, some planning. next week, some doing? perhaps. and maybe the week after that i can get to port st. joe and start an experiment.

i love summer.