Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The randiest of the gastropods is the limpet.

So, this is how mollusk biologists behave, eh?

I suspect that I've been kept out of the loop because I am a paleobiologist. Not to worry. I've got an icon for this situation:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Accretionary Wedge #27

So the Accretionary Wedge theme is "Important Geological Experience." I thought I'd post a picture from my first major geological field trip (in "deskcrop" format as per next month's AW).

It's a fault-polished piece of the Bighorn Dolomite. I collected it in March, 1996 as part of a spring break trip to Wyoming. It was one of the first times I realized that I could "do" field geology. And, most importantly, to look at the rocks. It was one of those moments where the instructors had just taken us through the stratigraphic section of central Wyoming, pausing at the preCambrian igneous/metamorphic rocks. Just a few yards away was this highway road cut through Ordovician dolomite.

One of the instructors put me on the spot, asking me to speculate on how one might get ordovician rock sitting next to preCambrian basement rock (skipping all those cambrian rocks in-between). The outcrop was nothing special - in fact, much of it was covered by talus and vegetation. But, being a minting geologist, I thought for a moment, then looked at the rocks by my feet. There was a chunk of beautifully polished dolomite. "A fault" I said, holding up the sample. I managed to earn "field-trip-brownie-points" not only by providing a reasonable answer, but also a piece of material evidence for my idea. Even today, if the geologic story in front of me does not seem to make sense, I make sure to look down at the rocks by my feet.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Call for Submissions for Accretionary Wedge #28!

UPDATE: AW#28 is Here.

Call for OKTOBIR AW28 posts: Deskcrop Trick-or-Treat

It's only September, but I'm going to get things started early for October's Accretionary Wedge.

The AW for Sep is going to be over at Outside the Interzone - so be sure to get something to Lockwood first. But to get you started thinking, I'm going to solicit posts for October. There are some great things going on during October. It's in this month that Archbishop Ussher tagged as the date of the creation of all our "stuff." Baseball playoffs and the World Series take place. Leif Erikson day is the 9th. Columbus day. Of course, it's also Halloween. Halloween is also my birthday.

October's theme is going to be "Desk-crops." This can be any rock or other geological* specimen that you have lying around your office/desk/lab that has a story to tell. The spookier the better. Photos and/or illustrations are very important (although not absolutely required). This is taken directly from Ron Schott's "deskrcop series" of his rocks and such - great examples of what I had in mind with the theme (but not the only way to skin this horse).

Submit your posts by Friday, October 29th. Late posts might get "tricked."

*in this case, "geological" applies to any "earth material" that either directly, or indirectly came from the earth. Lithified, or unlithified samples count. Artificial gems/minerals count, as do biological specimens that are directly or indirectly connected to an "earth science" message are also fine, heck a REE graph or spectrogram of some stuff is okay, too. But big, beautiful landscape photos of entire cliffs and bluff faces don't count -unless you have a mountain in your office. This might be okay if your office is on a cliff, I guess. Provenance photos alongside deskcrops are also good.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Continuing Thots on the Geoblogosphere

So things are getting underway here at RaaSP central. A new semester brings with it new students, new projects, and new responsibilities. I have been hired as an Assistant Professor at a State University for a tenure-track position teaching earth-sciencey type classes. There is no geology department (I'm it), so I'm stuck with a bunch of physics professors. This is not nearly as dire as it sounds. They're a great bunch of professionals who enjoy teaching as much as research - a good fit for my interests. My wife also works at the same school, so that's also important.

Being an assistant prof requires a whole new slate of obligations. That's also fine, since many of these obligations have me interacting with interesting people who are doing interesting things. It doesn't leave me as much "free" time as I would need to have a "SOOPER BLOG!1!" That's also fine, because I like my job, and I want to stick with it. But trying to associate myself with some of the bigger names and networks of the geoblogosphere might require too much of my attention. The best blogs have near-daily content. I am lucky to have one or two days in a week where I can put something thotful together. That is also fine, because there are many good blogs out there that talk about interesting things.

But there aren't many blogs that talk about all of the things that are interesting to me. There aren't that many blogs that parse information in a way that I would prefer, or with the detail I want. So I will be content in my role as one of these lesser blogs that tosses something into the ether on a somewhat less than regular basis.

I will also be increasing my presence on our University's web presence by placing research/teaching/outreach materials there. I will be continuing my original mission of geo/snail info on this blog and linking to my other "interesting stuff." I'm also removing some of the veil of anonymity that has been this blog's MO for the past five years. I figure that one important leg in a professor's tenure track is outreach, so there will be lots of reaching out. But more so as the voice of a professional and educator, as opposed to some mysterious 17th century mathematician cum programming-language slash unit-of-pressure.

Everything I plan on doing has one primary purpose: my tenure. To get there, I will use teh blog/internets as one arm of my outreach. But as a "professional" academic, there are a few cautions to maintain:

  • Professional Affiliations:
  • I do not, nor will I represent anything but my own personal take and opinions on this blog. It will in no way be meant to represent the positions or opinions of my Department or University. As such, I will probably have to avoid some issues related to academia, while focusing more attention on others.

  • Proprietary Information:
  • Some things that I really want to share with people may have to wait - some things may represent ongoing research that will be published later. Other things may be withheld due to grant funding (I can't very well tell you where to find endangered snails if some of the money that paid for my work came from the NHI). But there are also some ongoing research projects that I will make available as they happen. The mating snail behavior, for example. Blogging is a great way to share "what's new right now." Some of this work may be part of a student project - to keep things fair to the students doing the work, I'll describe active research projects in a way that allows for the students to contribute their thoughts.

  • Copyright:
  • As a result of integrating my employment, some "things" have slightly more complex copyright issues (see also "Proprietary Info"). My "work" done for this blog may have a few extra notes about how the material should be re-used. The Creative Commons has a good system that I will utilize whenever possible.

    I'm sure there are other things that I'll think of that can/will change. For now, this site will provide a link to my University page and professional information. Other things probably don't require any kind of formal description. But, being the web, I'll probably write about some of it - it's somehow satisfying seeing one's thoughts in "print."

My Faculty Page.

My Department.

My University.

Close Up View of Neohelix mating

Aydin had a request for something a little slower and closeup. I grabbed a series of 6 frames from one of the last "kisses," cropped it close, and turned it into a quick animation:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Snail Porn!

So I've been quiet on the blogging front. I'm retooling some of the web work that I've been doing in order to better fit with my ShinyNewJob [tm]. As such, some of the non-snail/geology content will be shifted to a new venue. There may be a new format for the snails, too at some point in the undefined future.

For now, I am providing a link to a video that I shot this past weekend. I had two adult Whitelip snails (Neohelix albolabris Say 1816) that were content to just explore their small plastic tank. It was a good life, as far as snails go. Occasional lettuce (they preferred romaine to iceberg or green leaf), carrots (they did not like the bagged "baby carrots"), and periodic munching of their paper towel substrate (they preferred the paper towel over the baby carrots). But it took about two months for romance to take hold, and for the first time, I got to watch them engaged in some mating behaviors.

Snail Love from Matt Kuchta on Vimeo.

I'm not sure if this embedded video is working properly - let me know if it works for you or not.

I set up a camera to take pictures every 30 seconds. I stacked the resulting 186 photos into a video file and have uploaded it to Vimeo (more snail/geo videos should be coming as I can produce them). Doing the math, that compresses about 93 minutes into a 16 second clip (about 300x speed). You can see them "exchange" genetic information several times throughout the interaction. I can't tell if one snail is exclusively "giving" and the other is receiving. This interaction continued from at least 8 in the morning until well after noon this past sunday. (Sting ain't got nothin' on these critters). I haven't seen any eggs laid yet, but I'll check back soon. I may add some "soil" to provide some better cover for the potential eggs.

Update: if the embedded video isn't working you can try the direct link: here.