Monday, July 19, 2010

The Leg Bone's Connected to the ...

Rainy day = no birds flying; but somewhere in my freezer the vomit awaits . . . "To the laboratory!"

Pellet analysis, I have learnt, is a very time-consuming task (and, in all honesty, can be a bit whiffy). At least 2-3 hours per pellet, up to 5 hours if it's a biggie. I have also learnt that you can bruise your eye sockets from getting too up close and personal with a microscope for long periods of time.

Painstakingly pulling apart masticated fur and feather barbs, tiny treasures (we're talking small amounts of millimetres here) such as claws, teeth, vertebrae and leg bones have been discovered. It's kinda like delving into your santa stocking on Christmas morning (kinda), you don't know what you're gonna get.

I've spent quite a few sessions in the lab now; each time I come away with little specimen jars containing an assortment of bird and rodent bones, fur and feathers, all bagged and labelled before return to my freezer (my flatmates are very understanding).

Here's a small selection of photos to share my lab-time fun with you (NB: the rat skull was not found in a pellet - it is there for comparison purposes only!).

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Science Makes the World Go Round

Over the first week of the school holidays, science teachers from around the country descended on Nelson for the bi-annual SciCon conference. Not having attended this before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Memories of college teachers and stereotypes abounded, with my plane companion and I joking about lab coats and sock, sandal and walk-short combinations. Shame on us, there was none of this to be found.

Instead, we were riveted by tales of box and irukandjes jellyfish (the world's most deadliest animals), mesmerised by fantastically engaging chemistry and physics demonstrations and tried to get our minds around the awesome power of the soon-to-be-built Square Kilometre Array.

After several days of talks and workshops, eating and drinking, making new acquaintances and building friendships, an optional field trip to Maud Island finished the time perfectly. We visited on a beautifully crisp and calm winter's day; and although it was very chilly we enjoyed it immensely. The resident DoC ranger provided us with insight into the history of the island and its' current role in conservation. Among other invertebrates, we got to view the endemic Maud Island frog and Cook Straight weta before taking a walk to one of the headlands.

Being immersed in all things science for five days has made me itch with anticipation of transferring my new learning back to the classroom. Seeing as I'm still on fellowship, I'll have to take over a colleague's class if I can't hold back until next year. Sure they'll have to surrender their students to the mercy of a mad scientist, but one who is mad keen on enthusing the next generation of scientific thinkers.