August 27, 2008

Wachusett Wednesday Cancelled: Fall Semester, Florida Expedition and Shifting Priorities

Due to a backlog of lab work in the face of the upcoming semester and the fact that I'll be doing field work in Florida all next week, there will be no Wachusett Wednesday this week. As perfect as the weather is and as much as I will miss this part of my weekly routine, I must put my priorities elsewhere over the next few days.

It's hard to believe that summer has come and gone so quickly, but the fact is that this is the last week before the fall semester begins. I will once again be teaching two lab sections for Introductory Biology this semester. As much as I enjoy teaching (although honesty compels me to admit that I'm not too fond of grading), this essentially means that there will be some combination of a reduction of my research time and late nights at the lab. The classroom portion of my teaching assistantship alone entails six hours each week. Add in grading, office hours, lab setup and miscellaneous issues that arise and a day disappears from my schedule. Additionally, I will be auditing an entomology course at another local university this semester; that adds up to about another six hours each week. It's going to be another very busy semester. With this in mind, I'm trying to spend the rest of this week tying up a bunch of loose ends.

A week from today, of course, I leave for the North Florida field expedition. The loss of my Wednesday on the mountain this week helps to relieve the pressure that a full week out of town will create. On the other hand, all of the planning for that trip has continued to come together very well. The biology faculty at Florida State has been exceedingly accommodating to this alumnus. My colleague and I have been furnished with laboratory space in the new biology building and the head of the university's herbarium has allowed us use of the dehydration equipment for the preservation of specimens. I still need to set up temporary accounts at FSU so that we'll have computer access from the lab.

Florida's DEP and parks management have also been incredibly helpful. In fact, I feel compelled to write a thank you to state biologist Harold Mitchell here. He has been a tremendous help in making the upcoming trip possible and interacting with him has been a pleasure. Moreover, the park managers at both Torreya and Lake Talquin State Parks have likewise been kind enough to provide my colleague and I with free and open access to their land anytime we wish, even going so far as to give us the combinations to open the gates to our sites before regular hours so that we can start as early as we like in order to beat the heat as much as possible in the Big Bend/Panhandle in early September.

Wachusett Wednesday has become one of this blog's most popular recurring features, so to readers who will miss it this week, all I can say is that it's a trade off. Wait until you see what's popping up in Florida this time of year. With the recent and unfortunate stormy weather, I expect that you'll be seeing a bumper crop of amazing and beautiful fungi in this space in the coming week.

On the other hand, Gel of the Day fans (because some people just can't get enough electrophoresis) will get a second, and quite possibly third, installment this week as I attempt to sequence a Ganoderma in the G. lucidum complex whose morphology alone hasn't been enough to provide a positive identification. I also intend to do the same with a sap beetle (Nitidulidae) collected earlier from Laetiporus sulphureus; while not in my core family, I've noticed something interesting about its foot that makes me think that having molecular data from these insects will be informative about one of the evolutionary hypotheses in my study. Markedly reduced fourth tarsomere, anyone? I have so far been unable to adequately resolve the genus of this beetle, though, and genetic sequencing should clarify the picture. Agarose lovers, rejoice!

In the words of Willie Wonka, "So much time, so little to do! Strike that. Reverse it."

Sphere: Related Content