Category: Blogs

BIG Funding/Research News for the Foster/Baker Lab

A major grant from the John Templeton Foundation to study the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis was announced. As part of this remarkable $8 million award headed by Kevin Laland and Tobias Uller, $850,000 comes to our lab for research on the

Melissa Graham Receives ASN Grant

Melissa learned she has been awarded one of 10 American Society of Naturalists student research awards. A really remarkable accomplishment. Congratulations!

Gaby is Next to the Defense!

Gaby successfully defended her masters thesis on macroinvertebrates in Massachusetts streams. She will return to a position in her home Ecuador and we will miss her very much. Best of luck, Gaby!

Briana Joins the Ranks of “Defended!”

Briana defended her masters thesis exploring the effects of maternal stress upon fry behavior in stickleback and is heading for a conservation internship in Minnesota. Well done!

Miguel and Becca Theses Defenses

Miguel successfully defended his PhD dissertation, and Becca her masters. Big congratulations to both!

Rich King on the Defense

Rich successfully defended his PhD dissertation with great success- a very exciting event!

Onto Chapter Two!

Miguel’s second dissertation chapter, presented at the Stickleback Conference earlier in the year, is accepted for publication in Evolutionary Ecology Research. Go Miguel!

Chapter One Accepted!

Miguel just learned that the his first dissertation chapter has been accepted by the journal Ecology of Freshwater Fish. Congratulations Miguel!

Beginnings of Miguel’s Defense

Miguel travels to the SICB meeting in Portland Oregon where he presents a paper on his dissertation research.

Principal Investigators attend Workshop at The Center for Open Science

John and Susan travel to a workshop on “Improving Inference in Evolutionary Biology and Ecology” in Charlottesville, Virginia at The Center for Open Science. Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, this was a

Foster/Baker Lab presents at International Stickleback Conference

The 8th International Conference on Stickleback Behavior and Evolution concludes at Stony Brook New York. John presented a plenary address in honor of Bob Wootton, Susan and Miguel gave spoken presentations and posters were presented by Ryan, Sade, Max, and

Wrap up from the ABS Meeting

The Animal Behavior meeting ends following successful presentation of four posters, and substantial field work in Alaska. Now for the infinitely pleasurable red-eyes!

To Alaska, We Go!

The British Columbia Field contingent, including John Baker, Richard King, Kendall Lunn, and Max Nyquist depart to make many, many crosses and explore some new sites. On May 31, John, Kendall and Max will continue north to Alaska, with others

Laura Defends Her Thesis

Laura successfully defended her masters thesis on the effect of tannins on stickleback embryo and juvenile development. Congratulations Laura!

Graham’s Thesis Defense!

Graham Hegeman successfully defended his masters thesis on the life history of the fourspine stickleback. Very excellent! He is now heading off for the St. John’s Upper School in Houston Texas where he will teach biology. Congratulations Graham!

A Great Day!

Melissa Graham received the very prestigious George W. Barlow research grant from the Animal Behavior Society and Sade McFadden received a Charles H. Turner award, also from ABS, covering her costs to present a poster at the annual meeting in

We’re Back!!!

Spring semester’s greeting from our lab to yours!  Hannah Reich and Nick Pagan here, back from our study abroad and not-so-abroad experiences.  Now that we’re back, what better way to celebrate than to pick through the preserved macroinvertebrates we collected

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Investigating Human-Induced Evolution: Is a shift in ecotype associated with greater variability?

After spending the past three weeks in various solutions (some rather toxic), sixty of the fish that we collected in Alaska this summer have undergone somewhat of a radical transformation                 These fish,

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My babies’ hearts are beating!

  Although I partook in the fertilization of hundreds (thousands?) of eggs while in Alaska, I did not get the opportunity to follow their growth closely. As part of a new project regarding potential plasticity of pelvic spine growth, I

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The Trouble with Mussels Is…

The freshwater pearl mussel has a unique life cycle that includes female mussels ingesting sperm from the surrounding water to fertilize their eggs. Once the eggs are fertilized the female is considered gravid, or pregnant. The fertilized eggs (glochidia) are

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Unionoid Treasure Hunt

For the last few weeks, the stream team has gone mussel crazy. We have been, for the most part, contributing to Hannah’s project of obtaining DNA samples from freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera) all over the drainage of the east

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Pictures of sticklebabies!

Now that the feeding performance tests are over, our “sticklebabies” are moving on to bigger and better things. Miguel has taken a good chunk of the fry for his research and has started them on a special diet, each family

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Last day of testing!

Today marks the last day of feeding performance tests for the Alaskan fry! As of today, the 9 stickleback populations have each been tested 3 times. The last group that we received back in early June, consisting of the Willow,

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The Charmed Life

Working and living with a small group of people can be draining, especially when you’re putting in the long hours that we are to try to find as many stickleback as possible. Luckily, a good crew [like ours] will make

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Swimming with Stickles

Newfoundland is an amazing place, and an amazing place to look for stickleback.  We found stickleback in most of the ponds we looked for them in, but one of my favorites was Western Brook Pond.  This location was a 3-kilometer

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We Seine in the Rain: The Beginnings of a Newfoundland Adventure

Several packed days into this Newfoundland adventure, our team has already experienced a range of successes and emotions, from abject failure to thrilling triumph. Below are some tidbits and highlights from the trip so far! The All-star Crew: Jenna Kosmo: Rising

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Could we borrow a moment of your time and a quart jar of fish?

Dear Alaskans, Though we may not be your typical neighbor, stopping by to request a cup of sugar, we mean no harm.  You see, gaining access to lakes is a peculiar business for us, since many are private with no

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Feeding our fragile fry

The feeding performance tests have begun! Last Friday Jenna, Kendall and I performed our first test on the Anchor River, Rabbit Slough and Resurrection Bay populations and this Wednesday we did our first test on the the Whale, Bear Paw

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Window seat: one last gift from Alaska

I had every intention of sleeping on my 9:25pm flight out of Anchorage to Minneapolis, but the mesmerizing views from my window seat caught my attention and refused to let go for quite some time. At first, my mind is

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A Stickleback Spectacle

“When you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the

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“How to Milk Macroinvertebrates”

  So, the free snapping of a digital camera can catch the funniest things. Today was the first day of Gaby’s macroinvertebrate sampling in Brooks Woodland. From our early morning start, we knew it would be a hot, muggy day.

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Are you a cub or a mama bear?

I was asked this question on one of the first days in Alaska. The logic behind the question was to see if I consider myself one of the faculty members running the trip or one of the students. Now that

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“Do I want to go where?!” I thought incredulously as I held my phone to my ear, still in my towel. Well maybe it went more like “Whaa…Huuuh…Whaaa?”. I had heard my phone ring while brushing my teeth after having

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Baby Stickleback!

Stickleback embryos everywhere!  This week we got our first and second shipments of embryos from the folks up in Alaska.  We’ve been preparing for the arrival for some time now and we finally got the ball rolling.  We had to

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Pickled Stickles: How to catch the stickleback of your dreams

Our second day in Alaska, we headed down to the Kenai (pronounced Key-nigh) Peninsula to collect some stickleback. The drive was stunning (as usual), and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the mountains. The first lake we stopped at was

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Mussel Madness!

My first introduction to Margaritifera margaritifera, the freshwater pearl mussel, occurred during a stream site visit in the Spring of 2010. Brittany Laginhas (’10), a senior at the time, planned to conduct Masters research on the population distribution and habitat

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Stickleback do not make nests in sand-filled plastic dishes!

Live, wild, behavior-doing stickles! We stopped at Rabbit Slough (an anadromous population we keep “stocked” in the lab), just to take a quick look, and there they were!  John spotted them in a flash.  My first thought was these fish are huge and make

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A New Start

At long last, we’ve arrived in Alaska! Our weary crew has assembled from all parts of the globe (okay, several stateside locations) to study the threespine stickleback. The flight into Anchorage from Seattle is beautiful, especially because sun was still

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Up and Away: Journey to Alaska

5/28 After catching three flights, one only by running through the Chicago airport, and 15 hours of travel, I was caught off guard by one of the most stunning views I have ever seen.  I may just be saying most

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Clark has a new Stream Team!

Last year, I experienced for the first time the joy of sitting in a stream on a hot, humid summer day, with my impermeable waders keeping me dry while allowing the cooling and soothing effects of the ripples rushing to

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Stickle-ventures in Alaska

I am lucky enough to have spent the past week in Alaska (and lucky enough to be spending one more week here!). I have explored the stunning lakes, mountains, wildlife, glaciers, and much more with a great crew from the

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Waiting for Moose

There are so many wonderful things about Alaska– the hundreds of majestic lakes, the breathtaking mountains, the thousands of brilliantly colored stickleback, but most important is the awe-inspiring moose. I have lived in Maine all my life and even so

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Life After Alaska

I spent three weeks in AK driving to lakes, emptying traps full of stickleback, fertilizing innumerable clutches of eggs by dissecting those stickleback, and then sending mass shipments of embryos back to our lab at Clark University (among other things).

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The Final Days in British Columbia

  A belated post this might be, but I felt it necessary to share with our readers the last days of the 2010 expedition to the north. After a week in Alaska, the strangest thing about British Columbia was that

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Being a Journey Across the Border

The Canadian border, that is. Team Animal Behavior departed for British Columbia on Tuesday night. The flights landed in Seattle at 5:30 AM, but there was no rest even then. The car had to be picked up (a monstrous Jeep,

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Going Rogue. Sort of.

After our fifth day in Alaska we are still not used to the lack of darkness! Our typical Alaskan day starts at eight in the morning, the sun just rising from its laze on the horizon; it never fully sets!

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Being an Expedition to Seward

Yesterday was an early start for the animal behavior group. We had a two and a half hour drive to Seward and Resurrection Bay planned to catch some fish! Along the way, we stopped many times to take pictures of

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The “Sunshine” Coast

Dianne and I arrived up in Alaska a few days ago, after two weeks with Justin and Shannon in British Colombia. It was absolutely beautiful there, despite rather dismal weather (Sunshine Coast? I think not.) It did put a damper

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Being a Tale of Success

A successful day for Team Animal Behavior! This was especially exciting after a washout yesterday. Our primary objective was to dive in Willow Lake to gather courting and parental males and observe color patterns on them. But with the wind

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On Stickleback & Socializing

As a certain mustache-ioed lab member recently put it: “The problem with Alaska is there are too many Alaskans!” Miguel & I have been trapping for stickleback in the Mat-Su Valley for a week now and what strikes us is the

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Daniella Swenton has just accepted a position!

Daniella Swenton has just accepted a position as Visiting Assistant Professor at Clark University. She will step in for Justin Thackeray who will be on sabbatical leave, and will thus teach a portion of Biology 102, Genetics (Biology 118) and

Sophie Valena accepted as a Ph.D. student

Sophie Valena (09) has just been accepted as a Ph.D. student in the Evolution, Ecology and Behavior Program in the Department of Biology, Indiana University, begining in the Fall Semester of 2010. This is an excellent program and was her

Daniella Swenton has just joined the Foster/Baker Laboratory

Daniella Swenton has just joined the Foster/Baker Laboratory in a post-doctoral position. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont and conducted her Ph.D. research at the University of New Mexico on the ecological and behavioral maintenance of

Rachel Chock accepted research position

Rachel Chock, Masters graduate ’08 has accepted a competitive NSF-funded research position in Chile that will begin in June 2010. She will be conducting research with Dr. Loren Hayes from University of Louisiana, Monroe and Dr. Luis Ebensperger from Universidad de Catolica in Santiago, Chile.

Zombie Fish!

One of the most fascinating aspects of threespine stickleback biology I have learned about while here in Alaska is the parasitism of our wild-caught fish by Schistocephalus solidus. As I mentioned before, Dr. David Heins of Tulane University studies this

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I’m Leaving On A… Float Plane?

Much like Jeff last year, I got to go with Matt on his annual float plane trip with Scott Christy, a local pilot and very good friend to stickleback researchers in Alaska. You know how I mentioned before that seeing

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String of Bad Luck – But We Push On!

Time flies… I’ve been up here in the Great North for six weeks now, but it feels more like the blink of eye. On June 17th, Matt Wund, our lab’s postdoctoral research fellow flew up to our neck of the woods

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Did You Ever See A Stickleback Asking For His Money Back…?

On Wednesday, June 10th, Kat Shaw (you can read her field blog here)and Jeff Huenemoerder arrived for their summer field season in Alaska. Both study behavior of male threespine stickleback, so they are well-suited for collaborating in the field. Noffer (our Forester) took a turn

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Planet Earth

  Most of the wildlife that we are exposed to while we work in the field up here in south central Alaska is seen in fleeting glimpses. Long enough to scramble for a camera, take a few shaky shots, and

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In Which We Try Many Things and Only Sometimes Succeed

  This morning dawned a bit cooler due to the rain, but we made ourselves french toast on the camp stove and packed our tents without complaint. We planned to move down to Anchor River today, but only for one

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Rain and Roses

  Today has given us a new appreciation for how beautiful the weather has been up until now. When we woke up in our tents this morning we found that it had rained. No problem, we thought. The skies looked

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And Away We Go…

…down to the Kenai Peninsula. Some of you may remember my rather epic introduction to the world of threespine stickleback field collecting from last year when Lauren, Jana Loux-Turner, Sophie Valena, and I got to Alaska in mid-May and immediately

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The Dirty Kind of Clean

Lauren and I just got back from a three day camping trip. We spent Sunday night in the Nancy Lakes area (camping next to South Rolly Lake), and then Monday night up north in Talkeetna. this involved a lot of

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Brief Note.

Hello faithful readers of the Stickleblog! To keep everyone up to date – Lauren and I are heading out to South Rolly today for our first camping trip of the season. We will be back in a few days, so

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I’m Only Happy When It Rains…. (Not)

Well, we’ve had a spell of dreary weather out here–which makes the job no more difficult, just slightly less gleeful and photogenic. It started on Tuesday. Down in Point MacKenzie the sky was cloudless and bright and all a frolicking

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Sweet Lorraine

Things have just been going splendidly for us in the field so far. Case in point: I wore a tank top the entire day today. Why is this note-worthy? Two reasons. First, it was warm enough in MAY in Alaska

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In Which Rachel Really Appreciates Optometry

  We are impressed. Everything we catch is less than 6 inches long! Today I discovered the importance of leaning away from jars of formalin. As we were picking out gravid females at Rabbit Slough, a drop of the stuff

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“Hanging tough, staying hungry…”

Despite my jet lag (Lauren is lucky; she lives in Washington state so the plane ride was only a three hour hop north and a one hour time change for her), we managed to get a normal day’s work in

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It’s the Little Things, Really

  I can’t express the glee I felt in not having to make a full day’s pilgrimage from the east coast to south central Alaska for this year’s round of collecting. In addition, the half-full plane ride which allowed me

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North to Alaska: Take Two!

It was raining in Houston. The smell of wet pavement and warm humidity clogged the walkway to my seven hour Continental flight to Anchorage. Excited Texans bound for cruises and students bound for summer adventures in the wilderness pressed in

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Animal Behavior Gives Us Grief

Back in Massachusetts at Clark University… The trials continue – both literally and figuratively! John and Susan realized the other day that if anything were to happen to Dianne (Dianne Suggs, one of our PhD students) and she was unable

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Just Call Us “Team Discovery”

Lauren and I left late Tuesday afternoon (Moody Blues, anyone?) for a five day camping trip needed to trap in the Willow and Talkeetna areas of the Mat-Su. Most of the rest of the day passed in a blur of

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The View From Here

This weekend I went camping on the Kenai peninsula for four days with Lauren and Matt. We made collections and (the reason Matt and I went with Lauren) we made crosses in the field of a few populations down in

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Camping by the Numbers

Lauren, Anna and I spent 4 days camping on the Kenai Peninsula. Four bears, a golden eagle, 29 crosses (performed on a picnic table in high winds and 46-degree temperatures), a dozen or so trapping sites, hundreds of beautiful mountains,

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The. Best. Day. Ever.

Matt is off with the water quality girls today to Talkeetna. It’s a long drive and Jana and Sophie need to complete the water quality on at least three lakes while they’re up there. Matt is going because he needs

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North of Anchorage

Jana, Sophie and I went up about 3 hours north of Anchorage to take water quality samples from several lakes, as well as to trap fish at Trouble Lake. Trouble is a bit of trouble to get to, but reaching

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View from a Canoe

Things all get switched around from time to time. It’s nice for me, not being hooked into any one specific project because apparently I will get to experience them all! The water quality team has been having some trouble with

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I Went to Alaska and I Came Back Weird

So the fearsome foursome is back together for a day or two using Pewter to tote traps and one big red canoe about the Mat-Su. The specific things we did this day hardly matter. At this point, we are used

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Pup Lake and Yard Dogs

It’s Matt’s birthday! The “death” of June. It never gets old. Matt’s friend, Scott Christy, took him and Jeff up in a float plane today. Meanwhile, Lauren and Anna gave me a day off to write — so while they

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Friends In High Places

Scott Christy, a local pilot (and retired geologist, among other things) is a great friend to our lab, and is kind enough each summer to take us in search of stickleback in hard-to-reach places in his float plane. Today he

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One Long Day

What a day. Some of the days on the Kenai were long, but this day may have taken that cake for Lauren and me. I suppose it’s partially our fault for starting later than normal due to running errands, etc.

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Lassie, the Spruce Chicken

Really need to remember to put bug spray in the van! Lauren and I went to pick up our traps at Zero Lake today and nearly got eaten alive. We also got led down the trail by a spruce grouse

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Speaking “A-lab-skan”

Late last night, the other half of our lab group flew in. They are all here to mainly work in UAA’s lab, using fish caught in the area. Matt Wund is the lab’s postdoctoral research fellow. His work is based

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News from the Laboratory

Fifth-year master’s student Rachel Chock successfully defended her thesis titled “Re-emergence of ancestral plasticity and the loss of a rare limnetic phenotype in an Alaskan population of threespine stickleback,” and walked in commencement ceremonies May 18. Rachel studied the effects of human-induced

News from the Laboratory

PhD student Justin Golub has won two prestigious awards to support his work with Susan Foster and John Baker. One award was $1,500 from the American Museum of Natural History Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Grant. The AMNH Roosevelt grant is designed to aid graduate research

News from the Laboratory

Prof. Susan Foster has been appointed to the newly established Warren Litsky Endowed Chair in Biology. This chair is established through a bequest gift from the estate of Warren Litsky, who graduated from Clark University in 1945. Susan joined the Clark University

On Rabbits and Moose (Okay, Just One of Each..)

Here are some Alaskan pics I’ve taken so far. The top photo shows Anna and Jeff at Rabbit Slough. We saw the moose, 2nd photo below, at Whale Lake. He regarded us for a few minutes, and then plopped down

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Blame It On the Rain

The weather treated us surprisingly well when we were down on the Kenai. It was cold in the mornings and at night, but for the most part we had sunshine. Today it rained. All day. Not hard or anything, but

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Homeward Bound

So, yesterday we made some rune stones to help us make decisions. For example, the decision of who showered first when we got to our unit. I won that one. After pulling all our traps from the day previous, we

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The Shish-Kablog

This is our last night of camping. The UAA residence halls open tomorrow, so we’ll be traveling back to Anchorage and moving into our main unit tomorrow night. Met some people today at Encelewski Lake who know Rich King! It

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On the Road Again

As the title clearly states, another day of driving. Nothing terribly exciting until the end of the day when we left our Hidden Lake campsite and moved down to Ninilchik in order to trap farther south. – Rachel

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The Midnight Mud Attack of 2008!

Speaking of Skilak Road … We had quite the eventful night. After throwing all of our traps and picking up the water quality duo from their last lake, the four of us spent some time in the Soldotna McDonald’s charging

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Hazy Shade of Winter

Water quality girls still figuring things out. Today, I learned how to count and preserve fish in the field. It’s so crazy and amazing to actually see this fish in the wild after studying them for years in a classroom.

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On Trapping Lakes and Flagging Tapes

First day! Lauren taught me how to set traps in about two minutes while standing on the muskeg at Watson Lake. Muskeg is great stuff; generally, one can refer to it as bogland or marsh. It consists of sphagnum moss

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To the Kenai with a Keen Eye

I suspect that in the next couple of days, I am going to really appreciate that the grant money provided the four of us in these first two weeks was used to put us up in hotel for my first

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North to Alaska!

Scene: Dulles International Airport in the early afternoon of a rainy, spring day. The terminal is crowded with people chattering on their cell phones, eating sandwiches and drinking coffee. One girl sits, notebook in lap, smoothie in hand, writing and

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Coming Attractions (or … 4 Girls and a Van)

Coming soon: The tale of what it is like to camp for seven days on the Kenai Peninsula in late May, trapping fish and taking water quality samples daily. A harrowing experience of traveling in a van packed with equipment

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Plankton Sampling in a Parking Lot…

On May 13, the day of the group photo and celebration of Rachel Chock’s successful defense, a dry run (literally) of the plankton sampling routine for Alaskan lakes was played out in the Maywood parking lot next to the Lasry

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Preparing For Adventure

Students in the Foster-Baker lab are packing for field work in British Columbia and Alaska. One post-doc, four grad students, and five undergrads are gearing up to perform field work on threespine stickleback and their lake environments from mid-May through

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News from the Laboratory

The NESCent working group, spearheaded by Dr. David Lahti at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and co-organized by Susan, has been encouraged to submit a review manuscript to Nature on the topic of Relaxed Selection and Trait Loss: Patterns and Processes. As David indicated in transmitting this

News from the Laboratory

Susan traveled to North Carolina State University to present a seminar entitled: Evolution of a model system: The adaptive radiation of threespine stickleback that was hosted by the W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology.  She had the opportunity to meet the very diverse

News from the Laboratory

Susan attends a working group meeting at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). The working group, entitled “Relaxed Selection and Trait Loss”, was organized by David Lahti, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Susan.  

News from the Laboratory

A large laboratory contingent attended the Animal Behavior meeting in Burlington, Vermont. Susan, Justin and Matt presented papers. Rachel presented a poster with support from a Charles Henry Turner Award from the Animal Behavior Society. Katherine Shaw (visiting student scholar

News from the Laboratory

Part of the British Columbia field contingent (Susan, Justin, Karyn and Natasha and Rachel) travel to Alaska, Mickey returns to Santa Barbara, and Dianne, Brendan head back to Massachusetts. Anna and Jana join them. All return from Alaska later in

News from the Laboratory

The Great Departure month. Susan, Brendan, Dianne, Karyn and Rachel fly to British Columbia where they are joined by Natasha Kelly, a graduate student at Yale University, and Mickey Rowe, a collaborator on vision/color research from the University of California