They Finally Let Me Outside for Good Behavior (or Something…)

In the past two weeks, I’ve actually gotten to go outside three times for work. Wow! Imagine that – a biologist actually being allowed to go outside…since I have no window in my office, I’d practically forgotten what sunlight is like. Which may explain the pale, pasty complexion and vitamin D efficiency that I’ve fallen prey to lately…

Anyway, I spent two days looking at project sites on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, which is my new turf. On the first day I got to see my first endangered arroyo toad, along with some of the beautiful beaches and heavy amphibious vehicles the Marines use in their water-to-land assault operations (guess which I was more excited about).

On the second day, I assisted one of our office ornithologists in his weekly endangered least Bell’s vireo nest surveys. Which was really cool – we found several nests with eggs and chicks, and lots of other cool critters as well. I’ll put a link to some of the more interesting photos to the right so you can view them all!

The following week I participated in searching for endangered light-footed clapper rail nest surveys at the Tijuana Estuary just south of San Diego. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work! We were walking around in boot-hungry mud and cord grass trying to find nests with eggs, but not step on them. We only found three nests with eggs, and they all appeared to be viable (I checked the fetal heartbeat with the Egg Buddy) so we didn’t collect any of them for contaminants analysis. We did take one egg back to the refuge to be incubated, as it appeared to have been abandoned by the parents. We saw several clapper rails, but they’re very speedy so I didn’t get any pictures of them. But I did get lots of other photos, so take a look at the slide show link to the right. I was completely filthy and muddy and sweaty and sore, but I also had a really great time – I think I might have even got a little sun on my neck. But just a little…I was wearing a big hat and plenty of sunscreen. I’m still working on keeping up that pale complexion and vitamin D deficiency…

Hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the spring!

Guess How Many Green Sea Turtles I Saw?

Today was a good day, one of those warm sunny autumn days that people actually come to visit southern California for. My friend Nicole and I headed down to the marina at Chula Vista to join up with a group of sea turtle enthusiasts (which also included my friends Tamara and Kari) and kayak out into the bay in hopes of getting a glimpse at one of the elusive marine reptiles. The San Diego Natural History Museum sponsored the program, so we got to hear a local sea turtle biologist talk about the different local species of turtles and ask a few questions. And lucky for you, I took the risk of bringing my camera along with me in the kayak so that I could snap a few pictures of the turtles we would surely see.

We paddled out of the marina and headed south towards the power plant where the green turtles hang out because they like the warmer effluent water. It was just a little breezy – enough for us to keep cool but not strong enough to make paddling difficult. It was soooo relaxing bobbing around in the waves; I saw an osprey and several flocks of Brandt’s geese, along with lots of other diving sea birds and jumping fish, which I think were mullet.

So while I didn’t see any sea turtles, I still had a good time, except for getting two blisters on my hands where I was holding the paddle. But I didn’t lose my camera, or tip my kayak, or accidentally cause anyone to bail out of their boat. So all in all, I can probably call the morning a success! Here are a few pictures to enjoy – you can see more through the slideshow link to the right.

In the Presence of Greatness at Comic-Con!

Oh my god, Comic-Con was so much fun. I was a little anxious about going, since I don’t like crowds much and dealing with parking, but the whole day went off without a hitch. Nik and I were fortunate enough to purchase tickets over a month ago, and it’s a good thing because the event was sold out weeks ago. My main objective was to see Lynda Barry, my all-time favorite cartoonist, and to meet Ray Bradbury, a long-time friend of Nik’s. And the day was a success! I could go on and on in detail about the whole thing, but I’m sure you’d rather see the pictures than read a long ramble about all the crazy storm-trooper wannabes, the hordes of comic-crazy people, and Erik Estrada trying to dodge crowds by putting on a silver Mardi-Gras style mask. Well, too bad – I’m going to ramble about the day’s events anyway.
Actually, we parked only about four blocks away, and didn’t have to wait in line at all for our badges at registration. I wanted to go see Matt Groening and Katey Sagal, who were speaking in the Futurama panel first thing, and that was when we got our first experience of the long lines at Comic-Con. Amazingly, even though our line extended almost back to La Jolla, we got into the ballroom which was only about half-full. Wow! After we watched the panel discussion for a while, we headed up to Forry Ackerman’s conference room (Nik used to work for him), but he wasn’t there…I guess he had spoken earlier and we missed it.
Then, the highlight of my day – I trekked down to the Exhibition Hall to find Lynda Barry. Now let me tell you something. This was like finding a needle in a haystack. First, you can’t see one end of the hall to the other. It is HUGE!!! And there are TONS of people there – the event was sold out at 125,000. So, it was me against 124,999 other people trying to find Lynda. The day before I had assembled my velcro-t-shirt message to say “HELP ME FIND LYNDA BARRY” but it wasn’t working so great. However, after only about 30 minutes of wandering around in a sensory-overload stupor, I found myself in front of the Drawn and Quarterly booth, who published Lynda’s last book. I asked the girl behind the table, “can you please tell me where Lynda Barry might be?” and she pointed over her shoulder and lo, there she was. Just sitting there! Talking with people! I finally got to approach her and gave her a copy of the ‘zine that I wrote about my favorite women cartoonists (featuring Lynda, of course), and she was so happy and warm and amazing. We had a nice conversation – I can’t quite remember about what, but I’m fairly sure that I just gushed about how amazing she is and what an inspiration she has been to me for nearly my entire life, and how she wrote me back when I wrote to her and I started to draw cartoons and eventually was published in a weekly paper but now I’m a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service, so go figure. And she said that biology was where it is at, and we chatted about marine snow and cephalopods. Awesome. See – pictures! That’s Lynda worshipping me, and me pretending to be bored (that was Lynda’s idea, by the way).

Well, I was happy. I didn’t really care what happened the rest of the day. We scarfed down a quick lunch, then made our way towards the room where there was to be a panel discussion featuring the writers of “The Office”, including Rainn Wilson, who plays Dwight Schrute. The line wasn’t long, so I was sure we’d get in. Psyche! The line was CRAZY long – it went down the hall, out the door, wrapped around the back open area, down a staircase towards the bay, then down another staircase, then up a staircase, then out to Escondido. I changed the message on my shirt to read “Mrs. Schrute” in hopes of increasing my chances of getting in, but alas, about halfway towards the shuffle to the room, we were informed that the panel room was at capacity and there was no way we’d get in. Oh well! So, we dashed through the autograph area where I saw Erik Estrada donning his mask and got Katey Sagal’s autograph. Then Nik and I wandered around the Exhibition Hall again, which had gotten even more crowded, and I purchased a Dwight Schrute bobblehead and a “Science Bitch” t-shirt, and lost one of my tree of life earrings which I’d been wearing every day for about the last six years.

Me and Nik waiting in line for “The Office” panel, somewhere near Mira Mesa.

Me and my new boyfriend (the one in red. The guy on the left was a dork.).

This guy’s sign read “Free High Fives!”, which I cashed in on. However, I did not redeem the sad-looking “Free Hugs” guy’s offer.

It was then time to try to find Ray Bradbury. Nik had Santiago’s cell phone number (who was responsible for moving Ray around in his chair), but we weren’t able to cross paths prior to Ray’s speaking engagement. But, we got good seats in his spotlight lecture, and afterwards went over to say hi. Ray immediately saw Nik and gave him a warm hug hello; we then followed him with his entourage and adoring fans to the autograph area for an impromptu signing. After that, we escorted Ray through the Exhibition Hall (“step aside, Ray Bradbury coming through, move out of the way please!”), out the back through the loading dock area, to his limo. We were invited to join him for dinner, so after saying another hello to Lynda, we walked back to the car and drove over to San Fillipos’ Italian restaurant near the Hillcrest area. So, it was me, Nik, Ray, Santiago, the limo driver, a bookstore owner guy and another guy eating spaghetti and chatting about books and film and Ray’s influence on pop culture in general. Did you know that Ray was there at the very first Comic-con? And, he insisted that the Academy watch Schwartzenegger’s first film Pumping Iron, launching him on his trajectory towards governatorship? And, he’s the one who said that Rocky should end sad but, in losing the fight and winning love, it would really end happily? And the biggest message of all – it’s all about love? Do what you love, do what you love. I didn’t say very much because how could I? What do you say in the presence of a genius? I sometimes live by the saying that goes something like “better to stay quiet and think that you’re an idiot than to open your mouth and let everyone else know it.” Suffice it to say, I was just honored to be included in the group and take everything in.

Ray Bradbury and Nik, just prior to leaving in the limo for dinner.

Anyway, that’s the rundown – I’ll put all of my pictures online in a Picasa album that you can get to by clicking here. I hope you enjoy it! I know I did.

Dad and Mom’s Visit to San Diego, Days 1-2

Wow – Mom and Dad came to visit me from St. Louis and we did SO MUCH that I have to break my blogging up into three parts! Plus, I’m staying home sick, so I have plenty of time to do so, but more about that later.

I picked up the folks on Saturday (March 15) and we had lunch at one of the best places to eat in Escondido, the French Bakery, downtown. It was tasty! After that, we went back to my apartment and just chatted for a while, which also included Teddy Bear barking his head off for about a half hour. They stayed at the Best Western, just down the road from where I live, and I was relieved to see that it was relatively nice (not charging by the hour was among my first criteria for selecting a hotel in the area, which ruled out a lot of places). Amazingly, we did not take any pictures this day!

Which brings me to day 2. Let the whirlwind begin…

We had plans to go to my cousin Beth’s (and her husband OB’s) house for lunch in Oceanside, so we decided to first drive out to Encinitas. We walked down to Swami’s beach memorial (just ask me about Finnish sisu), toured the Self Realization Fellowship’s Meditation Garden, and tried to find a flower shop that was open. During our ride over to Oceanside, my odometer passed the 150,000 mile mark! Woo hoo!!! Beth and OB served up some delicious fish tacos (a California favorite), and from there we went to Sea World. Mom and Dad got free tickets from a friend who works at Anheiser Busch, so that saved us a TON of money. We saw the Shamu show, checked out the bat rays, the penguin exhibit, and the Arctic Exploration exhibit, which is my favorite part of the park. Below are a few pictures, but click HERE to go to my picasa web album to see them all.

Jes and John’s Wedding

Mark and I were invited to attend Jes’ wedding to John, which happened July 13 at Breaker’s Beach on the Coronado Naval Base. It was such a pretty spot! The beach is only open to military personnel and their families, and they rented out a really nice little deck hall for the wedding and reception. I know Jes from working at the Wild Animal Park, but she recently moved to South Carolina, so I’ll miss her. I also got to see a few old friends from the Wild Animal Park that I hadn’t seen in a while – yay Emily who just had a baby girl a few days after the wedding! I miss you guys!!! Waaahhh!!!

There ARE some good things about my job…

It’s good that I can get outside every once in a while. You know, away from my desk, my computer, my office without a window…

Today I got to hike around Lake Calavera in reviewing the City’s trails program. It was such a nice day out – sunny, not too hot, a nice breeze. There were about ten of us on the hike and about eight of us walked over this poor little guy without realizing that he was even there (and to tell you the truth, there were so many dog and coyote turds all over the trail, my eye probably dismissed this baby rattler as a dog dump. But don’t tell him that!).

Hhhiiiisssssssssssssssss!!! (Translation: don’t tread on me!)

What did we see when we went whale watching???

We saw lots of things…but no whales! Matt and Alyssa, for the second week in a row, failed to see any whales. So that settles it – clearly they are bad luck, and next time I go I will not be going with them! But I had a good time anyway – we saw a sea lion, a couple of dolphin, lots of kelp, and actually – we did see the spray from a whale but it was kind of far away and by the time we got there the whale had disappeared. No worries though – it’s the end of the season, but the whales will be migrating back in December and I have a pass for two to go again. So here are some photos of our adventure, even though there were no whales, it was a good time!

Here’s a seagull that was following us for quite a way.

Here’s the view of San Diego from ten miles out to sea.

Oh, the excitement of it all…