Category: Science

Photography Challenge day 112: Fungi Sunday

I know it should be Fungi Friday, but I did Fishy Friday last week, and feel like showcasing a couple of fungi pictures today.

Small fungi growing at the lake.

So we are still wet enough, that there are some mushrooms still popping up here and there. I almost walked pass this small group of mushrooms.

I particularly like how I also managed to get the spiderweb with the morning dew in the photograph as well.

Some of the mushrooms looked like they’ve had better days

Since these guys are so small, it looks like they’ve been walked upon a few times. These could be fairy inkcap mushrooms (though that’s only a guess and trying to compare them to other images on the internet). In theory if they are fairy inkcap, they’d be edible–but the only wild mushrooms so far that I’ve eated are oyster mushrooms (those I know how to id).

Then there is the more traditional death-cap mushroom (or toadstool)

Then I saw a single toadstool mushroom in the middle of one area–which makes me think that within a couple of days (possibly by the weekend) there should be at least another three or four popping up as well. I’ve hardly seen just one toadstool mushroom before.

I think that another mini-goal for this year is going to be trying to see how many other fungi pictures I can throughout the rest of the year.

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Photography Challenge Days 103 & 104: The soft-shelled turtle makes an appearance.

So today’s post is a double, since I decided to go computer free last night. Instead of being on the computer–I watched Captain Marvel instead. Loved the movie (and a mini review is pending).

So on my walk this morning I noticed that there was an odd grouping of turtles on a log–two were red-eared sliders and the third is either a soft-shell turtle or a snapping turtle.

Three turtles on a log

When I zoomed into the picture–the tail of the turtle in question looks like it could be a soft-shell turtle. The snapping turtle tail usually has several ridges on it, so unless this is a young snapping turtle–I’d put it down to a soft shell turtle in the lake.

Which makes since I think that I got pictures of it on a smaller log last week on my walk:

I think someone is a little to large for the log.

At first I was wondering if somehow a larger red-eared slider had gotten stuck on the log, until I walked a little further and got a look at the face. I’m thinking that it was just irritated that the log wasn’t as big as it looked from afar (or from underwater).

And here is another view that gives a better look at it’s face:

It’s got a pointy nose–I’m thinking it’s a soft-shelled turtle.

So besides keeping my eye out for the turtles in different areas–I’m going to be keeping my eye out for the soft-shelled turtles as well. These guys are quite large when compared to their harder shelled relatives.

There are actually two species of soft-shell turtles that live in Oklahoma–the smooth & spiny soft-shelled turtle. The only way to tell the difference is that the spiny soft-shell turtle has distinct spines on the front & back end of the shell. Currently I’m going to go with the identification that they’re the smooth soft-shell turtles living in Boomer Lake.

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Photography Challenge Day 100: More Boomer Lake reptiles.

Since it’s been super wet, and I’ve been doing late morning/early afternoon walks lately I haven’t been seeing as many birds. Though the low bird sighting is also due to me not walking around the upper parts of the park (where there are more trees). Therefore I’ve been trying to see if I can spot more turtles, potentially more snakes, and then other wildlife as well.

Sliders found a new sunning spot and some company.

So I noticed on my walks that since the water levels are still elevated, some of the trees and logs have been submerged, while others have been brought to the top of the lake.

This log is usually a little more submerged, but due to the rains it was brought closer to the shore and the turtles have decided to take advantage of it. Then I noticed that they had company on the other end of the log.

Nice size water snake sunning itself on the other end of the dead tree.

When I looked towards the other end of the tree, I noticed the nice size water snake sunning itself. I did try to get a closer picture, but it slid off the log and swam into the submerged bushes at the shore line.

As I’ve told a couple of people, as long as the snake doesn’t rattle (and if it does–I back away very quickly), or have a white inner mouth (luckily I’ve never seen a water moccasin up close before), and I notice it’s there–I’m fine with snakes.

I know that when they startle me, I’ve startled it–and it is actually more scared of me than I am of it. I’m trying to work on small little phobias like this–I doubt I’ll have one as a pet, but at least I can see one and not freak out. I can almost say the same for spiders–but I do freak a little when I see a poisonous one in the house.

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Photography Challenge Day 73: The water snakes are waking up

So when I was on my walk this weekend, I decided to check on an area to see how many turtles were out sunning themselves–this has turned in an almost weekly occurrence–checking for turtles. Then I noticed that there was someone else on one of the logs along with the turtles.

Turtles and water snake sharing the log.

The winners of today’s photography challenge are the two water snakes that I saw on my weekend walk. While I’m not a herpetologist I’m only going to make an educated guess on the identification of the snakes—based on other pictures I’ve seen on different sites about Oklahoma water snakes. One looks like it could be a plain-bellied water snake. The main reason is that it does look to have a yellow belly.

I think this is the plain-bellied water snake.

Some interesting facts about the plain-bellied water snake include:

The female will give birth to 5 to 25 baby snakes in the late summer, and when they’re born the baby snakes are between half a foot and foot long already.

They can get between two and a half and four feet long.

They eat fish, frogs, tadpoles and salamanders.

They can be confused with the cottonmouth (due to similar coloring), but they are actually members of two different families. Also when swimming, the plain-bellied water snake has half its body above the surface & half it’s body below the surface; while the cottonmouth typically swims on the surface of the water.

Either a larger plain bellied water snake or a diamond back water snake.

The other snake is either a larger plain-bellied water snake or it is possibly a diamond-back water snake. Both snakes are found in Oklahoma, and they are both in the same immediate area (since I don’t know the specifics of the snakes—I don’t know if they defend a territory or not when it comes to the mating season).

I will admit that I’m not really a snake person—though if I know that it is harmless (like these water snakes), it is in an enclosed area (like looking at snakes at a zoo), or it is a very good distance away (looking at it through binoculars) I’m not really scared of snakes. I know that they are beneficial for the environment (eating rodents and such), and that they are better at pest control and if they’re around one wouldn’t have to use poison to get rid of mice and rats.

It will be interesting to see this year if we get enough rain if they start moving away from the lake area for hunting.

References:

http://www.oksnakes.org/plain-bellied-watersnake.html

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Turtle Tuesday: Photography Challenge Day 23 (short post)

Turtles sunning themselves at the lake.

Today’s photograph is of a group of freshwater turtles that I spotted sunning themselves two weeks ago up at Boomer Lake. I know that there are a good number of freshwater turtles at the lake, it is just a matter of timing (making sure that I’m out when both the sun is out and the air temperature is fairly nice) and knowing where to look for them.

They like to collect on the limbs and fallen trees that allow them to crawl out of the water to warm themselves in the sun–but also allows them a fast getaway if they feel threatened. Though I think at times they notice people taking their pictures and they slid back into the water until the photographers have moved on. I’m hoping to see these guys a little more often, especially if I do my walks at Boomer a little later in the morning.

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Science Sunday: Wasp Nests–Photography Challenge Day 21

Today’s science Sunday post is dedicated to the architecture of a specific group of insects: wasps. On yesterday’s walk I noticed that there was (hopefully) an abandoned wasp nest lying on the ground. I’ve noticed several of these over the months, and have photographed them from a safe distance (just in case there were any stinging residences still present).

Part of a wasp nest lying in the grass

You can see that this was part of a nice size wasp colony since there are numerous “honeycomb” openings on the nest. This paper like structure was built from wood fibers that the wasps collected and chewed in to a pulp and then shaped into the “honeycomb” hexagon. Each opening had the potential of becoming hatching grounds for eggs laid by the queen wasp.

So here are some cool little facts about wasps:

They can come in a variety of color.

Cicada killers are a type of wasp.

They all build nests—which they build from wood fibers that they chew into a pulp.

They are either social (these include yellow jackets and hornets) or solitary (cicada killers as an example).

One of the major benefits of wasps is that they are predators to almost all other insect pests (either food or host for the parasitic larvae of solitary wasps; such as cicada killers), and be used to help control agricultural pests around farms and other areas.

If they sting—they can sting more than once (and it also means that you’ve upset the females as they are the ones with the stingers).

I give all members of the wasp family space in the spring, summer and fall—though I will admit that I’ve swatted at yellow jackets mainly because I want to keep them away from my drinks (or food) when I’m outside during the nice weather. Also there are times when I think cicada killers could use glasses for hunting their prey (I’ve had those things buzz me way to often during the day).

References:

1. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/group/wasps/

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Science Sunday: Photography Challenge Day 14

Today’s double post (photography challenge and science Sunday) is moss.

Moss is one of the more primitive plants, where they don’t have flowers and actually reproduce via spores. There are about twelve thousand species in the group (which scientifically is called the Bryophyta). Though they play an important role in various ecosystems—especially when it comes to erosion control.

It looks like moss……..

I took this picture of moss a few weeks ago on campus, as moss generally grows in the shade and where it’s moist—and we’ve been moist the past couple of weeks with all the snow, ice, and rain we’ve been getting. There is one general area that is fairly shaded and in the path of runoff water that allows for the moss to grow in late winter and early spring.

It may go on my bucket list—getting out into the national parks/forests and getting some more photos of moss in different elevations and areas of the country.

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Science Sunday and photography challenge day 7: Cat’s whiskers

Decided that today was going to be a two for one post: a new photo and then some of the science behind the topic. So I decided for the first double Sunday post, it would be on cat’s whiskers.

Pancakes’ long whiskers around her nose.

Most of us think of the cat’s whiskers as the pointy hairs on their faces (namely around their muzzle), but they can also have on other areas of their bodies such as their ears, around their jaw, and their forelegs. These hairs are actually called vibrissae and are used as sensors in their day-to-day lives.

When a cat brushes up against an object their whiskers allow them to determine the texture of the object, its location, and size—and it doesn’t matter if it’s light or dark around the cat.1 They’re also extremely sensitive, which makes sense if they’re sensory organs and have a higher supply of nerve endings and blood to the area. I know for a fact that my cat doesn’t like to drink from the water bowl if it’s too low as it presses against her whiskers.

They can also serve as one of the many emotional barometers for cats (along with ear and tail positioning).  For example in the picture, Pancakes’s whiskers were standing out sideways, meaning she was relaxed (and totally use to me taking pictures of her—though she was still giving me a dirty look—probably for waking her up). Though if the cat pushes their whiskers forward this could mean they’re excited, and if they’re flat back against the their cheeks, it mean they’re scared or extremely irritated.2

Have you paid attention to the directions of your cat’s whiskers?? How often are they forward or flat against their cheeks?

References:

  1. https://www.livescience.com/44196-why-do-cats-have-whiskers.html
  2.  https://www.catster.com/cats-101/cat-whiskers-facts
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Photography Challenge Day 4: Looking at the machine

So I decided that the photography for today’s challenge was actually taken at work earlier today. We had our yearly maintenance done on the DNA sequencer and there was one little issue that was discovered:

There seems to be some crystallized polymer on the array

So we knew that the array was having some issues, but they were issues that we could (and will continue) working around. When the door to the array was opened, it turns out that two of the little capillaries are broke and are leaking polymer every time I run the machine. This blob is about a year’s build up of polymer.

The 3730 Sequencer

This is what the machine looks like. This is the toy that I get to play with on a daily basis, running Sanger DNA sequencing for the university and off campus customers.

If I’m still in the position next year, I will get to see the array get replaced, and I may even check on the stage of the polymer blob formation over the next couple of months as well.

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Weekly Update on Job Transition Plan

So I’m currently in the process of trying to move my job transition into industry into a higher gear than what I’ve been doing for the past year. I’ve realized that I’ve allowed having a job to give me a little too much breathing room, and that I need to start acting like the job is going to be ending and kick things into high gear.

So one thing I’m going to be trying to do is write at least one weekly summary of some of the things I’ve been doing over the week in pushing the transition forward. Read More

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