This semester I am teaching a course called Endangered Species Conservation. I find that most people have no idea what a course with this title is about, so I’ll explain. First, an endangered species is an animal (or plant, or other living organism) that is exposed to one or more risk factors that could lead to the species’ extinction. Thus, a course on the conservation of endangered species should explore the reasons for the heightened risk and what can be done to lower it.
I am a wildlife biologist, but I am just as likely to be found swimming in the Resnik Pool at Saint Vincent College as I am watching birds fly over the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve or the campus wetlands. I took some time during my sabbatical to consider how similar the transportation modes of swimming and flying are to one another and wrote an article to put my thoughts in order.
Several colleagues teased me this week about my sabbatical being over now that the semester has ended. Fortunately though, I can continue my research activities until August. I started this blog to chronical my sabbatical and I had the intention of writing a post about once a week. I maintained that frequency through March, but the time between posts has gotten longer as my personal and professional lives have gotten busier. On the personal front, I have just become a first-time homeowner! I can’t imagine going through this process while teaching full time, so I am thankful that my sabbatical has coincided with this big life step. I am now moved in, and I know where most of my stuff is, even if it is still mostly in boxes.
It is finally spring! Like everyone else, I have been waiting and waiting for the cold temperatures of winter to break and the sun to come out. Spring weather means I can go for a run or bike ride… which I will do later today. The warmer temperatures have also allowed me to work on another planned sabbatical project that was on hold until recently.
I waited a little longer to write this blog post because I couldn’t think of a topic to write about. Figuratively, I’ve got a lot of open books and none are very close to being finished. So here are a few things I’ve done since you last heard from me:
I will write about writing this week. I am on sabbatical and finding plenty of time to “write.” I put that word in quotes because not all writing is actual writing. Obviously, I write with the aid of a computer, and for me, the amount of text on the screen at the end of the day may not be much more than what was there in the beginning. Writing is a slow process. I can type a lot faster than I can write! Confused? If so, maybe I should re-write this paragraph to make it clearer. But that will take too long. Like I said: slow.
I am trying to stay away from my normal work responsibilities while I am on sabbatical, but this is hard for two reasons: (1) I like what I do at work, and (2) there are some parts of my work that would be left undone if I was not there to do them. Both these reasons are true for the annual Bioethics Forum in the biology department.
I just resubmitted an article to a peer-reviewed journal. As I mentioned in one of my first blog posts, my former student Dakota Hutchinson, C’14, and I took his senior thesis in Biology and converted it into manuscript form. We sent it to the editor of a national journal that publishes undergraduate work, and she sent the paper to two anonymous reviewers. The reviews came in, and over the last month, Dakota has done most of the work responding to the criticisms and suggestions of the reviewers.
I took a look at Dakota’s revisions, made a few revisions of my own, and sent the 22-page manuscript back to the editor today. I expect she will accept the changes we made and then forward it to the publisher. There are lots of details here I am skipping over because I want to share with you what our research was about.
Dakota studied “anting” behavior. I will let our article’s abstract speak for itself:
Is this really my 5th blog post? Already? Maybe this sabbatical of mine is going to go even faster than I thought.
That’s certainly true of this past week. Where did the time go? I spent less time in the office and more doing personal things with family and friends. The work on campus I did include another couple of letters of recommendation, purchasing a book and some software for my research, planning the bioethics seminar I am coordinating next month, and making sure my junior and senior research students are being attended to while I am absent. I also read some scientific articles about animal home ranges, and unsuccessfully searched for a data file I need to finish my home range analysis manuscript.
All of these are possible topics for a blog post. But today, I want to talk about community service--because that was what occupied a lot of my time this week.
I really like the first week of classes because the energy and excitement is high among the students. What interesting things will we learn? What exciting things will we do? I am on sabbatical this semester, so I am not getting questions like that from students, but the questions are still worth asking of myself. I will surely learn a lot during these months, and there will be plenty of excitement. So far though, I’ve simply been staring at a computer screen and just beginning to formulate a strategy for finishing my paper on Downy Woodpecker home range size.
That’s right. I am about to write a paper about the amount of acreage individual woodpeckers use as they go about their lives finding food, finding mates and playing musical instruments. (I have no evidence for the latter, but who’s really to know? Not many people study these birds.)