Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Awesome Dead Shit of the Whatever Time Period We Damn Well Please: Crocodylus anthropophagus

This month(ish, whatever) we are featuring one of our cold-blooded cousins, Crocodylus anthropophagus. For those of you who don't speak greek, let's break down the scientific name: the word "anthropos" means "human" in Greek and "phagos" is the Greek word of "eater." Yes, that's right, the human-eating crocodile.

It's all fun and games until someone's ancestor gets eaten by an enormous extinct crocodile.
The existence of this man-eater brings Amy a particularly large amount of joy right now. See, Amy joined an Anthropology department where she gets to cuddle dead monkeys (you can follow that horror-fest on Instagram if you like) and loves it, but she also has to take a lot of other anthropology classes cuz nothing in this world can be perfect.

And so, a poor vertebrate paleontologist with a background in geology can feel like being the odd duck out in an anthropology department. Amy occasional suffers from apoplectic fits about the small number of specimens but huge number of conclusions drawn in many scientific papers about human evolution. This month to metaphorically work out some of that "human evolution is stupid" rage she is supremely pleased to discuss the only Plio-Pleistocene animal that brings her true happiness, the ancient crocodiles that ate the human ancestors everyone places so much damned importance on.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Gimme Some Mo' GMO

It's our blogiversary this week, did you know that? It has been two glorious years of science, antler earrings, strange google search terms, and failing to write a post every month about a dead animal we liked (sorry!). It's been a great two years, and we're excited for many many more. When we started writing, we imagined a blog where we could talk humorously about awesome science and science-related things, and also bitch heavily about some of the pseudoscience we encounter on the regular. We also daydreamed about fame and fortune, neither of which have happened just yet but we're patient.

HOW ARE WE NOT FAMOUS YET THOUGH SRSLY

Bitching about bad science or non-science masquerading as science has always been a big theme of the blog but doesn't yet have its own label. It should. So for our blogiversary, we'd like to debut a new tag (pseudoscience is a pain in our ass), and introduce it with an irritated post about the  anti-science, anti-GMO movement.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Love Letter to the University of Oregon

I, Meaghan Emery, love my job.

Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much
Like all good jobs, mine is fascinating, challenging, filled with the support of amazing co-workers, and is preparing me for my future. Also like many good jobs, mine is exhausting, sometimes bewildering and full of bizarre red tape, and frequently follows me home. My job is salaried, which is a fancy code word I've learned means "work more than this number of hours," and divides up in the following ways:
  • about 20 hours of actually paid time in the museum or the classroom depending on my exact role that term 
  • about 20-35 hours of technically unpaid research time which is often eaten up by proposal-writing instead
  • and about 5 hours of bitterly wasted hours answering emails and attending meetings. 
Sometimes I work weekends but not always - sometimes I can go climbing instead. My job helps subsidize the conference I attend each year (so professional). I have health insurance - like, we're talking really good, 15$-massages-without-referral health insurance. Oh, and I get paid well enough to pay my bills and buy new climbing shoes when I want them, rather than when I need them.

I have this fantastic job for two reasons: because my department and my advisors value and emphasize the importance of a healthy work-life balance, and because my school has a union that advocates for me, protects me when I am weak, and works hard to keep the University an amazing learning environment and workplace.

Our excessively patriotic union logo.
Yes, we see what you're doing there, GTFF, with your subliminal "THE UNION IS FOR 'MERICA" message.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Deadly Truth about Paleontology

Paleontology may seem like a tame, safe science where only the studied objects are dead, but beware! Certain aspects of paleontology are JUST as dangerous as letting an inquisitive tortoise near your testicles, or getting your fingers between a frog and your iphone! Adrenaline addicts Amy and Meaghan are here to tell you the deadly truth.

Raptors: Not the biggest threat.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Deer Poop in the Backcountry: Anecdotes and Advice from Amy

Oh yeah I'll collect anything to spend all day here!
Working in the field is the whole reason I (Amy) wanted to pursue paleontology. Fieldwork gets you up close and personal with the elements, which makes the science even more rewarding. That being said, field work can also suck a lot if you aren't prepared. Field work has many different demands, but whether  hunched over steaming rocks all day in full exposure to the sun or hiking through dense trees and scrubs with bears all around, you need to be able to handle the weird shit field work sometimes throws at you.

Smiles for poop!
This last spring I spent 6 weeks on Revillagagedo Island (Ketchikan, AK) and Gravina Island collecting deer poop for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG), Wildlife Conservation division. Now the reasonable question you might ask is why the hell anyone would get paid to count deer shit. Deer turds are an excellent indicator of animal population and health, which is important to the ADFG who have to determine how many of those delicious animals we can kill and eat for dinner each year. Additionally, how healthy and overflowing the deer population is impacts the need for predator control, cuz humans aren't the only ones in Alaska who love fresh venison. If there are too few deer and too many wolves in the area it is the state's responsibility to check the population of the predators by killing some of them. So essentially I was paid to collect shit to determine if wolves needed to be shot from helicopters. YAY SCIENCE!