Thursday, October 15, 2009

Even professors play hookey

With a dozen Inorganic Chemistry exams to grade, laboratory experiments to prepare, committee meeting minutes to distribute and galley proofs still waiting for "proofing" on my desk, my response to Mark Bouman's invitation to join his Science and Society class on a field trip to the Indiana Dunes was fairly obvious.


Dr. Tim Bell from the Biology department lead us on a guided tour of the Indiana Dunes Succession Trail.  We started at the waterfront, and the view of the Chicago skyline from that part of the lake was a new sight for many of the students (of whom two are engineering majors and one a chemistry major, so the science part of the class was well represented).  Dr. Bell pointed out a variety of dune features, emphasizing the "living" quality of the landscape.  We then proceeded to collect data, which made me feel better about the spontaneous departure from my office.  The students were tasked with making measurements of air and ground temperature, ground-cover height, soil moisture content, and illumination. 

I was busy picking over the remaining wild grapes and testing to see if juniper berries really did taste like gin.  That is, until we came across "Mo," a monarch butterfly who was taking in his last breath.  He was a great specimen for the class to look at, and we soon learned that he wasn't dead, just very cold.  We decided to hold on to Mo and see if he could be revived. (...and whoever said CSU doesn't care?)  You may ask, how does he know it's not a girl?  Those who know me wouldn't be surprised that I know how to tell the sex of a monarch butterfly, but you can google it to be sure. Despite being cold, it was a great day to be outdoors and the students started asking questions about changes in the color of the soil as we moved from the dunes close to the water and into the dunes approaching the forest.  It was also interesting to note that as we moved away from the water, the difference in the air and ground temperature decreased.  Time was limited, so I wasn't privy to more data analysis.  I was assured, however, that I could take the soil samples and analyze them in the new JEOL 6610LV Scanning Electron Microscope that was installed in the Biology department a few weeks ago.  So expect to hear more about data from the dunes in the near future.

But alas, you'll hear no more about Mo.  Not only did our efforts to warm him up revive the butterfly, but he even made it back to campus in one piece and survived a night in my office.  His fluttering around and smashing in to things left Mo wing pieces on my desk, and I made the tough decision to return him to the wild, knowing full well that the atypical temperatures would mean the end of Mo's cycle of life.

[Thanks to Mark, Tim and the whole Science and Society class for allowing me to spend the afternoon with them.  It was a pleasure.]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are reviewed before being posted.