Showing posts from 2016

Little house in the big woods

"But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.  She thought to herself, This is now .  She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”   - Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House in the Big Woods Right now, I am on the living room couch at parents' cottage in northern Michigan. The newly-decorated Christmas tree is glowing to my right. My brother is clad in his team's colors, watching a football game. Dad and I are clacking on our laptops. Mom is somewhere upstairs.  It's my tradition to spend Christmas at the cottage, and this year is no different. Wel

The Messiah

From his podium in the center of the room, John waved his arms to get everyone's attention. There was a row of wind players seated behind him, a harpsichordist facing him directly in front. I was in the first violin section, off to his left. The pews were filled with people - sopranos and altos in the front, tenors and basses behind. A handful of onlookers were seated in the balcony. Director John Yankee leads the Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra, Falmouth Chorale, and community members in a warm-up I was astounded by the sheer number of people that had shown up. I had no idea there were so many musicians in, of all places, Falmouth, Massachusetts. Every year around Christmas, the Falmouth Chorale and Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra invite the community to participate in a reading (they call it a "community sing") of Handel's Messiah . The Messiah is an oratorio, a massive work for choir and orchestra. The 50+ movements tell the story of Jesus Christ, from

The journeyman

Way back in the day (and in some places still nowadays), people learned marketable skills through apprenticeships. They worked under the direct tutelage of a master, observing and absorbing skills as they went. I've compared graduate school to an apprenticeship in the past, and I still believe that science, for all of its fanfare and academic regalia, boils down to an apprenticeship system. A recently-graduated apprentice does not become a master straight away. First, they must hone their skills and develop their own unique style. In the Middle Ages, apprentices who had recently finished their training traveled the countryside, seeking work wherever they could find it. I suppose nowadays we would call them free-lancers, but the proper term is actually "journeymen." Friends, if graduate school is an apprenticeship, then a post-doc is a journeyman - one who has spent years observing a master, has completed all the required training, but is still not a master themselves


"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." - Robert Louis Stevenson It's a gray day in Woods Hole, and I can see the thick, pale clouds covering the sky out my office window. They form a solid canopy, wrapping my world. My succession experiment won't really take off until the spring, so in the meantime, I'm getting prepared. I'm reading. I'm planning. I'm playing around with new ideas, and I'm networking. WHOI is actually an incredible place to network. The scientific caliber here is extremely high, but the culture is also very open. Every time I meet someone new, they are genuinely interested in hearing about my work and freely tell me about theirs. I've made several connections with other post-docs and scientists at WHOI. There's the senior scientist who taught me how to identify local tunicate species and the PhD student who could teach me a new analysis technique. There's a physical oc

Boston in the fall: Part 2

"Well I've never licked a spark plug And I've never sniffed a stink bug And I've never painted daisies on a big red rubber ball And I've never bathed in yogurt And I don't look good in leggings And I've never been to Boston in the fall" - "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" from the childrens' series Veggie Tales Statue of John Harvard on the campus that bears his name.  Apparently it's lucky to rub his left shoe. On our second day in Boston, Stefanie and I took a short ride to Cambridge to see the campus of Harvard University. I had been to Harvard once before but never had much of a chance to look around. I've got to admit - the atmosphere on the campus lives up to Harvard's grand reputation. Most buildings were red brick and surrounded by deciduous trees. Some of the larger ones had columns and inscriptions along the top edge. Stefanie and I both wanted to find the Science Center (naturally) but laughed wh

Boston in the fall

"Well, I've never plucked a rooster And I'm not too good at ping-pong And I've never thrown my mashed potatoes up against the wall And I've never kissed a chipmunk And I've never gotten head lice And I've never been to Boston in the fall" - "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" from the childrens' series Veggie Tales Stefanie and I in Boston Commons The above song quote is absolutely ridiculous but perfectly fitting. Because guess what! I have now officially been to Boston in the fall. I met up with my dear friend, Stefanie, in the city for the weekend. Stef and I met on a research cruise in the Arctic in 2011, and we've spent the past five years bouncing around the world for our research. We try to meet up whenever we're on the same continent, and it usually works out once a year. Stefanie's been working with collaborators in Montreal for a few weeks, so we decided to take advantage of our (relative) geograp


"From the rain Comes a river running wild that will create An empire for you Illuminate! There's a river running wild that will create An empire for you" - "Empire" by Of Monsters and Men Friends, last Thursday was Thanksgiving in the United States, so I used the holiday weekend to spend time with family. My parents and brother made their way out to Cape Cod, and I was eager to show them my new place in the world. They got to see Main Street and downtown Falmouth. I showed them my office in Woods Hole and the dock communities I've fallen in love with. The Cape is my domain, my new arena, and I relished the chance to show it off. It was a lovely weekend.  Dad, Wes, and I on a floating dock in Woods Hole's Little Harbor. Photo by Angela Meyer. Slipper limpet shells on a beach in Falmouth Falmouth Harbor Showing my brother a bryozoan on a dock in Eel Pond, right outside my building. Photo by Angela Meyer Falm

Windy city

"I just blew in from the windy city The windy city is mighty pretty But they ain't got what we got" - the musical Calamity Jane Blustery and beautiful. Seen from Woods Hole village Man, is it windy in Woods Hole today! My bike ride to work took fully twice as long as usual this morning, because I was battling a strong headwind the whole way. This air is bitingly cold and furiously fast. I decided to grit my teeth and visit my settlement plates , no matter how strong the wind was. They've only been out for a week, so I didn't expect much to be living on them yet, and I was right. They were covered in a thin film, but there weren't any animals yet. Barnacles around here usually settle in February-March, so I may have a long time to wait. In the meantime, I'm working indoors to set up new projects. My succession study will have a field component and hopefully also a lab component, so I'm working with my advisor, Lauren, to design a productive

The manifesto

Friends, it has been a long day. When I came into my office this morning, I thought I would have a slow start. As it turns out, several important things happened while I was away from my e-mail, and all of them showed up in my inbox this morning.  For one, my inbox held three different requests from other scientists for a copy of a paper I had written. It's not unusual for scientists to ask each other for papers, even if they've never met before (as was the case with all three of my requesters), but the paper they were requesting was (I thought) not even published yet! It had been accepted months ago but was still in production - or so I thought. Well, turns out the paper had just appeared online. Find it here: I'm very proud of this particular paper, because it served as the introduction to my dissertation, and in a way, it has become my manifesto. When people ask what I specialize in, I f

Feel invincible

"You make me feel invincible, Earthquake, powerful Just like a tidal wave You make me brave" - "Feel Invincible" by Skillet There is something so satisfying about working with my hands. Starting with raw materials and shaping them into a product. I love having something I can point to at the end of the day and say "I built that." In preparation for my succession study, I wanted to outplant racks of settlement plates on some docks around WHOI. The plates are really just for me to play around with - nothing quantitative or high-pressure. I'll monitor them over the winter and early spring just to see what is where and get familiar with identifying small recruits of the local species. I should also double-check if my assumption that barnacles recruit first to a substratum is actually true. My creations Well, settlement plates don't just fall out of the sky; I had to build them. Fortunately, my advisor had enough supplies from previous stu

The octopus in the corner

My office at WHOI is in the corner. It's in the corner of the lab, which is in the corner of the building. When I first moved into my office, I noticed there was a whiteboard on the door with a drawing in the corner. I guess this means I'm the octopus? I've spent a lot of time in my corner recently, just reading papers at my desk. The first part of any project is getting acquainted with the pertinent background information, which means diving into the literature. It's a lot of reading, which takes a lot of time. At least I have a comfortable reading space.  The second thing I've been doing to prepare for my project is getting familiar with the local fauna. My experimental organisms are all drawn from local docks, so I've met with various other researchers who know the local species. It's a learning process, but thankfully, the forms are all pretty distinct. I'm learning the most common species around Woods Hole are all non-native, meaning they

Jump around

My office at WHOI is right on Water Street, so I have a front-row view of all the activity in the village. There's a ferry from Woods Hole to Martha's Vineyard that docks right across the street from my building. Every time the ferry takes off from the dock, it sounds its horn. One long blast, then three short blasts. It sounds like the beginning of a rap song from the 90s, and my brain fills in the rest of the song . Oh boy. On a more serious note, I legitimately love it at WHOI. I have several projects starting up that I'm very excited about. My main project, the one I proposed when I applied for my current position, concerns succession on subtidal substrata. Ok, let's break that down. Succession is the process by which organisms replace each other over time. "Subtidal" refers to any habitat permanently covered by water - that includes everything from the underside of a boat to the deep sea. For this project, I'm focusing on shallow subtidal habitats


I am lying on my back on Surf Drive Beach. To my right, the sky is striped. Orange sky, gray clouds, yellow sky, gray clouds, blue sky, gray clouds, dark blue. To my left, warm lights from homes stretch in an arc across the horizon. A green beacon flashes every few seconds. In front of me, the sea gently licks a rock. Above me, tiny white sparkles emerge. "I lay my head onto the sand The sky resembles a backlit canopy with holes punched in it... And in this moment, I am happy, happy" - "Wish you were here" by Incubus I am lying on my back on Surf Drive Beach. I think of my friends and family far away, wishing they could see these stars. I think about how blessed I am to have such a solid family rooted in the Midwest. I think about the branches of my network across the world, running like vines on multiple continents. They form a tangled web, and I fall on them like an acrobat in a net. "We will wars undo Make the oceans blue Paint the heavens with st


There's a recurring skit on Saturday Night Live in which Kenan Thompson plays the host of a ridiculous talk show. There's not actually much talking on the show, because any time a new guest enters the stage or says something silly or really does anything at all, Kenan and his band break out into song. The music is peppy and loud, and the lyrics are simple: "Whooo-eee! What up wit dat? What up wit dat?" He has background singers who salsa behind their microphones, and Kenan dances across the stage. Anyway, the whole thing is ridiculous. And for the past week, every time I've told someone that I work at WHOI (whoo-ee!), my brain has chimed in with "What up wit dat? What up wit dat?" Ugh . Now that I've been at WHOI a couple days, I can give you my first impressions of the institute. First off, this place is huge. Two-campuses huge. Official-policies-on-everything huge. Huge. I've worked at a large institute before (the Alfred Wegener Institut

Shining sea

"O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain; For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood, From sea to shining sea" - "America the Beautiful" by Katharine Lee Bates Possibly the most famous person from Falmouth is Katharine Lee Bates, author of the poem (now a common patriotic song) "America the Beautiful." There's a Katharine Lee Bates Road in downtown Falmouth, and her birthplace is just a few blocks from my house.  The last line of the first stanza, "from sea to shining sea" was converted into the name of a bike path along Cape Cod, the Shining Sea Bikeway. The Bikeway runs right along the ocean and is in my opinion the best way to get from Falmouth to Woods Hole. Check out some of the views I captured along the bike path today.

Coast to coast

"I made these wishes with you Went coast to coast And we both felt so alive. We traded safe for something That just had to be And we almost lost our minds." - "Be the young" by Yellowcard There's a theory in ecology called "parallel communities." It's not very widely accepted just because there are so many exceptions to it, but the theory goes like this: communities in similar habitats are all alike. For example, on rocky shores, you get encrusting sponges and bryozoans. You get filter-feeding mussels, predatory sea stars, and kelp below the low tide line. Maybe in the Pacific you get 5 kinds of sponges, one species of mussel, one species of sea star, etc., but in the Indian Ocean you get a different mussel, a different sea star, and 3 different sponges. Maybe you get red and brown algae instead of proper kelp. The organisms vary, but the roles those organisms play don't change. The community functions the same. Got to admit, I'm

The roadtrip: Part 8

Falmouth, Massachusetts The Manhattan skyline, seen from New Jersey I have arrived! For the last day of the cross-country drive, my parents and I set off from Maryland and headed northeast. We cut across southern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It was beautiful, hilly country, and the closer we got to New Jersey, the less my mom could resist using her imitation  Jersey accent. Oh my goodness. So entertaining. The highlight of the day was definitely going through New York. Believe it or not, the best route to Massachusetts took us straight through New York City - the Bronx, to be exact. None of us had ever been to NYC before, so seeing the big city was very exciting. We actually got a great view of the Manhattan skyline as we approached the city from the New Jersey side of the Hudson river. Falmouth on a sign! After New York, we headed through Connecticut and Rhode Island. We crossed numerous bays and rivers in both states, enjoying lovely views along the way. The closer we g

The roadtrip: Part 7

Hagerstown, Maryland The Wild Women of Charleston wine label This is it - the final push east! I set off from Ohio earlier today with both parents in tow. They'll help me move in, and I'm extremely grateful for such a supportive family. Before I tell you about the drive, I actually have to back up. When I moved into Oregon four years ago, my mom and I stumbled upon an hilarious item in a wine store in Coos Bay. It was an Oregon-made wine labeled "The Wild Women of Charleston, OR." Charleston is actually where my lab, OIMB, was located, so we couldn't resist purchasing the bottle. The wine spent four years on my kitchen counter as a conversation piece, and then made it across the country with me to Ohio. My last night before the final push to Massachusetts, we opened the bottle of wine. And sipped it. And spit it out. After four years on my kitchen counter, the wine tasted exactly like a solution of grape juice and vinegar. Oh, but what an amazing label!

Good to be alive

"We hold on to each other All we have is all we need 'Cuz one way or another We always make it, you and me" - "Good to be alive" by Skillet Wes and I before the concert. Detroit, Michigan There's no way I could leave the Midwest without spending some time with my brother. For my final stop on the Friends and Family Tour, I hopped south to Detroit to see him. If I had to name one person who's had the most impact on my personality and my tastes in the last few years, it would be my brother, Wes. He's the reason I listen to metal. He's the reason I chose snowboarding over skiing and stuck with it when I sucked. He taught me everything I know about football, lacrosse, and body-building. He's the reason I'm not afraid of guns. Seriously, without my brother in my life, I would be a prissy little twinkle-toes. One of the many things Wes and I have in common is an affinity for the Christian rock band Skillet. Yes, they're name

The U.P.: Part 2

Marquette, Michigan Lauren and I in downtown Marquette It's a beautiful day in the U.P. I've moved over from one friend's house to another, spending time now with my friend Lauren. I shared a dorm room with Lauren my third year at NMU, and she too belongs to the Club of Kirstin's Former Roommates, Labmates, and Neighbors Who Got Married Shortly After Sharing a Small Space With Her. Lauren is a great friend. We actually knew each other from high school before rooming at NMU. She's one of the few friends I've held onto from my hometown, and we've grown and changed together over the years. On the NMU campus We went strolling through downtown Marquette and stopped at Lauren's favorite bakery. We watched movies and ate gargantuan bowls of popcorn. We spoke German to each other and drove her husband nuts. While in Marquette, I also took the opporunity to visit my alma mater, Northern Michigan University. I hadn't set foot on the campus i

The U.P.

Marquette, Michigan Do me a favor. Picture the state of Michigan. What do you see? The mitten? The Great Lakes? If you're like most people, you're picturing a mitten-shaped peninsula flanked by Lake Michigan in the west and Lake Huron in the east. But guess what - you're missing half the state. It's ok. Most Americans (even some Michiganders) regularly forget that the Upper Peninsula exists. Some people think it's part of Wisconsin; others think it's part of Canada. Most just ignore it or forget it's even there.  Amy and I made banana bread! The U.P. is isolated, but it's also a gorgeous part of the world. It's largely empty, with only small towns dotting the map and untamed forests in between. Those who live in the U.P. call themselves Yoopers, and they love to be outdoors. The U.P. was settled primarily by Finnish immigrants, so Yoopers are hearty people. Winter is their favorite season. Camping, fishing, and hunting are their go-to

The grafted tree

Ohio I'm on my parents' couch right now, listening to my mom and sister pore over a box of my great grandfather's belongings. I'd be over there too, but Mom already showed me the box in August. My dad is at the kitchen table behind me, looking something up on his laptop. My sister's fiancé is upstairs. Ah, it's good to be in Ohio. All of us at trivia night I told you I'd be spending some time in the Midwest before settling in Masschusetts, and that's exactly what I'm doing now. It worked out for Kendra and Seth to visit Ohio while I was in limbo, so I wanted to make sure I was here and could see them. They live in Michigan and don't make the trip south very often - this is actually their first time at the house in Ohio. It's been fun for me to tag along as Mom showed them the town. Mom is so enthusiastic and knowledgeable - we joked that she could record her voice and sell copies of a guided driving tour of Ohio. Of course we ha

The roadtrip: Part 6

Ohio After almost a week on the road, Mom and I made it to my parents' home in Ohio. We chose a route that took us through 5 states, across 3 rivers, and through very hilly terrain. We started out by crossing the Mississippi River from Missouri into Illinois, then across the state line into southern Indiana. A bridge across the Ohio River took us from Indiana into Kentucky, then across a state line into West Virginia. Finally, we crossed the Ohio River one more time to enter Ohio. I had been through Kentucky before but never spent much time there. I loved seeing the rolling hills, the horse farms, and something I hadn't seen since we left the Oregon coast: trees! I mean, of course there were sparse trees in each state in the West, but never dense forests lining the highway. It was always short, dry grasses or farm fields. Kentucky is the first time since Oregon that we've seen a solid cover of trees. Now that we're in Ohio, Mom and I will be staying put for a few

The roadtrip: Part 5

St. Louis, Missouri The "famous hill" outside Columbia, MO, which offers the most sweeping view in the state. Today was a short driving day. Mom and I are finally in the Midwest, so we are getting back into familiar territory. We made our way across Missouri today, through much of Mom's old stomping grounds. I didn't take as many pictures of the landscapes, just because the terrain was more familiar to me - much of my extended family lives in Missouri, so I had been in the state many times before. We used the opportunity while in Missouri to spend time with family. Most of my relatives live in or near St. Louis, so we all gathered at my cousin's house for dinner. It was an awesome evening, and I'm so glad for the opportunity to see my family in Missouri!

The roadtrip: Part 4

Kansas City, Kansas Kansas After leaving Denver, we headed east across Colorado and into Kansas. I always thought of Denver as a city in the center of the Rockies, but we were out of the mountains almost as soon as we left the city. We dropped over 4,000 ft of altitude in just a few hours. The landscape in eastern Colorado was characterized by rolling hills and farmland, and it flowed effortlessly into Kansas. As we drove, I saw plenty of wheat fields, corn fields, and more cows than I could count. There were also numerous wind farms on the horizon, with regularly-spaced windmills as far as the eye could see. With all the flat terrain in Kansas, wind travels almost unobstructed. It's easy to see why the Wizard of Oz opened with a tornado! We finished the day in Kansas City, where Mom and I have extended family. We don't often get to see our Kansas relatives, so we took the opportunity to spend time with them. It was so much fun! I'm officially over 2,000 miles aw

The roadtrip: Part 3

Denver, Colorado Day 3 of my cross-country roadtrip adventure began at the Great Salt Lake. Neither Mom nor I had ever seen it before. (A family roadtrip when I was growing up took us to southern Utah, but we missed the northern part of the state that trip.) We were both curious about the lake and decided to check it out while we had the chance. I certainly learned a lot. Great Salt Lake The modern-day Great Salt Lake is a small remnant of a much larger body of water, Lake Bonneville, that covered parts of Utah, Idaho, and Nevada earlier in geological time. The modern lake is only 12 feet deep on average but has 4 times the salinity of seawater. It's a terminal lake, meaning it has no outflow, so any trace of salt carried into the lake from the surrouding drainage area gets trapped there as the water evaporates. Because of the high salinity, the only animals in the lake are small crustaceans called brine shrimp. Birds come from all around to feed on the brine shrimp, leadin

The roadtrip: Part 2

Salt Lake City, Utah The second day of cross-country travel took me through southwestern Idaho and into Utah. I have just a few things to say about Idaho. First, the landscapes are absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous. Stunning. We started in terrain very similar to the Oregon Badlands, then watched as the land flattened out and became covered by potato and corn fields. The closer we got to Utah, the more mountains there were. The second thing I have to say about Idaho is that it's obvious Idahoans love their state. We saw exits for towns named Paradise Valley, Bliss, and Eden. Now that I'm in Utah, I just can't get enough of the mountains. As my mom and I were walking to dinner, we kept our eyes to the sky and the horizon, just drinking it all in. What a gorgeous, gorgeous state. "In eastern Oregon, they make such a big deal out of the Oregon Badlands. Sure, it's beautiful terrain, but where I come from, the land looks exactly the same, and we just call it..