I took part in the "Meet a Scientist" portion of the festivities. Carrying around my lion skull instead of a protest poster was a great conversation starter. I talked to a lot of people about conservation, lions, bones, genetics, graduate school, etc. I passed my card out to teachers who were interested in having scientists come talk to their students and ended up having a great conversation about Conservation Genetics with someone who said they had never heard of it before. It was exhausting but I had a lot of fun.
Once upon a time, scientists had faith in their president and government. They believed they were advocates of progress and defenders of the planet. These days, massive cuts to funding, freezes in government agencies employing scientists, and attacks on facts have caused a lot of doubt in our government and it's relationship with science.
Yesterday was Earth Day and thousands of scientists WORLDWIDE marched to show solidarity for the importance of science. I attended the Bryan/College Station March for Science which was small but did a great job of including the local community. As one of the largest research universities in the United States, Texas A&M University does a lot of ground breaking research but most of the community probably doesn't know much about it unless they are directly associated with it in some way. After the march we had a Science Town Hall. There were science demos, the opportunity to "Meet a Scientist" and talks on how science is a part of everyone's life.
I think our little event was a success. And, as for the marches around the globe, I don't know how much it will effect policy, but it got people excited about science. And support from the public is just as crucial to policy as support from politicians, as one can lead to the other.
This month’s College of Veterinary Medicine Graduate Student Association Meeting had a very interesting guest speaker. Dr. Henry Musoma of the Mays Business School spoke to us about the Journey from Pathetic to Prophetic and, basically, how to be a good person, particularly in academic research. His speech took up almost the entire meeting time and was incredibly entertaining and meaningful.
Without rehashing his entire speech, he made some good points that I wanted to share:
He ended his speech by saying, “Don’t be impressed by me, be inspired by me.” I think the humility in this statement speaks wonders.
Along with the ever so important work of its graduate students, the Derr lab is also a core lab providing sequencing services and a service lab which provides bovid DNA testing. And a few months ago, those services were put to the test when the Derr lab took part in some investigative reporting being done by a South Carolina news station involving some bison meat that was suspected to be falsely labeled. Floyd, our trusty lab manager & sequencing master, sequenced some meat for the news station which they obtained and sent to us from the vendor to test what kind of bovid the steaks being sold were. Turns out... they were just your basic beef from cattle, not bison! Busted!!! Check out the story below.
Test results show shoppers not getting what they paid for at local butcher shop
Click "Read More" to read the full article from WBTV - CHARLOTTE, NC
My research has officially made it into the news! Yesterday, an article (below) was published about my research on Safari Club International Foundation's online news source. No too major but it's one heck of a start and very exciting! Now I guess I better produce because we've officially told the world. No turning back now.
Weekly Update: SCI Foundation Funds Lion Genetics Project
Despite the array of propaganda in today’s media that paints a bleak picture for African lion populations, the truth is, most of the facts are false. We don’t know how many lions lived in Africa a century ago. We don’t even know how many lions existed a quarter-century ago. And for genetics, there currently is a lack of knowledge about genetic diversity of lions.
Genetic diversity is directly related to a species’ ability to survive and thrive. Generally speaking, the higher the genetic diversity in a population, the more resilient that population is to threats on their survival. Threats may include in-breeding depression, disease, competition from other species, and changes in habitat, among others. Understanding the resiliency of a species can give great insight into the future of that animal. Therefore, SCI Foundation has recently funded a study to examine both historic and present day African lion (Panthera leo) genetic samples to determine whether any changes in the genetic make-up of this species over the last 100 years has any indication on its ability to thrive.
Using modern biotechnology, this collaborative study with Texas A&M is using genetic samples dating back to the early 1900s to document historical lion population numbers and changes in overall genetic diversity. Tissue, bone and hide samples will be collected from over 10 museums in the U.S., Europe and Africa.
With this information, researchers will compare levels of genetic diversity from lions in the past to provide a baseline for determining the genetic health of current populations. Ultimately this project has the ability to set the record straight amongst the emotional cries about the downfall and genetic vulnerability of the lion. Science is the cornerstone of wildlife management and this research could provide much needed insight into an issue where feelings often trump fact.
Twice a week, SCI Foundation informs readers about conservation initiatives happening worldwide and updates them on SCI Foundation’s news, projects and events. Tuesdays are dedicated to an Issue of the Week and Thursday’s Weekly Updates will provide an inside look into research and our other science-based conservation efforts. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more SCI Foundation news.
To whom it may concern:
There has been a major overcrowding issue within the Consideration Seating area of Kyle Field this season. This section requires ticket holders to be seated but the amount of tickets sold for this section does not allow the space for the holder to, in fact, be seated. This is a major liability issue for the stadium and the Consideration Seating section needs to be renumbered taking into consideration that many of the ticket holders sitting in this section are not there because they don’t want to stand during the game but because they are physically unable. Breaking attendance records should not come before the wellbeing of your patrons.
At this week’s game against Ole Miss (October 11, 2014) my ticket was for section 236, 3rd row, seat 7, however, I was unable to sit in my designated seat. This wasn’t an issue of other patrons sitting in incorrect seats; it was an issue of overcrowding. [Included] is a photo demonstrating how we were attempting to fit in the space allotted.
There were four of us displaced from our purchased seats in my row alone. The other three ticket holders were able to stand on empty bleachers close to our section but I am physically unable as I am a physically disabled student and require Consideration Seating to attend football games.
As pictured, I tried sitting on the edge of the seat, leaning forward but was in too much pain to endure this position for more than half a quarter. I asked the attendant, who was being as helpful as he could, to see a supervisor but the supervisor was of no help. All they did was check that we were all holding tickets for this section, which we all were, but did nothing to alleviate the situation. In pain, I asked the attendant if I could get a chair to sit in the wheelchair area but he said that is only available when set up before the game. Since I was under the impression my ticket would allow me enough space to sit, I could not have possibly been able to set this up before the game. I had to sit by myself on the ledge of the stairs, which I would assume is against fire code, as there were no other seating options available to me, as informed by said attendant.
As mentioned above, this section requires ticket holders to be seated and, therefore, needs to provide enough room for ALL ticket holders in this section to sit. Actions should be taken to alleviate this situation to prevent any potentially more serious situations for disabled patrons from occurring.
Yesterday I helped host yet another Cheetah Conservation Fund event but this time in Texas! A few weeks ago I was asked to join the team planning the event, recruiting people to attend the VIP meet and greet for Dr. Laurie Marker's last stop on her Spring Tour in the USA. It took place at Redstone Golf Club in Houston with special guests Kito and Kiburi, six year old cheetah brothers from the Houston Zoo!
Laurie talked about me a few times during her talk, which made me feel very special. She even introduced me to the crowd as "one of her kids." It was a great event, perfect for shmoozing with people of like interests (including poop lovers). I met business owners, world travelers and fellow graduate students. Plus, I always like to hear Laurie speak about the cheetahs.
Thursday was a total pain in my ass. Why you may ask? I had a few glitches which created quite a dilemma...
All is not lost and shit could definitely be worse.
Now it's time to pound the pavement and get 2013 off to a better start.
On March 12th I signed the offer, on March 19th I faxed a copy, mailed the original and emailed the graduate adviser (wanted to make sure they knew I was serious), then on March 20th, I received the reply "Great! Look forward to having you!" I am OFFICIALLY going to graduate school!!!!
This morning on my way to the San Diego Zoo to collect another panda fecal sample I got the most amazing news EVER! I have been offered a spot in the Graduate Program in Genetics at Texas A&M!!! I am officially going to graduate school!
This is one of those moments in life that proves that if you have a goal and you stick with it, you CAN succeed! Never let anyone make you think that you aren't capable of pursuing your dreams. I was shot down time and time again but I never gave up. I persisted and sought to improve myself. It took 5 years, a lot of blood, sweat, tears and rejection letters but I did it. And while knowing I am going to graduate school is overbearingly exciting (it still doesn't quite feel real), I am even more excited for the next leg of this journey, actually BEING IN graduate school!
I am a biologist and my life is crap!