Many things are afoot in The Ramble. These are heady days, as winter approaches and fall settles in; the North erupts in glorious color. It is the season of birthdays, football, the World Series, and lots of travel. Last week I was in Athens, Georgia for a work related meeting. Athens was like a last taste of late Southern Summer before cooler temperature and grey skies settle onto the North. The weather was great, the work was excellent, and the beer was outstanding. We went to a brewery call Terrapin Brewery. They cannot sell beer on the premises, but they can sell you a souvenir glass and allow you eight 4oz tastings. Well those 4oz pours look more like 8 and the eight tastes turned into more like twelve since other people didn’t want to use all of their tastings. The science was also great; actually meeting your collaborators face-to-face once in a while helps foster the spirit of cooperation and a little competitive drive which helps push everyone forward on our many tasks. Yesterday, my brother, Brian, came into town. Sara and I will be showing him the wonderful things that Duluth and the surrounding areas have to offer. Lunch of smoked fish and a lighthouse visit, a little late afternoon shopping for a present for the lovely Julie (my sister-in-law), and perhaps some dinner and drinks at one of the many fine establishments in Duluth. Saturday, maybe a trip to the farmers market and short hike to enjoy some of the fine weather and changing leaves and potentially a corn maze. The next weekend brings about AppleFest in Bayfield, WI, an event which I have yet to attend, but I’ve heard good things about. The next weekend brings my 20th high school reunion, so I’ll be traveling back to Cincinnati, to catch up with some old friends, plus maybe watch a little football. After that I’ve got a couple of weeks off till I am traveling to Nashville, TN to another scientific meeting. This meeting is going to be a big opportunity to network and figure out what jobs are available and where those jobs might be.
The week after that is Thanksgiving and the whole clan is meeting in Cincinnati for a festive time with turkeys and tree hunts. That is a lot of rambling.
Another thing I wanted to write about is the progress of GOAL 298. While it has been slower and harder than I had anticipated, I’ve lost almost 40 pounds from the start of things and walked about 290 miles. Every month has presented challenges, whether it was moving in August or traveling a lot in June, but I’m making progress. As this life adaptation goes along, I built in some little self-rewards along different milestones. As I approach 40 pounds lost my self-reward for each 40lbs down is a new tattoo. This one, like the last one will likely be fish related. I really love piranhas and some of the best artistic renditions of piranhas come from an Alaska-based artist Ray Troll. It turns out Ray and I have mutual friends at Amazonia Expeditions, having both been on trips with Mo, Jr, Isolda (and the rest of the family and crew). He turned his trips into some fantastic artwork, while I converted mine into a Master’s degree and a lifelong passion for the Amazon, and all the wonders within (particularly the fish). So I wanted to commemorate this love of fish and Amazon with some good art. To that end I emailed Ray about putting some of his art onto my arm. I didn’t want to reproduce his art without permission. He emailed back right away saying it was cool, as long as I emailed a picture back to him of the finished product. So I’ve got a few choices that I’m mulling over, but I’ll probably wait for a little bit to have it done.
One final note for this post: I’ve discovered a new talent latent within my plethora of other skills. I can spot waste water treatment plants (WWTPs) from aerial photographs with uncanny quickness. So much of my job focuses on evaluating biological responses to chemicals of emerging concern. Chemicals of emerging concern (CEC) are a wide variety of compound which are present in the environment, but at generally very low levels. These levels are generally so low that by the standards of industrial pollutants they were never given much consideration at all. Well over the past decades the threat of many of those industrial pollutants have been reduced significantly, allow researchers (i.e., me), if not regulators, an opportunity to focus on other chemical constituents of environmental pollution. The emerging part of emerging concern is on the part of researchers; the chemicals have likely been in the environment for a long time and often continue to enter the environment. One on the main differences is that while historic pollutants had toxic effects at high concentrations, many of these CECs have the potential to have adverse effects on aquatic organism at low concentrations because they have biological active components. For example many of these are pesticides and pharmaceuticals that were down the drain and sewers from our homes, offices and hospitals and into our waterways through sewage treatment plants. This is why this new skill, finding WWTPs through aerial photography, is so helpful. Now when we are designing a study or evaluating some data from the field I hop on Google maps or Google Earth and scour my study area for the treatment plants and try to envision how that plant is contributing the overall amounts of CECs in the system. Yes, this is a nerdy skill with a long explanation, but luckily I’m the right nerd for this job.
I hope today finds you all well, and that you enjoyed reading this blog. To those who read it, feel free to comment if you like either on the Facebook link or directly on the blog page, as I enjoy comments and could use a rousing troll battle if one might ensue.