Blog

How to Ruin a Book Review

This week I read “How to Ruin Everything” essays by George Watsky. This is an incredible book documenting different parts of the artist’s life from childhood to recent developments. We learn about his struggles to overcome medical issues, fights with depression in close friends and family, along with the difficulty of living in LA and touring on the college circuit as a poet.

15474375352325155627623147671597.jpg      IMG_20181025_225131

Book.                                                                  Watsky on tour at The Rave in Milwaukee, WI

One thing that could be better is the title. This book reads more like an auto-biography full of stories and lessons the reader could learn from. For example, don’t have a pot pipe in your car when smuggling animal parts over international borders (though maybe it was dumb luck the officer found the pipe and stopped searching in the final hour). I didn’t get the sense that anything was ruined by Watsky; that is, until the final chapter, where everything does seem to go awry whenever possible. The life of an artist is difficult and rewarding and this book is a rare lucid view through the artist’s eyes from trying to make it to the first real big tour ending in dream fulfillment. 

Watsky really sets the tone for how auto-biographies should be written. The stories give enough personal details that you feel you actually get to know the author. He tells some bits from his personal experiences mixed with bits of local history and culture along with family histories for some context. Watsky is the entertainer that you need in your life. His music is uncommonly good, his shows are high energy and a ton of fun, and this book does not disappoint as an easy and fun read.

Year End Review

It was an exciting year! The big ticket items were a plenty. First and foremost, I married my best friend Tatum in February at Niagara Falls, NY. It was just close friends, so we celebrated in both Wisconsin and Louisiana afterward. It was wonderful to celebrate with friends and family at two very different, very fun elopement celebrations.

Tatum-014.jpg

Next, Dr. Warwick Allen’s final chapter from his thesis was published in Ecology this year (see publications page). This is a huge accomplishment for him; it’s not easy publishing each chapter of your thesis in the world of ecology. I was lucky enough to help him in the field and in the greenhouse on this project. There’s nothing like sharing a couple of energy drinks at 4am in a humid Louisiana greenhouse!

DSC01020.JPG

Finally, we move on to December. First, Dr. Miguel Acevedo had his review of the virulence trade-off hypothesis accepted in Evolution. Again, this was a ton of hard work and took a lot of stick-to-it-tiveness to see it through to the final product. That manuscript will be published sometime within the next year. Second, my book review of Dr. Mohamed Noor’s newest book will be published in Leading Edge magazine in the next week or so. It’s the first time I’ll be published in a popular magazine and it’s very exciting! Plus, getting to talk to Dr. Noor was a lot of fun. Finally, and probably second most importantly after the wedding, I DEFENDED MY PHD! So for the next few months, any mail sent from me will have a return address starting with “Dr. and Mrs. Flick”! It’s my little way of celebrating the two best moments so far, defending my PhD and getting married.

Defense

Summer 2017

This summer was an interesting experience. I was the teaching assistant for the LSU Study Abroad – Alaska Marine Biology program. The students spent three weeks in Juneau, AK studying the intertidal coast and learning about marine biology. There were field trips to the intertidal coast, a NOAA facility, a fish hatchery, a cruise, and the USDA forest service station. I was in charge of a dozen students that investigated how intertidal height changed species diversity of seaweeds or snail shell size. Half of the students studied muddy intertidal zones and the other half studied rocky intertidal zones. Each group found a significant effect of height on their measured variable (seaweed diversity or snail size). Check out their posters below

Alaska Poster 1

Alaska Poster 2

Alaska Poster 3

Alaska Poster 4

Here are some photos from the trip:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

ULL Graduate Student Symposium

Had a great time presenting my research at the Graduate Student Symposium at UL-Lafayette. The Elderd lab did well, Matt won first place for his talk in the Climate Change session. Dr. McClintock’s talk about his work with climate change in Antarctica was well presented and super interesting; his book, A Naturalist Goes Fishing, is highly recommended. It was fun getting to see the research going on just down the road!

ULL Poster.pngExplaining my research to Dr. Duke-Sylvester, a quantitative disease ecologist at ULL. Props to my photographer who has mad skills.

Field Work, Lab Work, Jean Lafitte NHP

This was a busy week for us here at the Elderd Lab. We were in the field at the end of last week collecting caterpillars. It was a pretty nice day, all things considered. In the next few days we will watch for caterpillars dying of virus infection as our response variable.

Bret Field Experiment

Bret bringing in another plant to dissect.

Later in the week, I set up a new lab experiment similar to bugs in bags (above), but I call it bugs in Spock tubes. Logan, Peyton, and Jacy all helped put the Spock tubes on and fill them with the appropriate amount of infected caterpillars. Hopefully, those caterpillars will be begin to die over the next two or three days, at which point I’ll put healthy caterpillars on the plants. With any luck, these data will be part of the second chapter of my dissertation.

BiST

Spock tubes all set up with caterpillars

On Saturday we went to the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve in New Orleans. It was a beautiful day for a hike and we saw a ton of cool animals. Three garter snakes, a brown ribbon snake curled up on a lizard tail plant (below), a southern banded water snake, a gator, a raccoon crossed in front of our trail (below), and a handful of fun insects and birds!

SnakeRaccoon

 

June Week 1

“Just time for a short recap of the week” John Oliver’s opening of almost every Season 2 episode of Last Week Tonight.

This week we started a field experiment investigating the effects of jasmonic acid and plant variety on disease transmission. Long day Sunday working in the greenhouse with all hands on deck. Lunch graciously provided by Bret via the El Salvadoreña food truck.

I started a predator defecation experiment last week that should be about halfway over today. Spined soldier bugs were fed an infected caterpillar and then left on plants for varying amounts of time. After the soldier bugs were removed, I added caterpillars to each plant and will measure the number of caterpillars that become infected after skeletonizing the plant (eating all but the veins). This study is happening in the lab where it’s nice and air conditioned. Especially since a nice gentleman from Facility Services fixed our air conditioning in the lab!

We also got an update from Dr. Becky Carmichael at LSU’s Communication Across the Curriculum department about our caterpillars that we will be using as part of a defense markings experiment. We are excited to get this project off the ground and will have more updates when we’ve collected data and nearing the time to submit the manuscript. Just saying, we’re probably going to revolutionize the field, no big deal.

That’s it for now, check back next week!

Matt Cats

Matt puts caterpillars on plant for defecation study