Washed away…

G’day bloggos!  I know.  It’s been an incredibly long time since I have posted anything to my beloved blog.  Not to fear, this week will be a flurry of blog posts on a near daily basis.

My research had been delayed a week by bad weather.  There were storms down in NZ that were producing some massive swell (waves) and it was preventing me from getting out to any field sites.  Check out this pic to see what I mean:

So, I was stuck inside writing for a week.  Not too exciting and certainly not blog worthy. However, last week I took a bit of a holiday and travelled to Melbourne and Uluru.  It was a phenomenal trip and I will have several posts about both destinations.  Apparently, the weather was even worse in Sydney during my holiday week, so I chose a good time to get away.   I was hoping to blog during the trip, but internet was scarce and extremely expensive, hence my long absence from the blogosphere.  I’m back now, full on.  Two more weeks in Sydney to finish my field work, finish a manuscript, and finish a grant proposal.

Look forward to my first trip post later today!

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Aussie Bits

Well, this past week had only one good day of tides, so I spent much of the week writing and working on parts of my dissertation.  Definitely not that exciting and definitely not a good use of my beautiful surroundings.  Spending all day in front of the computer also really drains my energy to blog and spend more time in front of the computer.  Thankfully, the tides should cooperate on Saturday again and I will be back out in the wild.

I did manage to snap a few interesting photos here and there with my iPhone, so I will share those with you all.

Right now, I am housesitting for my advisor here.  She and her family live in this great little neighborhood called Balmain.  It’s one of the “eastern suburbs” of Sydney.  It’s filled with high end boutique shops and restaurants.  Admittedly, it’s a bit of a class up from my usual style of living.  I constantly feel underdressed.  However, it’s also a beautiful spot filled with parks that line the harbor.  I snapped this one on a walk on evening.

This blurry little gem is from a pub in Bondi.  Wednesday night was the third and deciding match of the State of Origin Series.  This is part of the NRL (National Rugby League) and it’s a glorified All-Star game with the best players from New South Wales against the best players from Queensland.  Queensland has dominated the contest over the last decade, but NSW actually managed to force a third game and everyone in the state was keen to watch.  I went to the pub with some of the EAPSI fellows to watch. This sports bar was packed with people on a Wednesday night and everyone was really into the game.  It’s only the third full rugby match I’ve ever watched, but I think that we all had a great time. Queensland won, but NSW did have an exciting comeback at the end.

This sign is posted in the Cafe around the corner from the house here.  It exemplifies how Australian culture is way more receptive to sarcastic humor.  I saw this Virgin Mobile advertisement at the bus stop today too.  I thought both were pretty clever.  Blunt, dry sarcasm everywhere, gotta love it.

The Taronga Zoo

Two weekends ago, I went with a few of my fellow fellows to the Taronga Zoo.  I know, this was nearly two weeks ago and most blogs have a linear time progression, but I took heaps of pictures (check out that Aussie vernacular) and it took a while to edit all of them.  So, I apologize for any agony you’re experiences from the mental gymnastics of my blog’s timeline.

The Taronga Zoo is a quick 10 min ferry ride away from Circular Quay.  From the wharf, you can walk 5 mins to the entrance, or, amazingly, you can wait and take a bus up there (and they say Americans are lazy).  After waiting for the bus, (haha) I actually biked up the path as I had come directly from sampling in the intertidal.  It’s $30-$40 to get in depending if you are eligible for a student, military, or senior discount (I had to fight for 5 mins to get my student discount).

Immediately, this zoo won points with me by starting with marine exhibits.  Granted, it was only mammals and birds but still marine animals.  They actually have a decent sized penguin exhibit and seal and sea lion exhibit.  Both exhibits were fairly quiet as I went through, but we did catch the last 10 mins of the sea lion show (about as much as I can handle anyway).

From there, you follow a winding path through several exhibits including elephants, rainforest birds, otters, gorillas, lemurs, crocodiles, etc.  This zoo feels huge and has a lot of space not only in its exhibits, but there is also a ton of open park space.  It’s kept really nice and you really feel like you’re in a park that has a zoo.  It seems, in a lot of ways, that it was modeled largely around the design of the San Diego Zoo.  Although, I found Taronga slightly better designed than San Diego because you could follow one path and basically see all the main exhibits.  San Diego is so big that it’s almost impossible for most people to see every exhibit, but I appreciate not having to follow a map all the time to find all the exhibits you want to see.

The second show we caught was on spiders, and we got a chance to get up close with the Sydney Funnel-Web Spider, the most venomous spider in the world.  They also had a few examples of the large Huntsmen spiders (Hawaii friends, think Cane Spider).  Most of the presentation was spent debunking common myths of spiders and how they aren’t really scary.  Spiders are great!  They eat insects!  Don’t kill them!  They won’t hurt you.  Oh I almost forgot, we even had a close encounter with an Emu during the show.  They have one that is apparently very friendly.  The zookeeper had to chase him away to finish his spider show.

Right after the spider show was one of the highlights of the zoo for me, a saltwater croc. The croc was out of the water in its little display and was absolutely larger than life.  It was great to appreciate how enormous this thing is, had to be at least 10 feet long.  It also stood completely still, convincing some would be prey (children and some of the dumber parents) that it wasn’t real.  Awesome.

The zoo also has a great section on Australian fauna with an array of kangaroos, koalas, Quokkas, tasmanian devils, lizards, and platypuses.  However, the tasmanian devils were sleeping and the platypus was cryptically hiding.  Between two trips to the Sydney aquarium, a trip to the Wildlife World, and now here, I have not actually seen one platypus. So, don’t really expect to see one, and if you do, you are very lucky.

The last part of the zoo had lions, tigers, snow leopards, ostrich, bears, and a pigmy hippo! The pigmy hippo was cool to see and after having most of the animals shy and turn away from you, the male tiger was a nice change.  He came right up to the glass, checked us out, and then he actually posed.  Got one of my best pics of the day.

The zoo closes at sunset basically, so you also get a great view of the harbour as you leave and a twilight ferry ride back to the city.  Overall, I highly recommend the Taronga Zoo to anyone who visits Sydney and would put it on my must see list.  See all my pics on FB and check out the gallery of highlights below!

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Bonus: A video of a crazy Australian animal and some lemurs.

Happy Independence Day!

The 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays.  How can you not like BBQs, fireworks, and summer?  It’s one of those holidays that you usually spend with close family and friends, enjoying the summer weather.  It’s a nonsecular holiday with no religious overtones, shared by all.  And, it symbolizes one of the most amazing acts in history, a proud moment for every American.  True freedom that Australians can’t really understand considering they are still part of the Crown (sort of).

I have so many great memories from this holiday, from spectacular rooftop fireworks in NYC, to Randolph’s old 4th of July parade and fireworks, to Summerfest in Milwaukee, camping in Maine, Block Island parties in Rhode Island, and the thousands of private firework shows in Hawaii.  I’ve been seriously nostalgic all day.  For some reason, it feels particularly strange to be away from home, my family, and friends today.

I am still loving my time here in Sydney; just know that today I will be thinking of and missing all of you.

Happy 4th of July everyone!  Here’s a pic from my time down in Diego Garcia!

A Solid Week in the Field

Wow.  I spent this entire week either in the intertidal or traveling to the intertidal.  I’ve averaged about 1.5 hours a day on public transit (mostly trains or ferries), about an hour a day on my bike (I really love this Giant Roam- fast, rugged, and versatile), about an hour a day hiking out to sites, and about an hour a day in the intertidal looking for sea stars.  It has been amazingly successful, with the exception of one day that I had to spend tracking down my camera from a University vehicle.  I got it back, but somehow it took 6 hours.  I have now sampled six different localities (populations) and have sampled over 330 sea stars.

I decided that it’s probably in my best interest to not divulge every place that I have gone.  I don’t want to risk someone trying to copy what I am doing.  So, I am going to be talking about sampling sites generally from now on and trying to only share pictures that don’t have any location specific landmarks in them.  Don’t worry, this is only for my field work posts, not the tourist posts.

The whole process has been awesome and exhausting.  I haven’t felt this tired in a while.  I am looking forward to taking at least one day off this weekend, and the tides will limit me a little bit next week anyway.

Here’s a gallery of some photo highlights:  These include sites that I had to repel down cliff faces to get to, a baby blue sea star, and an angry intertidal octopus.  Enjoy!  Or if you prefer FB (there are least some entertaining captions there).

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North Head

After my sampling at Shelley Beach, I took a bike ride all the way down to the southern tip of North Head.  It’s part of the Sydney Harbour National Park, and they have some walking trails and lookouts.  Check out some of the sites below and for the full album check out FB.

What a view.  I was riding my bike along the trail and you suddenly come out of all this bush and see this breathtaking vista.  I literally stopped in my tracks and said “Holy Crap!” This was much to the amusement of the couple who were sitting right above the trail at the lookout.  Amazingly, they quickly pegged me as an American.

A stitched together panorama.

Quite a coastline to the North.  I don’t think I will be getting down there for any samples.

I thought this was an interesting site. It’s a half sunken boat being towed into the harbor. I later heard on the news that day that it was a sailing yacht that possibly hit a whale. Had a one foot diameter hole in the hull. The man was rescued, ironically, by a whale watching boat.

Redemption!

Friday, I had the opportunity to return to Shelley Beach with a good tide and ample daylight.  I easily collected all the samples that I needed in less than an hour.  It’s amazing how easy things can be when you have great conditions and you already know where you’re going and where to find the animals.

The highlight of the day was finding this apparently albino calcar.  I’ve never seen one that was bone white like this, and it was certainly alive and apparently well. Cool.  I also found a 4-rayed exigua that was fire red.  It’s next to a two Australian dollar coin that is about the size of a nickel.

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