Apr. 24th, 2015

rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I. Tomorrow is the next Nebraska brevet, a 300k. I will drive a rental car from Lincoln out to Nebraska City, then assemble Froinlavin and ride west to Crete and back again, and will then drive back to Lincoln. This trajectory is reminiscent of some of the brevets in Texas, which came tantalizingly close to Bryan and College Station at the midpoints of the rides. My brevet gear is still relatively well-organized from last week. It's nice when the preparations are simple (aside from the rental car, bleah). The 400k will be even more simple, because it starts at the edge of Lincoln.

II. Yesterday, the departmental seminar speaker was a guy who studies the pupfish species found in Death Valley. I'd heard about the Devils Hole Pupfish before, but not from an expert, and not in the context of the other habitats in Death Valley where pupfish are found. Those teeny-tiny fish live in a tremendous range of habitats - some of them highly salty, some of them extremely warm, some of them fluctuating between extremes, some of them nutrient-rich, some of them nutrient-poor. The whole conservation story of the Devils Hole pupfish is crazy - reasonably well summarized on the Wikipedia page, although there are a handful of more recent developments. The most interesting thing I got from the talk was the notion that the thing people are seeking to save is This Specific Fish Only In This Specific Location, because any time the fish is brought out of Devils Hole, it's so difficult and expensive to maintain the exact environmental conditions of Devils Hole that the resulting fish either die out or quickly become phenotypically distinct from the fish remaining in Devils Hole. Plus, the population in the hole is small at best, tiny at worst (apparently around 34 fish are currently alive). Apparently the price humans pay to keep these fish alive works out to around $3000 per gram of fish per year. And at some point, people decided to start supplementing the food of the fish in Devils Hole. The hard part of that decision is that now they can't stop supplementing the fish, because what if they do and the fish go extinct. There are also multiple interests involved in keeping the fish alive, which makes it tremendously logistically complicated to make decisions in managing the location's care. Also, apparently the Endangered Species Act uses the word "species" twice, in the description of the definition of a "species." I suppose that's what happens when policymakers craft legislation about biological phenomena. I'll ignore the fact that biologists have been arguing among themselves over species definitions for well over a century.

In other news, now I want to visit Death Valley.

III. I caught most of Terry Gross's incredible interview of Toni Morrison on Fresh Air a couple of days back, and it has been stuck in my mind ever since. Unsurprisingly, Morrison provides a lot of food for thought, especially about her experiences with regret, revisiting old hurts, and how one's world changes as one gets older. It has been a long time since I've read any of her novels, and perhaps I will revisit some of them at some point, as I know I found them moving. Even though they are almost nothing alike, for some reason I tend to conflate Toni Morrison and Barbara Kingsolver. It would be interesting to get the two of them together for a conversation, I suppose, although each speaks with such a different, distinct voice. I think maybe the common thread is a focus on culture.

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