Creature Feature: American black bear

We’re about to finish checking our bird traps at Tioga Pass when I spot it– a moving black lump in the upper right hand corner of my eye. We freeze.  “Holy–” I say. “Is that…?” I slowly raise my binoculars. It is. Standing on a boulder, huffing its huge steaming snout in the morning air,…

Field Notes: Four Field Perspectives

Field biology is almost always a team endeavor. Field crews often include people with different levels of experience and biological backgrounds—and each member brings something valuable to the team, from budding young scientists to experienced researchers. Going into the Summer of 2022, my second field season researching Spotted Sandpipers (Actitis macularius), I was nervous ….

Creature Feature: Wolf Spider

It’s getting closer to her. Subtle vibrations run up her brown legs, and the starlit flashes of the cricket’s movement reach her eight night-vision eyes. But she can’t strike yet. Too early, and the slender cricket will jump away with its powerful rear legs. Too late, and the cricket will discover her and change course….

Field Frame Friday: Some snail mail for you!

There are 284 species representing 30 families of land snails and slugs currently described as living within the geographic boundaries of California. Now that’s what I call a snail-dense state! [Photo and caption by Alycia Drwencke] Reference: Sullivan, R. M. (2021). Phylogenetic relationships among subclades within the Trinity bristle snail species complex, riverine barriers, and…

Field Notes: Cattle Grazing is AMAZING!

I arrive at my beautiful field site in the Sierra Foothills a couple days before it begins. I help the folks that work at the research station move my willing subjects, adult female cows, close to where I will be conducting my assessments. I’m reminded that moving cows (or really any field work involving animals) takes longer…

Field Frame Friday: Snake is king

The California kingsnake (Lampropeltis californiae) is a wide-foraging generalist predator which feeds on a variety of prey items including small mammals, lizards, birds, and even other snakes. Though this species is broadly, anecdotally known for preying on venomous rattlesnakes, recent studies highlight dietary composition reflective of seasonal and geographically available prey [1]. In the photo,…

Field Notes: A Change of Scene

Science takes place in all sorts of circumstances, and for me, those circumstances are usually inside of a lab. They are also often spread across multiple facilities and at very odd hours of the day (or night), and those are entire research stories of their own. Nonetheless, one of my favorite things about research is…

Creature Feature: Acorn Woodpecker

In the early spring mists of the California coast, deep within hilly oak and evergreen forests, their voices cut through the morning air. Calls emerge from somewhere in the treetops, ascending in pitch and volume: Ackah, Ackah, Ackah! ACKAH!”