Wow does time fly!

Wow, I cannot believe it is already halfway through December! Time really does fly when you are super busy. Sorry to everyone for the lack of posts of late; November and December got away from me work wise. Between research and teaching, I ended up having a pretty full schedule, but I was able to accomplish quite a bit! I managed to go to New York City to meet up with my former lab mate, Rusty Ligon, and photograph a bunch of different hummingbirds for a comparative study. I also took a for fun trip to Fort Collins, CO, to visit another former lab mate, Brett Seymoure. And I graded a lot, and I mean a lot a lot. But the good news is, I am done teaching for the next few weeks. Now its time to catch up on some research stuff and more importantly, blog more! I have quite a bit of backlog for blog post ideas, so here are a few things I will write about over the next few months (in no particular order):
– Hummingbirds at the American Museum of Natural History
– Field work stories (and fails!)
– Advice on how to write grants
– Hiking in the snow of Rocky Mountain National Park
– Birding around Phoenix
– Advice on how to balance work and play as a graduate student.

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An American avocet and black-necked stilt at the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch.
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A blue-tufted starthroat specimen from the American Museum of Natural History.
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Snow covered mountains at Rocky Mountain National Park.

I plan to have the first one out by the end of the weekend and then one a week from there. I look forward to getting back into this, and I hope you all enjoy!

And we are back!

Hello everyone! I’m back from a brief hiatus, but do not worry, this blog is not going away. Over the past few weeks I was working on a very large grant for the National Science Foundation (NSF). This grant is called the NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant and is worth up to $13,000, so it is worthwhile to put a lot of effort into it. I wrote my grant to do some additional lab work on hummingbird feathers that I will not be able to accomplish without the grant (more later if I get some pre-funding for pilot data). This is a highly competitive grant with people all over the country applying. Wish me luck, because I’ll need it!

I submitted it last week and then took an awesome trip throughout Northern Arizona and Southern Utah to visit 6 National Parks over ASU’s fall break. Each of these parks were absolutely amazing, and I will have a post for each with lots of pictures. Look forward to many fun posts to come and below are a few teaser photos!

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Zion National Park
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Bryce Canyon National Park
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Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Crazy Monsoon Storms in Phoenix

These past several days, we have had some pretty intense monsoon storms in the Phoenix Valley area, which caused us to say good-bye to a very large and old tree from our yard. Below is a photo (from when I was in Flagstaff) that illustrates what these storms can look like from a distance.

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For those unfamiliar with this monsoon-weather phenomena, during the latter half of the summer most of Arizona receives several to many rain- and sandstorms that make up a large part of our annual rainfall. These storms can be very intense. The sandstorms (also called haboobs) can reduce visibility to just a few feet and be dangerous to be outside in, especially while driving.

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The rainstorms can turn into fierce thunderstorms, which cause flash floods and sometimes even wind damage. Two years ago when I was in Flagstaff, one such storm turned into very intense rain- and hailstorm that occurred caused a lot of tree damage and major flooding.

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Well this year, we had been experiencing a fairly boring monsoon season in the valley until these past few days, where we had a major thunderstorm every night. Last night’s was the worst by far. I saw the storm approaching from a distance and it reminded me of some of the doomsday storms in movies. There were lightning flashes every second, and it looked like a massive wall of rain and wind heading towards me. As I got home, the sky was almost completely black and the wind picked up. During the peak of the storm, wind speeds hit 60+ mph and caused major damage throughout Tempe and Phoenix. Over 50,000 people were without power from this storm. For us, we not only lost power, but lost one of our two beloved MASSIVE pine trees in our yard. The tree fell over around 8:00 PM and missed our house by a mere few feet. At the same time, the tree missed my car by a foot AT MOST! We were lucky last night, and I definitely feel like I should buy a lottery ticket or something. The tree is a huge loss though. It completely blocked the street and created a ton of debris in our yard. Apparently the tree had been in the neighborhood since the 1950s, so it was huge and old. Below are some photos Meghan took this morning of the damage (see her Facebook for more photos). I hope that everyone who reads this never has to deal with such a loss or worse!

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This is in our backyard.