Back to blogging and a brief catch up!

Wow, it is amazing how time flies in grad school. It is hard to believe that is has been over four months since the last time I blogged! The main reason for my lack of blogging these past several months has been my work load. I ended up biting off a little more than I could chew, work-wise, this semester, which kept me from dedicating time to blogging. Luckily, I can say with confidence that I now have much more time to dedicate to this blog and it will not just disappear! Plus, I have a lot of exciting prospects in the future to talk about, so there will be no shortage of material to write about!

While most of the work things that kept me from blogging were not to exciting, I still had some very exciting events occur during that time. Firstly, I was awarded the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant for $20,085!!!!! This was an amazing and huge success that will go a long way towards some exciting new research ventures. I was also awarded a United States Agency for International Research and Innovation Fellowship and an Arizona State University Graduate College Completion Fellowship!! Combined these grants and fellowships are allowing me to expand my research to studying hummingbirds in Peru and conduct electron microscopy on hummingbird feathers (both scanning “SEM” and transmission “TEM” electron microscopy). The electron microscopy work will allow me to quantify the surface and internal structures of hummingbird feathers that are responsible for producing the amazing colors hummingbirds exhibit, while the trip to Peru will allow me to study several new species for my dissertation work, such as the Peruvian sheartail and oasis hummingbird. Below are a few photos of some scanning electron microscopy work I have done so far.

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A scanning electron microscopy image of a black-chinned hummingbird purple throat feather.
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Another scanning electron microscopy image looking down some barbs of a broad-tailed hummingbird pink throat feather.

In addition to getting these grants and fellowships, I also gave my first set of public seminars on my hummingbird dissertation research. I first gave an hour long seminar to the Maricopa Audubon Society (link) and then gave another hour long seminar through the Audubon’s Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch’s Potluck and Presentations series (link). Both of these talks were great experiences, and they seemed to be met with enthusiasm from the audience, which was very encouraging.

Outside of grants and talks I did some fieldwork in March on Costa’s and Allen’s hummingbirds, visited the Grand Canyon and Sedona, went on some adventures in Michigan, and visited my undergraduate university (Trinity University). I will try to make a post out of each of these, but here are a few photos from each.

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A Costa’s hummingbird perched at Boyd Deep Canyon in California.
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An Allen’s hummingbird I filmed and caught in Riverside, California.
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A view from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.
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The beautiful red rocks near Sedona, AZ.
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A sizable waterfall at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Michigan.
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Looking out at Lake Michigan over the the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes.
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One of the newly remodeled and awesome science buildings at Trinity University.

 

I greatly appreciate everyone’s patients with my lack of posting, but I am very happy to be back and excited to start blogging again! I would also like to give a shout out to my old school friends from Houston – Gabe and Carl. Thank you for keeping up with my blog!!

Until next time!
Rick

Sycamore Canyon Wilderness

Many of you have probably been to or at least heard of Oak Creek Canyon, which extends from Sedona into and up the Mogollon Rim. It is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Arizona, and it is also incredibly varied in habitat type. You start along Oak Creek in a mid elevation desert riparian area and then slowly transition into a high elevation mixed forest/riparian area. I’ve mentioned this place in previous blogs, and I highly recommend visiting it.

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A view down Oak Creek Canyon in the Summer

However, I’ve always had one issue with this place, and that is it is full of people! Well I believe I’ve found a way to remedy that problem. To the west is another canyon that follows a similar trajectory, called Sycamore Canyon. This canyon also happens to be a wilderness area, which means much fewer people and no man-made structures (roads, buildings etc.). I’ve been very interested in visiting this large wilderness area, and finally did recently.

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Sycamore Canyon Wilderness area is beautiful and quite large and has a good network of trails running through it (check it out here). Because it was still quite cold and wintery in the upper portions of the canyon, I decided to stick to the lower portions of the wilderness area for this trip. Plus, I want to save the upper portion for when all the deciduous trees have regained their leaves. The trail I decided to do was the Dogie Trail. This trail and others in the lower portions of the canyon can be accessed through Sedona or Cottonwood, while the upper portion are accessed through Flagstaff.

This trail starts in the wilderness area, but not in the main part of the canyon. It winds through the lovely red-rock country as it makes it way towards Sycamore Canyon.

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Along the way, I was treated to the spectacular contrast between the green vegetation and orange-red rocks.

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I was also given some great views of the Sycamore Canyon/Mogollon Rim walls.

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This trail stuck to the arid mid-elevation deserts and pinyon-juniper forests found throughout much of central Arizona.

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I was not able to make it to the lush desert riparian areas (deep in the main canyon), though I was also able to find several side canyons that at the right times of year would be flowing with water.

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This was definitely a very beautiful and wonderful wilderness area. Now that I’ve seen the lower portion of Sycamore Canyon, which does look very similar to the dryer, lower portions of Oak Creek Canyon, I am very excited to check out the upper portions and riparian areas of this canyon. More to come in the future from this very special place!