Apple oak gall (Amphibolips confluenta or Amphibolips quercusinanis), backlit to show leaf-like venation. Second photograph is a cross section showing where the wasp larva develops. I’d love to know what the spotting does, if anything.
Cynipid wasps love oaks for some reason — over 3/4 of the 1300 species use Quercus as host. People argue about why that’s the case (e.g., Ronquist et al. 2015). Even Alfred Kinsey the sexologist weighed in, back in the days when he was obsessed with gall wasps.
Posted in Photography, Science
Tagged Amphibolips confluenta, Amphibolips quercusinanis, apple oak gall, coevolution, cynipid, cynipidae, defense, development, gallwasp, glands, hymenoptera, insect, leaf, meristematic stimulation, plant, quercus, Quercus bicolor, round, secretion, spots, wasp, yellow
During my recent trip to Hawai’i I got to wondering how conservation organizations use Instagram to educate the public about invasive species. A quick search pulled up several groups that seem involved, at least occasionally, and I’ll list here just in case you want to follow them (# followers in parentheses):
Part of my reason for wasting time on the above was because when I posted a photograph of an introduced frog, I wasn’t sure if anyone on Instagram might care. Potentially, there might be a group or two that might want to mentioned, in the off chance that a species hadn’t been noticed at that particular location. Not being a native, I had no idea which groups to mention, though, so all I did was add some hashtags for the species name as well as #invasive #introduced #nonnative … with the hope that somebody might find it useful someday (unlikely). But the process got me wondering how groups use Instagram to get the word out on how to control invasives. Here are some thoughts on how to do it, with apologies to the groups who are already doing it:
- To build buzz about your organization and its goals, repost images of others that show the species you are trying to control. People love to have their images reposted or their accounts mentioned. You can find these images by following people (duh), or by searching Google for Instagram photos with particular keywords (e.g., site:instagram.com coqui kauai). The routine is just this: ask them if it would be OK to be reposted/featured … and then give them credit by including Instagram handle (i.e., don’t just give the photographer’s name).
- If you don’t want to feature other people’s images, at least patrol other people’s posts that relate to invasive species, endemics, restoration, etc. For example, if somebody posts an adorable photograph of a small frog and says, “Love this little guy; going to send to my uncle on Kauai for his birthday!” … you can urge them not to do that. Or, when somebody posts about clearing invasives from property, you can say thanks (and perhaps invite them to a volunteer day if you’re group is local). And it’s not just people making posts about invasives … many companies are active in promoting pono and have thousands of active followers (@southmauispearfishing, e.g., has *dozens* of posts about invasive roi and what to do about them). The more you interact by favoriting and commenting, the more people on a particular island will see your organization’s work as important and worth supporting.
- If your organization has volunteer work days, add an “Instagram name” column to your sign-in sheet. Then mention each person when you post photos from the event (you should do that!). People love to be publicly thanked. Example. Another example.
- In your bio and in your posts, remind folks to tag their own images with #invasive #hawaii (or whatever) and species name so that the posts can help educate their followers. Example. Example. You can also dream up custom hashtags such as #hawaiiinvasive if you want (that’s from @kauaiisc, by the way).
- When you make presentations about invasives at local schools, show your Instragram handle at start and end. Young adults increasingly don’t care about your web site, your twitter feed, or your phone number but you might get them to follow on Instagram.
- Award prizes to people reporting or posting certain kinds of images. People love contests. For example, send some swag to person who posts best selfie with gold dust day gecko (example).
- If you have a Facebook page, add a tab for your Instagram feed. It’s easy. You should also automatically add your Instagram posts to your timeline.
- If you include a phone number in your bio for reporting a particular species, include an area code in case clueless tourists see call to action. Repeat this number in posts, too … because somebody might not bother to visit your actual home page.
- Check Instagram regularly to see whether anyone has posted an image of a species of special concern. For example, you can run a search for “site:instagram.com snake hawaii” to patrol for snake sightings (the search results are mainly Hawaiian shirts with snakes). There used to be several ways to automate such Instagram searches and receive emails … but Instagram blocked them.
- If your organization doesn’t have an Instagram account, fix that.
Posted in Biology, Education, Gardening, Photography, Science
Tagged animal, conservation, ecology, Hawaii, Instagram, introduced, invasive, native, non-native, nonnative, pest, plant, restoration, species
I stumbled upon a solitary mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) flower yesterday while walking around Lake Mohonk in New Paltz. It isn’t the prettiest mountain laurel flower, but it was DECEMBER 27th, approximately six (!) months before one would expect a mountain laurel flower in this area. This December has been the warmest on record for the area, I think, and Christmas Eve was almost 70 °F (!!). Crazy, and really, really sad. This flower isn’t alone, apparently — the New York Times has a compilation of strange phenology across the country.
If you’d like to see photographs of prettier mountain laurel at Mohonk, here are photographs I took a few summers ago.
Posted in Biology, Gardening, Photography
Tagged blooming, climate change, flower, flowering, global warming, Kalmia latifolia, Lake Mohonk, Mohonk, Mohonk Mountain House, mountain laurel, New Paltz, phenology, plant, temperature, warm, warming
So I have a silly, futile goal of reducing the confusion over sweet potatoes and yams in the United States. If you are a grocery store manager and are on board with this silly, futile goal, please consider displaying the flesh inside the different sweet potato varieties you sell. Doing that will reduce reliance on the strange habit of calling orange-fleshed sweet potatoes “yams.” You can easily show the insides of your sweet potatoes by chopping one in half and wrapping the cut end in plastic wrap, then placing back into the display shelf — you can even use a Sharpie to write stuff on the plastic (I’ve never seen this done … but I’m sure it would work). Or you can make signage that has a photograph of flesh. If you also add some thoughts on how to use them in cooking, even better. Below are two examples of ‘Nancy Hall’ and ‘Beauregard’ sweet potatoes that I cooked over the weekend.
Note that the word “yam” does not appear on the sign. If you are the type that says, “What?? You idiot. That sure looks like a yam to me!” … please have look over my “Yams versus sweet potatoes” page. It probably won’t change your opinion, but you’ll at least know what a yam looks like.
On a side note, my ‘Nancy Hall’ sweet potatoes turned out great. I partially cooked them in the oven (coat with bacon fat first) and then sauteed the diced flesh with butter and hickory bark syrup. I used the ‘Beauregard’ to make biscuits. It turns out that biscuits are good with Chessmen cookie butter. Just saying.
Posted in Biology, Education, Food, Gardening, Graphic design, Photography, Science
Tagged color, cooking, cultivar, difference, distinguishing, flesh, orange, plant, recipe, signage, skin, species, sweet potato, sweet potatoes, variety, vines, yam, yams, yellow
I’ve had to wait over 10 years, but my female kiwi finally set fruit in 2014 after probably 12 years. The fruit are tiny — about the size of a big grape — but wonderfully delicious.
Posted in Biology, Food, Gardening, Photography, Science
Tagged 7A, Actinidia arguta, angiosperm, arctic kiwi, cold, dioecious, freeze, frost, fruit, garden, grape kiwi, hardiness, hardy, kiwi, northern kiwi, pennsylvania, plant, temperature, tolerant, twiner, twining, vine, winter, zone