A new chapter in Paris

If this blog were a book, this post would start a new chapter (and if I had my way, it’d start with a big illuminated lizard standing in for that I in if). For those of you subscribers who feel like the last chapter ended with a bit of a whimper of unresolved story lines, I’m afraid you’re right. I’ve been holding my research progress a bit closer to the chest these last two months, and everything else was so mind-numbingly hectic that in the thick of it I didn’t really feel I had much to share on the blog. In hindsight, though, a few retrospective posts might be in order, so I’ll be interspersing those over the next couple of weeks.

All that changes now! I’m writing from Paris and will be for the remainder of 2018. If you remember, my postdoctoral fellowship granted me funding for three years of working in and around natural history museum collections. The first year was spent at Harvard with its exceptional lizard specimens. This next year is going to be based at the Muséum Nationale d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris in collaboration with long-standing friend-of-the-blog, Anthony Herrel.

What am I up to? Well, 2017 was such a grueling year for data acquisition that my first research priority is just writing up the mountains of data I’ve already collected. Grueling is the right word, too. I ended up leading expeditions to Antigua and Barbuda (3 people), the Bahamas (11 people), Greece (10 people), and two trips to Turks and Caicos (4 people), and all that permit writing, logistics problem solving, people minding, and data gathering left me just about as burnt out at the end of the year as I’ve been since my dissertation defense. Oh, and that doesn’t include co-managing a thousand-lizard animal colony on campus. Don’t get me wrong, the field adventures were memorable and the data immensely valuable, but all that’s left me eager for a “quieter” 2018 with somewhat less fieldwork.

So that’s the plan! I arrived in Paris yesterday and got my MNHN ID badge today. My wife is along for the adventure (thank goodness!), and we’re settling down into a teeny tiny 200 sq ft apartment in Le Marais – about 5 minutes walk from Notre Dame and a 20 minute walk to my office in the Jardin des Plantes. I’ll be posting more stories about settling in to Paris but if you want a closer look at the day-to-day adventures and faux pas of becoming Parisians, check out her new blog “Practice Makes Parfait.”

 

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Made it to Athens!

Next step is a bus ride to the docks and then a long ferry ride to Naxos. I should be in Naxos in about nine hours though so I’m really excited about that!

Travel has been wondrously smooth so far (I don’t want to jinx it!) Let’s see… I trained from New Haven to Newark NJ and then flew to Montreal. From Montreal I flew through the night and landed in Paris the next morning. During my 12 hour layover I went into the city, had an extremely exciting meeting with a future collaborator and then walked several miles  around the area and to Notre Dame; it was a beautiful day! (Pictures and details of all of that soon, I just want to post a quick update). Then it was another nighttime flight from Paris to Athens where I’m currently enjoying a bit of free internet.

I haven’t really slept more than about an hour in all of that so I’m starting to really feel the wear and tear. I’m hoping for a bit of shut eye on the ferry and if not, definitely when I get to Naxos. Sometime soon though I will update you with stories and pictures from Paris.

Thanks for all the well-wishes on the travel front. I appreciate it!

More soon from Naxos!

 

Tilt-shift Photography

The olympics just ended in London and without cable at home I was mostly crawling around news sites online to get my olympics fix. I was excited to find that beyond the typical and very excellent sports photography inundating papers and blogs, there were a few more artistic styles being popularized by photographers. One of them was Tilt-shift Photography or Miniature Faking. While true tilt-shift photography requires special equipment, it is possible to replicate the effect with digital post-processing. I decided to try my hand with a few photos from my trip to Europe.

The effect works best on pictures taken from long range from a high vantage point and unfortunately, I wasn’t taking a lot of those during my trip. But take a look at a few of my efforts and let me know what you think.

Europe Photos Are Up!

Hi Everyone!

It’s been a while since my last post but I’ve been busy sorting through notes, making plans and getting back into the swing of things in New Haven. I’m hoping to put up some last pictures and videos from the Europe trip over the next week or so. For the first installment head over to http://www.colindonihuephotography.com to see the new gallery. After that I’ll get back on to telling you all how research plans are coming for this next year.

My new copilot

Well, navigating Europe by myself is a challenge but I’m getting a bit better about it. I no longer spread out the map across the entire front seats and dashboard:

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Instead I have the aid of this fellow sitting next to me:

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In all seriousness, this is a post about making things work in the field. After all of my chargers were stolen, I was without power for my phone and true copilot. I was able to find (in the basement of a small electronics store in small town Italy) a cigarette lighter charger but it was cheap and had a hyperactive spring mechanism resulting in the whole thing popping out of the console unpredictably. That just wasn’t going to do. So, I bought two childrens pair of goggles tied the straps to the underbelly of the dashboard, cut a hole in the goggle so it sits against the charger, not the wire and voila! It works perfectly!

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I’m headed to Italy tomorrow and while I’ve a touch of pride that I’ve navigated France entirely from paper maps, best guesses and dumb luck, I’ll be happy to have my phone back shouting orders to me!

Beetle

As I was walking back to my tent last night after brushing my teeth I heard a colossal insect crash land behind me and knew I was in for a treat. It wasn’t too hard to find this guy, he was about 2 inches long! He was very strong and a bit hard to hold on to until I grabbed him by the horn, out of reach of his legs. According to the Internet his name is Oryctes nasicornis. I set him free again but he sure was neat.

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Lizarding in France

Lest anyone forget I’m here to work and I’ve been busy! Yes I post about the fun but I’m also doing a lot of reading, writing and brainstorming! Today I went to the “Parc Régional de Camargue” at the southern outlet of the Rhône river. It’s a beautiful delta with lots of islands and some of it, from pictures, resembled the Mediterranean scrub habitats I’m looking for, so I drove around giving it a look.

I was navigating for a while based upon a drawn cartoony map of the park. While good for place names it was lousy for actual directions. On my first attempt, I overshot the park and ended up at a beach. Well, let me be more specific. It was actually a several mile long stretch of sand dune filled with people in campers, tents, RVs, even makeshift shacks all partying on the beach… On a Sunday morning. The pictures don’t do it justice but there were hundreds of RVs parked along this stretch and thousands of people out and about including one person getting around on a kite-propelled dune buggy.

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I pulled myself away though it did look fun and found my way to the park. Much to my surprise many of the islands I saw from the map are actually used as rice paddies and in some parts salt- farming.

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The red isn’t actually pollution, it’s microorganisms that are giving the many flamingos in the area their pink color!

Undaunted by the less than ideal conditions I went to the nature station. It was really nice with dioramas inside and trails with bird blinds out.

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Bird blind.

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The nature station.

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One of the trails.

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I saw two of these guys, larger than housecats!

As you can tell from the pictures, this area isn’t going to it the bill for my research though after several hours of looking I did find two new species for me! One, the ocellated lizard was almost a foot long (including the tail!). I’ll show you pictures when I get them uploaded. He was too fast for my iPhone.

All in all the park is a great spot for avian herpetofauna, but, much to my dismay, likely isn’t going to be what I want for my dissertation. I’ll just have to come back with a birder in tow for a visit!