Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas from Rosie & Leanna!

This year has been full of transitions.  Rosie and I started the year at home in San Antonio, TX, but are ending the year at a much higher latitude.  Working on grad school applications in January was stressful and time consuming, but soon after they were finished, I encountered and overwhelming amount of free time.  Free time is something I've lacked since....oh, let's say....the late 1990s?  I decided my energies would be best spent volunteering, so I took a position as a wildlife caretaker and rescuer for Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, an organizations based out of Kendalia, TX.  I took care of deer, squirrels, songbirds, goats, opossums, lemurs, and paraplegic pigs, and I rescued tadpoles, birds, and lots of precious little baby opossums.

Saving opossum at a time.

The spring brought grad school interviews and quite a few fun runs.  Rosie ran her first 5K, with an impressive time of 41 minutes...and that's pretty good, given her basset stature.  But I'll be honest, Rosie's training mostly consisted on taking naps in the afternoon sunbeams on the back porch.  She's got her priorities straight.  I ran my first half marathon this spring, with a not-so impressive time that I'm strategically choosing to not share with you.  That first half marathon got me hooked, and I've run two more since then.  Most recently, at the Empire State Half Marathon, I ran a personal best time of 2:07:42.  Next year I'm thinking I'll run all 26.2 miles of the marathon...time for a new challenge!

Towards the end of June, before Rosie and I packed up for school, I decided to take a solo trip to Big Bend National Park.  Big Bend is the perfect place to escape to if you're looking for a little time away from the big city (or the small's pretty empty out there).  I backpacked through the Chisos Mountains for about four days and returned home with a clear head, a few blisters, and some crazy stories involving unpredictable summer weather patterns and close encounters with a few black bears.

Then in July, we loaded a truck (with the help of my very generous parents), and drove from San Antonio all the way to Syracuse, NY!  It was a long drive - 1890.5 miles and 7 states in 5 days - but we enjoyed lots of good food and visits with friends and family along the way.  I started grad school at Syracuse University in August, and I'm working towards my PhD in biology.  This semester I've been busy with reading and writing and applying for graduate fellowships, but soon I'll be starting on my own research.  So exciting!  I've already gotten a great start on some small projects and publications.  And in January, I'll be assisting my advisor on some behavioral data collection with North Atlantic Right Whale mother/calf pairs off the coast of Florida.

So far, Syracuse has treated us well.  I love my apartment and my new friends and my school.  And Rosie spends one or two days a week in doggie daycare making lots of new two- and four-legged friends.  I do miss Texas (there's not much decent Mexican food up here), and I'm a little terrified of the lake effect snow that will be headed my way soon, but Rosie and I are always up for new adventures.  Hopefully 2013 will be just as exciting!

Wishing all of our friends and family a very merry Christmas!

Leanna & Rosie

FUN SCIENCE CHRISTMAS FACT #30:  Mistletoe (genera Viscum & Phoradendron) comes from the Anglo-Saxon word misteltan, which means "little dung twig" because the plant spreads through bird droppings.  And nothing says "kiss me" quite like dung twigs.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

You'll photo-shoot your eye out

Rosie and I wrote our own Christmas letter this year, so of course we needed to take a Christmas picture to send to our friends and family as well.  Now, I've often bragged about my photogenic canine, but things soon turned from difficult to impossible as I was equipped only with an iphone, a camera timer app, and a limited supply of milkbones.  Dozens of outtakes.  Endless laughs.  And  really frustrated basset hound.  It all made for a pretty interesting Saturday night.  

We eventually got one decent picture.  Maybe two if I lower my standards just a little bit.  
Christmas letter to come.

FUN SCIENCE CHRISTMAS FACT #29:  Most of Santa's reindeer have boyish names, but according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer of each year, male reindeer lose their antlers at the beginning of winter (usually late November to mid-December).  Female reindeer however, keep their antlers until after they give birth in the spring.  Turns out all of Santa's reindeer are ladies....probably how he manages to not get lost every Christmas.