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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer 2010 Block A: Herpetolgy

Prescott College summers here have been drastically re-imagined this past year. Whereas the summer term used to be a reflection of fall and spring terms; it is now composed of four blocks. These blocks are slightly shorter than the ones in fall or spring semester; three weeks instead of four, so one has to fit even more experience and information into a shorter time period.
My first block of the summer was Herpetology; which focused on studying reptiles and amphibians of southeastern Utah and western Colorado. In addition to learning about the evolution and morphology of these critters-

-we each had to design our own project that would utilize information gathered in the field as well as peer reviewed journals and field guides.

My personal project revolved around caudal autotomy; the ability of lizards and some snake species to shed their tails when threatened and escape predation, and more impressively the ability to grow them back later.

I think one of the greatest things about the personalized projects here is that I become so much more invested in the material when I know I’m going to have to teach it to the class. I feel like there’s a lot of unintentional learning that happens during this process as well. For example; did you know that lizards are always right or left hand dominant like us? I certainly didn’t. Turns out, the left handed lizards are always more clumsy and so loose their tails more often as a result of not being able to run from predators. You can tell that one to all your left handed friends, I’m sure they’re love it.

We learned a ton about performing population surveys in the field, it was quite eye-opening to begin to learn how you go about setting up a scientifically sound field survey in an undergraduate class. We also learned that in a pinch, you can make a head dress out of a tee-shirt to keep the gnats off your face and out of your nose/eyes/ears.

We also discovered a ton of related and equally enthralling material about biotic soil crust…

… Indigenous cultures…

…and that the health food store in Moab, UT, does in fact carry the best ice cream on earth, which happens to be made in NH. Go figure.

I think I saw more spectacular natural bridges, arches, and ruins while hiking through the canyons for this trip than I have in the rest of my life. In sort; it was fantastic. While I admit the shorter block was hectic at times as far as getting work done, I am already loving summer courses. It just doesn’t get any better than watching a woodhouse’s toad sit on a tiger salamander.

Take care all,


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