Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Midterms start tomorrow, so of course I'm posting here.

I just read a brief dialogue/email exchange posted on Conservapedia.

Conservapedia is a charming website devoted to the idea that Wikipedia as a information aggregator/web encyclopedia is a great idea, but with a problem. See, according to Esq. Schafly, who apparently runs Conservapedia, Wikipedia has a serious liberal bias.

To that end, there is Conservapedia, where 'the truth' can be found on such diverse topics as evolution (see: atheism), gays (see: atheism), liberals (see:atheism) and atheism (see: devilworship)

This might not be entirely fair, but it is true that Schafly has not been accurate in his portrayal of any of these subjects, or most any found on his site. One marvelous shutdown of Schafly and his cornies can be found here (, in which he attempts to engage a prominent evil-ushionist on his research.

The research in question was enducing and observing a specific evolutionary change in e. coli, and Lenski's responses to Schafly were worth reading.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


South Caicos is a wonderful place, but fresh water is a little short here, due to the lack of streams, lakes, ponds, etc. You get it via rain catchements.

The average islander uses maybe 1/10 of the water used by an american citizen. Maybe even less than that. We've been keeping our usage low as well.

We do that by limiting the use of fresh water severely. Dishes are washed in salt water, until the final rinsing. Limited flushing.
Fresh water showers once a week, with low-volume showerheads.
And no fresh water for clothes

We get around this by using the ocean. If you go swimming and snorkeling several times a day, you can stay pretty clean with a decent bio-safe soap. But washing clothes in the ocean is a little less fun. Specifically, drying them afterwards.

Salt. As they dry, they become coated in the stuff. Up until the late 60s, the island used to export salt. I'd give the stuff I've collected away for free right now.

In a fantastic twist of irony, I'm hoping it rains while my clothes are on the line.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I really like studying here. Currently, we're learning to identify 70 different marine icthyids (sharks, fish, and rays).

Of course, being in South Caicos, means that our classroom is a short boat ride today.

The reef we're having 'class' at today is known as Shark Alley. It lies between two cays (small islands) between which the larger ships pass to drop off staples and pick up processed lobster and conch.

Apparently, sharks like it there. We'll probably see some nurse and reef sharks there (I hope!), and maybe a few rays- both eagle rays I've seen here were moving too fast to get a good look at, and the stingrays mostly sit under the sand waiting for prey. Maybe even a tiger or bull shark, but I'm not as eager about those, since they can be aggressive.

We saw some sharks!

Friday, September 18, 2009

TCI is beautiful

Everything here looks like it is made from crystal. Its a full circle from the Blaschka's glass flowers, the father and son team that made perfect images of the organic from glass. Here, the organic world looks like it was formed by a master artisan. When one grasps that they arose out of the struggle of the natural world to survive and reproduce, it becomes truly awe-inspiring. I would like to communicate the sense of this place better than my words will do, so here are some pictures.

A start

I'm starting this at the School for Field Studies, in South Caicos of the Turks and Caicos Islands. There are just over 30 of us here, including staff, and we share this island with perhaps 1000 locals.
The locals are mostly immigrants from the Dominican Republic or Haiti looking for work, or descendants of former slaves who came or were left here. One of the first colonies sprang from the shipwreck of an old slaver. However, there are no indigenous peoples here, or even any descendants. The Lucayans died out within 30 years of Columbus's arrival, exterminated by plague and Spanish enslavement. There are still traces of them to be found, such as on Middleton Cay, where they had what appear to be fishing camps where they caught and cooked the Queen Conch, one of the largest marine snails in the world.
The Queen Conch is, with lobster, the main source of income for this island. They are being over exploited, but the locals figure that once they run out, they will find something else. That is how things have been done here, and may well continue to be done here.
Once the fisheries exhaust the conch and lobster, they will likely move through the remaining marine species here, such as the groupers, and then the snappers and grunts.

Perhaps after that, they will move into tourism, as other parts of TCI are already doing. Lying as it does in the British West Indies, to the south-east of the Bahamas and just to the north of the Caribbean, this place seems well suited for it. South Caicos is beautiful.