I was greeted this morning by the male painted bunting at the feeder - I'm sure that he was thinking 'it's about damned time' because the feeder had sat empty for awhile. I finally remembered this weekend to pick up some white millet seed (their favorite from my experience). This is the fourth year in a row that I've had a pair nesting in my yard - and while my intentions have been to be an active member of the Painted Bunting Observer Team, I've failed miserably at my PBOT duties. Over the past three years, I've always felt that I had the same pair return each year to nest - but this is the first year that I feel as if I have a different (younger) pair (offspring perhaps?). They've just behaved differently, it's hard to explain. I think that you can get to know a bird - if only from a distance. I just don't feel as if I know this pair yet.
Today the laboratory was paid a very generous visit by a Professor Emeritus from Tel Aviv University. He was in the states for a meeting, and was taking a side trip to visit a cousin in Charleston - so he had contacted me months ago about spending the day with my research group. His laboratory was the first to isolate and characterize the coral pathogen that we are now sequencing the genome of - our first full genome of a microorganism. This organism is becoming more and more interesting to us each day: it's being found more frequently in coral-associated microbial communities, it's temperature-dependent virulence and susceptibility to anti-microbials is fascinating - and I'm eager to see it's similarity to other important Vibrios - cholera, vulnificus, shiloi. The discussions today were interesting, illuminating, puzzling, comforting - when a senior scientist comes to visit your group, it's always useful to gauge their response to your on-going studies, new data, and hypotheses - especially on something like our coral project which is a field I've only recently joined. At the end of the day, I felt good - we all felt good - and eager to get on with it. As one of my doctoral students said as we were all leaving the place we'd gathered for lunch: we're on the edge of a whole lot of discoveries. I do believe that is true. The lab's postdoc heads tomorrow up to Rockville, Maryland, and the J. Craig Venter Institute to generate test metagenomic libraries of our coral microbial communities. A test library alone will generate more sequence data than the laboratory has ever obtained before. It's going to be quite a summer.
Now I need to grab the dogs and spend some time in the garden. Today was warm and it's still dry. We desperately need rain, although none is predicted in the near future. A nice summer thunderstorm would be a welcomed end to the day. But that will have to wait for another day to end.