Each fall I think to myself that I need to remember to find out how one should prune a fig tree. Each fall I forget to find out.
So this afternoon I googled 'pruning figs', and found this site which said:
Figs: prune severely for size control (you’ll still get plenty of fruit), or allow them to become big tropical-looking trees -- and get even more fruit. Your choice.
I like having choices. A big tropical-look tree it is! There's room for it. Plus it's branching pattern is beautiful in the late fall, after the leaves have fallen. I don't think I have the heart to prune it now.
I saw a butterfly today that I couldn't identify - I tried to find it in my book, but I couldn't match it with anything within the book's pages. ~~ There was also a bird, an unfamiliar one, checking out the purple martin house - it seemed anxious to buy. ~~ A rabbit, a silly, silly rabbit - went racing across the yard in the middle of the day, to (and through) the side fence. Stanley was out in the yard - Stanley, a lover of braised rabbit - except the braising, or really the baking, isn't really necessary in Stanley's version.
Biological diversity fascinates me. It always has - and it's something that I've always respected, and the more I learn about different ecosystems, the more it makes sense that a stable ecosystem is a diverse one. I was happy to read a week or so ago about a news release by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stating that they were to review eight endangered species decisions. The Endanger Species Act has had a rough few years - and the eight species being evaluated are occurring because, as stated in the news release:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced plans to review and take further action, as appropriate, for eight decisions made under the Endangered Species Act, after questions were raised about the integrity of the scientific information used and whether the decisions made were consistent with appropriate legal standards.
The species under review are:
The Service had already begun reviewing the following decisions. The original date of publication is also included.
• White-tailed prairie dog, 90-day petition finding (November 9, 2004)
• Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, 12 month petition finding/proposed delisting (January 28, 2005)
• 12 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies, proposed critical habitat (August 15, 2006)
The decisions requiring additional review and the dates of their original publication are as follows:
• Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, final critical habitat (June 23, 2003)
• Arroyo toad, final critical habitat (April 13, 2005)
• Southwestern willow flycatcher, final critical habitat (October 19, 2005)
• California red-legged frog, final critical habitat (April 13, 2006)
• Canada lynx, final critical habitat (November 9, 2006)
I know that there are alot of sides to each species being protected - many voices (such as this one). Each organism that becomes under the watchful eye of the ESA soon becomes a political token. I'm generally familiar with the arguments. Some of you might be groaning at the thought of even trying to protect the Arroyo toad. But if it is 'the bringer of life giving rain', I say that I wish they liked coastal marshes.
Anyway, I like toads.
It is predicted that commercial and seafood stocks may crash by 2048.
It has been estimated that 12.5% of the world's plants will soon be critically rare due to deforestation and non-native species.
I've spoken before about coral reefs (here's a nice overview).
All of a sudden I feel like I am on a soap box, and that was not at all my intent as I sit here on a Sunday evening, after a full day spent packing and researching appliances, and making a small patio out of concrete square pavers for the Airstream (a temporary and quick 'patio' - a patio fit for an Airstream - unlike the lovely stone patio in Pam's beautiful Austin garden - hopefully that patio will be built later, after the new house is a reality).
After a day spent walking up and down my steps about 200 hundred times, I'm not sure that I'm up for being on a soap box.
I know, you're relieved. I don't blame you - I even bore myself
sometimes most of the time.
During last week's Democratic Debate held in Charleston and the whole YouTube approach - I was thrilled to see that Mossy got some fun airtime. Charleston's definitely been feeling pretty full of herself lately.
But that's for another time.
(But it is a surprisingly wonderful city. Take a walk with Joan - she'll show you the streets).
If anything tonight, I was hoping to come across as grateful.
When I work in my garden and observe it - observe the chrysalis on the sassafras and the ever-hungry painted bunting at the feeder and the young mockingbirds playing in the fig tree - I can't imagine anything other than wanting to preserve the diversity that is on this planet.
We know so little about how connected everything is. We know much, but we know so little. Daily I become more aware of what is yet to be discovered - how the unknown far exceeds the known.
For if one link in nature's chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish by piecemeal. Thomas Jefferson
We don't know all of the connections.
The numbers of painted buntings are in decline, and it is thought to be due to loss of habitat - especially with regards to the eastern population. There are other factors leading to their decline as well. They're on Audobon's Watch List. They're also on Partners in Flight list. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a wonderful page on PABUs (and a wonderful online bird guide in general).
Every few years I sit on a national review panel that focuses on global biodiversity. It's always a fascinating few days spent with passionate people. There was the woman who had the world's largest collection of material from the Genus Helianthus who worked at the Smithsonian (my MS degree research was on sunflower), and the guy in charge of Yale's mammal collection (at the Peabody) - there was this woman from Texas who was absolutely obsessed with mites (who knew they were so fascinating? Truly, go take a look for yourself) - and of course my colleague that I've mentioned before in these pages, someone who would be at my 'if you could invite five people from any period of time to join you for dinner, who would they be?' dinner party. He's obsessed with moths.
Anyway - I'm there representing the prokaryotes - you can read a nice (and detailed) overview of their taxonomy here (a site which lead me to Namesforlife, LLC - something that I had not seen before, but which I should probably read up on, as well as the short history of the Bacteriological Code. But I digress. Almost daily, I'm reminded about how diverse the prokaryotes are - how even describing them is often debated - and how new approaches open up new views of these microscopic forms of life. For example, a scientist who recently visited our program published a paper last year - (PNAS, 2006, vol. 103:12115-12120) - and here is the abstract:
The evolution of marine microbes over billions of years predicts that the composition of microbial communities should be much greater than the published estimates of a few thousand distinct kinds of microbes per liter of seawater. By adopting a massively parallel tag sequencing strategy, we show that bacterial communities of deep water masses of the North Atlantic and diffuse flow hydrothermal vents are one to two orders of magnitude more complex than previously reported for any microbial environment. A relatively small number of different populations dominate all samples, but thousands of low-abundance populations account for most of the observed phylogenetic diversity. This ‘‘rare biosphere’’ is very ancient and may represent a nearly inexhaustible source of genomic innovation. Members of the rare biosphere are highly divergent from each other and, at different times in earth’s history, may have had a profound impact on shaping planetary processes.
More complex than any other microbial environment.
And this is water - seawater.
This weekend we heard from collaborators who were taking a sample of coral mucus from our lab -mucus taken from a coral off the southern coast of Puerto Rico, Montastrea faveolata - and 'shearing' it in the first step of generating a microbial metagenomic library - this week the sample should return to us for further processing. It was good news to hear that this had worked - we had previously had trouble with a particular challenging coral mucus sample (from a different coral). After I emailed the lab's postdoc, congratulating him on this success, I received the lab's first ever 'quote of the week':
Who wouldn't be happy about beautifully sheared DNA? I don't want to meet someone that cold and unfeeling.
But this is the first step in a new direction for us - new with respect to quantity of data, and new with respect to comprehensiveness of the data. Preliminary analysis of this community (using another approach) has suggested that the community is rich in cyanobacteria - photosynthetic microorganisms, and something I want to, need to learn more about is the evolutionary history of photosynthesis. From this ScienceDaily piece (from back in 2000 - was that really seven years ago?):
By generating a large new molecular data set, Bauer's group, which includes IU postdoctoral fellow Jin Xiong and IU doctoral student William Fischer, has determined that non-oxygen-producing bacterial species such as the purple and green bacteria are the most ancient photosynthetic bacteria. Another group of non-oxygen-producing bacteria known as heliobacteria evolved later.
The Bauer group's work also reinforces recent fundamental changes in molecular genetics that show bacteria evolved in a complex manner that resembles a tangled briar patch, with branches going every which way from a number of stems, instead of a traditional evolutionary tree that shows all species neatly branching out from a single stem that represents their common ancestor, usually regarded as the universal ancestral cell. This change in perspective is necessary because gene-swapping was common among ancient bacteria early in evolution.
(So, you gardeners - you have the microorganism to thank for this whole photosynthesis business).
I need to read up on this soon - and gain a better understanding of these organisms and their evolutionary significance.
After I finish going through a draft of the coral review.
And after I submit the grant in mid-August.
After I help the undergraduates wrap up their summer projects, reports, and presentations.
After...I move into an Airstream.
But for tonight, there's bread in the oven, rosemary-olive country bread, and white bean dip with rosemary-infused olive oil to go with it.
I still have a real kitchen, so I might as well take advantage of it...time to enjoy the evening and the start of a new week.
The Airstream now has a small patio. S-w-a-n-k-y.
The Ancient Wonder Beagle just gobbled down her dinner.
My Mother has an important scan tomorrow.
I dread Monday's in this new world of lung cancer.