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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Texas Tech University at Junction

I have arrived at the Texas Tech University Campus in Junction, TX. The scenery is a complete 180 degree turn from that of Lubbock. There is green tree's as far as I can see. Up to now I have seen more wildflowers on the trails than the number we encountered in Lubbock all semester. While, I am here to take a mammalogy class with Dr. Bradley, I am taking advantage of the enormous diversity of both flora and birds. Just yesterday I encountered a Vermilion Flycatcher. Beautiful bird with dark brown and bright red feathers (See Birding Guide below).

The mammalogy class is turning out to be very interesting. We had been setting mice traps since last night. Up to now we have not caught anything, but I hope our luck changes soon. Today, we set traps on a property owned by Tech just west of the campus. On our way to the trapping sight, Dr. Bradley spotted a skunk and shot it. Yes, our class involved the euthanization of the specimens we collect in the field. This is done in order to allow for us to study the specimen at a later time and also provide it for future generations. Our work is important because it provides information regarding the biodiversity of the area and the changes it experiences over time. For example, if we manage to catch a great number of kangaroo rats, then we can compare that to the population numbers of kangaroo rats caught 100 years ago. If we see an increase, then we can conclude that there has been a change in the population due to a specific cause, being the loss of a predator or other changes in the ecological components of the area.

In lab we were introduced to the skulls of coyotes, and we were asked to identify about 38 different bones of the animal's cranium. Just like with birds and wildflowers, we were required to purchase a field guide to skulls. However, much of the identification of the mammal head is based on the number of teeth, diversity within them (incisors, canines, premolars, and molars), and placement of different processes or canals. Later one, as I get better at it I might also post a guide to identifying mammals.

While we are barely at the beginning, I can already feel the stress of the class. This is simply a two week course, so there must be a lot of rapid learning. However, we are required to prepare a collection of 10 different specimens each. This is hard, since I do not know the process of preparing the animal skins. Still, I am up to the challenge. On my free time, I take the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the campus. Today I took a walk to the South Llano River and took some photographs that I have attached below. In the meantime I shall write as soon as I get the opportunity.

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