This semester, I’m taking a herpetology class. It’s a lot of fun — I get to actually learn about amphibians, and the class has a lab and field component that I’m really enjoying. Part of my final grade will be based on how well I keep a field notebook — and while writing down substrate temperatures quickly gets boring (there’s a reason I’m not an ecologist, dammit), the plus side is that occasionally, there are things like snakes and frogs in my life.
For example, on Labor Day, I wandered down to the southeastern corner of the state with my lab mates, and while the herping wasn’t great, we did manage to find this wonderful Great Plains Ratsnake (Pantherophis emoryi) hiding under a rock near the side of the road.
Yesterday, our whole class piled into a couple of vans, and we hit Schramm State Recreation Area. With thirty eyes fixed on the ground, we managed to find some pretty cool stuff — including a young Eastern Racer (Coluber constrictor) caught in the act of eating a neonate Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis).
I admit it’s not my best photo ever (super natural background, eh?) but that’s just cool.
Other finds included large numbers of Blanchard’s Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans blanchardi), a juvenile male Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon), adult Common Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis), Plains Leopard Frogs (Lithobates blairi), a young Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) — an invasive species in Nebraska, and, finally, a pair of young Cope’s Grey Tree Frogs (Hyla chrysoscelis), who were hanging out in the park restrooms (cool, damp, and full of insects!) — here’s a portrait of one on a slightly more natural background.
Toads are pretty great animals., and I am very fond of them. There are lots of good, herpetologically sound reasons to be fond of toads, but in my case, they all kind-of boil down to one thing.
Look at that face! It’s so adorable and grumpy and perfect!
This was an adult female. Adult toads can be sexed fairly reliably based on the presence or absence of a nuptial pad on the forelimb and hand; in adult males, this large, prominent structure is used to hold on to adult females during amplexus (the fancy word for frog sex), while females lack these structures. This photo also shows off one of the key identifying characteristics of this species: tall, thin cranial crests (the bony ridges inside of the eye) that give the skull and face a very angular shape.
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/16, 1/100 sec
Diffuse flash in whitebox
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5
So I have finally bowed to consumer pressure, and bought an iPad. I figured that it would be a useful tool for, uh, reading PDFs and taking notes, and that sort of useful graduate student stuff.
Less than forty eight hours after buying it, its memory is half full of X-Men comics and music… So that worked out well.
My favorite thing on the iPad so far, is probably the Paper app from 53. It’s a very neat little sketchbook tool, with really elegant, responsive brushes. Playing with it feels like very fancy fingerpainting. It’s a ton of fun. Plus you get to see my terrible handwriting.
The next one was done from vague memories of what ranids are supposed to look like, so it’s probably awful…
So, does anyone have any recommendations for apps that will turn my iPad from a really expensive sketchbook / comic book reader / mp3 player into something that might actually be good to do science with?