Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

Day 112. Bloodwood

In December 2012 on December 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm

 red sap

A morning walk for French pastries turned into a journey of discovery today when we happened upon a large Bloodwood, or Corymbia tree.

The lower half of the trunk was covered in deep red, quince-paste-coloured crystals and solidified drips of sap – we collected a few samples (shown above).

The tree itself appeared rather different in terms of bark and leaf characteristics compared to other native Australian plants I could see in the street, so upon returning home I performed a little research.

It turns out Corymbia is indeed a Eucalypt, but its relationship with other trees in the genus is complex. Jim Barrow at Australian Plants online tells an interesting story about Corymbia, and in doing so sheds some light on the processes botanists use to classify plants and describe their evolutionary relationships with each other. I’ll leave it to you to read the full story, but the bottom line is there can be two approaches to thinking about plant classification. To quote Jim,

“Fundamentalists argue that classification must follow evolution. If the branching structures created by computer programs show one group branching off and then another group branching from this, this must be reflected in the names given to the groups.”

“Pragmatists say that classifications are generated by humans for our convenience and a genus is a grouping of questionable natural significance.”

I’d love to study plant – and indeed animal- classification. My impression is that it would be a walk through history as well as biology.


Day 51. Fairy penguin

In October 2012 on October 2, 2012 at 9:03 am

With tiring out the children (my three + two additional nieces) one of the primary goals of each day while school is out, yesterday we set off to explore one of the bays in Innes National Park.

We uncovered many beautiful shells, but the highlight was this charming piece of debris, the ‘wing’ of a fairy penguin (Eudyptula minor). A bit of internet research gave me some facts.

Fairy penguins

  • are the smallest species of penguin;
  • are the the only species of penguin to breed in Australia;
  • make nests in burrows along the southern coast and islands of Australia and New Zealand;
  • eat small fish such as anchovies, squid, plankton, krill, small octopi and pilchards as well as crab larvae, sea horses and crustaceans;
  • are predated at sea by sharks, seals and killer whales.

I guess the wings don’t taste so good.

Day 17. Dreaming

In August 2012 on August 29, 2012 at 12:34 pm

In-between cranking out some serious science writing for a client, today I’m dreaming.

Yesterday science online guru Bora Zivkovic posted a link to a list of 25+ top journalism & freelance writing conferences for 2012-13.

I can’t tear my eyes away from it! Imagine the freedom of being able to hop in a plane and scoot off to Be a Better Freelancer! Resources for a Successful Editorial Business. Or Science Writers 2012, with sessions such as How Lives Unfold: the childhood roots of adult health and life success, or The search for human origins in the age of the genome.

The one I’d really like to save up for is Science Online 2013. Failing that, a local get-together for viewing of live-streamed sessions might be in order. Watch this space….

Day 9. Adventure

In August 2012 on August 21, 2012 at 11:17 am

Funny how a single sentence can trigger a cascade of memories.

My friend and colleague Upulie was passionately tweeting about New Guinea’s birds of paradise from the recent David Attenborough public lecture in Melbourne.

Immediately I was transported back to being 10 years old, ensconced in the Willard Price tale Cannibal Adventure.  Without revisiting the text, I can still bring to mind a rough version of the paragraphs describing how Papuan people smeared gum-like sap over the branches of a tree to trap birds of paradise. The book was one in a series about teen zoologists Hal and Roger Hunt, traversing the world to collect live specimens for their father’s nature reserve. I’ve read them all, and so has my brother Simon – for me, the books represent a strong point in common from our childhood. I can still feel the buzz of adrenaline I got reading about escapes from mako sharks, giant clams and the inevitable bad guys who cropped up here and there.

Since then, another science and twitter buddy Vanessa has informed me that the estate of Willard Price has commissioned more books in the series, this time about the adventures of Hal and Roger’s children. In the modern iteration, nature conservation and species protection are at the forefront. Ignoring these for the meantime, I have ordered the first 3 books in the original series under the pretence of buying for my children. But I’m going to re-read them first.