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“Robomussels” in the New York Times

Robomussel in a mussel bed at Hopkins Marine Station, Pacific Grove, CA.

For several years, starting first at UC Santa Barbara around 1999/2000, and then in the mid 2000’s and early teens at Hopkins Marine Station, I would spend one or two low tides per year going out to the seashore and gluing fake plastic mussels into the middle of real mussel beds (as shown above). These ‘robomussels’ were originally created by Brian Helmuth (now of Northeastern … Continue Reading

My work as a snail whisperer and professional killjoy

Littorina littorea periwinkle snails from Quoddy Head, Maine. Photo by me.

The New York Times online Science section published a short piece earlier this month by Joanna Klein about humming to periwinkles.

Joanna contacted me for some background on this story, which has a simple premise:
People who grew up in coastal New England know this trick: To coax a periwinkle snail out of its shell, hum to it.
This was news to me, but also sounded crazy enough that there … Continue Reading

Tidal datums and shifting baselines

I recently dredged up an old poster on tide heights and tidal datums that several of us put together back in graduate school and presented at the Western Society of Naturalists meeting in either 2003 or 2004. This was a hot topic (for 5 or so people) at the time, since the national tidal datums for the United States had all just been updated.

Click for the pdf copy of the poster

This poster discusses how the tidal datum, i.e. the location … Continue Reading

Our new paper on limpets grazing microscopic algae

Lottia limpets sitting on an experimental plate in the intertidal zone.

We recently had a new paper come out in Marine Ecology Progress Series, titled Quantifying the top-down effects of grazers on a rocky shore: selective grazing and the potential for competition (open access link at MEPS)  (permanent doi link).

This project involved putting a series of round aluminum plates out in the high intertidal zone at Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, CA, and allowing natural microalgae to … Continue Reading

Things you see with a camera trap

I had the time lapse camera described in this post set out in the rocky intertidal zone in Monterey. Late one afternoon it caught these images of a ground squirrel venturing down into the mussel zone and picking small mussels (Mytilus californianus) off the rocks and eating them. If you replay the video a few times you’ll see a couple of the mussels on the edge of the bed disappear as the squirrel pulls them off and opens them to eat the insides.

Is live-tweeting meetings losing steam? #scicomm

As I write this in early 2016, sitting in the armpit of Silicon Valley (San Jose is, undeniably based on geography, the armpit of the south San Francisco Bay), we are beginning to witness the first signs of a contraction of the exuberant venture capital markets that have fueled utterly silly tech startup company valuations for the past few years. Twitter is one of the earlier startup darlings that has managed to decline in terms of share price as user base growth slows.

Now I’m beginning to wonder if we’re seeing a similar stagnation in adoption of Twitter as a … Continue Reading

Adventures in course management software: Canvas

Course management software is universally garbage, but Canvas has managed to be better than most. Which is a lot like saying “This is the best tasting pile of dog poop I’ve found today.”

The ability to create online quizzes that have the answers entered for easy grading should make for a useful system, but today I discovered that the precision of the system tops out at the 4th decimal place, which tends to be problematic if I want students to calculate fairly small probabilities (what is the probability of flipping a coin 10 times and getting 10 heads in a row?). … Continue Reading

iButton internals

I’ve written in the past about iButtons and my attempts to waterproof them. Although iButton temperature dataloggers are fairly well sealed, they are not waterproof. But if you know an old person that used iButtons in the late 90s or early 2000s, they might claim that iButtons are absolutely waterproof.

It turns out that iButtons are one of those rare things in life that really were better when you were a kid. In the old days they could be put out in the ocean for weeks or months, completely bare, and most of them would survive … Continue Reading

Basic text string functions in R

To get the length of a text string (i.e. the number of characters in the string):

 nchar()

Using length() would just give you the length of the vector containing the string, which will be 1 if the string is just a single string.

To get the position of a regular expression match(es) in a text string x:

pos = regexpr('pattern', x) # Returns position of 1st match in a string
pos = gregexpr('pattern', x) # Returns positions of every match in a string

To get the position of a regular expression match in a vector x of text strings … Continue Reading

Electronics parts list

Here’s the start of a list of common bits and doo-dads I use for building electronics projects.

https://github.com/millerlp/parts_guide/blob/master/parts_guide.md

That’s all there is to it.