Sunday, January 13, 2019

Figures and Diagrams

I was at a bit of a creative impasse at the start of the year.  I couldn't think of any subjects that I wanted to address creativity.  My normal go to topics of birds and mushrooms were providing no inspiration.  I attribute my artistic block to the season; the cold, short days of January.  I spent an evening reflecting on this inevitable and natural occurrence, trying to divorce reason and self from the reality of winter.  I ended up, quite spontaneously with the first picture below.

Migration Trigger
As I was transferring the image from my iPad to desktop, I miss-typed the word "migration".  Spell check changed the title to "Irrational Trigger" which works too. 

I really liked the way the picture turned out and enjoyed personifying a somewhat abstract natural phenomena.  So I decided to keep to the style and process and apply it to other ideas.
Endoplasmic Reticulum, Smooth and Rough
I love diagrams in biology textbooks; all the little blobs, arrows, squiggly lines and alphanumeric notations.  Many of them have an almost sigil-like quality to them, as if they are alchemical instructions from some lost occult grimore instead of renderings of cell functions and the like in a  biology textbook.

The figures are very acrobatic, inspired equally by my daughter's aerial arts performances as they are by the complex set of steps and interactions involved in any biological process.

Light Pillar
One of the highlights of January is the increased chance of sun pillars, sun dogs and the such caused by ice crystals floating in the atmosphere.

I highly recommend the Atmospheric Optics page for in depth explanations of these sorts of phenomena.

I plan to continue with more artwork in this vein.   These three images are available in various formats at the Distracted Naturalist Redbubble site.  So you could buy a print and hang it up in your lab, or get a sticker and put in on your bass guitar case.  Even a small card placed on a meditation altar could be cool. . .

Friday, November 16, 2018

Linden Looper Moth

Linden Loopers are a fall moth in the Geometridae, or Inchworm family.

Linden Loopers are adapted for remaining active in colder weather, when most other insects are inactive.  In one study (cited below) of another cold-adapted Geometrid moth, the Winter Moth, Operophtera brumata,  it was noted that the flight muscles operate at lower temperatures and that they have a higher flight muscle to body mass ratio than a warm-adapted moth.

The female Linden Looper Moths are flightless, which is the case for a number of cold weather Geometrids.  By losing the ability to fly, they have more energy to devote to egg production.

Even with these adaptation, being an insect active in the cold is a physiological challenge.  The advantage is that there are fewer insect predators present in the colder months of fall

Marden, James H. 1995. Evolutionary Adaptation of Contractile Performance in Muscle of Ectothermic Winter-Flying Moths.  The Journal of Experimental Biology.  198, 2087 - 2094.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

An Illustrated Life List: Hermit Thrush

I've been watching Hermit Thrushes eat Virginia Creeper berries in our backyard all weekend.  The V. Creeper vines hang down over a window at the back of the house. 

This afternoon I sit at a desk by the window the Hermit Thrushes flutter up from the ground to nab a berry, sometimes perching for a bit within view.

Snow fell in the morning.  As the backyard garden disappeared under a thin layer of white and the thrushes kept coming for berries I had the satisfying sense that all my hours of work in the garden were for these Hermit Thrushes.

Seeing the berries eaten by these birds gives me a sense of completion for the year's garden season

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Small Things That Make You Itch

A pictorial guide to the life cycles of very small critters that can leave you with an itchy rash.