Friday, 6 July 2018

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

Audaces fortuna iuvat
Ursus curious! A young Black Bear (Ursus americanus) cub checks out a frisky, startled Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) both native species in southern British Columbia. Generally, the aroma from a skunk is enough of a deterrent to keep curiosity at bay. Not in this case.

Bear cubs are known for being playful. They usually stick pretty close to Mamma but sometimes an intriguing opportunity for discovery will cross their path and entice them to slip away just for a few minutes to check it out.

The karma gods were good to this wee one. Nobody was skunked in this quest for exploration, though not for lack of trying.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Monday, 2 July 2018

TOPSY TURVY: PROCYON LOTOR

A wee babe finds his world upside down. I have a raccoon friend who lives in the base of the trees behind my place. He was the runt of last year's litter.

Everything you've read about them falls short of this wee fellow. While meant to be nocturnal, he's out in the day. I've read that they are shy and avoid human contact, but he's playful, curious and would love to be social. While sitting on my deck, he'll slowly sneak up to check out what I'm doing.

I've seen him roll around in the flowerbed in full sun, clearly loving his time, sit up to examine his toes for 30-40 minutes at a time. I've read somewhere that they are bright little fellas, and it's true for this guy. He's figured out how to get the unlockable compost container unlocked and harvested for all it's tasty, rotten veggies. Mmmm, quite a charmer!

Sunday, 1 July 2018

HAPPY CANADA DAY

Happy Canada Day. Someone cue the beaver. This fellow was having a tasty snack of fresh dandelions by the side of the road. Completely uninterested in my approach or paparazzi moment he just munched away. Must get that all the time...

Thursday, 14 June 2018

TERRACOTTA WARRIORS

The Terracotta Army is a collection of more than 7,000 life-size figures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, First Emperor of China, set in military formation found in an archaeological excavation near Xi'An, Shaanxi Province, China.

Monday, 11 June 2018

WASH ON, WASH OFF

If you were a fish living in the warm turquoise waters off the coast of Bonaire, you may not hear those words, but you'd see the shrimp sign language equivalent. It seems Periclimenes yucatanicus or Spotted Cleaner Shrimp is doing a booming business in the local reefs by setting up a fish washing service.

That's right, a Fish Wash. You'd be hard pressed to find a terrestrial Molly Maid with two opposable thumbs as studious and hardworking as this wee marine beauty.

This quiet marine mogul is turning out to be one of the ocean's top entrepreneurs. Keeping its host and diet clean and green, the spotted shrimp hooks up with the locals, in this case, local sea anemones and sets up a fish wash. Picture a car wash but without the noise and teenage boys. The signage posted is the shrimps' natural coloring which attracts fish from around the reefs.

Wash on, wash off.

Once within reach, the shrimp cleans the surface of the fish, giving the fish a buff and the shrimp its daily feed.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Sunday, 3 June 2018

CaCO3 + CO2 + H2O → Ca (HCO3)2

 
Those of you who live near the sea understand the compulsion to collect shells. They add a little something to our homes and gardens.

With a strong love of natural objects, my own home boasts several stunning abalone shells conscripted into service as both spice dish and soap dish.

As well as beautiful debris, shells also played an embalming role as they collect in shell middens from coastal communities. Having food “packaging” accumulate in vast heaps around towns and villages is hardly a modern phenomenon.

Many First Nations sites were inhabited continually for centuries. The discarded shells and scraps of bone from their food formed enormous mounds, called middens. Left over time, these unwanted dinner scraps transform through a quiet process of preservation.

Time and pressure leach the calcium carbonate, CaCO3, from the surrounding marine shells and help “embalm” bone and antler artifacts that would otherwise decay. Useful this, as antler makes for a fine sewing tool when worked into a needle. Much of what we know around the modification of natural objects into tools comes from this preservation.

Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound that shares the typical properties of other carbonates. CaCO3 is common in rocks and shells and is a useful antacid for those of you with touchy stomachs. In prepping fossil specimens embedded in limestone, it is useful to know that it reacts with stronger acids, releasing carbon dioxide: CaCO3(s) + 2HCl(aq) → CaCl2(aq) + CO2(g) + H2O(l)

For those of you wildly interested in the properties of CaCO3, may also find it interesting to note that calcium carbonate also releases carbon dioxide on when heated to greater than 840°C, to form calcium oxide or quicklime, reaction enthalpy 178 kJ / mole: CaCO3 → CaO + CO2.

Calcium carbonate reacts with water saturated with carbon dioxide to form the soluble calcium bicarbonate. Bone already contains calcium carbonate, as well as calcium phosphate, Ca2, but it is also made of protein, cells and living tissue.

Decaying bone acts as a sort of natural sponge that wicks in the calcium carbonate displaced from the shells. As protein decays inside the bone, it is replaced by the incoming calcium carbonate, making makes the bone harder and more durable.

The shells, beautiful in their own right, make the surrounding soil more alkaline, helping to preserve the bone and turning the dinner scraps into exquisite scientific specimens for future generations.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Monday, 30 April 2018

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Thursday, 5 April 2018

AMMONITE BEAUTY

Varying in size from millimeters to meters across, ammonites are prized as both works of art and index fossils helping us date rock. The ammonites were cousins in the Class Cephalopoda, meaning "head-footed," closely related to modern squid, cuttlefish and octopus. Cephalopods have a complex eye structure and swim rapidly.

Ammonites used these evolutionary benefits to their advantage, making them successful marine predators. I shared some ammonites with my wee paleontologist cousins this weekend, Madison and Melaina. They were impressed with the amazing range of species and body styles. Their favorites were the ones from Alberta and England with their original mother of pearl still intact.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Friday, 16 March 2018

LATE OLIGOCENE SOOKE FORMATION

Desmostylus, Royal Ontario Museum Collection
The late Oligocene Sooke Formation outcrops at several coastal localities along the South-west coast of Vancouver Island. The most well-known and most collected of these are the exposures to the west of Muir Creek.

The formation contains marine fossils including a diversity of intertidal and near shore gastropods, bivalves, abundant barnacle (Balanus) plates, and rare coral, echinoid (sand dollar) and mammal (Desmostylus) fossils.

When these fossils were laid down, the Northeastern Pacific had cooled to near modern levels and the taxa that were preserved as fossils bear a strong resemblance to those found living today beneath the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In fact, many of the Sooke Formation genera are still extant.

We find near shore and intertidal genera such as Mytilus (mussels) and barnacles, as well as more typically subtidal predatory globular moon snails, surf clams (Spisula, Macoma), and thin, flattened Tellin clams.

In several places, there are layers thickly strewn with fossils, suggesting that they were being deposited along a strand line. The rock is relatively coarse-grained sandstone, suggesting a high energy environment as would be found near a beach.

The outcrops at Muir Creek make for a great day trip. This is a family friendly site best enjoyed and collected at low tide.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Sunday, 21 January 2018

GIANT'S CAUSEWAY: NORTHERN IRELAND

The Giant's Causeway is a spectacular expanse of interlocking hexagonal basalt columns formed from volcanic eruptions during the Paleocene some 50-60 million years ago.

Highly fluid molten basalt intruded through chalk beds which later cooled, contracted and cracked into hexagonal columns, creating a surreal visual against a dark and stormy Irish Sea.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Tuesday, 2 January 2018