It blue* my mind

*pun intended
Blue Flowers
Blue(?) Veronica

I love the story about the colour blue in nature. I’ve gone on about how there is no known vertebrate with an actual blue pigment; the rest of the colour blue we see is actually structural pigmentation. On the recent field course I taught in Kenya, I had the following conversation with a student.

Me: You know, there is no animal with a blue pigment.
Student: Okay.
Me: So how come some animals look blue?
Student: SOIMF** YOU’RE BLOWING MY MIND***

Blue Flowers
Blue(?) Lobelia
Blue Flowers
Delphiniums are pretty blue
Blue Flowers

Here’s a great video on it:

Blue Flowers
Is this ornamental Centaurea blue?
Blue Flowers
Blue-eyed grass is definitely blue, right?

NB: The video mentions a butterfly with an actual blue pigment! Cool!

Blue Flowers
Blue Love-in-the-mist

A recent blog post on Jeff Ollerton’s Biodiversity Blog got me thinking about the colour blue again. His post was on blue flowers and I thought, wait, I know animals don’t have blue pigments, but do plants? The answer was yes!

Blue Flowers
Blue(?) Spiderwort
Blue Flowers
Blue Chicory

Plants DO have a blue pigment…actually, they have water soluble flavonoid pigments that range from red to blue based on the pH****. (How cool is that?!) Gardeners will recognize this phenomenon in Hydrangeas, which will be blue in acid soils and pink or red in basic soil.

Blue Flowers
Blue Borage

As mentioned in Jeff’s blog, however, what we would consider “true blue” (as opposed to shades of purple) is still relatively rare in flowers. A few examples off the top of my head are Meconopsis (blue poppies, Papaveraceae), Myosotis (forget-me-nots, Boraginaceae), Borago (Borage, Boraginaceae), and Nigella (love-in-the-mist, Ranunculaceae), Centaurea (cornflowers, Asteraceae), and Sisyrinchium (blue-eyed-grass, Iridaceae).

But I’m definitely not the first person to think about blue flowers. Plants are bred and genetically modified to produce blue pigments (even dyed in grocery stores), and now they have created a chrysanthemum that expresses a blue pigment (from Delphinium, I think). There’s a real market for true blue! There’s even a RadioLab episode on it (and you know I love RadioLab). Listen here (it’s awesome): http://www.radiolab.org/story/211213-sky-isnt-blue/

Do you have a favourite blue flower? Or do you think some of the ones I picked are not “true blue”? Argue below…

**StandingOutInMyField
***It’s fun to do this to students.
****Some people argue that these anthocyanins are not actually blue pigments either! As far as I understand it, their argument is that the chemical modification of pigments in order to make them blue means the pigments are not truly blue. You can read David Lee’s excellent book “Nature’s Palette” (for free!) here: http://priede.bf.lu.lv/grozs/AuguFiziologijas/Augu_resursu_biologija/gramatas/Plant%20Color.pdf
“The problem of blue flowers” starts on page 180 if you want to skip straight to that.

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This is a lot of fun/trippy…you can choose your own vector field settings or randomize the image, either way it’s cool: Vector Field Play

Raptors set fires deliberately in Australia (as if fires weren’t enough of a problem already!): These Birds of Prey Are Deliberately Setting Forests on Fire

You’ve probably already seen this, but alligators survive the freezing of ponds in Florida by sticking their noses above the water and allowing themselves to be frozen into the pond…clever girl…: Video shows how alligators survive in a frozen pond

New article showing butterflies evolved before the diversification of angiosperms (flowering plants). This isn’t actually that surprising to me, but it’s interesting in comparison to the study that showed that bees diversified in the age of eudicots (Cardinal and Danforth 2013). Some of my own work also suggests that bees (as a group) are more tightly coevolved with angiosperms than Lepidopterans (moths and butterflies), which makes sense if you consider that moths and butterflies in general tend not to rely on pollen: Exquisite fossils show butterflies appeared before there were flowers to pollinate

Bat brains frying in Australia’s heat wave (while in the northeastern US, temperatures plummeted to -32C last week): Australia’s Heat Wave Fries Bats’ Brains, Hundreds Found Dead

Gotta love these cute little shiny transformer beetles: Little Transformers: Lamprosoma, the living Christmas ornament

Changes in the jet stream may lead to more extreme weather events: Scientists Say A Fluctuating Jet Stream May Be Causing Extreme Weather Events

I love these crazy looking pelican spiders! Always so much more to discover in nature…also, I still want to go to Madagascar one day (so much!): Madagascar’s Ancient ‘Pelican Spiders’ Are As Striking As They Are Strange

Coywolves spotted in central New York…this is an interesting topic that I’ve been keeping an idle eye on for the past few years…canines interbreeding and coyotes filling the ecological niche of the wolves we lost on the east coast. Of course, a lot of people are reacting badly…it raises the question: can humans coexist with a stable ecosystem? Which would, of course, require an apex predator…: ‘Coywolf’ Sightings Grip a Rural New York Community

Sad to say the longleaf pine ecosystem is endangered…I spent a few weeks working in one as an undergrad, under the tutelage of Walter Tschinkel in Apalachicola State Forest. It’s a truly unique and beautiful ecosystem, with tall, lean pines and palmettos with their trunks growing underground and their palms popping aboveground at random, like fans. Photos Document the Last Remaining Old-Growth Pine Forests of the American South

A jedi battle!

My father gave some of my younger cousins lightsabers for Christmas! An hours long saber battle ensued, giving me a wealth of long exposure photo opportunities, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Of the humans, kids are the most fun to photograph because they completely lack the self-consciousness of adults. My cousins would pause their play every few minutes to run over and check out the photos I’d taken (which only egged me on of course…never encourage a photographer!).

I hope you find these fun too!
Jedi Lightsabers
Unwrapping the light sabers…
Jedi Lightsabers
And a battle immediately ensues!
Jedi Lightsabers
Swish!
Jedi Lightsabers
Especially cool reflecting off all the plastic we put up when working on the oak floor
Jedi Lightsabers
Battle for the hallway
Jedi Lightsabers
He’s down!
Jedi Lightsabers
My little cousin facing off against her much bigger uncle
Jedi Lightsabers
Distracted from battle
Jedi Lightsabers
I love her brave face in this one
Jedi Lightsabers
One of my favourites…
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
A sith enters the battle
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
A battle to the death!
Jedi Lightsabers
These kids haha
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Zooooom
Jedi Lightsabers
Love the shadow
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Arguably, I had more fun taking photos than they did playing Jedi
Jedi Lightsabers
oooo shiny
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Movie poster?
Jedi Lightsabers
Star Wars or Matrix?
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Facing down a Sith
Jedi Lightsabers
Haha wiggly hands
Jedi Lightsabers
Come to the dark side…
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
This really looks like a Jedi photo!
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
The death blow
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers
Jedi Lightsabers

Red Oak Floor

When I worked at Cornell, I spent some weekends learning from and working with a carpenter who had been injured in a car accident. He needed help because of his injury and I love learning new trades, so it worked well. I helped him install/finish a number of hard wood floors (his expertise), but I had never worked through the whole process from install to finish before. When my parents moved into a new house this summer, we decided it would be fun to meet up again to install a wood floor for them…only things got a little more complicated when he accidentally tore his bicep tendon off the bone a couple months before we were due to start (it’s crazy and a little terrifying that this can happen).

This meant that I was in charge of all the heavy lifting, as well as most of the sanding and the floor stapler. In spite of significant anxiety from all parties (my parents in case we ruined their floor, the carpenter in case he ruined their floor, and me because of the responsibility), the floor turned out beautifully! It is certainly the best one I’ve ever done, and my carpenter friend said it was in his top three.

It’s so smooth (partly because we individually palm sanded every board after the first coat of poly haha)!

Red Oak Floor
We first ripped up the carpet (which is so much fun, I’m considering ending future arguments, by simpling reaching down and tearing the carpet off the floor)
Red Oak Floor
My buddy the drum sander…you can see how shiny the wood is before it is sanded, and how smooth it is after sanding
Red Oak Floor
Sorry this is blurry, but I wanted to show off our fancy threshhold
Red Oak Floor
The edger is a real beast! Don’t you love the rosy colour of the red oak?
Red Oak Floor
My mother was in charge of filling gaps with putty
Red Oak Floor
After sanding
Red Oak Floor
The second room after sanding (two small rooms are way more time consuming that one big one)
Red Oak Floor
First coat (while still wet)
Red Oak Floor
First coat, second room
Red Oak Floor
First coat, dry
Red Oak Floor
First coat, dry, second room
Red Oak Floor
Fourth coat!
Red Oak Floor
Fourth coat from upstairs
Red Oak Floor
Red Oak Floor
The money shot, finished!

Wood floors are the best, aren’t they?

More Rascal photos

I can never get enough of this pup!

Rascal
These two are in love
Rascal
That look of adoration
Rascal
This is what every day should be like…two people petting me at the same time!
Rascal
Happy Face
Rascal
Rascal
She’s getting a little more distinguished with grey eyebrows these days
Rascal
Yessssss…all the cuddles
Rascal
Rascal demonstrating proper double love paw format
Rascal
And eat his nose
Rascal
Pure joy

Rascal the Raider dog enjoying snow

Yes it’s true…I got to hang out with this adorable pup. I know everyone is jealous!

Rascal
Silly pup loves eating snow
Rascal
Serious snow nose
Rascal
Rascal
I never get tired of these goofy photos of her running
Rascal
Rascal
Rascal
A pretty photo of her kingdom
Rascal
RAWR
Rascal
Rascal
Rascal
Rascal
Rascal
Rascal
Barrelling through the snow
Rascal
Rascal
Rascal
Happy puppy!
Rascal
Rascal
Rascal
Rascal
Rascal
Attacking the camera person!
Rascal
Playin!
Rascal
Snow nose
Rascal