The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Category Archives: Orthoptera (Grasshoppers, crickets and alies)

The finish line is in sight

Because mole cricket.

Clawing my way to the finish line! (Alternatively titled, “Excuse to post a picture of a mole cricket, which is an awesome animal, period.”)

Fifteen centimeters of snow fell yesterday, we’ve burned through nearly our entire cache of firewood, and there’s not a hint of green life to be found. Nevertheless, it’s just past the first day of spring, and a startlingly short 3 weeks until the last day of classes.

I swear I have not been deliberately neglecting this space, and my extended absence this time ’round is absolutely no cause for alarm.

The simple truth is that I have been having an excellent term and am entirely preoccupied with other things that are firmly at the forefront of my attention as this year rushes by, roaring full-tilt towards what I am grudgingly recognizing as the imminent conclusion of this PhD (*sad face*).

In the last few months I have: a) begun searching, and applying for, postdoctoral positions (another post for another day, but it will probably start with something along the lines of, “womp, womp”); b) started working as an assistant at The University’s teaching and learning services office; c) been blessed with a small army (I’m not exaggerating even a little bit – there are so many) of enthusiastic, intelligent and hard-working undergraduates who are helping me squeeze out the last bit of data for my thesis by volunteering in my lab; and d) having an absolute blast teaching.

Teaching is exhausting. Anyone who says it only takes 3 hours of prep for 1 hour of lecture is a LYING LIE-FACE, at least for the first go-round with a new course. It is challenging as heck: I’m learning/re-learning an awful lot on a daily basis and stepping well outside my comfort zone. It is also enormously humbling. My students are SO FREAKING SMART and I am a flawed human being who sometimes makes dumb mistakes, which they invariably – and delightedly – point out.

Teaching this class has also brought me so much joy I can’t even begin to tell you.

In a few weeks, once the dust has settled and exams are marked and grades are in, I’m going to sit down and write some of my thoughts about this experience, and also about where things stand with my research and “career” progress (and, if this winter ever decides to end, maybe even some new photos of bugs), but in the meantime I just wanted to check in and say, “Hi!”, and “Happy spring!”, and “I’ll see you at the finish line!”

ESO Bug Eye Photo Contest!

The results of the Entomological Society of Ontario Bug Eye photo contest were announced last night!  We were treated to a slide show of the 130ish entries; there was some spectacular work!

Also this:

I took 2nd place in the “Ontario Insect” category for

Mine foot is tasty (omnomnom) - a green Katydid

2nd in “Photo by an Ontario Resident” category for

Anisomorpha buprestoides (Southern Two-Striped Walkingstick, Devil Rider, or Musk Mare)

and 1st in the “Open Category” for

Green Lynx Spider, Peucetia viridans [Explored]

It was a good night! <—massive understatement. I’ll be one of the judges for next year’s contest 😀

I don’t think I mentioned this either: one of my photos was one of seven selected in the Entomological Society of Canada photo contest to be on the cover of the journal, The Canadian Entomologist, for 2013!

Stratiomys badia (soldier fly, Stratiomyidae)

Other than simply being ridonculously thrilled over these results, I think what I’m most pleased about is that all four of these photos use different techniques (natural setting/outdoors and studio), lighting (ambient light and flash), use of backgrounds (white box, coloured, black) and subjects (spider, phasmid, fly, katydid).  I’m happy to be producing decent AND diverse images! 🙂

Forgotten Photo Friday: differential grasshopper

On a hazy, warm, sunny morning in late summer, a  grasshopper feeds on the bud of a yellow composite flower .

Differential grasshoppper, Melanoplus differentialis

Differential grasshoppper, Melanoplus differentialis

This photograph was taken at the Shaw Nature Reserve in Missouri, while at BugShot 2011. On that note, I want to thank everybody who has supported my fundraising efforts to attend BugShot 2012. Thanks to your generous donations and your enthusiasm for consuming hot beverages out of geeky mugs, I am 60% of the way to my goal!  I can’t even begin to express my gratitude….

This image (note the yellow) makes me yearn for warmer weather. Oddly enough, the forecast here is calling for temperatures in the high teens and mid-twenties (degrees Celsius!) for the next few days – totally unheard of for mid-March! I’m feeling optimistic about getting some new photos this weekend!

Forgotten Photo Friday – Oblong-winged Katydid

Sadly(?), it’s that time again.

It’s too darn cold out for most bugs, and I suspect that my recent run of finding critters IN the house has dried up for the most part, so real-time photos will be quite scarce until the spring (*cry*). While I do plan on practicing (and sharing) my studio-style photography during the winter months whenever I can find a subject, I think it’s time to bring back the Forgotten Photo Friday series for another year.

After returning from BugShot and dropping some coin on a new-to-me flash, I spent quite a few days playing outside, experimenting with this new light source. I managed to get a few decent snapshots of critters around my house.  Here’s the first:

Mine foot is tasty (omnomnom) - a green Katydid

Amblycorypha oblongifolia - Oblong-winged Katydid - nibbling her toesies.

It seemed like there were a LOT of katydids around this year, more than I can remember in past summers. They were frequent visitors to my back porch light, and the chorus of their combined songs at night was marvelously loud.

I somehow spotted this chunky-pretty and incredibly cryptic female on a low, still-green shrub alongside a trail in the woods in mid-September.  I plucked a red leaf off the ground and offered it to her, to offset her vibrant green colour bef0re snapping her portrait. She kindly obliged.

Apparently entirely unbothered by me, she spent most of her photoshoot grooming her toesies tarsi.

Fun fact: this species comes in two other color morphs – tan/orange and PINK. PINK!!!  I’m pretty sure I would lose my bananas if I came across a pink katydid.

BugShot 2011 = Awesome

I’m home from BugShot, bleary-eyed and sleepy from a long night of travel and three prior days of sleep deprivation.  No, Alex Wild, John Abbott and Thomas Shahan weren’t working us THAT hard, but I was so darn fired up and excited about everything we were doing that I found it hard to tear myself away from my camera, even at 2 a.m.!  The Shaw Nature Reserve in Missouri provided a beautiful setting for this jam-packed and very hands-on workshop, and the new (to me) ecosystem meant encounters with a lot of  new critters!

In the field with Alex Wild, as he demonstrates some lighting and diffusion techniques (I'm convinced his awesome field hat is at least party responsible for his photography-super-powers.)

I had the most amazing weekend: I learned everything I hoped to, and more.  Even better than the fact that I’m feeling considerably less camera-stupid (I’m not shooting in Auto Mode as a default!  I can manipulate my exposure all by myself!  I’m using FLASHES!!!), I am coming away from this weekend feeling incredibly inspired.  I’ve got some new ideas about composition, lighting, equipment and technique that I can’t wait to try in the field, and in a studio setting. I think I will get off my very disorganized arse (*badly-labelled desktop folders*) and start applying what I’ve learned about digital asset management (*metadata! LightRoom! external hard drives!*) in a serious way.

My first "keeper" of the workshop, taken in my usual style with ambient light: plant hoppers (Enchenopa sp.-on-Ptelea) and egg masses

The three instructors were friendly and incredibly generous with their time, expertise and advice.  Each had a unique artistic eye and set of ideas about how to get the most out of your equipment; I’ve taken away some great tips and ideas from all of them. I have to thank Alex especially for giving me the opportunity to experiment with some of his flash units and studio setups – it was so great to actually work with these things rather than simply observe.

Trying out Alex's Canon 430EX off-camera flash with remote trigger (WANT!) in the field. I never could have captured this image of two very cryptic grasshoppers tucked under a shady bark nook in the dark forest understory without it!

I’ve also really enjoyed sharing with and learning from all of the participants – each one brought different perspectives, expertise and levels of experience, and I’ve benefited from so many of them. Special shout-outs have to go to some of my online friends who I FINALLY got to meet in person: Lee, DragonflyWoman, Dave, and Ted, it was a blast! (I’ve also found some new online folk, stay tuned for some blogroll updates!)

“Fishing” for tiger beetle larvae with none other than the blogosphere’s famous Ted MacRae (fangirl moment: Ted is one of my personal blogging/beetle/photography heroes) was definitely one of the highlights of my trip (Ted, next time I’m in the area – you, me, beetle-hunting, ok? :-))

An antlion larva, fished out from its funnel-shaped chamber under a porch (my first antlions!!!) and posed in Alex's white box setup for a studio shot. What a super-fun tool! I have a lot of respect for the work Alex must do to chase down fast-moving ants in there...this little guy seriously didn't stop moving (backward!!!) for more than a nanosecond!!!

So, basically, the entire thing was awesome and if I could do it again next weekend I would in a heartbeat.  I think I’m going to start saving up now so I can go again next year (after I’ve finished saving up for some new equipment, mind you)!

I have a lot more pictures to share, but I’m not going to do it now…this workshop gave me enough blog fodder to get me through the busy fall term!

Thanks again, Alex, Thomas and John!!!

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