A lot has happened since my last post about visiting the University of New Mexico. Since then I have attended three meetings, traveled abroad, and participated in several outreach events – 2016 kept me busy, and 2017 isn't letting up. I decided I would write a short post summarizing some of the events I've attended. Soon after my last post I participated in the second annual "Our Finned Friends" at the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum with LSUMNS postdoc Dr. Fernando Alda. I participated in the event last year as well, and it is always a good time. This year we brought a new set of fishes to show off to the public, which they seemed to like a lot. After that outreach event our lab quickly got into meeting mode for the summer. The first meeting that I attended was Evolution, which was held in Austin, TX. Evolution is always a great meeting, and in addition to several LSUMNS students and postdocs, the LSUMNS fish lab was represented by myself, and Fernando Alda. Everyones talks went well, and the meeting was a blast. I hadn't been back to Austin since I attended UT for my masters, and while a lot has changed, it is still the great city that I remember it being. Only a few short weeks after Evolution, the entire LSUMNS Fish lab attended the annual JMIH Meeting in New Orleans, LA. This is always one of my favorite meetings and this year was no different. It was a great time to see old friends, meet new ones, and find out what everyone was studying. Furthermore this was a special JMIH meeting in that it was the centennail meeting for ASIH. This resulted in many talks/events highlighting past meetings and even some talks projecting into the future. I look forward to what the next hundred years holds for the ASIH.
Later on in the fall I was fortunate enough to receive the Schultz fund for vising the ichthyology collections at the USNM. This award is named after the late curator, Leonard P. Schultz, who was a very influential curator at the Smithsonian. I had never seen the collections before at the Smithsonian, and had a fantastic time looking at the fishes that I study there. I also was trained in taking x-rays by Sandra Raredon, who takes some of the best x-rays I have ever seen. While mine were no where near her quality, they still revealed really exciting information that I hope will get published sometime in the near future. I can't express enough for fortunate and grateful I am to the staff at the Smithsonian who made this trip possible. Particular thanks goes out to Dr. Lynne Parenti and Sandra Raredon.
After the Washington DC trip there was a flurry of public outreach events, starting the the 2016 LSU Ocean Commotion event that I help out at every year. The stagering amount of kids that come in from all over Louisiana for this event always catching me off guard, but each year it turns out great. This year was no exception. Several weeks after Ocean Commotion, the LSUMNS held another event for the Louisiana Master Naturalists group. These events consist of tours of all of the collections, as well as information sessions about the history and functions of the museum. I love leading these tours because the attendents are always extremely attentative and ask wonderful questions. Towards the end of November the LSUMNS fish lab was involved in another outreach event that is new to the LSUMNS this year – the Night at the Museum series. This was the second ever presentation for this series, which occurs every couple of months. The first ever presentation was given in August of this year by the curator of ornithology at the LSUMNS, Dr. Van Remsen. Van gave an excellent talk where he highlighted his favorite 10 birds in the collection. Unfortunately for our event, curator of ichthyology Dr. Prosanta Chakrabarty was not able to attend, so the lab decided to collectively pick our favorite 10 specimens in the collection. The event went extremely well, and in addition to the main presentation we had several side booths where other graduate students, and undergraduate students in our lab, presented special fishes. We also had a behind the scenes tour given by Fernando Alda. These events are fantastic to attend, and I highly encourage everyone to attend next years Night at the Museum series.
In addition to meetings and outreach events, 2016 ended with an opportunity for me to go out to the Middle East again. This was the third year in a row that I've traveled out to the Middle East, and my second time visiting the United Arab Emirates. I was invited out by Dr. Rima Jabado, who is working for the Environmental Agency in Abu Dhabi. The UAE has been conducting trawling surveys in the Arabian Gulf over the past year, which was bound to turn up some really interesting fishes because trawling is normally banned in the UAE, and many of the other Gulf countries. I was invited out to help them identify their fish, and also to help them set up a reference collection. There aren't too many reference collections that are maintained in the Gulf region, so this was spectacular opportunity to help in the creation of one. It was a very busy trip, but successful. In the end we processed over 500 specimens, including some very rare sepcies, which is a wonderful start to a collection.
After all of that for the later half of 2016, the year ended on a very good note for me. I received this years Outstanding Graduate Student Award at the LSUMNS, which was presented at our anual holiday party. To make things even better, I was notified right at the end of the year that my NSF DDIG has been funded. Receiving a DDIG has been a goal of mine for a long time, and I cannot express how happy I am to receive one.
I started 2017 by attending the International Biogeography Meeting in Tucson, AZ, which was a fun meeting for me to attend because Tucson is where I grew up. I had never been to one of these meetings before, and the talks were very different from the meetings that I usually attend, but it was good to see what other directions people are working in. Soon it will already be time for this summers meetings. Coming up is Evolution in Portland, OR, followed by ASIH in Austin, TX. It had been too long since my last post, I realize, so I'll do my best to keep this updated more frequently in the future.