Bioluminescent Bay in La Parguera, Puerto Rico (Also known as The Night I Swam with Jellyfish)

If you haven’t seen a bioluminescent bay in person, google it right now.  It’s incredible.  The water is full of dinoflagellates that glow blue when they move.  This means the water glows when you move (and when it’s dark enough out, of course).  There are quite a few bio bays around the world, but one of the best is found by La Parguera, Puerto Rico.  This cute little town was under construction when I last visited, but in theory it’ll be done by the time you make it there.  Either way, their bio bay operation is up and running!  If you sign up for this adventure, a lovely tour company will take you and your friends out on their boat at the optimal viewing time.  It takes about twenty minutes to get from the shore to the protected cove that is dark enough to see any form of bioluminescence.  The view at first is a little unimpressive, just dark water and stars.  Then the captain dives into the water and the ocean comes to life with sparkling blue creatures.

One not so brave soul in our group asked the captain what else was in the water.  Makes sense to me, black ocean that’s twenty or so feet deep make me question what could be in there too.  The captain assured us there might be a few schools of fish but that’s about it, and they’d be far too deep for us to notice.  So we hop in and become enchanted by the blue glitter that follows in our wake.  Almost everyone is now in the water when the first girl rushes back to the boat in tears.  She didn’t want to freak the rest of us out, but her bright red arm did that for us.

Apparently the captain forgot to mention the swarm of jellyfish that enjoyed hanging out in the bay.  These weren’t normal jellyfish either.  Known as moon jellies, they prefer to swim upside down, as in tentacles up, and are found five to six feet below the surface.  If you’re short (like me) or aren’t a particularly rambunctious swimmer you won’t even know there’s jellyfish in the water.  Unfortunately for six of the eighteen of us, they didn’t fall into either category and came back to the boat sooner than they wanted with jellyfish stings in various places (mostly ankles and wrists).

But no worries, the pain only lasted a few hours and the redness went away by the next morning.  And I didn’t get stung, so even better.  Even if I had, the experience would have been well worth it to be able to say I went swimming with jellyfish.

Hiking Gear: What’s in my Bag?

Whether you’re filling a bag for a spontaneous hike or prepping for an outdoorsy vacation, the supplies you need for hiking are basically the same.  While the length of the hike itself will determine whether some items are included or not, my over preparedness personality type tells me that all things are necessary at all times because what if something unexpected happens?  But as always, I’m no expert.  Just sharing with you what I’ve learned.  Take what you will from that.

No matter the duration of your hike, food and water are necessities, no questions asked.  Hiking requires energy and dehydration happens a lot faster when you’re out and about.  I recommend granola bars, trail mix, or similar that won’t be effected by the weather conditions.  A useful investment is a Camelpack or some other backpack with the water inside and a straw attached, but it’s not necessary if you don’t want to spend the money on it.  CamelBak’s website has a nifty water calculator that asks a few questions and calculates how much water you would need for maximum performance.  I’ve also heard that you should drink half your weight in ounces of water each day (For example, if you weigh 100 pounds you should drink 50 ounces of water.  Simple enough, right?).  Whichever method you use, water is the most important thing to have with you at all times!

As a perpetually pale person, I live by sunscreen.  Personally for hikes I like to use Neutrogena sunscreen for my face and any type of spray sunscreen for my arms and legs.  I also bring a hat of some sort and cheap sunglasses (in case I lose them).  Bugspray can also be important, depending on the season and location of your hike.  I usually bring some just in case!  If you’re trying to save weight and space, go for the bug wipes rather than spray.  They’re generally single use, so you’ll decrease bag weight as you use them.

A map and a compass can be lifesaving gear when hiking in an unfamiliar area.  Even if you’ve been there before or have a general idea where you’re going, it’s never a bad idea to have a reference just in case!  The same goes for a cell phone in areas where you have reception and a satellite phone in areas you don’t.  You know, just in case of emergency.  The same goes for a small first aid kit that includes at the very least bandaids!

I always bring my camera since I enjoy taking pictures and sharing them with you, but that’s certainly not required.

Keep in mind this is a short list for short trips.  Anything all day, overnight, or longer would require more supplies!  But this list has provided a useful starting point for me.

What hiking gear do you never leave home without?

Guys, Go to Arches!

And by Arches, I of course mean Arches National Park!  I visited in May on a school trip and let me tell you, the one day we had in the park wasn’t nearly enough.  But we experienced the best Moab has to offer in that day, so I thought I’d share it with you!  We camped at the Lower Onion Creek campsite, located just on the backside of Arches.  This gem of a campsite boasts no running water other than the Colorado River, but we loved it anyway.  With views like this, how could you not love it? (Once again, taken with my phone, no editing required!)

onion creek1

onion creek2

Another perk of staying at Onion Creek is the campsite is about half an hour away from Moab, which makes it a lot less busy than the sites closer.  There are no reservations needed unless you’re coming with a large group, you can just show up, fill out a form, stick some money in an envelope, and call it good!

We drove into Arches bright and early in the morning in an attempt to beat the crowds.  That didn’t work so well (everyone in Moab must be early risers) but we didn’t have to wait too long to get into the park.  I was surprised at how far you had to drive into Arches to actually see any, well, arches.  I guess I had always assumed they would be front and center at all times with each vista boasting an arch or two.  While that assumption was wrong, the other parts of the park were pretty cool too.


arches1See? Arches or not, the views are hard to beat.  Eventually we did make it to the arches themselves, with the obligatory hike up to Delicate Arch.  This three mile hike took about three hours, just as the park ranger suggested it would.  Doesn’t three miles in three hours sound a little long?  That’s what we thought too, until we realized how far up Delicate Arch was from where we started.  The hike was strenuous for sure, but definitely worth it.  Bonus tip!  On your way up, the trail twists and turns for awhile.  Once you’re almost to the top, the trail veers sharply to the right and there’s a vertical rock wall on the right and a canyon on the left.  Looking up towards the top of the wall, you’ll see a mini arch that if you possess spider monkey skills or have a friend who does, you can climb up into for the best view of Delicate Arch.


arches6In the first picture you can see the brave souls who scrambled up the wall first without a clue of what they would find on the other side.  In the second you get a pretty clear idea of just how high up we were!  But the best part is yet to come.

arches4 arches7Just look at that!  Not the average Delicate Arch view, right?  It was a little scary to get up to that point, but definitely worth the crawl up an almost vertical sandstone wall.  Good thing there were good friends waiting at the top to pull me up.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: actually standing beneath Delicate Arch!

arches3 arches8Can you see me in the first picture?  Probably not, so the second picture is included as well.  That thing is massive!  No wonder everyone suffers through the hike to finally get there.

arches5We hung out at the top for awhile, too pleased with our accomplishment and amazed at the landscape to really move much. We were still smiling at the end so it must not have been that bad.  The hike back down isn’t as much fun in my opinion, but going downhill certainly makes things easier!  We also stopped in Devil’s Garden to check out the famous Landscape Arch.  We didn’t have much time, but Landscape definitely lived up to expectations!

If you have the chance to go to Arches, take it right away and don’t look back.  From staying off the beaten path, to taking the standard hikes, we definitely made the most of our day in Arches.  Hopefully you get a little more time to enjoy the views!


Take a Hike

No, I’m not rudely telling you to leave (I really appreciate you being here and reading my ramblings!).  I’m simply passing on the advice my boss gave me on Thursday.  After completing the day’s one and only field assignment, she recommended I check out the adjacent trail, bless her heart.  You know, because I should know what we’re talking about when discussing the trails we manage.  Or she just knows how much I abhor sitting in a cubicle all day.  Either way, I’ll take it!

This little gem was only 45 minutes from home!  I guarantee, no matter where you live there’s a hike to be had near you.  Now when I picture hikes, I think of mountains and forests.  But no siree!  Check out this prairie.  (Taken with my phone on the go, no editing needed).


Don’t you feel relaxed just looking at it?  The light breeze tickled the grass and tugged my hair from its braid.  The only reminder of civilization was the occasional glimpse of the gravel road as the trail snaked through the gentle hills.  The only sound was the crunch of my shoes, the whisper of grass, and the occasional call of birds.  Peace filled me and I was able to return to work with my regular optimism, the grumbles of another day at the office far behind.  Ah, the power of a simple, short walk!

And so I say to you: Take a Hike!  You don’t have to go to exotic places to get your daily dose of contentment and adventure.  Explore your city, state, country!  Get out and experience the beauty right under your nose.

Yellowstone National Park, Part 1


Ah, the Upper Falls as seen from Uncle Tom’s Trail. Seriously, is it possible to take a bad picture here?

What better way to start my National Park series with my first post on the first National Park?  And even better, the first national park I ever visited and the very reason I’m studying conservation biology.

Ah, the memories.  But first, a little background information on the national park system!  The National Park System website explains it best: “By the Act of March 1, 1872, Congress established Yellowstone National Park in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming ‘as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people’ and placed it ‘under exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior.’ The founding of Yellowstone National Park began a worldwide national park movement. Today more than 100 nations contain some 1,200 national parks or equivalent preserves.”  The national park system is seriously incredible.  The most beautiful places in not only the US but all over the world have been set aside to educate the public and preserve the environment.  How cool is that?  Each country runs their park system a little differently.  Some are focused more on education, some more on conservation, and some on tourism.  I think the US’s park system has found a lovely blend between these important topics.

So, Yellowstone!  Located in the northwest corner of Wyoming with small areas overlapping into Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone boasts rushing rivers, wide meadows, and mountain ranges galore.  My personal favorite features lie below and above the ground.  You see, Yellowstone is located on a caldera (the remnants of a volcano) that brings the warmth of the lower mantle up to the crust, creating fabulous geothermal features including geysers, mud pots, paint pots, and hot springs.  The extreme temperature allows certain types of bacteria to thrive, painting the pools in rainbow colors (look for pictures of this to follow!).

Yellowstone also boasts an extremely unique ecosystem.  From bears to moose to fox and ground squirrels, fauna of all shapes and sizes call Yellowstone home.  It’s a biologists paradise!  Look forward to more sciencey posts to follow!  I could write on and on (and on and on and on) about the incredible biology found in and around Yellowstone National Park.  (again, pictures to follow!)

But let’s talk about the real reason we read oodles of blog posts every day, eating up every word:  the raw emotion, the human experience, the glimpses into the lives of others.  At this point you’re probably thinking to yourself “Sure, Yellowstone sounds alright.  Maybe I’ll go there.”  But to me, Yellowstone is more than a vacation destination, more than just another stop along the way.  Yellowstone is my home.  Ok, I don’t literally live there (yet) but that’s where a significant portion of my heart is.  On my very first trip to Wyoming, to a National Park, to Yellowstone, I fell in love with a landscape that I knew but hadn’t met yet, with an environment I understood but couldn’t get a true grasp on.  My thirst for adventure, travel, exploration truly began there.  My eyes were opened to a potential career, one spent in the great outdoors with marvelous landscapes, wildlife, and people.  But the story’s not done yet.  Currently, I’m halfway through my degree program in preparation of a life spent conserving the great national treasures that are the focus on the National Park System.

My Favorite Pins: Packing Edition

Don’t you just love Pinterest?  Even if you’re not as addicted to it as I am, you gotta admit it’s certainly useful at times.  Like when you’re packing for a long trip and can only take a carry on, or don’t know how to prevent your contact solution from spilling all over everything, or how to keep your suitcase organized and easily accessible throughout your entire three week adventure.  Those of you who are Pinterest gurus already know all about this wonderful invention and won’t be at all impressed by the knowledge you can gain.  But those of you who aren’t, never fear!  The travel Pinterest (expert? user? person?) is here to enlighten you.

Here are my favorite Pinterest-found packing tips to make your life immensely easier.

After having your mind blown by these lovely pins, you must be ready to hop on the Pinterest bandwagon.  Hey, check us out while you’re there!

Always (Over)Prepared

Daily adventures don’t always allow for the prior notice needed for actual preparation.  You never know when a great opportunity will pop up and it’d be a shame to say no because you don’t have what you need!  Be ready for any adventure with your very own car kit.

A large majority of my time this summer is spent driving between jobs.  Neither of which happen to be close enough to run home if I forgot something, so one might say I got a little over zealous about being prepared.  Introducing, the car kit!  A revolutionary (in my opinion anyway) way to never be unprepared ever again.  Seriously, we’re only halfway through summer and I can’t even count the number of times this bag has saved my day.  I would sincerely suggest putting together even a small bag, just in case your car ever gets stuck or you’re in a bind.  My car kit is tailored to fit the needs of my two jobs, but you can adjust however you see fit to get the most out of your over preparedness.



  • Tennis shoes
  • Hiking Boots
  • Water Shoes
  • Long and short hiking socks

Skin Protection

  • Sunscreen (spray and regular)
  • Bugspray
  • Baseball hat
  • Floppy hat

Just in Case

  • Swimsuit
  • Granola bars
  • Water bottle
  • Bandaids
  • Extra shorts and shirt
  • Old Towel
  • Work gloves

And that’s it!  I use an extra large 31 tote because the rectangular shape simplifies packing, plus clean up is super easy when I make a mess.  I also invested in a insert with pockets to make organization easier.  My car kit will be updated as seasons change and I have different things going on, but it’s definitely proving to be a life saver so far.  Get your own car kit started today!

Wild Goose Chases

I’m told most people don’t want to get up at 4:00 in the morning to go on a literal wild goose chase.  Huh.  Who knew?  Naturally, I wasn’t informed of this until I had done just that.  You see, yesterday’s work itinerary focused on banding the Canadian geese that nest in southeast Nebraska at this time of year.  But friends, let me tell you something: wild geese don’t like to be herded.  Or picked up, or examined to see if it’s a boy goose or a girl goose.  They don’t mind the actual banding because, you know what?  At that point they’re fast asleep.  That’s right, a goose’s Achilles Heel is found in the simple fact that if their head is placed under their wing, they’re out like a light.  Getting them to that position is another story, but certainly not impossible.  Just ask the 200 or so geese we handled yesterday.

So how exactly does one band a goose?  First, they must be herded from wherever they were previously located into a fabric mesh pen.  As long as the geese don’t remember they can fly, this is no problem.  Goose banding happens in my area in late June to early July because the goslings are too little to know they can fly and the adult geese are growing new flight feathers for their long trip south.  They’re virtually grounded at this point unless they feel extremely threatened, making the herding a fairly simple task.  Once the geese are safely inside the portable pen, we get to work.  From there on, the job is fairly simple: pick up a goose, (hopefully) get it to fall asleep, determine the age and sex, and put a numbered metal band around one leg.  At that point they’re free to go, but you have to remember to wake the goose up before placing it back outside the pen or it becomes completely helpless.  No problem, right?

It really was a fun experience, and one that I’m looking forward to helping with again next year.  Here are some goose banding tidbits that I learned throughout the day.

  • Goslings are often referred to as ‘little fuzzies’ because they still have their down feathers which make them literally small and fuzzy.  Have you ever heard a group of twenty grown male biologists discuss at length where the little fuzzies ran off to?  Or why there seem to be fewer little fuzzies than in previous years?  Let me tell you, I could hardly take that conversation seriously.
  • Geese are stronger than I anticipated.  They will kick, bite, claw, and beat their wings at you if they really aren’t in the mood to be picked up. It took me a few solid hours to be able to pick one up on my own.  The instructions were to grab their neck and force their head under their wing until they stop moving.  That sounded pretty violent to me.  I was more comfortable letting someone else catch them until I discovered that by grabbing their wing joints in one hand and their neck (gently) in the other, you can get the same result without the apparent violence.  I was assured that the geese felt no pain from either method of retrieval, so no worries my friend!
  • This sort of field work in my area seems to be exclusively run by men.  There was about twenty of us working yesterday, and I was the only girl.  Infer from that what you will.

Fun goose facts!  They mate for life and imprint on their nesting site.  Each spring they fly from Mexico to Canada and each fall the fly from Canada to Mexico, but along the way the stop at the exact same pond with the exact same partner to raise little goslings.  How cute is that?