Many things have happened in February and March. Maybe the most significant was a massive winter storm that hit Oklahoma and Texas with dangerously low temperatures. There were power outages, skyrocketing cost for electricity, and a little bit of chaos here and there. Like the COVID pandemic brutally exposed disparities and racism in the health care system here in the US and in many other countries, the winter storm exposed all the many problems with our local and national infrastructure. Snow and ice did not stop me from tending to our fishes, but it was tough.
In February I gave a talk via Zoom for the wonderful series of presentations on speciation that Silu Wang organizes from Berkeley. It was a great honor to be part of this.
In other news, both Trai and Rodet are working on the final touches of the Dissertations. Both will defend in April and will be hooded in May. For me this is bittersweet. I am very proud of them and feel lucky I was able to accompany them on they path for a litte bit, but I am also sad to let them go.
My January was really busy. I worked through the galley proofs of my book. That was both fun and a lot of work. And classes have started. I am teaching online, which is an interesting challenge. So far, so good!
Also, I am working on the webpage for the stock center (and it should go live pretty soon) and several papers. Lots of work, as I said, but fun.
The NSF project studying the origin of the Amazon molly is humming along and the first data looks really interesting. More on that later!
Both Trai and Rodet had papers from their dissertation accepted. Trai’s work is already online. Rodet’s paper is an account of the amazing expedition he conducted in Haiti with other students from the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Another is accepted and will come out in Ecology and Evolution any day now.
I have many, many thoughts on the Covid pandemic. I am confused by deniers, I am scared, and I feel helpless. Teaching this fall semester was both difficult and gratifying. The same is true for research. All seems to be a fast-paced roller-coaster. As I said, this is very confusing to me. And the outlook as I write this in late December is not promising.
I am grateful, immensely grateful for the support I have from family and friends. I am trying to pay some of that forward and to be there for my own students and friends.
I don’t know how I did it, but I actually finished my book on Male Mate Choice, which is slated to be published by Oxford University Press in May of 2021. This may be the best thing I did this year. Of course the manuscript was late and all, but the great editors from OUP were more than kind and understanding. Can’t wait for the book to come out and have discussions about it……
In other news: both Rodet and Trai have just re-submitted papers and I am hopeful they will both be accepted very soon. That would be a good close of the year!
Waldir is rocking the NSF project and also his half-dozen side projects. I am so happy to work with him.
As in any month, there are good things and bad things happening. Bad: COVID19, NSF proposal rejected. Unseasonably early ice storm with power outage. And COVID 19. Oh well.
Good: my book was submitted to OUP and is now in production. That feels good. Also, the collection of species we house here at OU is now officially a stock center, the International Stock Center for Livebearing Fishes (ISCLF). I’m actually very excited about this, although I admit that the acronym is terrible….
Also good: I am looking for a new Graduate student to join the lab in 2021. Let me know if you are interested!
Finally, it is time to spend more time outside again! Watch some birds!
August brought me back to teaching. It is a bit strange talking with a mask on, but so far it is good. Last summer was the first summer in a long time without fieldwork. But all projects are now adjusted to running under COVID 19 conditions. For me this means above average time spent with writing. My book is nearly finished, a new NSF proposal is ready, and several manuscripts are in the pipeline, including one with Rudy and Luis on Cave mollies.
As the pandemic continues to haunt the world, research on the OU campus is slowly coming back in carefully times phases. The NSF project is picking up steam and we are working hard to set up the initial crosses for the F1’s we would like to obtain. So much has to be planned and organized.
For me, much of June is focused on writing! NSF proposals, manuscripts and the final chapters of the book.
Covid-19 had the US and Oklahoma tightly in it’s grip. The semester ended with online instruction and I was very sad that the graduating Seniors in my Animal Behavior class would not be able to experience the traditional pomp and circumstance that comes with Graduation. Many graduated into a much more difficult and less clear future. But the optimist in me thinks that there will be a future and that it might be brighter than we think right now.
I was on campus most days in the week to feed the fish, but all research was in torpor. The campus was eerily empty and I have never seen the Parking Garage so empty. But the end of May saw us slowly reopening the campus for research!
Finally, May ended with the unspeakable killing of Floyd George and the upheaval that followed. Our society needs to change and get rid of all forms of racism.
My teaching went well – aside from some technical issues. That left time to work on some manuscripts, and getting one published. this paper is a collaboration with Gabriel Costa from Auburn University. In this study we modeled the spatial overlap of the two parental species that gave rise to the Amazon molly at the time of the last Interglacial ca. 125.000 years ago. And, alas, there is overlap predicted for an area near Tampico, Mexico. This is precisely the area that was predicted to be the cradle of the Amazon molly. I wanted to call this the Lagoon Where It Happened, but the reviewers rejected this cheap reference to the musical “Hamilton”. Here is the link: https://academic.oup.com/biolinnean/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biolinnean/blaa010/5753386?guestAccessKey=f23d39db-79dd-45ea-92e4-cc39a623e693.
In other notes: I spent a few days in Jamaica working with Kerri-Ann Bennett from UWI Mona. I had a great time, gave lectures and interacted with students from that campus. It was very humbling and I learned a lot. Among other things, we collected endemic fishes in the western part of Jamaica.
January was very, very busy. After my return from Germany, I started teaching Animal Behavior. I love this class, but the first two weeks are always full of administrative stuff and that takes up a lot of time. But now it is flowing really well. I am also working with three people who will be joining the lab from abroad: James (funded by Caribaea Initiative) will be in Norman for a few weeks to learn techniques. Manuel will come from Portugal to run a big experiment on mate copying, and Waldir from Brazil accepted the offer to work as a postdoc on the NSF project. Exciting times!