Sunday, August 16, 2009

La Jolla Humboldts: Epilogue

Well! I'm finally home from my two-month research collaboration in La Jolla. Any day now (any day! really!) I'll be posting a distillation of my experiences: Plankton Sorting and Identifying for the Layperson. It'll be riveting.

First, though, I'm going to wrap up the unexpected adventures that resulted from a few dozen of my study organisms washing up on the beaches while I was there.

I already wrote about the fun and inky times of finding and dissecting squid on the beach, with the help of some wonderfully enthusiastic chance companions who provided a knife and plastic bags for my samples. Well, they were so grateful--for what was probably the most unappetizing experience of a lifetime--that they insisted on treating me to dinner at White Sands, their (very posh) retirement community. Baffling! But very sweet! Here we are, the squid dinner crew:

The company was outstanding, the food was delicious, and the view is unbeatable--they're right on the beach, watching every sunset over the Pacific. Apparently I'm not old enough to apply for residency, but man, I know where I'm going on Februrary 19th, 2048!

Meanwhile, other people were losing their heads over the whole business--first the squid sensed an earthquake, then they started attacking divers, and wait a minute, they were GIANT squid, weren't they? Actually they were not. Big thanks to Deep Sea News for setting the record straight.

No thanks to the New York Times, who ran the disappointingly sensationalist and poorly-fact-checked AP article, with the addition of this hilariously captioned picture:

National Marie Fisheries Service, 2005

John Hyde, a marine biologist, and a jumbo flying squid, now swarming off San Diego.

That is the actual caption--no substitutions, exchanges, or refunds. Was the copy editor so harried that she missed the verb taking two subjects, or was she so entertained that she let it slide? I hope it was the latter.

Finally, the night before I left town, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak about squid to the San Diego Dive Club at their monthly meeting. I started off by introducing all the squid in the area--

--but I know more about Dosidicus than the others, so I spent a lot of time skillfully steering the conversation towards that species. It was an awesome discussion; I found the audience was
more engaged and curious than those at many scientific meetings. Of
course, it was 8pm at the La Jolla Brewhouse--a rather different venue from most conference presentations.

After meeting so many interesting and interested people, I was sorry to be leaving the next day! I hadn't even made time for a dive, just a few short swims and snorkels. Next time I'll get on scuba and look for some squid . . .

For now, it's good to be home, reacquainting myself with the mammals in my life.

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