blog postsTurkey tangoSep 12, 2017 8:30 am530 views During one late October visit to the Mermet Lake Conservation Area in southern Illinois, I noticed a shape approaching from the distance. The day was windy and wet, and my first thought was that a stray garbage can was rolling down the road. As we drove closer, the black-and-white blob resolved into a pair of yearling turkeys (called “jakes”) involved in a tussle.BLOG: Expedition to the highest lake in the world - DAY 1Dec 22, 2015 9:45 pm510 views MENDOZA, ARGENTINA -- We arrived in Mendoza, Argentina today and tomorrow we are going on our first trek: up from 2,080 meters to 2700 meters on Mount Mihlo, outside of Mendoza. This will begin the acclimatization process for us. Rocks, moss and muddy tree rootsApr 13, 2018 7:45 am490 views It’s a summer day in June, and as my husband and I approach the Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitor center, I have one goal in mind: I want to see something extraordinary. At my request, the ranger at the visitor center pulls out a map, smiles and immediately points to the tallest waterfall in the area: Ramsey Cascades. Getting there will require hiking a rugged 8-mile trail that gains 2,200 feet in elevation. Our reward: a 100-foot waterfall – something you won’t find in Illinois.Tracking a forest’s recovery one year after stormAug 1, 2018 8:30 am471 views We walk out of the typical southern Illinois shady forest into a crazy jumble of fallen trees, thorny vines and tangled shrubs. It’s almost 100 degrees, the humidity is over 85 percent and all of the shade has disappeared. My lab mate and her undergraduate technician volunteered to work with me today, and I wonder what I’ve gotten them into.Serpents of the BadlandsOct 24, 2017 9:45 am453 views Tchk-tchk-tchktchk I stop dead in my tracks. Despite the howling prairie winds, that unmistakable sound cuts through the bluster and into my ears. My eyes search the ground, scanning through the prairie grasses, yucca, scoria and prickly pear. Nothing.Learning from the LencaJan 29, 2018 9:00 am449 views The warmth of the cookstove fire belies the blustery wind outside, whipping through the pines and occasionally lifting the corrugated steel roof under which we sit uneasily. I am with my volunteer interpreter/research assistant/daughter, sitting at a small wooden table in the kitchen. We are in Llano Largo, the highest point in Central America and also the client community of my course in international water-system design, Honduras Water Project.Healing Peter with T-shirts and silverOct 9, 2017 8:45 am427 views As a veterinary dermatologist, I see my share of unusual cases. I’ve treated a cheetah with dental disease, an itchy wallaroo, an alpaca with allergies and an alligator snapping turtle with an obstructed throat. But infections in dogs, cats and other critters can be among the most difficult conditions to treat.BLOG: Expedition to the highest lake in the world: Expect the unexpectedJan 12, 2016 9:00 am412 views You may think that mountain expeditions are all about action, but in fact there's a lot more time spent sitting around. Plans may be perfect, but obstacles arise. The weather is unexpectedly cold, the ice on the lake is too thick, the snow on the mountain is melting much later in the season than normal.Preserving a fragile historyJul 7, 2016 12:15 pm399 views I drive slowly over the hilly terrain in Fossil Basin and park near the remnants of an old campsite. In the 1950s and early 1960s, botanist Herman Becker camped here and collected fossil insects and plants from the Renova Formation’s paper shales. We are the first, since Becker, to explore this fossil bed. Our work begins where his left off.From pythons and ferrets to coughing parrots: Adventures in exotic animal medicineNov 1, 2017 8:15 am379 views Working with exotic animals in the Small Animal Clinic involves a lot of thinking on my feet. Each type of animal comes with unique needs and challenges. Parrots often have nutritional deficiencies and, like humans, can develop atherosclerosis – the result of a poor diet and too much sedentary time. (We sometimes refer to them as “perch potatoes.”) Reptiles and mammals tend to develop fungal infections on their skin. Birds, snakes and mammals need stimulation and like to explore – with sometimes tragic results.A night in grizzly countryJul 21, 2016 9:45 am378 views We spent last night in Yellowstone’s backcountry, at Grebe Lake, a lovely lake at the base of the Washburn Range. For most of the students, this was their first experience backpacking: carrying a tent, sleeping bag and food into the backcountry. They had to learn a few new skills, like how to hang food from a bear pole. Some also had to adjust emotionally to the idea of sleeping in the middle of grizzly country.Life onboard the research boatDec 8, 2016 12:45 pm376 views Given the confining nature of our vessel, many routines that require no thought or preparation in our everyday lives become chores on the boat.Pet burials blur the line between human and animal ritesOct 13, 2016 9:30 am375 views A new book by anthropology professor Jane Desmond explores humans’ complex relationships with other animals.Maya Rituals UnearthedAug 14, 2018 8:00 am367 views Deep in the untamed lowlands, we search for artifacts buried under hundreds of years of sediment. We are excavating two ancient Maya sites nestled in the sacred landscape of Cara Blanca in central Belize. Both date to A.D. 800-900, when prolonged and severe droughts struck this region, disrupting the daily life of the Maya.Between wilderness, tourism and civilizationJul 18, 2016 4:15 pm358 views We spent yesterday in Grand Teton National Park, hiking Cascade Canyon. Today we’re in Jackson, Wyoming, just south of the park and a very different settingBLOG: Discovering the bones of Tam Pa LingApr 4, 2016 1:30 pm357 views Tam Pa Ling cave sits at the top of Pa Hang Mountain, in Hua Phan Province, Laos. Every day, we climb the mountain and descend into the cave to dig. The view from outside the cave is spectacular, but its location means that the only equipment that we can use to dig through the wet clay of the cave floor is what we can carry up the mountain.Chamber singers, laughter and schnitzel with music: A few of my favorite thingsJul 31, 2017 2:30 pm352 views Illinois Chamber Singers got a taste of Europe this summer.Finding water closer to homeOct 10, 2018 8:00 am338 views It is just past noon as Zuze Dulanya, Evance Mwathunga and I climb out of the van. The shiny new handpump for Jimu Village sits where just last week a drill rig bored the hole for this much needed, much anticipated new water source. Beneath a nearby row of sweet gum trees, two long benches surround a lone, red-cushioned side chair. “Ha!” Zuze says. “We know who will be getting the hot seat today!”Aiming for hoops and practicing EnglishMay 29, 2018 8:30 am316 views Saturday afternoons for your typical Malaysian high school student are drastically different than what they’re like in the United States. The overriding emphasis here on government exams and grades often confines these youngsters to hours of extra classes and studying, even on the weekends. One of our jobs as Fulbright English teaching assistants is to try to make learning fun by organizing special camps that promote conversational English. But as we get started, the students seem a bit wary.BLOG: Expedition to the highest lake in the world: Changes in plansJan 20, 2016 9:15 am313 views We thought that the expedition was over. My husband's altitude sickness left only three of us to climb Ojos del Salado, make our way up the mountain in the thin air, find the lake, collect the biological samples and get back down safely. It wasn't feasible. Then we learned something that changed the entire expedition.Symbols of ServiceNov 17, 2016 11:00 am310 views The Symbols of Service exhibit at the University of Illinois Library tells the stories behind the tattoos of student veterans.Image of Research: Kinetic structuresApr 2, 2018 8:30 am306 views As an architecture student, I came across a whole new world of kinetic structures. I learned that almost any form can be given mobility and deployed by calculating its geometry accurately and by strategically selecting the joints to allow rotation.Chasing waterfallsFeb 13, 2018 4:00 pm269 views MIRI, MALAYSIA — We awake from our post-training slumber at 6:30 a.m. for an activity unlike any of the team-building exercises we have experienced so far. This is only the first week of training for the Fulbright Program here. There are nearly 100 of us on this waterfall hike, braving the rain and humidity together to swim in one of Malaysia’s hidden pools.Stink bug babiesSep 5, 2017 8:45 am258 views While hiking in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, looking for unusual things to photograph, I found a hidden world of newly hatched stink bugs clustered around their empty eggshells.Poetry inspired by paintingOct 12, 2016 8:45 am103 views Poet Janice Harrington wrote her poem "Domino Players, 1943" based on a painting by African-American artist Horace Pippin.Image of Research: Bare WitnessApr 4, 2018 8:15 am76 views Deaths from homicides, accidents, disasters or armed conflicts can result in unknown human remains that require identification before further investigation. To identify these remains, an anthropologist can piece together details about a person’s life from their bones. The accuracy of such anthropological methods depends on the diversity of available skeletal research collections, of which there are few around the world.