Pandora pinemoth populations erupt to defoliate pines

Jan. 29, 2017

The large lampposts, 30 feet tall and a foot in diameter, had been completely covered with moths. Some of the moths had left as the day brightened, but several hundred remained, moribund.

Greenleaf manzanita

Manzanita’s curious red bark

Dec. 15, 2016

In chaparral environments, manzanitas grow so densely that they form shrub thickets. The mature bark of manzanitas peels naturally, leaving a deep red surface as smooth as marble.

Bee hive

A sticky proposition: move a bee hive

Dec. 5, 2016

It was about 20 feet above the ground, in the crown of a crabapple tree. Approximately five sheets of comb were fused together, assembled so that one main branch and several smaller branches pierced them.

Great spreadwings

Great spreadwings have spread from the southwest to northern New England

Nov. 18, 2016

A large damselfly hung placidly from a forsythia branch in my back yard, so I approached within three feet to get a good view. On the next day it had moved to a spirea, and once again it was tolerant of my close approach.


Blackbrush dominates ecotones between cold, warm deserts

Nov. 8, 2016

Blackbrush in the Granite Mountains in California reach ages exceeding 1,250 years. Blackbrush deter herbivores such as mule deer and desert bighorn with thorns and prickly branches, but it also has chemical defenses, and foremost among these are tannins.


Cheatgrass swept through the Great Basin, permanently altering plant communities

Oct. 20, 2016

Rabbit Valley is the last exit on I70 as you drive west through Colorado. It is in the McInnis Canyons National Recreation Area and it has several places to camp, so I decided to visit. But as I drove from I70 to Knowles Overlook on the Colorado River I was disappointed to see miles and miles of cheatgrass.

Sumac flea beetles make good use of a distasteful host plant

Natural Selections

Oct. 5, 2016

I first saw a photo of a sumac flea beetle posted by Steve Mlodinow in Flickr, a public platform to post photos and enjoy the works of others. I looked for the beetles, but had no luck until Steve told me exactly where to find them. I have now formed a search image and have learned to look first for evidence of herbivory—holes in the leaves and gooey clumps of feces.

Natural Selecdtion

The wonders of fall colors

Sept. 28, 2016

While camping on the White River Plateau last weekend I was pleasantly surprised to find that a few of the aspen clones had turned from deep green to bright yellow. It occurred to me that the wonders of fall foliage raise yet a more mechanistic wonder: Why do aspen and other deciduous trees change color in fall?

Virtually free of herbivory, locoweed flourishes beneath the needles of Soap Creek.

Ranchers despise locoweed

Aug. 28, 2016

Driving in to the Ponderosa Campground in Soap Creek, I was surprised to see a field of white flowers arranged in towers that seemed to mimic the dramatic spires in the cliffs on the other side of Blue Mesa Reservoir. I pulled over to enjoy the view and to capture it digitally. I walked among the flowers briefly, and I noticed many pollinators but no herbivores—nothing was eating the leaves or stems.

A year as Associate Dean: Reflection

A year as Associate Dean: Reflection

July 23, 2016

After a year as Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities, what are my thoughts? How did I manage my first year? For one, I came in the job with much enthusiasm and the desire to advocate for the Arts and Humanities. That enthusiasm remains, but mitigated by the basic reality of the job, and by the complexity of the interactions that govern the day-to-day operations of a large organization where different agendas compete with one another.