Friday 5: Light Sculptures and Other Fun Things

Well, I haven’t been able to keep up with the ol’ blog here very well this week, but I’m getting a post up today if it kills me!  It’s Friday (which is no longer the last day of my workweek, incidentally), so it’s time for me to share some cool insect related things from the past week.  First up, this guy:

Brandon Ballengee speaking at RTP180

Brandon Ballengee speaking at RTP180

That’s Brandon Ballengee, an artist and biologist who gave a lightning talk at an awesome event I attended last night that focused on the intersection of science and art.  Ballengee’s artwork includes what he calls “Love Motels for Insects,” awesome large UV light sculptures that are meant to attract insects to them.  He hopes that people will document the insects they see for citizen science and that the installations will educate the public about the importance of insects in the environment.  He also does some crazy cool research on interactions between dragonfly nymphs and frogs that I’m going to share with you all soon!  I am really thrilled I had a chance to talk to him about the work he does, citizen science, and large insects that prey on amphibians.  Plus, free pizza and beer at the event!  How can you go wrong?

On a completely unrelated note, we’ve got a series of 8 camera traps on the grounds of the field station where I work that are part of a study looking at urban mammal populations.  This is NOT what you want to see fall out of the camera when you open it up to switch out the memory card and batteries:

Ants from the camera trap

Ants from the camera trap

Ants!  I believe these are Crematogaster ants (will one of the ant people kindly confirm this for me?) and there were HUNDREDS of them packed inside what is essentially a little computer.  I got an odd sort of satisfaction out of dismantling the camera and brushing out the ants from the surprisingly numerous nooks and crannies inside.  Dunno why, but I love taking computers apart.  Which is why I was glad to get this last week…

Hard drive

Space, glorious space!

I knew my photo obsession would eventually lead to this, but the 750 insect photos I took last weekend wouldn’t fit on my computer’s hard drive – it was officially full.  $80 and a few days later and I’m now set to take 100,000+ more bug photos thanks to my new second hard drive.  Woo!  And even though they forced me to buy a new hard drive, the photos I took last weekend were totally worth having to upgrade my hard drive for.  I found Halloween pennants at Prairie Ridge for the first time, and I found a LOT of them.  They’re really beautiful, so I of course had to take a bunch of photos:

Halloween pennant female

Halloween pennant female

 

When they fly, they have this lovely fluttery appearance.  I tend to see them in the late afternoon too, when the sun is getting a little low in the west and the area of the prairie where they like to hang out is backlit, so their wings gleam  in the sun.  It’s pretty spectacular.  I’ve gone back over to that area every day since to watch them and they make me really happy.  They’re all females, and I’ve yet to see a male at either of the ponds.  Makes me wonder what the deal is – why so many gals but no guys? - but I’ll take any Halloween pennants that I can get.  They’re one of my favorites.

And finally, I took this photo on Sapelo Island in Georgia when I attended Bug Shot 2014 in May:

Lactura pupula

Lactura pupula

I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to figure out what it is since I got home from that trip.  Tonight, I spent another hour trying to get an ID before I finally gave in and posted it to the Moths of the Eastern United States group on Facebook.  I had an answer in less than a minute.  It’s Lactura pupula apparently.  Isn’t the internet grand?  Less than a minute to solve a problem I’ve spent a good 5-6 hours on!

Speaking of moths, National Moth Week starts tomorrow and runs through July 27th.  Consider attending a public moth night in your area (you can search for them on the NMW website), or just turn on your porch light have a moth party of one!  Snap a few photos and submit them to a citizen science project of some sort (I recommend iNaturalist, Discover Life, or Butterflies and Moths of North America) so scientists can use the data you collected through your photos.  Easy peasy!  I think it’s a great project and really fun, so I’ll likely be out every night looking for moths next week, starting with the big public event I do for my museum each year.  I don’t get a lot of sleep during moth week…

Have a great week everyone!

_______________

Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth
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4 thoughts on “Friday 5: Light Sculptures and Other Fun Things

  1. Love that shot of the Halloween Pennant. I’ve only seen them a couple of times and there were only one or two each time. They are among the most beautiful of dragonflies, in my opinion.

    • Thanks! And I’ve never seen a bunch of them together either, so I was thrilled. I should probably record a video of it sometime, so I can remember what it looks like to see them all dancing about in the late afternoon light. It really is lovely!

  2. I love that Lactura pupula. I don’t think we have anything that striking around puget sound, at least not in the urban areas.

    Congrats on the new hard drive! Space is wonderful. But you don’t mention backup. I hope that’s because you take backups for granted, but if not, be aware that hard drive quality control is close to non-existent these days, and they can fail catastrophically well within the warranty period. It’s often not possible to recover anything after they fail. Malware and software bugs can wipe you out, too. My least favorite part of my computer support job is telling people that they’ve just lost their entire thesis or years of research because they didn’t have backups, or had backups but didn’t test occasionally to see if they worked right.

    Because computers and backup drives are often stolen together, or both lost in a disaster, it’s best to have two kinds of backup–one to a local hard drive so you can restore quickly if needed, and one off-site backup for the bigger disasters. This is most easily done with an online backup service. I’ve been using Crashplan at home, and it’s widely used by many of our departmental computer support groups. One feature I really like is that you can get to your files from anywhere with a web browser or phone app. You should set it up with separate passwords for the account and the backup, which will make it much harder for a rogue employee or the nsa to read your files. (But don’t lose that backup password!)

    For the local backup, both Windows 7+ and Macs have built in backup software that’s easy to set up and good enough. The local backup drive should be at least twice as big as what you want to backup if possible (do back up the system as well as the data), to allow for growth of your photo library, and so it can keep older file versions around for those ‘oops, I didn’t mean to delete that letter’ moments. Currently I prefer the external drives for Other World Computing (macsales.com) because they use high quality drives and have a three year warranty. (They work on any computer, not just macs.)

    I know it seems expensive to do a double backup, but considering that a hard drive recovery service can cost $2000 with no guarantee of actually recovering anything useful, backups are cheap. Even we don’t want you lose your photos!

    • I am super paranoid about backups, so I’ve got multiples. Got two on an external drive (which I’m eventually going to replace with a Drobo or other RAID array) and I backup to an online cloud service as well. I would be heartbroken if I lost my photos (though I get about 500-700 printed each year too as a sort of additional backup) and I’ve had enough computer problems that I know they’re coming eventually. I protect my files like crazy!

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