Friday, August 12, 2005

Animals Behaving in Utah

This past week I attended the Animal Behavior Society annual meeting in Snowbird, Utah. I wanted to see what the field was about, what kind of research is going on, and particularly what's up in the area of bat behavior. Also I was shopping for graduate programs and advisors. It turns out that the area around Snowbird is wildflower central in the summer. I was able to slip away to see the mind-blowing flowers and some cute wildlife. Starting over is really hard. I didn't know anyone at all and it seemed all the other 400 people had embarrassing stories about each other. I didn't know what to expect from the sessions, or the social events, or even how to introduce myself -- I'm not a typical undergrad, nor am I a grad student. Most of the time I felt like someone standing outside and watching through a window. I actually understood much of what was presented. I'm guessing that's because I've been interested enough in the field to have a good overview just from recreational reading. A good sign. I have a shopping list now for things I don't know yet: research methods for example. Exactly how is it that you can take a bit of animal poop and determine how stressed out it is, or if it's related to some other animal? I managed to locate and hang out with some of the bat people, mainly those affiliated with Gerry Wilkinson from the University of Maryland. Here are some interesting things I learned. These are not jokes - this is serious science.
  • Bored killer whales in a theme park have figured out how to lure seagulls to their pens, and then jump up and eat them. They've taught the young ones how to do it too.
  • In stalk-eyed flies, the longer the male's eye stalk, the more attractive he is to females.
  • Prairie dogs have unique calls for different predators that are structured similar to human language.
  • Bees are smarter than humans in many ways.
  • Male katydids have evolved special call frequencies, but the females don't care.
  • Male chimpanzees share meat they've caught just to keep the beggars from harassing them.
  • Monkeys raised without a mother are more likely to become alcoholic.
  • Dogs, when given a choice between two plates of hot dog slices, will choose the plate that has more.
In case you were dying to know, here is what science nerds do for entertainment. Someone randomly selects slides from different scientific presentations, puts them together, and then they compete to see who can stand up in front of a bunch of other biologists and make up a story to go along with the random slides. For some reason unknown to me, they call this Aceoke. A lot of alcohol seems to be a requirement. I didn't ask if they were raised without mothers.


Blogger MichaelCoulter said...

I found the reference to your
blog in your e-mail. Good luck
with the change of life.

-- Michael Coulter

9:51 AM  
Blogger ..::Bat::.. said...

i love bats!!!

7:03 PM  

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