12 Favorites of 2012

Endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles hatch at dusk and head for the Pacific.  Costa Rica.

2012 was a busy and exciting year.  I learned a lot about photography by reading photo blogs, talking with friends, observing the work of experts, and attending workshops.  I also benefited from patient folks that showed me cool subjects, and held my flash.  I got some new tools, and some amazing travel opportunities.  There was also a lot of trial and error... in the last 365 days I took 12,256 frames.  Here is one image per thousand shots; 12 of my favorites from 12 months in 2012:
University of Delaware students protect hatchling Olive Ridley Sea turtles as they make their way to the surf, Costa Rica

Costa Rican weevil, silhouette

Atta cephalotes workers, Costa Rica. I've been getting a lot of mileage out of this shot...

Juvenile Eyelash Viper, Costa Rica

Northern Ghost Bat, Diclidurus albus. Costa Rica

Brochymena quadripustulata, the rough stink bug.  Delaware, USA

Tibicen sp. cicada, Delaware, USA

Myrmeliontid antlion, Delaware, USA

Biologists studying the effects of sea level rise on marsh birds set up mist nets for sparrow monitoring. New Jersey, USA

Centrolenid Glass frog sp. Costa Rica

Green Violetear, Colibri thalassinus. Costa Rica

Kia ora New Zealand!

In just over one month, Aotearoa will be my new home!
The blogging has been slow lately, but I promise it is for a good reason!  My wife has accepted a Ph.D. position at the University of Waikato, and we are preparing for a move to New Zealand!  Kiri (whose name is Māori) will be studying urban restoration ecology and I am excited to go on this adventure with her.

As you can see on the map, New Zealand is geographically isolated - and it has been for a looooong time.  Because of this, a number of animals have evolved there that are drastically different from anything that can be found elsewhere in the world.  The only native mammals on the islands are bats, so many other creatures fill the ecological roles that would more typically be filled by something furrier.  One group that I am particularly looking forward to meeting again are the wetas:
A tree weta in the family Anostostomatidae
These insects look a bit like crickets, but they are in their own different family - to an entomologist like me that automatically makes them cool.  On an island with no rodents, these guys evolved to fill the ecological role (or niche) of mice and rats!  Accordingly, some are very large:
Giant weta... babies.  Photo credit: Kiri Cutting
Now that's what I'm talking about!
  Deinacrida sp. Giant Weta, New Zealand. Photo credit: Kiri Cutting
Unfortunately, each group of humans that reached the New Zealand islands brought new invasive species with them, including rats and stoats which have destroyed populations of wetas and many other New Zealand endemic species.  Some species have only persisted because of the relative safety of offshore islands.  This is the case for the tuatara:
Male tuatara, New Zealand  Photo credit: Kiri Cutting
Tuatara look like lizards but they are a separate, ancient, and unique group.  They did just fine until humans added a bunch of species to their home.  Recently, researchers have had some success reintroducing them to parts of mainland New Zealand that have been painstakingly cleared of introduced mammals.  Kiri had an opportunity to help out with a tuatara study a few years ago:
My kind of woman.  Photo credit: unknown
 These are just a few of the unique and wonderful things that I hope to see over our next few years in New Zealand.  I'm looking forward to sharing more photos from the "Land of the Long White Cloud"
See you in 2013!

Another Brown Marmorated Merry Christmas!

The stink bugs were hung by the chimney with care...
Not sure what to do with all those dead stink bugs?  Baking them up for the office cookie exchange might be frowned upon, but everybody loves a festive BMSB garland!  Am I wrong?  Move over mistletoe, it's not a holiday party without a string of deceased invasive pentatomids.

Thanks to Joe Tropp for decorating our lab's creative Christmas tree, and for starting what I am sure is soon to be a nationwide trend.
Merry Christmas!

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