Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Minerals!

I got in my stocking a really cool clear Calcite crystal, and an amazing Bismuth crystal!  I have never seen or heard of these before, they are so awesome!  Here's a pic I got from  My sample looks just like this on the bottom.  On top it's like a cluster of pyramids that are beautifully colored.

Isn't that cool!?  The outsides of the crystal grow faster than the insides, making it a hollow square spiral.  The metal oxidizes on the outside which is what gives it the coloring.  (Read more about it at

Monday, December 19, 2011

Brine Shrimp!

My Brine Shrimp hatched!  And my sister ordered some liquid algae to feed them and it came in the mail today.  They're so tiny and so fun to watch swimming around.  So there are maybe about 10 of them in there.  Hoping we get even more hatching now that we have food for them. :)  I wish I could take some pictures of them but I know my camera won't focus on something that small, so you'll have to use your imagination. :)  So glad I have real Great Salt Lake Brine Shrimp! Woohooo!

Friday, December 9, 2011


I love to sit near the window at school as I eat my lunch, and gaze at the migrating birds that often pass through.  The other day I saw a small group of geese majestically flying in a lazy circle.
Last week I pulled into a parking lot next to a small section of grass.  A large flock of birds was chatting away and pecking around for a snack.  Every so often they would all take off in unison, swirl around and land again.  Then swell up and perch on the electric wires.  As each new bird tried to squeeze into an empty spot on the line, its new neighbor would gently scoot over and a wave of nudging would quickly run down to the end to accommodate the new arrival.
One interesting thing I noticed was that the birds "chatted" with each other like crazy while they were on the ground or the wire.  But as soon as they lifted into the air they were silent.  I love to watch flocks of birds flying- it is so beautifully organized and mesmerizing.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ambient Air

I live in a bowl-shaped valley.  Which means we have temperature inversions.  A lot.  Especially in winter.  The past several days the ambient air has been so nasty!  It stinks and makes me cough, and may have contributed to the sickness I've ended up with.  To top it off, in my car, the refresh button is broken- you know the little one you push to make it recycle the air when you drive past road kill or you're behind a stinky truck that hasn't passed its emissions test.  That's broken so we have only outside air and it has been so bad.  It's also been bitterly cold.  So I haven't been walking or hiking lately but with the air, I wouldn't want to anyway.

So I wonder- is it always like this and I'm just noticing it more this year since I actually have been out in the fresh air and the mountains more lately?  Or is it worse for some reason?

It makes me want to go hike the Y.  My Environmental Management teacher told us about inversions and how he went on a hike with a friend to the Y when it was super cold, but when they got up to the Y, they got to a high enough elevation that they were above the inversion and it was all sunny and warm up there.  :)  I'm not sure if my lungs could get me there with this icky air though.  Yuck.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The human brain and spirit

My father had a stroke at the end of June and lost all feeling and motion on his left side.  But he immediately started working on getting whatever movement and strength he could.  In the ICU the first week, a Physical Therapist came in almost every day and held his leg up for him and told him to push his own leg out.  He didn't have much ability, but even then he could use his muscles slightly.
7/3/2011 Dad strapped in the chair sitting straight up and reaching out because he feels like he's falling over (strong pusher syndrome)
7/3/2011 Needed to have others do everything for him
 This week I went to help him practice walking- he can pull himself up out of his wheelchair, and move his entire left leg (lifting and placing it, not dragging it as the original optimistic prognosis was) and walk while holding on to the railing in the hallway or even using a walker/cane thing.  We are there to support him in case he needs to sit down or loses his strength, but other than that, he does everything himself.  I am so amazed and impressed by his progress.  It's a miracle of the human brain being able to rewire itself after a massive cardiovascular accident and the subsequent tissue damage to a large portion of the brain.
12/1/2011 Dad sitting straight and just got done shaving his whole face and brushing his teeth by himself and is now ready to wheel himself out with little assistance.
Getting ready to walk- sitting in wheelchair, he grabs onto the railing, pulls himself up to standing, and walks while holding the rail or the hemiwalker

It is also a miracle of the human spirit- my dad's sheer determination to get his life back as much as possible.  He is so optimistic and hard-working.  I'm so glad that he has been blessed so much.

I'm continually in awe of the human body and it's complexity and sophistication.  When I took Human Anatomy last spring, all the things I learned made me think over and over, "I don't know how anyone could learn this stuff and not believe there's a God."  It's all too perfect and beautifully organized and orchestrated. :)  I find it so fascinating and amazing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rock Collection Identified

I got my unknown rocks and minerals identified today, thanks to Emily.  She has amazing knowledge with this.

I will upload some pictures later, I'm too tired right now.  I have a Beryl, Galena, Pyrite, Calchopyrite (spelling is probably off), white and black pumice, tuff, opal, travertine, chrysocolla, chalcedony...some of those I've never heard of.  I'm impressed that Emily could ID them so quickly and confidently.  So excited to have a great start to my collection. :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Teaching in Utah

So, I'm getting a degree in Biology Education as well as an endorsement in Environmental Science (which allows me to teach all the Earth Science stuff as well).  I figured I could make a comfortable living as a teacher since it's just myself and two kids to provide for.  Think again I guess.  I just looked it up and the salary for where I want to teach is only $32,000 a year for the first year.  Ick.  I figured I need to make at least $36,000 to be comfortable.  Not even super comfortable like owning a home and stuff, I'd still have to rent.  But I could pay all my bills and have some money for incidental expenses and savings, so it would be sufficient for my needs without any government help.  I guess "self-sufficient" is a more accurate term instead of "comfortable".

So I guess I will have to get a summer job to make up the difference or work something part-time during the school year until I have worked enough years to get a liveable wage.  This is what I get for being in Utah - the state with the lowest teacher salaries in the country.  If it weren't for my family and the amazing mountains and canyons, I'd be so out of here...

He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
Proverbs 10:4
diligent: characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort (

Friday, November 25, 2011

Vampire at the Living Planet Aquarium

Today we got to go to the only aquarium in Utah.  It's one of my favorite places to be.  I interned there this past summer and still volunteer there from time to time.
The kids all love the penguins of course- Gentoo Penguins from the Galapagos Islands in South America.  They are the fastest swimming species of penguins in the world, at about 22 miles per hour.  (To give some perspective, the fastest Olympic swimmer can go about 7 mph.)  The group they have at the aquarium are very playful and fun to watch.

However, I tend to like to point out the lesser-known animals to people.  One of which has become one of my favorite fish.

It is in the same tank as the Green Anaconda- largest snake in the world.  So of course people don't take much notice of what else is in there besides the snake, and sometimes the White Spotted River Stingray.  But there is a little silver fish that likes to hang out in the front corner of the tank where he's easy to spot.  When you look at him he doesn't look all that unusual besides the eerie big eyes.  But if you look close you can kind of see some nice sharp teeth in its jaws in that picture above.  Cute isn't it?  But it gets better.  This fish is called the "Sabertooth Payara", or "Vampire Tetra".  Hmm....

So, on the 26th try... I finally got a picture of this guy opening his mouth so you can see its wicked teeth that give it it's names. :)  Sweet, huh?

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I have oolitic sand from the Great Salt Lake!  And Brine Shrimp eggs- finally.  (Thanks Wendy!)  I hope they hatch.  Actually when I went to the lake a few weeks ago and got a bunch of the brown 'organic material' I'm sure that does have Brine Shrimp eggs in it too.  Just wasn't sure how to go about isolating and growing them.  This time the ranger just put a couple pinches of eggs in my container of water for me since there still weren't any live shrimp.

Ooids / Oolitic sand
Regular beach sand- most of it- is made out of quartz, and if you look closely at it, it's a bunch of angular fragments of the mineral.
Oolitic sand, on the other hand, is made up of tiny spheres.  No kidding, so freaking awesome.  And because of this, by the way, the sand is very soft.  These sand grains are made of calcium carbonate (the ingredient of limestone), which have adhered to some tiny speck of something or other (kinda like moisture condensing around a particle of sand to form clouds).  The center of these spheres is often Brine Shrimp poop actually. :)  Lovely isn't it?  An entire beach full of shrimp poop.  It boggles the mind.  So, calcium carbonate that was in solution in the lake (Lake Bonneville), would precipitate onto these little pieces of excrement, and get rolled around by the shallow waves, creating the little spheres.  Another interesting difference to note is that quartz and other sands are formed by the break down of larger rocks.  But ooids start smaller and are built up.  (See  Pretty cool.
Also the water would have had to be warm, because warm water can't hold as much dissolved Carbon Dioxide.  This fact would help lead to the precipitation of the calcium carbonate onto the poopy nuclei.  So this tells us that Lake Bonneville would have been warm (at some point) and pretty windy.

I got mine from Antelope Island today.  Don't know why I didn't get sand from the other areas I went to a month ago, but whatever.  I'll go there again some day and collect stuff.

Antelope Island has a lot of really cool Tintic Quartzite.  At the top of Buffalo Point, it's a natural playground.  My kids had a blast running around climbing on the big rocks. :)
Tintic quartzite at Buffalo Point, Antelope Island State Park

Halite was a bust though, there wasn't any in that area.  Our ranger guide suggested trying the north end of the lake to try to find some of that.  We didn't have time this time so I'll do some more research to make sure I can get it before I attempt to go get any- it's quite the long drive.

Lake Bonneville
The Great Salt Lake is a remnant of the ancient Lake Bonneville which covered most of Utah from about 30,000 years ago until 14,500 years ago when the great Bonneville Flood happened, lowering the level of the lake drastically.  As it continued to drop, all these shorelines were formed, top to bottom- oldest to youngest.  (See ).  From Buffalo Point on Antelope Island, looking across White Rock Bay, you can see the 4 shorelines very well, as labeled here.
Lake Bonneville ancient shorelines as seen from Buffalo Point on Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah

Beach of Great Salt Lake
The beach we went to had a lot of black deposits on it which turned out to be brine fly pupa cases.  When the flies are developing, they go from a larval state to a pupa, then they emerge as flies, leaving the case behind.  The amount of these cases littering the beach was pretty incredible.
Brine Fly pupa cases on shore of Great Salt Lake

Brine Shrimp lay cysts when the weather is cold, so these were all over the beach as well, but they're so small it's hard to find them and be able to say that's Brine Shrimp eggs.  Brine Shrimp are pretty amazing.  When the weather is cold, they lay the cysts/ eggs.  But if the weather is nice, they can also actually give live birth!  They can choose either one based on the climate that year.
Brine Flies and Brine Shrimp are the only things that live in the Great Salt Lake, because it is so salty.  South of the causeway where we were (Stansbury Bay) is twice as salty as the ocean, and the north side is 4-6 times as salty as the ocean!  There were definitely a lot of birds visiting and probably eating the flies and shrimp.  It's a good place for flocks of migrating birds to stop for a meal.  We also saw a couple of really neat birds of prey on the island.  Some type of hawk I suppose, but I'm not sure, it wouldn't hold still for me to get a good picture.
And I noticed some areas of thick growths of Fragmites everywhere.  This is a pretty invasive plant because it grows really dense and tall (we saw some about 8 feet tall, pictured below), making beach areas not as nice for various living creatures trying to use the area, and it competes with native plants.
Fragmites at Great Salt Lake

It was another awesome outing learning about the amazing world we live in.  I love living in Utah, there are so many way cool things to see and learn about. :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

My very own rock collection!

Today was the coolest.  I got to go help some people from the UVU Earth Science Department pack up a bunch of museum-quality rocks that a lady donated.  Then I got to pick out what I wanted from the rest of the collection (the NOT museum quality).  I got some awesome stuff!  A few of them I haven't identified yet, so hoping to take those in to school and get someone to help me with it.  But I got some great rocks and minerals-  pyrite, quartz, coal, pumice, granite, galena, malachite (I think), mica, gypsum, petrified wood and geodes.  SO dang cool.  I need to go find myself some Halite at Great Salt Lake this week to add to the collection.  I think I've just created a monster- the start of a collection means I'll now be an official rock hound whenever I'm out.  Yippee! :)  Oh oh, and I got some bleached coral as well. :)

Sunday, November 20, 2011


This is my newest vocabulary word (thanks, Andy!).  Amazingly I still remember it.  Speleothems are cave formations.  Stalactites, stalagmites, shields, cave bacon, cave popcorn, soda straws, and probably a couple others I forgot.  Here are a few from Timpanogos Cave.  We went there right before they closed for the season in October.
Sadly I have a really cruddy camera, these are actually the best ones I have.

Stalactites, and look!  Some Calcium Bicarbonate about to drip off the end of it too.

This guy was our tour guide and he's looking up at some "cave bacon"

Cave popcorn er suh-um (there may have been another name since they're more spiny, I can't recall at the moment.  This is why I have to take notes all the time, stupid memory.)

The heart of Timpanogos.  This was actually formed by two soda straws that got clogged, so then the rest of the calcium carbonate gets deposited around the clog, forming the bulges around it, and we end up with this anatomical heart looking formation.  Pretty dang cool.

Timpanogos' pet dog

Okay so that was a fun outing- I went with my kids and my oldest brother and it was good times.  Except for the part where the tour guide left the lights out for a little too long and I started to feel a little panicky and had to open my phone for some light.

Goal for 2012

2012 Goal:  Hike Timpanogos Mountain
I made the goal not long ago that I am going to hike Timp next year at the end of the summer.  I hope it's not a goal that turns out to be unreasonable.  I love to hike and I have been hiking and walking a lot lately.  But I do get winded pretty easily on inclines because of how out of shape I am (and have been my entire life).  I just really hope that 9 months will be enough time for me to train for this and get into good enough shape that I can reach my goal.

The reasons I want to do this, are many, but here are the biggest:
1- Dad.  My dad has always been a pinnacle of health- an amazing example that I look up to.  At the age of 75 he would still go jogging, play racquetball (and have to give my siblings and me a handicap so we have a chance of beating him), pitch horseshoes, and hike.  He hiked with me to Emerald Lake a few years ago just for fun one day.
He had a stroke this July and is no longer able to do any of these things.
So I decided as a way to honor him and his example, I'm going to hike that mountain since Dad can't do it himself anymore.

2- Mom.  On the other end of the spectrum, Mom was always kind of unhealthy.  I feel that her mental health issues and eventual Alzheimer's may not have been so bad if she'd had a better lifestyle.  She passed away last summer and now I feel that getting myself healthy enough to climb this mountain (and do all the other active things I want to do), is also a way to honor her by not repeating her mistakes.

3- My kids.  I want to give them the same kind of good example of health that my dad gave me.  I'd like for them to grow up as healthy and happy individuals, and getting myself to that state is the first step.

4- Myself!  I've been neglecting my health for most of my 31 years of life and I owe it to myself to knock it off.  Getting myself more healthy will allow me to live a more congruent life in line with my values and love for doing active stuff outdoors.  And I'll actually have the energy to keep it up and not struggle with depression so much.

As a side note, I need to find someone to join me on this hike for safety reasons, so anyone (friends or family) who has done this hike before and would like to plan to do it with me, please let me know!

New Geekin' Science Blog

Yippee I have a new blog.  I like to geek out about science stuff and sometimes people just don't get it, ya know?  I guess I'm a freak, but I think the world and the living things on it are freaking amazing!  I love to learn new things all the time, and now I have a place to post them.
A little about me and what this blog will be about...

I am a college student in Utah and I plan to be a science teacher (Junior High or High School, teaching Biology and Geology hopefully).  I am also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I love science and learning lots of stuff particularly about the earth, how it was formed, why it is the way it is now, its prehistory, how plants and animals work, how they came to be, etc.  Surprising to some, science does not make me doubt my faith in God.  I think science and God go together quite nicely.  I bring this up because sometimes my posts will refer to my faith since it's a big part of my life, and I'm always finding ways in which the natural world/ science fit in beautifully with my beliefs, and I love to share this information with whomever happens to be willing to listen.

Okie dokie, so I hope you enjoy my ramblings, and feel free to comment!  I'd love to hear from people.