Monthly Archives: January 2010

More Invertebrate Talk

Two quick links this morning:

A neat interview with an invertebrate marine biologist, at the blog Growing with Science.

A wicked awesome photograph of a sea cucumber, at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Scroll through the other images of the day, too.

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Filed under Misc.

Echinodermata. Oh, yeah.

Beach day rock design, Compo Beach, Westport

That’s phylum for sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, of course. I wrote a guest contribution on the subject (and on the littoral zone and tide pools) for Fieldwork, a homeschooling blog focussing on marine biology right now. Fieldwork is an excellent resource for children and their parents who might want to explore marine biology in a little more depth. We don’t homeschool our kiddo, but we read many children’s nonfiction books aloud and take lots of field trips. Low tide at Sherwood Island’s west beach is a favorite place in the summer.

Theresa, Fieldwork’s creator, is a blogging friend of several years; she is also a biologist and Montessori enthusiast. If you’re a homeschooler, don’t miss her main blog, LaPaz Home Learning, which has inspired me many times over.

If you’d like to read the lesson plan, I’m reprinting it here, after the break.

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Floral Designs Up New Haven Way


Mary Delany, Passiflora laurifolia: bay leaved, a paper collage. Image used with permission from the British Museum.

Today I drove through the snow flurries to see flowers in New Haven. Not actual plants but art, in an exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art. Mary Delany, an amateur naturalist and artist (1700-1788), cut paper for beautiful renderings of flowers and other plants. Part of a show running through January 3rd, these exquisite page-sized works were on view, along with sketches, paintings, and some lushly embellished fabric for which Delany designed the flowered embroidery.

Mary Delany began creating the “paper mosaics” when she was in her seventies! The delicacy of the cut paper is remarkable. I wish I’d remembered my glasses so I could have examined the pictures more closely. How did she do that? I kept wondering.

Most of the botanical collection comes from the British Museum, but the current installation, “Mrs. Delany and Her Circle,” moves on to London’s Sir John Soane’s Museum in February.

Oddly enough, I had just been reading about Mary Delany (whom I’d previously never heard of) in Margaret Drabble’s book about jigsaw puzzles, The Pattern on the Carpet, when a neighbor recommended the Yale show. Drabble speculates that Delany’s affinity for cut-paper collages may have led her to create an important predecessor of jigsaw puzzles–dissected maps, favored by the royal household and other aristocrats for educational purposes.

Whatever the case, the Yale curators write, “…Mrs. Delany used her craft activities to cement bonds of friendship and negotiate complex, interlinked social networks throughout a long life passed in artistic, aristocratic, and court circles in Georgian England and Ireland.”

You can read more about Mrs. Delany online in a New York Times T Magazine article.

I like nature, and on a blustery winter day, seeing it indoors at a museum is just fine.


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Sherwood Island State Park, 1.1.10

Oh, dear. I really need to change that banner with the leafy green trees. Snow covers the ground here in Westport these days.

My first bird of the day was a song sparrow at the backyard feeder. Seemed like a good omen for 2010.

I started the new year with a quick walk around the marsh at Sherwood Island, and was happy to see a blue egret and a belted kingfisher, among other birds. I spotted a red-tailed hawk and maybe a Cooper’s hawk, though that last i.d. is certainly up for grabs. Better bird identification skills are something I want to work on. Both cameras were dead, alas, so I didn’t get any photos. A canvasback duck and a whole bunch of black ducks, a few hooded mergansers, and a couple of gadwalls could been seen in the Mill Pond from the overlook close to the entrance of the park.

For a winter day Sherwood Island had a good handful of visitors. New year’s resolutions must have been responsible for at least some of them. Though small in number compared to the summer, it was still good to know other people were around. Sherwood Island can get pretty desolate in the winter. A couple of guys were even flying their model airplanes over the snowy airfield. One remarked that the cold weather was draining the batteries more quickly that usual.

The New Haven Bird Club is sponsoring a walk at the park on Wednesday, January 6, at 9:30 a.m. Details here.

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