The first session of the Sawyer Seminar on Speciesism was fantastic. First, selfishly, it was a great review in preparation for the qualifying exam. Second, it was an example of exceptional discussion on some incredibly nuanced topics, and thoughtful positions on all sides of the debate. The presentations were by Dr. Craig Moritz and Dr. Brent Mishler, and the discussions were by Dr. Roberta Millstein, Dr. Robert Proctor and Dr. David Wake. AMAZING.
Prior to the event, we were encouraged to read four papers to prime the discussion, references included below.
ALVAREZ, W. 1991. The gentle art of scientific trespassing. GSA Today 1(2):29-34.
CLARIDGE, M. F. 2009. Species are Real Biological Entities. In Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology: Wiley-Blackwell.
HEY, J., R. S. WAPLES, M. L. ARNOLD, R. K. BUTLIN, and R. G. HARRISON. 2003. Understanding and confronting species uncertainty in biology and conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 18(11):597-603.
MISHLER, B. D. 2009. Species are not Uniquely Real Biological Entities. In Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology: Wiley-Blackwell.
In general, as an overview text that follows the debate format [hence the title], this is a great read – WHEELER, Q., and R. MEIER. 2000. Species concepts and phylogenetic theory : a debate. New York, Columbia University Press.
Most of the species names that I wrote down in my notes were almost all Homo sapiens – although there was a monospecific plant [Gingko - naturally mentioned by Dr. Mishler]. Is that my bias? I will have to pay better attention the next time to the species names discussed. Common names were bandied about frequently [Chimpanzee, Barn owl, salamander, oak, orchid], and I didn’t know if this was a deliberate strategy for initiating the debate, or a result of establishing common points of reference across incredibly diverse disciplines represented. I was trying to remember what the tautonym for one of the owls was, and confused Bufo bufo with Bubo bubo. Dr. Kip Will recommended this great site for ‘Curious Scientific Names’ by Dr. Douglas Yanega [here].
I am definitely looking forward to the next session in May [general schedule available here].
At the Disability office at SFSU, there was a bookmark that calmly recommended ‘One thing at a time.’ Dr. Baldwin talked with me about preparation for oral qualifying exams and the scope of my thesis prospectus, and recommended his version. “One crisis at a time.”
Some ideas have been developing since my master’s thesis, and feel like a logical progression toward the goal of being able to answer questions of evolution in this group. Others are somewhat of a departure from systematics, and are less well articulated at this stage. I don’t know how other people write, but every potential thesis chapter definitely does not spring fully formed from my brain, it comes out as odd misshapes. Sentences that include notes to myself, find and insert citation here, random marginalia. Sometimes I write in notebooks in the field and later transfer it all together inside a larger structure, and sometimes I close my eyes and type everything listening to dubstep.
I am reading on edaphic endemism and serpentine for a committee meeting this week. The books have been sharing the window sill with my pet serpentine rocks. The state rock of California, yo. The button was given to me by Dr. Judy Jernstedt, my academic advisor at UC Davis, who signed all the paperwork that let me stay in school. The debts I owe and can never repay.
That gratitude includes my debts to Dr. Ellen Dean, who gave me botany training and a job at the Davis herbarium, and took me out in the field to show me what serpentine looked like at Payne Ranch. And she still gives the best advice ever.
Still reading for oral qualifying exams. Drafting and rewriting my thesis prospectus. The California drought makes me not feel guilty about not field collecting in far off places this week. Recovering from flu & bronchitis. The last part I could have done without, but getting my mind blown every three minutes since this process started is gnarly wonderful. Having the time this break to just read is a gift. I am going through each book and article from each committee member/topic, and every day the books/articles move from stack to stack to stack as I go through different themes or chapters. Nothing has fallen over yet. I haven’t stubbed my toes. Jim gave me Judgey the Pelican, who looks at me with tiny, hate-filled, stitched eyes and motivates me to work harder. Effective.
I think about the upcoming exam all the time, and the reading list, and the committee. I read, and then I read some more. I read in the lab office, and then I read at the home office.
Reading for oral qualifying exams. Paraphrasing Ernst Mayr, Dave Lindberg, and Johnny Castle.