Climate change just got real(er) …again

The IPCC just released a new report, and there is a great National Geographic article covering it.

As of this report, the global average temperature has increased by more than one degree Celsius. While this may seem kind of abstract, here are some big takeaways of changes this will continue to bring about:

->Do you like to eat fish? Overfishing has already depleted fish stocks worldwide, but these will decrease even more as habitats are destroyed and fish move poleward to try and find cooler waters.
->Do you think coral reefs are beautiful? If this trend continues, 70-90+ percent of these reefs could collapse by 2100. Don’t live near the ocean or think this will affect you? This will devastate nursery zones for fish humans like to eat, and destroy many tourist industries.
->Do you think having freshwater resources is important? If our glaciers continue to melt, this will cause terrible flooding in the short term, followed by global water shortages, impacting access to drinking water, water for agricultural use, and even hydroelectric power production. 
->Do you like visiting seaside towns or beaches, or do you live in such a place? If the ice sheets keep melting at the rates they are going, many of these places will be underwater within the next century.

Holy guacamole, is there anything that can be done to help? Yes!
->let your local/state/national government representatives know that finding a solution for this is a priority for you, their constituents.
->let companies know that they should commit to lowering their carbon footprints. Don’t buy products from companies that put profit margins way above lessening the impact they have on the environment!
->take steps to reduce your carbon footprint! Buy local, carpool, take transit, or walk places if it’s an option for you. Try to buy less ‘one and done’ products, and reuse the crap out of things before recycling/disposing of them.
->talk about these issues! Spread the word! Your voice matters. 

What is the legacy you’d like to leave behind for the generations that follow you? What kind of planet would you like them to inhabit?


Mojave Milkweed Trip

A few weeks ago I was given the incredible opportunity to go out into the field to gather samples for my Mojave Milkweed project. Yay field work!

The plan was to fly into Vegas, hitch a ride with my lovely collaborator Steve (check out his cool research here) to Primm (a teensy town straddling the CalNeva border) and stay at Buffalo Bill’s Resort. I have been SO PUMPED for the resort because the outdoor pool is shaped like a motherlickin’ BISON y’all!


Little did I know, Primm would be resort town of maddening weirdness. The roller coaster? Didn’t see it running until Friday night when I was too tired to care about endangering my life on rickety-ass joyrides. The log flume ride? A little dried up canal with creepy wax people gracing its sad banks. The pool? Only three and a half feet of bitterly cold water with not one but TWO bored-looking lifeguards.

Oh, Primm.

But enough of that. It’s time for some research!

On our way back from the airport, Steve told me that he had already gone to Unit 1 of ISEGS, which has three collection towers surrounded by mirrors. While at Unit 1, he had found next to no plants. Oh no! However, he also said that Unit 1 is usually the driest of the three areas, so he figured we would probably see some planties at the other units. Yes, I call them planties. DEAL WITH IT.

Day one had me up at the crack of dawn (okay, it was like 06:00, but I we didn’t get to the hotel until 21:00 the night before, which baked my poor little Eastern Time Zone brain). The plan was to hit Unit 2, breaking for lunch sometime around noonish.


Mirror mirror on the wall…Please stop blinding me k thanks. ISEGS is a Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant, which means there are a bunch of mirrors circling a colossal tower that has some sort of fluid (in this case it’s water, however in newer facilities, they are beginning to use molten salts). The mirrors angle the sunlight to concentrate the rays on the upper portion of the tower, and it boils the fluid, creating high-powered steam that turns turbines that generate electricity. Yay science!

What this means is that for the poor scientists scuddling around on the ground, during certain times of day the glare will hit you and make you feel like you are frying your poor eyeballs, even through sunglasses. Like my Madre says, sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! You also aren’t supposed to look directly at the flux of the towers, something about actually frying your eyeballs.

Oooh, shiny.

Anywho ISEGS was finished in 2014, and they decided to avoid blading all of the ground under the mirrors to try and mitigate the impacts on the local wildlife. They also had to relocate some Mojave Desert Tortoises (sadly I did not get to see any of those). The facility is home to some rare plants such as the milkweed, desert pincushion, desert mallow, and a few others. There is also an abundance of lizards, some kit foxes, jackrabbits, insects, and a few brave (or maybe suicidal) birds. I guess now is a good time to mention that if birds fly through the flux, it’s hot enough to singe them and boop! No more birdie. There are fulltime consultants that are quantifying the impacts of the facility on birds. I saw one carrying around a bag of dead birds on the last day we gathered samples. Eesh.

Steve is looking at the ecological impacts of the facility on the milkweed, and I am looking at the population-level genetic implications of the facility, and also just what some of the populations look like in general. I am especially keen to get a good idea of how the gene flow is affected by the facility. I can also look into how large the genets (groups of a single tuber with lots of clonal plants) get. We found a genet that had a purple-leafed ramet (a term for a single plant of the genet), which is super cool! We aren’t sure about why the entire plant would turn purple, although there is some speculation that darker coloration serves as sun protection. However, the milkweed in the facility receives more shade than their “natural” counterparts, so it’s hard to say if the color change is due to sunlight without further testing.

Purple power.

Steve and I also saw lots of cool caterpillars, including Queens (Danaus gilippus), a single Monarch (Danaus plexippus) and an unknown fuzzy critter.


Overall, I loved this trip! I am excited to process my hundred-odd samples and get a genetic picture of the milkweed in the area. It was nice to go back into the desert for a bit and see mountains, although my skin dried out almost instantly Le sigh.

Also, the water in Primm tastes and smells like used pool water. I’ve had some funky water in my day, but this took the cake. Maybe I can make my fortune selling “I Survived Primm” shirts to the poor vacationers. I like to keep my future open to all possibilities.

I think I have said all I need to tell about my first adventure in the field. Keep it classy, y’all.


Meet the Furbabies!

I am the proud furmom of two delightful furbabies. As they are constant sources of happiness in my life, I thought I would share a bit about them.



Tippy joined the family in October 2010. She was the runt of a litter of semi-feral puppies my mom and I discovered living under an uninhabited house in Texas. I think she is some sort of Australian Shepherd and Spaniel cross, but I have no real idea. She’s fabulous and fluffy, which is the most important part! Some of her favorite things include going on adventures, getting brushed, and playing in the snow. However, she hates baths……

Tippy is also not a fan of rainy days or places where there are a lot of people and commotion. She is rather opinionated and has many grunts and other noises she uses to get my lazy butt out of bed in the morning. She is very much a prima donna and prefers that things be just so. She will pout to make her displeasure known (like when I bought her this super nifty bed that she refused to use until I bribed her with treats multiple times).

Tippy has a pretty mild temperament and exquisite manners (thanks, mom!) most of the time which is a great thing, considering the furry companion she has roomed with since October 2016. Her companion sometimes plays with her, which Tippy thinks is tons of fun. However, the little hairball also sometimes steals Tippy’s bed, which results in pouting. Lots and lots of pouting. Sigh.



Or rather, Cimarron Twinkle-Toes Noodle Underfoot


Meet the cat of many nicknames, most of them said in a somewhat exasperated tone of voice. I adopted her when she was about three months old in Fort Collins from this great organization. At the time, I spent my last $150 on her adoption fee…not one of my most glamorous moments. Anyways, she has been a great addition to the furfamily! Cimarron is a domestic medium hair torbie (a tortoiseshell tabby). Some of her favorite things include playing fetch, harassing the dog, nibbling on toes, “helping” me make the bed, noisily playing at random hours of the night, and *gently* placing her paw in my mouth/nose in the morning when she wants food. Between her shenanigans and Tippy’s dramatic noises, it’s no great surprise that I can never sleep in past 9.

There aren’t many things that Cimarron doesn’t like, other than maybe being told no. This eight-pound hairball can throw some epic temper-tantrums….if you don’t think that cats are capable of temper tantrums, then you should see Cimarron in action sometime! Cimarron also has some delightful digestive issues that may be related to a sensitivity to chicken. A hypercarnivore being sensitive to a kind of prey animal is not something you think about every day, but there you have it. Things are never dull around here!


My Biggest Adventure So Far

Wow, it’s been a hot minute since I have posted anything.

I’ve had many things happen in my life since my last post. I have at least one half-written blog post that I may never, ever, publish. And that is okay. At least that is what I tell my inner perfectionist when she comes knocking at my consciousness.

Since September 2016, I have had many experiences: I finally quit a bad relationship that was as unhealthy for me as eating sausage for every meal. I came to terms with my major depressive disorder. My best friend had a baby. I applied and received acceptance to a Master’s program at Michigan State University. I made some new friends. I adopted a cat. I got a new job, and quit my old one. I moved from Colorado to Michigan to start life as a Spartan.

Oh, and I met and fell in love with the man of my dreams.

And I don’t say things like that lightly.

I am not usually the super mushy type, especially when it comes to my personal life. However, I feel that I need to share my story.

My love story began like many others, with both of us meeting through mutual friends. He was shy; I was not. When I first met him, I didn’t know what to think. He had some of the most amazing green eyes ringed by the thickest lashes imaginable (ugh, why are perfect eyelashes “wasted” on men), but I don’t think he said more than two words to me when we first met. However, our mutual friends got him to start talking to me, and I found out that he was sweet, kind, cherished his family dearly, and had a fierce love for his country. His smile lit up the entire room when he chose to show it. It still lights up the room.

And this is where I get to tell you his name: Sameer.

Sameer is from Pakistan. He is here in the US earning a Master’s degree in Structural Engineering.

Sameer is also Muslim.

Sameer looking all photogenic. Ugh.

I fell in love with Sameer almost by accident. I always enjoy making new friends, especially those that are very different than I am. I also enjoy good food and mentally stimulating conversation. That is how I made friends with two of Sameer’s roommates who also happened to be my co-workers.

“The Boys,” as I affectionately call them, were always having me join them for food (ohmygosh can they cook) or chai when I would visit. We would often hang out until rather late at night, me pestering them with questions about their homes and where they came from, and them likewise asking me about my life as an American.

They were all a breath of fresh air after the (mostly self-inflicted) emotional ordeal I had been through in the previous year.

The Pakistani culture itself is alien to my American upbringing in many ways. For example, there is no concept of dating in Pakistan. Family members still arrange many marriages. Men and women do not commonly intermingle in a social context. Even with all that cultural difference, these boys were some of the warmest, most open-hearted people I had met. One of them came over and cooked food for me once when I was sick, but after he lectured me about not having onions in my house (sorry, I don’t currently have any as I type this either…) We had many fun adventures going to the grocery store and even hiking.

Now back to the story of Sameer and I.

I started considering dating Sameer after we went on this silly adventure around Fort Collins trying to find him some mango juice. Apparently, mangoes found in American grocery stores are crap. We went to about five different stores and had at least seven different mango drinks before the night was done. I think by the end of the night we were both suffering from sugar highs. We laughed a lot, and he talked with me about his shenanigans with his friends during his time in University, and about growing up in Pakistan. I wouldn’t realize it for a while, but I was smitten.

I was reluctant to tell my family that I was considering dating a Muslim. Most of my family is pretty conservative, and I feared their judgment. My mother had once warned me that “terrorists” try and recruit people by being nice. I was terrified to tell my vocal, Trump-supporting, gun-toting father. So I kept mostly silent about the delicate, unexpected relationship developing between Sameer and me.

In Sameer’s culture, dating is considered haram (forbidden). He still chose to date me. Our first date was at an Afghani kabob place in FoCo. We walked in, and he stopped and closed his eyes. When I asked him what that was about, he pointed upwards and told me that the music they were playing was just like what they played in his province. When we got our food, he was visibly emotional and said to me that it tasted like home. Seeing how happy he was at that moment warmed my heart.

We went on other dates. Sameer had me watch what might have been the worst movie I have ever seen. We went out and saw the Disneynature Born In China film for my birthday. We would go on walks together with my dog. I asked him to go to Michigan with me during his spring break, so I could meet my future advisor in person and find a place to live. And he did. Through a hellish snowstorm, crappy hotel staff, and me getting quite cranky, Sameer stayed positive. I don’t know how he did it.

Through that trip, I realized that I could see myself marrying him. And I couldn’t help but wonder when I fell so head over heels in love with this hairy Pakistani with a weird sense of humor. But that was the reality: I was hopelessly, helplessly, in love with Sameer.

He proposed to me on a beautiful spring day during a hike. I said yes. Then reality set in.

I had kept the seriousness of my relationship with Sameer mostly quiet. Now I realize it was out of fear of being judged by my friends and family. Then, I thought I just wanted the privacy.

Sameer told his family that he wanted to marry an American girl. A white American girl. A white American girl who was not Muslim, but had been baptized. They weren’t pleased. Up until then, I was an unknown to Sameer’s family because he was flat-out terrified of the judgment of his family. What if they decided they were not okay with his life decision and called him back to Pakistan? Since they were (and are) paying his tuition, that was a genuine fear, one that would come to hang over us like a thundercloud.

I told my mother, and then eventually my father. I don’t think either of them knew what to do with the news. There was a lot of concern over the fact that we were getting engaged so soon. I had people flat out ask me if I was pregnant. I had concerned family calling me and asking me if I knew how Muslims treated their women and asking if he was going to beat me and telling me that they heard that I was quitting school and everything and moving off to Pakistan, never to be heard from again.

Each of these things hurt me, but they were like daggers straight to Sameer’s heart. My family was living up to my worst nightmares. I knew that a lot of my family was conservative, but surely this was exceptionally narrow-minded.

Sameer’s family had their issues. They had decided that we should be married NOW so that Sameer wouldn’t ‘sin.’ Sameer protected me from most of the pressure, but I started hearing things from his younger siblings through WhatsApp. There were even thinly veiled, passive threats about marrying him off to some other girl if he wasn’t serious about marrying me. And the thundercloud grew.

From either family, we heard opposite things. Get married get married get married. Call it off call it off call it off. I had had it in my head that we would have a long engagement, followed by a wedding sometime after Sameer had graduated.

My hopes were being turned into ashes, trampled by all of the negativity surrounding us. Sameer, bless him, was like a rock through all of this that I clung to, lending me his strength when I ran out of mine. We had many conversations that ended in tears on both sides. We bounced what-ifs back and forth until both our minds were spinning.

The only thing we could think of was doing a nikah (Islamic marriage) ceremony to make Sameer’s parents happy, so they would stop pressuring him, and the thundercloud would go away. However, Sameer was trying to explain American culture to his dad during a talk once, and when he revealed that a nikah is not recognized as legally binding in the US, his dad said that Sameer needed to do both. Plus, the imam in the East Lansing area wouldn’t do a nikah without a marriage license, on top of wanting a male relative there as my representative. The feminist in me is still mad about that.

Why was happily ever after so hard? Why was the simple boy and girl fall in love, want to be married, live happily ever after metaphor not applying to us? The short answer is that life isn’t a fairy tale. The long answer is that I (for sure) could have handled things better, talked instead of remaining silent, and, as my mother puts it, stopped trying to swallow an elephant whole without any cutlery.

But Sameer and I are stronger as a couple for all the hoopla.

Finally, Sameer and I had a “fuck it all” moment. Nothing we chose to do was going to make everyone else happy, so we decided to elope.

On an early fall day in September, Sameer and I were married by a lesbian Wiccan in a small ceremony at my barn. My horse was there, as well as the barn owner, her husband, and a fellow boarder and her children. It was tiny and a silly and perfect.

A few weeks ago, we sent out announcements to family and friends. I have since been told to pass on a message to Sameer that if he ever physically harms me that he needs to look out.

I imagine that this was well-intended, but I can’t help asking: if my husband’s name was Samuel instead of Sameer and he was from Indiana instead of Pakistan, would this person have even thought about saying something like that to me regarding my husband. And I can’t help but think that the answer is no.

And it hurts. I can’t adequately put into words how much it hurts. No one wants to face that kind of inherent bias, much less realize you share blood with it. However, I fear for the future of American society, and the world as a whole, which is why I am speaking out. You cannot define a man by his religion just as you cannot define a country by the actions of a few perverse citizens.

Enough is enough.

Hewlett Gulch

After a typical Saturday night where Miranda gets called into work so she can work until 02:00 (oh wait…that’s not a typical Saturday in the world of Miranda) it was decided that a few select members of the Rohirrim (the best friend group ever. Not that I am biased.) and I would go hiking up the Poudre Canyon. I received a lovely wake up first from my dog, Tippy, and then from a phone call from my friend Rico at 08:00. I don’t think I was speaking English at that point.

I dragged my sorry butt out of bed and attempted to resemble a human before the rest of the Rohirrim arrived. I was only somewhat successful. After a lot of coffee and some eggs, we went on our way… just for my check engine light to come on before we turned onto the Poudre Canyon road. So we made a bit of a pit stop to check Felicity (yes, I named my car), decided we had no idea what was going on, and proceeded after I did a lucky dance to ward off lousy car juju.

We decided on the Hewlett Gulch trail, located in the lower part of the Poudre Canyon. I had hiked the Gulch before, but the last time I had declined to check the status of the battery in my camera (like a ninny) and had a dead battery, so I was unable to take pictures. At least I learned from my mistake and made sure my camera had power this time!

According to information from the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers, the name of Hewlett Gulch comes from one of the original settlers of the Poudre, dating back to the 1870s. Hewlett Gulch is also the location of the original Poudre Park settlement, and a few remaining foundations and chimneys are still visible.

There is abundant water in the gully before you make your way up the loop and onto some alpine meadows. Adventure Dog was a fan, she loves splooshing through the water at a high rate of speed and then doing flyby splashings to unsuspecting hikers in her party.

So majestic.

The water is from Gordon Creek and was still chuckling merrily along even though it is the beginning of September and it has been a relatively dry summer. The deepest I saw it get near designated water crossing areas was about a foot. However, the area is known for flash flooding, having received extensive damage during the floods of 2013.

The views were lovely, both from down in the gulch and up in the meadows. The far end of the trail borders private property, so seeing houses while decidedly out in the wilderness was strange. Also, the scars from the last fire in the region were still plainly visible, leading to a melancholy, stark beauty in some areas.

The weather was perfect, not too cold, and a bit of cloud cover to keep us from getting scorched by the sun. Overall, the hike took us a little over three hours to complete, and we were a mixed group of in-shape and out of shape people. There were some pretty strenuous uphill climbs, but for the most part, I would consider the hike on the easy end of the moderate spectrum. I would recommend it!

It was nice that the trail rules permitted off-leash dogs as long as they were responsive to voice commands. Trying to hike while taking in the views and not tripping over something while holding a dog is sometimes a little beyond my skill set. At least there weren’t many annoying bugs.

10/10 would recommend. I would like to eventually backpack in and pitch a tent for the night. There’s always next year!

Hewlett Gulch has a Tippy seal of approval.

Oh Colorado, how I love having the opportunity to live here.

Over and out!

Ireland Day 13

Ginger Count: do chestnut/sorrel horses count as gingers?

The day’s agenda: Head to the K Club in Stratton via Kildare and the Irish National Stud.

I woke up to go on a run only to find that it was a gray, rainy day. Yay for finally getting some stereotypical Irish weather! Boo for not committing to fitness to run in the rain. The rain was a nice change in the weather and fit my somewhat melancholy mood perfectly. I was ready to go home and see friends (both hairy and human) again, but at the same time did not want to go back to reality.

The drive to Kildare was uneventful for the most part. I feel like I finally have the hang of driving in Ireland! Just in time to go home and be confused about life all over again. Figures(:

The Irish National Stud was awesome! It was built by a guy whose name I can’t remember (some guy who got lucky in a horse race, made it rich, bought the place, and then proceeded to build it based on the stars and such as he believed that they would help his racehorses. Every time a horse was born he would decide whether or not to keep it based on the individual’s star chart. His farm produced three champions in seven years, so maybe his methods worked? Who knows. Fate is a funny thing.) The man ended up gifting the stud and all its horses to his buddy the king (who was supposedly also his wife’s buddy if you get my meaning) and the property became the British National Stud. After Ireland became independent in 1922 they asked the British to vacate the stud, and apparently, they were disinclined to acquiesce to their request (politely, of course), but ended up abandoning the stud in 1945 or so. The rest, as they say, is history!

There were some cute foals (of course), and the tour guide was excellent. The stallions at stud were quite impressive. My favorite horse was Famous Name. I think he will be a pretty awesome damsire someday (you heard it here first!)

After the National Stud, we checked out a local tack shop and drooled at all the pretty horse things a little bit. We then wandered into Kildare for some lunch and then headed to the Kildare Village to see if it was the kit and caboodle like everyone was telling us. It was very Americanized, and kind of a letdown for Dani and I.

After that, we headed to the K Club in Stratton, which has one of the most beautiful golf courses in the country (if you are into that kind of thing….). The property was very pretty, and I went for a nice 5km run around the perimeter(ish). And then I got lost. And then zigzagged through it a couple of times while still lost…but finally made it back to the hotel!

Dani and I decided to have a quiet night in. She is currently stuck in a book (I’m envious…I’m sloging through the unabridged version of Les Miserables. It’s getting good…800 pages in.) And I wanted to make sure I got all my tax-free paperwork sorted out. There are two different tax-free methods in Ireland, via a letter in the post and through a swipe card from Fexco. Either of which you can ask for in stores around Ireland. I would highly recommend taking advantage of the returns as I am getting something close to 30-40 Euro back.

I went down to join Dani at the bar to order a last half-pint of Guinness. Goodbye, tasty beer. It’s been grand. I coerced the poor bartender into giving me extra crisps and cocktail cucumber slices because, why not? The cucumbers were delicious (and no, I wasn’t drunk in the slightest. The cucumbers just looked tasty). I can say one thing about Dani and I’s experience in random swanky bars at Irish hotels: we always entertain the bartenders!

Well, that’s all I have! Since I didn’t take any pictures, I will share some of our cheekier photos from the trip. Thanks for hanging around for the adventures! Until next time(:



Ireland Day 12

Ginger Count: 525,600 gingers. If any of you get that reference you get bonus points.

The day’s agenda: The Cliffs of Moher!

A note from yesterday: I said I would report back on Buried at Sea once I tried it. Part of me wants to go into a long and drawn out discussion regarding the subtleties of the beer and how delicious it was, but I would be talking out my ass if I did that as I know next to nothing about beer. That said, my entire experience can be summed up in this screenshot of a SnapChat I took last night:


Dani and I also hit the nightlife of Galway and had some fun. Dani had a bit too much fun…so Miranda was on babysitting duty. We both made it back safely to the room, none the worse for wear!

The next morning, after breakfast and such, we left for the Cliffs of Moher, located in the Burren National Park, which is pretty much the ecological hotspot of Ireland, home to over 700 different species of flora. The Cliffs were just as breathtaking as the pictures on the Internet make them out to be.

Gah, so pretty! The first drawback was that there were so many people. And some of those people had dogs. And some of those people with dogs failed to clean up after said dogs. Those kinds of people make Miranda angry. The farther we walked along, however, the fewer people around. Yay! The other drawback was that there were these stupid black fly things that swarmed anything and everything. I didn’t get bitten by any of them as far as I could tell, but the pesky things flew up my nose, in my ears, and perched on any part of my body, exposed or otherwise, and clung like their little lives depended on it.

A note to my mother: if it looks like your child was dangling off the side of a cliff to take any of those photos I cannot assure you that wasn’t the case. Not like your child has been known to do such things at cliff-type places with long drops underneath them *cough* Grand Canyon *cough cough*

Ahem, anywho…Dani and I walked along the cliffs until we pretty much came to the farthest tip of the Cliffs. Along the way, we passed a section where people seem to stop and make cairns.

Cairns, cairns everywhere.

Not exactly sure of their purpose other than to look cool. Trail markers? Nope. Were they offerings to the gods of the Cliffs? I think that’s more a Southwestern Native American thing…oh well it was cool. I was too afraid to leave a stone atop a cairn lest I knock the entire thing down and then curse myself with terrible luck for as long as I live. Okay, maybe that was a little melodramatic but still.

Continue reading “Ireland Day 12”