Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Go Badgers! ...also R.I.P.

So I made it to Madison! Unfortunately, however, my belongings have not: moving company is very late. Not fun. This means that I can't finish up the type series just yet since I don't have my hard drive. In the meantime, however, grad school starts this week, so here is a post in celebration of my first week as a University of Wisconsin Badger.

American badger
Bucky the Badger is of course a ferocious fighting beast (actually a true story: the original live mascot was too vicious to control! and besides that American badgers are carnivores that prey on everything from pocket gophers to woodchucks to ground-nesting birds), but a little while ago I came across a tidbit of badger natural history that would make them seem to have a soft side. I found this in a 1954 book titled The Animal Kingdom: The Strange And Wonderful Ways Of Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Fish And Insects. The book calls this story "A Remarkable Badger 'Funeral'":  

The badgers have few natural enemies, and many live out the normal life span of ten years. They probably die in an underground chamber, which is then sealed off by other tenants of the badger "earth." There is even on record one remarkable instance of a badger "funeral." The event--it took place in England--was witnessed by Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald in 1941.

A female badger was seen excavating a large hole in an abandoned rabbit warren. Her efforts were interrupted by several journeys which she made back and forth between the rabbit warren and her set. All the time she seemed agitated and uttered strange cries.

The excavation completed, the female was joined by another badger, a male, and both retreated to the set. A short time later he was seen dragging a dead badger by the leg (another male--it could have been her mate) with the female giving some assistance from the rear. The body was duly deposited in the open grave and covered with earth. The female returned home; the helpful male went elsewhere and was not seen again.

I should note that this story was about a European badger, not an American badger like Bucky, but it's a fun story nonetheless. Also, probably not a whole lot of meaning should be ascribed to this story: as fossorial creatures, burrowing and burying is just a big part of life for badgers. They bury everything from their poop to their prey, so it's not surprising that on occasion they might be inclined to bury their dead as well. Here's a cute video of a badger digging a burrow:

And in other badger news, badgers have apparently been, well, making the news lately. Check out Chris Norris's post on... MONSTER BADGER

This video is always fun, too.

Monday, August 8, 2011

On the future of this blog...

This week I am leaving New Haven and the Peabody. I'll miss both dearly: New Haven's been home for the past seven years. The Peabody's been my home within that home for the past five. I started working in Peabody Vertebrate Zoology as a student assistant at the start of my junior year. After graduating, I was lucky enough to be able to join the division as a full time museum assistant. Along the way, I've gotten to use the Vertebrate Zoology collections for research with Professor Tom Near, too.

Now, I'm heading to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to start working on a Phd in sociology. I'm looking to study the sociology of the evolution controversies. I'm stoked.

I'm also trying to figure out what I want to do with this blog. I'll be working with people now, not dead vertebrates in jars of ethanol anymore, but I don't predict that I will lose my love for the natural world upon joining a sociology department...! I've got gobs of cool specimens and photos that I haven't posted about yet, and it seems silly not to share these. So I might keep this up. I recently received an invite to blog at Field of Science, so I may even move the blog there.

But, of course, I'm worried about how much time I'll have now that I'll be starting this new grad school life. We'll see. At the very least, I'm going to finish out this series I've got going on the Peabody fish type collection. And I'll definitely be contributing occasionally to a brand new Peabody group blog that I've been helping to kickstart with some colleagues this summer. It's set to launch in about a month or so-- more on this soon!

I'll keep you updated. For now, I've got to finish packing and get my butt to Wisconsin. Back to boxes...