Monday, July 23, 2012

Pondering Specialization

On today's nature hike, I was mostly impressed by the extreme dryness and the fact that nearly all the trailside wildflowers I've been enjoying have gone to seed.  There were some dark clouds in the distance, and possibly a few flashes of "dry" lightning.  I found myself telling my guests more about what was here recently than what is here now.  Then, one of our group spotted a beautiful Western Swallowtail Butterfly on a low shrub with its wings fully spread.  We both came in close with our cameras, and the butterfly didn't move.  This made me suspect that it was being eaten from beneath by a Goldenrod Crab Spider, an operation I'd seen many times in recent months.  Not this time.  After getting a few nice photos, I attempted to pick up the butterfly for a photo of it on my hand.  It flew away!  If it had the energy and inclination to fly away, why didn't it do so sooner?  This is the sort of question that can lead one to want to specialize.  Some personalities would decide, on the spot, to pursue this one question to the end - possibly become a lepidopterist for life.  Then, just 10 feet away, I spotted a large cluster of freshly-blooming Leopard Lilies where I had seen only one a week before.
I recalled that in a similar setting on a creek just a half mile away, the Leopard Lilies had bloomed over a month ago and were now all wilted and bearing seed pods.  There seemed to be a full month's difference in where these two clusters were in their annual cycles.  Another question one might want to pursue to the end.  I realize that I don't have the brain power or persistence to stick with all questions that come to mind for any length of time.  If I had chosen to specialize, say, when I was studying reptiles in graduate school, I might have given up on birds, mammals, fish, flowers, lichens, mosses, rocks, weather, etc., except insofar as they bore directly on my study of a particular reptile.  My zoology buddies from Tulane chose to specialize - one in herpetology, one in parasitology, another in medicine, and I remain an enthusiastic generalist.  I realize that I enjoy pondering lots of questions, but only pursuing some via library research and/or further observation.  I am grateful for the ease with which information others have gathered is so much more readily available to the general public than when I was in college.  The main purpose of this blog is to share my enthusiasms in the hope that more people will care enough about our amazing planet to want to protect it.

1 comment:

  1. Joe!

    We are here and listening. Helping to conserve and protect to the end! Keep at it!