Friday, January 1, 2016

Year 2015 in Review

Gratitude is something I need to be expressing more often, so let me start there. It was an unusual and sometimes trial-filled year, but there is plenty I am grateful for. Much thanks to all who clicked the "donate" button, it is always a joyful surprise when I get a notification. Thank you also to BioQuip Products for continuing to sponsor this blog with their advertising here. Thanks, Google Adsense, for the twice-yearly supplemental revenue. Thank you to all the fellow bloggers who see fit to include my blog in their own "blog roll." I very much appreciate the respect, and your willingness to voluntarily direct traffic my way. Last, but certainly not least, thank you, dear readers, for continuing to "follow" me, and for your patience between posts.

The start of the year found me in Portland, Oregon, planning the celebration of life in the wake of my mother's passing in December, 2014. Thankfully, Heidi came out and helped me finish packing up mom's apartment, and offering moral support. My best friend from high school, Carl Robertson, also helped immensely. His sense of humor is priceless, like his devotion to his family and friends.

By March, I was helping review signage for exhibits at the newly-opened Missoula Insectarium in Montana, USA. My friends Jen and Glenn Marangelo have worked incredibly long and hard to see this facility come to fruition, and they still have a long road ahead to build the butterfly house of their dreams. Please support them in any way you can.

I was also approached by Tender Corporation to contribute blog posts to the Insectlopedia website. This has been challenging but rewarding, and my editors, Emily Snayd and Kristin Hathaway, have been an absolute joy to work with. It looks like we will have another go at it in 2016.

This year I started remembering to take videos of insect and spider behavior, too, and this is a trend that I expect will continue as opportunities present themselves. I am going to need a bigger computer, though, as movie files take a lot of megabytes!

Another goal this year was to introduce more generic posts addressing how entomologists and the public can interact more constructively; and clarifying general principles such as the myth of "good" bugs and "bad" bugs. These posts began in June, 2015, and I hope to continue them.

Year 2015 also saw more discoveries of "new" local insect species. For the second year in a row I scored a state record for a dragonfly species. This year it was a Red Rock Skimmer at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. I also collected a foreign rove beetle that turned out to be a state record. Most astoundingly, I documented in photos and videos the arrival of the Pipe Organ Mud Dauber in Colorado. At least I am pretty sure it is new to the state. I have more research to do to clarify that finding.

Perhaps my biggest failure of the year was our effort to document the mass emergence of Brood IV periodical cicadas. Heavy rains prior to our visit to northeast Kansas and adjacent Missouri delayed the spectacle until a week after we returned home. At least we got to see Heidi's parents, and visit our dear friend Shelly Cox.

In June I began working two days each week at Songbird Supplies, LLC, a wonderful store inside of Summerland Gardens nursery. One of the many benefits of this employment opportunity was the chance to observe birds, insects, and spiders on the property. By December, I had documented nearly 260 species of animals, from earthworms to Homo sapiens. Many thanks to Julie McIntyre for her tolerance of wasps and other insects on the property.

The most difficult challenge I faced this year concerning this blog was the discovery that my work had been copied wholesale by someone else. Text and images were being cloned without my authorization. So began my adventures with Google and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). One of my friends from Facebook, a lawyer, volunteered to write the takedown notices, one for each blog post! I did not realize the full extent of the work involved until a second incident, for which I wrote my own takedown notices. The DMCA is clearly in need of great modification, and vastly better enforcement. The continuing devaluation of web content created by writers and photographers should be considered intolerable, but short of a "digital union" of content providers, I am unsure that the tide can be turned. I fully expect to have to repeat this process a number of times in coming years.

I was privileged to go on several wonderful adventures this year, including a tarantula hunt, a grasshopper hunt, National Moth Week events, and a dragonfly and damselfly hunt. There is nothing better than enjoying one's interests with others of like mind. Many thanks to all who made these adventures possible and memorable!

One of my blog-writing resolutions for the new year is to be more proactive in responding to news stories related to entomology, like the recent report on Chagas disease in the U.S. I welcome suggestions from my readers at all times concerning stories they would like for me to address. Meanwhile, I will do my best to be more in touch with current events.

Thank you again for your continued support. May 2016 be generous to you, your family, and friends. Cheers to more entomological excitement for all of us!

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