The guy behind the lens

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I'm a Science Teacher, Nature Photographer,Husband, and Father, and Grandfather who loves to explore the natural world by traveling, photographing and thinking. 

MINDS WORK BEST WHEN OPEN!  

Friday, June 13, 2014

MicroSafari – Blepharisma

This episode of my ongoing Microsafari series features an unusual single celled protist names Blepharisma. I looks a lot like the very familiar Paramecium, but you'll see that it's clearly different!





Please ENJOY, LEARN, and SHARE! 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

HELP CREATE & NURTURE A YOUNG SCIENTIFIC MIND!

As a science teacher, I know that INSPIRATION is a critical ingredient when it comes to the success of most students. I also know that one of the greatest signs of who will be a successful student (in any field) is how much they read when they are young.

If I have a student who is an avid reader, I know he or she will most likely accomplish a great deal more than others who have minimal reading interest. The benefit of reading is obvious to me in two ways  - first, readers become more skilled at finding and synthesizing data than non readers over time. Second, readers wind up having a much broader horizon of interests because they have simply encountered a wider range of topics through reading than their non reading peers. 

Common Sense Media recently released "4 Alarming Findings About Kids' and Teens' Reading" which details where today's youth are in regards to reading - and it's not an encouraging story, but worth seeing and acting upon! 


Another great take on the significance of reading among the  young is Frank Bruni's op/ed in the New York Times, "Read Kids,Read"


Based on the above simple take on things, I am inviting YOU to help me begin to craft a collection of meaningful science related books that had an influence on you as a youth. My long term goal is to create a curated list of "science themed" books that my middle school students can benefit from when they are assigned outside reading books in my class. As part of the curating process I like the idea that they could see comments from "real people" about why a book was interesting / inspiring. 


SO - please take a few minutes and think about what "sciencey" books made an impression for you and which you think could help inspire science students of this next generation!
I really appreciate your willingness to share you thoughts in the comments below as well as hopefully passing this posting on to other friends/scientists/teachers who might themselves add their ideas. 


Thanks for taking a few minutes to help make a difference! 





John

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Springtime along the Raasch Trail




I consider myself lucky to live within an hour of the wonderful Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge that sits on the shores of Lake Texoma near Sherman, Texas. 


Click above to go to Google Maps of the area!




I started to visit Hagerman last year after years of hearing about it. However I had just not gotten up the gumption to get there. Aside from year round abundant bird life ,  and more than a dozen miles of nice hiking trails, I was immediately impressed by the warmth and friendliness of the volunteers I met there who staff the visitor center and share their impressive knowledge of the flora, fauna, and history of the area. I now happily count myself as a monthly volunteer at the visitor center in hopes of being able to give back to those of you who will visit Hagerman in the future. Before a visit, make sure to check out these two websites:

The OFFICIAL  Hagerman NWR Website - The official US Fish & Wildlife website for Hagerman. 

FRIENDS OF THE HAGERMAN NWR  website  - detailed information about the volunteer group I belong to that helps run visitor services for Hagerman NWR



Two weeks ago, I went up to Hagerman to spend the day photographing bluebirds - the Friends of the Hagerman group  has built and monitors several dozen bluebird houses which have greatly bolstered the local bluebird population over the past few years. 



I had a wonderful day taking advantage of a warm spring day capturing bluebirds busily working to capture morsels for their fledglings to feast upon. In addition, the lighting along the Raasch Trail was superb to capture the beauty of early spring growth here in North Texas. 




Please feel free to share this gem of a place with your online friends! It's well worth the visit if you're in the neighborhood! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

MicroSafari – Stentor the MicroTrumpeter






This episode of my Microsafari series features one of the most distinctive single celled protists - Stentor! Watch this video and learn why I call it the "MicroTrumpeter". I hope you enjoy this foray into the micro world and feel free to share this with all the young (or old!) science lovers in your life!

The entire series can be found on my YouTube Channel.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

MicroSafari – Snakes on a Slide!





With apologies to Samuel L. Jackson's film "Snakes on A Plane," I could not help but title this Microsafari episode "Snakes on a Slide" because that is what most of my students think of when they see the long snakelike ciliate protozoan named Spirostomum. As you'll see in the video they hold a world record and are important in many aquatic ecosystems! 

I am creating these Microsafari explorations to open up a new world of science exploration to young people --- please feel free to share these with the young scientists in your life as well as with any science teachers you know! It's greatly appreciated! If you want to find more Microsafari stuff- I'm using the hashtag #MICROSAFARI to allow folks to follow & share these more easily! 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

MicroSafari – Up Close With Paramecium




This installment in my MicroSafari series focuses on the famous single celled ciliate Paramecium. Most students never get to see a good up close view of what actually is happening inside a paramecium because they tend to move very quickly and appear as “herky jerky” blurs to most folks unless you place them in a solution of “ProtoSlo” (methyl cellulose – I call it jello for microorganisms). This keeps them from swimming so fast and lets us see them in one spot where a higher power lens can focus on their internal activities such a food vacuole formation (eating) and contractile vacuole filling and contraction (drinking & peeing). When you get close enough to these creatures to see these things, you also get to appreciate their cilia and how quickly they beat. So – take a couple minutes and get up close with this most famous citizen of the microworld! 

Congratulation to my friends at EXO LABS ( www.exolabs.com) who created the FOCUS Microscope Camera I use  for these videos - the FOCUS camera was recently featured in Apple's 30th anniversary video for the Mac - at 38 seconds into the video you can see students using the FOCUS camera with an  iPad to view what's under their microscope! 



Way to go Exo!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

WELCOME TO THE MICROWORLD!



I am pleased to begin sharing another way I really enjoy seeing our natural world. These days, many folks feel there is little left to explore. They feel there are none of the great romantic “blank areas on the map” that so enticed earlier generations of explorers. While there are certainly fewer unexplored spaces, there is a way that everyday folks can explore the natural world without traveling to the ends of the earth. I have long been thrilled by the adventures and excitement that Mother Nature shares in the microscopic world. Over the years, I've enjoy exploring many “MicroWorlds” with my students as they appreciate the “WOW Factor” of the seemingly invisible world all around us. While most Blue Lion Blog readers know that I treasure my African safari experiences, I have the ability to go on a different type of safari most every day! I deem my safaris under the microscope “MicroSafaris” as we get to explore all sorts of microscopic creatures who can appear with no predetermined script. For 21st century students who have the digital world at their fingertips, seeing these “unknown” critters changes how they look at their worlds and opens up a new found sense of creativity and possibility.

Over the past few months I have gotten to know the dedicated folks over at EXOLABS (www.exolabs.com), a Seattle based startup. They have created a wonderful iPad based camera that is designed to work with any microscope. After having worked with other less successful microscope cameras/software, their FOCUS microscope camera is the tool I have long sought to help share my passion for microworlds with you. Over the coming months I will be creating a series of MicroSafari videos to introduce you to various denizens of the microworld. Following that, we’ll begin to expand our exploration as we head out to see differing microscopic ecosystems and how their micro citizens go about their “little lives”


I chose this first video because it’s the microscopic creature most folks are familiar with – AMOEBA!  If you’ve ever looked through a microscope in school then you probably got to see these blob like protists. Here I have been able to capture them in both real time and time-lapse video to give you a uniquely exciting view.  Enjoy the view and please feel encouraged to share this video with a young person in your life!