Shannon in Taos

Shannon is a senior majoring in environmental science with an emphasis in biology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. During summer 2013, she is taking a field botany and systematic botany course at SMU-in-Taos.

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Tracking buttercups in Taos

I have spent almost all of my time here at Taos in the library.  I start right after breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and leave for dinner and when the library closes at 5 p.m., and of course I leave for lunch at noon.  I am taking Dr. Ubelaker’s Field Botany and Systematic Botany course, and in this class I am working on a monograph on the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family in the north-central region of New Mexico.

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A few of the books I’ve been referencing

I’ve been referencing a lot of books to write this monograph. I have to check through a book that was written in the 1980s to see which species were reported in the area, then see how to identify those species, then I check from a book written in 2012 to see if any species’ names have changed or if new species have been reported or if I have to remove any species if they haven’t been reported recently to be in the area.

I am also looking through a third book that describes how many Native American tribes used certain plant species as a food, drug, decoration, etc.

It’s all really interesting and I’m learning a lot, and my monograph’s coming along great. I already have 83 pages. But I think I’m getting a little stir-crazy sitting in the library all day long.

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My 83-page monograph

Today I thought was going to be like any other day – that I would spend all day in the library as well.  Really, though, I only spent maybe two hours working today.  Around 10 a.m. Dr. Ubelaker took the botany and parasitology students to his house. After we finished and had lunch back on campus, the other botany student, Mindy, and I decided to join the parasitology students to help set the mouse traps in the forest by the art barn.

As we were walking along and setting the peanut-filled traps in the brush, Wade and Rea, two of the students, were telling me that a few days ago they found a large skull and some bones in the sagebrush field by the art barn. I was so excited. I really wanted to see these bones, so after we set the traps we went off searching for the bones.  We ended up finding the skull that they had found days ago as well as some other bones.  I think the skull might belong to an elk, though it could be a cow; we also found the scapula and some vertebrae to the elk/cow as well as some canine mandibles, scapula, and various leg bones.  I was so excited that we found so many bones.

The Rio Grande gorge

The Rio Grande gorge

We then set off for Walmart for a tub and some hydrogen peroxide in order to clean the bones.  We went back to the parasitology lab, and I was able to scrub some of the dirt off the bones and started soaking the skull and other bones in the hydrogen peroxide but soon realized I would need more if I wanted to clean all of them.  Maybe I can take another trip out there later.

After dinner, Wade asked us if we wanted to go to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  So Wade, Rea, Rose, Mindy, and I piled into Rea’s truck, and we drove out for 30 minutes to see the gorge.  The gorge is about 500 feet down and it was really intense to stand on the bridge and look down. It was really gorgeous and I’d love to visit it again.

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