Fan Dancer

Fan Palm Fronds

We created some domestic industry this last weekend. Our big joint effort was the completion of a project that began last November. We hung blinds on the last four windows without them. I can’t say that we attacked this job with any great sense of urgency. It was an on again, off again affair. First the holidays intervened and then there was our travel, but eventually we completed this not quite monumental project. Now, with all nine blinds closed, I can safely run from room to room, with every light on in the house, in my underwear, without the neighbors seeing me. Maybe that would get Anne to look up too. I say this, because she has been heads down working on her crafts, having just completed two quilts and then knitting a pair of socks and a scarf too. 

Daylight in the Swamp

Anne in a Mangrove Swamp

On the way down to Key West, we visited Long Key State Park, which while it was officially open, large tracts of the park were closed to the public for cleanup of hurricane damage. Its boardwalk and observation tower appeared unhurt, but they were surrounded by nature’s own hurricane defense, mangroves. We hiked the Golden Orb trail that had hardwood hammocks of gumbo limbo, poisonwood and sea grape trees. Locally, gumbo limbo is known as the tourist tree, because of it red and peeling bark. Like its relatives, poison oak and poison sumac, poisonwood secretes an irritant when touched. It is abundant in the keys, but once recognized it is easily avoided. We saw signs for it everywhere. Sea grapes are also abundant in the keys. They are wind resistant and highly tolerant of salt, so it is often seen along the shore stabilizing beaches. Its fruit is quite edible and can be eaten off the tree. January was too early.

Normally, the Golden Orb trail is a loop, but again because of storm damage, when we reached the beach, we had to turnaround. Anne took the following photo of some of the natural flotsam. The beaches were dotted with mangrove clumps, which only allowed access to the sea in short 20-30 yard stretches, but behind the mangroves was a wide, white sand beach. It was very dry when we visited the park. Inland, there were mud cracks in low-lying areas and no bugs.

Hurricane Flotsam

Milk with Altitude

Schooners at Sunset

Marco! Polo! Marco! Marco! Mark, are you alright? Polo! Mom, I’m OK.

I have never traveled the Silk Road, like Marco Polo did. I have never sailed the seven seas. I haven’t even been to Katmandu, like last night’s lecturers. Science on Tap reconvened after a long hiatus and we were all in attendance. EA Quinn and Geoff Childs, both Washington University professors were our speakers. They had been to Katmandu and beyond and they told us of their work. First they had to deal with some A/V devils. Light electrical work compared to fanning an over heating generator or holding up on the roof solar panels to generate juice. Both examples of hardships that research in Nepal entails. Enough of the Indy Jones intro, on to the science, in this case anthropology.

Their NSF funded study at the intersection of biology and culture in the Himalayas centered upon the effects of altitude on mother’s milk. Nubri, near the Tibetan border was the area of their research. Katmandu is the big city where their young people go for an education compared to this place. Travel is by foot or donkey. Although, a helicopter was utilized to transport the liquid nitrogen that was used to preserve the milk samples. Samples that once back in the lab were analyzed for composition along three lines:

  • Macronutrients and Energy (Yes)
  • Metabolic Hormones (No)
  • Immune Factors (No)

The parenthetical yes and no neatly summarize their findings. Yes, they were able to find differences in milk composition that correlated with altitude or no they did not. 69 mother-infant dyads participated in the study. Nutrients were further broken out into sugars and protein, which were normal and fats, which were the highest ever seen. The daily infant intake translated into an extra 10 grams/day of fat or +110 calories/day than what a sea level infant would get.

The Q&A session was as always also interesting. For example, while cow’s milk production decreases with altitude, yak’s milk production increases with altitude. Quinn and Childs were reporting from an earlier completed NSF study. One that they leveraged into their current study, which since it is still ongoing, they were not willing to report on. They hinted though of revelations to come.