Friday, November 30, 2012

Healthy Writers Club: Manatees and Squeeing!


Photo Courtesy of Shallee McArthur
Happy Friday, everyone! I am cheating and writing this post on Monday (four days before I'm supposed to), so I'm not exactly sure what my stats will be this week. However, I have a REALLY AWESOME excuse: I will be participating in the U.S. Geological Survey's annual wild manatee study in Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge this week!

I am just thrilled to death about this. I have never participated in one of these studies before, but I have always, always, always wanted to. (I wriggled my way in this year through my friend Sonya, who worked with me at Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City Beach a few years ago. When she asked if I'd like to join her, I jumped at the chance.)

You are probably wondering what a wild manatee study is, and you are probably sensing how ridiculous and nerdy my squeeing is over here. I will fill you in on the details.

Here is what USGS has to say about their work, and you can read their full handout here:

Photo Courtesy of USFWS Headquarters
MANATEE CAPTURES AND HEALTH ASSESSMENT

Over the last decade, the USGS has successfully captured, examined, and released over 300 manatees, creating an extensive sample and data archive. Research in greater Crystal River, Florida is providing needed baseline health information of West Indian manatees. This is the fourth year of the wild manatee study at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

Health assessments are a valuable tool to determine the fitness, specifically related to environmental and medical issues, of any population of wildlife. Marine mammals, such as manatees, are often used as sentinels for emerging threats to the ocean environment and human health. 


Photo Courtesy of vladeb
A two-team approach is used to capture and exam manatees. The Capture Team and Assessment Team both consist of biologists and veterinarians representing federal, state and local government agencies. All procedures are conducted by experienced biologists and veterinary personnel. Manatees selected for capture are circled with a large net and pulled onto the beach by an experienced capture team. 


Photo Courtesy of vladeb
Once on shore, the manatees will receive a complete medical examination by veterinarians on the assessment team. Blood is drawn under sterile conditions from a flipper, centrifuged for plasma and serum separation, and submitted for routine blood analyses. Other laboratory tests are employed when necessary. A manatee physical exam includes the following:


• General Appearance 
• Body Condition 
• Photo-documentation of lesions and wounds 
• Heart/Pulse Rate 
• Respiratory Rate 
• Temperature 
• Body weight 
• Complete body measurements (body length and girths)
 • Eye exam 
• Implantation of PIT tag 
• Subcutaneous fat layer exam 
• Analysis of blood, feces, urine and skin 
• Reproductive parameters 

Improvements in the handling of wild manatees are possible by monitoring individuals using ECG and evaluating inflammatory response to injury or disease during capture. Blood biochemistry and hematology research has benefited manatee clinical medicine by establishing normal ranges for veterinary evaluations of healthy wild manatees. 

Photo Courtesy of myFWCmedia
Other published studies incorporating capture data include research on several biological subjects including: 

• Hormone levels for determining pregnancy 
• Capture stress levels in wild manatees 
• Epiphytes (living organisms that grow on manatees) 
• Trace element contaminants in manatee tissues compared to levels in the local environment

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
OMG, those of you who are familiar with my first novel, THE MERMAID GENE, already know my protagonist Kai Murphy is the daughter of a famous dolphin researcher who does catch and release medical exams like this all the time. 

The fact that I built an entire novel out of the AWESOMENESS THAT IS WHAT I GET TO DO IN CRYSTAL RIVER means this adventure will absolutely qualify for my Healthy Writers Club BODY, MIND and SPIRIT milestones this week.

I will fill you in on all the details when I return!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ask a Zookeeper: When Animals Attack


As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on Jobstr.com--a website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours." I reprint one of my favorite "Ask a Zookeeper" questions every Tuesday, and you can ask your very own question HERE!

Here is this week's question:

Q: Have you witnessed any {grisly} animal attacks on humans (or on one another) during your time in zoos? Any one in particular stand out as the worst? -grizzly adamz

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
A. Hi Griz! Believe it or not, I actually haven't seen any grisly attacks--just occasional bites or scrapes or bruises. There are a lot less attacks than you might think, and this is partially due to the safety protocols zoos and aquariums put into place before an animal and its keeper even meet.

Animals are basically separated into "fight" animals or "flight" animals. The "fight animals" (bears, most big cats, etc.) are hard-wired to stand their ground when threatened, while the "flight animals" (most hoofstock, wolves, raptors, etc.) have evolved to flee.

In most zoos, keepers use "protected contact" while dealing with fight animals--and even some flight animals. This means all training must be done through some kind of barrier--like a fence or bars. This prevents most dangerous incidents from occurring.

Injuries can occur even when working with flight animals, of course, so keepers must always be alert, and we must learn to "read" our animals before training can occur. If an animal seems "off" for some reason, we must trust our gut and put our personal safety first--even if it means temporarily missing a training session. (In the event we do get injured, 95% of the time it's because of an error on OUR part--not paying attention, not reading our animals correctly, being distracted, etc.)

Here are my personal claims to fame: I have been bitten by a raccoon (twice!), bitten by a bottlenose dolphin, clawed by a great horned owl, cornered by a Bactrian camel and stabbed in the arm by a mountain goat. (Every time, the injury was my fault!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ask a Zookeeper: When Animals Escape



As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on Jobstr.com--a website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours. It’s as though [they] took the classic 'What do you do?' cocktail party question and turned it into a website…minus the awkward small-talk."

I have been having a great time hosting my Zookeeper Q&A so far, and I have decided to reprint one of my favorite Jobstr questions on my blog every Tuesday. (Do you have your very own "Ask a Zookeeper" question for me? Ask it HERE!)

Here is this week's question:

Q. Has [an animal at your zoo] ever gone missing or escaped and did staff completely freak out? -nat

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
A: I have been fortunate enough to have never dealt with a large-scale animal escape. However, a few years before I started working at one particular facility, a bunch of kids broke in and cut the locks off a number of animal enclosures. The result was chaos, as you can imagine, but thankfully zoos have protocols for dealing with just such a situation.

Animals are basically categorized according to their threat level. Large carnivores and some other animals (like an elephant or a moose in rut) are considered the highest priority, of course. An emergency plan is developed the moment the zoo acquires this animal, and staff members are briefed on what to do should an emergency arise. (Evacuate the zoo, for instance, and then grab tranquilizer guns and attempt to corral the animal back where it belongs.) Training is also done to teach the animals how to react in unfamiliar situations, because the animals are often more frightened than the humans. Many animals know their crates are safe places, so zoo staff members often use positive reinforcement to entice them back into their crates. Finally, everyone attempts to keep his or her cool, because animals can often sense our stress.

In reality, we are half-terrified, but just like a first responder is trained to react to an emergency, we are, too. Our calm and focus is critical at a time like that.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Healthy Writers Club: I'm Allergic to Everything!

Photo Courtesy of Shallee McArthur
This has definitely been a busy week. On the BODY front, I have managed six workouts in the last seven days--which is so UNLIKE me that I just have to keep reminding myself I actually accomplished this. Four workouts were bike rides (36 miles total), and I've started trying to do abs (and sometimes arms) at the conclusion of each ride.

One workout was a canoe trip through the mangroves with my Dad, and the other was a paddleboarding yoga trip at Weedon Island with Urban Kai. Although I'm not flipping around or doing handstands on my board yet, I did manage a few warrior poses and such--and I didn't fall off once!

Here's a pic as proof. (I'm on the red board on the left.)

Photo Courtesy of Frank Long
Also on the BODY front, I got my food sensitivity test results back today, and OH MY GOSH, I am apparently allergic to nearly everything. Here's my list:

VERY HIGH: Banana and Pineapple
HIGH: Cranberry
MODERATE: Sesame Seeds
LOW: Broccoli, Cabbage and Clams
VERY LOW: Whey, Pecans, Baker's Yeast, 
Tuna, Milk and Egg Whites
TRACE: Whole Wheat and Lobster

My initial reaction was to FREAK THE F*CK OUT, but I am back under control again. Realistically, I should only really cut bananas, pineapples, cranberries and sesame seeds out of my diet. I can limit broccoli, cabbage and clams, and I can just keep an eye on whey, pecans, baker's yeast, tuna, eggs, milk, whole wheat and lobster. No big deal.

If anything, this knowledge can just help me remember to pay attention to the foods I shove in my mouth. It can also encourage me to eat as much chocolate and honey as possible. ;)

This week was a really good week on the MIND front. My WIP has been fighting with me ever since I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo, but I finally made a breakthrough this week and just started writing. I managed nearly 4,000 words in two days, and I feel so much better than I did before. 

This project is beginning to feel FUN again, and I'm starting to look forward to writing it. I also look forward to making this guy one of my characters. (In the most non-cheesy way possible.)

"Mac," Photo Courtesy of Me
On the SOUL front, I am continuing to explore Tampa and spend time with my family and friends. This week, it was the Holiday Market, Weedon Island (twice), the Florida Aquarium (again), the Royal Tea Room and various other spots around the city. I am beginning to know my way around now, and I am infinitely thankful for the people who have been there for me.

This transition still has its good days and its bad days, but I have been pinning the shit out of my feelings on Pinterest. What a great catharsis, and it's pretty to boot! :) Here's a link if you'd like to see what I have been up to: WORDS OF WISDOM.

So that's my update. I hope you had a good week, and I can't wait to visit your blogs. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ask a Zookeeper: Panda Exchanges


As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on Jobstr.com--a website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours. It’s as though [they] took the classic 'What do you do?' cocktail party question and turned it into a website…minus the awkward small-talk."

I have been having a great time hosting my Zookeeper Q&A so far, and I have decided to reprint one of my favorite Jobstr questions on my blog every Tuesday. (Do you have your very own "Ask a Zookeeper" question for me? Ask it HERE!)

Here is this week's question:

Q: How do zoos negotiate animal exchanges (like when you hear about the SD zoo getting 3 pandas from China for a season or something)? -padres123

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
A: Hi Padres! Animal exchanges are done for a variety of reasons, including reproduction and genetic diversity. In the case of giant pandas, zoos often acquire them to inspire guests to care about issues like wildlife conservation. (They obviously appreciate the increase in zoo attendance as well. ;))

Nowadays, there are probably less than 1,000 pandas remaining in the wild. Only 110 or so live in zoos, and just 16 of these are housed outside China. The Chinese government regulates the export of pandas to zoos in other countries, and these exchanges can be incredibly complicated.

The crux of the exchange is monetary, of course, but many other factors may be at play. Sometimes, the zoos exchange other animals during the trade as well, and often the money must be used in a particular way--i.e., to support panda habitat restoration or research. Pandas can only be loaned for a certain amount of time, and very high standards of care must be met to ensure the panda is put into a thriving, dynamic environment.

Hope this is helpful!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Healthy Writers Club: "Call Me Maybe" and So On

Photo Courtesy of Shallee McArthur

Well, I officially suck at NaNoWriMo, but I had a good week nonetheless. I hope you guys did, too!

Here is my weekly progress:

BODY
Photo Courtesy of TinyTall
Wow, I really like riding my bike. Like, a lot. Like, way more than I thought I would. I managed four bike rides this week, and I covered more than 33 miles. (I would have gone on more rides, but I went out of town for two days, and I've been busy nursing a hangover for the past 48 hours. Definitely don't bounce back like I did in my twenties... ;))

I also attended my second stand-up paddleboarding lesson this past weekend, and I've nearly perfected what they call the "pivot turn." (I just call it "the turn that makes me fall off the board in the middle of Davis Island Harbor.")

MIND
Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
Did I mention I suck at NaNoWriMo? In terms of the tortoise and the hare, I have always been the hare. But NaNo is filled with mutant hybrids that combine the dedication of the tortoise with the speed of the hare, and I just don't know how to hang with that.

Oh well. I expected as much when I started, and I will not let NaNoWriMo defeat me!

SPIRIT
Photo Courtesy of SidPix
Geez, I'll be honest. This transition to Florida from Colorado is one of the most difficult things I have ever undertaken in my entire life. But I keep reminding myself that it's okay for me to NOT be okay right now. And I shouldn't be okay tomorrow, either--just like a butterfly can’t spring from a chrysalis 30 seconds after entering it. I need to take the time to let my insides dissolve, and I need to take the time to let them completely reform again.

You don’t have functional wings just because you feel a little twitch of muscle in your shoulders.


Here are my weekly Healthy Writers Club milestones:

1. In-Flight Entertainment Favorite: I made a conscious choice to forgo music on my bike rides this week, and I really, really enjoyed the silence. It gave me a chance to actually listen to my thoughts for once. And that was nice.

Oh, and I finally broke down and gave into my love of "Call Me Maybe" this week--especially the U.S. Olympic Swim Team's version. Best three minutes and twelve seconds ever.


2. Coolest moment: Realizing that I'm actually starting to look forward to my bike rides now. I've mapped out this gorgeous route along the water in South Tampa, and I can't wait to visit it.

3. Hardest moment: I hit a wall last night, but I'm back today. And I've started collecting inspirational quotes on Pinterest. (Check them out here.) They help, too.

How did your week go? Any healthy milestones or set-backs? I'm looking forward to visiting your blogs, and I hope you have a great weekend.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ask a Zookeeper: Surprisingly Ferocious Animals


As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on Jobstr.com--a website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours. It’s as though [they] took the classic 'What do you do?' cocktail party question and turned it into a website…minus the awkward small-talk."

I have been having a great time hosting my Zookeeper Q&A so far, and I have decided to reprint one of my favorite Jobstr questions on my blog every Tuesday. (Do you have your very own "Ask a Zookeeper" question for me? Ask it HERE!)

Here is this week's question:

Q: "Are there any animals that SEEM cuddly and docile to zoo visitors, but are actually ferocious and around which you need to be careful?" -Dan79

A: Absolutely! My general saying is that any animal with a mouth is capable of biting. ;)

Many visitors believe a zoo's only dangerous animals are the carnivores, but many of the world's most unpredictable and powerful animals are actually herbivores. Even the cute and cuddly creatures are capable of packing a pretty powerful punch. That's why it's important for animal care professionals to never let our guards down. No matter how long we have been working with a particular animal, we must always remember it is a wild animal, not a pet. 

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
As a specific example, I used to work in a facility that displayed arctic foxes. They were the cutest things in the world--fluffy and white, with button eyes and little black noses--but their cuteness transformed the moment anyone got too close. If given the opportunity, they would have probably chewed my fingers off. :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Healthy Writers Club: NaNoWriMo Madness

Is it really Friday already? And is it really November? I feel like I've been stuck in slow motion for the past few months; I can't believe Halloween is already over!

Before I get into my weekly milestones, I just have to share this cute picture of my nephew and me at the pumpkin patch this week. He's certainly worth a move across the country, don't you agree?

Photo Courtesy of Me
Here is my weekly progress:

BODY

No stand-up paddleboarding this week, but I will be attending my first on-the-water yoga class this weekend. I'm hoping to someday be this girl:

Photo Courtesy of lululemon athletica
In the absence of paddleboarding, I went on three long bike rides, and I also did one super intense cardio session followed by arm and ab work. (Not my best week, but I'm still fighting that stupid cough and sore throat that has plagued me since I moved here.)

MIND

Oh my God, it's NaNo time. Are you guys freaking out or what?? 

Photo Courtesy of NaNoWriMo
I've never done NaNo before; I've actually purposefully avoided it, because I take deadlines--even self-imposed ones--so seriously that I often talk myself into panic attacks. However, I have resolved this year to use NaNo as a framework for getting some work done on my new manuscript. I'm not going to hold myself to NaNo's ridiculously high word count, but I am going to check in over there and use its guidelines to remind myself to get some words on paper. 

Are any of you taking the plunge? If so, please find me so we can be buddies: Lisa Ann

SPIRIT

I'm hanging in there. It certainly is an adjustment to realize I'm not just in Florida on vacation, and I'm still struggling with the idea that I live here and my life is unalterably different than it was a few months ago. It's also difficult to jump outside my comfort zone, as I settled into a pretty comfortable daily routine in Colorado.

Being surrounded by friends and family helps. This week, I went to the pumpkin patch for family portraits, watched a ballroom dancing competition with my good friend Mel, attended my first silent film (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) with Mel and my dad, caught up with some friends I hadn't talked to since the move, and helped my sister and brother-in-law take my nephew Trick-or-Treating.

Photo Courtesy of josierichards
I have also been thinking about caterpillars a lot, and I've made my peace with the fact that you need to stay in the chrysalis for awhile before you are able to become a butterfly.


Here are my weekly Healthy Writers Club milestones:

1. Weekly Stats: Three 5+ mile bike rides; one cardio session; one arm and ab workout

2. In-Flight Entertainment Favorite: Mumford & Sons. Surprisingly amazing cardio music

3. Coolest moment: For the first time this week, I had a moment where I looked down at my legs and realized they felt strong. My arms are starting to feel strong, too, and that's certainly a new development for me. They haven't felt like this since I stopped spin class two years ago.

4. Hardest moment: My body just can't seem to get well. I have been in Florida for nearly a month now, and I have been "sick" in some way for more than three weeks of that time. First it was a sore throat, then a fever, then a runny nose, then sneezing, then coughing. I woke up a few days ago to feel ANOTHER sore throat, and I almost had a meltdown. No way I could have handled starting the cycle over again!

How did your week go? Any healthy milestones or set-backs? I'm looking forward to visiting your blogs, and I hope you have a great weekend.