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I'm a graduate student in Ecology and Evolution at Stanford University, where I study ecosystem metabolics and function. In particular, I'm interested in how changes to plant and animal communities... Read More »

It’s going to be a big day tomorrow when the Oregon football team comes to town.  This year, we meet the team that handed us our only loss last season – but on our own turf.  And although Stanford has played (mostly) with convincing dominance this season (and Oregon’s already picked up one loss), we’ll take all the home-field advantage we can get.

Sports fans everywhere understand the merits of playing at home: you know the quirks of the stadium, are acclimated to the local weather, and have a fan base that screams at your opponent and shuts up when you’re on offense.  It’s the classic recipe for success.

But if you’re the rare team that plays best on the road, you might just shake up the league.
I met Makana in August 2005, where an old lava flow meets the ocean in a series of ledges and tide pools on Kauai, one of the Hawaiian Islands. He was a “local” of about my age who got his name (Hawaiian for “gift”) from the old volcano that formed the backdrop of our introduction. He wasn’t in college, but had a good job as a caddy at an upscale golf course, where Bill Clinton had tipped one of his buddies well the day before. In the afternoons, he and his friends came to this spot — still called “The Queen’s Bath” decades after the days of Hawaii’s royal rulers — to “talk story” and swap tales with an endless stream of tourists.
I haven’t had a TV in my life for the past few years. So, when I finally caught video clips from Cairo last week, I was astounded. Still images, no matter how provocative, miss so many dimensions of the conflict: the shouts and chants, the simmering resentment and dogged commitment, the flying stones and sounds of gunfire that turned a relatively peaceful protest violent. I find myself checking the news more often now, hoping that the Egyptian military remains ambivalent, fearing that the body counts will rise.

For many of us, the walls of the Stanford bubble are thick and opaque; we can afford only a little time to think deeply about the Middle East’s state of unrest.

“What do you think we’ll fight World War III over?”

It was an interesting question for a third date, and the first thing my (now ex-) boyfriend and I disagreed on.  I said “cheap oil” and he answered “water.”

Our difference of opinion was largely a product of our upbringings.  I was raised on thunderstorms and flooded basements back East, while he grew up amid droughts and “water wars” in California.

Months after we parted ways, I was reminded of that conversation as I drove through California’s Central Valley, past billboards plastered with water propaganda and tractors shadowed by dust clouds.

As a teaching assistant for the pilot section of Bio 44Y, I spend Wednesday afternoons accompanying 10 students of field ecology to Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. Only five miles from the main quad, we’ve battled rattlesnakes and squeezed past poison oak — but the nearest I’ve come to disaster was almost letting a wasp fly into our class van.

When we’re worried about being stung (knock on wood, I’ve so far evaded the experience), we tend to see bees and wasps as the flying enemy, rather than as pollinators, critical to the reproductive life of most of the world’s flowering plants. Of course, the value of pollination isn’t lost on farmers or beekeepers: the former pay the latter to haul hivefuls of bees from crop field to orchard every spring.

COLUMBUS, OHIO -- After a full day in and out of airplanes and airports, there’s really nothing like stepping out of the terminal and taking your first breath of unfiltered, unconditioned, unpressurized air.  Sure, the curbside may be cluttered with exhaust fumes, and filled with the noise of honking taxi drivers, but it’s still undeniably fresh.

Too bad that last Sunday, I took that breath in the state with the worst air pollution record in the country.