All posts tagged: Biology

Content with connections to the life sciences.

Eric Murtaugh Tidepool Steinbeck Sea of Cortez

From the Tidepool to the Stars: Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez

What was the story that began this journey? That question has been on my mind since I reflected back on the past year of Ekostories. What tale triggered this exploration of nature, culture, and self? After some thought, one story came to the forefront, a surprise contender. It is a work that straddles the boundary between fiction and non-fiction. It is a story that melds science with literature, philosophy with social commentary, art with ethics and adventure. It is John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez. That’s not entirely true. While the cover bears the name of the author of Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath, The Log from the Sea of Cortez was a collaboration between the Nobel prize-winning novelist and marine biologist Ed Ricketts. The book chronicles the two friends’ six-week, four thousand mile marine specimen collecting expedition in the Gulf of California, detailing the adventures, discoveries, and camaraderie as they travel from site to site, passing towns, reefs, isles, and sea. Like the voyage itself, the travelogue allows time …

Botany of Desire Wordle

A Plant’s View: Pollan’s Botany of Desire

Spring is in full bloom in my corner of the world; it is impossible not to notice the explosion of plant life all around. In the city, pink blossoms burst forth from ornamental cherries, enjoying brief moments of glory before cascading down as a silent snow of soft petals. In the suburbs, neighbourhood lawns and gardens are enlivened by vivid hues of yellows and violets from blooming daffodils and tulips. On nearby trails, star-shaped flowers from salmonberry bushes dot the flush of new growth, fuchsia markers intended to attract the eyes of hungry pollinators. In my small container garden, dainty green tendrils of scallions and sweet peas reach ever upwards, while planted pieces of potatoes seem content for the moment to slumber in the dark black soil. Perhaps it is this invigoration of growth that compelled me to reread Michael Pollan’s book, The Botany of Desire. Pollan’s work has played a significant role in my personal perceptions of the connections between nature and culture. Although he does on occasion go overboard with his metaphors, he has an …

Botanicals: Environmental Expressions in Art

BOTANICALS: Environmental Expressions in Art, by ArtPlantae Today “Isaac Sutton believes in the importance of integrating a garden and art into daily life. They transport us from the rigors of an urban life and nurture us in body and spirit. Through observation, education, cultivation and practice, we learn to be more aware of the importance of a symbiotic relationship with the natural world, and we realize that we must value and protect it for future generations.” – Co-curator, Alice Marcus Krieg, Integrating the Garden and Art Collection I recently discovered a great website called ArtPlantae Today that seeks to connect artists, naturalists, and educators through the art of botanical drawings. Having little personal talent, I find myself consistently awed by the detailed intricacies of these illustrations and their ability to convey the ethereal and delicate beauty of the plant world. It is on this website that I came across Botanicals: Environmental Expressions in Art, an exhibition showcasing the largest private collection of contemporary botanical drawings in North America.  In his introductory essay titled A Passion …

Reconnect 6: Ekostories of Wonder

“Here, I’ll prove to you that there are no tiny moments, no dull moments, no little things, only a general failure on our parts to see the wild and amazing slather of miracles that come unbidden and will for each of us, too soon end..” (The Slather) Published in the September/October 2012 issue of Orion Magazine, Brian Doyle’s incredible short story revolves around the small wonders that occur all around us, if only we can pause long enough to appreciate them.

Reconnect 4: Funny Ekostories

In a world worn down by cynicism, humour is an excellent non-confrontational tool for overcoming resistance to new ideas. Funny stories can defuse hostile attitudes, loosen entrenched mindsets, and shake up worldviews so that minds become more permeable to change and new ways of thinking. This week’s Reconnect explores Ekostories that utilize humour not just for entertainment purposes, but also as social commentary and criticism that strike at the root of the ecological crisis.

Nintendo's Pikmin

An Alien’s Perspective: Pikmin 1 and 2

I came across the first Pikmin in 2001. At the time, it was the newest video game created by celebrated videogame designer Shigeru Miyamoto. Responsible for some of the most successful gaming franchises of all time, Miyamoto is famous for drawing inspiration from his everyday life to create universally accessible gaming experiences. The Legend of Zelda franchise was inspired by his childhood exploration of the natural environments that surrounded his home. Nintendogs was dreamt up during interactions with his Shetland sheepdog. Wii Fit stemmed from his obsession to weigh himself daily. The Pikmin games have their roots in his fondness for gardening. Synopsis The main plot of the first game has Olimar, a tiny alien astronaut, crash-landing on an alien planet  that is very reminiscent of Earth. Being the size of a thimble, Olimar is in desperate need of assistance to recover the scattered engine parts of his damaged spaceship. He finds allies in indigenous creatures called “Pikmin”, cute plant-animal hybrids that behave like swarms of ants and come to regard Olimar as their leader. …

Larson Hair in Dirt Far Side Wordle

Journey to the Far Side: There’s a Hair in my Dirt!

My first exposure to Gary Larson’s work came at the impressionable age of five; my uncle had left behind The Far Side Gallery at my grandmother’s place. Reading very little English at the time, I flipped through the collection of cartoons full of animals and people in strange situations and enjoyed them as silly drawings. As I came to understand the captions of those comics, I saw and appreciated Larson’s work in a new light. In hindsight, the Far Side comics probably did a number on me growing up, shaping and twisting my sense of humour in all sorts of strange, quirky, and unhealthy ways. Two decades later, I continue to find Larson’s work hilarious and bizarre. Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered that he had published another book after his retirement from the comic business. I immediately ran out to the local library (an unabashed plug for this gem of a public resource) and checked out There’s a Hair in my Dirt! A Worm’s Story. Like in many of his Far Side comics, …