A Tangle of Opiliones

The results are in!! Last week I ran a poll to get help in picking the best name for a congregation of Opiliones (i.e., Daddy long-legs, Harvestmenpersons). HUNDREDS of you voted, but the clear winner, with just about 55% of the votes is… “A Tangle of Opiliones” A congregation of Opiliones (photo by D. Ringer, reproduced here under CC License 3.0) This name was proposed by “Antnommer” on Twitter, and it is quite fitting. When…

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What do you call a congregation of Opiliones? (Poll)

The Arachnid order Opiliones are interesting animals, although vastly understudied. In the English speaking world, they commonly known as Daddy long-legs, Harvestmenpersons, or Shepherd spiders. Opilio, in latin, refers to “shepherd”, and many temperate/northern species have exceedingly long-legs, perhaps in reference to Shepherds on stilts, watching their flocks. The name ‘harvest’ likely refers to the natural history of some species who tend to see higher population numbers in the autumn (‘harvest’ season in the north).…

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Spiderday (#25) – February

It’s that time again! Spiderday – your monthly linkfest of all the best Arachnid stories from the past month.  Let’s get started… A wolf spider (genus Rabidosa). This photo by Sean McCann related to some daydreaming I’ve been doing, about collecting spiders. This is my read and view of the month: Time to celebrate the diversity of Amblypygi, by Gil Wizen (inspired by this paper that described new species of these awesome arachnids) A very…

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The Arachnophile: hunting the wolf

A wolf in the genus Rabidosa (photo by Sean McCann)   Hunting the wolf   In summer’s forest. Armed with hand lens, Forceps, vials, eyes and field book. Up. Down. Under rocks, leaves, rotten logs. Just look. Behold! Scurry, pause, dash, dart. Find that dark place. All in eights: all is right. Pedipalps and spinnerets; chelicerae and pedicel. Chevrons? Eye shine? Perhaps a sac of treasures? Pardosa, Trochosa, or Rabidosa? Envisioning authors, keys, maps, habitus.…

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Tips for managing a research lab

Running a research lab* isn’t easy. I learned this the hard way last fall when I performed rather poorly on my lab safety inspection. At the time it seemed to be a low priority: cleaning up the lab always seemed less important compared to, for example, having a lab meeting. We have since done a major lab clean-up, and we are back on track (phew!), but the experience has made me think about the skills…

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Will spiders bite my dog?

I field a lot of questions about spider bites, and I have argued that spider bites are exceedingly rare (for humans). But what about our pets? Do our furry friends get bitten by spiders? If they get bitten, how do they react? Let’s look at this, move beyond anecdotes, and see what science has to say on the topic! Can spiders bite my dog or cat? The short answer to this is: YES. Some spiders…

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Expectations (of graduate students and supervisors)

I have been running a research laboratory for close to 15 years, and I’m ashamed to say that I have not written down, formally, my expectations* of graduate students and their expectations of me. I regret this, especially since there are amazing resources out there to help with this discussion. I would argue that differing levels of expectation is probably a key source of conflict in research laboratories, and having a solid agreement between graduate…

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Spiderday (#24) – January

It’s SPIDERDAY! As promised, this feature on the blog will be a monthly occurrence, so here’s the round-up of the best Arachnid-themed links and stories from the past few weeks. To start off, here’s a lovely image of a wolf spider, by Christy Pitto: Spiders: a treasure-trove of scientific wonder. This one’s my Read Of The Month.  Just when you think jumping spider mating behaviour and courtship couldn’t get more fascinating… check this out: “Peek-a-boo…

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Bog spiders: a seredipitous research project

This is a guest post, written by an Honour’s undergrad student in the lab, Kamil Chatila-Amos. It’s the first of two posts about his work, and the goal of this post is to introduce Kamil and his research project.  Research can be serendipitous and spontaneous, and that’s certainly the story of how my honour’s project started! I spent last winter working on howler monkeys in Panama (which is a story in itself) and although I…

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Goodbye chalkboard! The opportunities and challenges of teaching in an active learning classroom

This year I have the pleasure of teaching my Population and Community Ecology class in one of McGill’s Active Learning Classrooms – this one is touted as been quite exceptional, and I’m keen to put it to the test. Over the past 4-5 years, I have been teaching my quantitative ecology course almost entirely with chalk. In fact, I have actively argued about the value of teaching with chalk, and about a move away from…

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