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Category Archives: Research


‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘ ‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected. ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ‘The…

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Mud, Glorious Mud?

I have often been told by members of the public that, “it must be so exciting to do paleontological fieldwork.” This is true, it can be very exciting to visit new places, to discover and collect fossils that were previously unknown to science. But often the conditions are such that the fieldwork is more of a necessary evil. It is a step that must be passed to acquire essential specimens,…

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New Guidebooks Published

Following on from my recent post about the geology of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, it seems entirely appropriate timing that another piece of architectural geology work has just been published. Last week, a guidebook to the geology of the Manitoba Legislative Building, by Jeff Young, Bill Brisbin, and me, finally appeared in downloadable form. The entire file (20 megabytes) can be found here. This book was published as…

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The scientific method: a reality check

If you have ever heard someone say “I have a theory about that” they don’t. They’re most likely confusing the word “theory” with “completely unsupported, untested hypothesis”. All kidding aside, the words “theory” and “hypothesis” mean something very specific to a scientist, and the former is actually a much stronger statement than the latter. Since most people are not scientists but sometimes need to judge the value of someone’s statements,…

Also posted in Botany | Comments closed

Blitzing the day away

Last week I went blitzing-BIOblitzing that is.  What, you may ask is a BioBlitz?  BioBlitz’s are biological surveys that are periodically held by conservation organizations or universities to identify the species of plants, animals and fungi that inhabit a particular tract of land.  In Manitoba, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) periodically holds BioBlitz’s to identify the species on new properties that it acquires.  The BioBlitz that I just participated…

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Pollen, Predators and Parasites

Last summer I went to Spruce Woods Provincial Park to determine which insects pollinate the rare Hairy Prairie-clover plant, a species that only occurs in sand dunes.  Oddly enough, even though Hairy Prairie-clover is rare, it was being visited more frequently than some of the common plants I have observed.  But there was a dark side to all that activity: it was drenched in blood-the blood of innocents!  Instead of…

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Three Days in the Interlake

Looking through my window at the still-snowy, still-wintry Winnipeg streetscape, I have to remind myself that spring is not far away. Soon the snow will leave and we will again be able to begin one of the most pleasurable of the Museum’s activities: fieldwork. Last year, between various other projects, I worked with Bob Elias (University of Manitoba) and Ed Dobrzanski on gathering information that we could use in a…

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The Cold Road

It is 7 am, somewhere on the curves near Woodlands, Manitoba, and the sky is still completely dark. The rain is coming down harder now and approaching headlights are blurred by the slicked windshield. I usually love the open road, but this driving is far from fun. We are well past Lundar before the late dawn. The traffic has diminished now and the rain has eased a bit, but the…

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Some Buggy’s watching me

One of my favorite photographs is the one of a young chimpanzee reaching out to touch Jane Goodall’s face.  This photograph was taken many months after Jane has started quietly and patiently observing the chimpanzees.  Eventually her patience paid off and the chimps felt safe enough to make contact.  I love the idea of being so close to nature that nature wants to touch you back. Last month I had…

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Nature preservation = self preservation

Nature preservation is often seen as something that is “nice” for people to do if they can afford to as it really isn’t all that important for the survival of humanity.  Increasingly though scientific research is revealing that this attitude is based on an incomplete understanding of how the world works.

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