Blog for 2009-07-21

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Computing, statistics, and silliness


First off, happy birthday to Sreekar and Le! The cakes were delicious, and the celebration dinner was totally worth Western prices...yum. Secondly, a review of our penultimate day as BOB 09 students:

The second day of computing always gets people in a "mood"

For those of you fine readers who have been to college, think back to the day before a final project was due. Imagine the sounds of furious typing, neighboring students quietly muttering through their carefully selected words, writing and rewriting the same sentence...what an experience. That's a partial synopsis of what our group has been up to today. I say partial because we've been up to a few other things. What work day would be without study breaks? Take another minute and return to to the scene above. Now add in some grape-sharing, photo-swapping, Michael Jackson music video-watching, and overall silliness. Candy wrappers abound in the Nepenthes Room of the Kinabalu Daya Hotel. Evidence of shopping breaks pepper our workspace. For every set of fingers that fly across keyboards, there is another set that enhances a lively story.

Why have we been working so diligently? Putting the final touches on our focal taxon observations, constructing phylogenetic trees, completing the statistical analysis of our last research project, writing the final report, and tidying up any last loose ends. We want this webpage to be useful, accurate, and pretty for you, our fine readers. Aren't you impressed with the fruits of our labors?

At 17.00 we had our last course lecture. Benoit Goosens of Cardiff University spoke about Elephant phylogeography and conservation. He has used DNA to show that the Bornean elephant population (~1,500 individuals) is isolated from other Asian subspecies, and is therefore a high priority for conservation efforts. He uses DNA evidence to explain where the animals live, where they come from, and which individuals need the most protection. The good news is that there isn't much poaching, pollution is limited, and some subpopulations are growing! The bad news is that palm oil plantations fragment their habitat on all sides. There is still a lot of research to do, and there are still networks of contiguous pathways to build between populations. Let's get to work!

Tonight will be a late night for many. Some will finally groom the "field look" away and iron their best clothes to look professional for a big presentation tomorrow. Wish us luck and good sleep!