Bird is the word

But what kind of bird?

Merlin Bird ID can help you out.

See a bird, open the app, and answer the prompts.

The free app is by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY. It uses eBird to figure out which bird you saw. eBird has a database of bird distributions and abundances in Canada and the United States. It’s a citizen-science project that started in 2002.

Continue reading


It’s not easy being green

…which is why grey treefrogs are sometimes brown, grey, green, or something between.

There are two species of grey treefrogs in Manitoba: Cope’s grey treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) and the grey treefrog (Hyla versicolor). The similarity in common names gives a clue that there isn’t much difference between the two species. They look the same, but can be distinguished by their call. Cope’s has a faster, higher pitched call than the grey treefrog.

Continue reading

From slug to slime mould

A low quality photo taken on a low quality camera in St. Andrews, MB.
A low quality photo of Stemonitis sp. taken on a low quality camera on a twig in St. Andrews, MB.

Slime moulds: Not always slimy and not really mouldy.

As Barron writes, they share properties of both animals and fungi, which makes them difficult to classify.

They are amoeboid, which means they engulf particles by changing their shape.

Slime moulds have stationary stages, like the fruiting body photo of Stemonitis sp. at the top of this post, and motile stages. Dictyostelium discoideum*  has an amazing use of motility.

Continue reading

The Worthy Beginner

…because we can’t all be experts.


The Worthy Beginner will feature posts each week that help you and me understand the wonderful world of science. Plants, animals, fungi, and everything in between will  be discussed, as well as anything else with a science twist to it — economics, politics, music, and more.

What’s in a name anyway?

I took a critical thinking course at the University of Manitoba. One rule we learned was Ockham’s Razor by William of Ockham, which says when presented with multiple theories, accept the simplest one.

William of Ockham (c. 1287-1347) went to the University of Oxford in England but didn’t finish his degree, earning him the nickname “The Worthy Beginner”.

I can relate to William of Ockham. Though I finished my BSc, I don’t consider myself an expert in anything, nor do I think I ever will be. I’m interested in a lot — science, economics, politics, music, culture — and on a good day, I consider myself to be a worthy beginner.

Thanks to Professor Phil Veldhuis for introducing me to William of Ockham.