|FABI year-end gala. Riikka on the left, my lab-mate Vou in the middle.|
|Ophiostoma piceae plated a couple weeks ago. The asexual spores are in the drops at the top of the dark stalks. This characteristic facilitates spore dispersal by wood-infesting beetles.|
The duo of the beetles and fungi is mostly known for causing Dutch elm disease and pine deaths. The most immediately notable feature of the group is the stalked spore drops held aloft to rub onto a passing beetle and allow spores to be carried to the next tree. This group (and morphologically similar Ceratocystis) has a history of confusing and often-reorganized taxonomy due (in a simplified way) to morphological characteristics that don't reflect evolutionary relationships and traditionally used molecular markers that fail to be informative in this group. Researchers in FABI have done quite a bit of work on this group, and it's been a pleasure to enter the project and observe the was this African hub of mycological research operates.
|Talking to people involved in forestry/FABI. Eyes closed, naturally.|
It has been a relief to be able to settle somewhere for longer than a week or two and fully unpack and engage in a single project. Coming from Southeast Asia, it has been odd to transition from somewhere I'm obviously foreign and it is immediately clear I don't fit the culture, to somewhere I look like I could have grown up there and am accordingly assumed to be culturally competent. FABI itself is very international, but outside I note social tensions and systems of assumptions that I don't quite understand.
I also went on a safari in Pilanesburg National Park and Game Reserve. The diversity and abundance of animals in the reserve was amazing (though artificially created). We saw rhinos, elephants, zebra, lions, and many other animals I've only seen pictures of. Seeing a rhino up close felt like almost seeing a dinosaur.
|Tons of zebra and impala.|
|Most of the animals didn't mind the cars, so we could get pretty close when they walked near the road.|
|Baby jackal with top-notch eye contact|
|Some kind of bird. It was very colorful though that isn't clear in this picture.|
|Giraffe chewing on some bones for calcium|