Size Doesn’t Matter – The Big Benefits From Working with Small and Large Collections

Blogging runs in the family. Here’s a great read from my cousin Marcy Revelez. She also is a graduate of Angelo State University.

Cracking the Collections

Guest blog post by Marcia Revelez

I am the Collections Manager at the Angelo State Natural History Collections (ASNHC) at Angelo State University located in San Angelo in west-central Texas. The ASNHC is comprised of approximately 150,000 specimens in 5 different collections. But instead of talking about the specifics of my job, I want to tell you what inspired me to have a career in collections and how that guided me to be what I am today.

When did I know I wanted to work in natural history collections?

Since I was a young child, I was fascinated with collecting. I used to come home everyday with shoeboxes and jars filled with life – bugs, butterflies, spiders, baby birds, and even plants. Thank goodness my parents invested in a set of encyclopedias that included annual Science volumes, and a special topic companion set for children. I wore out the volumes about…

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Finding Meaningfulness in your last semester as an undergrad is just like Senioritis

I’m in my final semester as an undergrad and I’m feeling the thing people call senioritis.  I always told people that this term was an excuse to be lazy. I also told these same people that you just need to do your work instead of complaining. So now my words are coming back to bite me.   I don’t know why I just cannot get into this semester.  I have two classes, both of which are very meaningful to me; Fiction Writing (because I like to make things up) and Consumer Behavior (because I work in advertising).  Yeah, I keep telling myself this and it’s still not changing my attitude.

Here’s the problem:  When you are a senior in your final semester, your professors treat you with a lot more respect than lower classmen.  They figure since you’ve managed to make it to this stage you are responsible enough to finish the task.  So they don’t put too much pressure on you, they don’t give you those surprise quizzes to be sure you are reading your material and the amount of homework they give you is reasonable enough. For the most part, this last semester is for things that most students like. So I like both my classes, I am interested in both topics but I just want to be done.

I want to be done with reading assignments, writing assignments, and most especially I am ready to be done with those exams! I’m indecisive and multiple choice drives me crazy.  And the thing that is worse is I’m an older non-traditional student and I have so much information (and wisdom) stored in my long-term and short-term memory that sometimes I can’t find the answer that I know that I know in order to completely fill in the answer box with my #2 pencil, on my standard school issued scantron. Are you with me still?

IMG_1023So as I sit here and read about creative advertising being linked to meaningfulness in order to be identified as creative my thoughts wander off as I set down my reading glasses and highlighter. Why can’t peer reviewed publications be written like fiction? That would really be creative and meaningful which would increase recall (fancy word for memory). Oh wait, that’s another class.

Yeah, I’ve got that thing called senioritis and it’s a real thing. I promise.

Senioritis is not for me–but maybe for my blog

LCpianoI haven’t posted since returning from a quick vacation this summer. It’s been a fast and furious fall semester. I’m taking 7 hours this semester. My classes include Fiction Writing, Family Communications and Piano lessons. Yes, that’s right, piano lessons. I know I’ve told you before that I have always dreamed of playing the piano. Now, I’m learning and let me tell you—it’s not easy. I give it up to the piano players of the world. It’s tough to scale the keys on the right- and left-hand simultaneously and still remember the key to play and the chords. I’m struggling, but I love it too. I think someone needs to buy me a piano. I could spend hours practicing and practice does make perfect.

OholyIt’s the middle of November and classes end on the second week of December and I don’t know where time has gone. I just wanted to let you know I’m still here and the life of a senior in college can get crazy suddenly as they inch closer to graduation. I promise to write more soon and if I succeed in my piano lessons, I hope to provide a video playing my all-time favorite Christmas song, “O Holy Night” stay tuned.

Everybody needs rest and a vacation!

I’ve spent the last week enjoying a much needed vacation. I’ve been going non-stop for so long that I couldn’t remember my last real vacation.

Now, I’m not going to include my study abroad trip last year because it was fast and furious and there was study involved. I didn’t get to choose when I woke up and I had to travel in a pack of 15 other students.

A real vacation is when you go away with your own family. Maybe even include your grandchild, if you have one.

Up until I took this vacation I hadn’t realized just how fast my life was going. I mean, one semester turns into another that turns into summer I then summer II and then there’s two free weeks before the start of the new fall semester. Yep that’s fast. And let’s face it; I’m not the energizer bunny.


The before picture-August 15, 2014. OH that’s my birthday too!

It happened to be my birthday week as well, so my husband and I decided it was time to escape. We took our grandson Xavier to San Antonio to explore Sea World and their Aquatica water park.

Now, I’m not usually one that likes to spend time outside sweating and I tend to stay away from swimming pools or water parks. I use the excuse that I’m protecting myself from the sun’s harmful rays.

Well that all changed-at least for this vacation.



I got sweaty and I rode the Shamu Express roller coaster and I got as splashed as you can get at the water park and we even went for a ride down the Stingray Falls attraction, and I had a blast.

I didn’t once think about work or school or anything except enjoying my time with my family.

And while I’m not the energizer bunny rabbit, I am feeling energized. I’m ready to get started again in my fast life. I’ve got two more semesters to go and then I achieve the dream. It’s been long and arduous, up and down. Kind of like the Shamu Express roller coaster.


The during and after picture–don’t worry, Xavier was braver than me–he didn’t scream!

I think my reaction captured in this photo stands as a metaphor to my survival of one semester after another-screaming all the way! 

Yep, everybody needs rest and a vacation.

Telling your Slice of Life Story through visual images



I finished up my Summer I Reading Graphic Novels class and I must say it was a very enjoyable class.  I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an upper level elective credit.  This class will be offered again next summer.

My professor, Dr. Laurence E. Musgrove is a great professor.  He also has his own blog, “The Illustrated Professor”, where you can find much of his work.  It is obvious that this English department head has found a talent communicating in images as well as words.

He opened up a whole new genre for me in graphic novels.  Before taking this class I don’t think that I would have looked twice at a graphic novel.  Now, having had to read 4 of them, I can tell you that I will not only look at them twice, I will pick them up often to read.  Graphic Novels, often referred by many as comics, are not children’s books. They are  literary works that include autobiographical works as well as fiction.

What I learned from this genre, that I found rather refreshing, was Dr. Musgrove’s instruction to “slow down.”  He told us, “You have to slow down, look at the images, what are they telling you, then read the text.  As a reader you find your own response to the story.”

I like slowing down.  Don’t you often find yourself in a rush to read a book, to rush past the words onto the next page?  It’s like not only are we living life in the fast lane, we are also racing to finish a book.  Here he told us to enjoy it, slow down and absorb the messages.

Part of the lesson objective was to learn to express ourselves visually.  Less words, more images.  As a final project, we were to create what he termed as a “Slice of Life.”  We were to create a small brief 12 panel visual about something in our lives that we remembered and share the story through our images.  Remember to read left to right.

Here is my “Slice of Life” which is a story from my childhood.  Remember when everybody smoked and it was not just OK, but recommended?

Page 1 of 3

Page 1 of 3

Page 2 of 3

Page 2 of 3

Page 3 of 3

Page 3 of 3

And just in case you were wondering–this was a valuable lesson.  My brother and I grew up as non-smokers.



Drawing to tell a story and understand the meaning.

Summer I is quickly ending and I’ve spent the month engrossed in comics, or rather Graphic Novels.  In my Reading Graphic Novels class I have learned how to enjoy reading in a different way.

Literary works for most of us are usually text only. As children we were encouraged to draw art but then when ‘real’ learning begins we are steered away from drawing and taught to focus on learning to read and to write the ABC’s so we can master the “art” of the preferred form of reading.  Drawing is for children.

Dr. Laurence Musgrove, my professor, has taken us back to the form of drawing for expression.

In his class we are given reading assignments from 4 graphic novels. Each day we turn in a response based on chapter assignments, but instead of a written response, he has made us draw our response.  It can be challenging to think of ways to express what you take away from the chapter through a picture.

So as we are reading from a true life story about the Palestinians and the conflict with Israel, we have to think about it then draw a visual about what we were thinking about as we read it. This particular story, Palestine by Joe Sacco is quite troubling. I guess I’ve never really thought about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. Not until this book. For those that criticize graphic novels and refer to them as just “comic books” I would say, read this book and tell me how funny you think it is.  I venture to say, you’d be changed as well and would start asking your own questions about what is really happening to the refugees—the people that just want to live a normal life like you and I do.

Here are a few of my drawn responses.

Palestinian women wear the hijab...they have a choice but Hamas prefers that they wear it and it's a sign of respect as instructed in the Koran.  But women don't have to wear it, if they don't want to be disrespected.

Palestinian women wear the hijab…they have a choice but Hamas prefers that they wear it and it’s a sign of respect as instructed in the Koran. But women don’t have to wear it, if they DO want to be disrespected.

A young Palestinian girl asks Joe Sacco about his home and his way of living.

A young Palestinian girl asks Joe Sacco about his home and his way of living.

Olive trees were cut down by the Israelis as a form of punishment.  The Palestinians make their living from oil from the olive trees.  Cutting the trees prevents them from being prosperous, and leaves them hungry.

Olive trees were cut down by the Israelis as a form of punishment. The Palestinians make their living from oil from the olive trees. Cutting the trees prevents them from being prosperous, and leaves them hungry.

The Keffiyeh is worn to symbolize national unity of the Palestinian movement.

The Keffiyeh is worn to symbolize national unity of the Palestinian movement.

Tea is a part of the culture.  Over tea the men discuss stories with Joe Sacco.  They tell of the tragedies that they have suffered.

Tea is a part of the culture. Over tea the men discuss stories with Joe Sacco. They tell of the tragedies that they have suffered.

My hope is that you will pick up a graphic novel and give it a chance. There are so many stories to be experienced. With a graphic novel you can read and you can see the images the author wanted to use to express the story in a visual way. There are less words sometimes because the pictures do most of the story telling.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to see things through the eyes of children, slowing ourselves down and using pictures to understand a story.

How One Professor uses Storytelling to Save the Planet, One Student at a Time

A great storyteller can share knowledge and create imagery so vivid that you suddenly comprehend something you never really thought about, that you never knew you wanted to know about, or that you felt you were being forced to understand.

Dr. Dixon

Dr. Michael Dixon, Storyteller and Associate Professor of Biology at Angelo State University

I’ve just completed a journey through biology at the hands of a great storyteller, Dr. Michael Dixon, associate professor of biology. I walked into his class with a closed mind and today I walk away full of knowledge.  The kind of knowledge that changes you in more ways than one. That kind of transformation doesn’t just happen.  It can only come from an educator that teaches from the heart and feels compelled not just to share knowledge but to share it with passion and with the hope that his words can make a difference.

After all, biology is the study of life.

Dr. Dixon holds firm to the statement that science is not there to prove or disprove value judgments. Value judgments are based on our personal beliefs. Those come from within ourselves, our families and are based on what we value.  The knowledge we gain through learning about science can help us think just a little bit deeper about those values.

My semester in biology focused on humans and the environment. The choices we as humans make can affect a whole ecosystem.  I’ve learned how my ecological footprint on Earth is larger than someone who lives in a less developed country.  I’ve learned that I’m taking more than I’m giving back.

I’ve been forced to think about my actions.  While I know I can’t change the whole world, I can change my world.  I can be a better human on this Earth.  I can think twice before I decide if I want to add plastic to my landfill.  I can choose to conserve natural resources such as water and energy.  I can use my voice as a citizen to vote on environmental issues.


Excerpt lyric from “Something In the Rain” by Tish Hinojosa

I’ve been shown the impact that we as humans have had on the Earth in everything we do whether it’s in creating our urban environments to building dams to deforestation to industrial farming and even to changing the way we hunt.

I’ve learned how there are no more areas left to farm. We’ve used them all up and in some instances those areas have been lost to erosion. We’ve also gone from farming in order to feed ourselves to farming to make money.  We’ve gone from growing natural food to creating genetically modified foods that will grow larger, last longer and survive being doused with pesticide and that sometimes we’re eating that pesticide because many of us don’t wash our vegetables and fruits.

Fishing nets in our oceans.

I’ve learned how we’re leaning towards moving our hunting for meat to farming the ocean for seafood.  Farming as in breeding fish to grow quicker and larger through cross-breeding and genetic engineering.  We genetically try to make food better as if to outwit nature.  Can that really be safe?  We don’t know yet, we don’t know what those changes will bring about.

And yet, with this dismal view of our future I’ve learned that there is hope.

There is hope in that people like myself can choose alternative methods that help our Earth.

Instead of letting erosion blow away our soils in farmlands, farmers can choose to use low-till or no till.  Instead of using harsh pesticides some farmers are using Integrated Pest Management.  In other words using other insects that will serve to feed off of the pests that eat our crops reducing the use of chemicals in our foods, soil and our water. We can choose to go back to natural ways to grow our crops.

Slowly but surely each of us can make a small difference.

Dr. Dixon provided us with a thought-provoking quote from Canadian biologist David Suzuki:

I am often asked, ‘What is the most urgent environmental problem confronting us?’ My answer is the human mind.  Where once we understood that we are dependent on and interconnected with the rest of nature, the modern mentality believes that we have escaped this reality. Our big-city lifestyles shatter the sense of interconnectedness and blind us to the consequences of our actions. Our most urgent challenge, therefore, is to rediscover our place in the natural world.

As the world population grows faster than ever before we must learn to re-evaluate how we use our natural resources and how we are going to save what is left.

What are your personal beliefs, your personal values?  Do you care about your place in the world and how you impact the Earth through your actions?  Or are you just interested in taking more than what you give?

On our last day of lecture, Dr. Dixon showed us a video.  I must confess I had seen this video before and it never moved me. Yet, this time, it all made sense.  He told us to think what we wanted about Michael Jackson -LOL- but to focus more about the message it conveys both the negative and the positive as they both can be found in the beginning and in the end.

If after viewing this video, you are not moved and if you don’t “get it” or worse, you think of me when you hear the word “tree hugger,” then I’d suggest enrolling in Dr. Dixon’s class Biology 1411-Man and the Environment.  You’ll definitely “get it” and it will all make sense and like myself the word “tree hugger” will take on a new meaning.  You will also then be one of many students who have had the privilege of listening to a great storyteller and perhaps just maybe you’ll be moved to make a small difference in your life and your world.


Click here to watch the video.


Negative Negative Niche

One of the main reasons I decided to pursue a degree “at my age” was due to the fact that I became a displaced worker.  I found myself forced out in the streets to compete for jobs, and my competition had an upper hand, they had a degree.

Up to that point in my life, I had been able to survive without a degree in my specialized career, which had 15 years of experience to shape and make better. However, when my career ended, my specialty was no longer needed, and I was unable to compete and if I had any desire to survive, I had to make myself marketable and in my case, that meant I had to pursue a degree.

In the midst of this, I must confess, that yes, I did find a job.  But the job was not what I termed a “specialty”.  I took great pride in my previous career, in being an expert, of knowing everything there was to know about one thing and now I suddenly found myself a jack-of-all-trades (master-of-none).

In my new current job, I am not an expert at any one thing, but rather, I am able to perform many things and thus make myself valuable to my office because there are very few things (but they do exist) that I can’t do.

So I found it quite interesting today when my biology professor explained interactions within species.  He talked about a term that biologists use when studying biodiversity.  Have I lost you already? Ok, let me back up.

Biodiversity, that’s the study of different variations of species. Kinda like two skunks that look the same (smell the same) but they are not really the same, there is some characteristic that makes them different from each other, so much so, that these two different skunk species, will not breed with each other.  They (the skunks) know they are different.

So back to my original thought.  The term my professor referred to was competition.  It’s labeled as a -/-.   Yes, a negative/negative, because technically nobody wins, or do they?  My interest was piqued!

Some species live in an environment where they can survive but they are competing for survival perhaps for space, food and other resources.  Sometimes that environment can have changes or events, such as dry or moist, warm or cold climates, that affect the species.  Some species, even though they can survive within these extremes, choose to remain in a “specialized” area or “niche” where they can only survive within that niche.  Others he termed as “generalist” that move and adapt within the extremes, and adjust if their environment goes through changes.

His examples of some generalists were pests of sorts—you know, sort of like rats and cockroaches.  But he said, these pests (generalists) will survive simply because they adapt and are not reliant of one specialized area.


So, the point I’m making here is this, I kinda felt like he was talking about my career.  Do I still want to be a specialist and thrive in just one thing? Have my “niche” per say? Or do I want to keep being a generalist, which at times can be a pest for others, but will ultimately assure my survival?

This certainly leaves one wondering, “Which is the better choice?”  I’ve always felt that being specialized gave you (me) the upper hand, where you were the expert, people rely on you and they come to you for expertise, and then you can die happy.   And here comes the dang cockroach, showing that, sometimes you have to adapt in order to survive.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm—DANG COCKROACH!

Girl on the Piano

“Everybody told me this ‘girl on the piano’ thing was never going to work.” 
― Tori Amos

We are already in the middle of the semester and I’m in the midst of planning my Summer I, II, fall 2014 and spring 2015 classes.  “Slacker” is not an adjective to describe me when it comes to planning my schedule.  I’m only 19 hours away from my degree.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Yes, it’s true.  Spring 2015, I graduate.

I can remember my first semester in 2009, math. At times I didn’t think I’d get through the class.  Especially since I hadn’t completed an algebra equation since 1980.  There have been many doubtful moments and now here I am on the final lap.

This journey has made me realize that it’s never too late to do something you have always wanted to do, no matter your age.  As long as you “want to” you can do it, and it all starts by placing one foot in front of the other.

I look back to 2006, when I became a displaced worker and I was forced back into the workforce to compete for a new career.  I remember how I had my whole identity wrapped up in this one career.  If I’ve learned anything during this process, it’s that you can’t attach your identity to a career.  The world is changing. Technology changes, and for that matter, everything we do is constantly evolving. If you want to keep up, education is your best vehicle.

I look forward to seeing my own evolution after I graduate.  As a matter of fact, I’m going to pursue graduate school. “Never stop learning!” is my new motto. (Oh and if you didn’t know what my old motto was, it was, “It’s never too late!”)

Music Group SprMag12 21Nov11 (TN) Photographer Danny MeyerSpeaking of which, did you know I have always wanted to play the piano?   Yeah, nobody else did either, but I have. When I was a little girl my dad would take us to my grandfather’s house and I remember my step-grandmother had a piano.  It was covered up and nobody was allowed to touch it.  I would just look at it and imagine my fingers on the keys.  I also remember that she gave the piano away to an aunt who kept it outside in the back yard, exposed to all the elements and nobody ever played it.  I’ve never forgotten that piano.  Well, I’m about to put a check mark on “learn to play the piano” for fall 2014 as I enroll in Piano 1122 as my 1 hour elective credit.  Maybe I can play my favorite song, “O Holy Night” for Christmas.  Yeah, definitely, I’ll say it again IT’S NEVER TOO LATE for this girl on the piano.

Spring Meh!

MehMeh.  When was meh added to our English language?  It’s such a strange word and when I first read it on Facebook I wondered if it was an acronym but I couldn’t figure out what it was trying to say and to add more confusion there’s a non-smiley face icon for it too—so realization hit, it’s really a word.  That lead me to look it up and sure enough, it is a word.  Originated in the 1990s says Oxford Dictionary from The Simpsons no less.  I guess I didn’t catch enough of that show or I’d have joined the meh crowd sooner.

As an adjective, meh means unenthusiastic which can well summarize my first few weeks of the spring semester.  It’s not wow or bad it’s meh.  I’d love to be excited and engrossed in some wonderful knowledge but we’re not there yet.  I’m enthusiastically waiting for it.  It’s also not bad either where I’ve gone into panic mode which I’m very enthusiastically happy about.

So as I sit in class this semester and learn about evolutionary changes in our environment due to human population and wonder if there will be enough resources for all my needs during my lifetime and for my children, I also sit in creative writing and learn that the English language continues to also evolve with new words added every year that weren’t around when Shakespeare wrote his sonnets.  Can you imagine Shakespeare including “meh” in his writings:  Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and less meh.  Nah, it doesn’t have the right iambic meter and makes it sound so, hmmmm, I don’t know… meh?