Biology of Arachnids Class June-2011

Texas Blonde

Arachnoangel
Old Timer
Joined
Dec 2, 2003
Messages
841
Hey everyone, I am posting to let y'all know about a class taking place this coming summer on the Biology of Arachnids. It is a college course for both undergrad and grad students, put on by Angelo State University at the Texas Tech Field Station in Junction, Tx.

This is a real class, for people serious in learning. But it is also a blast! I took the class last year, and will be taking it again this coming summer, just because I had so much fun. The whole course takes place over two and a half weeks at the end of June. On each weekend we take field trips to amazing locations, that aren't open to the general public. West Texas is the perfect setting, because every order of Arachnids can be found there, and we will get to see many of them in the wild.

The two instructors are really great. Dr. Strenth has studied invertebrates his entire career, and teaches all of the entomology and invert zoology courses as ASU. He has a special interest in arachnids, and their evolutionary tree. He is one of the funniest professors I have ever had, and along with Lynn McCutchen, makes the class much more than a dry college course. Lynn was one of Dr. Strenths grad students, and teaches in Kilgore, Tx currently. His special interests are in palpigradi, solifugids, and amblypigids.

The course description is as follows, taken from the website:
Biology of the Arachnids – This course will examine the origin of the arachnids and their evolutionary relationships to other early arthropod groups. Each of the eleven recognized ordinal groups will be covered equally in both lecture and laboratory with respect to the existing literature on distribution, morphology, ecology, reproductive life cycles and their relationships to man. Special attention will be given to those species which are found in Texas and the adjoining states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas in Mexico.

If you have any questions about the course, please feel free to ask me! If you are interested, please consider fist that this is a real class. It does require some work, there are 4 tests total, two in lab and two in lecture. If you don't study and do the work, you wont get a free pass. But if you really love arachnids, it wont seem like work!

The class will close at 12 people, so if you are seriously interested, please contact me, and I will help you get your name on the list. For those worried about cost, Dr. Strenth is working on some grants to help, but you have to contact him quickly so he knows who all needs help. Also, the closest airport is in Midland, which is where I live. I will be happy to drive anyone down to Junction, just let me know ahead of time when you will be flying in.

Here is the website again, for those who missed it at the beginning.

Pics to follow in the next posts.

---------- Post added at 04:53 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:38 PM ----------

The first weekend field trip is to Seminole Canyon in SW Tx. This will be the only night where we do any real camping, the rest of the field trips we will be in bunk houses. Seminole Canyon is usually only open to guided hikes, where you will never be far from a park ranger, and can only see part of the canyon. This is because there are beautiful pictographs in one of the caves. We on the other hand, get to explore the closed portion of the canyon, on our own. It's in indescribable experience.

The hike down in the canyon.


Inside the canyon.


On the second night of the trip we move on to Eagles Nest Canyon, in Langtry, Tx. This canyon is on private property, so it is another one of a kind experience. We get to stay in a adorable little bunk house, with airconditioning!

The bunkhouse.


We found this Diplocentrid in the yard of the bunkhouse!


Me standing over the canyon.


---------- Post added at 04:59 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:53 PM ----------

On the second weekend of the class, we take a field trip to my favorite place on earth, Big Bend! We will be staying in a bunk house at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, which is a 112 section (112 sq mile) piece of land, set aside for the management of desert bighorn sheep. It is only open to the public on day trips for fishing on the Rio Grande, but we get to stay over night and explore the whole place. During the day we will make side trips to La Linda, and Big Bend National Park. This field trip will last a total of three days and two nights.

Here is the view from our campsite at La Linda. You can see why they call it la linda!


Me at La Linda.


The closed border crossing.




While at La Linda we found an awesome cave, that was once used by several cougars. Here is some of us at the cave entrance.


---------- Post added at 05:01 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:59 PM ----------

During the class, we have a little competition. If you are the first to collect something from one of the 11 orders, you get a prize of either a hat or a T-shirt. Here is Dr. Strenth posing with one of the prizes.


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I have hundreds more pictures, and will try to get some more up soon. You can also see them on FB, so feel free to add me there, my name is Sky Stevens.

Hope to see some of y'all in Junction!
 

Sooner

Arachnoknight
Old Timer
Joined
Jan 14, 2008
Messages
227
I had something similar when I majored in botany; we would have weekly lectures on plant families in the spring with ensuing quizzes and presentations. Come early summer, a van of students and professors would go out into the field for identification and collection for about 10 days.

One year, we hit the Appalachian mountains and the next year, we did the Colorado Plateau.

I'm guessing to take this course, you would have to be enrolled at Angelo State and that the course is not online? Either of these requirements would severely limit the amount of prospective students :(

Interested and eligible students, don't let this deter you though, these field courses are about some of the most fun I've had in undergrad. I'm a grad student now but I'm studying nothing related at all to entomology or arachnology so good luck!
 

T-kid's mom

Arachnosquire
Old Timer
Joined
Aug 6, 2003
Messages
61
I had to come out of lurkdom to comment here. Elizabeth loved this class and was so school sick when she got home. The only down side is that I think having that class made her regular college classes much harder to endure. We hear nothing but good things about Dr. Strenth and Dr. McCutchen. Maybe we can coax Elizabeth back on to arachnoboards to give her perspective!
 

Texas Blonde

Arachnoangel
Old Timer
Joined
Dec 2, 2003
Messages
841
I'm guessing to take this course, you would have to be enrolled at Angelo State and that the course is not online? Either of these requirements would severely limit the amount of prospective students. :(

Interested and eligible students, don't let this deter you though, these field courses are about some of the most fun I've had in undergrad.
Yes, you do have to be enrolled at ASU. But people who are just interested in taking this class can apply as a transient student. ASU is not a difficult school to get into, as it is a very small school, in a small city in West Texas. The registrars are very nice, and understanding.




I will be honest, this class is not going to be extremely cheap, though I believe it would cost around the same as if you made a two and a half week trip to Texas, stayed in a hotel, and drove around to all the same places. I thought the tuition was worth every penny, because the experience was amazing. As I mentioned in my first post, Dr. Strenth is working on several grants that will help people with tuition. If you would need some assistance, you need to contact him quickly, so he knows who will need help. His contact information is on the website that is linked in my first post. Don't worry about contacting a stranger, he is a really nice and helpful guy.

Not all of the class is held in the field, during the week we stay on a campus owned by Texas Tech there in Junction. Room and board must be paid there, as it is seperate than tuition. There are both enclosed cabins with A/C, and screened cabins with no A/C. The screened cabins are cheaper. All meals are provided by the campus, and their cost is covered in room and board. The food is actually really good too!

The campus sits right on the South Llano (pronounced Lano) river, and you can swim, fish, or float every day after class. Or between classes for that matter. There is also a nice swimming pool and hot tub right on campus, for those who prefer that. I will post pictures of the campus soon.

Lecture takes place in the morning, at 10am. Breakfast is served at 8am, so it gives you a nice break after eating. Generally, they finish lecture at noon, or a bit before, which works out well wtih lunch, which is served at 12pm. Lab is at 2pm, and only lasts as long as it takes you to look at the provided specimens. Then you are free for the rest of the day, to go to the river, swim, sleep, whatever. Dinner is served at 6pm. We leave for the field trips on Friday right after lunch, and come back either on Sunday or Monday. I hope that gives y'all an idea of what the days are like.

The campus also hosts quite a few art classes. We are the only science students, everything else is art. At night, the glass blowers go to work in their pavilion, and a lot of people gather to watch. The whole place has a great atmosphere.

We also go on a lot of local field trips, to collect scorpions, solifugids, tarantulas, and whatever else we can find. The hill country is a great area, and I don't think we were ever unsuccessful on a collecting trip. Much of the collecting gear is provided by the college, including blacklights, 12" tweezers, vials, and a few snake guards.

Speaking of snake guards, they are required by the college. There are 3 extra pairs available that can be provided by the professors, and I also have 3 extra pairs. If you want to take the class, but don't want to buy the guards, contact one of the professors, or myself, to reserve a pair.

Ok, enough rambling on my part, time for more pictures!

---------- Post added at 01:19 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:55 PM ----------

This is one of my classmates, Travis, walking along the river the first day of class. We went swimming not long later.


Another pic of the river.



Here is me blacklighting on one of our local collecting trips. We had a slight competition between the guys and the girls, so the three of us girls would always go out on our own. And yeah, we kicked butt. ;)


This is Roxanna taking pics of that nights haul. Three solifugids and a tarantula. (Note, everything we collect either enters the universities collection, or gets sent to various scientists working on that group.)


This is her pic of the vials.


And this is what the boys found. {D


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This is the ranch owner, as he was giving us a tour of Eagles Nest Canyon. He also has a museum dedicated to Native Americans of that area. I will dig up pics of the museum later.


This is a tarantula my classmate found in the dry swimming pool behind our bunkhouse at Eagles Nest. The pic doesn't show her size, but she was a monster. By far the largest Aphonopelma I have ever seen in the wild, and I have seen a lot.


We did find quite a few tarantulas. Including this beauty. Any one care to identify it? ;)
 

VinceG

Arachnobaron
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
375
The last picture is what I believe to be an A.Moderatum, it's a beautiful specimen! Good luck with the studies! Really interresting thread.
 

Texas Blonde

Arachnoangel
Old Timer
Joined
Dec 2, 2003
Messages
841
The last picture is what I believe to be an A.Moderatum, it's a beautiful specimen! Good luck with the studies! Really interresting thread.
Yep, it's a moderatum. We will be hunting for those again this year too!
 

Texas Blonde

Arachnoangel
Old Timer
Joined
Dec 2, 2003
Messages
841
Here are some pics from the South Llano River that borders the campus. To celebrate getting our first test over with, we took some tubes to the river and floated for a good 4 hours. It was a blast. While we do some actual serious class work, there are plenty of times to just have fun and enjoy Texas.

This is me and my classmate Roxana jumping off a rock into a deep part of the river. I was terrified, but it ended up being really fun.



This is Bryce leaping off a rock.


Here is me in my tube, with a female wild turkey in the background.



Roxana floating along.



You can take long floating trips, or short ones from one end of campus to the other. This is some of the art students on a short float. The spot where I took this picture is the best place to fish and swim, because the river gets very deep along this bend. Bryce and I fished here for catfish and gar. It's about a 5 minute walk from the cabins.



Here are some more random pics of the river, all within walking distance of campus.




 

Canth

Arachnolord
Old Timer
Joined
Dec 16, 2005
Messages
655
I'll be attending this class this summer and I'm definitely looking forward to meeting a lot of new people :)
 
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