It’s been over a month since my last update. There haven’t been any major adventures due to time and financial constraints. As I aim to write and finish my dissertation, the time for such outings decreases and thus this summer will be nicknamed “the summer of no fun.” Fun isn’t completely off the table, but the number and scope of such expeditions will be reduced compared to past years.

City of Austin
City of Austin

I did have one bit of adventure in June. I traveled to Austin for the 2016 Evolution meeting where I presented some results from our behavioral simulation experiments. With our latest zebrafish experiments as inspiration, we’ve put together a program to simulate an animal’s movement in two-dimensional space as it explores its habitat and collects “food” pieces to invest in reproduction. By manipulating aspects of the environment, we can better understand how habitat usage influences risk and thus selection for or against risk-taking behaviors.┬áMovement is determined by a neural network with weights that are heritable and represent the (quantitative) genetic basis of behavior. The simulation is very basic at this point, but already we are seeing some promising results. For example, when a “predator” is introduced represented by an probability of death in a given location, we observe behaviors evolving to avoid, or spend less time in, the high risk areas. However the degree and even direction of selection is dependent not just on the intensity of predation, but also the amount of “food” resources available.

I had a good time at evolution, reconnecting with friends I’ve met at previous meetings, and meeting some new contacts. Rather than stay in the dorms at UT, or the expensive hotels downtown, I stayed in a hostel nearby which enhanced the social factor, as well as my budget. It turned out I wasn’t the only one with that idea and I met plenty of other conference goers at the hostel. Austin is an interesting city. It’s weird. Portland weird. I’d go as far to call it the Portland of the south. It’s a town for live music, good food, arts, and culture. There are nice bike paths and beautiful parks. But during the summer, it’s hot. Very hot. Daytime highs all week were in the mid to upper 90’s with 80-90% humidity.

It’s the 4th of July. On many years past, I’ve taken a hike to celebrate our nation’s independence. Today I spent the day at home. We didn’t even take Clara out to see fireworks in town. It was just a lazy day. That makes up for us being out all day yesterday. We headed up to Spokane to pick up my mom from the airport and spent the afternoon at Riverside Park. After a stop at Target followed by dinner at a very great pizza place, we got home shortly before midnight. Here is some of the fun we had with Clara.

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