Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Honors Reads on Steinbeck's Log from the Sea of Cortez (with Prof. Michael Sweet)

The Honors Program at American River Program is doing an Honors Reads, in which the Honors students and faculty explore one book together. This semester's book is John Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

The journey of John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts in the Sea of Cortez makes a great interdisciplinary read. In this perspective from James Kingland in The Guardian:
If you think you might like your science mixed with beer, seafood and philosophy, read John Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez, an account of a six-week collecting expedition in the Gulf of California with his friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts (who should really be credited as the co-author) and a small crew.
You might want to know not only about the taxonomy and ecology of the marine invertebrates they found in the intertidal zone, but also the sensory experience of collecting them from their natural environment. You might want to know about the personalities of the writers' fellow crew members, or even the temperament of the outboard motor that seemed to rouse itself only when there wasn't too far to go.
Prof. Michael Sweet (Biology, ARC), who teaches marine biology, gave a talk on the science perspective about the Sea of Cortez
Michael described some of the marine life that Steinbeck and Ricketts would find on their journey in the Sea of Cortez.

During his talk Michael included some excerpts from the Sea of Cortez.

More fun marine life shared by Michael:

The feared pistol shrimp

And the Cormorants trained to go fishing

Michael mentioned that he wants to infuse his Monterey Bay field trips with Steinbeck and Ricketts. He shared a photo from one of his marine biology field trips with his students.
Source: Michael Sweet

Michael also plans to take his students on a tour of the Ricketts lab near the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Source: Michael Sweet

Michael also engaged our group with a marine biology classification game to give us a feel for the field work thinking that Ricketts and his team would carry out. Which group does this specimen belong to?

Michael discussed the results of our marine biology classification game. Some of our picks were correct; some were not. 

With this introduction to the marine biology that flows through the Sea of Cortez, why would Steinbeck and Ricketts spend their time doing "basic science" work?

The Honors Reads conversation continues in October with Prof. Christian Kiefer (English, ARC).


Michael's talk sparked Joan Brenchley-Jackson (Biology, ARC) to share another expedition by the California Academy of Sciences to the Galapagos Islands in 1905-1906. The specimens collected from this journey are still valuable for evolutionary biology research today. 

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