Eat pizza for turtles

Hey guys!

Well after a two year labour of love, we have finally almost finished production on the marine wildlife documentary Rubber Jellyfish. As most of you know, Rubber Jellyfish explores the effects of balloon release ceremonies on the environment and the lengths to which the international balloon industry has gone to mislead consumers about the safety of their products.

In the time that we have been creating this film, we have heard about so many balloon releases that have happened all around the world and some of our friends have even witnessed large groups of people releasing balloons while literally standing on the beach. People clearly aren’t aware that balloons are damaging to the environment, it’s precious wildlife, and even to us (the US product safety commission reports that balloons cause more child fatalities than any other toy).

It’s definitely time for the film to wrap so that we can get this message out into the world!

Click here to RSVP to the Facebook invite

We hope that you will join us at this fund raising dinner. Tiffany Lee of Australian Seabird Rescue and Turtle Hospital in Ballina will be speaking about the effects of marine debris on Australian sea turtles and other marine species. She will be joined by Dr Marcia Bergamini, a marine wildlife vet from Brazil. Carly will also be speaking about her journey in creating this documentary and will reveal our brand new, professionally constructed trailer!

Tickets are $25 p.p. or $15 for kids. That includes your choice of a small pizza or nachos (FYI Mandala is a vegan restaurant but it is still considered delicious by omnavores). If your kiddo is small enough to not need their own meal, then they are free! Drinks are not included in the ticket price but can be purchased at the venue.
Bring along your spare change – we will be raffling off some awesome items and will also have a wishing well for anyone who wants to make a more sizeable (and tax deductable) offering to the film.

All proceeds will go directly toward finishing costs associated with the project (editing, purchasing stock images, acquiring permission to republish newspaper articles, paying a lawyer to review all of our paper work, and hiring a graphic artist to create a poster).

Carly and her partner have shouldered most of the financial burden so far but now that we are heading into the expensive end of things, we are reaching out the community for support.

Bat research is fascinating

my research project on sperm competition in bats

Hi folks – long time, no blog!

I have written before about the relationship between testes size and brain size in micro bats (aka echolocating, insect-eating bats as opposed to fruit or nectar eating bats). Many of you have also emailed me information about the scientific study that was published in 2006 by research team Pitnick et al. that first demonstrated this relationship. Thank you very much for that and in exchange I thought I might give you a bit of an update on what I am in the middle of doing to further our understanding of the brain-testes relationship in bats.

For my masters degree I am looking at whether or not there are any differences in the brain volume of male and female micro bats. I have been wondering if there might be ever since reading about Pitnick et al.’s study. My thinking was that if there is, indeed, some sort of inverse relationship in bats between brain size and testes size whereby the two metabolically expensive organs trade off against each other then it stands to reason that perhaps females could have larger brains than males since they don’t have testes competing with their brains for dominance in the body. At least, I thought, this might be the case in species where males have very small brains due to their enormous testes which hog all the body’s resources.

My study is fairly small in scale but I am hoping that it will still prove interesting. I am comparing averages of male and female brain volumes in 9 Australian micro bat species – some that have mating structures where females are promiscuous and some where females are loyal to a single mate (a dominant male harem leader). To do this we are CT scanning a collection of skulls and then using computer technology to create 3D models of the brains as a way to ascertain volume.

Here’s a picture of the first skull we scanned. It makes me laugh every time I look at it – such a big machine to scan such a tiny object (that little spot on the blue towel is the skull):
going through the CT scanner

And here is a model I am putting together of that same skull. It needs work but it’s still pretty cool:
model of a bat skull - in progress!

Interestingly, the factor that influences testes size in micro bats in female sexual behaviour. When females are highly promiscuous and take many sexual partners the males tend to have much larger testes than species where females are loyal to a single mate. It is assumed that the large testes trait develops in species where females are promiscuous because there is greater competition among sperm for access to the eggs in these individuals and so those males with more sperm available tend to be selected for over time. It is similar to how if you are really keen to win a meat raffle you will buy more tickets.

The same relationship between female promiscuity and testes size occurs in primates, including humans and for that matter, basically all animals. You can look at most any wild animal and get a good idea of the level of female promiscuity by looking at the testicles of the males. The difference with bats is that because bats weigh very little (as little as 2 grams!!) and have an extremely tight energy budget they cannot afford to have both heavy brains and heavy testes and so they trade one tissue type against the other.

Pitnick and his colleagues in their landmark study originally predicted that the opposite relationship would occur – ie that large brains would equal large testicles. They postulated that species with promiscuous females would have larger brains as a way for the males to avoid being cuckolded. They were surprised when they discovered that the opposite was true and remarked that “perhaps monogamy is more neurologically demanding.” I think many of us would attest to the truth of this statement!

If my study shows that there are any size differences in male and female bat brains as a function of testes size it may potentially mean that female promiscuity is a force strong enough to influence male intelligence in a measurable way. An intriguing notion but at this stage very much a theoretical one.

*Sidenote: the boys on the construction sites where I have been working have heard me talk about animal testicles so much that they have become terrified I’m going to show up at their bedroom door one day with my calipers! Actually that’s not completely true .. some have actually volunteered for the job! .. all in the name of science, right? 😉

** Oh and yes the bat in the picture above is alive! It was just very very cold because I pulled it from a tree which had just been buldozed on a construction site in the very early hours of a winter morning.

Size matters – and if it didn’t, you’d be smaller

Does size matter? It’s the age old question. Some say that it’s the ‘motion of the ocean’ that matters while others have pointed out that ‘they don’t make small dildos’. Still others have pointed out that, actually, they do make small dildos! If you ask me, I’ll tell you that size does matter. But I’m not just speaking of pers

onal preference, here. The question of whether or not length and/or girth is important becomes obvious if you look, as I always do, to the animal kingdom.

Male humans, you see, have penises far larger than any of the other primate species around the world. Even Silverback gorillas, as massive as they are, only manage to achieve erections of about 1.5 inches. Many theories have been put forward for why humans have such large dingdongs. Originally they wondered if a big penis might have evolved to make insemination easier but that didn’t make sense since the less endowed primates are just as good at breeding as we are. They then thought a big wang might be useful in male/male competition (aka showing off) but then they realized that most indigenous cultures have coverings over their genitals so that didn’t seem like a good explanation either. They then wondered if a big cock might have evolved to help us to perform some of the more adventurous kama sutra style position that many of us are quite partial to but that also didn’t make sense because orangutans, chimps, bonobos and many other primates are into all the same crazy shit that we are – and then some!

Finally someone wondered

if female choice might have been involved but this was dismissed almost immediately after a few studies showed that women don’t really like looking at penises. This isn’t surprising considering what a huge epic fail playgirl magazine was!

So if women don’t even like to look at penises could female selection really be involved in the evolution of the huge human wang? Well as Meredith Small points out in her book ‘Female Choices: Sexual behavior of female primates‘ .. and as what virtually all women already understand .. a woman doesn’t have to love the sight of a cock to appreciate how it feels. Hence it is entirely possible and indeed very likely that the reason men have such large penises is that women enjoy them so much that over time they mated more often with these big boys than with the little smokeys and essentially bred the big cock gene into the species. Women, therefore, are amazing designers. Not just of fashion and homes but of men – and their penises!

Of course female don’t’ always have choice over who they mate with. There are arranged marriages and tribal system where a dominant male type character has rights to females and of course there has always rape. Also women will also make mate choices based on things other than cock size (shocking, I know). But generally speaking it can definitely be argued (and I do) that there have been enough women choosing mates based on their cock size over the last few thousand years to increase the size of human penis beyond what would ever be necessary on a purely functional basis.

So does size matter? Of course it does .. but don’t worry. You’re already doing way better than almost any other primate on Earth.

If you enjoyed this you might also enjoy my post on primate testicles

perspectives on minimalism from remote locations in Australia (90 day consumerism detox – day 41!)

Hello everyone!!

I haven’t had a chance to keep up with this blog for a while – way too much going on! I’m doing about 80 hours a week of fauna spotting at the moment in a remote site in Central Queensland. It’s been pretty epic and there hasn’t been much time for anything else. I wanted to update you all, though, on my progress with the 90 day consumerism detox. Today is day 41 so just about half way there!

I honestly can’t believe I’m only halfway there, seems like ten years since I’ve bought anything! With my new job, it’s actually proving very easy not to buy crap because I get sent out for 4 weeks at a time to remote locations where there really aren’t any opportunities to buy stuff, anyway. The only ‘stuff’ anyone seems to buy around here is beer and cigarettes. At the end of each 4 week stint they send us home for a week but a lot of people out here (at least the ones who aren’t married) don’t even have a ‘home’ to go to. They just stay with friends or zip of to Thailand or Fiji for the week. Some of them have stuff in storage but a lot of them don’t seem to own much of anything. It’s pretty amazing and a great practical lesson on minimalism.

I’ve spoke before about the strange phenomenon that occurs when you take a break from buying crap. It seems that the less you buy, the less you want for things and that’s definately what’s been happening for me lately. For example, yesterday I went to a mall. It was crazy. Save for a few field guides and odds and ends I needed for work, I haven’t bought anything for myself in six weeks and up until yesterday, I hadn’t even seen a shop in weeks, let alone an actual mall. We were only there because there were two of us that desparately needed a new phone plan. Telstra seems to be the only phone network out here that serves the area we’re at and yesterday me and another girl got seriously lost for like three hours and were totally incommunicado from the rest of the world because neither of us had Telstra. Anyway, so me and this other girl were waiting in line at the Telstra store yesterday trying to solve our communication issue and realised that we actually had access to stuff! We found ourselves just standing there, wracking our brains about what we might want to buy but neither of us could actually come up with anything. Well, Lauren did buy some granola but that was it.

Usually, after a month of isolation you’d think you’d be desperate for stuff but we weren’t. It’s amazing what a break from consumerism does for you. It really puts life into perspective.

Oh crapola, I failed my 90 day consumerism detox .. but .. it’s cause I got a cool job!

Oh dear. Can you believe it? I FAILED!! I already failed my detox and it hasn’t even been a month!! Geez.

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you know that at the start of the year I vowed to go on a 90 day ‘consumerism detox’ where I would not buy anything new for myself (save toiletries, food, and the other basics) for 90 days. I have done this for two month-long periods in the past and have always found it a worthwhile exercise – bordering on spiritual, actually. There’s something very liberating about temporarily stepping away from our society’s emphasis on more and realising that you already have all that you need.

Anyway, as romantic of a notion as this was, I unfortunately already failed! Luckily, though, the only reason I failed is that I just got a fantastic new job and had to buy a few things before I could start – some pants, some boots, a couple new field guides, and a few other job-oriented, survival-type things. I suppose you could argue that this stuff fits into the ‘basics’ category of things that I can buy since I didn’t really have a choice. The job I accepted was as a wildlife rescuer where I’ll get flown all over Australia to rescue animals from development sites. It’s been amazing so far. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for pictures of my daily wildlife adventures.

As I was buying the field guides, I was really really tempted to buy Matt Rolof’s book, ‘Against Tall Odds’, (I heart Matt Rolof so much!!) but by a sheer miracle, I was able to resist. So I suppose that’s progess. In the past I would have justified buying it by telling myself that I was already failing the challenge so I might as well go all the way .. kind of like when I have fallen prey to the sweet allure of a lunchtime cheeseburger and then decided to have a steak for dinner to just make the whole day a write-off.

Oh dear, but not to worry – after picking up the few things I needed for work I managed to crawl back on the wagon. I’m back on the detox and am looking forward to forging ahead with my simplified, clutter-free life! Wish me luck! The good thing is that I’ll be out bush almost all of the time with this new job so there won’t be much opportunity for consumerism, anyway!