May 23, 2021

Brood X and Me

When I was a little kid in Seattle, I somehow ended up with large a rubber cicada toy. Maybe my dad bought it for me at a museum gift shop. We didn't have cicadas where I lived, so all I knew about them at the time was what was written on the card that came with it. In a way, they were exotic and unknowable to me.

After 28 years in the Pacific Northwest, I moved down to Austin and spent the first few years wondering what kind of weird bird spent all night screaming in the summers. It wasn't until I saw my first Neotibicen that I realized they were real, they were in reach, and they are LOUD. I fell in love, hard, and have felt blessed by every cicada I have ever seen, from Texas, to New Zealand, to Malawi.

I have had a rough couple years. I was laid off in the beginning of 2019 and was so stressed about saving money at all costs that I essentially stopped going on the nature trips that brought me joy. It took over a year to find a job, and by then the pandemic was in full swing. I am in an at-risk group, so the large groups of unmasked people filling up the few parks that were still open were a no-go. It has been almost two and a half years since my last real trip, and I have spent most of that time at home.

Enter Brood X.

As soon as I heard the largest group of periodic cicadas were emerging this year, I knew I had to go see them. Initially, my plan was to drive to Tennessee, to avoid the nightmare of flying during a pandemic. But, thanks to the vaccines becoming widely available (and my own status of being fully vaccinated as of April), I felt comfortable enough to book a flight to Cicada Ground Zero, Maryland/Virginia/DC. And so I'm going later this week and I couldn't be more excited!

I have been referring to this trip as a pilgrimage, because that's really what it is. And Brood X is symbolic to me in more ways than signifying the end of a tumultuous period of uncertainty and fear. I tend to keep to myself, so most (if not all) of y'all are not aware I am queer and agender (this puts me in the transgender bucket). I use neopronouns (fe/fin/fizz, rhymes with he/him/his) but am fine with they/them. I have never liked my birth name and am changing my name to Kai. I've struggled with how I present myself to the world for a long time, in part because of how traumatic it was to be totally rejected by my mom when I first came out as a teen.

Many of you will no doubt have noticed the wave of trans-phobic legislation popping up in the US recently. This has taken a toll in part because many don't realize how many people like me there are, being trans but silently passing by unnoticed and suffering deeply for it. We are everywhere, and even if you don't know me in person, I guarantee you have trans people in your life whether you know it or not.

In truth, I have delayed coming out because it was legal to refuse to hire somebody and legal to fire somebody just because they were trans until after I started my current job. Even now, Texas does not recognize non-binary genders, so I will be able to update my Washington birth certificate, but I cannot update my drivers license. I work with several people who openly believe that people like me don't deserve basic human rights.

I have always been contrarian. If I am told I can't do something, it just makes me want to do it more. So now that I have the security of a job, and now that gender identity is a federally protected class, I'm going to be fully myself, and this includes the necessary act of changing my name.

So just like Brood X, I'm ready to emerge from the pandemic in a different form than I entered it. Although, maybe I won't scream quite as loudly. :)

xoxo Kai Wren Joaquin

Posted on May 23, 2021 20:04 by nanofishology nanofishology | 1 comment | Leave a comment

February 10, 2019

Blinding Austin with (Caterpillar) Science

Earlier this week, I had the surreal experience where people paid money to have me show them videos of caterpillars pooping (??) and I got to talk into a microphone and everything? Anyway, it was a ton of fun, even if it was only a ten minute presentation (?!). At least I got to defend mosquitos in the debate (and you BET mosquitos won).

The event was part of a quarterly series of shows in Austin called the Dionysium. It's essentially an intellectual variety show, and I will have to check it out if I have found a job by the time the next one rolls around (but that's another post ;_;)

The presentation file is here! (very large because it is full of embedded videos, though sped up VERY FAST to fit into ten minutes!):

Original event posting in Austin Chronicle:

Posted on February 10, 2019 08:15 by nanofishology nanofishology | 3 comments | Leave a comment

September 24, 2018

Lookin’ for a new JOB

Howdy y’all!

I found out on Friday that my company is moving to the middle of nowhere, Massachusetts next year, and... uh... I’m doubtful anything they could offer me would be enough to leave TEXAS and MY PEOPLE in Texas. I’m going to try to negotiate for working remotely, BUT I’m not sure they’ll go for it.

SO I’m casting out my job net as far and as wide as possible! I am currently a Polymer Research Scientist in R&D doing 50/50 wet lab/project management work, prepping for the PMP exam. Background in chemical/biomedical engineering and nanotech with a Masters from UT Austin, 12 years experience working in science/tech, 6 years specifically in hands-on polymer and/or nanotech lab reseach. I ALSO serve as the Director of Outreach and Education for my Master Naturalist chapter. ALSO work as a science communicator, arguably both with and independently from my TxMN chapter, online and in person.

I am up for any challenge and willing to switch industries as long as I stay in the Austin area. Current job in in San Marcos (90 mile daily commute...), so I’m willing to drive A LOT if necessary. In theory, I’d love to work for naturey non-profits or gov agencies BUT I have student loans and oh boy.

Supposedly R&D isn’t moving until next summer so I theoretically have time, but also my current job has been unnecessarily stressful and I actually started job hunting before this news came out.

If anybody has leads or secret jobs or a pile of money they don’t need, I would be most appreciative in receiving the info and/or pile of money.

Posted on September 24, 2018 00:18 by nanofishology nanofishology | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 02, 2018

Moth Shirt (Fundraiser)

If you pay much attention to where my observations in iNat pop up on the map, you may notice I... uh... get around a bit. I drive A LOT in the name of citizen science, and car maintenance is expensive--more expensive than I had anticipated, apparently!

So in anticipation of MOTH WEEK! and also to pay for emergency car expenses that are not in my budget ;_; I've launched a fundraiser! The fundraiser ends on July 21 (The day Moth Week starts!), and shirts will ship out soon after.

So Many Moths / So Little Time

Posted on July 02, 2018 20:55 by nanofishology nanofishology | 2 comments | Leave a comment

May 01, 2018

Alysa's [insane] City Nature Challenge 2018

note to self: add route maps for each day

Grasshopper Dance-off (Bastrop State Park):
Barn Swallow Chicks in Nest (Bastrop State Park):
Antlion vs Harvester Ant (Hornsby Bend in Travis County):
The Duck Whisperer (Old Settler's Park in Round Rock):

Posted on May 01, 2018 22:20 by nanofishology nanofishology | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 08, 2018

Alysa's List of Del Rio Bioblitz Highlights

(list is still in progress! Be PATIENT jeeez)

Eight human observations (7 linked; 8th:
this Black-throated Sparrow video:
these Cave Swallows (video):
this cricket video:
This CUTE LITTLE BEE taking a cactus flower bath: (featuring the real live voices of me and @silversea_starsong with @psyllidhipster doing backup)
This Blue-grey Gnatcatcher with ANGRY EYEBROWS: (my first time seeing the breeding plumage! Silly birbs!)
Lark Sparrow:

Posted on April 08, 2018 05:58 by nanofishology nanofishology | 15 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

February 17, 2018

Exciting Travels Upcoming!

  1. I have finalized the logistical nightmare that was planning for a week-long business trip in Paris while arranging pet-sitting for 6 special needs cats and now I can actually start thinking about what to do on my day off in Paris. I'm flying into CDG early Saturday morning, will be meeting up with a friend downtown. I have never been to mainland Europe. Where are good/easy places to see LOTS OF GOOD BIRDS? Thnx
  2. Now I can plan for the Bioblitz in Del Rio!
    @silversea_starsong and @psyllidhipster When do y'all plan to arrive in Austin? Would you like to leave at the buttcrack of dawn on Thursday? Leave on Wednesday and take lots of "rest stops"? I don't have to pay for petsitting for my Paris trip so I can afford be in Del Rio longer. Still need to head back to Austin on Sunday, probably late morning/early afternoon.

@alisonnorthup Are you riding with @hydaticus or me? Do you need to borrow any camping equipment?

Also: I am taking my car to get serviced next week so we don't have any surprises on the way!

Posted on February 17, 2018 01:24 by nanofishology nanofishology | 31 comments | Leave a comment

December 19, 2017

A look back on my iNat career

I've been meaning to do this for a while. Do I need to say I have an addictive personality?

Somebody stage an intervention (after City Nature Challenge 2018, anyway)

Update: I used the iNat export feature ( to make a really quick observation vs time graph and it's essentially the same!:

Posted on December 19, 2017 02:31 by nanofishology nanofishology | 9 comments | Leave a comment

November 29, 2017

TAMU Insect Collection Open House: January 7, 2017 @ 9:00 am - 6:00 pm

Texas A&M Entomology Open House?!?! Count me in!

I'll be driving up from Austin, and have space in the car if anybody wants a free ride. Who else is going?!
@sambiology @hydaticus @kimberlietx @wildcarrot @gcwarbler @ncowey

Posted on November 29, 2017 19:48 by nanofishology nanofishology | 5 comments | Leave a comment

November 19, 2017

New camera; Hello World!!!

Almost all of my something-thousand observations so far have been iPhone photos. While I have become a wizard at taking iPhone photos, my lack of a "real" camera has held me back significantly in the area of "fast, far away, flying things." Part of the reason I am so into bugs is they're a lot easier to get close to than anything else (and let's be real, most plants are pretty boring :P). I like birds, but I have avoided getting really into them because I had no way to getting reliably good photos of them. I have a mount that lets me take photos through binoculars, telescopes, etc, but it was such a pain to use for birdwatching I just kept it on the microscope. And when it came to butterflies or dragon/damselflies, I have been best off just finding them asleep in my yard. During the day, I'd get clearer shots of the Loch Ness Monster.

Early this year I signed up for the Audubon trip to Malawi. I knew I needed a real camera for this trip or I'd regret it forever. So in July I bought the Nikon Coolpix P900, aka the best birding camera you can get for $500. It has 83x optical zoom AND does great macros. I tried to use the camera a couple times and was overwhelmed by having no idea how to use it, so I signed up for a half-day workshop on nature photography in September. The class was excellent, completely demystified all the functions of the camera, and gave me the confidence to use it.

So of course I tried it out a couple times but didn't really get much birding practice with it until I actually landed in Malawi earlier this month. Over the course of the trip, I gained a reputation among the group as being a really good photographer (???), probably because I was regularly able to grab a few shots of briefly-sighted birds that were good enough for the guides to ID from them.

Today (I guess yesterday, since it's almost 2 am) I was at the Blair Woods Sanctuary (love that place!), and after volunteering I spent a couple hours wandering around with my camera. I still need to figure out which ISO to use for any given outing, but oh man, I've been going through the photos I took today and some of them I can't even believe came from me.

For example, here is an example of a spreadwing damselfly from a few months ago:


Here is another spreadwing:



So yeah, expect me to be posting a LOT more often! (is that even possible??)

Posted on November 19, 2017 07:46 by nanofishology nanofishology | 9 comments | Leave a comment