Tag Archives: Unapologetic Nerd

Pokemon in the Biology Lab

I’ve been teaching introductory biology labs for several semesters now and if there’s one thing that I learned it’s that you have a limited time to teach your students the current week’s material before they get bored. Most of the time, this is not an issue as students have already become familiar with the topic thanks to the lecture. As such, lab lecture is more or less reminding students of the material and less of teaching them something new. After a short introduction we get right into the lab and have some fun.

But for the times when the lab is covering something new, things can get a little tricky. I heard somewhere before that you have five minutes to teach your students the pre-lab material before they begin to zone out. Five minutes, unfortunately, is painfully short and as such, I try to mix things up as best as I can so my pupils can continue to remain engaged (one time I even dressed up as a Eukaryotic cell and asked my students what each of my organelles do to keep me alive).

Such as the case two weeks ago when we tackled the vertebrate diversity lab. One of my favorite labs ever, the students were divided into three groups and each group dissected three different vertebrates; a lamprey, a dogfish, a perch, a mudpuppy, a frog, an anoles lizard, a turtle, a pigeon, and a rat. These animals represented the numerous broad groups of vertebrates; agnathans, chondrichthyes, osteichthyes, amphibians, squamates, turtles, archosaurs, and mammals. The overall message for that week’s lab, through the dissection of the nine animals, was that vertebrates have all evolved from a simple body plan to accommodate their environment and lifestyles.

Now, on the whiteboard, I had drawn a simplified version of a vertebrate phylogenetic tree as provided to the students by their lab book. However, as I was talking about each group of animals, I would slap on a printed-out picture of a Pokémon as an example of that animal such as Eelektross for agnathans.

pokemon phylogenetics, vertebrates, pokemon

Yes, I know this vertebrate tree is highly simplified but this was the level of education the lab was focusing on for the students. The class textbook goes into greater detail about the intricate relationships. All images are from bulbapedia.

Eelektross is always the first animal/Pokémon I would use as it represents the first branch off of the tree. Immediately, once I place this Electric-type Pokémon on the tree, everyone sits up and takes notice. I like to think that I have jarred them out of their sleepy, spaced-out zone and thrust them into something that they don’t know about (if they’re not Pokémon fans) or have much interest in (if they are Pokémon fans). Even if they’re not familiar with Pokémon, I would give my students a real life example of that animal it represents (lampreys) and then explain what sets this animal apart from all the other animals in the small phylum. After doing so, I would continue to the other animal branches and elaborate what makes them so special all the while continuing to slap on example Pokémon on the whiteboard.

Besides doing this for comedic sake, I like to use Pokémon for two reasons. One, using Pokémon is a way to get students interested in the subject manner at hand. Many of my students are pre-Med or pharmaceutical majors and that’s totally fine. But here, at the doorstep of all that is biology, where students are exposed to so many different topics that they will never tackle again in their future, I try my damnedest to show them how awesome those weird and unique topics are even if they may be as seemingly uninteresting as plants or population genetics. I know I will not convince many of my students to change their chosen path in life but if I have just one student that just stopped and ponder briefly whether they should pursue another topic in biology because of my lab, then I have succeeded. Using Pokémon is just one of many ways I try to generate excitement of all that is biology (paleontology is another one as well, of course).

The second reason why I like to use Pokémon is that I try to encourage a friendly, welcoming environment in my lab. I like to have a lab where people can be themselves. My icebreaker question even sets the tone for my labs as I ask each of my students what they’re nerdy about. Let me tell you, this question is great as I get to learn so much from my students and I get to relate to them for that particular hobby at hand or a hobby that’s close to it. I even like to chat to them as the semester progresses about certain news that may pertain to their nerdy hobby such as a recent episode in Game of Thrones or a movie update for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Be yourself and be open to new ideas. As gimmicky as these may sound, I adhere to them like a barnacle on a hard substrate. I don’t know how well these two ideas have been picked up by my students, but I will say that they…I don’t want to necessary say “enjoy”…but certainly like my labs judging by my evaluations. I hope though in the long run, maybe 10 or even 20 years from now, they’ll remember my lab lectures and one day recall, while playing Trivia Pursuit, that Mantine is a manta ray and all manta rays are chondrichthyes and then they’ll win the game! But I’m just fantasizing at this point.

One Year Anniversary for Unapologetic Nerd (with my favorite articles)

One year ago to this day I published my first article for Unapologetic Nerd. This blog was a test. A test to see if I could publish an article every week for one year. So many blogs on the internet become inactive after only a few months of use. I resolved not to let that happen. And I’m happy to say that, beside a few minor exceptions, I was able to keep that promise! Today marks the 70th article of my year long blog.

The best part is how much this blog has grown since I first began. From April 7th to the 30th, 2014, I had less than a hundred views total. However, just last week on the 1st, I well exceeded that mark. I sympathize with a lot of bloggers out there who may get discouraged easily. Blogging is no easy task. Don’t expect instant and huge feedback. Even now, I’m still on the low end compared to a whole bunch of other blogs.

But I like to think it’s not about view count. I like to think that this blog has been an accumulation of me as a person, who I am and what I love and what I like to think about. I may write about what’s popular every now and then but I also like to write about obscure things that I’m a nerd about such as Columbo, Chrononauts, and Harry Turtledove even if they are my lowest viewed articles.

Honestly, the biggest reason why I started blogging was so I could become an intern at the national parks. The applications for them always have a section for electronic media experience, something that I’m woefully unacquainted with. But this past year, I became familiar with both blogging and podcasting. The results? It was a success! This blog, the podcast, my teaching, and much more have helped me become an intern at Fossil Butte National Monument this summer! Needless to say, I’m looking forward to it.

Now, will I continue writing? I like to think so. This website has slowly become less of a chore and more of who I am and what I do. I might take a break now and then to recharge or to make higher quality articles but I still have ideas and articles that I can still write. Even now, I have been forcing myself to write more thoughtful and thesis-like articles and less on reviews for video games or board games (even though they’re still fun to write).

However, my current thesis work has been challenging and time engaging and has forced me to move away from my blog. Again, I’m glad this anniversary has come up as I’m worried the quality of my articles has been lacking as of late. I want to make sure my thesis is of high quality even if it’s at the cost of my blog. Regardless, I will continue writing on here cause I love doing it and I love seeing other people read it even if I still get less than a hundred views a day, haha.

Without further ado, I want to list my favorite articles from the past year. These are articles that I think were written well, or a lot of people seemed to like or comment on, or even ones that seem to garner consistent readers. I aspire to continue to make quality articles like these and maybe even surpass them one day. Link’s in the description!

02_Our_War_Game

Digimon Our War Game: Dub vs. Sub and Summer Wars and Digimon: Our War Game are Both Great Films: Both of these articles were popular on the digimon subreddit and even one of my favorite podcasts ever, Podigious, commented how they liked my Sub vs. Dub article! That was definitely a highlight for my blog. They rank high on the viewership, got some great replies, and I honestly feel like I have given both articles some fair and comparative analysis. These articles are probably my favorite on my blog. Plus, it didn’t hurt that the source material these articles came from was great quality!

The Cartoon Network Renaissance: This is my highest viewed article without any subreddit influence. I really appreciate the layout of this article as it doesn’t start off with some exposition. That’s one problem I’ve been facing while writing articles, a boring introduction caked with exposition. But the exposition that is in there is well placed and continues smoothly. And I just like this article in general.

My Feelings on Over the Garden Wall (Spoilers): Another good article that has a great opening. I really poured my heart into this one. Also, a lot of my articles, admittedly, were written the night before and it certainly shows. Even though this article was also written the night before, it’s still pretty good! I like this one.

Nostalgia Filter Test: Jackie Chan Adventures: My first Nostalgia Filter Test article. It was fun rewatching Jackie Chan Adventures (except season 5…) and the show held up better than I expected it to. I also just like talking about Jackie Chan Adventures so any excuse to do so is a good excuse. I need to do another NFT in the future…I got one in mind but I’ll cross that bridge when I have the time to do so.

If the actual ref was here, the turtle ref would have been used in kart racing.

Why Turtle Science is Good Science: I mentioned before how science articles take a long time to write so I haven’t written that many of them unfortunately. They can also be convoluted or heavy if not written well. This one though, my first science article, is really slick and I got a lot of nice feedback on it. It’s really a great article I think.

He Died as He Lived: Karl Patterson Schmidt: The turtle article may be my favorite science article but this one still ranks up there. This article especially needed to be handled carefully since it does involve a death after all.  I like to think I handled the circumstances surrounding Dr. Schmidt’s death well while still pointing out the irony of the situation.  I also like how short and to the point it is. I also like how its featured on the first page of Google which is a nice bonus.  I have another HDaHL article in mind but I won’t publish it until I know it’s ready.

steghost

Ancient Animals and their Fakemon: Stegosaurus: And finally, save one of the best for last. There have only been three AAatF on this blog. I wish there were more but these articles definitely take the longest to make. Mary has to draw the fakemon while I have to write an accurate, up-to-date article about the animal at hand. We’ve been kicking around with a few fakemon but they haven’t gotten off the ground yet.

Stegosaurus (and Steghost) is the best among the three as it’s nicely polished, well fleshed out, and the fakemon was nicely crafted. Everything about Stegosaurus I talked about affected Steghost in one form or another. I like how Mary interpreted Steghost and gave it a nice spooky vibe. Thagomize also remains one of my favorite fake-attacks ever, it’s so awesome and I wish it actually existed. Hell, Steghost is just so cool that I would train the hell out of it, haha. This article is definitely one of my favorites and I always like it when an article comes out so perfect (and if there’s an ancient animal you would like us to do then give a shout!).

 

Well, that’s it for my list. As for the future, well that’s still up in the air. I know I’ll be writing for a long time as I still have article ideas but when the internship happens, I might place the blog on hold or I might not. Really, I’m playing it by ear at this point. But for you, dear reader, I thank you for reading this and I hope you have a wonderful day!

Give Credit Where Credit is Dunkleosteus

If you have been to my site before it is likely you have seen this guy above.  That’s Dunkleosteus, probably the most famous ancient fish to ever exist.  He is the paragon of placoderms, a carnivore nonpareil, and the very representative animal of the Devonian Period.

I wrote about Dunkleosteus in my first “Ancient Animals and their Fakemon” article where I talk about him and his fakemon counterpart, Clunklesteel.  While setting up the article I had to find appealing images of the placoderm so I could make the article stand out.  The drawing seen here was one of those images.

Unlike other images of art and photos where their source could easily be found, this image came up a blank.  Every time I found a site that hosted this image it directed me to a site which directed me to another site and so forth.  Some sites even came up blank citing no original source.  Eventually, I concluded that this image’s original source had either been deleted or lost to the maze of the internet and so I gave up and continued on with my article without citing anything for it.

As such, when the article was published, this image of a Dunkleosteus and his diver friend became the latest in a long line of sites that hosted the image without quoting the original source.  The article’s popularity had launched it so far up the Google Image chain that it became one of the top results for the “Dunkleosteus” page.  For the past six months or so, many people would come to my site through google image search or when other sites would direct them to my site as if was the creator of the image.  As such, it has become the most popular article on my site garnering about 21% of the entire views (out of the 50+ articles and the homepage).

I have become increasingly uncomfortable with this and now I finally did something about it.  In order to get this weight off my shoulders I had to find the person who made this image.

After doing some digging, I ran across a series of images that had a similar layout to the Dunkleosteus image such as the one seen below.

The image came from a program on the Animal Planet channel called Animal Armageddon.  A show about different kinds of extinct animals in Earth’s history.

At this point you may say the search is over but I was not convinced.  The Animal Armageddon website itself just shows videos of the animals and not the images I was searching for.  There had to be an artist that was behind them.

Image searching Animal Armageddon had given me the results I wanted.  Far from the top image hits I had found a blog that finally claimed ownership of these delightful prehistoric animals.

His name is Sebastian Meyer and his website can be seen here.  When I saw his website’s subtitle of “Concept Design / Creature Design / Visual Development” I knew that I had found the right guy.  He had worked on several different movies, such as Star Trek: Into Darkness, as well as several different projects, one of which was Animal Armageddon.

Clicking on that link reveals a whole host of images that are similar to the Dunkleosteus image (http://www.sebmeyerart.com/#/one-stranger-too-many/).  I knew my search had come to an end when I saw the Dunkleosteus image as the very first image you see on that webpage.  What’s more, there’s another image that showed more poses of the Dunkleosteus and I think they are quite lovely.

Unfortunately, Sebastian Meyer’s website looks dormant as it was last updated in February 2014.  But nonetheless, I want to make sure that people know he is the OG.  He’s the guy that made one of the best Dunkleosteus images ever.

I have already updated my first article using this image so that people in the future know who is the true artist.  Hopefully, his website will see traffic and garner interest in the internet community.  I may not get as many hits to my site now then I once did but I don’t care.  I want to be known for the material that I made just as I’m sure Sebastian Meyer would want to be known for the work that he has done.  It’s only fair to give credit is Dunkleosteus after all.