Monday, October 18, 2010

so happy to be with my people

Oh, Mammalogy class was awesome tonight. A classmate brought in two plastic bags, one containing a dead bat (yay) and the other what we thought was some large animal poop. We kicked off class with ten minutes of David Attenborough's Life of Mammals, a segment on the Slender Loris -- our teacher all the while doing little voices, priming us for some exceptional Attenborough-ism. And then he launched into lecture on this week's topic: reproduction. Yeehaw!

At the break it just got better. One of my classmates works for Wildcare and had driven their naturalist-van to school -- so at break we got to go out and handle taxidermied specimens, passing animals to each other over the VW bug parked next to the van. In 15 minutes I got to see and/or handle and pet a Great Horned Owl, a Burrowing Owl, a Weasel, a Mink, a Sea Otter, a Beaver, a Skunk, an Egret, a Gray Fox, a Fawn, a Mountain Lion kitten, a Golden Eagle and -- by far my favorite -- a Badger. We were all jumping around, making nerdy mammalogy jokes, appreciating every little detail of these remarkable creatures, such animal geeks geeking out with impunity in a dark parking lot.

We rushed back to class, not wanting to be late, only to find that our teacher had taken apart that thing that we'd thought was a poop, but which was actually an enormous barn owl pellet. In it he found FOUR mouse skulls. Amazing.

And in this peculiar animal-nerd heaven, we then went on to do the baculum lab connected with the unit on reproduction. Oh so amazing. Because really, what is not totally fascinating about mammalian penis bones?

Even though taking this class has contributed to my general sense of being crazy-busy, it also makes me absurdly happy. There is something incomparable about getting to know my classmates, each one of them an expert on something, whether it's birds or frogs or Marin animals, or just another passionate enthusiast like me. It's just so much fun to sit in a room and know that every single person in there is just like me, crazy about animals, ceaseless fascinated and eager to learn everything.

So I'm thinking about taking herpetology next semester. It makes me a little nervous, but the teacher assures me that there will be snakes in the room every single class, plenty of opportunities to get to know them and love them just as much as mammals. Just as much? Well, OK, maybe that could never happen. But at this point, given how stoked I feel after every class, I'm willing to give it a shot.

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