BMW drivers are jerks?

A few weeks ago, on Black Friday, my parents surprised me with a new car as an upcoming graduation gift! I previously drove a 2004 Toyota Celica that had a dent on the passenger door (thanks to my sister) and an engine light that wouldn’t turn off no matter our attempts to fix it. It was so low to the ground and had no room for passengers. My parents felt like I needed a more spacious adult vehicle. Needless to say, I was so beyond excited to get a “new-to-me” car.

You could imagine my surprise when they handed me the keys to a (used) BMW X5! Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself driving a “luxury” vehicle. I’m extremely thankful and love my new ride, but I feel like there are certain stigmas about BMW drivers that people have. I decided to do some research.

Apparently, studies done in the U.S. and the UK provide statistical evidence that BMW drivers are jerks.


A study from the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California Berkeley observed how drivers acted at stop-and-go intersections where they had to deal with pedestrians. In their study they saw that eighty percent of drivers in common brand vehicles stopped and waited for pedestrians. However, luxury car drivers, especially BMWs and Mercedes Benzes, were extremely less patient or concerned about pedestrian safety. “They consistently ignored the stop signs, only slowing instead of stopping and disregarded crossing pedestrians,” said researcher Paul K. Piff. “Fancy cars were less likely to stop. BMW drivers were the worst,” he said.

So there you have it. Exciting new car with jerk persona included.

So what do you think? Is there any merit to this claim? What are your experiences with bad drivers or specific vehicle brand drivers?

I’d like to think of myself as a nice person despite the car I drive. I promise to always look both ways and stop for pedestrians.



The Detroit News


Spike the Eggnog Now, No Salmonella Later

Now that Thanksgiving has ended and we are slowly making our way through the turkey leftovers, it is officially Christmas season! It is the time for shopping, wrapping presents, and decorating the tree. For some, no Christmas season is complete without a cup of eggnog. Eggnog is a creamy drink that is made of milk and/or cream, sugar, whipped eggs and spirits such as brandy, rum or bourbon. However, since the recipe involves raw eggs there is a chance of another unwanted ingredient appearing in the holiday beverage – Salmonella.

Salmonella is a genus of bacteria that can make people very sick. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an infection from Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps that can persist for 12 to 72 hours. The sickness usually lasts 4 to 7 days and most people can recover from Salmonella without treatment. However, in some infections the diarrhea may be so severe that hospitalization is a necessary for recovery. Furthermore, in these severe infections of Salmonella it can spread from the intestines to the bloodstream leading to other parts of the body which can cause death unless the person is quickly treated with antibiotics.

Salmonella can contaminate undercooked meat, poultry, and even eggs which brings us back to eggnog. Eggnog is made using raw eggs, but many people also add some alcohol to their egg milk punch to give it an extra kick. So does adding the alcohol actually kill any harmful bacteria in your homemade eggnog? NPR’s Science Friday has the answer! NPR’s Holiday Science Spotlight featured a short video where microbiologists Vince Fischetti and Raymond Schuch, from The Rockefeller University in New York, ran some experimental tests on a vat of spiked eggnog. The microbiologists tested Dr. Rebecca Lancefield’s eggnog recipe  to see if any Salmonella bacteria cultures could grow.

Interestingly, the microbiologists found no culture growth from the vat of homemade eggnog with alcohol after it sat in the fridge for three weeks. The sterilization could have happened because the concentration of alcohol was so high that most bacteria could not grow in it. The CDC does not recommend the consumption of raw of eggs so next time you pour yourself a glass of eggnog you should probably add some brandy just to be on the safe side.


By Colleen Murphy


Stepping Up Your Stories

We all have stories to tell, and how we tell these stories has evolved over time. From pre-historic cave paintings to more modern art forms of literature and photography, to social media applications, blogs and videos.  But what if you could tell a story with all of those components and portray them on a state of the art map?

ArcGIS storymap is a fantastic, versatile tool that can do just that.  With six different storymap formats and customizable features, this free, web-based platform can be used for education, visualizing data, showing the work of your organization, or whatever endeavor you set your mind to.  Plus, it’s easy to share via social media, or as a stand alone URL.  I’ll give you a quick low down on ArcGIS storymap, share an example of each, and discuss some of my experiences.    


Of course the first step is to create your FREE account.  Unless you already have a razzle dazzle ArcGIS ESRI account, go ahead and select “Create a Public Account”.  You won’t get all the bells and whistles of ESRI’s features, but you’ll get access to most storymap features and that’s what we are here for!

For those of you who don’t know, ESRI is a geographically impassioned, technological organization.  They created one of the most relied upon, top notch mapping programs, ArcGIS, which allows you to create maps and illustrate data related to geographic features.  GIS is an acronym for geographic information systems.  ArcGIS is not the only of it’s kind and a list of other GIS platforms can be found here if you want to get into mapping.  Many of these are open source, and may not require purchase and license agreements. I do not have much experience with these other platforms, but I’ve heard good things!  My one word of caution when working across platforms is compatibility.  Proprietary software will not give up its secrets so easily, but there are a number of GIS file converters to be found out on the web.

So lets start with the basics.  We’ve got an account, but how do we know which map will help us illustrate our story effectively?  I’ll review each in brief, but you can always “Ask the Pros” for recommendations.


Basic maps are just that.  You can show a single map with points and information, such as this one on Anthony Bourdain’s travels for in his show Parts Unknown.  This format is great for associating images to a specific place.  


The Spyglass format coolest comparative feature I’ve found! It allows you to layer two maps on top of one another and when you pass the spyglass over, it reveals the map beneath it. This map from NOAA uses a nautical chart of Gloucester Harbor and a spyglass to reveal the depth and shapes of the sea floor.  Though it may seem limited in the information you can include, the “wow” factor comparing maps in such detail can really drive your point home.  

3) SwipeSpyglass&SwipeBuilder

Similar to Spyglass, Swipe is also a comparative map that allows you move a bar from left to right. Swipe is great for illustrating land use or land cover change, such as this map of Fort Sumter. I recommend referencing which map is which in your caption, as I’ve seen some maps that are unclear. For Spyglass and Swipe maps, you need to select specific base maps for ArcGIS’s database, or use one you have already.


4)Map Series

MapSeriesBuilderMap Series are a great option for comparing multiple data sets and how they correlate to a map.  You can use one map, or multiple, as seen in this example on Hurricane Katrina.  You have three options when you use map series, customize to best fit your information!  Map series are great to illustrate the multiple dimensions of a story or study.


5)Map Journal

Map Journals are a great alternative traditional presentation formats like MapJournalBuilderpowerpoint.  The information frame and backgrounds transition seamlessly from one topic to the next, and multiple forms of media can be included. My one challenge working with map journal was photos, which can only be uploaded from Facebook, Picasa, Flickr or from a URL.  When using the URL, make sure said URL ends with a photo format designation (such as .jpg or .png). In a related vein, if you don’t like the way your background photos are being portrayed, consider switching between the floating and side pane options.

If desired, you can use a base map function similar to that of the Basic storymap.   Here is a great example utilizing a map as well as photography from the National Geographic BioBlitz 2015.  I am especially excited about this map because I was an education blitz leader for BioBlitz 2013 at Jean Lafitte National Park in New Orleans, which is summarized on the map point.  

6) Map Tour

MapTourBuilderMap Tours are my favorite. They place specific images on map points which can be referenced via a gallery.  Check this one out from U.S. Forest Service.

To place the photo on the map, it needs to be georeferenced, i.e. the photo must either have GPS coordinates associated (easy if your location settings are “on” for pictures taken by smartphone) or you can simply set a location for images using storymap prompts.  To make it even easier, if you are uploading from Facebook, whatever caption or context you gave that photo will translate into your map.  I’ve used this feature to illustrate my travels!


Some of the greatest features of storymaps are the customizable and Changebasemapinteractive components.  You’ve seen some of the “builder” options above, but you can also add color and change your basemap type for some extra story embellishments, as storytellers are known to do! Storymaps allow to you engage your audience and showcase a story, all while flexing your creative muscles.  Whether you are working on a presentation, developing classroom tools, sharing scientific findings or just communicating personal stories, I hope that ArcGIS storymaps proves useful to you. I know it has for me!


Recycling In the Workplace

By Kathryn Cannon


Photo Credit: Flickr by Kevin Dooley

While working in a small office in Port Allen, Louisiana as an administrative assistant I saw firsthand how much paper is thrown in the trash every day. I cannot even imagine how much paper larger companies could use and discard into the trash on a daily basis. Our office didn’t have a recycle program for recycle materials of any kind. I handled the mail that came into our office. We would throw out these thick catalogs on a daily basis along with other magazines no one had an interest in.

We are gaining awareness on how important recycling has become over the past several years not only for the environment but for ourselves as well. By recycling we can better our planet and the air we breathe. By recycling we can reuse materials more than once and keep it out of the growing landfills. My family has always taken recycling very seriously. In fact, we have more in our recycling bin on trash day than regular trash. It is mindboggling how much paper is used by office buildings ranging from messed up copies to discarded mail catalogs, or just small scraps of paper.

I couldn’t stand seeing all the paper going into the trash when we could recycle it and be able to reuse it in another form. Imagine the amount of trees we could save by trying to establish a small recycling program in our offices. So, I took it upon myself to start making a pile of recycled materials to take home with me. I would take things like catalogs, magazines, discarded paper, (paper with private information would go into the shredded bin which is recycled through a professional company) and bring them home to my own recycling bin once a week. Sometimes, I would take everyone’s plastic bottles home that would otherwise go into the trash. Recycling plastic is just as important as recycling discarded paper. It wasn’t much but every bit counts, and it made me happy knowing I was contributing to helping our environment.

Many companies do have a recycling system in place, but for those that don’t, there is a way you can start your very own. There is a national voluntary initiative called Recycling at Work that promotes the actions of businesses, government agencies, and institutions to increase recycling in the workplace. In fact you can even help recycling in your workplace by taking the Recycling at Work pledge. This will allow you to have access to free tools and resources to help you recycle more, encourage employee participation, and earn recognition.

Louisiana State University (LSU) is a great example to use because they have an excellent recycling program. They have recycling bins alongside trash bins at several locations all over campus. They have recycling bins for a variety of different things like plastic bottles, paper, and binders. inside of buildings and out. When we have home football games, giving people those options really makes a difference. Generally, if you provide the proper recycling container and make it accessible people will throw their plastic in the proper containers instead of just the regular trash. That is what we should try to incorporate in the work place everywhere.

recycle truck

Photo Credit: Flickr by Meriwether Lewis Elementary School’s in Portland, Oregon



What kind of dog is that?

As stated in a previous post, my pet dog, Ducky, is my world. I have loved her since the day that I found her on the road near my house. So many people love her playful, tender spirit and I often get the question, “What kind of dog is she?”

Before doing any research, I have always just assumed that she has some dachshund in her blood somewhere because of the resemblance in her face. She acts like a dachshund and sort of looks like one, only taller. I became curious myself and decided I wanted to find out for sure what sort of mix she is.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 9.54.31 AM

At our next visit to the vet, I brought up the question to the doc. He told me, in his professional opinion, that she may have some chihuahua in her lineage. He based this off of how nervous she would get around him. However, she has no temper or mean attitude that most chihuahuas I’ve met have so I wonder how accurate his opinion is. Other than that, perhaps some terrier because of the energy she has and her size.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 9.54.41 AM

As hopeful as I was for answers, the vet only gave me possible explanations. I began looking online to compare her to other breeds that I felt were similar. I’ve always thought that she resembled an italian greyhound based on the shape of her body, but there had to be more in the mix somewhere.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 9.54.51 AM

My only option in truly discovering the truth is to submit a DNA sample in order to receive accurate results. Unfortunately, the costs of these tests are quite high for mere curiosity.

So, for now I am satisfied with the not knowing. No matter her true breed mixture, she will always be a Ducky to me.

If you are interested in identifying your dog’s breed, you can follow a few of these steps that I’ve taken or you can even submit a DNA sample to be sure:

  • Compare breed pictures
  • Ask your vet’s opinion
  • Contact local kennel club
  • Submit a DNA sample





Part 5: North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park is located near Seattle, Washington, alongside the state’s border with Canada. The North Cascades seems to offer a wide range of accessibility to people of all interests and capabilities. For example, within the North Cascades one could go on a canoe trip while someone else is attempting to summit the nearly 10,000 ft. Mt. Shucksan, while another person may be studying the ecology of its gently sloped bottomland forest. Like many other parks that are situated in higher latitudes and accustomed to colder climates, the North Cascades offer the opportunity for researchers to see the direct and indirect effects of climate change. Major topics for scientific investigation include ecosystem and ecotone studies, such as habitat and species analysis in response to altered biomes. According to NPS research, invasive plants are a major problem in the park. NPS researchers are also responsible for a glacier monitoring program that studies variations and trends in the ice and its relation to climate change.


The mission of the park’s researchers is especially important since it is within driving distance of Seattle and Toronto, meaning there is extreme pressure to protect and preserve the park for future generations. Many of the problems that the North Cascades face are commonplace across the country. Like the Great Smoky Mountains, the North Cascades are frequently visited. The park seems to be suffering from such an overabundance of appreciation, because tourism is degrading the parks resources and habitats. The park’s trees are suffering heavily from an invasive species. In all corners of the park, tree species such as the North Cascades’ whitebark pine suffer from massive die offs and invasive beetles. The beetles are parasites that bore into the flesh of the tree, enabling other opportunistic diseases to proliferate and damage its structure. The Pine Beetle has become and endemic problem across the United States. Scientists in the North Cascades are studying whether warmer temperatures ushered in by climate change enable the beetle to have longer, more damaging seasons on the pines growth. To learn more about North Cascades National Park, click here.



Part 4 of 5: Katmai National Park

Looking at a map of Alaska, you will notice a long peninsula extending in a south-westerly direction into the north Pacific. Alaska’s “arm”, also known as the Katmai Peninsula, mirrors the iconic basis of most people’s mental picture of Alaska: tall and majestic snow-covered peaks adjacent to a deep-blue field of ocean speckled with sea ice.  This portion of Alaska is the product of powerful geologic processes. Katmai National Park & Preserve is located atop a highly volcanic zone known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Pacific Ring of Fire is a highly active subductive zone that is the result of ongoing geologic activity in the Pacific Ocean, which literally gives rise (altitude) to the distinct geography of the southern Alaskan-Pacific Coastline.

View from Dumpling Mountain Trail, Katmai National Park

In Katmai National Park & Preserve, volcanologists, geologists, and ecologists in addition to numerous other academic fields, study the effects of the 1913 Novarupta-Katmai eruption on natural and cultural resources. The eruption created a distinct feature called the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes when volcanic ash and magma were channeled by the Ukak River valley. The valley earned its namesake from pockets of moisture trapped under the surface which led to supercharged vents of steam escaping from the surface for decades to come.  The pyroclastic flow from the eruption literally vaporized and sublimated almost everything in its path. To date, the landscape is still considered to be volcanically active. Research in Katmai National Park contributes to the growing science of volcanology, which is still a hotly debated subject.

View from Brooks Camp, Katmai National Park

The National Park Service engages in many types of research in addition to geology and volcanology. Biologists working with the park service study how the effects of marine and aquatic pollution work their way up the food chain and cause deleterious effects in brown bears and other species that subsist off of coastal fisheries. NPS researchers in Katmai NP are also studying topics such as the Sea Star Wasting Disease, coastal ecology and oceanography, as well as social sciences and archaeology. Katmai National Park and Preserve is a fascinating site of cultural heritage and researchers often study interactions between ancient human settlements and the landscape. To learn more about Katmai National Park and Preserve, click here.