4th grade presentation: water treatment on the Oregon trail

Austin Bouck classroom presentation
Apparently I have T-Rex arms here…I was excited!

I had the honor once again to make a presentation to two 4th grade classes at a local elementary school during their Oregon Trail unit. The question posed to the students was:

Your wagon train has broken down, and you need to find water for your entire group. What can you do to make sure the water is safe?

I came in to cover the topic of water treatment. The presentation was based on several key points:

  1. What kinds of hazards/dangers do you need to address with water (or food in general)?
  2. What did pioneers on the Oregon trail know about these hazards in 1811-1840? (hint: no germ theory yet)
  3. Which hazards do different treatments address, and which ones would have been available at the time?

The presentation consists of me blabbering and motioning wildly, a powerpoint, and a visual aid. The visual is a set of configurable pegboards to represent different filtration “pore” sizes, and demonstrate how effective they might be depending on the situation.

4th grade Oregon Trail unit on water filtration
Steeper slope=more water pressure. Bill Nye, whenever you’re ready to have me on…

I can’t post the ppt here because I’m certain I used a number of copyright images. However I was able to record the presentation this year, so I can make the audio available. It’s about 25 minutes long including the questions. But if you’re into this kind of thing, or want to learn about different water treatments, enjoy!

Where your author is coming from

The Dog Zombie (a blogger I regularly follow and is often seen on ASR) took the time to mention an address made at the 2nd UK Conference of Science Journalists, which began with a call to action:

“I think every writer, every journalist, every scholar, should tell you where he’s coming from before he tells you what he knows.”

She herself took the time to do this on her blog and I think it’s not a bad idea. While the About section on ASR gives you a good overview of my experience and education, perhaps a little more insight into my background will give readers a better hold on my personal biases, and they’ll be able to evaluate my opinions using those tools to judge them for themselves. So here we go!


Culturally, I am an Oregonian. While I was born in Washington and spent a few years in Texas, the majority of my sentient time growing up has been in Central Oregon, and the almost all of my education has been provided for me  in this state. I was raised within the Lutheran church, and consider myself a spiritual individual though I keep that part of my life fairly private. Socially, I’m an extrovert who believes that maturity is simply knowing when and where to be immature. Politically, I tend to be liberal on most social issues, but conservative when discussing economics and constitutional rights. Musically, I’m a long time musician who’s willing to listen to anything once, but I lack the energy or motivation to keep up with popular music of my own time. My favorite songs or pieces are usually from movie or video game scores, and I enjoy jazz and classic rock. Intellectually, I consider myself a scientist not only from my education but my need to question statements posed as fact, reluctance to describe in absolutes, and desire to evaluate evidence. I pride myself on being able to prove my own opinions wrong when presented with contradicting evidence. My desire is to someday be “an expert in my field” and make an impact on the world (at least in my field), but I haven’t yet found what that will exactly be. I love learning new things and often try to do too many new or different things, becoming a jack of all trades, when I really need to limit my interests to become a master of one.

My current goals surround gaining admission to veterinary school, however I do not see that as my only option for a career in veterinary medicine. Combined with my love of research and budding interest in microbiology, a pHD in veterinary medicine, microbiology, or public health would also allow me to study animal medicine and make my impact. I believe that scientific communication between the academic pedestal and the public is vital to making the changes to consumer and industry perspectives that will be necessary to continue feeding the world in a way that is ethical, realistic,  and sustainable. My hope is that in the future as an “expert” I can continue to find ways to reach out to those not reading journals through extension or my own personal efforts/publications.

Link: In thinking about the future of veterinary medicine…

The Dog Zombie just published a post describing their feelings as they finish Vet School. It’s a profound and inspiring essay, and I encourage everyone in my position, anxiously awaiting if you’ll get to attend school this year, to give it a read. I personally hope DZ will be hiring when I graduate, or even giving the commencement when I walk.

The post is titled “Navel Gazing with a Dog Zombie”

Guest post on ASAS Graduate BULLetin

Madeline McCurry-Schmidt is a great writer, and like me, didn’t grow up in an animal science background. She writes for ASAS Graduate BULLetin and does a great job of detailing her experience and providing great information for graduate students, including job postings! I also discovered the American Society of Animal Science through her site, and am now an undergraduate member. I probably won’t be able to take advantage of many of the benefits, but for undergraduates, membership is free, so you have nothing to lose by joining.

Anyway, after reading some of her stuff, I asked Madeline if I could write a guest post for the Graduate BULLetin and she was kind enough to publish it. So feel free to go read it there, and check out some of the other great content on her site.

Reference: University of Illinois lactation biology website

In searching for information on mastitis, I came across this treasure trove of information. It was too good for me not to post here. It’s got great summaries, information, and a large collection of case studies. I almost wish the site itself was a book I could keep on the shelf, but for now I’ll just add it to my favorites. I want to recommend the page covering mastitis treatment and control for some light reading. It gives a really quick dirty rundown on industry methods and research. I was especially interested in the attempts to make vaccines, specifically ones for Staphylococcus Aureus, which can cause chronic infections that force dairy farmers to cull cows.

If you want to learn more about lactation biology, or are a student studying milk production, you need to visit this site and use it as a resource. Thank you to Dr. Walton Hurley for making your teaching materials available to everyone.


Book: Domestic Animal Behavior for Veterinarians and Animal Scientists – Katherine A. Houpt

After a year-and-a-half of on and off reading, I’ve finally finished Domestic Animal Behavior for Veterinarians and Animal Scientists, 4th edition. It’s only about 400 pages, but it’s technically a textbook, and by no means light reading. I got through it by taking it a couple pages at a time, which allowed me to process the information and apply it to things I was learning and reading elsewhere.

It was a great resource for me, as someone who has few experiences working with production animals, to learn common behaviors and methods of correction for domestic species I was less familiar with. I’m sure a lot of it is common knowledge to someone who grew up around cattle, horses, sheep, and swine. But for someone like me who hasn’t spent years observing those animals, the book provided a lot of observations that I haven’t been able to see myself. Grazing and sexual behaviors were particularly interesting to me, and were covered well.

One of my favorite parts of the book was its depth. Each chapter is specific to one behavior aspect (e.g. “Communication”, “Aggression and Social Structure”, “Circadian Rhythms and Sleep”, and “Food and Water Intake”), then breaks it down by species, and then further breaks it down based on problems specific to that species, finally discussing relevant studies. I actually spent quite a few lunch breaks at the clinic last summer reading this book and asking the veterinarians questions.

The language and voice of the book tends to be pretty abstract, but occasionally makes suggestions to scientists studying/raising the species being discussed. The arguments are very compelling when they are immediately preceded by an experiment summary that supports them. The book also does a great job of identifying gaps in the reviewed literature, and asks great questions about continuity. It often seems to be giving a big hint or nudge to animal researchers to explore a specific topic.

Overall, I highly recommend this textbook for anyone interested in behavior or may want to learn more about domestic species. It covers a ton of the physiology and pharmacology behind the decisions animals make, and is a great example of technical but achievable language that animal science/veterinary students should be familiar with. I’ll definitely be keeping it as a desk reference and referring to it whenever starting a project with a new species.