From Tasmania at around 10C to Missouri in the mid 30sC in 24 hours is a more than a bit of a shock to the system! I'm here for the eighteenth meeting of the International Association for Astacology, to meet all my crayfish pals, drink beer and swap stories for a week. That's what conferences are for, aren't they?
The trip over was no bother, except that my suitcase thought we were going to San Antonio again, and got to Dallas before someone caught up with it and delivered it here to Columbia, 24 hours later. I arrived a couple of days early, partly to take a look around and partly because I forgot about the International Date Line. In the event this was a Good Thing. I spent the first day (sock-less), exploring Columbia and the University of Missouri campus (which takes up a major part of the town). I'd hoped to buy some fresh socks, but downtown Columbia is stronger on coffee and pizza than on socks, but I coped and tried to stay out in the fresh air.
The "Mizzou" campus is impressive for its stock of neo-classical buildings, and indeed its sheer scale. Columns are big in Columbia, and the reasons stand in front of Jesse Hall, the centrepiece of the campus. The university was the first west of the Missouri River and the original building was on the grand scale, with great columns supporting its portico. But someone decided that the crowning dome would be a good place for a store of munitions (Civil War?), but the building caught fire...... and all that is left are the columns.
Jesse Hall, the epicentre of the Mizzou campus.
Note the columns.
Actually, its the Students Union building.
Having got my bag I was able to dress appropriately (shorts and teeshirt) and I hired a car to get out and see some birds at the Eagle Bluffs Conservation area, which is a restored wetland of many hectares on the floodplain of the Missouri. It was only a few miles out of town, and the traffic here is a good deal more placid than in Texas. But oh my it was hot, and so humid that it almost felt as though you could swim through the air. By lunchtime I had to retreat and find food, which I did at "Lucy's", the only option in MacBaine, Missouri.
Eagle Bluffs wetlands.
So hot, so humid.
The only place where mosquitos were a bother.
Lucy's, at MacBaine.
Airconditioned refuge, with cold beer (lite, of course).
Swarm of tiny fish in a Missouri backwater.
Back out again I saw plenty of birds, to say nothing of frogs, turtles, jack rabbits and a raccoon. But the strangest thing was a noise that came rapidly from behind me, sounding like the crackle that comes before a big crack of thunder. But the sky was blue, what on earth....? And then half a dozen deer erupted from the dense corn alongside the levee I was walking on at full speed, so fast that one of the bucks had a whole sweet corn plant entangled in his antlers! They kept running for more than a kilometre, and indeed all the wildlife here is very wary of people and even cars, suggesting that they get shot at quite often.
I've been conferencing for a day now, renewing old friendships and listening to some interesting talks, but needing a jumper n the lecture theatre because the aircon is set so cold! It's a pleasure to get back outside, at least for a while.
In the middle day of the conference they took us out for the day to the Shaw Nature Reserve, which is an annexe of the Missouri Botanic Garden, one of the world's great botanic gardens. They started up at Shaw when the air pollution in St Louis started killing the plants in the 1930s. It's a patch of upland forest, some restored tall grass prairie, wetlands and rivers (with crayfish). We had a sweaty, but interesting, afternoon being guided around.
Shaw Nature Reserve.
Lots of flowers. I didn't catch the name.
Some gorgeous butterflies.
But this was the main event.
Slightly frustrated crayfish biologists, since the water was too high to get into the river.
Now (Friday) the conference has finished officially, but we are off for a two day tour tomorrow.
And finally, hats off to Tasmanian giant freshwater crayfish legend, Todd Walsh and wife Bronwyn, who have travelled to the conference and beyond with Oscar (3), and Vincent (10 months). And the boys behaved wonderfully.
Todd & Bronwyn, with Oscar and Vincent.
Temperature at least 34C, humidity in the 90s!