Persian Poetry Night شب شعر

As a student of the Arabic language, I have learned a lot a bout Arabic literature and poetry and how important it is to the culture, but this year I had the opportunity to attend a Persian poetry night and learn about that as well. Although both languages use the same alphabet, save for a few extra letters and sounds in the Persian one, they are very different languages. They are not even part of the same language family! However, they both share certain cultural similarities since the histories of these regions are intertwined. As such, having this opportunity to attend Persian Poetry night was enlightening. In Persian, similar to Arabic, poetry and literature have very important roles in culture and they are valued. I was happy to see that the OU program also teaches an appreciation for this cultural aspect and I was glad I attended.

An old poster, but this years meeting took place over Zoom.


US Elections and Brazil

For Americans, it is easy to get absorbed in the centrality of the US and believe that the recent elections are consequential for countries all over the world, however, the truth is that while the US plays a big role in international affairs, it has very little impact in the domestic issues of other countries. In the lecture US elections and Brazil, we learned that although the US is discussed often in economic issues, it plays a little role else where. I was surprised to hear that the presenter, Paulo Moreira, thought that the recent election of Joe Biden did not signal a big switch in US policy towards Brazil, and that President Bolonaro, despite having lost an ally in Trump, would continue his current policies in Brazil. I certainly did not expect to learn as much as I did in this lecture, but it was a wonderful look at US-Brazil relations.


The Future of the European Union: The Transatlantic Relationship in the Wake of the American Elections

I received the invitation to this webinar from my professor in my European Union class. I was so fortunate to have this opportunity because I got to hear from European diplomats and American senators. With Joe Biden’s election as President, these officials showed optimist about the future of US-EU relations. The current administration has emphasized domestic affairs and internal institutions, but it has left many of our allies in a perpetually uncertain spot. One one side the US supports the EU, but it has also criticized them often. However, with President-elect Biden they are more sure of America’s backing. I was happy to hear from such knowledgeable people, and I hope I have another opportunity like this in the future.


Hangry Caterpillars

This NY Times article by Katherine J Wu discusses the monarch butterfly caterpillars’ behavior when food sources are diminished. Researchers have recently observed and studied caterpillars who, when food- stressed, use “bumping, boxing, and body-checking” to protect their food source. The caterpillar’s must consume large amounts of food before their metamorphosis transition into butterflies. This caterpillar aggression has been underappreciated and under- researched but could aid entomologists in the preservation of monarchs and milkweed plants. As milkweed plants continue to decline, this battle could be a key factor in monarch survival. Larva are born hungry and consume a significant amount of food as they grow in size. As caterpillars grew, their aggression increased, likely because food/energy consumption in these final stages before metamorphosis are especially important. Dr. Keene’s spouse observed this behavior in their backyard and Dr Keene, interested, looked for research on this but found none. He decided to fill the gaps.

This study discusses the aggression induced by limited resources in monarch caterpillars. The authors highlight the fact that food sources, like milkweed, can limit development in these species. The competition for food has shown to trigger aggressive or territorial behavior in a number of species. They found that monarch caterpillars can model resource availability and aggression interactions. The measured aggression by quantifying the number of aggressive attacks/physical contact and tracked the location and quantity of attacks throughout developmental stages. The display of these aggressive attacks or lunges become more common throughout development and peak just before metamorphosis, when demand for food is highest. These attacks also increased when food availability decreased/ was particularly low. The authors acknowledge a high level of variability between individual caterpillars.

Overall, I thought the NYTimes article did a good job of representing the scientific research. I think the purpose of the article is to share this novel behavior that has been observed in monarch caterpillars. The author acknowledges that there has been limited data surrounding this area and emphasizes the potential importance of researching this phenomenon/behavior as milkweeds (essential for monarch populations) are declining. The author also recognizes that this research has been conducted in a lab-setting which may provide different variables and circumstances and resulting behaviors in natural settings. I think these kinds of studies are important as they provide insight into how species will respond to changing environments, like reduced milkweed populations. As climate change continues to stress ecosystems around the world, I believe that an understanding and appreciation for this kind of research becomes increasingly important. (Not to mention, reading about hangry, boxing caterpillars is a nice escape from current COVID progressions/articles/stress).

Hannah Dillenbeck


Japanese Club Meetup

Japanese Club, like many other clubs, had difficulties this semester due to coronavirus. Given that I finished my Japanese coursework and was taking 18 hours I had a lot on my plate. However, that did not stop me from attending an informal meetup with my friends from Japanese club. It was very nice to see old friends and I was really happy to recount my experiences in Japan.


China’s Belt, Road, and Beyond

In the realm of international studies, discussions of China’s rising power status are never absent. It is such an interesting an important topic to talk about, that I was glad to have the privilege of attending Dr. Min Ye’s talk on China’s global infrastructure program. Having written extensively on the issue, she laid out the issue thoroughly and provided a balanced point of view on China’s actions, something often sorely lacking in Western hawkish coverage of the issue.


Kiwi Slang

In honor of the first anniversary of my return from New Zealand, I decided it would be appropriate to post about one of the most endearing aspects of New Zealand culture that I still miss from time to time: kiwi slang. After spending 4 1/2 months in Wellington and traveling throughout the North and South islands, I feel like I gained a pretty good understanding of life as a New Zealander and the common phrases that are used in day-to-day conversations. So, without further ado, here is a list of the most regularly-used kiwi sayings that we definitely don’t have in the U.S.

Kia Ora– Hello! the most common greeting to hear in New Zealand

Keen– interested in; want to

Do you want to go see the new Taika Waititi movie?”

yeah, I’d be keen!”

As– Used as a modifier to mean very

That fish was huge as!”


Sweet as, bro”

Eh?– huh? can also mean “isn’t it?”; this word is very frequently tacked onto the end of sentences for no apparent reason 🙂 




that’s quite weird, eh?”

Heaps– a lot; can be anywhere from 5 to 5,000 of something and any number in between

Cheers– thanks

Ta– also thanks!

No worries– you’re welcome, no problem; you’ll hear “no worries” in response to a  “ta”, “cheers”, or “thanks” far more often than any other phrase

Flick– send

keen to go out this weekend?”

ah yeah chur bro, flick me a text and we’ll plan something!”

Bro– mate, pal, friend

Chur– indicates approval, agreement, or appreciation; a generally pleased word meaning “cool”, “sweet”, “thanks”!

Lollies– candy

Bogan– the Kiwi version of a redneck

Petrol– gasoline

Yeah nah– a more polite way of saying no

Squiz– a quick look; check out

hey bro, do you reckon you could have a look at my paper? I don’t want to lose any marks and this prof is strict as!”

sure, I’ll have a squiz at it”

Bonus: New Zealand shoes

    jandals– flip flops, sandals

    gumboots– also known as wellies or wellingtons, these are classic rubber rain boots

New Zealanders have plenty of other unique phrases, but these are the ones that you will be guaranteed to hear on a regular basis if you have the opportunity to visit or live there. And with this NZ-US translation guide you’ll be speaking Kiwi English with the best of them in no time!

If anyone reading this post has any interesting or important Kiwi slang that I missed, I’d love to hear it–make sure to comment or shoot me an email and I can add it to the list; cheers!

Could biomining microbes help “Martians and Moon people” mine metals?

A NYTimes article by Kenneth Chang discusses microbes that may aid in separating rare earth elements from rock. These elements have proven critical for modern technology like cell phones as they provide for advanced lasers, metallic alloys, and impressive magnets. Mining these elements on Earth without the use of microbes can be quite challenging, requiring a lot of force and creating a significant amount of toxic waste. Researchers have investigated and identified microbes that catalyze the reaction and help extract these rare elements out of the earth. Researchers then wondered if these microbes would survive and function efficiently on Mars and other planets. They found that the Sphingomonas desiccabilis species of bacteria is unaffected by the different environment and gravitational forces on mars. In their study, they launched 36 sampled to orbit with basalt. 18 of these samples contained plain basalt while the other 18 contained one of three kinds of bacteria. It was found that, of the three species, S desiccabilis was the only species that created an increase in the rare elements extracted from the basalt, even in a zero-gravity environment. Follow-up SpaceX experiments will involve pieces of meteorites and fungi, rather than basalt and bacteria.

This study, entitled BioRock  examines this relationship between microbes and mineral mining in space. The authors explain that microbes can be used for this mineral extraction, generating oxygen and food, recycling waste and enhancing soil formation for plant growth. T0 investigate how microbes behave on diverse surfaces and within space environments. They studied how Spingomonas desiccabilis, Bacillus subtilis, and Cupriavidus metalliduras behaved and interacted with minerals (like basalt) in simulated space environments with low gravity at the international space station. They chose these organisms because they have been found mineral rich environments, can survive desiccation, can be grown in standard laboratory environments, and are safe to have on board the ISS. They use miniature BMRs to test how the microbes grow and interact with the minerals.

In this article, researchers tested these microorganisms and their ability to extract elements from basalt rock (found on the moon and Mars) on the ISS to test how they behaved in microgravity and simulated earth and mars gravities. They found that Bacillus subtilis had reduced efficacy. Cupriavidus metallidurans behaved similar to non- biological controls, and S desiccabilis enhanced the concentration of elements leached in all gravity simulations. They found S desiccabilis formed more extensive biofilms on the basalt compared to the other two species. Overall, they demonstrate the possibility of biologically mining crucial elements in space and in different gravity conditions and the leaching abilities of S desiccabilis which could be used in future biomining applications.

Overall, I think the researchers did a good job in presenting this data in a clear and understandable manner. I think the purpose of this article was to shed light on new technological advancements that may aid humans in the future and offer potentials for “future colonists” living in other areas of the solar system such as on the moon or Mars. Furthermore, just as biomining rare earth elements has advanced areas of modern technology,  the ability to mine elements in space could present more opportunity for technological developments. I think an awareness of this kind of research is important as we consider that fate of our Earth (especially if Earth’s climate change continues to be ignored).


Hannah Dillenbeck


How do Oxen survive the long-days and harsh nights of the Arctic?

This NY Times article by Veronique Greenwood discusses how Musk Oxen survive life in the Arctic. With the strange patterns in the arctic, these animals adopt cycles based on grazing and digesting in place of normal circadian rhythms. Researchers tracked oxen with GPS collars and monitored when the animals were eating, resting, or moving around. They analyzed if there were patterns/ rhythms in how these animals behaved and if these patterns repeated. Their findings did not align perfectly with normal circadian rhythms, implying that these animal aren’t repeating behavior every 24 hours. Rather, they foraged for periods less than 12 hours, and these rhythms appeared to change depending on the season. Researchers found that in the winter, with long nights, oxen maintained their cycles, but their  rhythms. In the long days of the summer months, when high quality food was nearby, oxen did not maintain their winter- time pattern and grazed continuously. However, in areas with low quality food, oxen maintained their patterns even in the warmer months. Researchers concluded that these cycles repeated on a scale of hours (not days) and that maintaining a rhythm may allow the oxen to maximize their energy from sparse food sources. Researchers wonder if this “free-for-all” mode in the summer-time may have a positive effect on survival and/or reproduction.

In a study  exploring how environmental conditions alter the behavior and rhythmic patterns of large arctic ruminants researchers suggest that a large number of biological rhythms, that differ from expected circadian rhythms, exist in response to environments like the arctic. They tracked artic musk oxen and modelled rhythmicity based on behavior and environmental factors. They found circadian rhythmicity throughout the year but, especially in winter months, ultradian rhythms (recurrent cycled repeated throughout the day) were more prevalent. Furthermore, this rhythm shifted with longer days in the summer depending on the resources available. With statistical analyses of their rhythmicity/ behavioral data, they concluded that these oxen use interval timers to schedule their foraging behavior when their resources are low but this timer is reduced when resources are high (and energetic reserves can be easily replenished).

Another study,  looking at circadian rhythms (measured by behaviors, heart rate, and temperatures) in reindeer, found that these animals did experience circadian rhythms, but these could be altered in changing environmental conditions. During polar nights, the rhythms were attenuated and free running but during the long days of summer, rhythms followed 24-hour cycles and shifted depending on daylight and foraging behaviors. These authors suggest that the variations in foraging behavior, metabolic activity and shifts in rhythmicity are adaptations to extreme seasonal changes and harsh conditions of the artic.

Overall, I think the NY Times article did a good job in explaining the science behind these animal’s behavioral rhythms. Greenwood described the rhythms of these animals, as compared to normal circadian rhythms, and discussed what factors may alter these patterns.  The popular article did not discuss all of the nuances and fine details of the data collected and the statistical analyses performed but, I think the purpose of this article was to discuss how these animals respond to their environment. Greenwood did a great job of synthesizing the data and making it a little more attainable and understandable for the general public to consume. This research is especially important as we continue to navigate climate change and try to predict how different species will (or won’t) be able to respond to their shifting environments.

Hannah Dillenbeck