Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Yunnan Province, China 2018

Yunnan Province, China
Sunday 1 July 2018.  

We head off to Yunnan with a gang of eight -- Minxia and Sichi and Minxia's mom; Yi and Miao; and the three of us.  Two flights with a brief layover in Kunming.  Everyone was so excited to go to Dali because it is beautiful and cool at a higher elevation.  Turns out YouJun, a professor at Dali University, had done his PhD in the Yu lab and so was really close friends with everyone, and he spent most of our week in Yunnan with us.  We stayed in the ancient town, at the south end of Yuer St., and spent a lot of time wandering among the many thousands of tourists, checking out shops, eating over-the-bridge noodles, flower cakes, and any interesting street foods we found. 
Eli and I have been keeping track of the westerners we've seen since arriving in China.  We are now up to 7, including our time in Shanghai and Guangzhou.  Even surrounded by many thousands of tourists, there are remarkably few non-Chinese.  

Monday 2 July 2018. 
Fun to walk through the ancient Dali city before breakfast while everyone is setting out their vegetables and warm buns and wares for sale. Inspiring seeing groups of older people doing Tai Chi or Square Dancing, sometimes to a disco beat with line dancing.

After breakfast all piled into a rented van and drove all the way around Lake Erhai.  We were struck on the drive in from the airport how many large new buildings seems unfinished, and we learned why.   The shoreline of Erhai has been developing rapidly in recent years, with lots of largish hotels lining the shoreline.  But President Xi visited Dali a while ago and declared it was a jewel that needed to be protected from the influx of pollution and development pressure, so ordered all the lake-shore hotels closed.  There they stand, abandoned.  From our inquiries, there doesn't seem to be any plan to tear them down, or convert them, just let them stand. We thought they could be readily turned into awesome, green, limnology research centers.

Still, there the land around the lake is extremely fertile -- deep rich black soil, with thriving and diverse agriculture.  Our Bai driver said it was nearly all organic.

Fishing in the lake is highly restricted to only a month or so each year (although there are plenty of individuals doing personal or small-scale fishing), and swimming is prohibited because of high risk of schistosomiasis.  So it is a huge, beautiful lake, completely surrounded by a city of about a million, but with almost no human interaction except scenic beauty.
Bai woman weaving rope from old fishing nets
One of the many places set up to take photos,
everywhere we went.

Yunnan is populated not just by the majority Han people, but by a number of minority ethnic groups. Dali has a large population of Bai people, many of whom wear traditional brightly colored clothes, vests, and headwear.  I'm not clear about what proportion of the population is Bai, as many do not dress in any distinctive way.  They do have a very distinctive language, but they would only converse in Mandarin with our friends, since they did not speak Bai.

This trip around the lake included a stop at the heart of tie-dying.   Spectacular vegetable-died cloths, mostly a rich blue.  We got to give it a try with simple versions.

Tuesday 3 July 2018. 
Visited Dali University today, where YouJun is professor.  Because too few of the professors and students there spoke English, they decided that Grad Student Yi Zheng would represent the group in giving a talk. He talked about a project that Ingrid and I are collaborators in, so it was really useful for us to see what the questions were and think more about how the story can come together.  Dali University is on top of a really steep hill, and we took a taxi there from our hotel.  But the guards wouldn't let the taxi in, and we all had to run up hundreds of steps (already at 9,0000 feet) to get to the conference room (almost) on time for the talk.  Poor Yi! 

The university is fairly new and rapidly growing, and architecturally very impressive.  they have a great museum of natural history -- beautifully and informatively displayed, from fungi to plants to mammals to fish to geology.  The faculty collaborated to make a super video about the three-parallel rivers region, starting with the geologic development of the Himalayan mountains and on the ecology of the regions.  Really well done.  Great screen-based displays about research at the university, and a hallway of photos with spectacular natural history on one side and environmental destruction on the other.  They have a very strong emphasis on conservation science. 

Wednesday 4 July 2018. 
Took a 2-day trip a bit further north to Lijiang.  From there we got a serious 10-km workout today at the Tiger Leaping Gorge over the Jinsha tributary to the Yangtze with Yi and Miao.  It was a long climb down, and a long climb up (including a really, really long ladder), with a roaring river the whole time. What an amazing and exhausting trip.  The pictures speak for themselves.

 This ladder went on, and on, and on. 

Thursday 5 July 2018.  
Another great day in the mountains, this time taking the Cangshan Mountain Cable car up to 3900m just above Dali, where they have installed a very long series of boardwalk to allow ready access with minimal damage through the spruce-rhododendron forest.  Some 50 species of rhododendrons (just past peak flowering) and tremendous diversity of other flowering plants (we took photos of dozens of species), while climbing up and down hundreds of steps in steep, cloud covered mountains with little oxygen.  A botanists paradise!

Ingrid hanging a wish bell
Glacier-carved Wash Horse Lake

After a wonderful three weeks, back to Guangzhou for a few more research meetings, then 30+ hours of traveling to Gamboa, Panama for a short 3-week field season. 

Wow.  What a trip. 

Guangzhou 2018

Guangzhou, China
Greg's former postdoc Minxia Liang invited us to visit her at Sun Yat-sen University.  We've had collaborations with the lab of Professor Shixiao Yu for a number of years (where Minxia is a research scientist), and this was an opportunity to learn about what the students there are doing, give talks about our research, visit one of the nearby ForestGEO research plots, develop a couple collaborations, and eat lots and lots of great food.

Wednesday 27 June 2018. 

We flew from Shanghai to Guanghzhou, and Xubing Liu (another collaborator associated with the Yu lab) picked us up.  We got settled into the hotel on the main campus of the Sun Yat-sen University.  After an evening stroll on the path along the Pearl River, Minxia took us out for a boat tour on the Pearl River, with brightly lit boats and an even more brightly lit skyline.

Thursday 28 June 2018.
Darwin at Sun Yat-sen University
Met with some grad students to talk research, and Eli went off with a grad student Ivy for the day of riding all the roller coasters (including one with an essentially vertical drop) at the Chimelong Amusement park, and then at night for a circus.  We headed out to the East Campus of SYSU and gave back-to-back research talks. Unlike most places we'd give talks, there were dozens of people working on disease ecology, maintenance of diversity, and phylogenetic ecology in forests - areas really close to our themes.  That meant the kind of questions we got were much more challenging than we would usually get, which was much fun!

Friday 29 June 2018. 

Eli headed off with Ivy again to the Chimelong safari park, and Greg and Ingrid had a day-long workshop with all the grad students of Prof. Yu, Xubing, and Minxia, talking about their research.  So much exciting work on disease, mycorrhizae, and plant diversity-ecosystem function in that lab group.
Yu lab at Sun Yat-sen University

As in Shanghai, bikes are everywhere, including public use bikes and tricked-out bikes with rain bibs and attached umbrellas.  

Saturday 30 June 2018. 
20-ha Dinghushan
A bunch of grad students and postdocs took us to the 20-ha ForestGEO plot at Dinghushan.  
So much fun to walk through a sister plot to the UCSC FERP and meet the director. 

Thousand-person pot to throw wish ribbons into
The plot is actually built around ancient Buddhist temples, which is a bit trippy, and is really steep. Thousands of visitors to the temples, walking up the road, and there is just a gated path off the road in to the plot. The botanizing was fascinating -- it was a generous blend of California, Panama, and Australia; the dominant trees were Fagaceae, but with nasty recurved-spined palm vine Calamus that brought back nightmare memories of Cape Trib, and then melastomes and pipers in the understory.   Major heart- and butt-rot happening on the dominant Castanopsis, part of major dynamics in the forest structure.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Shanghai 2018

So this isn't sabbatical, but another family travel adventure.  We have three week in China, visiting Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Dali.    Thought we should add to the blog to share and remember all the wonderful things we have been doing.

We were visiting the lab of Professor Shurong Zhu at Fudon University in Shanghai, with which Greg has had a long-distance collaboration.  This was the first  time to meet them. We spent a full day with all the graduate students, learning about their projects and exchanging ideas, exploring some possible projects, and Greg, grad student Xiang Liu, and Shurong finished up and submitted a manuscript to Ecology Letters.  
Greg and Ingrid were invited by Shurong Zhu to help teach the Fudon University Summer School Course in Ecology, with 200+ graduate students and young investigators (from more than 3,000 applicants) from all over China.   We gave our lectures there on 26 June 2018.  The students were incredibly attentive and asked lots of great and insightful questions after the talks.  Ingrid presented mostly on our work on phylogentic disease ecology and our clover studies, and Greg talked mostly about how diseases may help maintain plant diversity and work on tree diseases in Panama.

Greg eating scorpions.  The third one 'stung'
back and scratch his lip!
Before and after our talks we explored the Shanghai area, mostly guided by graduate students.  Fei Chen took us to the Zhujiajiao water town, and ancient part of the Shanghai, still inhabited but also protected to maintain the old structures.  We spent the day wandering beautiful old gardens and eating everything on sale by street vendors that we either didn't recognize or had never eaten before.  Some highlights, among many, were scorpions, spicy grilled bullfrog on a stick, taro root, duck intestines, baby quail, and a broad array of seeds and fruits.
On a boat in Zhufiajiao with Fei

Silk Embroidery

Quail eggs, quail, baby quail, and duck intestines. 
All delicious!

Spicy bullfrog on a stick

 The evening place to be is the Bund, the waterfront of Shanghai. On one side of the water are the old classical bank buildings, mostly build by concessions to the French, British, and Americans long ago as the banking district. Across the water is an amazing array of giant buildings, all brightly lit, build it the last few decades.  

In the daytime, at the People's Park, there was a Marriage Market, where parents put out umbrellas with descriptions of their 30-something unmarried kids, looking to introduced them to appropriate partners, since they were too busy to find their own spouses. 

In the Shanghai museum, we saw wonderful art from across China.  We especially appreciated the displays on art and clothes from minority ethnic groups.  It was hard to imagine wearing this salmon-leather suit, though.

We got to spend a lot of time taking the subway around to different parts of Shanghai, and felt quite confortable getting around.  We got a little lost in what must be the world's largest underground food court, below "colored egg" sculpture, but later had a wonderful meal there.

We took a day trip to Sozhou on the high-speed mag-lev train (300 km/h). We wandered the old Ping Jiang water town, with houses built along canals, and up Tiger Hill to see the famous leaning tower.

As always we ate well, walked a lot, and took in the diverse sites, smells, and bustle of this part of China.  
A highlight was the Humble Administrator's Garden, constructed in the 1400s, with spectacular water-feature gardens and a suite of beautiful buildings.  It is really interesting to compare what was being constructed here at the same time as so much of the architecture and art we was in Spain during our sabbatical. 
Ping Jiang historic water town

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Weekend in Paris

What would a year in Europe be without a weekend in Paris?  We had a wonderful extended May-day weekend of museums, masterpiece hunting, towers, monuments, food, and a visit with co-sabbaticaller Daniel Press and his family.  

The Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Pompidou, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Montparnasse Tower at night, Mass in Notre Dame, Montmartre, Sacré-Coeur, Champs-Élysées, steak tartar (for Eli), baguettes and cheese, and so many kilometers of walking. 

A sample of impressions from d'Orsay

Louis Pasteur - ScienceTechEngArtMath

Traffic from Arc de Triomphe