Thursday, March 14, 2019

Travel: Day 4 - The Dandenong Range

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to one's heart. 

In January 2011 (and 2015), I taught Tropical Ecology  and, for one of the class activities, I took a group of students on a 10 day trip to Puerto Rico . (Click here to read about the trip to Puerto Rico). 

In January 2013, I taught Ecology of Australia and, naturally, it entailed a field trip to Australia! (Click here to read about the trip to Australia).

In January 2016, I taught Tanzania: Culture, Climate, and Connections and took students to Africa.


In 2018, a group of Midland University students embarked on a learning adventure to Australia for a course titled: Ecology, Environment, and Culture of AustraliaThis is what they gained on their learning adventure.

Click here for Travel: Day 1-3 - Lack of motion sickness

Day 4: Dandenong Range 

Subject Matter Expert - Allison Buehring

The Dandenong Mountain Range is named after an Aboriginal word called, tanjenong, which translates to ‘lofty’. This word has no real origin other than the fact that it was named after the nearby Dandenong creek. 

(Allison Buehring 2018)
This range is found in Southern Victoria, which is just East of Melbourne in the Highlands. These are low mountain ranges that have several peaks exceeding 1,600 feet. Mount Dandenong is 2,077 feet high and is the highest peak in these ranges. 

(Nick Carson, Wikipedia)

This mountain range is very fertile due to the coastal rains and volcanic soils, leaving the vegetation dense in its coverings. This gets twice as much rainfall as the coastal plains receive. 

(Tianna Bertram 2018)
The ranges are mostly comprised of rolling hills, steeply weathered valleys, and gullies (a channels cut into the soil, in hillside formed by running water). The type of vegetation here is a thick temperate rainforest, which contains tall Mountain Ash trees along with dense fern-like undergrowth. 

(Erikur Arnason 2018)
Starting in 1882 lots of the parklands were protected, but intensive expansion created the Dandenong National Park in 1987. In 1997 the ranges were further expanded. These ranges receive moderate snowfall a few times a year, within the months of later winter into late spring. . The drier ridges are where the Eucalyptus regnans (Mountain Ash Forest) are exposed on the northern slopes and are covered by dry sclerophyll forest and stringy barks and box. This range experiences bush fires quite often as they are in the drier portion of the forest. There are 10 plus creeks trialing through these ranges along with two major water falls (Olinda Falls and Sherbrooke falls) along with quite a few summits. The climate is mild and wet with temperatures as low as 1 degree in the winter. Precipitation is common all year round, but peaks between April and October. Heavy fog is common within these ranges. 

Currently, the Dandenong Ranges occupy nearly 100,000 residents and allows lots of attractions with its National Parks. 

(Michael Taddonio 2018)
After reaching the Forest, all of us went for a walk on one of the many trails leading away from the Visitor Center.

(Erikur Arnason 2018)
After the walk, we had some English tea and scones before embarking on a learning tour of the forest along another, longer trail. Along the way, Manish talked about the history, geography, and ecological features of the forest.

(C.S. Manish 2018)
The mountain range is the remains of an extinct volcano that was active nearly 373 million years ago. The composition of it is mostly Devonian dacite and rhyodacite. The topography of this consists of lot of ridges dissected by deep cut streams. As mentioned already, lot of gullies are found in the southern portion of the range. These gullies are full of lots of fern. The drier ridges are where the Eucalyptus regnans (Mountain Ash Forest) are exposed on the northern slopes and are covered by dry sclerophyll forest and stringy barks and box. This range experiences bush fires quite often as they are in the drier portion of the forest. There are 10 plus creeks trialing through these ranges along with two major water falls (Olinda Falls and Sherbrooke falls) along with quite a few summits. 

We stopped briefly for the traditional "squad" picture.

(C.S. Manish 2018)

(C.S. Manish 2018)
At the Visitor Center, for a token price, guests are allowed to feed wild cockatoos that live in the mountains.

(Erikur Arnason 2018)
After a sumptuous meal, cooked on the barbeque pits provided by the facility (a feature we learned was common to most of the sites we visited) we headed back to Melboune. Some of the students went back to the ocean for another dip after which we packed our suitcases, placed them in storage, and got ready for the next adventure on our list - the drive into Australia's famed Outback.

Day 5 - To the Outback!


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Travel: Day 1-3 - Lack of motion sickness

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to one's heart. 

In January 2011 (and 2015), I taught Tropical Ecology  and, for one of the class activities, I took a group of students on a 10 day trip to Puerto Rico . (Click here to read about the trip to Puerto Rico). 

In January 2013, I taught Ecology of Australia and, naturally, it entailed a field trip to Australia! (Click here to read about the trip to Australia).

In January 2016, I taught Tanzania: Culture, Climate, and Connections and took students to Africa.


In 2018, a group of Midland University students embarked on a learning adventure to Australia for a course titled: Ecology, Environment, and Culture of Australia. This is what they gained on their learning adventure.
Day 1-3:

The excitement of traveling abroad vastly compensated for the really long time (and changes of flights) it takes to get to Melbourne from Omaha. Luckily, all the details of the trip were very well taken care of by an Australia-based adventure travel company, Ozi Expeditions.



And away we go....
(C.S. Manish 2018)

We left Omaha in the afternoon of Day 1. A brief layover in Denver was followed by a flight to Los Angeles, where we completed all our international travel check-ups and boarded the looooooong flight to Melbourne around 10:30pm. By the time we landed in Melbourne it was 7:30am on Day 3, thanks to our crossing the International Date Line. "Day 2" was therefore spent somewhere over the Pacific on a plane and did not exist in our timelines.

Clearing Immigration in Melbourne was not much of a hassle and a relieved group assembled for the first (of many, many) group pictures.

Back row (L to R): Sean Kelley, Michael Taddonio, Tieryn Arens, Paige Kapperman, Tianna Bertram, Payton Coon, Derrick Kruetzfeldt, Allison Buehring, Logan Paasch
Front row (L to R): Erikur Arnason, Fred Wigington, Tanner Swett
(C.S. Manish 2018)

We were received by the Ozi Expedition guides - Damian, Peter, Eddie, and Barry (and the other Peter, in absentia), who also doubled up as our drivers for the trip. Since we were going to be traveling deep into the heart of the Australian Outback, we were also accompanied by a nurse (Jodi) for any emergencies, medical or otherwise.

After collecting our bags, we got into 5 vehicles and went to a youth hostel. After freshening up, we went right back to downtown Melbourne as we had an entire day ahead of us.

We began a tradition that would last for the duration of the trip . The first photograph of each day was a group photo of our shoes


For each day of the trip, a student was assigned the task of doing background research and informing the group about the sights we saw and the places we visited. The city of Melbourne was research by Derrick Kruetzfeldt. Here are some excerpts from his findings:

Settled by the British in the late 1830s, Melbourne has a population of over 4.7 million making it the second most populous city in Australia. Located on the southern most part of Australia, Melbourne is in the state of  Victoria and is a very popular tourist destination.

(C.S. Manish 2018)
Melbourne is a very walking-friendly city and usage of public transportation is encouraged by the government by not charging patrons using the trams in the Central Business District. This significantly reduces traffic since visitors can simply park on the edge of the city and then ride the extensive network of trams for free to get across town for no additional cost.

(C.S. Manish 2018)
A hidden jewel of Melbourne is the street art (graffiti) that is encouraged and supported in certain locations. One such location is opposite Federation Square, joining Flinders Lane and Flinders Street - it is a cobblestoned street closed to traffic called Hosier Lane. Almost any surface is covered with creative graffiti honoring many known and unknown artists and ideas.


Melbourne is known for three very popular sports played in iconic sporting arenas. The Australian Football League and Cricket are played at the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground (commonly referred to by the locals as the G), which can seat more than 100,000 fans.


Melbourne is located on the Southern Ocean but not many people swim in it, especially during the winter months when it can get very cold. The Melbourne’s beach/coastline stretches out for more than over 2000 kilometers and has diverse creatures such as jellyfish, bull sharks, great white sharks, and even octopuses in it.

Swimming in the ocean in the winter is not for the faint of heart but Logan Paasch was definitely not going to be denied. Having never seen the ocean in his life, Logan was determined to take a dip it it no matter what.


After dinner at the hostel, Damian took us on a leisurely walk to St. Kilda beach (a couple of blocks from the hostel), where he sprung a surprise on us - a visit with penguins! The St Kilda breakwater at the end of the St Kilda Pier is home to a colony of Little Penguins. At the end of each day, just around dusk, come penguins swim back to the breakwater, climb out of the water and waddle over the breakwater rocks to their nests among the rocks.

(Tianna Bertram 2018)

(Tianna Bertram 2018)
This was an eminently satisfactory way to end our first day in Melbourne. 

Next up: Day 4 - The Dandenong Mountains and a walk through an old growth forest





Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Travel: Day 0 - Tanzania - An African adventure begins

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to one's heart. 

In January 2011, I taught Tropical Ecology  and, for one of the class activities, I took a group of students on a 10 day trip to Puerto Rico. (Click here to read about the trip to Puerto Rico). 

In January 2013, I taught Ecology of Australia and, naturally, it entailed a field trip to Australia! (Click here to read about the trip to Australia).

In 2016, a group of 14 Midland University students embarked on a learning adventure to Tanzania, led by Dr. Jamie Simpson and me. The course was titled - Tanzania: Culture, Climate, Connections
Here’s a note from Jamie to start us off:
3 flights, 14 students, 15 days, 1 Kilimanjaro, 4 safari nights, 2 hospitals, 3 universities, 2 schools, 1 Evangelical Church of Tanzania, 2 parishes, endless memories!
Participants: Standing L-R - Kyle Courtright, Jonah Hoshino, C.S, Manish, Rebecca Walker, Mandi Uecker, Victoria Tuttle, Jamie Simpson, Amy Aufenkamp
Kneeling L-R - Jessica Harms, Emily Wiegand, Rachael Lehr, Paige Clemmons, Jessica Nekl, Ana Guenther, Sarah Hill, Elise Hubel
Tanzania here we come! Keep reading to learn more about what we did!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Change is everything

I can put this item to rest. Virat Kohli, in his 40th Test match, led an side unchanged from the previous one!

Virat Kohli has captained India in 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 Test matches*. The most incredible fact that I can report from this is that India has never fielded the SAME playing 11 in consecutive matches under his watch. Every match has featured a change from the previous one.

Update: Sourav Ganguly once had a 29 Test streak like this as captain. That's done and dusted with now!

India has lost only 8 Tests under Kohli. I guess there is some method to his madness. His overall record sits at - 39* Tests captained, 22 wins, 8 losses, 9 draws.

For comparison:
MS. Dhoni: 60 Tests, 27 wins, 18 losses,  15 draws
Sourav Ganguly: 49 Tests, 21 wins, 13 losses, 15 draws


P.S. Yes, I know that injuries have forced his hand on multiple occasions.

* Updated as of the end of the Fifth Test match - September 2018 against England

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Linked up

1) I do not follow Major League Baseball closely any more. I'd be hard-pressed to name 5 players who are currently active. The first name that comes to mind, though, is Ichiro Suzuki. I recently wondered whether he had retired and came across this haunting, haunting piece about Ichiro - the man who has become the very thing he hated to become as a 3 year old. Very sad.

2) If a tree is falls in a forest but there is no one to hear it does it make a sound? The best bowling analysis EVER in a T20 match happened at Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad but to the cricketing it world it does not exist. Alfred Absolem took a scarcely believable  7 wickets for 15 runs but his achievement will probably never be acknowledged because it was a played between two teams in the Indian Cricket League (ICL) which was obliterated by the IPL/BCCI within a few years.

3) The only NFL player I actually wanted to watch in person was Randy Moss. I managed to do it once at Ford Field in Detroit. If you want to know why he has great, watch this: EVERY TD of his greater than 40 yards. Mind you, these are only those that were 40 yards or longer....


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The unluckiest man in the world

Some time ago, Steven Smith had a "brain fade" in India. And the first time he made the mistake, he got caught and apologized for it.
... because that was certainly the only moment that ever happened
A few days ago, Steven Smith made a "poor choice" in South Africa. And the first time he made the mistake, he got caught and apologized for it.
This is the first time it has happened under my leadership. 
Poor guy. He has the worst luck in the world. Imagine how he must feel knowing that the first time he does something wrong, he gets caught right away.

Yeah, right!!! "First time" indeed.

Hmpff...where's the sarcasm font when you need it?

The Price of Power

Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad with power
Charles A. Beard

One week ago, Steven Smith was the undisputed leader of the Australian team. Of late his batting had reached a plane occupied by only The Don himself. He led a rout of the English in the Ashes and began the tour of South Africa with a thumping win in the first Test. Life was good. 

Today, he stands on the cusp of the unknown, his Fate hanging in the balance, to be determined by others whom he has no control over. A rabid mob is baying for blood, happily throwing stones from glass houses, determined to bring down a man who was flying so high, he didn't realize he was getting perilously close to the sun.

Paradoxically, even as the sun is melting his wings it has begun to set on his playing career. Not in the physical sense. Smith will come back from this after serving whatever ban is imposed on him. He is 28 years old and, I suspect, will be given a one year ban from the game. Much like Shane Warne's one year exile in 2003 did no damage to his ultimate playing aura, Smith's year in absentia will not impede him too much.   

The sun is, however, setting on his reputation. Once someone is labeled a cheat, that sticks for life no matter how hard you try to make amends for it. Especially in today's world of instant condemnation and slow forgiveness.

I'm not sorry for Steve Smith. He decided to cheat and should pay the price for doing it. Most importantly, because it was premeditated.

Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching you.

Unfortunately, for Steve Smith, over 30 cameras were watching closely. Thank heavens they were.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The razor's edge of tomorrow

Picture this: India is batting in the third inning of a Test match. It is midway through Day 4 and the team is trailing by 125 runs. One need not know too much about Indian cricketing history to know how the rest of the story plays out. In an attempt to play for a draw, some of the most elegant and exciting batsmen in the world will will eschew every risk known to batsmankind and block every delivery that comes their way. Soon, the pressure will build, a tiny mistake will be made and a feeble lead will eventually be produced before, on Day 5, the opposing team polishes away a small target with the loss of a couple of wickets, thereby giving the Indian team "something to build on".

In the most recent Kolkata Test match between Sri Lanka and India, India began the second inning staring at a 120-odd run deficit. But this Indian team, under Virat kohli's bristling, in-your-face leadership is a different beast altogether. Soon it is 166 for no loss in 37 overs...and the match transforms.

But, there is a twist in the tail. Day 5 begins with the Indians playing a subdued game and staring at difficult times with the lead just 170 runs when the 7th wicket fell.

At that point in time, Virat Kohli was batting time, still managing to be on 58 off 93 balls. The game was in the balance and, breathtakingly, the anti-Tendulkar came to the fore. Rather than retreat into a shell, and try to shield the tail, Kohli went into ODI-mode and took the attack to the Sri Lankans. Boundary after boundary followed and the Indian captain turned the match on its head with a totally-safe but very aggressive display of walking the talk. In the next 28 balls, he scored 46 of the most risk-free but dashing runs imaginable and reached 104 not out with an inside-out six over wide mid-off that was as exciting as it was inevitable. And then India declared! Setting Sri Lanka 237 runs to get off (possibly) 40 overs. Realistically, because of the deteriorating light conditions it was closer to 30 overs and the Indian bowlers came to the party with a vengeance.

Bhuvaneshwar Kumar repaid his captain's faith (11-8-8-4) and when light finally rescued the Sri Lankans, they were tottering at 75 for 7.

A stunning turnaround orchestrated by a man who is, hastily, rewriting how the rest of the cricket world is going to view Indian cricketers. In a good way.

Virat Kohli just turned 29, scored his 50th international century, captained the 30th Test of his career, and oddly, looks like he is just now getting started.

Suddenly, away tours to South Africa, Australia, England and New Zealand don't seem as daunting any more.