The NCTC is in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, about 90 minutes from the Dulles Airport. Students interested in wildlife malaria have assembled from all regions of the world for this 4-day workshop. This is the third time that I have served as one of the instructors of the course, at this ideal location. There is a thick forest along the Potomac River, and plenty of insects and birds to keep us entertained. The buildings have the names of famous conservation advocates, like Rachel Carson, and I am staying in the Aldo Leopold dormitory. On the table in every room, like a conservation bible, sits Leopold’s “The River of the Mother of God”. The cafeteria has a huge salad bar, and plenty of options for all kinds of eaters, including vegans. This is the final course sponsored by the tremendously successful NSF Research Coordination Network, malariarcn.org. It is an intense workshop, with a considerable lab component, learning to identify avian blood parasites, and also theory of molecular methods. The laboratory facilities are superb, and comfortable; the ideal setting for serious learning.
Since the end of sabbatical, I have completely returned to the professor life, with a lot of lecturing, reading, writing and department meetings. As is the situation with all people working in education, we are certainly not doing this for the money. The reward is working with the students. For example, at this course, some of the students whom I met on my travels to South America and Europe, are now on their first visit to the USA. This experience will change their lives.
Now it is officially the fall, which is the best time to visit San Francisco. There have been quite a few unusually warm days, perfect for the beach. It is easy to fall into routines and habits, but I try to occasionally think of myself as a tourist, or a visitor, with fresh open eyes. To my friends: buy a ticket and come visit.
Last night upon arrival in Shepherdstown, some of us watched the super moon lunar eclipse. Here are a couple photos of the West Virginian blood moon. I have never seen anything like it before, and it was worth all the media attention. This conservation training center reminds us that we don’t need full blood moons to find the unusual beauty that is around us every day in nature.