quarta-feira, 27 de novembro de 2013

Long time since I last typed some stuff here...
Many things have happened since April 2012. After that, I went back to Terceira for a short period of time to finish my Ms subjects and to work on the Azorean new species of endemic spiders that I have shown here in a previous post. The summer of 2012 was probably the only Summer in my life where I didn't attend the beach even once because I spent it working on my Masters thesis! My priority was to finish before the end of September so I didn't have to enroll again in the new scholar year (and pay additional fees, too). Many sunny afternoons were passed indoor, reading, testing and debating stuff with my supervisors. But in the end, it was done, and presented in the end of January 2013:
The presentation and debate with the juri went very very smooth as I was expecting more difficult questions about the work. 
and continue to work on the azorean linyphiids, boy are they demanding... difficult genera, tough luck.). This was my last stop in Terceira and the Azores to the present date. I left many friends there, most of whom I will only see in years to come, and overall the Azores was a great experience, although I need to move on from those interesting rocks in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean.

After this, I scheduled to meet Sandra at Utrecht once again. In this period, two
highlights were the trip to a Nature Reserve next to the coast, where we actually managed to spot a deer. Sandra managed to take some photos before he eventually vanished in the blink of an eye. Ah, in this day I also put my feet in the coldest water I have ever stepped into. Not a pleasant experience!
We also took 1 day to visit Leiden and the Naturalis Museum. Here's me next to the skeleton of a Megaloceros, aka the Irish Elk, which is not an elk nor endemic to Ireland.
Obviously, it would be impossible to present photos about a visit to a natural history museum without some kind of reference to spiders! Here's Sandra looking at some crazy araneoids.

After this stay at Utrecht, I started working on a 7-month grant from the University of Lisbon, regarding projects on Madeiran arthropods, and more precisely, spiders (what else?).
As expected, many new things appeared, the madeiran endemic fauna being more unknown than the Azorean. As of now, I should have about 15 new species to science endemic to somewhere in the Madeira archipelago, among Dysderas, linyphiids, hahniids, gnaphosids and a few other groups. The grant was over by the end of September, and now publications remain to be done. It's a never-ending story this, the lack of time and the taxonomic impediment... You can imagine that none of the new species' descriptions were priorities until I finished my grant period. As the grant was over, I went to the Netherlands again for another stay with Sandra.
In many occasions, we made our quality time in the kitchen, preparing some nice meals to entertain ourselves and also some friends, now and then. We tried some veggie dishes, and two of the most sucessfull were the veggie lasagna and the Agaricus-pizza! They were both great! Also, the classic codfish with punched potatoes! All of our top-meals were, of course, accompanied by a portuguese wine! Great moments! :)

After the stay with Sandra, I moved South to Belgium, at first to spend a few days with Robert Bosmans, taking Sandra along, and then to work for 1 week at the Royal Museum for Central Africa with Arnaud Henrard, on a joint paper about the genus Orchestina, tiny goblin spiders.

The stay at Gent was great, Robert and Marij were so kind to us. Robert and I in one of Gent's central streets. We also visited (in my case, a comeback) a very nice and cosy restaurant, or bistro-cafe, The Spinnekop, a place owned by a kind man who uses biological ingredients in its meals and who likes Portugal to travel with its donkeys. He even kindly showed us some photos, because when portuguese people enter his place, pleasant memories come to mind. We just came short of taking a photo with him because the place was crowded with students and he was very busy by the time we left.
We also visited Brugges. Although a very popular place for mass tourism in the region, with an historical center filled with fancy old buildings and the usual high concentration of people associated, maybe for that matter was not the best experience. The weather was fine, though. This was probably my only stay at the Benelux in which I didn't not see snow.
After heading to Tervuren to meet with Rudy Jocqué and Arnaud at the RMCA, I had 1 week of intense arachnology! We realized that what started as an Iberian/Macaronesian revision of the genus with 1 new species and resolve one or two synonyms is now turning out to be the Mediterranean/Macaronesian revision of the genus with 4 or 5 new species to describe. Though we didn't stop working, we will still need to meet again to continue this work. In the meantime, I will try to advance the most tasks possible while away from Tervuren. 
This is one of our new species.

During this week, time for some beer tasting! Beer is a big thing in Belgium, and you will probably only get to know some of the existing brands (unless you visit Belgium specifically to try beers). From those that I tried, I will mention the Carmelites and the Westmalle (I think these were Tripel beers, something special like that...). Two other highlights of this week were the climbing experience with Arnaud (he is a climbing instructor, so you can imagine he's more spider-man than I am) and the hunt for mushrooms at the Ardennes with Rudy and his wife, which was the first time that I put my knowledge as an amateur mycologist to some practical use, with some success!

The main reason why I decided to get back into writing something here was to help myself to sort my brain properly. I currently have many different works in progress and this does help the taxonomic impediment... The work on the Azorean "x-phantes" (see them in a previous post) is turning out to be a complicated issue, especially because we aimed at Zootaxa to publish two new species in an unsafely determined genus... Plus, some divergence of opinions was found in the revision process, which makes this resolution difficult.
So, in the end, 1 of the 2 papers in the "submitted" pile may yet move back to the "in prep" pile in the cartoon I sketched below, which clearly illustrates my main current works. I really need to find a way to sort out that paper, so I can seriously work in the "in prep" pile of works...
My current taxonomic impediment: 2 new species about to come out, 2 new species submitted but still being worked, probably several tens of them in the in prep. pile, and who knows what can show up in future works...? No time...