Nerd! On a Bike

Welcome to Nerd! On a Bike. This is where I slam on the brakes, push my sunglasses to the tip of my nose, furrow my brow and investigate things I find – or experience – while riding my bike. Topics range from geomorphology to women’s specific physiology. Biology. Geology. Natural history. Sports medicine. Nutrition. Psychology. Sociology. Anthropology. As long as it turns into a science-related question (including the social sciences!), you’ll find it in this section of the blog.

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Stopping to smell the roses (or, more accurately, appreciate the cryptobiotic soil and Yucca baccata) in Sedona, Arizona.

When I’m training for a big event, my life seems to mimic the pace of a fast mountain bike descent, and I often worry slowing down enough to think about how or why things work the way they do may cost me the race. The high speeds make me feel frantic, and I forget why I’m riding my bike in the first place. I counteract this by tapping into my inner nerd, slowing the pace down, asking questions, putting the research skills I learned in graduate school to work, and appreciating the answers I find.

Photo Credit Artec Durham
I once rode my bike to a beach covered in baby Olive Ridley Sea Turtles! Did you know they use the light on the horizon of the ocean to find the water? If they hatch near a town or a city, street lights will often confuse them, and they may end up moving in the wrong direction and never making it to the ocean.

This desire for a slower, more inquisitive pace started when I was a child. My favorite summer afternoons were spent either sprawled in the grass reading or wandering alone in the woods looking for salamanders. Once, after reading a story about pioneer girls, I decided to make my own paint out of tent caterpillar blood. I thought this seemed like something pioneer girls would do, so I collected a bucket of caterpillars and spent the rest of the day squeezing out their bright green blood. The blood was hard to paint with – it glopped up and was filled with fuzzy caterpillar pieces – so I gave up on the caterpillars and went to the library where I found a book on making paint out of plants. That summer, I mastered the art of making my own paint.

My process for Nerd! On a Bike is similar. My initial response to questions may lead to piles of dead tent caterpillars (metaphorically speaking, of course), but in the end, I sharpen my research skills and find information that begins to answer my questions. In a nutshell, here’s the recipe: I experience something while riding my bike that leads to a question, I search extensively for answers to the question (in journal articles, academic studies, interviews), then I write about what I find and post it to Nerd! On a Bike.

Photo Credit Artec Durham
The arid southwest is the habitat I call home, but some of my races take me to humid climates. I’ve spent a lot of time researching how to get my body to adapt quickly to humidity.

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