Bycatch: Shovelnose Guitarfish and Pacific Seahorse in A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments

Published in:



Shovelnose Guitarfish

Rhinobatos productus

your fins like
             a stratocaster

only quiet, not plugged
             in yet, the amp

then with reverb
             pedals on the boat

deck where you’ll be tossed
             into a basket

maybe it’s better
             than being shoveled

out the hatch
             where the lobos

and pelicanos wait
             though your name

also reminds me
             of picasso

three musicians

this pile of fish
             maybe cubist space

is the best way of approaching it
             this assemblage

on the deck of a boat
             in the gulf of california

where humans take shovels
             like snow shovels clearing a path after a storm

and scrape surplus life out those openings
             at least that is not you

you will be in a basket
             and then onto shore

and maybe into the fish taco
             that I will later order

and I won’t think of your eyes
             eyes with stars for pupils

your soft body
             in my fish-stained

gloves cold hands
             the rhythm of your slow

gestation, more like a bass line
             than lead guitar

or the dumb luck of spatial and temporal overlap
             where you gather

like you’re ready for the nets
             like the nets maybe would be a vacation

from the long maturation

             but the way they drag up everything in their path
             but the way they drag up everything in their path




Pacific Seahorse

Hippocampus ingens

of the boat but in
             a jar, preserved

in formaldehyde
             this one specimen

bleached white and
             is that your front pouch

filled with little replicas
             of yourself, you

the male who carries
             the babies, hundreds

of little horses
             preserved forever

in non-life, deferred
             to another world

we can fathom
             the numbers, up to ninety

percent population
             decline, little replicas

never to emerge
             as we place you back

on the shelf with the many
             other curiosities




Skeleton and Redesign

Recent developments:

  • a redesign of the interface to have a more contemporary museum aesthetic
  • the discovery of Adobe Animate touchscreen SDK from Open Exhibits which will save more of the coding effort we discussed in the last post
  • beginning skeleton of the app in desktop mode to work out user experience before coding for touchscreens

"Skeleton" is a term used for a website or application that has basic navigation, look and feel but no content. Click on the "View Demo" image to see the working skeleton.

Javascript and Touchscreen Experiments

Sometimes the research going into a project isn't as interesting as dreaming it up or seeing the finished product. Our goal is to display Scott's animated map of the creation of the Sea of Cortez in a way that's pausible, zoomable and spinnable using only your fingers on a touchscreen. We want this to work primarily in the gallery but it would be nice if it had a life on the internet too.

An interactive touchscreen application requires coding, testing and more testing. Touchscreens are not all the same and the code that makes them work when you touch and drag, use two fingers or just press/hover are accepted by some devices and not by others. The most accessible and accepted coding to make this possible is Javascript and HTML5. Javascript writers will create libraries of custom coding they hope will take on widespread use. We are using CreateJS and HammerJS (as in MC) libraries. Coders are constantly updating these libraries with help from the community. HTML5 was outlined 10yrs ago but parts of it are still being written and then supported by browsers. So web tech is ever-growing and changing.

Here is Tom testing a large wall hung touchscreen with a simple animation. (Our thanks to Ridgewood Interactive Communications) It's a little laggy but this screen is running off a small android device. Not too big of a graphics card on your phone.

Here's an example Tom built that works on a touchscreen (works better in Chrome). It includes some code to simulate touch on a desktop. Use SHIFT with your mouse and you'll get the two finger zoom effect you get on an ipad:

Zoom Drag Spin Example

Here's a manual version:

Manual Zoom Drag Example

March Trip

In March we traveled to La Cholla to explore its diverse biomes—the bay, estuary, rocky intertidal and bluff—to try to hone our project hypothesis. It was beautiful, with still so many plants in bloom, a new moon and a large tidal shift.

The first evening we explored the expanse of the bay by headlamps—walking ankle- deep among buried flounder, bullseye puffers that seemed to be just dreamily floating, sea hares, swimming two-spotted octopus, a giant blooming metridium anemone and undulating sting rays. It grew foggy, and through the beam of our headlamps we could make out numerous great blue herons wading in the distance, with a multitude of stars visible overhead.

The next morning we ventured out in the rocky intertidal between Pinto and Pelican Point, encountering dozens of heliasters, a swimming clam, buried mantis shrimp, a colorful wounded wrasse, and so many other creatures. The rich textures of all of the life on the underside of rocks were also of interest—bryazoans, tunicates, sponges, limpets and chitons—Taylor wondered how their individual gut flora might differ from the surrounding ocean water, and what eDNA might reveal about the possible symbiotic relationships that might otherwise go unnoticed. He collected internal liquid from anemones, sponges and sea cucumbers to test from.

Then we hiked the circumference of the rocky and isolated bluff, Roca del Toro—an island now surrounded by encroaching development, although perhaps it has always been a sequestered setting for the creatures that live there. Over two days we spotted two chuckwallas and collected scat from outside their dens. We were able to see them tucked deep inside with the reflective light of Taylor’s field mirror. We hope to gather enough DNA from the surface of the scat to identify the lizards and their relationship to the surrounding landscape. Have these chuckwallas diverged geneticaly due to of the secluded area they live, or are they the same common Sonoran Desert species, only recently becoming isolated due to the intruding development?

Back in the lab in Arizona, we successfully isolated DNA from both the sea water and the scat samples. We are trying to characterize the genetic lineage of the chuckwalla population at Roca del Toro and have successfully isolated a small ‘sentence’ of mitochondrial DNA that will act as a barcode to identify how this small, isolated population fits into the genealogy of Chuckwallas in the rest of their range.