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Augie scientist enjoys getting out into the field
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Photo: John Greenwood
Radish article about taking three walks in the same woods, the trails of Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island. Once with biologist Tim Muir, once with a meditation instructor, and once with an artist.
ROCK ISLAND -- The moment a thin, dark garter snake slithered into a clump of grasses overhanging a boardwalk at Black Hawk State Historic Site, it was clear Dr. Tim Muir really is a biologist used to collecting animals in the field.

Dr. Muir, a faculty member at Augustana College in Rock Island, dropped down into a crouch and moved the grasses aside with his bare hands to see if the snake was still there. No dice.

He wasn't always so at ease in the outdoors. Dr. Muir, who studies the physiology of animals, grew up in a suburb outside of Detroit, in which "time outdoors" generally meant being out on a athletic field, not in a woods catching animals.

Now raising two sons of his own -- Liam, 4, and Jude, 2 -- he often brings them to Black Hawk State Historic Site to visit the nature center and take walks in the forest. He's come to appreciate how such direct experiences with our natural surroundings can foster a sense of place.

"Even just to know what kind of tree is in your backyard gives you a sense of rootedness; I hope our boys have that sense," he said. It's a direct experience he hopes to pass on to his students. His research into how cold-blooded animals, turtles in particular, function in low temperatures often brings him out into nature, and he regularly brings students along. They gather turtle eggs to monitor the hatchlings in later months. "Turtles hibernate above the frost line, and as a result their blood turns to ice," he explained.

Even though insects and plants aren't directly in his field of study, Dr. Muir derives a clear sense of pleasure from being able to give a name to those he passes while walking in the woods. You don't have to be a scientist, either, to enjoy being able to identify plants and animals, he said.

"If you stay out long enough, you'll see something you've never seen before. Then it's more than just a walk," he said.

It's an experience that isn't just restricted to being in the woods, he said. The unexpected can arise in our own backyards as well, if we take time to notice. Sometimes, while in his own yard with his children, Dr. Muir will give himself a few minutes to identify bird species.

"You only expect three or four (birds), but it's so easy to get to eight or nine species in a short time," he said. "That's comforting to me. Biodiversity is down worldwide, so to know it's not one species of bird -- it's a community out there that is more complex than it is simple -- that is a good thing."






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  Today is Thursday, Oct. 2, the 275th day of 2014. There are 90 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The ladies have adopted the fashion of wearing representations of insects in the flowers on their bonnets. Some look very natural.
1889 -- 125 years ago: T.F. Cary, former Rock Island alderman, has accepted a position as salesman for a Chicago wallpaper house and plans to move to that city.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Work on the new telephone building on 18th Street between 6th and 7th avenues is progressing rapidly.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street will have a name significant of its location. The "Rocket" is scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Two of Rock Island's newest water towers were vandalized last night, including the one at 38th Street and 31st Avenue, where police took five Moline boys into custody about 9 p.m..
1989 -- 25 years ago: Some of us who live in the Quad-Cities take the Mississippi River for granted, or at least we used to. But the river is not taken for granted by our visitors. And most Quad-Citians are realizing the importance of the river to this area as increased emphasis is placed on tourism.







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