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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 Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Col. H.F. Sickless informs us that there will be new organization of troops in this state under the call for more men.
1889 -- 125 years ago: James Normoyle arrived home after graduating from West Point with honors in the class of 1889. He was to report to Fort Brady, Mich., as second lieutenant in the 23rd Infantry.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Austria Hungary declared war on Serbia. Germany and Austria refused an invitation of Sir Edward Grey to join Great Britain at a mediation conference.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Dr. William Mayo, the last of the three famous Mayo brother surgeons, died at the age of 78.
1964 -- 50 years ago: One of the biggest horse shows of the season was held yesterday at Hillandale Arena on Knoxville Road under the sponsorship of the Illowa Horsemen's Club.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Davenport is like a gigantic carnival this weekend with the Bix Arts Fest taking over 12 square blocks of the downtown area. A festive atmosphere prevailed Friday as thousands of people turned out to sample what the Arts Fest has to offer.








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