2016 is going to be a big year.
I successfully submitted a book manuscript, currently titled "Edible Insects and Human Evolution," on January 5th to go out to peer review. I spent lots of energy trying to come up with a catchier title, but to no avail. My favorite was "Sex, Bugs, and Rock and Roll," but I felt I would have a hard time convincing my publisher that was a good idea considering it has nothing to do with rock and roll. I threw it in as a chapter title, so we'll see how far that goes.
I am happy with what I put together, and I am hopeful that the reviews will be constructive and help make the book the strongest version of itself. I am trying to accomplish A LOT with this book, and it requires a delicate balance to make it accessible to a broad audience yet true to the complicated and dense data from biological anthropology research that are necessary to reconstruct the insect portion of hominin diets. At this point it is out of my hands and I know nothing of when or what will happen next.
The good thing about not being able to think about the book is that I can switch my efforts to conference planning. With the turn of the new year there seems to be ignited interest in the conference. I had to essentially ignore the conference while working on the book and I had the fear that it was going to be a flop. I comforted myself in knowing that even if it was just a gathering of my closest entomophagy colleagues, it would be productive. However, that does not seem to be an issue! I am getting strong international interest, which was one of my goals. I have over 20 abstracts submitted for the priority deadline, which if I were to accept them all, would make up about 1/3 of the conference programming. So they, like all, will go through a rigorous peer review. I am grateful to have amazing people helping me as my review board and co-organizers. I have never given a formal shout-out to Marianne Shockley and Wendy Lu McGill. They are my dream team. I also have awesome people like David George Gordon helping with some of my event planning, and countless other people who have reached out to ask how they could help. I couldn't do this without all of you!
I am beginning my biggest fundraising frenzy, mostly across my university. Wayne State is very supportive of my work and I know there is a lot of excitement about this event. Did you see the video they made using footage from last year's cricket flour bake off?! So fun.
In other news, I received a Leakey Foundation grant to continue my research on termites. Receiving this grant meant the world to me. The Leakey Foundation is the biggest supporter of human origins research and they found value in exploring termites as a hominin food source! Additionally, it was a good reminder that I can still science! I have spent a lot of time recently writing, and planning, and all other sorts of work that is not directly related to data collection. It will be a lot of fun to get back to the field and to work with my great collaborators Clayton Magill and Robert O'Malley to investigate chemical properties of termites as they relate to their desirability as a food. If all goes as planned, I will travel to Africa three times this year in order to collect all the data. I hope to squeeze in a trip to South Africa in March over spring break. South Africa has been experiencing a drought which is affecting the reproductive flights of the termites, so timing my return there has been difficult. Fingers crossed they will be flying in March, or I may be a year behind on the South Africa sample. I should be able to go to Tanzania this summer to visit the hominin site of Olduvai, but in order to get termites from the chimpanzee site of Gombe in Tanzania, I have to play with timing again, and will likely be doing the same frantic, squeeze-a-trip-in during the fall semester. It is all very exciting. I am definitely not complaining! However, I just adopted this adorable black lab in October, so all of this travel will be more difficult having to be away from this cute face (Shameless excuse to wrap up this post with pictures of the dog).
Uco the entomophagist
(We came to Uco's name via a very circuitous route from the French last name "Foucault" for both the philosopher Michel and the physicist Léon. He lives with an anthropologist and an architect...).
Uco the love sponge
I'll miss both these boys when I travel, but at least they have each other.
I should get back to work.