Author Archive | Jessica Shugart


The Microbe Mystery at Cowell’s Beach

My favorite thing about living in Santa Cruz this year has been my proximity to the ocean. From my apartment, I can hear the sea lions barking at the wharf, and waves crashing at the beach. True, I also have to deal with the rhythmic screaming of rollercoaster riders at the Boardwalk, but it’s worth…

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River otters are making a strong comeback in Bay Area waters. Photo credit: Paola Bouley, River Otter Ecology Project

Call it a comeback

I looked up from fawning over some orange California newts just in time to spy a fuzzy whiskered face peering out from the waters of the creek. Weasel-like features and silky-smooth contours gave away the creature’s identity: Lontra Canadensis, the North American river otter. As soon as we made eye contact, she flipped her body…

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Crumb stars suggest Milky Way was cannibalistic

Billions of years after going on a cannibalistic binge, our own Milky Way galaxy has been implicated by the stale crumbs it left behind. Astronomers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, used Hubble Space Telescope data to spot the crumbs – ancient stars thought to be remnants of a dwarf galaxy engulfed by our…

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The name remains the same

I’ve had the same name my entire life. It was printed out on my birth certificate, right next to a stamp of my teeny tiny foot. Nothing changed when I got married, but ironically this lack of action threw some members of my family for a loop. During the holidays, when their confusion reaches its…

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Beautiful leaves of three, covered with greasy urushiol just waiting for you to walk on by.

Urushiol Exposed

Nothing ruins an invigorating day spent communing with nature more than the sight of poison oak. One minute you’re admiring the expansive beauty of an old oak tree, and the next you’re agonizing about whether you may have accidentally brushed up against its greasy little red-leafed cousin. Even if you avoid poison oak like the…

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