A good Earth Day for me

Well, Earth Day 2008 is almost over. And I guess I had a really good one. I was scheduled to give a talk at 1 PM at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) as part of their Genomics Division Seminar Series. Living in Davis, LBNL is about 1 hour away if there is no traffic and much longer if there is traffic. And so I said, why not try to honor the Earth and not drive and instead take the train. In part I was inspired by the Michael Pollan’s article in this Sunday’s New York Times about the little things we can do to help the Earth. In part I was inspired by Earth Day. In part I was inspired by going to the Department of “Energy”. And in part I was just looking to get some exercise. But here is the story of my day …

Part one of this adventure was pretty easy. It is about a fifteen minute ride on my mountain bike from my house to the Amtrak stop in Davis. So I headed out about 25 minutes before the train was supposed to leave. And I got my ticket and then hopped on the train with my bike.

And then we sat for 30 minutes or so at the Davis station waiting for a track inspection. Did I get frustrated? Nope. I had my iPhone and my laptop. And I worked on my talk while listening to Science Friday podcasts. And eventually we moved out of the station. And then we got stuck again near Martinez for 15 or so minutes. I was now getting a little worried about timing, but after a phone call with my brother in Berkeley, who I was going to meet, I calmed down (realizing that the people I was hoping to meet at Berkeley could wait for another day) and arranged to meet him at the train stop.

And we met a few blocks from the Berkeley Amtrak stop and began the ride up to LBNL. Past downtown Berkeley. Past UC Berkeley Campus. And up the hill past the Botanic Gardens. Now for real bikers and for me in my past, this would be nothing. But for a flatlander who only sees hills riding across the overpasses over roads, this was a big deal. And finally, we got there. And I changed into a PLoS shirt my brother brought and jeans I had brought and had lunch my brother made ( a PB & J sandwich using jam I had given him that I made from our apricots from my tree that I had frozen last summer). And I chatted with some people coming for my talk, including one of my co-conspirators for the my April 1 joke, Chris Patil, who writes the Ouroboros Blog. Also there were Eddy Rubin (my host and Director of JGI), Janet Jannson (an expert in the human microbiome, among many things), Paul Spellman, Todd Desantis (one of the top rRNA analysis folks around) Mina Bissel. And then I gave my talk (I think it went pretty well … but I am not exactly objective).

Then after I talked to some people for 20 or so minutes. And then we rode down the hill. A lot quicker than up for sure. And I went to my brother’s new lab on UCB’s main campus for a party for one of his students who just passed his quals. After a little food and some discussions I headed out. And then I met my friend and co-author of my new Evolution textbook Nipam Patel for a 15 minute mini chat. And then I zipped down to the Amtrak station with 15 minutes to spare so I stopped at the Pasta Shop for a snack. And then I took the train back to Davis (it was on time) and looked out the window at the SF Bay and then the marshlands and then the farmlands. And finally, I rode back to my house by 5:30 PM to hang out with my family. What a nice day – no car. Some exercise. Some science. Some friends. Some fun. So – thanks for the inspiration, Earth, Michael Pollan and Michael Eisen.

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

2 thoughts on “A good Earth Day for me”

  1. That was really inspirational – thanks! I once tried to ‘be good’ by taking Amtrak from Chico to Oregon but the train was twelve hours late and I ended up having to buy a plane ticket last minute – what a fiasco! I’m glad to hear that at least sometimes it goes okay..


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