Butterfly Pullinator

One morning we helped out the butterfly lab whip up a quick working instrument to help measure the pull strength of heliconius butterfly legs (for WAYYYY cheaper than scientific devices you can buy)!

The Pullinator is a device used to determine a butterfly’s strength by measuring how much weight they can pull. Our PhD student, Jessie, uses it to study muscle deterioration in butterflies as they age. Cool, right? But the best thing about The Pullinator is how it got made!

From their lab instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CcrLzgCr_6b/
“It all started with Andrew K Davis et al paper where they measured grip strength in monarchs using a force gauge. As Jessie proceeded to search where to buy such device, her engineer Uncle asked, “why not build it yourself?”
She began this operation by consulting the amazing @digital.naturalism.labs who successfully brought it to life! Later, Ernesto Bonadies from @biologickecentrumavcr suggested using sandpaper to standardize the friction of the gripping area as it has a defined numerical scale. Finally, the name and beautiful typescript came from our PhD student, Laura Hebberecht.”


This amazing device is just one example of the incredible things we can create when we use our creativity, intellect and most importantly, our collaborative spirit.

Tapir Enrichment Tree

At the APPC https://www.appcpanama.org/ the biggest animal we work with (in fact the largest land animal south of mexico in the americas!) is the Baird’s tapir. She is HUGE and STRONG and SMART and it can be very difficult to make toys for her that will last!

when Paula Te visited though, we re-taught ourselves how to weld and got busy making a big strong enrichment feeder for her!

When Do We Choose a Disciplinary “Box”?

Serena – Research Update 1:

One of my research goals is to better understand what students in the natural sciences have to navigate when they are interested in transdisciplinary (TD*) experiences. To do so, I’ve been talking to students who have multidisciplinary interests and are curious about integrating that into their science. During some of these discussions, we’ve been drafting journey maps of our learning experiences. Some guiding questions included:  

At which points in your learning journey did you feel like you had to choose a discipline to “belong” to? When did you start learning or internalizing disciplinary demarcations between science, art, humanities, design, technology, etc…?

Below you can see some of the sketchnotes drafted from these discussions. Do any of these reflections resonate with you? Can you think of when you felt the need to pick a discipline to box yourself into?

*TD: stands for “transdisciplinary”, referring to that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond all discipline (Nicolescu, 1970)

Taking time to play at DiNaLab

I was invited to spend two weeks in residency at DiNaLab in February. Ahead of my visit I had begun to meld my practices as a horticulturist and fiber artist into an exploration of crochet leaf studies. I decided to spend my time at DiNaLab furthering this exploration with the hope of making something new with the leaves. Kitty and I had been discussing the possibility of collaborating on a piece during my residency, as she is also a wonderful fiber artist. I love her amigurumi creatures and decided to make a home for some of them among a crochet leafy jungle. 

Fiber work can be a slow process (as can life) and I wasn’t able to make as many leaves as I would have liked. But in the end there were enough to make a nice home for a very cute sloth and a shimmery hummingbird, both knitted by Kitty. We made a headdress that one might wear as camouflage in the jungle or while rollerblading around Gamboa.  

I also learned a new skill at DiNaLab: using a laser cutter. I was really inspired by Andy and Kitty’s plastic projects. I love their keychain and earring designs and decided to take a crack at my own. Andy helped me create a two-layer papaya design to turn into earrings. I also repurposed some of Kitty and Andy’s existing designs to make new jewelry. I was able to pull off a mini collection in my time there and then got to collaborate with DiNaLab intern Lieke on a tropical photoshoot. 

DiNaLab was the perfect place to be after a very long and stressful pandemic experience in New York City. Each morning I sat in the yard with my coffee, watching the menagerie of critters: ñekes, toucans, chachalacas, iguanas, sloths, hummingbirds, and even one blue morpho butterfly who seemed to have a regular daily commute. I spent a lot of time staring at the leaves around me, noticing the subtle changes in colors, the curves in their forms, the way the light changed them completely. After two plus years of frantically trying to keep afloat during the pandemic, slowing that far down reset the chemistry in my brain. 

It’s rare to find folks as welcoming and supportive as Andy and Kitty. It was a delight to spend time making and talking about fiber art with Kitty. And being around Andy as he tinkers and explores his various projects was exciting and inspiring. Gamboa itself is an inspiring setting with the dense tropical forest and abundant wildlife. It was hard to find the emotional space to be creative during the worst of the pandemic. At DiNaLab I felt my head once again beginning to swirl with ideas. 

Touch Tire

Here’s code and designs for making a simple tire into a touch sensitive input that can really be smashed around!

also available in the ART&&CODE zine

The Zine

Sample Cap Touch Code here. Library is embedded in the code, so just upload and go!

https://github.com/quitmeyer/WorkshopFieldCode/tree/master/Plant%20Touch

Just connect something metal between Analog Port A0 on your Arduino to the metal insides of the tire (preferably a chain or something that gives you some distance!)

Leaf Cutter Empire – Educational Game

With the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Q Digital platform, we were commissioned to make an educational game about the life cycle of leaf-cutter ants. Explore how the colony works by chopping leaves to feed the fungus, defending the ants from parasites, and finding new mates to spread your leaf-cutter empire!

You can see it all on STRI’s Qdigital https://stri.si.edu/education-outreach/qdigital/leaf-cutter-empire

Produced by Digital Naturalism Laboratories for The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Q Bus.

Development by Brian Boucher, Bilal Cheema, Steven Solof, and Andrew Quitmeyer

Art design by Kitty Quitmeyer

Scientific advising by Dr. Hannah Marti

Music and Sound Effects by Dan Singer https://ridgedchippies.bandcamp.com/releases

Flatten the Curve – CoViD-19 Simulation Game

We created a CoViD-19 simulation game for Q?-Bus at STRI. The goal is to let people get a better understanding of how diseases spread, and the effectiveness and consequences of different approaches.

Created by Brian Boucher and Andy Quitmeyer for STRI Q-Bus

Version in English

Sound Safari – Interactive Game

Game for teaching kids about how spectrograms work. In english and spanish!

Open FullScreen

Spanish Version

Old Version in www.openprocessing.org