A Brief Farewell!

I cannot believe the semester is already over! It seems like only last week we were sitting around the table for the first time introducing ourselves and looking at the syllabus with  perhaps a hint of fear at the thought of creating a weekly blog. Now look at us! I think we can say that, although we may not all be blog masters, we certainly have created some really great pages between or Deep History and Domestication blog and our animal research projects. After reading through everyone’s project, it seems clear to me that we all should be pretty proud of what we have accomplished in this class. Each animal was presented in a unique way, but in the end, all of the blogs did a phenomenal job at developing their specie’s domestication throughout history. And anyone with the slightest interest in domestication that stumbles across our main page is really in for a treat!

This class was remarkably different from any other that I have taken in college, but it has certainly been one of my favorites! I came into this course with almost zero knowledge about animal domestication or its history and now I feel like I could teach a full course on it.  It was truly phenomenal how much we were able to cover in such a short time together and it really is a shame that its coming to a close. I really enjoyed our discussions each week and I’m really glad to have met all of you guys. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors and hopefully our paths will cross a few more times, either at Tech or in the future.

Dr. Nelson, I cannot thank you enough for all the work you put into this course. You really made this class fun while encouraging us to push ourselves and learn new things. I can honestly say that I would never have even considered blogging before this class and now I might even go so far as to say I enjoy it! The readings and discussions that you set up each week opened my mind to so many new things that I will carry with me forever. I look forward to taking more classes with you in the future and I hope that you continue to offer this class as long as you are teaching. It really was an awesome class and I think that everyone should be given the chance to take it!

I will remember you all and this class for the rest of my life. It is astounding how domestication works its way into almost every subject and aspect of society, and I would never truly have known the all encompassing history of domestication without this class. I look forward to being able to expand my learning with this course as a basis, and I only hope that my future classes are half as great as this one.

Thanks to all of you for making this a memorable semester!

Final thoughts

I like tidy endings. I like tying up loose ends and finishing things well. Therefore, you get this blog post. I just want to say this: Deep History and Domestication was one of the best classes I’ve taken at Virginia Tech.

I really want to teach when I grow up (probably some sort of animal physiology, zoology, or something in that vein), so whenever I take a particularly good class, I pay attention to how it is run, so I can aspire to teach like that in my future. Usually, I can break it down to a few things: clear explanations, abundant resources, an interested instructor. In this class, I wasn’t quite able to do that. Everything just worked. Of course, Dr. Nelson is awesome and did a great job teaching the class and selecting the readings. She also has a remarkable ability to express her own opinion and still let her students have theirs. She deserves nearly all of the credit for making this class excellent.

However, everybody else in the class was great too. We came from a wide variety of backgrounds and majors and were all able to bring our experiences to the table–both figuratively and literally, since we met in the Hillcrest meeting room, around a table. The final projects really express this wide variety of backgrounds and abilities, which all bring something interesting and worthwhile. Erica’s chicken project (the class winner!) is extensive and covers everything from factory farming to the ethics of dissection. Her description of dissecting a recently killed chicken is particularly compelling. Alex’s donkey project and Ben’s reindeer project were fun to read and compare to my own horse project, noticing differences and similarities between these large, herbivorous domesticates. Humans still do not control the movement of reindeer, which fascinates me. And while horses have become more and more widespread, donkeys are actually becoming endangered. Bill’s bee project moves seamlessly from plant biology to modern medicine, making me realize that bees touch our lives in more ways than I ever thought possible. Casey’s goldfish site, with its stunning design (enter the Goldfish!), is full of interesting information about the ancient world and today’s world (and includes a really cool goldfish training video!). Chris’s cat project talks about internet cats, Egyptian cats, and everything in between. It made me wonder whether cats will ever become fully domesticated. Last, but more certainly not least, Connor’s pigeon project, a fascinating discussion of how pigeons gained their terrible reputation, covers lots of cool things including (my favorite!) Darwin and pigeons.

I can’t really do these projects justice by describing them, but they are really impressive. I really enjoyed having a class format in which everybody’s work was available to everybody else–then we could all learn from each other’s ideas. The freedom we were allowed on the final project was also really refreshing–I loved getting to do basically whatever I wanted on my final project. I was able to make it want I wanted and, for one of the few times in college, I am really proud of what I produced.

I may be rambling now, so I suppose that I ought to quit and say goodbye to Deep History and Domestication. However, like in all excellent classes, I won’t lose what I learned. I’ll carry the knowledge with me and, hopefully, weave it into my increasingly large tapestry of “how life works.”

I’ll leave you all with this:

At age 7, my best friend and I were very serious about our domesticates: Elizabeth (front) and Margaret (back).

At age 7, my best friend and I were very serious about our domesticates: Elizabeth (front) and Margaret (back).

One Last Hoorah

Well, I guess my time as an domestic animal expert is coming to an end. So here are some of my final thoughts on the class as a whole as well as the ending projects:

In regards to the class:
If anyone is reading this and attends Virginia Tech (and enrolled in the honors program), I 100% recommend you take this class if you are looking for a colloquia class. What an experience this class was, learning about things I had no idea about. Some of the material was so intriguing that I couldn’t wait to read for the next week (and that’s saying something, I am not a huge fan of reading). I definitely would say Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers was my favorite title we read this semester (although I know Bill would disagree, due to Bulliet’s “lack of credibility”). Regardless, his words really got me thinking, and I agree one hundred percent how the world is transferring into a post-domestic society.

Projects and classmates:

Erica- so. much. information. I envy your work ethic and how you love putting in the time and effort, it definitely shows. Good luck at JMU.

Camilla- Your knowledge on the horse before the research for your project was noticeable, you had great arguments to back up your points.

Casey- Bold strategy, going with the goldfish. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it. And you pulled it off, revealing a good project.

Bill- The honeybee, another bold move. You financial wit and input kept me entertained this year, good luck with law school.

Chris- Your cat project had me cracking up, as well as filling me with useful information on the feline. We should jam sometime dude, always down to play some music.

Ben- The reindeer was fun to read about, and I’m sure you enjoyed reading that book we had to get. I ended up saving that one too, I’m going to complete it over the summer, you persuaded me.

Connor- Dude your pigeon information was very detailed, I had no idea how much the pigeon did for the human!


Ms. Nelson, thank you so much for s great semester. This class wouldn’t have been what it was without you (obviously). Keep doing what you’re doing, because I guarantee that majority of your students have nothing negative to say about you, or your teaching style, etc. You kept discussions engaging, and were very lenient about blogging and all that. I hope to take another one of your classes before the end of my undergrad career.

A final farewell class, love you all,


Final Food and Course Awards

To celebrate the completion of some pretty terrific research on domestication we planned an end-of-term food fest to honor the animals we have studied over the course of the semester. The crew assembled here is ready to dive into a smorgasbord of food for, derived from, or inspired by the domesticates they researched and wrote about this semester.  The projects – which focus on the Honeybee, Goldfish,  Pigeon, Chicken, Cat, Donkey, Horse and Reindeer,are available from the research project menu on the main blog page.Feast for the Final Class

The Menu: Earl Grey tea with honey represented Bill’s fine study of the honeybee. Horses would have had stiff competition from us for the apples and caramel dipping sauce Camilla brought.  Alex paid homage to the donkey with ginger snaps (because watermelon is not in season), while Connor prepared a bowl of delicious fresh berries and gummy worms as pigeon food. Chris also played with the symbolic, bringing goldfish crackers and milk to represent the house cat. My own approach to this assignment was synthetic. I tried to include something for everybody in the “Domesticate Cookies” I made.IMG_1164

Ben and Casey took the creative route, crafting reindeer cookies and goldfish marshmallows that would be the envy of any domestic god or goddess.goldfishreindeer

 And then it was time for awards! (I’m very sorry I didn’t get photos of the winners modeling their prizes).  The finalists for “Best Video Featured on a Research Project Blog” were: 1) “Which Came First, the chicken or the Egg?” 2) George Carlin on Cats and 3) The Amazing Trick Goldfish.  Scroll all the way down on the goldfish page to find the winner, also pictured here with his culinary handiwork.CaseysFishWeb

The finalists for “Best Poem Featured in a Research Project Blog” were: 1) An ancient Egyptian Ode to embryos (and eggs?) 2) A honey-themed excerpt from the Illiad and 3) “Cher Ami,” a poem written to commemorate the feats of a pigeon hero of the First World War.  Following enthusiastic dramatic readings of all three entries, Cher Ami emerged as the winner of this coveted award.

A discussion ensued over the Best Overall Research Project Design, and while there were many good candidates, the group quickly settled on a winner.

The prize goes to….drum roll, please…….THE CHICKEN!!!! With deep appreciation of your contribution to the class this whole semester, your insistence that we always keep an eye on our moral compass, and your uncanny ability to raise the bar for all of us, Erica, we want you to come claim your prize, please.

Best Overall Design Award

Best Overall Design Award