Everything’s bigger in Texas: A lesson in entomology

Me, marveling at one of Texas’s smaller bugs.

This past Tuesday, I went to a few parks. They’re city parks, manicured nicely, maybe with playscapes. This is important to mention because although I wasn’t in the desert with a cactus and some wild boar, I was about to be schooled in Texas.

I park and my car is dripping fluid. Dripping is an understatement.


I look under the hood and find nothing, but when I drive across the lot it literally leaves a trail of liquid. What the heck!!!!! It’s brand new! My car skills are minimal so I risk it all and decide to bolt home.


I arrive in one piece, only to later learn from a Texan friend that air conditioner condensation is a thing. All was well.


Sort of. In the process, I forgot what else I witnessed that day.

I was walking along and saw a tunnel in the ground. Logically, I thought it must be a snake hole. With similar genius, I stuck my face near the entrance in hopes to see its resident.

River Place bug
The monstrosity.

Imagine my surprise when I came face to face with the largest bug I’ve seen to date. It’s GIGANTIC.


I took some pics, was totally floored… and then the car fluid debacle occurred.


The following day, I find the photo again and my interest resumes. So I start searching the web. I find Lethocerus americanus, the giant water bug–an insect so large it can eat salamanders and fish.

steve irwin

However, the scholars of the internet seem to never have observed the species tunneling in the mud. This is groundbreaking stuff. I’ve potentially discovered a new behavior of the water bug.


Knowing I should at least double check with someone educated about insects before I jump to conclusions, I email an entomologist.

cat typing

Surprise! It’s a young cicada emerging from its underground lair. They call them ciCAEdas here versus cicahda. And apparently they’re massive.


I’m learning something new every day. That’s it folks, that’s the end, sorry it’s anticlimactic. No giant water bug…. but maybe one day!


Remembering Fort Griswold’s community through gravestones

The view of the Thames River from present-day Fort Griswold, Groton.

For a fight that quite likely didn’t last more than twenty minutes, the Battle of Groton Heights left an astounding mark on my hometown. The late-Revolutionary War attack by Benedict Arnold on rebel soldiers at Fort Griswold is remembered today through annual reenactments and tours, two battleground museums, an impressive monument and an organization called the Friends of Fort Griswold, which is dedicated to the preservation and memorialization of the battlegrounds.

Local historians have analyzed accounts of the battle written by witnesses and their descendants and examined artifacts left behind by soldiers to determine the facts and implications of the battle. But while the details of the battle have been kept alive, many stories of the men and women affected by the conflict slowly disappeared as time passed. The area surrounding the Thames River—present-day Groton, New London, Old Saybrook, Stonington, Gales Ferry and Ledyard, Connecticut—lost a great number of its able-bodied men to the British. Some neighborhoods lost all of their adult men. I can only imagine how devastating such a tragedy must have been to the colonial community.

I have found that the gravestones of the soldiers offer insight into the community’s emotional reaction to the battle. These headstones, scattered throughout the area’s oldest cemeteries, bear haunting inscriptions both honoring the deceased and cursing the enemy. Raw emotion was preserved and memorialized for generations to come, like in this chilling inscription from the tombstone of soldier Moses Jones:

FullSizeRender copy.jpg
The headstone of Moses Jones in Turner Cemetery, Groton.

Will not a day of Rec-
koning come; Does not
 my blood for vengeance
Cry; How will those
Wretches bear their
Doom; Who hath me
Slain most Murderously.

When I first saw epitaphs like these, exploring the graveyards near my parents’ home, I felt as though I had a better understanding of the people who lived there before us. Their stories are hidden in these stones, slowly worn down by the rain, snow and wind. The families that created these headstones wanted their loved ones to be remembered by future generations. For my senior thesis, I took a long look at the gravestones and worked to understand what they meant to the people who created them, drawing on the research of local historians and memorial academics.

Into the Wild Blue





I created a special Spotify playlist for our trip to Colorado and New Mexico, so when I look back at my photos, my brain begins a loop of “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks.




Top Four: Colorado. Last Four: New Mexico.

We were lucky to have the greatest tour guide in all of Santa Fe (check out her blog here). As Rhode Island’s weather is beginning to look up, I’m becoming increasingly excited about another summer of outdoor adventures and time with friends.

The Patriot Printer of Providence

John Carter, available at: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~scwhite/carter.html
John Carter painting from: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~scwhite/carter.html

In 2014, an essay of mine was chosen to be included in the fifth annual Johnson & Wales University College of Arts & Sciences Academic Symposium. The event showcases the work of eight students, “recognized for their outstanding achievements in undergraduate scholarship.”

My research, compiled in an essay called “The Patriot Printer of Providence,” focused on the life and work of John Carter. Carter was the printer of Providence’s newspaper during the Revolutionary War, and his contributions to the cause included publishing articles by John Hancock and Samuel Adams, and distributing Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.”

I derived much of my content from microfilm of Carter’s newspaper. Other information was found in documents written by his descendants and later researchers, but my essay is the most thorough, complete collection of Carter’s life available.

You can read the essay here.