Posts Tagged ‘science’

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Spruce Grouse: Help For A Rare Bird

Adult GrouseOnce abundant in the Adirondacks, the spruce grouse has struggled for much of the past century, but now scientists are trying to bolster the dwindling population by importing birds from out of state.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation released three spruce grouse last year and thirty this year, according to Angelena Ross, a biologist with the department.

The three birds released last year were adult females from Ontario. Only one survived the winter, and it was killed by a hawk in the spring.

In August, DEC released twelve adults and eighteen juveniles captured in Maine at three sites in the Adirondacks— two on private land, one in the Forest Preserve— near Tupper Lake and Paul Smiths. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Old Trees: Methuselah In Your Backyard

TOS_OldTreeThere’s something in us that can’t help but be impressed by an old tree. Perhaps we’re simply in awe of something that has outlived generations of humans and will outlive us.

We acknowledge this when we compare the giant sequoia groves to a cathedral. When we compile state lists of big old trees. When we give names like Methuselah to the longest-lived specimens.

Most trees are not destined to live long lives. Ninety percent of the trees in a forest will never become very big, or very old. Some will lose the race for sunlight and food. Others will succumb to insects, wind, fire, or logging. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What’s At Your Bird Feeder? Scientists Want to Know

btn-PFW-verticalThe number one reason to have a bird feeder near your home, of course, is to enjoy observing the birds that come and go and their behavior. And when northern winters are at their most severe, you may also be helping some birds survive.

But there is another potential and broader benefit, for both birds and perhaps your own satisfaction, that can arise from feeding birds: letting scientists know what you are seeing. Even common birds such as chickadees and juncos carry important messages about the health of bird populations and trends among them. The problem, of course, is that ornithologists can’t be in very many places at any given time. But bird enthusiasts can be, and they can function as “citizen scientists.” » Continue Reading.



Monday, November 3, 2014

DEC Seeks Public’s Help In Finding Moose

Young_bull_moose(1)The state Department of Environmental Conservation is asking for the public’s help in locating moose in the Adirondacks, so they can put GPS collars on the animals for research purposes.

The DEC is currently in the early stages of a moose population study that is being undertaken with SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Cornell University, and Wildlife Conservation Society in Saranac Lake. As part of the study, state wildlife biologists plan to put GPS collars on four female moose. » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 27, 2014

Commentary: Make Ecology Cornerstone Of State Land Plan

Slide BrookThe Adirondack Park Agency has announced that it is opening the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan for review. This is momentous news. Together with the Land Use and Development Plan which governs development on private land in the Park, the State Land Master Plan (SLMP) is one of two fundamental documents used to carry out the will of the people, as expressed in Article XIV of the NYS Constitution, that the Adirondack Forest Preserve  should be “forever kept as wild forest lands”.

My interest in revising the SLMP is to strengthen its focus on ecological integrity over more traditional notions of open space. The SLMP, to its credit, already emphasizes science and ecology. But it was written in 1972, when ecology was still very much a nascent science. It can be a stronger document by taking advantage of forty years of maturation in a discipline more relevant to the protection of the Adirondacks than any other. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Researchers Finding Lyme Disease in Adirondacks

#3 - HarringtonResearchers from Paul Smith’s College are finding Lyme Disease in ticks and small mammals in the Adirondack Park.

Paul Smith’s College professor Lee Ann Sporn is heading her college’s involvement in a Lyme Disease study that includes the state Department of Health and Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake. Trudeau is working to develop a vaccine for Lyme, while Sporn and students are monitoring the disease by testing mammals and ticks for it. Researchers hope to get a better understanding of the biology of the disease, where it is found geographically, and what factors are influencing its spread.

So far, Sporn said that some of the test results have surprised her, including that a high percentage (eight of twelve) of small mammals tested positive for Lyme Disease in Schroon Lake.  The animals — mainly mice, shrews and voles — were trapped in the wild. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Woolly Bears: Winter Forecast Flops?

woolybearAutumn is coming to a close. The brilliant fall foliage is past peak, if not already layered in the compost bin. The last geese are honking their way toward winter homes. Predictions are proffered (sometimes cheerfully, mostly not) for how cold and snowy this year’s winter will be.

Sources for seasonal predictions vary. The Farmers’ Almanac and traditional old-wives-tales are often cited. How soon those geese head south, for example, is supposed to indicate how difficult winter will be. We trust these bits of folklore because they often have a scientific basis and seem to work. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Learning About Bones In Newcomb

skeleton_anatomy__deer_by_omgshira-d3gfz9jHalloween is ripe for haunting, ghosts and ghouls. My son is weighing his options between being a zombie groom or part of a ghostly orchestra for his art club’s Haunted High School in Saranac Lake this Friday. He knows that I am not the person to ask whether a fake severed arm looks real or if he should go with a gaping head wound.

I am not the family thrill seeker when it comes Halloween. If I were to look at bones I’d rather it be part of Mark Lawler’s program “Bones I Have Known” at Newcomb’s Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC). An instructor in anthropology, geology and environmental science, Lawler is leading an interactive program on Oct 25 from 1-2 pm to show how bones, scat and tracks of animals can be used for identification as well as to demonstrate survival. » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 13, 2014

Backyard Compost: A Hot Mess

TOS_compostAt the New Hampshire University Organic Dairy Research Farm in Lee, even the heat for the wash water is organic and locally-sourced.

The heat comes from the farm’s composting facility, a building that looks like an eight-bay garage but actually contains cutting-edge composting technology, as well as a whole lot of rotting stuff.

Of course, compost heat doesn’t require sophisticated technology or the attention to detail that doctoral students provide to farm chores. However, managing heat generation is tricky. Even academics and professional composters can’t always get everything in the right balance for perfect decomposition. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Marsha Stanley: Give Monarchs Threatened Status

800px-Monarch_In_MayOver the past 18 months, I have had the incredible opportunity of having Monarch butterfly experts Chip Taylor and Lincoln Brower as guests in my home here in the Adirondacks. We had hours to converse with each and ask questions to our heart’s content. We found both brilliant, charismatic experts in their field. Each came to lecture at The Wild Center, the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, under the sponsorship of a small non-profit I helped found, AdkAction.org.

Of course, I am no scientist and no expert on this subject. But I find myself having to make a choice of whether to side with Lincoln or Chip on Lincoln’s recent quest to have Monarchs added to the threatened species list, which offers all its potential protections. » Continue Reading.



Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Case of the Indian Arrow Etched in Stone

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 9.50.31 PMMy cousin Stephen Fitzpatrick showed me a mark that is chiseled into a rock just outside the front door of our family’s little red one-room cabin on Indian Point. The mark vaguely appears like an arrow but with a crosshair at the top instead of a point. Stephen applied an ink dye to the mark so it is more visible in this photo.

Stephen remembers asking his mother about the mark, and she said that her father claimed it was there when he first came to the Point in 1910.

The mark itself is intriguing, but the mystery deepened when Stephen explained that the crosshair is actually a compass rose.   The large line runs almost perfectly north-south, and the smaller line is nearly east-west.

Curiosity piqued, I firmly slapped on my amateur sleuth’s cap. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Note to Flies: Avoid Fuzzy Socks

TOS_WebImagine you’re an insect cruising through the air. Suddenly, you realize you’re heading straight for a spider web. You’re doomed. But wait – you can still escape by slipping through one of the gaps. Spider webs are, after all, more gaps than web. You aim between the sticky threads – it’s going to be a close call, but you’re going to make it.

Then, as you pass through, the threads snap towards you … and you’re a spider’s dinner!

It sounds impossible that the threads of a spider web could actively reach out for prey, yet recent studies show that it is not only possible, but may be yet another ingenious spider strategy for capturing insects on the fly. How do webs do this? Static electricity. It turns out spider webs are attracted to the static charge on flying insects. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, August 23, 2014

Burying Beetles: Nature’s Undertakers

burying_beetleI don’t often shake down my cat for a dead mouse, but I did think it was fair, considering that he is always shaking me down for his cat food. I wasn’t going to eat his mouse. I needed it as bait, to see if I could catch a burying beetle.

Burying beetles, or sexton beetles, are nocturnal and they spend much of their lives underground. You’re most likely to find them under small dead animals, such as moles or mice, in a field, that is if you get there before the crows, raccoons, ants, worms, or bacteria do. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Landmark Study Of Lake George Water Quality Released

the state of the lakeA major new report – The State of the Lake: Thirty Years of Water Quality Monitoring on Lake George - has been released by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Darrin Fresh Water Institute (DFWI) and The FUND for Lake George.

The 72-page report is the result of 30 years of continuous monitoring that found Lake George to be in “remarkably good condition.” However, the report also outlines specific ecological factors that now threaten water quality.  Over the 30-year period of the study, researchers found that “while some of the threats to Lake George water quality have receded since 1980, others are worsening.”

The report finds that some of the greatest threats to Lake George water quality include: rising concentrations of salt from continued applications to control winter road ice; the high sensitivity of the lake’s ecological health to even modest increases of nutrient loading (from storm water runoff, septic and sewage systems, fertilizers, and more); and changes in the lake’s food web and fish community in response to invasive species and other influences. » Continue Reading.



Friday, August 1, 2014

Ed Kanze: Who Rules The World?

ed-kanze-archaeaWho’s in charge, my daughter wanted to know? She’d been given a tee-shirt that proclaims “Girls Rule The World.” Now she wanted to know: do they? Listen to my answer in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.

The podcast is produced by Mountain Lake PBS’s Josh Clement. Listen to past episodes by visiting Mountain Lake PBS’s Borderless North webpage at mountainlake.org/bn.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Campaign Seeks To Help Protect Nesting Adirondack Loons

2013-BRI-ACLC Limekiln Camera -Don't disturb nesting loonsBiodiversity Research Institute’s (BRI’s) Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation has announced a new campaign on Adirondack Gives, www.adirondackgives.org, the crowdfunding site for Adirondack region nonprofits.

The campaign will provide support for the placement of trail cameras near approximately 30 Common Loon nest sites in the Adirondack Park to document nesting behaviors, clutch size, and hatch dates for Adirondack loons, and to assess the primary factors (e.g., predation, human disturbance) impacting the birds during incubation.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) provided the cameras for this project. Support from this campaign, which is seeking to raise $1,100 over the next two months, will cover the cost of the lithium-ion batteries and high capacity SD cards used in the cameras. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Adirondack Moose: Why The Big Nose?

Moose_noseThe silhouette of a moose is noticeably different from that of its deer cousins. Its bulky, hunched body sits on tall, improbably proportioned legs. And then there’s that nose. It’s long and broad – a full sixty-five percent of the moose’s head length – with enlarged nostrils that are positioned not in the front of the face, but off to the sides. By the nose alone, there’s little chance of mistaking Bullwinkle for Bambi.

There are traditional explanations for the moose’s unusual looking nose. Wabanaki tribes share tales of the hero Gluskap, who squeezed the moose, shrinking him from a giant’s size and creating an animal with a bulging proboscis. As for a scientific explanation, recent research suggests at least two possibilities. » Continue Reading.



Monday, June 30, 2014

Owl Pellets: Down the Hatch and Back Again

Owl_Pellet“She’s so cute!” a little girl coos to the snowy white owl. The owl blinks languidly, ignoring her admirer. No doubt she is used to human attention, as she is one of the more popular raptors housed at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science Nature Center (VINS) in Quechee, Vermont. She likewise ignores the decapitated rat in her food bowl, chirruping softly as if dissatisfied with what’s on the menu. I wait patiently, hoping to witness the moment when she gulps it down.

Owls eat their smaller prey whole, or tear larger prey into chunks with their beaks and talons. Sooner or later, that owl will grab the raw rat out of her food bowl with her sharp beak and knock it back like a shot of whiskey. It will slide down her esophagus and into her two-chambered stomach. The first chamber, called the proventriculus, or glandular stomach, secretes digestive enzymes to break down all the easily digestible parts. Much like our own stomach, this chamber will liquefy the soft tissue (the gooey stuff, including muscle, fat and organs). Whatever isn’t digested in the first chamber, such as the bones, fur and teeth, will pass through to the second chamber, called the gizzard. » Continue Reading.



Monday, June 16, 2014

Tahawus Center Offering Summer Science Lab

one catapultThe annual Summer Science Lab at the Tahawus Center in Au Sable Forks is expanding to 5 days, July 14 through 18, 2014. The five-morning workshop accommodates two different age groups in separate sessions: middle school (12-14 years old) and elementary school (9-11 years old). The focus will be on magnetism and electricity for both age groups, with activities in other subject areas, including physics and using microscopes.

Science is always more than a set of explanations,” says instructor Gary Dreiblatt. “Our electricity activities will have students make simple circuits, complex series and parallel circuits, and experiment with the concept of electrical resistance to ultimately build a working fuse. Students will have a far better understanding of electricity and safety through these activities. They will be able to take their electrical kits home to teach a family member and continue their own investigations using d cell batteries.” » Continue Reading.



Monday, June 9, 2014

Beavers And Trees: A Woodland Arms Race

Beaver_castoreumAround a beaver pond, we sometimes catch a whiff of beaver odor. People have described it to me as smoky, woody, or like tobacco. It may waft over from the lodge, or it might emanate from scent mounds – little piles of mud by the water’s edge. Beavers make scent mounds by dredging up mud from the bottom of a pond, then carrying it up on land in their front paws while walking upright. The beaver drops the mud, then squats over the mound and applies castoreum from glands near the base of the tail.

The smell means: keep away! In some neighborhoods, this territorial advertisement works remarkably well. I’ve been involved in studies where human-made scent mounds effectively deterred free-ranging beavers from settling in unoccupied beaver habitat. » Continue Reading.



Page 1 of 712345...Last »