Posts Tagged ‘science’

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.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Report Analyzes Adirondack Aquatic Invasives Science

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA new report—Boat Inspection and Decontamination for Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention: Recommendations for the Adirondack Region—is now available to help guide decisions on where to prioritize actions to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic invasive species (AIS).

This first-time analysis for the Adirondack region summarizes the best available science, analyzes current AIS distribution and boater use patterns and recommends initial locations to consider integrating boat inspection and decontamination to prevent landscape level spread of AIS. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, May 22, 2014

Seed Dispersal: Sneaky Plants and Gullible Ants

EliasomesI don’t trust flowers.

There are grounds for my suspicion; flowering plants are proven masters of deception. For instance, the sundew uses sparkling droplets of sticky “faux dew” to ensnare and digest curious flies; bee orchids dupe male wasps into wasting their copulatory efforts on floral structures that look and smell like a female wasp. And what about humans? As I labor on behalf of flowers, fertilizing, tilling, watering and sweating, I sometimes wonder if I’m being led down the proverbial garden path. Exactly who’s cultivating whom? » Continue Reading.



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bushwhacking for Boreal Birds

Bog south of Crooked LakeSpending time in the backcountry provides many benefits, from the physical exertion of traveling through a harsh terrain to the spiritual rejuvenation that only the sounds and smells of nature can provide. One important benefit for me personally is the pleasure of being intimately immersed in the sounds of bird life, some unique to the Adirondack region.

Unfortunately, this enjoyment appears to be in jeopardy as some of the most precious Adirondack bird species are in a deadly struggle for life and death. Some of the most iconic species of the north woods appear to be losing.
» Continue Reading.



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ed Kanze: The Secret Life Of Pollen

ed_kanze_pollenSnort it and sneeze, but don’t hate it. Pollen, each grain essentially a plant sperm and some other odds and ends wrapped up in a sturdy waterproof container, makes the world go ’round.

Listen here and join me in contemplating what pollen is, what it does, and why the world would be a barren place without it in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. » Continue Reading.


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Monday, May 5, 2014

Steve Hall: Be Grateful You’re Not A Moose

moose-wilmington-Brenda-Dadds-Woodward-092212-dQuick – which animal is most dangerous to humans in the United States? Ask State Farm, and they’ll tell you it’s the white-tailed deer, with about 150 people killed each year in auto accidents involving deer. Most lists cite mosquitoes (think West Nile), followed by bees (allergic reactions to stings), and brown recluse or black widow spiders. Domestic dogs kill about 30 people a year, horses and farm bulls about 20 each, while rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes (usually captive, handled snakes) kill about ten. If you mentioned bears, wolves or sharks, they don’t even make the list, though they always make a huge splash in the news.

Outside National Parks, bears tend to run from people, while wolves almost always flee, regardless of where you see them. Then there are moose. If moose don’t hear or smell your approach, they’re more likely to stand there, taking you in with that impassive gaze, assuming they acknowledge your presence at all. » Continue Reading.



Friday, May 2, 2014

Ed Kanze: Heat, Sweat, And A Well-Cooked Steak

warning-hotIs it possible to survive time spent in a room so hot that it could fry a steak and eggs? Listen to my tale of a famous series of experiments conducted in England in 1775.

Two of the great botanists of the time, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, braved the inferno with only minor discomfort and lived to tell the tale. The action heats up in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

TED-axe: Science, Arts, and Music Event Saturday

SAM fest paul smithsPaul Smith’s College and TAUNY (Traditional Arts in Upstate New York) will hold a daylong festival of music, art and TED-style talks Saturday, April 26, at the Paul Smith’s College VIC.

The event, called SAM Fest – for science, art and music – will feature musical performances by North Country musicians; presentations on Adirondack climate by faculty and students; exhibits of traditional folk and visual arts; maple syrup and refreshments; and a showing of “Green Fire,” an award-winning documentary on Aldo Leopold. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ausable Flooding:
Smarter Culvert Designs Benefit Fish And People

Tropical Storm Irene Runoff CulvertMost people don’t think about culverts, the large pipes that carry streams and runoff underneath our roads. Even with their essential role in our transportation infrastructure, culverts tend to be in the spotlight only when they fail. In dramatic ways, Hurricane Irene and other recent storms have put culverts (and bridges) to the test. Unfortunately, the high water from these storms overwhelmed many culverts, washing out roads, causing millions of dollars in damages across the Adirondacks, and disrupting life in many communities. For example, the town of Jay sustained about $400,000 in damage to its culverts and adjacent roads as a result of Irene. Across the Northeast, the story is much the same.

Following Tropical Storm Irene, I was part of a team of conservation professionals to assess the performance of road-stream crossings (i.e., culverts and bridges) in Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest. The peer-reviewed study, published in the current issue of Fisheries, found that damage was largely avoided at crossings with a stream simulation design, an ecologically-based approach that creates a dynamic channel through the structure that is similar in dimensions and characteristics to the adjacent, natural channel. On the other hand, damages were extensive, costly, and inconvenient at sites with stream crossings following more traditional designs. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Science of Maple Syrup

syrupIn maple country, it seems like everyone has a favorite syrup grade. Mine is U.S. Grade A dark amber. But soon, I’ll have to figure out how my favorite grade of the past jibes with a new system that several Northeastern states plan to adopt in the next few years, and that other states – as well as Canada – are also considering.

It turns out that, at least in New York, Vermont, and Maine, my favorite amber will soon be called either Grade A Amber, Rich Taste or Grade A Dark, Robust Taste, depending on which end of the amber spectrum I prefer. Lighter syrups tend to have more delicate flavors, while darker ones are more intense – a relationship on which the old maple syrup labels, that described color only, relied.

So why doesn’t all syrup taste the same? Sugars in maple sap undergo a series of changes during collection and processing that influence both color and flavor. “The most important determinant of what flavor develops in syrup are the reactions that occur when heat is applied as we process sap into syrup in the evaporator,” explained Abby van den Berg, a researcher at the Proctor Maple Research Center at the University of Vermont. » Continue Reading.



Friday, March 7, 2014

Birding: The Mating Habits of Songbirds

PhoebeWhile winter can be stunningly beautiful, with its magical snowfalls and ethereal silences, I must admit that by late-February the long absence of so many songbirds has me feeling bereft. I miss the vireos; I miss the thrushes and most especially I miss the pair of phoebes who settle into the well-worn nest on the gable end of my house to raise their young.

It’s amazing how two tiny beings who weigh no more than a handful of twigs can evoke such strong emotions in me. I am joyful when the pair resurfaces in early spring; moved by their devotion to their shared progeny, and I take pleasure in the companionship they provide one another.

But on some level I know that these are sentimental notions that I am ascribing to behavior that is biologically, not emotionally, driven. The phoebes I see one year aren’t the same phoebes that I observed the previous year. Or are they? » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Adirondack Wetlands:
A New Citizen Science Monitoring Project

Black Spruce  in an Adirondack wetland - photo by Samouel BeguinWith this winter shaping up to be a cold one, spring may still seem far away. But with time and a little patience, we will soon start to notice the lilac leaves bursting from buds, the return of brightly colored warblers, and the ringing chorus of spring peepers in the evening. Any time you detect events unfolding in the natural world, you are making phenological observations.

Phenology refers to the study of the timing of biological activities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of these changes in the life cycles of plants and animals coincide with the seasons. Besides day length, factors that influence the timing of biological events include temperature, precipitation, snowpack formation and melting, and wind. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Northern Lights: Nature’s Light Show

auroraborealisIn October of last year friends Dan Russell and Charles Baldridge stood on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain and had what they later described as an awe-inspiring experience. For an hour and a half, the sky was lit up with columns of white light, some of them tinged with red and green. This was the Aurora Borealis making an unusual appearance.

Russell remembered having goose bumps for most of the event, while Baldridge remembered wanting to call everyone he knew. “It was really exciting.” » Continue Reading.



Thursday, February 6, 2014

Buds: Spanning the Seasons

twigsThe sign in the window, which read, “Clearance! Hats and Gloves 50% off,” puzzled me. Snowflakes swirled on gusty winds. The bitter cold stung my fingertips—I wondered if I should buy warmer gloves while I had the chance. Clearance? Temperatures hadn’t climbed above freezing for days; the warmth of spring was a distant dream.

Blow out your boots, or lose your wool hat in winter, and when you go looking for a replacement you are likely to find sandals and sun hats on display. I used to rail against such a setup, assigning it to an insatiable human propensity for speed, afraid that at some point we might just lap ourselves. But when I began to study trees, and learned how their growth patterns transcend traditional seasonal boundaries, I softened my stance. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Adirondack Night Sky: Taurus The Bull

2 cave art at LascauxOn a clear midwinter evening, look high above the southern horizon and you will see a V-shaped group of moderately bright stars. These stars form the center of the large constellation Taurus. Imagine, as did the Sumerians four thousand years ago, that this pattern outlines the horns of a charging bull. The bright red star Aldebaran prominently shines on his lower (southern) horn.

The stars of the horns are called the Hyades. In Greek mythology, they were the daughters of Atlas and Aethra. Their appearance was associated with the rainy season.  At a mere 150 light years away, The Hyades are actually an open cluster of related stars. Look above and a little to the right (west) of the V and you’ll see a compact cluster of blue stars called the Pleiades. Although this beautiful little asterism is known as the Seven Sisters, some people see six stars with the naked eye, where others claim they can see eleven. With the magnification of 7×50 binoculars, a hundred or more of these gem-like blue stars are revealed in the cluster. The view is spectacular.   » Continue Reading.



Friday, January 31, 2014

Catnip: Cats on Drugs

ed_kanze_bobcatBeware the cat that’s imbibed a shot of catnip! Humans aren’t the world’s only substance abusers. Cats—little cats, big cats, house cats, wild cats—all fall for catnip. Listen here for a glimpse of cats on drugs in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.

The podcast is produced by Mountain Lake PBS’s Josh Clement. “All Things Natural” has been published continuously since 1987 . It currently appears in the Bedford, NY Record-Review. Listen to past episodes by visiting Mountain Lake PBS’s Borderless North webpage at mountainlake.org/bn.



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