Posts Tagged ‘science’

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Identifying Trees In Winter Using Buds

Tree BudsEvery winter I teach several tree identification classes to biology students. Cold or colder, it’s always outdoors, but if student evaluations are on the level, it’s always fun. Demonstrating how to tell one leaf-bereft hardwood from another is one thing.

Bark is not the best feature for identifying trees. Sure, white bark means birch, but some birches have black, yellow or reddish bark. Typical bark patterns, such as diamond-shaped furrows for ash, can be absent depending on site conditions and tree health. Cherry and ironwood bark have light-colored horizontal dashes called lenticels, but only on young wood. Not all hickories have shaggy bark. Bark may provide a clue, but it’s not to be trusted as a sole, or even a primary, source of information. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Carthage Inventor Edward Shortt (Conclusion)

02ShorttDuplexEngineTwo creations of Jefferson County’s Edward Shortt were very successful in the 1880s, but like most inventors, he was always thinking, always innovating. Commercial success was important for funding future projects, but his steam pump and award-winning duplex engine, along with the backing of wealthy men like Charles Emery, ensured Edward of a comfortable living standard.

In the early 1990s, as Shortt’s duplex engines began mass production, he delved into designing a better braking system for trains. Other than for financial profit, there were many reasons to do so. Frequent and horrible rail accidents involved great loss of life, particularly in collision situations. The inability to effectively slow and stop such large, moving vehicles often played a role in catastrophic crashes. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Adirondack Snowshoe Hares in Winter

TOS_HareHomeFor the past 14 years, my Winter Ecology students and I have spent a lot of time outdoors, studying the preferred habitat features and winter foods of snowshoe hares. We’re likely to find hare tracks hopping in and around lowland conifers near wetland edges, and then again at higher elevations, where the forest transitions into fir, birch, and spruce. Where we won’t find them, at least not very often, is in broad bands of open, leafless hardwood. On the rare occasions that we find tracks in this habitat, they have almost always been single strands of widely spaced prints – suggesting an animal that’s really moving! » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How Ice Storms Impact Trees

TOS.treesandiceIce storm.

If you live in northern New England, those words can send a chill up your spine. They portend demolition derbies on the roads, power outages and the ominous cracking sound of limbs breaking and trees falling in woods, parks and urban streets.

Snow we’re up for. Ice, not so much. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 5, 2015

DEC Seeks Input on Threatened Species

Atlantic Sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrhynchus from artwork commissioned by the Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1970'sThe Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is revising its list of Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN), which includes species that are at risk in New York.  The list is now in it’s final draft form and DEC is seeking comments. » Continue Reading.


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”. » 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.


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