Posts Tagged ‘science’

Monday, December 28, 2015

A North Country Doctor Provides the Breath of Life

IsaacPatchenOf the many great stories about old country doctors, one of my favorites happened in the North Country just a few minutes south of Plattsburgh. The doctor’s name was Isaac Hutinac Patchen. His grandfather, Claude Hutinac, married a woman whose surname was Patchen. Their son, Stephen (Isaac’s father), fought in five Revolutionary War battles and endured the terrible suffering at Valley Forge. Following the war, he assumed his mother’s surname, and family members henceforth were known as Patchens.

Isaac Patchen was born around 1793, and at age 20 he began medical training. At the time, he lived in Vermont’s Lake Champlain Islands and in northern New York, where war was affecting locals on both sides of the lake. On September 11, 1814, during the Battle of Plattsburgh, he joined a militia force and volunteered to pursue fleeing enemy soldiers. More than twenty men were captured, and years later, Isaac received a land grant of 160 acres in return for a job well done. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

What Colors Can Deer See?

TOS_Deer_VisionIf you’re a hunter who’s ever ordered something from a sporting goods company, it’s probably safe to assume that you’ve been so inundated with catalogs over the past four months. God help you if you save your seed catalogs, too.

If you take a moment to flip through your now complete seasonal collection, you might find yourself wondering why during archery season in October the companies were trying to sell you the latest and greatest camo patterns that would make you invisible to deer, but then, during rifle season in November, the same companies tried to sell you glowing blaze orange suits – but don’t worry, deer can’t see those colors anyway. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Owls Hunt In Winter With High Tech Audio Systems

TOS_Barred_Owl_winterFor several days last winter, a barred owl perched atop a dead white birch tree in our field. As winters go, last year’s was very cold, and the owl puffed up against the stubbornly below-freezing temperatures, its streaky brown and white feathers fluffed and fluttering in the icy breeze. Occasionally the owl would move its head in a slow turn, from east to west to east again, dark eyes gazing at the field blanketed in deep snow.

The owl was most likely listening more than watching, straining to hear the scratching of tiny feet moving under the thick layer of white. Owls are remarkably skilled at finding and catching prey, but even they struggle to survive a long, cold season. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

When Mushrooms Attack: The Fungus Among Us

Oyster MushroomsThe oyster mushroom: delicious, frequently spotted on veggie pizzas, and predatory. That’s right. The hyphae of many fungi, including the oyster mushroom, attack and paralyze prey. Then, as R. Greg Thorn of Western University enthusiastically described, the fungi “grow down their throats and digest them from the inside.”

Oyster mushrooms live in the trunks of dead or dying hardwoods. A couple different species grow in the Northeast, each preferring different tree species. Pleurotus ostreatus, the oyster mushroom that you find in the grocery store, is the least picky about where it grows, and it puts out its fruiting bodies from spring to fall.

Because they live on dead trees, these fungi have limited access to nitrogen. Dead wood has plenty of cellulose and lignin, but very little nitrogen-containing protein. So, like carnivorous plants (which are actually omnivorous, despite the label), oyster mushrooms have evolved a bag of tricks to supplement their diet by attracting and consuming nitrogen-rich prey. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New Study: Adirondack Sugar Maples In Decline

Colorful autumn foliage

The iconic sugar maple, one of the most economically and ecologically important trees in the eastern United States and Canada, shows signs of being in decline, according to research results published today (Oct. 21, 2015) in the journal Ecosphere.

Scientists at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) analyzed growth rings from hundreds of trees in the Adirondacks and found a decline in the growth rate began for a majority of sugar maple trees after 1970. The reasons for the decline are unclear. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Distressing Colors: Early Leaf Change An Unhealthy Sign

Early leaf colorIf trees held a race to see which would be among the first to have their leaves turn color, the winners would be losers. Premature leaf color change is a reliable indicator of failing health, and the worse a tree’s condition, the sooner it begins to turn.

Precious few places in the world have a fall color show like ours, and the display that northern hardwoods produce each autumn never fails to fill me with awe and appreciation. But when it starts in July, as was the case again this year on some roadside maples, I know those trees aren’t long for this world. In early August even some forest hardwoods growing on thin rocky soils began to show color, which is also unusual. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Afflictions Of Late Summer Tree Leaves Only Skin Deep

330px-RhytismaAcerinumDetailUBeing an arborist, I’m of course very mindful of complexion. Things like bruises and blemishes catch my eye, in addition to scabs, cuts, and even those out-of-place whiskers that appear out of nowhere. It sounds like a description of my aging skin, but I’m talking about blotches, warts and cuts that accumulate on tree leaves over the summer.

I suppose if we had to stand outside day and night all season, our skin would develop issues too. Those who work or play much outdoors need to be concerned about skin spots that suddenly show up. With tree leaves, that’s not the case – even the ugliest “skin” condition is generally no cause for concern. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wolf, Coyote, or Coywolf? New Science On Wolf Hybrids

eastern wolfUnlike Little Red Riding Hood, most of us can tell the difference between a wolf and Grandmother. But beyond that: our wolf identification skills are probably not as good as we think.

Consider the names bandied about the popular media today: gray wolf, red wolf, coyote, coywolf, coydog. Which of these are species? What is the real deal with hybrids? What does it mean for conservation? » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Electroreception: The Buzz of Bees

TOS_Honey_beesImagine you had a power that allowed you to pick up nearby objects without actually touching them. Imagine this power could help you find and choose the best foods while shopping. Imagine you could use this power to communicate with your family. Bees have just such a power. It’s called electroreception, and it gives them the ability to perceive and respond to electrical fields.

Scientists have known since at least the 1970s that flying bees can pick up electrostatic charges as they move, but they didn’t know whether these charges had any practical value. Today, some suspect that electrostatic charge may be very useful to bees. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Woodlot Management: Losing Money By High-Grading

100_1149What do you call a dairy farmer who spends decades improving the genetics of a herd, then abruptly sells all the best animals to start a new herd from scraggly, unproven stock? Crazy, perhaps, or foolish at the very least.

Under normal circumstances, no livestock farmer culls their best animals to start over with random ones. Yet it’s common for woodlot owners to sell all the large, well-formed trees during a timber sale and leave nothing but small and defective trees to regenerate the next forest. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Study: Adirondackers Support Return of Cougars

Julie Larsen Maher_8520_Puma_WTR_QZ_11 20 09_hr[1]A new paper from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) looks at the social aspects and public attitudes with regard to a potential mountain lion re-colonization in the Adirondack Park.

The paper finds that more than three-quarters of residents and visitors would support the idea should the animals return on their own.  Fifteen percent of Adirondackers polled said they had personally seen a mountain lion, despite the fact they were extirpated from New York State by around 1885. Some 80% said mountain lions still live in the Adirondacks, despite the paucity of evidence for an established population. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 20, 2015

The Science Behind Fledging Birds

TOS_grouse_fledglingOn a recent afternoon, I saw a baby ruffed grouse about the size of a pin cushion scurry into the bushes. I had the same impulse I did as a 10-year-old when I scooped up a baby blue jay hopping around on a neighbor’s lawn: I wanted to “rescue” it.  Instead, I kept driving, leaving the tiny bird to its fate.

Fledging is perilous for all birds – most won’t survive their first year – but what exactly is that process? Do nestlings know when to leave or do the parents signal when it’s time? Do they all go at once? Will the parents continue to protect and feed them after they have fledged? And what should I have done, if anything, to help that baby ruffed grouse? » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Climate Change is Altering Nature’s Clock

Salamander-Stager-600x383Scientist Curt Stager walks along the edge of the woods, his flashlight shining into the shallow water of a leafy, roadside pool on a dark night in Paul Smiths. It’s late April, and he’s out looking for spotted salamanders, wood frogs, and spring peepers that have migrated to shallow vernal pools to breed. After poking around for a minute, he lets out an excited shout: “There’s a salamander! There he is! He’s early!”

In the water is a dark, four-inch-long creature with bright yellow spots. In the same pool not far away, wood frogs float on the surface. In another week, pools like this will be a filled with breeding frogs and salamanders, which will leave behind egg sacks that hatch into larvae.

Spotted salamanders spend most of the year underground, so seeing them is rare except during these annual breeding migrations. Their journeys are triggered by the first rains of spring. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Adirondack Moose Population Showing Positive Signs

July 2012 at Helldiver Pond, Moose River Plains (Linda Bohrer Erion photo)The Adirondack moose population appears to be healthy and growing, according to early indications from a moose study currently taking place.

“We don’t know how many moose we have yet. We don’t know how frequent the moose are on the landscape. We don’t know their densities,” said Ben Tabor, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “What we do know is that our moose seem to be bigger and healthier than New Hampshire’s and Maine’s.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Carry Firewood Now, Boil Less Water Later

How much are you willing to pay to boil water? I don’t mean to make coffee or cook pasta, but for the heck of it. Would you spend $200 to $600 annually just to let off some steam?

Probably not, right? But if you heat with wood, you already shell out hard-earned money each year to boil water for no practical reason. » Continue Reading.



Wait, before you go,

sign up for news updates from the Adirondack Almanack!