For 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.
Posts Tagged ‘science’
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
The 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.
Researchers 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.
Autumn 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.
Halloween 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.
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.
Over 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.
My 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.
Imagine 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.
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