Posts Tagged ‘science’

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.


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.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Adirondack Deep Freeze: Groans, Snaps, and Booms

winter-injury5When temperatures dip well below zero Fahrenheit, especially if they fall precipitously, things pop. Wood siding creaks. Frozen lakes and ponds emit ominous groans, snaps, and booms that reverberate through the ice. If soil moisture is high and frost is deep, even the earth can shift in a harmless localized cryoseism, or “frost quake” that produces a nerve-rattling bang.

If you live in a wooded area, you’ve probably heard trees popping and cracking during a deep freeze. It’s an eerie sound on an otherwise still night. Native peoples from northern regions were very familiar with this sound, and some even named one of the winter months in honor of it. The Lakota call February cannapopa wi, ‘moon when trees crack from the cold.’ The Arapaho consider December the tree-cracking time; for the Abenaki, it’s January. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Stars Align At The Adirondack Public Observatory

Marc Staves inspects a telescope at the Adk Public Observatory in Tupper Lake (Pat Hendrick Photo)Framed by mountains and free of sprawl, Tupper Lake has always been a good place for gazing at the stars. Now the heavens just got closer.

The Adirondacks’ first public observatory is set to formally open in July in a clearing above Little Wolf Pond. Ten years in the making, the Adirondack Public Observatory is the work of a group of committed astronomers who raised $200,000 in community donations and persuaded village leaders to preserve Tupper Lake’s dark skies by toning down the lights.

On a recent summer evening, the observatory’s cofounder, Marc Staves, rolled back the observatory’s four-thousand-pound roof. A storm was on its way, but the clouds did little to dampen his enthusiasm. Closing the roof as the first raindrops started to fall, Staves introduced the observatory’s other attractions: three working telescopes bolted to the floor and a bank of computers, arranged 2001 Space Odyssey-like, in a control room next-door. Equipped with high-speed Internet, the observatory will eventually allow sky watchers to remotely aim computerized telescopes at stars, planets, comets, and other objects in the night sky and take pictures and astronomical measurements that could help identify, say, the next asteroid crashing to Earth. » Continue Reading.