The state may introduce spruce grouse into the Adirondacks as early as this year to bolster a native population that appears headed for extinction.
Without intervention, the state’s spruce-grouse population could vanish by 2020, according to a recovery plan released today by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
“The spruce grouse is perhaps the best-known icon and a perfect representative of boreal habitats in New York,” said Michale Glennon, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program, in a DEC news release. » Continue Reading.
A number of debates in the Adirondacks revolve around snowmobiling, including opening long-closed backcountry roads to sleds, expanding trail networks or routing connector trials on state lands, and shared use of trails. Snowmobilers often cite their positive economic impact as a reason to expand the approximately 800 miles of groomed snowmobile trails on state land.
A new study of the 2010 – 2011 snowmobiling season commissioned by the New York State Snowmobile Association and undertaken by the SUNY Potsdam Institute for Applied Research, offers some insight. It concludes that snowmobiling statewide contributes more than $428.5 million annually in direct spending, but much of that money is spent in Adirondack feeder markets on sleds, trailers, maintenance, and equipment.
Imagine if the population of Adirondack loons had declined more than 50 percent over the past two decades. Imagine too that loons stood a 35 percent chance of vanishing entirely from the Park by 2020.
Wouldn’t there be a public outcry from bird lovers and conservationists? Wouldn’t the Adirondack Council, which features a loon call on its website, be demanding that the state do something to stop the decline?
Don’t worry. The loon population appears to be stable. It’s only the spruce grouse that is in danger of vanishing from the Adirondack Park. » Continue Reading.
Pendragon Theatre’s production of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird is on the road throughout the Adirondack Park and beyond. The two-act play was adapted by Christopher Sergel and first performed in 1987 in England. Since that time the play has been performed in schools and theatres around the world to great acclaim.
Set in 1930 Alabama at the height of the Great Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on the intense class and racial tensions of the time as seen through the eyes of young Scout Finch. Narrated by the adult Scout, the coming of age story tackles such complex issues as interracial relationships, segregation and sterotypes. As Scout’s father Atticus, a lawyer, defends a black man accused of raping a poor white girl, the characters in the town expose their own bigotry. Throughout the story are themes of courage, innocence and the moral failures of society. Pendragon Founder and Managing Director Bob Pettee, who also plays Atticus Finch, says, “The version we at Pendragon Theatre chose to do is the only authorized version of the book. Harper Lee talked to Christoper Segel directly. The version that we’ve chosen does not have the older character of Scout, like in the movie. We felt the (Segel) version told the story more directly.” Pettee says, “ To Kill A Mockingbird is a universal story, so simple, so direct. The Boo Radley character becomes so fictionalized, larger than life and then finally known to just be human.”
Pettee comments on the larger issues that are addressed in the play with “man’s ability to be inhuman.” Pendragon Theare recently had received a letter from a teacher thanking the cast for the school performance. The teacher had overheard two students from his English class comparing the injustices of To Kill A Mockingbird with the injustices of the class reading assignment The Lottery. The teacher felt that the unprompted discussion of two pieces of literature from his students was powerful.
“I think this play has opened up conversations where children have an access to this material based on the age of the actors in this piece. The three kids we have are just dynamite, are solid performers ranging from 6th to 8th grade. They are very accomplished and adapt to the other spaces and it is a real treat to have them involved.”
“It is challenging to take a play on the road but we have a lot of experience,” says Pettee. “From an actor’s point of view it is good to see how we will connect this piece with a new audience. The Pendragon (home) theatre is a more intimate theatre where a larger performance space presents differently and we (the actors) still have to connect and be genuine and real for the audience.”
Pendragon actor Donna Moschek brings the part of Miss Maudie to life and says, “This version of the play uses Maudie as the narrator, not an older Scout, which is interesting. I think it’s a good choice because Maudie represents the female role model that Scout most admires in the novel and certainly takes a moral stand. I loved Maudie in the novel and I love her in the play because she is an inescapably part of this small town, but she believes it is possible for change to happen.”
Moschek says, “I think this play and the novel are still relevant and will always be relevant as long as racism, oppression and prejudice still exist. It’s the idea that prejudice can be so quietly present and so accepted that no one even notices what it can do. No one questions. I think the play and the book teach us that looking closely at our beliefs and our actions could be what saves us from making a decision based on prejudice, or a stereotype we have in our minds. If we can be aware of it, we can move to change it in ourselves and in others.”
SUNY Potsdam’s School of Education and Professional Studies, in partnership with the College’s Department of English and Communication, invites submissions from area elementary, middle and high school students for the 2011 North Country Peace Poetry Contest.
The North Country Peace Poetry Contest is open to students in all K-12 classrooms in both public and private schools in Northern New York. Students are invited to create and submit original poems on the subject of peace. Dr. Viki Levitt is a poet and a longtime judge for the contest, and beginning this year she will serve as co-director with Dr. Jennifer Mitchell. They are taking the lead as organizers, with guidance from Dr. Sharmain van Blommestein, who coordinated the contest for several years.
“The Peace Poetry Contest provides an opportunity for young writers to express their own concepts of peace through the creative act of composing original poems. Their poems offer all of us the chance to contemplate the ideal of peace and to celebrate each others’ visions of it,” Dr. Levitt said.
Peace is a uniquely human concept, and it affirms the human spirit. Though this contest holds no formal position on the current state of world affairs, the College wants to honor the ideal of peace through young students’ writing.
Judging will occur in February and March. Contest organizers will select about 80 poems for publication in a poetry calendar with the title North Country Schools Peace Poetry, 2011. Winning students and their teachers will receive free copies of the poetry calendar, and will be invited to take part in a poetry reading on the SUNY Potsdam campus to celebrate their contributions and accept their awards.
SUNY Potsdam senior archaeological studies major and Rochester native Jonathan Reeves is spending his fall weekends digging burial pits with stone tools like those used by Neanderthals in the College’s Lehman Park.
Reeves, who is also a member of the SUNY Potsdam men’s soccer team, hopes to demonstrate evidence of ritual in Neanderthal burials by trying to dig graves in the same method and style himself on campus. Neanderthals are extinct members of the Homo genus classified either as a separate species or as a subspecies of humans, Homo sapiens. By finding out more about the effort and thought put into the method used to dispose of the dead, Reeves hopes to find out more about the mindset of Neanderthals.
“I wanted to look at how long it would actually take to bury one of these individuals. Is it that exhaustive? Can it be done by one person, or do you need multiple people? I wanted to put a number behind this effort,” he said. “The second thing I wanted to do was see how that number fit in with the rest of the stuff that we know about the Neanderthal lifestyle.”
Reeves ordered special flint tools made just like those used during the Neanderthal period. Called scrapers, the rock implements had a variety of simple uses-one of which was freeing soil while digging a grave. The student uses several sizes of scrapers to dig, and then uses his hands to remove the dirt from his hole.
He has dug two burial pits so far, based on the dimensions of sites where Neanderthal remains have been found in the past. One was a smaller rounded grave like one that archaeologists found the remains of a Neanderthal child in. That burial pit took Reeves three hours to dig. He solicited the help of three other students to dig a large deep rectangular pit like one that a Neanderthal adult was found in as well.
Reeves records his heart rate throughout the digging, and that of his volunteers, so he can mark how much time and effort it took.
“My arm gets really tired, and I get a bruise on my hand from holding the scraper. The first time, I got a half an hour in and realized I’d barely gotten anywhere,” Reeves said. “My thought is that for the Neanderthals, they’d really have to want to do this, even if they really just wanted to bury the body to cover it up and keep predators away. It takes a huge part out of the day for a hunter-gatherer, and there would be easier ways to dispose of a body.”
Since Neanderthals had a semi-nomadic lifestyle, leaving their various campsites to hunt during the day and returning only to sleep and eat, Reeves found it interesting that they would choose to bury a body in that location. He also wonders, since other Neanderthal bodies have been found that were not buried, if there was a symbolic choice involved for those that were.
“I can’t say that they believed in an afterlife, but it seems there definitely was a social component, that the group members felt that this was an important loss. The burials say something about the connection that individual had to the group,” Reeves said.
Reeves is an anthropology major and is earning his minor in geology. He hopes to attend graduate school to further his studies in archaeology.
SUNY Potsdam has been training students in archaeology for more than 40 years. The College’s interdisciplinary program includes coursework in archaeological methods, history, art and geology.
Registration for the 2009 Youth Climate is closed but schools, universities, parents and children can follow the two-day event via a live stream. Conceived by then 17-year-old Zachary Berger of Lake Placid after attending the Adirondack Climate Conference last year, this year’s summit illustrates to all young people that their opinions and ideas can make a difference. After much anticipation the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit will be held November 9th and 10th at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The 24 attending high schools and colleges will each send a team of students, educators, administrators and facilities staff to develop a feasible carbon reduction plan that decreases energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions to bring back to their schools and communities.
Zachary Berger, inspired by the Adirondack Climate Conference held at The Wild Center in 2008, contacted conference planners to organize a similar gathering exploring climate change and its effect on the Adirondacks for the youth of the region. In early 2009, a steering committee, comprised of students, educators and The Wild Center staff, formed to bring Zach’s vision to fruition.
Berger says, “At the [Adirondack Climate] Conference there were over 175 community leaders, business owners, and others, all with a concern for the environment, but there were only about 10 students, representing only one university, and one high school. From my point of view this under representation led to things being overlooked such as the lack of environmental education in public schools.”
The Youth Climate Summit’s goal is multilevel, according to ADKCAP (Adirondack Climate and Energy Action Plan). The Summit will hold educational plenary sessions where research-based information will be presented about the economic and ecological effects of climate change. Participants will learn strategies to address climate change in the Adirondacks and how, when applied, communities will benefit monetarily.
Workshops are scheduled throughout the two-day event pairing students with experienced personnel to develop training skills to inspire participants to engage others to “green their schools and communities.” Through hands-on activities members will learn team-building skills in the hopes to engage classmates and coworkers in a grassroots effort to make their schools energy-efficient. During this process teams will develop a carbon and cost reduction plan to bring back to each school.
The following high schools and colleges are attending this inaugural year: Chateaugay Central School, Clifton-Fine Central School, Colton-Pierrepont Central School, Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School, Green Tech Charter High School, Heuvelton Central School, Keene Central School, Lake Placid High School, Madrid-Waddington Central School, Minerva Central School, Moriah Central School, Morristown Central School, Newcomb Central School, Northville Central School, Ogdensburg Free Academy, Plattsburgh High School, Potsdam High School, Saranac Lake Central School, St. Regis Falls, Tupper Lake Central School, Clarkson University, Colgate University, North Country Community College, Paul Smiths College, St. Lawrence University and SUNY Potsdam.
These institutions will serve as models in energy efficiency, sustainable energy usage, building maintenance, landscaping & grounds management, school & community garden planning, and how to affect the current science curriculum in schools. (The Summit is aligned with NYS Commencement Level MST Standards.)
The Adirondack Youth Climate Summits are scheduled through 2011 to monitor the success of each climate action plan. There will also be the opportunity for those Adirondack schools that watch the live web stream to participate in future summits. The complete schedule information is available here.
This weekend The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is hosting a special symposium that will look at the global and local health of amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, etc) and what it means for the Adirondacks and our planet (details below, along with a full list of Adirondack amphibians).
Probably because they lived in two polluted worlds – they are cold-blooded animals that metamorphose from a water-breathing juvenile to an air-breathing adult – amphibian populations around the globe are threatened or extinct. Some scientists believe it’s related to environmental pollutants, development that reduces their habitat, and global warming (which exacerbates pathogen outbreaks) are to blame. This brings up the DEC’s Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project (known as the Herp Atlas), a ten year survey (1990-1999) documenting the distribution of New York State’s herpetofauna. Using more than 1,200 volunteers, the project hoped to count 20 species in each survey block (based on 7.5′ topographic quadrangles) – that number was lowered by the end of the project to 15 species in each block – the data is lame, and hasn’t been exploited as far as I can see.
What data there has been made available is here, although I’m not sure why it hasn’t been included in the USGS North American Amphibian Monitoring Program. Records prior to 1989 were also supposed to be compiled for a historic database, but the online data doesn’t even include 1999’s findings, let alone any historic data or analysis. So all the public really has to work with is a simple map and a series of fact sheets on the state’s amphibians and reptiles.
We have to wonder (no we don’t, we already know) why the Whitetail-deer management effort is so comprehensive, when the the herps are given short-shrift. The fact is that amphibians are experiencing an obvious and serious decline that suggests they may be “toads in the coal mine.” How about at least a Landowner’s Guide for Managing Amphibians?
Here are the details for the Wild Center’s Amphibian Weekend, which is free for members or with paid admission:
July 26 – 11am-12pm: “Amphibians of New York State” in the Flammer Theater with Dr. Glenn Johnson, Professor Biology at SUNY Potsdam and co-author of Reptiles and Amphibians of New York State 12pm-12:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall. 1pm-2pm: Lecture in Flammer Theater Why Amphibians Matter with Dr. Kevin Zippel, Program Director of Amphibian Ark, a scientific initiative sponsored by the Chicago Zoological Society . The Chicago Zoological Society is leading zoos worldwide in the globally coordinated public awareness campaign entitled “2008 The Year of the Frog.” 2-2:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in The Great Hall. 3pm-4pm: Children’s Program in The Great Hall with Wild Center naturalists called “Cyclin’ Around the Pond: The Life Cycles of Amphibians in Blue Pond”.
July 27 – 11am-12pm: Get “Up Close with Wild Center Amphibians” in the Flammer Theater with our own amphibian biologist, Frank Panaro. This program will cover the biology of Adirondack amphibians with special glimpses of them under the camera. 12-12:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall 1pm-2pm: Lecture in Flammer Theater entitled “Conservation of Kihansi Spray Toad” with Dr. Jennifer Pramuk, Curator of Herpetology at The Bronx Zoo. Other topics covered will be global amphibian health and zoo initiatives to protect and conserve amphibians worldwide. 2pm-2:30pm: Amphibian Encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall 3pm-4pm: Family Art Program- “Flippin’ Frogs and Slithery Salamanders”- Origami frogs and salamanders (the frogs can actually flip!).