A Hard-Won Victory
Monday, June 29, 2009 | Author: eventer79
In the ongoing fight to keep grey wolves protected (I talked about it in these posts), today brought us a new partial victory. The Great Lakes wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin are now once more protected.

The northern Rockies wolves though, are still unprotected and vulnerable to slaughter from trophy hunters, which in my mind are equivalent to the worst kind of human being. Conservation groups have a case in court battling hard to protect these incredible animals who are still at risk for extinction if their numbers are reduced yet again by illegal delisting actions pushed through by the ranching lobby and a powerful minority group of predjudiced and fearful people. You can go to my January 16th post in the list linked above to find a link to the Natural Resources Defense Council, who along with Defenders of Wildlife are fighting to help these animals regain protection. Any support you can offer will be invaluable, calling or emailing your representative or sending financial support. Normally, I don't endorse giving money, but both of these organizations are well-run and do excellent work, spending that money to realize on the ground change.
Fur Real??
Friday, June 26, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact!

They're cute, heinously soft and I seem unable to pass by one without threatening to succumb to an overwhelming urge to cuddle it. Resistance is futile...

The suspect: the chinchilla. Most often viewed as a charming but not overly talented pet, these uber-strokable rodents nonetheless possess some amazing survival abilities that belie those seemingly helpless eyes.

These animals have the highest fur density in the world, with 20,000 hairs per square centimeter and up to fifty hairs growing from a single follicle (we humans can only muster one lousy hair per follicle). This crazy dense coat is esstential in their homeland, the chilly heights of the South American Andes. So thick is their fur that should any skin parasite, like a flea, attempt invasion, it will suffocate in the hairy depths. Combine this with the ability of the chinchilla to jump five feet in the air from a standstill and you have an animal who is a master of survival in an often-hostile environment.

Tough things sometimes come in a very soft, innocent packages...
Rollin' Down The River
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Out all week in the canoe doing river habitat surveys, so my ability to write deeply insightful and hilarious posts (c'mon, just lie, it will make me feel better) is slightly handicapped. I just don't think I can pick up a wireless signal in mid-channel...

On the plus side, I am getting to explore paddle stroke by paddle stroke a beautiful river. Gliding under heron nests, we are surprised by a muskrat nose right next to the bow. Apparently, so was the yellow-bellied slider who shot off in the dusky water next to me! Today, a little blue heron popped out of an ancient sycamore in front of us much to the distress of a prothonotary warbler (right), who hollered his mighty protest from a neighbouring tree trunk. Musk turtles seem to plop off logs every 30 feet and great blue herons, great egrets, and ospreys escort us with measured wingflaps down the river corridor. It's impossible not to wonder how I ever got lucky enough to get paid for this. Of course, then I remember that that pay is merely a pittance and there is still the thicket of poison ivy to trudge through at the takeout!

Life is full of tradeoffs, but this is one that today I am willing to make. Spending the day in liquid silence broken only by the sigh of a canoe's bow wave and the wildlife that surrounds you...it is therapy for the soul and I prescribe it to every human being. I think it would make us all better people and at the very least, it would remind us that we only need open our eyes and ears for a moment to see the wonder around us. To hear the soft pump of wings, the hiss of waves on shore, and the breath of a breeze on summer leaves is to be reminded the rhythm of our heartbeat and in it, the core of our being.
Sad But True
Saturday, June 20, 2009 | Author: eventer79
If it seems so obvious that surely EVERYONE would know it...

They probably don't.

Facts don't really seem to factor in to many people's arguments. At all. I am constantly flabbergasted (isn't that a great word?) by the lack of excruciatingly basic biological literacy. I mean that stuff that 4th graders know. I used to teach university undergraduate biology labs and on a quiz, as a "gimme" question, I asked "What is a tadpole?" Not exactly rocket science. Answers included "A fish that hatches out of a frog egg and turns back into a frog later" and my very favourite, "A baby lizard."

*beats head against desk*

Why why why does this occur? How are adults so disconnected from the world? When glazed-over eyes fix on "Britney's Beach Cellulite Captured on Film" and the new primetime series "24 Hours Until The CSI Team Breaks Out Of Prison On A Lost Island", is all useful knowledge sucked out and vaporized???

True story: I was at the Kansas City Zoo (which contains some appallingly poor animal keeping practices by the way, never go there) watching a sea lion show. A sea lion was up on a rock, walking around and catching frisbees in its mouth (apparently zoo staff felt that sea lions were simply aquatic Border Collies?). Let me emphasize: walking around on a rock. A kid and mom walk up behind me and the kid says, "Wow, mom, what is that?" Mom says, "Dolphins, honey." *sound of my palm hitting my face* DOLPHINS CAN'T WALK, YOU IDIOT. God only knows how that poor child is going to get through life with an educational example like that.

Once again, Patrick McDonnell captures the phenomenon with his usual mix of laughter and poignant truth:

I'm Not Cool With That. Period.
Friday, June 19, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact!

Humans, primates, bats, and shrews are the only animals who have a true menstrual cycle.

Whee, lucky us. I'm sorry, did I not sound overly enthusiastic? Did it seem as if I'd rather be related to say, bears or giraffes or zebras or pretty much any mammal that DIDN'T have a period?

Ooo, can you imagine if we had descended from giraffes? (artwork courtesy of a very talented Saudi artist named Ashley Alexander) Wow, we might all be 11 feet tall! And we could live on leaves! What a lovely dent that would make in my grocery bill....

If you are still back there wondering what happens to all the other uterine linings in all those lucky little bastards of animals who don't have periods, the linings are reabsorbed by the body, a rather neat little trick that I am now going to work the rest of my life trying to master.
I CAN Take The Heat But That Doesn't Mean I Want To
Thursday, June 18, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Too much rain to do field work. Rivers and streams are turbid from sediment-laden runoff, the colour of chocolate milk. Pointless to go out in these conditions -- you couldn't see a fish if it was an inch away from you. But at least too much rain is good for the animals. Groundwater levels come up, streams are full, vegetation takes off, ditches flush energy in the form of nutritious bits of leaves and sticks into river channels. Bugs go crazy gorging themselves on this new bonanza. Fish go crazy gorging on bugs distracted by the buffet. And it all provides a nice buffer against the drought which is sure to strike again.

For now, my dog lies dreaming on my office floor, paws a-twitching in some dream of a Great Squirrel Hunt. I am happy to look out my window and see all things green and vibrant, not the crushing, somber brown of two years ago. Groundhog children play in the yard while their turkey neighbour eyes them warily. "Keep those noisy whippersnappers to yourself!" he tells their parent. Five-lined skinks skirt blooming blue hydrangea bushes in search of unwary insects. I hope everyone takes a good long drink of all this water-driven goodness before tomorrow when the thermometer hovers at 100 F. If life is kind, at that point I will be hiding inside this nice cool building typing out your Friday Fun Fact for you!

Till then, wander in wonder...
Food For Thought
Monday, June 15, 2009 | Author: eventer79
So I've talked about the criminal scam that is corn-based ethanol here.

And I touched briefly on the effects of world hunger here.

Now I want to talk about cause and effect. We are rapidly spiraling into a global food shortage at the present. World stockpiles are at an all time low because, very simply, there are now more people on the planet than there is food to feed them. If you are reading (or writing) this blog, you are probably a person who pretty much takes food for granted -- you go to the grocery store and food is there for the taking. We, however, are in the minority and actions we take here DO affect what happens in the rest of the world.

Here is the heart of this particular travesty: the amount of corn used to produce ONE 25-gallon tank of ethanol could feed a person for a year. Can you please justify that to the family on the right? In 2008, 30% of the US corn harvest was used for this insanely inefficient fuel source that DOESN'T save energy and DOESN'T save fossil fuels. A THIRD OF THE CORN WE PRODUCED. If I had been eating ground up roots for a year just trying to stay alive, I believe I might be pushed into a murderous rage by that news.

The fact is, it's just wrong. It IS a crime, and even crueler, it is a crime that affects only the people suffering because of it. The perpetrators see no evil, hear no evil. Not only does it take food from the mouths of those who can least afford it, it also causes large amounts of resource destruction in countries where food is lacking. Put bluntly, hungry people don't give a shit about endangered species. And I can't blame them -- if you have to wonder if you will get your one meal of rice paste for the day, you are not going to spend one thought on the availability of natural resources that surround you. Even though those very resources directly affect the availability of neccessities like clean water, when one is struggling day to day to just SURVIVE, it is impossibile to consider the long term.

We all can think more about the results of the choices we make. Of course, perfection is impossible, we all make an impact and use resources just by existing. But each time a person chooses the ethical and the responsible, that DOES make a difference. People say money talks and it does. Where and how you spend your money shapes the flow of goods and services. So wanderers, let's shape it into a better place, shall we?
Dory Was A Liar
Friday, June 12, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact! I bet you've heard this "fact" before: goldfish have a memory span of only three seconds because their brains are very...oh, hi, did you have a question? I have a "fact" I bet you've heard before: goldfish have a memory span...

Ok, ok, I'll stop, but I don't care who you are, that there's FUNNY! BUT, it's also not true. Researchers at Plymouth University have in fact discovered that Dory's cousin, Goldie, can remember things as long as three months, tell time, feel pain when hooked, and recognize school-mates.

Moral: be kind to your goldfish. Because he's counting the hours until you go to sleep...
Sometimes You Just Get To See Badass Wildlife Pictures
Thursday, June 11, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Check out this series from Kevin Schafer, courtesy of National Geographic. Here are a few samples below. He photographed the little-known Amazon River dolphins, who are descended from sea-faring ancestors. You can read more about them in his slideshow at the link above. I am in awe of Schafer's captures of the rich colours in this tannin-stained water, his use of perspective, and the pure delight of watching an aquatic animal fully in its element. I love to mess around with cameras, but am positively sick with desire for the opportunity (and equipment!) to make exposures like this. Do wander over and peruse his work, leave me here to drool...

A Honey Of A Project
Monday, June 08, 2009 | Author: eventer79
After the most recent Friday Fun Fact, one reader asked how to set up a beehive in her own backyard. Given near total losses in my state and many others of honeybee populations, we are well-served to do all we can to help these important insects to thrive.

There are actually options available depending on the level of involvement you are seeking. First of course, you can build your own hive, order bees, and maintain it yourself. Not only can you produce up to 60 lbs of honey a year (tasty!!), but you will also see your garden flourish as well as bolstering the health of plants within your bees foraging range.

An excellent page put together by the University of Georgia.
Step by step from eHow.
A "hive" of information from bees-on-the-net.com

Another way to get all the benefits with none of the work is to contact a local beekeeper. Often, they are willing to maintain a hive on your property and all you have to do is sit back and let the bees do their thing. The beekeeper may then just stop by once a month or so and take care of the hive.

You will have to do a bit of your own Google work to find this one. There is a list of beekeepers by state on bees-on-the-net (above). If you live in NC, the NC State Beekeepers Association website has all you need to know!

On a side note, if you want something even easier than honeybees, look into providing a home for orchard mason bees. You can build a simple house for them (right) as they do not live in hives. They are a very mild-mannered bee and also pollinate flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Think about it seriously, wanderers, as we depend on these animals for our food supply and, in relation, economic wellbeing. Plus, all your neighbours will be so jealous of your incredible gardens -- and really, who DOESN'T want to make their neigbours jealous of your mad skills???
Friday, June 05, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Yeah! Friday Fun Fact!

Thirty percent of all food resources used by humans come from plants pollinated by bees.

The USDA estimates that the average person eats 4.7 lbs of food per day. That means 1.4 pounds of that is available to you thanks to the hard work of honeybees. 1.4 pounds is several sandwiches worth of food, so we are talking significant chunks here.

In my state, wild honeybees are completely extinct. All of our bees are residents of privately kept hives. Our wild bees have been wiped out by disease and predators. As you can imagine, this causes quite a ripple impact through the agricultural industry. There are already large groves and farms who must employ people to hand pollinate plants with dusters because there are not enough bees left to do the job. This has major economic impacts, not only to the producers of the food, but to us consumers who will have to absorb this extra cost of production which was once provided free by nature.

Of course, this doesn't include the other services they provide, including making honey (which is not only a natural preservative, but an excellent antibiotic and can fend off allergies) and beeswax, which is used human pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, furniture polish, art materials, and candles. Even bee venom is used to treat arthritis, neuralgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and multiple sclerosis.

So next time you chow down on a piece of fruit or bread or vegetable, you should "bee" very grateful (I know, I know, I'm hilarious). If we lose these fascinating little insects, we will be not only hungry, but broke. Have a little extra room in your yard? Set up a hive and start a bee colony of your own (no, they will not chase or attack you, they don't want to sting you any more than you want to be stung). Even providing flowering plants where bees can forage will help these critters survive increasing pressure from urbanization.

Spread some positive buzz about honeybees as you go about your next week. After all, if you are what you eat, a sweeter little animal surely cannot exist!
Wednesday, June 03, 2009 | Author: eventer79
A brutal few days doing field work. All day, 90+ degrees, catching, counting, measuring, weighing fish who would really rather not be handled. And who do their damndest to stick their spiny fin rays into my skin at every possible opportunity despite my insistence that I am not going to hurt them. As a result, my brain is fried and my hands are pincushions today. I am relishing the cool air of the office for a day or two before striking out in search of more critters great and small.

But the results of these recent labours are promising -- we are seeing a marked increase in numbers and population health of an endangered fish species that lives in the river. They are found nowhere else in the world. They appear to have had several years of successful reproduction and individuals of all sizes are found throughout our sampling sites, which is a sign that things are looking up for this beautiful little fish! Thanks to the removal of an old hydropower dam four years ago, their habitat is restored and their future is getting brighter every day!