You Are What You Eat
Friday, November 27, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact!

And a turkey fact it is, of course!

Adult turkeys have between 5,000 and 6,000 feathers (oh poor student who had to count these, how I pity you.). These feathers allow them to fly up to 55 mph, unless they have the misfortune of being born a domesticated turkey, which cannot fly at all. Even if they are on the ground though, don't take a turkey on in a foot race as they can easily pass you at 25 mph in a dead run.

Turkeys may be goofy looking, but they are very intelligent and posses keen eyesight. Which was why Benjamin Franklin chose the wild turkey as the US national bird. Unfortunately, the turkey was ousted by the showy bald eagle -- which is somewhat more appropriate, as eagles are known for their scavenging, bully ways; they much prefer to beat up smaller birds and take their food rather than hunt on their own, a piece of poetic irony I just love.
You Are Getting Verrrrrrry Sleeeeeeeeepy...
Friday, November 20, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact!

There still a few bronze leaves twirling to the ground in the wind outside my window. But the chill in the air leaves no doubt: it is time to gorge myself, curl up in a warm dark hole, and sleep till spring like Lil' Ms Dormouse on the right.

Winter makes food and water deathly scarce for wildlife the world over (plus it's just damn cold and no fun at all). In a rather miraculous feat of survival, many species opt to sleep it out, either in full hibernation or a lighter nap known as torpor.

True hibernation involves the near-shutting down of an animal's metabolism. Average mammalian body temp is around 99 degress, but they will drop it down to an average of 43 degrees. Heart rate can plummet to 10 beats per minute.

Some, like bears, den up alone and may even give birth to cubs without waking up (how about that for a relaxing childbirth experience?!). Others, like bats, snakes and ladybugs, will snuggle together in one giant spoon-fest to share collective body heat. So closely rationed are body resources that bats, for example, if awakened during winter in their hibernacular caves, can die as a result. The unexpected waking event will burn too much energy and they will run out of resources before spring and renewed food supplies arrive (spelunk quietly and with care in the winter and try to stay out of hibernaculars!).

A bear is often thought of as a classic hibernator, but in actuality, they practice torpor. Their body temperatures do not drop as low and they may rouse several times to track down a snack or two. Amphibians and reptiles are better examples of true hibernators -- they sleep solidly through the worst of the seasons, encased in a cave, den, or dried mud until seasonal cues coerce them slowly back to life (Noooooooooooo!).

I Have Super Powers!
Saturday, November 14, 2009 | Author: eventer79
That's right, I can summon famous people to appear with this blog! I bet you had no idea WWWT was so omniscient, eh?

Guess who appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this week right after my post about her?

Jane Goodall on The Daily Show

That's right -- Dr. Jane Goodall. And sorry, Jon, I love ya, but you were sorely outclassed by this woman!

Now, let's see if I can focus my blogging powers and make Daniel Craig appear in my living room...ohhhhhmmmmm......
A Day For The Proverbial Wet Noodle
Friday, November 13, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact!

Here in the Southeastern United States, it pretty much feels like it's been raining for the past decade. Ok, so it's only been three days. But I'm keeping my eyes peeled for an ark -- we've garnered well over six inches in the last 48 hours.

It could be worse, I suppose. I could live in Cherrapunji, India, home of the world's heaviest average rain fall (about 430 inches). I hope residents have webbed feet and gills because they can get as much as 87 FEET of rain in a single year.

Of course, we are no stranger to wet and wild places. Our wettest state is Louisiana, which soaks in 56 inches (a little over 4 feet) of rainfall per year. But if you want to spread it all out evenly, go stand on the summit of Mt. Waialeale in Kauai, Hawaii, which drowns during up to 350 rainy days every year.

Pulling out that umbrella at the thought and wondering why it never seems to keep you dry enough? Well, that's because the umbrella was originally invented for protection from the blazing sun of Egypt; wind was not really an issue there. And if THAT idea makes you feel too warm, remember that all rain starts out at cloud level as snow and ice; what form it hits the ground in depends on temperatures on the way down.

The most important thing to remember, of course, is that all rain started out as water in a river or stream (or is it that all streams started out as rain???) so whatever we put in one rains down upon our heads from the other. So think of it this way: what do you want in your hair today?
We Can't Forget The Hope
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Jane Goodall is a name that many know. Ever since I read one of her books years ago, she's been one of my personal heroes. The book was Reason For Hope and much of it brought tears to my eyes. Dr. Goodall is a soft-spoken, compassionate, patient and open person with a core of incredible strength and perserverence that I can only hope to approach. This woman started out as a grad student watching the chimpanzees at Gombe and now she changes the world one person at a time. She has done so much for conservation and continues to be a peerless ambassador for those who have no human voice. I don't think I can name many other women (or even people!) who I find so truly beautiful and awe-inspiring.

In hopes that no one will mind (and I would fall over dead of awe if Dr. Goodall ever stumbled upon my blog anyway), I want to share an essay of hers that is also posted on her site. Working in conservation, it is so easy for me to become disheartened, but reading these words, I almost feel as if she is patting me on the head, saying, "It will be ok. Never forget that there are many reasons to have hope." It makes me want to sit down and weep in both relief and a desperate desire to trust that her world travel means that she has seen much more than I and has seen that there is indeed much hope out there.

Without further ado:
Jane's Reasons for Hope

"It is easy to be overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness as we look around the world. We are losing species at a terrible rate, the balance of nature is disturbed, and we are destroying our beautiful planet. We have fear about water supplies, where future energy will come from – and most recently the developed world has been mired in an economic crisis. But in spite of all this I do have hope. And my hope is based on four factors.

The Human Brain
Firstly, we have at last begun to understand and face up to the problems that threaten us and the survival of life on Earth as we know it. Surely we can use our problem-solving abilities, our brains, to find ways to live in harmony with nature. Many companies have begun "greening" their operations, and millions of people worldwide are beginning to realize that each of us has a responsibility to the environment and our descendants. Everywhere I go, I see people making wiser choices, and more responsible ones.

The Indomitable Human Spirit
My second reason for hope lies in the indomitable nature of the human spirit. There are so many people who have dreamed seemingly unattainable dreams and, because they never gave up, achieved their goals against all the odds, or blazed a path along which others could follow. The recent presidential election in the US is one example. As I travel around the world I meet so many incredible and amazing human beings. They inspire me. They inspire those around them.

The Resilience of Nature
My third reason for hope is the incredible resilience of nature. I have visited Nagasaki, site of the second atomic bomb that ended World War II. Scientists had predicted that nothing could grow there for at least 30 years. But, amazingly, greenery grew very quickly. One sapling actually managed to survive the bombing, and today it is a large tree, with great cracks and fissures, all black inside; but that tree still produces leaves. I carry one of those leaves with me as a powerful symbol of hope. I have seen such renewals time and again, including animal species brought back from the brink of extinction.

The Determination of Young People
My final reason for hope lies in the tremendous energy, enthusiasm and commitment of young people around the world. As they find out about the environmental and social problems that are now part of their heritage, they want to right the wrongs. Of course they do -- they have a vested interest in this, for it will be their world tomorrow. They will be moving into leadership positions, into the workforce, becoming parents themselves. Young people, when informed and empowered, when they realize that what they do truly makes a difference, can indeed change the world. We should never underestimate the power of determined young people.

I meet many young people with shining eyes who want to tell Dr. Jane what they've been doing, how they are making a difference in their communities. Whether it's something simple like recycling or collecting trash, something that requires a lot of effort, like restoring a wetland or a prairie, or whether it's raising money for the local dog shelter, they are a continual source of inspiration. My greatest reason for hope is the spirit and determination of young people, once they know what the problems are and have the tools to take action.

So let’s move forward in this new millennium with hope, for without it all we can do is eat and drink the last of our resources as we watch our planet slowly die. Let’s have faith in ourselves, in our intellect, in our staunch spirit and in our young people. And let’s do the work that needs to be done, with love and compassion."

--Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE

Falling For Fall
Friday, November 06, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact!

It's a favourite time of year for many -- fall, autumn, that magical time when green swaths of forest turn red, orange, yellow, gold, magenta, even purple, as trees prepare for winter. But how and why do all these changes happen?

Leaves have a broad, thin surface and are vulnerable to freezing and subsequent damage, so in order to survive, the tree must ditch the weak links. The tree seals off the end of the branch near the leaf stem and the leaf is dropped like yesterday's paper.

Beginning in mid-June, days begin to shorten and this signals to the trees that it is time to start the Great Preparation for winter dormancy. Many brilliant colours are always there, but hidden by the deep green of the chlorophyll. As chlorophyll production slows and stops, the green fades and the colours emerge in full dazzling array.

Brown colors in oaks and elms come from a waste product called tannin. Orange comes from carotene. The yellows are due to xanthophyll and are seen blazing on birches, tulip poplars, redbud and hickory, who exclusively show this color, never red.

Bright red & purple colors found in sugar maple, dogwood, sweet gum, black gum and sourwood come from anthocyanin pigments, formed from trapped glucose. This pigment is not produced until chlorophyll starts breaking down in late summer. Anthocyanins lower the freezing point of the leaves, allowing them to stay on the tree longer and buying time to maximize the amount of nutrients the tree can pull out before releasing the leaves to the wind.

Every form of life, be it fauna OR flora, has a unique and specialized way of surviving the seasonal changes that life hurls at it. Here in the Eastern US, one of the best places in the world to view the changing colours of autumn, we are lucky enough to be surrounded by trees who choose to do so in a rainbow salute to the dying of summer before settling into a grey sleep, awaiting spring and green rebirth.
A Treehouse For Height-O-Phobes
Thursday, November 05, 2009 | Author: eventer79
I always wanted a treehouse. My very own little den nestled in the branches of a backyard sugar maple, where I could sequester myself next to wrens and squirrels and leaves and breezes. On the other hand, I have always been afraid of heights -- I would climb trees, but only the really easy ones with nice big stout branches and plenty of wide forks in which to sit. I was forever caught between my desire to reside in a cave of wood and air and light and my aversion to being suspended above the ground.

Well, I am caught no more!

A Wisconsin architect has been building stunningly beautiful houses out of whole trees. While he does still kill some trees, he uses smaller trees than are conventionally logged, opening up spaces in the forest for understory plants to flourish, and he also uses a lot of deadfall wood. The whole trees are stronger than cut lumber as well as cheaper to use (no sawmill required!). As a bonus, by not cutting into the tree, the carbon sequestered in the wood is kept in, instead of released by the lumbering process.

In the end, of course, you also get a home that is not only beautiful, but unique, strong, and full of character and natural grace, as well as the knowledge that you have used a process that is better for the forest, better for the atmosphere, and better for you. This kind of innovative thinking and creative engineering is what is going to change us for the better and it's what we need a lot more of!

Where can I send my order?