A Moment's Respite
Saturday, August 07, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Field season and the associated exhaustion have left this blog sadly without update. My apologies.

But I had to pop in and share a rather triumphant bit of news, should anyone actually read it.

If you followed the stories about the plight of the grey wolf, I am ridiculously overjoyed to tell you that the court ruled, and rightfully so, that the delisting actions taken by the US Fish & Wildlife Service in regards to the wolf populations in the Northern Rockies were UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

All packs are now returned to full endangered status. And all small-minded misinformed trigger-happy jerks can crawl back under whatever rock they emerged from and LEAVE THE WOLVES ALONE!

Thank you, NRDC, DOW, and all others who fought the good fight and who refused to let might triumph over right. Carry on, carry on.
Google Authorship Code Of Boringness
Sunday, August 01, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Imagine A Dark Night At The Pond
Sunday, May 23, 2010 | Author: eventer79
5PMME4MW47KC  You are minding your own business, sipping a nice cold beverage, when suddenly, you hear...

Caring Sucks
Sunday, May 16, 2010 | Author: eventer79
I know, I told you I would have posts for you and they have yet to materialize.  They are in my head, I swear!

I have found it hard to write this blog -- because I care about the subject matter so much. I spend all day living and breathing this topic at work and the hugeness of the problems facing the natural world leave me often overwhelmed such that I have to flip the off switch when I walk out the office door. It's a self-preservation thing.

Then when I begin writing posts, I find I want to explain EVERYTHING carefully so it is clear and I want to make sure subjects are appropriately placed in context. The result is an entry so long, I don't think anyone would read it and I give up, daunted again.

But I still believe in the project and I hope I have not lost all of you as I try to figure this out! There is so much going on that I want to write about. There are also things going on that I won't write about. I'm not even going to try to elaborate much on the giant oil plumes spewing about the Gulf of Mexico at the moment because I have no words for either my anger or my lack of surprise.

As the eagle was killed by the arrow winged with his own feather, so the hand of the world is wounded by its own skill. -Helen Keller

Speaking of feathers...

I will share with you today though, some simply exquisite pieces of wildlife art that I covet with the depths of my soul. I am quite sure that I could not even afford half of one, but that does not stop me from drooling over them. Each is painted on a feather by Idaho artist Deb Otterstein. She has somehow captured the magic of these wild animals on a medium that is so fitting in its delicacy and grace. If you ever want to just buy me a present, you know, cause who wouldn't buy an extravagent present for a random internet person, you are free to mail me one of these!!
Sometimes Feeling Blue Is Great!
Friday, April 30, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact is back!

There is a special little bird that I can hear outside my office window right now, so today, the little creature that never fails to make me smile just by appearing gets to be the center of WWWT attention.

You've probably seen the unfailingly charming eastern bluebird and even heard its distinctive song without knowing it. Its cheerful burble is hard to miss once you know it and these dapper little birds are often found perching on fence and power lines at dusk, watching for the perfect moment to swoop out and grab an insect meal.

They are dedicated parents, spending as many as 20 days carefully raising their chicks after hatching. Bluebirds also exhibit what is called philopatry, where one chick may remain with the parents after fledging and help to raise the next brood of chicks in an admirable show of sibling support.

In the late 70's, these little gems were declared a rare species; their populations were demolished by a combination of several harsh winters, pesticide use to curtail fire ants, and competition from invasive species. Bluebirds require a cavity to nest in; given that they are not a woodpecker, they cannot excavate their own and thus must rely on the available holes in their territory. Non-native invaders like house sparrows and starlings will fight and even kill a bluebird to steal away a lucrative nest site and as a result, our azure native's reproductive success plummeted.

Campaigns to encourage the installation of bluebird boxes across this animal's range have resulted in a population rebound throughout much of its former habitat. Bring a smile to your backyard today by hanging one in YOUR habitat. You can build your own or order from many sources, including this deluxe edition from Amazon.com (OH! I WANT it!).  Here are some great directions on how to install it for maximum benefit to the birds.
Back To Business
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 | Author: eventer79
I have been remiss, wanderers, but I have not forgotten you.  However, spring is here and with it comes the increased demands of field work.  I shall be back with more posts for you, I promise, but in the meantime, several action items to keep you busy:

Sign the petition asking Discovery Networks not to run a travesty of a show called "Sarah Palin's Alaska."  Defenders of Wildlife is only 9,000 signatures away from its goal of 200,000.  Nothing about Palin's death wish for wildlife belongs on a channel that is SUPPOSED to educate the public about conservation and the miracle of the natural world.  Her Alaska would be one devoid of native ecosystems and covered in oil wells -- no place I'd like to visit!

Do not spend a single dollar of your money at the major outdoor retailer, Cabela's.  They have decided to be a corporate sponsor for grey wolf-killing derbies in the northern Rockies.  No company that supports misinformed and propaganda-fueled slaughter should be allowed to profit.  You can read past posts on wolves and their plight and their role as scapegoats of the west here.    

Matters Of Size
Friday, March 19, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact! I am deeply sorry I missed your fun fact last week, but I was stricken, nay pounded down by a horrid flu virus. But this week, I bring you things which make you go, "OMFG, that's huge!"

The Atlantic Giant Squid's eye can be as large as 15.75 inches wide.  All the better to watch you with, my dear.

The largest flying animal was the pterosaur which lived 70 million years ago. This reptile had a wing span of 39 feet and weighed 190-250 pounds. That's like a flying black bear!

The tentacles of the giant Arctic jellyfish can reach 120 feet in length. There is no cookie shelf too high for baked goods safety!

In a full grown rye plant, the total length of fine root hairs may reach 6600 miles. That would cross the US. Twice.

The world's largest amphibian is the giant Japanese salamander (left). It can grow up to 5 ft. in length.  A salamander that can eat your leg is just...cool.
Fly So High
Friday, March 05, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact!

You are already experts on counter-current exchange and the way in which it allows efficient exchange of heat from veins to arteries.  It also allows animals which operate in a  low-oxygen environment to maximize the amount of oxygen in the blood using the same principle of running oxygen rich blood in parallel and opposite to oxygen poor blood in order to exchange the gas across vessel walls.

This is a really big deal if you are, say, a migrating bar-headed goose (right).  These striking birds fly at 29,000 feet, confidently flapping over the peaks of the Himalayas.  We're talking an altitude where the air is so thin, helicopters can't even fly.  They need these special physiological adaptations just to get to the other side of that inconveniently placed mountain range.

While these geese are certainly the trophy-winners at altitude, they are not the only high flyers out there.  An airliner once struck a mallard at 21,000 feet above Nevada.  Evidence of pintail ducks and black-tailed godwits have been found at 16,400 feet on a Himalayan glacier.  Even the tiny, delicate Monarch butterfly has been sighted at 11,000 feet up in the air.

Next time you see migrating critters passing overhead, take a moment to appreciate what it takes to get them there and the astounding achievements of which they are capable without even flinching.

When Fishheads Unite
Thursday, February 25, 2010 | Author: eventer79
No Friday Fun Fact for you!  I will be away all weekend, drinking working hard at an aquatic conservation conference.  And debating my latest puzzle:  why does science insist we write in the driest, most boring fashion imaginable?  Do they deliberately try to create a body of literature so inaccessible to any person with a spark of imagination?  Every time I try to slip in the smallest of colourful adjectives, I am slapped down by the mighty hand of the Personality Police.  God forbid someone might actually have an emotion, or even worse, smile, while reading a report.  For we must maintain the harmonic, transparent, joyous relationship that science currently has with the public and within its own ranks.  By the way, yes, that clanking sound you hear IS in fact my eyes rolling all the way back in my skull at that last...
You Can't Drink And Drive
Friday, February 19, 2010 | Author: eventer79
But it's ok to drink and fly. Friday Fun Fact!

We already know that ants always fall to the right when they are drunk. The logical next step is to fund further research into "when animals behave like frat boys." I can almost see the giggling researchers sitting around the table, having finally found a sponsor who will apparently fund ANYthing. "Oh, oh, how about bats? Let's see if we can get them drunk enough to crash into things when they fly."

Oh yes, it's a real study.

And lo and behold, at least in the Western hemisphere, drunk bats are still able to fly just fine, thank you, as well as operate heavy machinery and avoid drunk dialing ex-cavemates.

If only we could all be so evolved.  I need to find out who is funding all this critical research...
I Have To Say It....
Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Maybe someday I will have the energy to go the whole topic in depth, although I'm not sure there's really a point. But I have to say one thing about this whole climate change business:


Weather = (noun)  the state of the atmosphere with respect to wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture, pressure, etc.  This refers to a LOCALIZED area.  I.e. the weather in any place you happen to be

Climate = (noun) the composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness, and winds, throughout the year, averaged over a series of years.

Therefore, just because it happens to be quite cold where you are right now, does NOT mean that global AVERAGE temperature is not increasing.  There's a tricky little thing about hemispheres:  it may be damn cold in Maryland right now but it's close to 100 degrees in Darwin, Australia at the moment.  So someone there is sweating their tail off wondering why the world is so damn HOT.

The top ten hottest years on record include 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 1998, and 1997 and the past decade was the hottest in recorded history.  A dump of snow on a fraction of one continent does not affect this. 

I am also instituting a new rule in society:  if you do not know how to perform analytical statistical tests on a data set or correctly interpret a logistic or logarithmic plot, you do not get to have an opinion about climate change data and its veracity.

*stomps out of room grumbling*
A Cold Fish Stays Warm
Friday, February 12, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact!

One simplistic way to divide up the animal kingdom is to split it into "warm-blooded" (capable of regulating their internal body temperature, i.e. mammals) and "cold-blooded" (reliant on external conditions to warm or cool the body, i.e. reptiles). However, like seemingly every categorical system ever devised on earth, black and white are interspersed with shades of grey.

Like oceanic tuna. In this group, bluefin tuna have been most successful in the art of keeping one's core muscles warm for high-speed swimming in cold ocean currents. So how does an animal with no true thermoregulatory mechanism achieve this? By the sleek and efficient workings of counter-current exhange.

This relies on a simple principle of physics: that heat always travels from warmer places to colder places. You experience this every day in a thousand different ways. For example, get cold then climb into a hot bath. The heat from the water will travel into your body and the surrounding cool air. Your body gets warmer, but the water in the tub gets steadily cooler.

Bluefins use this to great advantage. All of their arteries are set up so they flow from the core of the body out towards the skin and extremeties while all the veins flow from the outside in. The two sets of blood vessels run in parallel and lie close to each other. As a result, as warm arterial blood (heated by muscle activity and food metabolism) passes cool venous blood, heat leaves the arterial blood and is transferred to the venous blood. Heat exchange is greatest when the difference in temperature between the two vessels is greatest, so when the arterial blood has 100% of its warmth and it is next to venous blood that has 0% of its warmth, a lot of heat will be transferred. It looks a lot like this:

So what you get is blood steadily losing warmth as it runs out of the core. Blood traveling back into the core is steadily gaining warmth. Net result: the warmth stays close to the core and is not lost to the surrounding, heat-sucking water.

It's a life-saver. Cool muscles are slow to respond to demands for movement so if you keep your muscles warm, you have a better chance of escaping things that want to eat you and you can swim farther and faster in search of food in a giant ocean. Birds use the same system to reduce heat loss though their long skinny legs and to keep oxygen levels in their lungs and flight muscles high at altitude.

A certain song keeps popping into my head: "AH-AH-AH-AH, stayin' alive, stayin' alive..."

An Award??!
Thursday, February 11, 2010 | Author: eventer79

Wow, so WWWT has been humbled by the granting of the "Happy 101" award from the great new blog, Anything Fits A Naked Man (which I was relieved to discover had nothing to do with naked men). I am not sure this technically counts as an award for any particular type of excellence, but I certainly do appreciate being included on someone's list of noteworthiness! So thank you so much to AFANM and all of my, like, four readers!

Here's the rules:
Copy award pic and add to your post.
List 10 things that make you happy.
Tag 10 bloggers who brighten your day and notify them of their win.
Link back to the blogger who gave you the award in your post.
Link to the new award winners.

10 things that make me happy:

1. Looking at my horse. Petting him, breathing the scent of his neck, riding him, sharing a long gaze with him. He is peace, patience, generosity of spirit, courage, and freedom.

2. Walking in the woods and hearing nothing but birdsong and the rustle of leaves at my feet.

3. Watching animals eat. I don't know why this entrances me so, but there is something of fulfillment and contentment in watching a creature eat its meal and the many interesting behaviours that go along with it.

4. Really bad silly jokes. One of my favourites: Two muffins were sitting in an oven. One said to the other, "Man, is it just me or is it getting hot in here?" The other one turned and said, "OMG, TALKING MUFFIN!!!!"

5. Wildflowers. Random and exuberant splashes of colour, even in the most unexpected places.

6. The call of migrating cranes. Something about their high, wild warble always makes me smile. It's such a unique sound -- you can hear some sandhill crane calls here.

7. Bluebirds. I always smile at bluebirds too. I can't explain why, it's another gut feeling of happiness when I see them.

8. Really good music. I don't mean the kind you hear on the radio. I mean real MUSIC. The kind that composers make for movies and orchestras. Swelling crescendos that fill up your whole body.

9. Baby animals. So cliche, but so true. I can't see one, not even ugly babies like vultures or koalas, and NOT laugh with their joy and play.

10. A really good book that I can relish and mentally roll around in.

And ten blogs that give me great pleasure to read, in no particular order:
1. TNC's Cool Green Science
2. Along Life's Highway
3. The Mugwump Chronicles
4. The Literary Horse
5. I Is Roxie
6. Eventing Nation
7. Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
8. I Can Has Cheezburger
9. When Lillies Fly
10. National Geographic Blogs
I Have Enormous Power!
Monday, February 08, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Once again, I summoned something with this blog!!!! Yes, view it, my first crocus bud, sprung just this weekend in the yard!!

That's right, that means hope hope hope, for spring is creeping near!! I wonder if my powers extend to other realms besides seasonal and celebrity summons...

Let me tell you about this crazy meteorological phenomenon in which sacks of money fall from the sky and land right on people's porches! It's a little known happening, but I have heard the next one is predicted for the American Southeast....

Fingers crossed, wanderers!

Wishing Makes It So
Friday, February 05, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact!

Ok, it may actually be rainsnowsleeting here right now, BUT my horse is shedding and there are buds on my wisteria so I firmly believe that spring is on its way!! So in honor of that and in hope of encouraging its onset, todays FFF is about my favourite little harbingers of spring: crocuses.

These cheerful little flowers were brought to the US by settlers from Europe. There are around 80 different crocus species, native to southern Europe, the Middle East, north Africa, and western China.

The flowers and leaves have a special waxy coating which allows them to thrive even when pushing through snow and ice.

Crocuses have a long and colourful history; it is said that the Greek deities Zeus and Hera loved each other so passionately that crocuses burst forth in profusion across all the land. In the 1560s, the Holy Roman Emperor's ambassador to the Sublime Porte (can you think of an awesomer job title?!) brough back crocus bulbs from Constantinople. Some of these were sent to a botanical garden and within 60 years, garden varieties had sprung into being. Today, they sprout merrily in my yard at the end of winter, assuring me that rescue from grey doldrums is imminent!
Let The Spirit Triumph
Friday, January 22, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Today is technically Friday Fun Fact day. But I am not going to give you a Friday Fun Fact. Because I am mean. You will have to sustain yourself on the penguin facts from the previous post.

Why such cold heartlessness? I stumbled across a thought that resonated in so many different ways with me.

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence and fulfills the duty to express the results of his thoughts in clear form.
-Albert Einstein (1875-1955), Theoretical Physicist, Philosopher, Nobel Prize Winner

How perfectly this sums up so much of the debate going on, not only today, but throughout the history of our society. And not only in conservation, but any arena you can think of. People fear change, they fear what they don't understand, they fear fear itself. In some sort of ingrained response, generally this fear leads to the shutting down of any ability for thought and the parroting of anything that reinforces that simple fear of change. In general, the population accepts the status quo as "the way things are and should be." When you decide the status quo sucks and stand up bring about change to improve things, sadly, the first thing that hits you in the face is this violent opposition. Reason, logic, and truth seem to have no bearing in these gales of noise and panic.

Oh, Mr. Einstein, could you not have given us the solution to this problem?
Think Formal
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Put on that tux! It's National Penguin Awareness Day! No, really, it is, I swear. Have no idea what to do to celebrate? Don't worry, eHow never leaves a person hanging, even in the most uncertain of social situations. And 123greetings.com has ALL your NPAD greeting card needs covered! Whew, I know, feel the relief, right?

So why are penguins so kickass that they garner their own holiday?? Well --

They can swim in Antarctic waters (enough said, right??)!
Some species spend as much as 75% of their lives at sea.
They have as many as 70 feathers per square inch to insulate them underwater.
Some species can go from 0 to 16 mph in less than a second when leaping into the water.
They can hold their breath for as long as 15-20 minutes.
Penguins have been around for 60 million years.
They can dive as deep as 1800 feet.

What I want to know is, why don't I get the day off for this important holiday?? My penguin heritage is deeply offended.
A Breath Of Life
Friday, January 15, 2010 | Author: eventer79
I know I'm supposed to give you a Friday Fun Fact today, but I figured since the point of FFF is to make you go, "wow!" then this will do just as well.

This has got to be up there on the list of one of the most amazing things I have EVER seen. I have always been entranced by elephants and firmly believe there is far more behind their wise eyes than they are given credit for. Watch as a female in Bali gives birth to a stillborn calf. And then gives it CPR. I'm not kidding. Animals are completely and totally awesome.

Bali Elephant Birth

Father Fail Or Win?
Friday, January 08, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact is back!

Pipefish, upright seahorse cousins who live in warm oceans, are nursed to adulthood by their fathers. After fertilization, the female passes all her embryos to dad's pouch so he can protect and feed the young until they are ready to live on their own.

Sweet father, right?

There's a catch.

Many times, dear old dad will actually reabsorb some or all of the embryos into his own body for nutrition, perhaps because food supplies are scarce.

Kids driving you crazy? On your ever last nerve? Taking too much time or resources? No problem, just eat them, it's nature's way! Tastes like chicken...
Piercing The Darkness
Sunday, January 03, 2010 | Author: eventer79
When I was in high school, I had a very interesting English teacher for two years. One of the books that we read that snagged and caught in my memory was Joseph Conrad's psychological morass, Heart of Darkness. The message stuck with me all these years: that deep within, every person has a dark core, a capacity for malfeasance, for black deeds and dark ways. What creates a moral person is one who recognizes, embraces, and controls this, thereby gaining the upper hand over the devil inside.

In the book, the journey into the netherworld of the human spirit is a steamy cruise on a paddleboat through the Congo's tropical jungle. In life, it is a quest of the mind, if you will, to realize what left Conrad's Marlow gasping in horror: that evil capacity is in every human being and the choice to be ruled by it or to rise above it is up to each of us.

Why dwell on such shadowy things, you wonder? Let life be light and air and happiness!

As is repeated to us in a thousand different media, light cannot exist without the contrast presented by darkness. And we cannot recognize good except by comparing it to that which is not good.

The point of all this is the heart of why I think it is important to talk about, to think about things which may not be all pleasantness and joy. Because I don't believe we can be truly alive without seeing, without knowing the full breadth of human existence. If we go through life shutting out awareness of the suffering of other lives, without not only contemplating, but taking action where we can related to situations created by man's ill-doing, then we only half-live. We become only shells, nothing more than creatures of thoughtless consumption and existence without consequence.

There is much wonder in the world, and much cause for the spirit to soar. But in order for it to persist, we must step forward and look boldly into the eye of that dim place in the soul and by our choices, stoke its corners with our own small candles that together, will illuminate the shadow. By doing so, we then become wholly alive and wholly participant in living and the light is that much brighter and more fulfilling for having recognized and beaten back the heart of darkness.