If You Happen to Be at the Smithsonian – But You Don’t Have to Be

Science, entrepreneurship, conservation and innovation converge at this amazing open source summit with events in multiple Smithsonian locations ranging from New York City, Washington DC and Panama City.

Frequent contributor to this site Phil Karp, will participate in a forum on Restoring Nature. The synergy of forum subjects with our interest in wild foods and our work in conservation focused hospitality makes us wish we were there.

What’s Working in Conservation

Earth Optimism celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution in the area of global conservation with an unprecedented gathering of thought leaders, scientists, environmentalists, artists, civic leaders and international media.

The global conservation movement has reached a turning point. Continue reading

Foraging Classes

HornFarmCenterLogoStacked-72-540x540WhiteBGA mushroom dropped in on my life, in an unexpected manner, and now I find myself wandering to unexpected places, such as rural Pennsylvania. I am sharing here mainly as a record of how I have come across the resources that inform how we approach bringing foraging to Chan Chich Lodge.

So, bravo and thanks to our friends at the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, which is my latest find in these wanderings. I particularly like their clearly laid out information on the educational resources they offer, most notably this section on foraging classes: Continue reading

If You Eat Canned Tuna, Consider This

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We check in with EcoWatch regularly, and from time to time Greenpeace has a surprising piece of content featured, like this 20 Canned Tuna Brands Ranked: How Sustainable Is Your Brand?

StarkistWarn.jpgWhat is surprising to me is this pop up call to action, which echoes back at least three decades for me to the first time I heard of Greenpeace, which was also the first time I heard of any issues related to canned tuna, which was also the first time I looked on a map to see where the Gulf of California, and Baja California Sur were situated. It is surprising because on the ranking above, this same tuna is not the absolute worst of the worst. Even more surprising, in its own way, is that Trader Joe’s is even worse in this ranking. Go figure. Anyway, thanks to David Pinsky, Greenpeace, and EcoWatch for this: Continue reading

Global Big Day, Coming Soon At Chan Chich Lodge

We have already extended the invitation, but we will continue reminding you just as the Lab keeps reminding us:

On May 13, 2017, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s birding Dream Team, the Sapsuckers, will reach for an audacious goal: finding 300 bird species in just 24 hours – and raising $475,000. Can they do it?! Continue reading

Tools, Tinkering, Science & Salvation

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Tim Boucher sets a camera trap near a bird of paradise lek. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Justine E. Hausheer)

Camera traps are never going to lose our fascination, and have played a mitigating role in our non-Luddite but still determined effort to keep it simple, back to nature. The future depends on innovation, and we cannot hide behind trees pretending otherwise. If conservation efforts are going to compete effectively against the forces supporting environmental destruction, unconventional approaches are needed. We are entrepreneurially-inclined, and so are naturally comfortable with FishFace, among seven innovative pivots to a better future described by the wonderful team at Cool Green Science:

7 Science Innovations That Are Changing Conservation

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In our still relatively brief existence, humans have evolved our way to an era many are now calling the Anthropocene – a new geological epoch defined by human impact on Earth. But our unparalleled creativity is a double-edge sword. We are undeniably contributing to many of the global challenges now facing our species, and all species who share this planet. Continue reading

Margay Jump Start

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In the post where I mentioned this margay sighting I did not yet have any photographic evidence. Now I do. Prior to their departure, the same Los Angeles family mentioned in this cat-sighting post handed me the memory card from their camera and I was able to pull these images. In the rush of the holiday weekend I had forgotten these until now. Above was the first, taken as quickly as the camera could be lifted to follow the spotlight. Below, an enlargement of the cat. Continue reading

Margay Sighting @ Chan Chich Lodge

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Persistence does not always pay off. But, it is often a great trait for its own sake. We all admire people who set out to do something, and stick with it long after there is reason to continue hoping for that something. And, if you are like me, you cheer the underdog, hoping they will at the very last minute get that something. Continue reading

WhaleCam, Antarctica

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While fish were surf-spawning in California, the Guardian was sharing this footage from way down south:

The World Wildlife Fund released this footage filmed in March 2017 that shows the view from a camera attached to a whale in Antarctica. Scientists used suction cups to attach cameras to humpback and minke whales, revealing new feeding habits and their social lives. The data gathered will be used to protect whales and their ecosystems

Surf Spawning Spree

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Female grunions twist their bodies tail first into the sand and lay 2,000 to 3,000 eggs, which males then fertilize. Credit Doug Martin

Thanks to Joanna Klein and the Science section of the New York Times for this explanation of a full moon mating phenomenon:

Silver Fish Surf the Waves to Spawn on California Beaches

Every year, thousands of little fish ride waves onto Southern California’s beaches at night to lay and fertilize eggs. High up in the sand, they squirm, wriggle and wrap around one another. As they dance beneath the moonlight, the beach transforms into a twinkling tapestry of spawning silver bodies. It’s known as the grunion run, and within a few hours, the show is over. Continue reading

No Forestry? No Way

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A caged songbird overlooks a logging yard in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Justine E. Hausheer)

Thanks to Justine E. Hausheer for Modeling Logging’s Impacts on Biodiversity & Carbon in a Hypothetical Forest over at Cool Green Science:

Tropical forests are widely celebrated for their biodiversity and increasingly recognized for their carbon sequestration potential. But what’s less often acknowledged is halting logging entirely will make climate change worse, as wood is one of the most sustainable building materials.

So how can conservationists help nations meet the demand for wood products and protect forests, while minimizing both biodiversity loss and carbon emissions? Continue reading

Happy 20th Anniversary, Meg!

543092After posting this quick thought about foraging, I sent a link to Meg, and she reminded me that she had not only been to Belize but that there is a book about her time here.

As I explored the book I realized that it was first published 20 years ago, incidentally the year when I first visited Belize. I also discovered that the book is in wide circulation among educators in the USA, for hopefully obvious good reasons:

Journey along with Dr. Meg Lowman, a scientist who, with the help of slings, suspended walkways, and mountain-climbing equipment, has managed to ascend into one of our planet’s least accessible and most fascinating ecosystems–the rain-forest canopy. “Fresh in outlook and intriguing in details, this book will strengthen any library collection on the rainforest.”–Booklist Continue reading

Keeping Those Scarlet Macaws Out Of Harm’s Way

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Two Scarlet Macaws chicks sit in their nest in the cavity of a quamwood tree in Belize’s Chiquibul Forest. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

Thanks to the neighbors of Chan Chich for bringing to my attention this article by Martha Harbison in the current issue of Audubon Magazine, which touches on the topic I referenced back here, not far from Chan Chich Lodge as the bird flies (so to speak):

…To keep macaw chicks safe, a team of rangers spends night and day watching over the birds’ nests and homes.

The Scarlet Macaw’s last, best defense against wildlife poachers doesn’t look like much: just a ramshackle collection of tarps, makeshift tables, plastic five-gallon buckets, jungle hammocks, and a cook fire, hidden in the dense understory of a tropical hardwood forest near the fraught and uncomfortably porous border between Belize and Guatemala. Continue reading

To Bait Or Not To Bait, A Debate

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A great gray looks up after plunging into the snow, while hunting north of Two Harbors, Minn. The great gray is one of the world’s largest species of owl. Derek Montgomery for MPR News

We have never had, nor can I picture us having this debate at Chan Chich Lodge or any other wildlife setting we are responsible for managing; nonetheless, since we all live in glass houses of one sort or another, it is worth a moment to read this and ponder (thanks to Dan Kraker and Minnesota Public Radio, USA):

Earlier this winter, photographer Michael Furtman was driving along the North Shore of Lake Superior in search of great gray owls. Several of the giant, elusive birds had flown down from Canada looking for food.

He pulled off on a dirt road where he had seen an owl the night before. One was there, perched in a spruce tree, but so was a pair of videographers filming them.

“I backed off, I was going to just let them have their time with the bird,” Furtman says. “And then I saw them run out and put a mouse on the snow.” Continue reading

Birdwatching 101, Mid-May, Chan Chich Lodge

SibleyYou probably cannot do much better, if you are just getting interested in birdwatching, than to have a primer like this one. The author, in the pantheon of ornithology according to the birdwatchers I know, spends half an hour sharing some of the basics in this podcast:

This week’s Please Explain is all about birdwatching. We chat with ornithologist David Allen Sibley, a leading expert in the field. Sibley is the author of The Sibley Guide to Birds, a reference work and field guide for the birds found in the North American region. He offers details and illustrations of 810 species of birds, with information about identification, life history, vocalizations, and geographic distribution. According to the Audubon Society, “There are 47 million birdwatchers. But there is only one David Sibley.”

In the final minutes Mr. Sibley answers a question that has been of interest to the staff of Chan Chich Lodge in recent months. Do bird feeders have any adverse effect on the birds they attract? In short, no. So today we returned the hummingbird feeders to their longstanding perches on the dining room deck. Birds, staff, and guests are all happy with this decision.

This podcast serves as a good reminder of an opportunity we are inviting birdwatchers of all skill levels to join us for. We have already posted about it here, and earlier here as well. Come join the fun!

Whales Off Sri Lanka

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While observing sperm whales off the Sri Lankan coast, Philip Hoare came face to face with eight hunting orcas who had no fear of the 100-strong sperm whale pod

Thanks to Philip Hoare for this photo-documentary of his recent dive in our old neighborhood just south of the southern tip of India:

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Photograph: Andrew Sutton

Continue reading

Seed Vault Deposit

We have shared a couple times in the past about the seed vault, but just now it has come to our attention again in this press release from last month, provided by The Crop Trust, which reminds us of the meta-agriculturalist Cary Fowler, whose 2009 Ted talk is worth another quarter hour after a quarter hour on the short film above:

MAJOR DEPOSIT TO WORLD’S LARGEST SEED COLLECTION IN THE ARCTIC OVERSEEN BY THE CROP TRUST | GOPRO SUPPORTS CROP TRUST WITH NEW VIDEO AND PLEDGE DRIVE

SVALBARD, NORWAY – 22 February 2017A major seed deposit critical to ensuring global food security was made to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle today. Continue reading

Invasion, Proliferation, Hunt–A New Paradigm

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Bill Booth with one of the Burmese pythons that are wreaking havoc upon the Everglades’ fragile ecosystem. Photograph: Roger Booth

A Decade Since The Last Flight Of The Scarlet Macaw

The+Last+Flight+of+the+Scarlet+Macaw.jpgWhen a book like this comes recommended, book reviews from a decade earlier are as fresh and relevant as ever:

…When McPhee wrote “Encounters With the Archdruid,” the American conservation movement was a religious and mystical force. It may still be so today, but the movement now employs nearly as many big-city lawyers and consultants as any corporation hoping to develop a mine, oil field or… dam. They’re out in force in Bruce Barcott’s new book, “The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman’s Fight to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Bird,” the story of a bitter fight against a dam in western Belize. No, it doesn’t sound thrilling (which is doubtless why the publisher kept the word “dam” out of the title), but Barcott, a contributing editor at Outside magazine and the author of “The Measure of a Mountain: Beauty and Terror on Mount Rainier,” makes it so, mashing up adventure travel, biography and nature writing in a steamy climate of corruption and intrigue…

It is not the first time this book has been recommended to me, but yesterday a fellow hotelier in Belize mentioned it when describing his getting to know someone central to the book’s story, and this  reminded me that I still had not touched the book. It is, I am told, a must read.  Bruce Barcott provided an excerpt of his book back when it first came out, so I have just started.