Camera Trap Treasure

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A black bear mother with three cubs. Photo © TNC

Camera traps have proven valuable in the work we have been doing in Belize, India and elsewhere in the wilderness areas of the developing world. But equally important are the photos captured in areas closer to urban settlements. Thanks to The Nature Conservancy’s publication of these photos with the article below:

As a Nature Conservancy forester in Pennsylvania, Mike Eckley spends a lot of time assessing the health of woodlands. That means he spends as much time thinking about white-tailed deer as he does trees.

Many conservation biologists consider over-abundant deer to be an even bigger threat to eastern forests than climate change. Deer can fundamentally change the forest ecosystem, threatening everything from rare wildflowers to migratory songbirds. These deer also can cause deadly vehicle collisions, increase risk of Lyme disease, and cause significant agricultural and property damage.

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Two white-tailed deer boxing. Photo © TNC

Eckley educates hunting clubs and landowners on deer management issues, and recently co-edited a book on the topic. He also works to make sure the deer herd is healthy on Conservancy projects like the West Branch Forest Preserve, a 3,000-acre preserve in north central Pennsylvania. Continue reading

Farming Energy & Food Simultaneously

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Crops grow under solar panels at the Biosphere 2 Agrivoltaics Learning Lab operated by the University of Arizona, north of Tucson. Patrick Murphy/University of Arizona

When we think of farming, we know sunlight is important, but too much sun is not normally a good thing. For solar, no such thing as too much sunlight–the more the better. But counterintuitive though it may be, here is a story about overlapping advantages of sunlight for farming and solar energy production:

The Best Place for Harvesting Solar Energy Is Not Where I Expected It to Be

And the same land can produce loads of food and electricity simultaneously.

Even after a boom in recent years, solar energy delivers less than 2 percent of power generation to the US electrical grid. But if we’re going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the sun’s contribution is going to have to ramp up dramatically. Where to put all the solar panels? You might envision vast solar farms stretching across the sun-scorched barren lands of the Southwest. But according to two recent papers—one from Oregon and Utah researchers, another from a team centered at the University of Arizona—a much different kind of landscape makes the most sense for harvesting solar power: the land currently occupied by food farms.

That’s because the technology that drives solar power—photovoltaic (PV) panels made of silicon that convert light photons directly into electricity—works most efficiently under a specific set of conditions. Most important for this power, of course, is abundant sunlight, which is why deserts make tempting sites for solar energy production. But air temperature is important, too. Above the threshold of 78°F, the hotter it gets outside, the less efficient PV panels are at converting sunlight to electricity. And that’s why blazing-hot deserts pose some problems for solar panels. Continue reading

Tirana’s Time Warp Causes Creativity

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Rows of acacia trees and ceruja vines at Uka Farm, with a view of Dajti Mountain National Park in the distance. Federico Ciamei

Ten years ago I was in Tirana and if I squinted I might have seen this article coming. I was working on a project for the United Nations Development Programme, focused on the Prespa Lakes Basin, and the visits in Tirana were like a time warp. In a good way, as it is now more easy to see:

The City Poised to Become Europe’s Next Affordable Creative Haven

In the Albanian capital of Tirana, the country’s strange history and bright future collide.

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The paneled facade of the Plaza Tirana. Federico Ciamei

Over the past five years, Albania has been discovered by travelers as that rare thing: a largely unexplored corner of Europe (one with some 265 miles of coastline). The small Balkan country sits just across the Adriatic and Ionian seas from Italy’s heel and a mere 45-minute ferry ride away from the Greek island of Corfu. It’s recently gotten its first high-end waterside resorts, and as the beach town of Sarande and the seaside city of Vlore have become more comfortable, so too has Tirana — the country’s capital, about 22 miles inland with a population of over half a million — grown more cosmopolitan, with new restaurants, shops and galleries joining the almost surrealist pastiche of testaments to the city’s past. For a good example of the way eras collide in Tirana, just visit Skanderbeg Square, recently renovated with new fountains and rosy granite paving, and home to an 18th-century mosque and minaret, a domed Albanian Orthodox church opened in 2012, a set of government buildings that echo the fascist architecture of Mussolini’s Italy and a Brutalist monolith that houses the National Historical Museum.

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A sun-dappled staircase at the Plaza Tirana leads to the hotel’s breakfast room. Federico Ciamei

Initially settled by Illyrian and Greek tribes during ancient times, Albania spent over four centuries as part of the Ottoman Empire. After 1912, it became a fascist-leaning monarchy, and then, in the wake of World War II, a Communist state ruled by the infamous dictator Enver Hoxha. In 1991, a full year behind many of its Eastern Bloc neighbors, the country saw its first democratic elections, as well as murmurings of a cultural awakening. Tirana may not have a robust avant-garde scene, but it does have a gritty, iconoclastic edge — the Pyramid, a large monument to Hoxha in the center of town, is now popular with skateboarders — and a joie de vivre that’s enticed many former expats. “There’s so much potential,” says Flori Uka, a local winemaker who trained in northeastern Italy and now specializes in vintages made from organic Kallmet grapes grown just outside the city. “We were isolated for so long, but today it’s possible for creative people to do what they love. The place has become very receptive to the new.” Continue reading

Passamaquoddy Patrimony Preserved

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Dwayne Tomah, the youngest fluent Passamaquoddy speaker, sings a Passamaquoddy song outside of his home in Perry, Maine. Tomah is translating and interpreting songs and stories from wax cylinders recorded nearly 130 years ago. Robbie Feinberg/Maine Public

It has been years since we read a story with a theme like the one in this story below (our thanks to National Public Radio for sharing it):

Historic Recordings Revitalize Language For Passamaquoddy Tribal Members

Dwayne Tomah sits at his kitchen table in Perry, Maine, and pulls up an audio file on his computer. When he hits play, the speakers emit a cracked, slightly garbled recording. Through the white noise, Tomah scratches out the words he hears, rewinding every few seconds.

Word by word, Tomah is attempting to transcribe and interpret dozens of recordings of Passamaquoddy tribal members, some of which are only recently being heard and publicly shared for the first time in more than a century.

“I really, I wept. Hearing their voices. Knowing that I’m probably one of the last fluent speakers on the reservation,” Tomah says. “And that we’re still continuing this process, to be able to revitalize our language and bring it back to life again, so to speak. And give it some attention that it really deserves.”

“It’s language”

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Dwayne Tomah listens to and transcribes an old Passamaquoddy story from a digital copy of a wax cylinder recording. Tomah and others in the Passamaquoddy tribe are translating and interpreting the 129-year-old wax cylinder recordings, which have been digitally restored. Robbie Feinberg/Maine Public

The story behind these recordings goes back to 1890, when an anthropologist named Walter Jesse Fewkes took a research trip to Calais, Maine. He borrowed an early audio recording device: a phonograph from Thomas Edison that recorded sounds on large, wax cylinders — about two-and-a-half to three minutes each. Continue reading

Barn Owls Throw Shade

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Arterra/Universal Images Group, via Getty Images

Thank you, as always, Mr. Gorman:

White Barn Owls Thrive When Hunting in Bright Moonlight

Something about the light from a full moon shining on the frightening face of a barn owl makes voles freeze a bit too long.

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, it may not be amore at all, but a ghostly white barn owl about to kill and eat you.

If you’re a vole, that is.

Voles are a favorite meal for barn owls, which come in two shades, reddish brown and white. When the moon is new, both have equal success hunting for their young, snagging about five voles in a night. But when the moon is full and bright, the reddish owls do poorly, dropping to three a night.

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Education Images/Universal Images Group, via Getty Images

Barn owls with white faces and breasts do as well as ever, however, even though they should be more easily spotted than their reddish relatives when the lunar light reflects off their feathers. Continue reading

Authentica & Organikos & Responsible Coffee Consumption

This last week we have been busy opening two Authentica shops (at long last). Both shops sell Organikos coffee. So today, another day on the run, I will suggest a very brief reminder on how and why the way you consume coffee matters. Lots more to say on that, and we will, but this is about as succinct a summary as you will find.

Warndon Woodlands Local Nature Reserve’s Bat-Friendly Lighting

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A common pipistrelle in flight at night. Photograph: FLPA/Alamy

IMG_1145.JPG.jpgThe title of this post is a mouthful, and is a bit of a random walk. We had not heard of Warndon Woodlands Local Nature Reserve before today. But now that we have been to their website we are happy to imagine a walk in the woods in that part of the UK. It seems a civil place, perhaps a refuge from all sorts of noise invading our lives these days:

Access: Pedestrian entrances from Parsonage Way, public footpaths through adjacent fields.

Site Facilities:
waymarked trail, public footpaths, interpretation board

Open: Pedestrian access 24hrs.

Dogs: Well behaved dogs welcome, please be aware there may be cattle in the fields nearby.

Habitat: Ancient Semi-natural Woodland, Recent Secondary Woodland, Hedgerows

Notable Wildlife: Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Bluebell, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Muntjac deer.

Other features: Original bank and ditch boundaries of the wood are still visible today.

And we are happy to read about their care for bats.Thanks to the Guardian for this small item from Worcester:

How did the bat cross the road? By going to a safe red-light area

Worcester is putting LED lighting to innovative use to protect white-light-shy locals

Bats in Worcester are to get their own red-light area. LED bulbs that emit a red glow will provide bats with a 60-metre-wide crossing area on the A4440, near to Worcester’s Warndon Woodlands nature reserve. Continue reading

Adjusting To Recycling Realities With A Re-Primer

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Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this re-primer on recycling, a guide to what you should be doing after all the recent changes in where our refuse goes, and now does not go:

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What’s recyclable, what becomes trash — and why

Every year, the average American goes through more than 250 pounds of plastic waste, and much of that comes from packaging. So what do we do with it all?

Your recycling bin is part of the solution, but many of us are confused about what we should be putting in there. What’s recyclable in one community could be trash in another.

This interactive explores some of the plastics the recycling system was designed to handle and explains why other plastic packaging shouldn’t go in your recycling bin.

Let’s take a look at some items you might pick up at the grocery store.

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PLASTIC WRAP

Not recyclable curbside.

At the store we find it covering vegetables, meats and cheeses. It’s common, but it can’t be recycled because it’s hard to deal with at the material recovery facility, or MRF. The MRF is where items collected from residences, offices and more through public and private recycling programs are taken to be sorted, baled and sold. The thin film gets wrapped around the equipment and can bring the operation to a standstill. Continue reading

Glass Fruit

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A glass pear, Pyrus communis, afflicted with pear scab, caused by the fungus Venturia pirina. JENNIFER BERGLUND © 2019 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE

Thanks to Jessica Leigh Hester at Atlas Obscura for this:

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A glass branch of a peach tree, Prunus persica, having a rough go of it. JENNIFER BERGLUND © 2019 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE

Feast Your Eyes on These Delicate Glass Models of Decaying Fruit

Blighted, century-old produce goes back on display for the first time in decades.

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Glass strawberries, or Fragaria, gone white with imitation Penicillium. JENNIFER BERGLUND © 2019 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE

THERE’S SOMETHING A BIT BRAIN-SCRAMBLING about this particular buffet of fruit. If you’ve ever let something languish on the counter or in the fridge a little too long, the white fuzz blanketing the shriveling strawberries or the spots of rot on the surface of a pear might look fairly familiar. But there’s something else that doesn’t feel quite right.

“You almost expect to be able to smell it,” says Scott Fulton, a conservator at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. “We all know what a rotten apple smells like.” But the fruit Fulton has been working on doesn’t smell at all: It’s made of glass. Beginning August 31, 2019, it will all be behind glass, too, back on temporary exhibit at the museum after nearly two decades in storage. Continue reading

What Climate Change Looks Like

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CLICK MAP TO ENLARGE. The route traveled by the Northwest Passage Project in July and August, from Greenland through the Canadian Arctic. YALE ENVIRONMENT 360

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A polar bear in the Barrow Strait. As summer sea ice disappears in the High Arctic, polar bears are losing crucial platforms on which to hunt and rest. ED STRUZIK/YALE E360

You have seen the images, in which polar bears look lost or otherwise in peril. The one from this story, taken by its author, illustrates the central theme of ice receding in the locations highlighted in the map above.

Climate change is at work, 24/7, creating the sense of loss, peril and worse that we have not been shying away from in our pages. We are leaning in to try to understand what changes we can make, and promote, to live and work and play more responsibly. Thanks to Ed Struzik for both the words and images of this article:

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The icebreaker Oden sails through first-year ice in Lancaster Sound in the Canadian Arctic last month. COURTESY OF TOMER KETTER

A Northwest Passage Journey Finds Little Ice and Big Changes

After decades of travel in the Far North, E360’s Arctic correspondent joins a voyage through the Northwest Passage and witnesses a world being transformed, with ice disappearing, balmy temperatures becoming common, and alien invaders – from plastic waste to new diseases – on the rise.

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An abandoned Hudson’s Bay trading post on Somerset Island that was shut down in 1948 because supply ships could not get through the thick sea ice. COURTESY OF TOMER KETTER

Elwin Bay is carved into a steep, flat-topped mountain range along the northeast coast of Somerset Island in Canada’s High Arctic. For as long as anyone can remember, hundreds of beluga whales show up every year on an annual migration from Greenland through Canada’s Northwest Passage. Their fidelity to this site is remarkable given that 19th-century whalers killed more than 10,000 of them there – 840 during one notably gruesome, 17-day stretch – between 1874 and 1898.

Helicoptering over the bay earlier this month with members of a U.S. National Science Foundation-sponsored research expedition, we saw too many belugas to count accurately in waters riddled with rapidly disintegrating sea ice. Five hundred? Eight hundred? None of us could estimate with certainty. All we knew was that there were likely equal numbers of whales congregating in similar bays and estuaries, such as Cunningham Inlet, which we sailed past a few days earlier.

Polar bears were there as well — a female and cub in this case, homing in on a dead beluga that had presumably swum too far up the shallow estuary before the tide turned and trapped it. Continue reading