30 July 2013

Rally Time

We know their sound well, but wolves rarely get heard as far as environmental policy is concerned. The National Rally to Protect America's Wolves in Washington, D.C., on September 7 hopes to change this.

Wolves were nearly wiped out in the lower 48 states by the 1970s and received protection under the US Endangered Species Act in 1974. Now, less than 20 years after their reintroduction to the American West, they are being hunted in high numbers again, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing their ESA protection.

The idea of pulling federal support from wolf recovery at this point raises the question of why the government even bothered to reintroduce them in the first place. Doing so has simply given people yet another thing to kill.

In response to the current political climate, the organizers of the wolf rally are bringing people together to show support for wolf recovery and for protecting the animals under the ESA. For more information about the rally, click here.

Giving wolves a political voice now is important to ensuring their sound remains a part of this world.

28 July 2013

Don't See That Every Day

Rabbits don't usually run toward moving vehicles, but one ran toward mine today.

I was returning on a dirt road from a fishing trip, and a large, brown rabbit jumped from the bushes on the left and sprinted at the truck. This seemed quite odd, and I figured that something must be chasing it, but I couldn't see anything.

The rabbit continued past the truck, hardly paying any attention to it, and I began looking for a pursuer (I was expecting a coyote). Next, I saw what initially looked like a chipmunk in the area from which the rabbit had emerged. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a weasel. It was jumping back and forth from the bushes to the road.

Although I was surprised that a weasel would attack a rabbit more than twice its size, I was pretty sure it was what had flushed this rabbit. Before driving by, I noted the weasel's reddish-brown fur and black-tipped tail.

The black tail tip helped me identify later as a long-tailed weasel, a species that I learned often attacks animals larger than itself.

I see rabbits quite often, but weasel sightings are rare for me, and I had no idea they kill adult rabbits. Seeing this part of the life cycle play out was an opportunity that I may never have again, but I will certainly not forget it.

25 July 2013

Stamp of Approval

When it comes to environmental issues, conservation is often common ground.

Although people have different opinions about the environment, many of them can get behind the idea of conserving resources. The Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (better known as the Duck Stamp) is a great example of conservation's broad appeal.

For almost 80 years, the Duck Stamp has been a popular program that allows hunters and bird-watchers access to places where migratory birds congregate. Additionally, the money raised by the program supports conservation by providing funds to buy and set aside land.

The 2014 version of the Duck Stamp is out now and costs $15. To learn more about it and find out where to buy it, click on this story from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's blog, Round Robin.

While many environmental issues are contentious, conservation is something that many people support in one form or another. I think a big reason for this is that our connection with the environment is strong enough to help us see the need for such actions.

The Duck Stamp lets us enjoy and maintain that connection. That's why it continues to receive great support.

19 July 2013

Black Mark

Our relationship with whales might change more rapidly than any other connection we have with our environment.

First, whales were food and fuel; then, they became symbols of environmental destruction; next, they were captive teachers and entertainers; and the relationship appears to be changing again.

Although captive whales that entertain audiences in places like SeaWorld undoubtedly inspired many individuals to learn about cetaceans (the family that includes whales and dolphins), the morality of this captor-captive relationship is being questioned. A new documentary called Blackfish looks at the impact we have on whales, specifically orcas, when we capture them for entertainment purposes. Watch the trailer below:

We now know that whales and dolphins have intelligence and levels of feeling similar to our own. Indeed, they keep teaching us things, and the latest lesson is that we need to reexamine our relationships with them (and other animals) once again. Our current approach is black with death and shame.

05 July 2013

Dragonfly Squadron

When it comes to keeping tracking of dragonflies, it's a case of science meeting art.

The elegance of dragonflies cannot be denied. They are one of those creatures that cause me to stop whatever I'm doing and watch. That appeal would seem to make them prime candidates for citizen science projects, and the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership is providing three such opportunities.

Pond Watch involves recording information about the arrival to, activity in, and departure from local ponds. Migration Monitoring helps collect data about the insects' migration behavior, and Stable Isotopes uses hydrogen isotopes to track them. For more information about the projects, click here.

Through citizen science like the MDP's projects, the next time someone stops to marvel at a dragonfly, it can become a key contribution to the scientific knowledge about these stunning insects.

03 July 2013

It Sounds Like This

We've heard a lot about global warming, but we don't often get to hear it.

Daniel Crawford, a student at the University of Minnesota, is changing that by putting rising global temperatures to music and playing it on a cello. Watch and listen to his performance below:

A Song of Our Warming Planet from Ensia on Vimeo.

Each note in the piece represents the average worldwide temperature for a given year between 1880 and 2012. The higher notes stand for warmer years, and the lower notes stand for colder ones (there aren't many as the piece passes its halfway point). Alarmingly, the temperature increases predicted for the end of the 21st century would produce notes so high that humans could not hear them.

I've always liked the sound of cellos, but what I really like about them are the low notes. Unfortunately, we've got a lot of work to do before we'll get to hear more of them in this piece of music.

01 July 2013

Salmonberry Surprise

The idea of nature turning death into life is not new, but some of the ways it does that can still surprise us.

Today's surprise came in finding a salmonberry plant at a place on my parents' property where a tree had uprooted seven years ago. According to descriptions of the plant, salmonberries often start to grow in disturbed ground. However, they like wet areas, and my parents' land dries out in the summer, a fact that created some disbelief when I first saw the plant.

I have been able to confirm the plant is a salmonberry, and it appears to be doing quite well in its home. It's doing so well that it has started sending out shoots (check out the photograph of the new start coming up near the parent plant).

This is a much better surprise than finding the English laurel in December. Salmonberries are native to the area, and it's cute how the leaf pairs look like a butterfly.

I never doubted the area around the fallen tree would be settled by other plants (foxgloves moved in almost right away), but I didn't expect one of the new occupants would be a salmonberry.