As if today’s war on science wasn’t bad enough, it seems researchers have been courting further bad press by admitting they’ve spent countless hours on lunacy studies. To clarify, this research is on lunar effects on our behavior and sleep – I don’t know of any work being done to analyze sheer foolishness and irrational acts, the other kind of lunacy. Given the events that dominated the news this January, though, maybe that would be a fair line of inquiry. [Read more…] about The Science of Lunar Lunacy
On a clear mid-winter day several years ago, my student Sarah Wakefield and I pulled on snowshoes, donned backpacks, and headed up through Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont.
Our destination was Big Spring, which rises from Mount Mansfield’s bedrock before flowing east for 100 yards and entering a culvert under Route 108. When it emerges from the culvert, the spring water joins a stream fed by surface runoff and snowmelt. [Read more…] about Life In Groundwater Fed Springs in Winter
They’re devilishly intriguing, but fireflies, or lightning bugs as they are sometimes called, are angelic to watch. I have yet to hear of a single person who isn’t fascinated by the show that these glow-in-the-dark beetles put on. In the right location it can seem like a swirling, blinking Milky Way has come to visit. [Read more…] about Fireflies: Fairy Lights and Princesses of Darkness
After discovery of the corner to Townships 42 and 41 on the Totten & Crossfield Line, Adirondack surveyor Frank Tweedy and crew encountered beautiful but challenging terrain in their march southeast to Big Moose Lake, where they camped in a high beaver meadow by Ledge Pond (now Jock Pond). Tweedy recorded the following:
“A short distance beyond we met a cliff 70 feet in height and deep ravine and ledges. Climbing very difficult. Completed our work on a slope to the S. Went forward to the cutting party and camped in a beaver meadow. Saw species of Calamagrostis canadensis 5.6 [ft] in Length.” [Read more…] about Adirondack Surveyor Frank Tweedy: A Botanist of Distinction
In 1844 New York State published a volume on birds in Natural History of New York. Written by James E. DeKay with hand-colored lithographs by John William Hill, it was the State’s first attempt at a comprehensive scientific cataloging of New York’s birds. At the time about 301 species of birds were known to be present in the state.
Sixty years later another effort was made to bring together the State’s bird knowledge. The first of the two-volume of Birds of New York – Water Birds and Game Birds – was published to much acclaim. The book was a collaboration between wildlife artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes and author Elon Howard Eaton. Birds of New York listed an additional 100 species – several of which were then “well known,” but unknown in the 1840s. The book would serve as a model for those that followed.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has announced Winter Bird Feeding 101, a free webinar set for this Thursday, November 19th. [Read more…] about Winter Bird Feeding 101: A Free Webinar
All animals need sleep of some kind. Reptiles, birds, bees – even nematodes, reportedly – require periodic bouts of unconsciousness, though I imagine it’s hard to tell what level of consciousness a nematode has when it’s awake. In a June 25, 2016 BBC report, University of Wisconsin sleep biologist Barrett Klein says that “… sleep is shared across all animals. There’s no universally-accepted exception.” [Read more…] about Science of Sleep Across Species
I’m told there is a Zen Buddhist saying that goes “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” The idea, I think, is to be mindful of the ordinary tasks which constitute one’s daily life, regardless of our spiritual state.
Unfortunately, many of us who heat with wood are not enlightened as to how much extra wood we carry because we’re needlessly boiling water inside our woodstoves all winter. In fact, if your firewood is not adequately dry, it could cost you $200 to $600 annually just to send steam up the chimney. [Read more…] about Science of Burning Fresh Firewood vs Dry
I have all the respect in the world for science, and those who practice its various disciplines, but scientists are not exempt from getting drawn into petty battles over whose ideas should prevail. I’m told there was a long-simmering dispute, apparently resolved for the moment, over how to define hibernation. The consensus now is that any critter able to actively slow its metabolism is a hibernator. Actively slowing down sounds like an oxymoron, but let’s not resort to name-calling. [Read more…] about Winter Brumation Sweeps Across Northern Latitudes
“Those kind sting!” he declared. He was the third student that month to point out the same kind of caterpillar as stinging. I remembered being warned away from hairy caterpillars as a kid, but I’ve since picked up many – of various types – with no ill effect. I wondered, could the hairy-caterpillars-sting story be a myth? [Read more…] about Urticating Hairs: The Defense Hairy Caterpillars