First a tree story,here.
Canada’s new banknotes show wrong maple leaf
IS THERE a botanist in the house? Canada’s new $20, $50 and $100 bills appear to have the wrong maple leaf on them.
Instead of a sugar maple leaf, one of the nation’s best known symbols, the bills feature the Norway maple, a native of Europe that is so invasive in North America that some US states have banned its sale and importation.
The leaf shown on the banknotes has five major lobes, unlike any maple tree native to Canada, while the sugar maple has just three lobes, says Julian Starr, a botanist at the University of Ottawa.
The Bank of Canada says there is no error. Since no maple is native to the whole of Canada, the designers chose a “stylised blend” of leaves to avoid regional bias, says Julie Girard, spokeswoman for the bank. “This way it’s representative of all of Canada,” she says, adding that the bank even consulted a tree specialist to avoid species bias.
I also thought that this story was interesting on the possible use of rust in solar energy.
To see the rest you have to subscribe or get a copy at your library..
MOST engineers would have been horrified to find even a little bit of rust on their electrodes. But Kenneth Hardee and Allen Bard had made theirs entirely of the stuff. In their pursuit of cheap solar power, the pair had been trying to coax a current out of the cheapest material they could find. And they succeeded: exposed to visible light, it produced a small but decent current.
That happened in 1975, just as silicon was becoming the next big thing. Silicon’s greater efficiency made it the mainstay of photovoltaic solar cells, and it has stayed at the top of the market ever since. Rust simply didn’t have the electrical properties to compete. The small breakthrough at the University of Texas at Austin fell by the wayside and the only time anyone thought about rust, if they thought of it at all, was when they wanted to get rid of …
And finally. because we had discussed coevolution of plants and humans earlier today (and it is Friday night!) the article “The 10,000-year bender: Why humans love a tipple” is interesting, as well, although also requiring a subscription or a library.
EVEN if you are teetotal, you cannot deny that humans, as a species, like to drink. We consume wine, beer, cider, spirits… in fact, the fermented product of almost anything we can turn to alcohol. Our fondness for this toxic substance, the cause of so much trouble, is something of a mystery. Maybe it is enough to say that we drink because it makes us feel good. But I think that to understand our love of alcohol you need a bigger, more evolutionary, explanation.
The story of alcohol is one of an intimate relationship between humans and yeasts, an affair that began millions of years ago and is still playing out today. We like to cast ourselves as the star of this drama, but in fact yeasts are the unsung lead character. Ours is a symbiotic connection – a mutually beneficial partnership. It is also one in which the balance …
GOODNESS, what big teeth you have, and what close ties to humans you have! And what negative attitudes you elicit from rural people all over the world!
Behind their cultural baggage, grey wolves are an evolutionary success story, giving rise to the domestic dog 10,000 years ago and, more recently, rebounding from centuries of persecution.
“There are wild wolves galore in Europe,” says Claudio Sillero, a conservation biologist at the University of Oxford. “They have recolonised vast areas of their former range and live almost unnoticed in populated areas.”
A wolf was recently spotted in the Netherlands, after an absence of over a century. There are ongoing calls from ecologists for them to be reintroduced to Scotland, where they’ve been extinct since the 1700s. In the US, arguments rage over whether their numbers are high enough to sustain hunting.
These wolves were photographed playing in the Black Mountain Wildlife Park, south of Hamburg in Germany, which has more than a thousand animals in an area of 50 hectares.
“While we think of wolves as masters of the wilderness in Europe, they thrive in human-dominated landscapes,” says Sillero. “Over 3000 wolves live in heavily populated areas of northern Spain and Portugal, and wolves from Italy have steadily colonised southern France.”
French farmers may not share Sillero’s enthusiasm, but with less persecution than in the past, wolf numbers are growing. For those of us in Europe, the howl of a wolf could one day become as familiar as the cries of foxes.
Then New Scientist also has an article on the hologenome which is interesting for us human beings as well as other forms of life. It talks about microorganisms being part of us and influencing our evolution.
There was another article about the “gut brain” here.
IT’S been a tough morning. You were late for work, missed a crucial meeting and now your boss is mad at you. Come lunchtime you walk straight past the salad bar and head for the stodge. You can’t help yourself – at times of stress the brain encourages us to seek out comfort foods. That much is well known. What you probably don’t know, though, is that the real culprit may not be the brain in your skull but your other brain.
Yes, that’s right, your other brain. Your body contains a separate nervous system that is so complex it has been dubbed the second brain. It comprises an estimated 500 million neurons – about five times as many as in the brain of a rat – and is around 9 metres long, stretching from your oesophagus to your anus. It is this brain that could be responsible for your craving under stress for crisps, chocolate and cookies.
Embedded in the wall of the gut, the enteric nervous system (ENS) has long been known to control digestion. Now it seems it also plays an important role in our physical and mental well-being. It can work both independently of and in conjunction with the brain in your head and, although you are not conscious of your gut “thinking”, the ENS helps you sense environmental threats, and then influences your response. “A lot of the information that the gut sends to the brain affects well-being, and doesn’t even come to consciousness,” says Michael Gershon at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York.
Assuming that these are observation are both true of wildlife and other species, it just gives us a hint about the many things about them that we do not understand.
And for those who like to apply science to decisionmaking, here’s an article about using “scientifically proven methods” to decrease alcohol consumption.
Here. Found on the SAF Twitter feed. thanks!
From the Denver Post here.. you can enlarge it, and move the cursor around, if you click on the Post site.
There are a couple of interesting small articles on the senses of plants and what we know..
Here’s the link. Many interesting things have been discovered since I took plant physiology, lo , these many years ago.. Here’s a link to some pages from Chamovitz’s book, “What a Plant Knows”.
HAVE you ever wondered what the grass under your feet feels, what an apple tree smells, or a marigold sees? Plants stimulate our senses constantly, but most of us never consider them as sensory beings too. In fact senses are extremely important to plants. Whatever life throws at them, they remain rooted to the spot – they cannot migrate in search of food, escape a swarm of locusts or find shelter from a storm. To grow and survive in unpredictable conditions, plants need to sense their environment and react accordingly. Some people may not be comfortable describing what plants do as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. They certainly lack noses, eyes, ears, mouths and skin, but in what follows, I hope to convince you that the sensory world of plants is not so very different from our own. Daniel Chamovitz
I think this is interesting because we frequently see mountain goats in Colorado but they don’t seem to have become aggressive. Here’s the link.
HOODSPORT, Wash. – Olympic National Forest has closed a trail near Hoodsport for two weeks because of aggressive mountain goats.
Forest officials say there were several encounters this week with aggressive goats on the Mount Ellinor Trail, 18 miles northwest of Hoodsport.
The trail will be monitored, but there are no plans now to kill the animals.
“Nobody has been hurt by the goats. But a number of people have felt threatened,” said Stephanie Neil, recreation manager for the Hood Canal Ranger District of Olympic National Forest. She told the Peninsula Daily News that rangers have heard a number of reports over the past two weeks.
She said Tuesday that rangers will re-evaluate the closures in about two weeks.
“We want to keep the closure as short as possible, but we also want people to be safe,” Neil said.
Wildlife biologist Kurt Aluzas said the goats may be on the trails because of this year’s deep snowpack. Goats are also drawn to hiking trails seeking salt, and nanny goats may be aggressive while protecting their young.
Violating the closure order could bring a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.
This photo intrigued me when I first saw it. Here’s the story. You might want to watch the video with the students’ reactions.
Time to check out your nearby National Grassland to see if they have equivalent opportunities. Otherwise plan a trip to Ft. Pierre. My sources tell me it is a great experience.
Here’s an article.
Through May 31, you can watch and listen to grouse mate at the Fort Pierre National Grassland.
The U.S. Forest Service has three unheated plywood viewing blinds (one donated by the Missouri Breaks Audobon Society in Pierre) that birdwatchers can reserve to watch the display.
You can squeeze about four people into the blind, and you’ll want to be inside before sunrise so you don’t spook the birds too much.
After you’re in, being quiet and waiting for the grouse to un-flush, take some time to check out the other birds flitting around: western meadowlarks, killdeer, ducks and more.
Apart from that, the Forest Service offers these tips:
■ Dress warmly and bring a blanket. I wore coveralls and was not sorry, especially with the heavy mist and fog. A thermos of steaming hot truckstop coffee also served me well.
■ Bring binoculars, a spotting scope or a camera with telephoto lens. A flashlight will help navigate the dark.
■ Find your blind sometime the day before you’re scheduled to sit in it. Lots easier to find the turnoff in sunlight.
■ Forest Service roads become difficult to navigate in wet weather. Bring a four-wheel-drive car or park on the highway shoulder, if in doubt.
All in all, it’s well worth the drive. To reserve your spot, call the Fort Pierre Forest Service office at 605-224-5517.
I thought the comments with alternative observations and explanations were interesting, especially about dogs finding porcupines compared to fisher stations, and different interpretations of Google earth photos. Also I used to observe them in ponderosa plantations in my youth in Oregon, and it did seem like they killed young trees, not just made them crooked; but that was 30 years ago. My question is whether this is just a California thing or have others noticed this?
Porcupines an increasingly rare sight in California forests, scientists say
Published Saturday, Mar. 03, 2012
Here’s the link.
The porcupine is not among the cuddly critters most forest visitors hope to stumble upon.
The large rodent seems aloof as it waddles through California woods. Long quills twitching like the headdress on a drum major, it forages leisurely for herbs, seeds and tree bark. When threatened, the prickly species mostly just turns its back and hopes you’ll get the point.
While nobody was looking, however, it seems the humble porcupine has been quietly fading away.
Biologists and other resource managers who spend their working hours in California forests say it has become increasingly rare to lay eyes on a porcupine. No one knows how many are left, because very few people ever paid attention to the porcupine except to put a bounty on it for eating trees.
A recent informal survey by the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center provided some troubling clues about the porcupine’s fate.
The small nonprofit group, based in Twain Harte, Tuolumne County, put the word out to field personnel with the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and California Department of Fish and Game to report any and all porcupine sightings throughout 2011. The area covered was a vast region stretching from Lake Tahoe to the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada.
The results, reported Jan. 30, were startling. Only 14 live porcupines were seen the entire year. Eight additional animals were reported as roadkill.
“It’s just become kind of apparent there aren’t a lot of porcupines around,” said Lindsey Myers, the center’s staff biologist, who acknowledges the survey is far from exhaustive. “There’s definitely a growing concern about the porcupine population, because nobody’s doing research on it right now.”
Rick Sweitzer, who may be California’s foremost porcupine expert, agrees that the porcupine seems to have become scarce.
Sweitzer, an ecologist and associate adjunct professor at UC Berkeley, did his doctoral dissertation on porcupines at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has also published a number of scientific papers on the species, and runs a research program on the Pacific fisher, one of the porcupine’s primary predators.
“The indications seem to be that porcupines, where they were once present, are not present any more,” said Sweitzer. “I think we’re just now noticing.”
Sweitzer’s experience is not circumstantial. He and a team of biologists maintain a vast network of remote camera stations in the Sierra National Forest, designed to capture images of fishers and any other animal drawn to bait at the cameras.
In five years of research and over 100,000 “camera days,” the team has never captured a photo of a porcupine, nor have any of the biologists seen one personally, either alive or dead.
Another bit of evidence: Porcupine doesn’t show up in the diet of California fishers when their scat and gut contents are analyzed. Instead, fishers seem forced to spend a lot more energy eating smaller and faster prey, like squirrels.
“I’m not aware of a similar issue with porcupine declines in other states,” Sweitzer said.
The decline is not limited to the Sierra Nevada. In the state’s rainy northwest corner, researchers and Indian tribes – which use their quills in clothing and baskets – also say porcupines have become increasingly rare.
Scott Yaeger, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saw a porcupine in a tree from his office window in Yreka about nine months ago. But he called that unusual.
Generally speaking, he said, porcupines can be found east of Interstate 5 in the state’s northeast corner, though they are not common. West of the highway, they are a very rare sight all the way to the coast.
“You just don’t see them anymore – not like people did back in the 1970s,” Yaeger said.
In the American rodent family, porcupines are second in size only to the beaver. And like the beaver, Sweitzer said, they play an important role in shaping their environment: Porcupines feed on a huge variety of plants and help disperse those plants by passing undigested seeds in their feces.
In winter, when their other food sources are dormant or buried in snow, porcupines turn to eating the inner bark of conifer trees.
Porcupines tend not to travel far, so in winter they pick out a handful of trees in a small area to feed on. Like their cousin the beaver, they strip off the outer bark and feed on the cambium, or inner bark.
“They don’t kill a tree,” Sweitzer said, “but they can cause it to not grow straight and true like you would want for your two-by-fours.”
It may be that porcupines’ taste for trees has contributed to their demise.
One problem is that many wild forests have been clear-cut and converted to tree plantations with row upon row of Ponderosa pines, which happen to be one of the porcupine’s favorites. As a result, the logging industry for decades waged an extermination campaign against the porcupine, using hired hunters as well as rodenticides.
John Heil, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service regional headquarters in Vallejo, said the agency stopped targeting porcupines in 1977.
However, it still kills pocket gophers to prevent them from damaging tree seedlings. It does this by placing strychnine-laced bait in burrows. Heil said the Forest Service has treated 83,653 acres in this manner since 1991, or less than 1 percent of its lands in the state.
Logging operations on private land engage in similar practices, though the extent of their rodenticide use is difficult to discern from data collected by the state, said Lea Brooks, spokeswoman for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
A bigger contributor to the porcupine’s disappearance may be illegal marijuana plantations, an ongoing problem in remote areas across the state. These plantations typically divert streams into flexible plastic irrigation tubing, sometimes amounting to hundreds of miles of tubing per grow site.
“For whatever reason, rodents like to nibble on that stuff and they poke holes in it,” said Patrick Foy, a game warden and biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. “So these guys will put rodent bait all around the irrigation pipelines.”
Compared to most rodents, the porcupine is not a prolific breeder. Each female typically gives birth to only one offspring per year. As a result, Sweitzer said, it may be that we are only now noticing the long-term effect of historic and ongoing poisoning practices.
Sweitzer said a concerted research effort is needed to determine the population status of porcupines. Yaeger is already planning to do so in the state’s northwest corner, where he has assembled a regional “porcupine working group” to launch a formal field survey.
There’s a way cool video on PBS Newshour, including aerial videography. http://www-tc.pbs.org/s3/pbs.videoportal-prod.cdn/media/swf/PBSPlayer.swf
Watch In Oregon, Swarms of Pine Butterflies Take Toll on Forests on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
If you have trouble with the links above try this.