For the love of insects!

Happy Valentine’s Day! In honor of insects and the day of love, the Xerces Society is showcasing insect short films on their facebook page. I thought I’d share a few of the short films, especially with the oscars around the corner.

The last film, a little longer, was a winner at SXSW and a bunch of other festivals, it features the issue of invasive species and extinctions of Australia/New Zealand islands but particularly highlights a special stick insect I’ve written about before!

Enjoy!

Snouth Beetle from séraphin vogrig on Vimeo.

Insect Poetry from Marilyn Zornado on Vimeo.

Sticky from jilli rose on Vimeo.

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Ruminations on Tree Planting and Prairie Conservation

Originally posted on The Prairie Ecologist:

Trees are great, but trees in and around prairies can negatively impact habitat quality for many grassland plant and animal species and provide points of introduction for invasive species.  Encroachment by trees has become a major threat to prairie conservation in many landscapes.  

A few months ago, I cut across the courthouse lawn on my way home from the office (I was walking – it’s a small town).  On the west side of the courthouse, there are a number of statues and other monuments memorializing veterans of various wars.  In the midst of those, however, is a very different kind of memorial (pictured below).  This plaque-on-concrete memorial got me thinking – yet again – about our relationships with trees, our desire to plant and care for them, and how that affects our former, current, and future relationship with prairie.

We love trees so much, we use them to memorialize important events and people in our lives.  Sometimes, we then create memorials to honor people who plant trees! We love trees so much, we use them to memorialize…

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Make the Most of Holiday Trees

Originally posted on Oakmoss Education:

If you were unable to take up our suggestion of using a live tree in your holiday celebrations but, instead, employed a cut tree, do not toss the remnants on the curb. The best option is to put the tree in your landscape, at least temporarily, and offer a refuge for wildlife over the next few months. Many birds, small mammals and other critters will appreciate it and make great use of a fading conifer for protection from weather and predation.

Don't toss that tree on the curb - make it work for healthier ecosystems! Don’t toss that tree on the curb – make it work for healthier ecosystems!

Better still, you can begin building a brushpile with your tree and the downed limbs or twigs that accumulate over the Winter. The brushpile breaks down over time enriching the soil around the area and you can simply keep it going for many years adding to the pile as material presents itself in your landscape…

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Latest Science Bulletins: Cuckoos

Have you heard of brood parasitism? Basically, a bird, a cuckoo in this case, lays its own egg in another bird’s nest and leaves it there for the other bird to raise its young, which it does because the cuckoo baby can sound like, look like, or mimic the mouth markings of the host bird. How does the host bird fight back? Perhaps by recognizing the cuckoo egg pattern and kicking it out of the nest. Check out out bulletin and the below picture of the wonder that is brood parasitism!

Reed_warbler_cuckoo

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Climate March

Just a quick note about the Climate March on Sept. 21st in NYC- I attended and it was a great experience. Here are a few accounts from some Switzer Fellows, including me!: http://switzernetwork.org/fellows-news/fellows-nyc-peoples-climate-march

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For the birds!

This is a guest post by my partner and teacher-naturalist extraordinaire at Audubon New York, Laura Revilla. She gets to spend her time teaching 2-4th graders about NYC birds and their conservation.

LaurawKids

Laura with the kids!

What is mating? That was a question a got from a 2nd grader my first day of work as a Teacher-Naturalist at For the Birds!. I was stunned, did not have an answer ready at all, but luckily was quickly saved by another 2nd grader who told her that is was like ‘getting married’ but for animals. Lesson number one; never use a word or phrase that cannot be explained in simple terms. Teaching children about urban birds and wildlife conservation is a very rewarding activity. Birds are everywhere; sparrows, pigeons, starlings, doves; yet they are wild animals with interesting interactions and behaviors that can be used to teach kids about ecology and conservation.

Birds teach us about the importance of habitat conservation and biodiversity, clean water and geography- as many birds migrate, for thousands of miles, twice a year, every year. One particularly amazing example is the ruby-throated hummingbird that migrates from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico to the southeastern United States every spring, a journey of 500-600 miles over the Caribbean Sea that takes 24 hours without a break!

While migrating birds are incredible and adapted for the journey, they still need resting places with food resources on their way to nesting sites; places they depend on year after year. Unfortunately, many times these migratory paths become death traps for countless birds. For example, China’s second most important migratory bird route has become an illegal hunting ground. In addition, it is estimated that between 100 million and 1 billion North American birds are killed each year by collisions with buildings; some 90,000 birds annually in New York City alone.

LauraKidPlanting

Planting bird habitat in NYC

Birds unite us; make this world a smaller place, reminding us that we are all connected with shared ecologies and how our local actions can have global repercussions.

I teach my second graders that anyone can make a difference and I believe it. Here are some examples of ways you can have a direct, positive impact on bird survival:

  • Put up a bird house in your yard
  • Put a bird bath in your yard to provide a year-round clean drinking and bathing water source for birds
  • Erect bird feeders and nectar feeders in proper distances from windows or places where birds can’t be ambushed by predators
  • Limit the use of lawn chemicals and pesticides in your garden, which are harmful not only to birds, but to a variety of wildlife and to household pets
  • Hang cutout silhouettes of birds, such as hawks, in large windows to prevent birds from colliding with the windows of your home
  • Plant native fruit and berry-bearing bushes and trees on your property
  • At night, turn off the lights or close the blinds of your high-rise offices or apartment buildings, and spread the word to your co-workers
kidDrawPigeon

Bird Book Journaling

By the way, pigeons mate for life. That is why the second grader asked me what I meant by mating. Every year male pigeons court the same female all over again, creating a display of throaty coos accompanied by strutting, puffing shimmery throat feathers, bowing, and tail fanning and dragging, as if it were the first time they met.

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Chernobyl’s Birds Adapt to Radiation- latest Science Bulletin!

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster had a high ecological cost, with local wildlife suffering from physical deformities and reduced populations. The site has since emerged as a unique environment for scientists to study the long-term effects of continuous radiation exposure on plants and animals.

Our latest Bio Bulletin looks at a recent study showing that many bird species are surprisingly adaptable to life in highly radioactive areas.

RELATED LINKS

Functional Ecology: Chronic exposure to low-dose radiation at Chernobyl favours adaptation to oxidative stress in birds
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2435.12283/full

Nature: Chernobyl birds adapt to radiation
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v509/n7498/full/509011a.html

University of South Carolina: Chernobyl Research Initiative
http://cricket.biol.sc.edu/chernobyl/Chernobyl_Research_Initiative/Introduction.html

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