From the Community: Holiday Gift Edition

Ecological science comes in all shapes and sizes, and holiday gift-giving is no exception. If you prefer your celebrations to be infused with science, then you might enjoy these holiday gift ideas as well. Who knows, maybe friends and relatives will learn a little bit about ecology too! Games: For those of us who would like to include science in our competitive pursuits, thankfully there are plenty of options. The card game Parasites Unleashed!, for example, challenges players to behave like a nematode worm or other parasites, invading, boring and populating their way to success. In the Animals Linkology Science Card Game, players connect species with words that describe their physical characteristics, classification or behavior—such as wings, bird, predator. For active kids and adults, there are Forest Council Stewardship certified sports balls available as well. For kids: Especially for children, learning is observing first-hand and up close. To help them generate questions about habitats and animal behavior, try a colorful ant farm or a window mounting bird house. A talking microscope could be perfect for a junior entomologist. There is also Smithsonian’s EcoDome Habitat that challenges kids to maintain separate ecosystems and keep them interconnected. And Plush Food Chain Friends are pretty self-explanatory. Clothing: There are of course catchy t-shirts with phrases such as, “Taxonomy: Keeping the family in order” and “Natural Selection: Good things come to those who mate.” But thoughtful gifts such as repurposed jewelry made from typewriter keys or old cookbooks have an appealing artisan flare and reduce waste. Inside, outside: Terrariums are coming back in style as chic home accessories; these can be purchased or easily made out of empty wine bottles or old light bulbs. Also, a portable charger that generates power from kinetic energy is perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities—the more walking, the more energy is charged. Wrapping: Presents are usually not considered complete without wrapping. If the comic’s section of the newspaper is not cutting it, then there are some other creative options. Seeded wrapping paper, for example, can be planted in the spring for perennial wildflowers, and the gift could be secured with botany tape to start a conversation about the importance of natural collections. Photo Credit:...

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Taking a shot at photographing science and nature

Go to Google Images and search for “science.” What are the results? More than likely, the search will come up with beakers, protons, lab coats, double helixes, pulsars, microscopes and perhaps a smattering of trees and images of the globe. Photographs of researchers boot-high in streams collecting samples, for instance, or of a Cayman Island blue iguana in its natural habitat, would probably be few and far between. But images such as these—which show an aspect of the biological sciences, environmental processes or a subject of ecological research—rarely show up, even though they are of course also science.

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Talking Turkey as Thanksgiving Approaches

This post contributed by Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs In a few days, many of us will partake in the American tradition of Thanksgiving Day. Declared a national holiday in 1863 by President Lincoln, this annual feast with family and friends more often than not features a turkey. Most American Thanksgiving dinner platters feature a domestic turkey, a descendant of the wild turkey. Habitat loss and overhunting drove wild turkey (Meleagris galloparo) populations to dangerously low numbers in the early 1900s and efforts to transplant game farm turkeys into the wild failed. In the 1940s, wild turkeys were caught and successfully introduced to new areas where they thrived. Some 7 million birds now live in 49 states, with Alaska the sole state sans wild turkey. Unlike its domestic descendant, Meleagris galloparo can fly. Wild turkeys are omnivores and their diet includes insects, acorns, nuts, seeds, fruits, fern fronds and salamanders. The bird was a favorite meal in eastern Native American tribes who made use of its eggs, meat and feathers and created additional habitat for turkeys by burning sections of forest to create meadows. A male turkey sports a wattle, which is the fleshy growth that hangs from the underside of its beak. On the top of hisbeak is a snood – a fleshy protuberance. The wattle and snood figure in turkey mating rituals, when the male’s face and throat blushes red and blue during mating displays. The gobble sound we all associate with turkeys is used by the males to catch the attention of females during mating season. As wild turkey populations continue to flourish, springtime mating season brings a bounty of stories about turkey-human run-ins. Male turkeys, in their quest for females, venture into cities and suburbs, sometimes actually breaking into human domiciles. In one example, mentioned in a USA Today article, a man in Wenham, Massachusetts returned to his home one spring day to find that a wild turkey had smashed through his living room window: The turkey was patiently sitting on the couch like he was watching TV,” says Wenham Policy Officer William Foley.  But he got angry when he saw us. The bird was eventually captured and released in nearby woods. In addition to these unexpected turkey-people encounters, some one million wild turkeys are legally killed each year by hunters. Hunting organizations are supportive of keeping these wild gobblers around and are eager to point out that wild turkeys make “good neighbors,” as a press release from the National Wild Turkey Federation pointed out. When wine growers in several states became concerned that rafters of wild turkey were eating their grapes, the...

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Living in a city within a park

A satellite view of Baltimore, Maryland, would show plenty of abandoned buildings and parking lots, with parks—such as Patterson and Gwynns Falls parks—scattered throughout. However, while there is an abundance of concrete and asphalt within the city limits, Baltimore is not a city in isolation. Like Washington, D.C. and other nearby urban areas, Baltimore lies within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

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Changes in science and the public

It is important to keep changes in perspective, this includes the overall influence of and public interest in science. In a session at the National Association of Science Writers’ (NASW) 2010 meeting last weekend, panelists and audience members discussed public interest in science and ways to increase this interest during a time of change.

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Inspiring an Environmental Stewardship Generation

It’s been said that, for better or worse, the experiences from your early childhood tend to stick with you for the rest of your life and influence the adult you become. Policymakers, environmentalists and ecological scientists are wise to take this sentiment into account in their efforts to get average citizens to care more about the environment and inform policy as it relates to environmental stewardship.

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Rest stops for fall migration

Many animals migrate in the fall to exotic locales and warmer, more abundant southern climates. Among the more famous migrating winged species are monarch butterflies, but there are several species of birds that also migrate during the fall. Some of these birds, such as hawks, rest and “refuel” in the Gulf region of the United States as they traverse southward.

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From the Community: mapping whale acoustics, photographing the mosquito heart and measuring fly suction

Addressing plastic pollution, raising wolves for reproductive success, images of the mosquito heart to advance malaria research, mapping whale habitats and acoustics to visualize obstructions in whale communication, the potential environmental impact of space tourism and sloth anatomy to understand the evolution of mammal backbones. Here is news in ecology from the month of October.

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