Sunday, May 20, 2018

5 Endangered Species Myths

Endangered Species Day Logo created by Jennifer Hennessey/USFWS

Friday was Endangered Species Day 2018!  Based on discussions with students in my environmental science classes, there are a few misconceptions about endangered species and the endangered species act.  To celebrate the big day, let's take a look at (and hopefully dispel) these myths:

Misconception #1 -- Species have always gone extinct, so we don’t need to worry right now. True, species have always gone extinct. Scientists are not concerned about the fact of extinction; it’s the rate of extinction that is a concern. The USFWS, in its pamphlet “Why Save Endangered Species?”, states “Biologists estimate that since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, more than 500 species, subspecies, and varieties of our Nation’s plants and animals have become extinct.” Wow! Current estimates of the current rate of species extinctions are 100 to 1000 times the natural rate which is estimated to be between 1 every year to 100 years. That means that we’re living in a time of mass species extinction, comparable to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Scientists refer to this period as the Anthropocene, the only mass extinction believed to be caused primarily by humans.

Misconception #2 -- Losing a species won’t affect humans. Species diversity is a critical element in ecosystem health. “Species diversity” is how many different species are found in a habitat and in what proportion they’re found. Some habitats have greater species diversity than others – think rainforest – but all habitats are healthiest when they contain as many different species as they can sustain. Think of a habitat as a fishing net, with each species being piece of rope that connects to other pieces to form the net. If one of the pieces of rope breaks and leaves a small hole, the net can probably be fixed and reused. But what if half the net is torn? It won’t be very usable. The same thing happens in a natural habitat; remove too many species and the habitat ceases to function. How many species can be lost, before the habitat doesn’t function? No one knows – is it an experiment we’re willing to try? The habitats around us provide many services such as medicinal and agricultural resources, clean water and air, and recreation. Healthy habitats benefit humans – they’re a necessity, not a luxury.

Misconception #3 – Once a species is on the endangered species list, it never comes off. Incorrect! Protections under the U.S. Endangered Species Act have led to the recovery of several species or populations of species, including the gray whale, the bald eagle, the brown pelican, and the gray wolf.

Misconception #4 – Pollution is the greatest threat to biodiversity. Actually, habitat loss is the greatest threat to biodiversity. With 7 billion humans on the planet, we take up a lot of space and we’re changing a lot of habitat to new uses.

Misconception #5 – There’s nothing I can do to protect the Earth’s biodiversity. In order to protect biodiversity and endangered species, we all have to make conscious choices about how we use resources. Check out the “low hanging fruit” section as a start. Visit to discover new ways of decreasing your carbon footprint. Get involved in deciding how our country produces energy – research the issue and write to your political representatives. One final thought from famous biologist E.O. Wilson, "A very Faustian choice is upon us: whether to accept our corrosive and risky behavior as the unavoidable price of population and economic growth, or to take stock of ourselves and search for a new environmental ethic." (From Brainy Quote: <>)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Feta and Spinach Fritatta

Here’s another great recipe from Michael Symon’s 5 in 5 – if you haven’t picked up this cookbook yet, you should! Very easy and very tasty!


  • 2 tblsp butter
  • 4 cups fresh (1 frozen package – be sure to squeeze out excess water) spinach
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese


  1. Preheat broiler to 450 degrees
  2. Heat a large, non-stick, oven-proof skillet on the stove and melt the butter. Add spinach and salt, stirring until the spinach is wilted.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add egg mixture to spinach and cook, stirring, until eggs are still a little runny, but starting to firm up.
  5. Top with feta (I did half with feta and half without, for our non-feta eaters) and put under broiler for about 2 minutes (allow feta to soften).


Monday, May 14, 2018

Friday, May 11, 2018

Arugula, apple, and date salad

Today’s meat-free Friday recipe comes to us from professional chef, Matt C. I can’t wait to try it!

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup walnut oil
  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 8 cups arugula
  • 2 Red Delicious or Fuji apples, unpeeled, cored, thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces Spanish Manchego cheese or sharp white cheddar cheese, shaved
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted dates, sliced
  • 1 cup Caramelized Walnuts
  • 4 large shallots, minced
  1. Boil balsamic vinegar in small saucepan over medium-high heat until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 4 minutes.
  2. Whisk oil and Champagne vinegar in bowl. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Keep at room temperature. Rewarm balsamic syrup before using. Rewhisk vinaigrette before using.)
  3. Toss arugula, apples, half of cheese, dates, walnuts, and shallots in large bowl with enough vinaigrette to coat. Season salad with salt and pepper.
  4. Mound salad in center of each plate. Drizzle balsamic syrup around salads. Sprinkle remaining cheese atop salads. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Sharks on the move!

(not too worried about sharks...)

My family loves spending time at Edisto Beach in SC.  The beaches in that area are beautiful and relatively empty -- great places for shell collecting and swimming.  And sharks are an important part of the ecosystem.  We've caught and released sharks right off the coast -- lemon sharks and sharpnose sharks are common.  Now there's news that bull sharks, thanks to warmer waters due to climate change, may be expanding the range of their nursery areas to North Carolina's Outer Banks.  No real danger to humans, because the juvenile sharks don't bite humans and they're in areas that aren't really popular for beachcombers.  But it's still an interesting impact of climate change.  Check out this Washington Post article explaining the change.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Mammal Monday -- The Tasmanian Devil

I was lucky enough to see Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) in a captive breeding facility, and they're fascinating creatures.  Currently endangered and very limited in their range, these little guys are the epitome of carnivores -- no meat-free Friday for them!  Take a look at today's Monday mammal:

Want to help out this species?  Check out the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Avocado Quinoa Bowl

Here’s a quick, yet filling salad to try on a busy Friday night! I started with a recipe from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen, and then just fiddled with the ingredients, based on what I had at home.

  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, cashews, or almonds (I used almonds)
  • 2 avocadoes
  • 2 tblsp lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves (I used 2 tblsp jar garlic)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • 4 cups cooked quinoa (I used the red quinoa)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  1. The cookbook says to “combine basil, walnuts, avocados, lemon juice, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Process until smooth.” I only combined the chopped basil, lemon juice, garlic, oil, salt, pepper, scallions, and red pepper in a bowl and just whisked the ingredients together.
  2. Pour the sauce on the quinoa and mix well. Top with tomatoes, avocado, nuts, and any other toppings you think look tasty – I added corn and black olives.