Monday, April 30, 2012

5 Reasons Seahorses are Cooler than Thoroughbreds

This week’s Endangered Species of the Week is the greenmomster’s first fish – the seahorse (photo from!  There are approximately 48 species of seahorse, one-quarter of which are threatened with extinction.  SeahoPhoto: yellow seahorse anchored to coralrses live in shallow tropical and temperate waters around the world.  Although they’re not good swimmers, these tiny fish (from 1/2 inch to more than a foot long) can manage to eat up to 3,000 brine shrimp per day.  Seahorses use camouflage for protection and can anchor themselves to plants and coral by holding on with their tails.  Seahorses’ main threats to survival include overharvest for both the Asian medicine and aquarium trade, loss of habitat, and loss by by-catch (non-target fish captured in fishing nets).  Scientists and conservationists around the world are working hard to protect sea horses with innovative programs.  Project Seahorse is one organization trying to protect seahorses by saving seahorses directly, protecting the world’s shallow seas, cleaning up fisheries, making the fish trade sustainable, and training conservationists.   Scientists are also trying to develop captive breeding programs for seahorses – a very tricky task indeed.

So they’re fun to look at, but why do we really need to conserve seahorses?  Here’s your answer from Wildlife Heroes, by Scardina and Flocken:  “Seahorses’ unique reproductive behaviors could offer valuable insight into reproductive ecology.  Additionally, seahorses are predator fish that prey on bottom-dwelling organisms – removal of the species from their habitat could disrupt the ecosystem balance.”

And now, 5 reasons seahorses are cooler than thoroughbreds (see also 5 reasons Przewalski’s horses are cooler than thoroughbreds):

  1. I’ve never fallen off a seahorse
  2. Seahorse males carry and give birth to the live young
  3. Seahorses are are monogamous
  4. Seahorses use their tails for more than just swatting flies
  5. Seahorses can breath underwater

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lovin’ those Chimpanzees!

Greenmomster’s Endangered Species of the Week is the Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), which is listed as endangered on the IUCN List of Threatened Species.  There are four subspecies of chimpanzee, each with unique appearance, distribution, and behavior:  the western chimpanzee (P. t. verus), the central chimpanzee (P. t. troglodytes), eastern chimpanzee (P. t. schweinfurthii), and the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (P. t. ellioti).  Chimpanzees are omnivores that live in a complex social structure with much parental care of young.  Although chimpanzees usually reach sexual maturity at 7 years of age, they usually don’t reproduce until they’re 13-14 years old.  Young stay with parents for over 5 years, and sometimes up to 10 years.  According to the World Wildlife Fund, the major threats to chimpanzee populations are habitat loss and degradation, hunting, and disease.

Check out these books and movies, if you’d like to learn more about these fascinating animals and the people who work with them:

  • Disney’s Chimpanzee – Wow!  You knew that the greenmomster would be checking this film out on opening weekend, and it was terrific!  As explained by the filmmakers, Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, on NPR, this film is not a documentary.  It’s a story with “heroes”, “bad guys”, and a conflict.  The filmmakers very cleverly weave together nature footage to tell an entertaining story, and, as an extra plus, they teach us quite a bit about chimpanzees.  The photography is incredible, but never gets in the way of the story and the chimpanzees.  Additionally, filmmakers managed to document a behavior rarely seen by scientists – a dominant male chimpanzee “adopting” a baby chimpanzee after its mother is killed.  I highly recommend this movie for your entire family!
  • The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary – A sadder tale than the one told in the movie Chimpanzee, is the story of chimpanzees formerly used for medical research.  In The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, Andrew Westoll describes his experiences as a volunteer at Fauna Sanctuary.  The sanctuary was established in 1997 for animals from farming, entertainment, education, and research.   The sanctuary’s primary focus is providing a home for chimpanzees rescued from research.  Andrew Westoll’s fascinating book gives us a glimpse into the intelligence and complex social structure of chimpanzees, and the dedication of the people who are committed to helping them. (If you’re interested in learning about the first 100 chimpanzees used in scientific research in the U.S., see Wesleyan University’s recent research.)
  • Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) – Jane Goodall’s name is synonymous with chimpanzees and wild chimpanzee preservation.  She has devoted her life to studying and protecting chimpanzees and still travels over 300 days per year.  One of the many activities of the JGI is the Roots and Shoots program, founded in 1991 by Goodall and a group of Tanzanian students to organize youth interested in service projects, campaigns, and events that help to conserve and protect the natural world.  Goodall has written many books, but two of the more recent books that I’ve read and enjoyed are Harvest for Hope (A Guide to Mindful Eating) and Reason for Hope (A Spiritual Journey).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Guest Blogger–Marna Ashburn Krajeski!

Happy Earth Day!   Today we’ve got a guest blogger with a great idea – reuseable produce bags!  This is a terrific idea, because I often find myself at the grocery store trying to balance one dozen apples on the checkout conveyer belt and annoying the checker who’s helping me.  No more wet puddles on the conveyor belt because I didn’t use a plastic bag for the lettuce!  Many thanks to our guest blogger, Marna Ashburn Krajeski – fellow W&M alum and writer extraordinaire!  Marna Ashburn Krajeski lives and writes in Rhode Island, where she and her two teenagers enjoy sailing, kayaking, and surfing. She’s the author of three books for military families and blogs at and

















Friday, April 20, 2012

Meat-Free Friday–Pasta Sauce

Most greenmomsters probably already have a tomato sauce recipe that they’re using, but just in case you’re still using sauce from a jar, here’s an easy recipe that I make and freeze until I need it.

3 large cans diced or whole tomatoes, undrained
3 small cans of tomato paste
1 cup of water
about 1 tsp salt
about 2 tsp pepper
about 1/2 cup sugar
about 2 tblsp dry oregano
about 2 tblsp dry basil

Mix together ingredients and simmer for about 2 hours.  If you like thinner sauce, add another cup of water.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

5 Ways to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone for Earth Day!

Dwarf seahorse

For this Earth Day, I’m not going to suggest tree-planting or trash pickup (see Climate Mama for family friendly ideas).  I’m not going to suggest going for a hike or canoe ride.  Most of us have a “comfort zone” in which we live.  Unfortunately, our comfort zones have led to some pretty uncomfortable realities for the Earth on which we live.  This Earth Day, let’s talk about uncomfortable subjects and do something to address the really big “elephants in the room.”  Here are 5 suggestions for Earth Day activities that might get us out of our comfort zones.

1)  Talk about human population growth and its effect on the planet.  Population growth is the “elephant in the room” that no one wants to discuss, but we need to discuss it.  There are currently 7 billion people on Earth and many estimates expect a peak of 9 billion people!  There are lots of suggestions regarding how we might slow population growth, from increasing women’s educational and economic levels to handing out condoms.  What do you think is the most practical solution?  What’s the best way to get people to consider the environment when planning family size?  On a light note, one group will be giving out endangered species condoms – check them out!

Burning the Future: Coal in America2)  Watch a movie about the coal industry in West Virginia.  We should all know where our energy comes from and how our energy use affects the lives of other citizens.  To help raise greater public awareness about the environmental and public health impacts of coal, BURNING THE FUTURE: COAL IN AMERICA will air on PBS this April and May.  The film will also be available to view free online during Earth Day Weekend (4/21-22).  If you’d like to register to watch the film, visit the online registration

3)  Educate yourself about climate change.  No matter how much we’d like to stick our heads in the sand, climate change is occurring and it is primarily caused by human activity.  Here is some of what we know about climate change from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) (IPCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

  • “Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years. The global increases in carbon dioxide concentration are due primarily to fossil fuel use and land use change, while those of methane and nitrous oxide are primarily due to agriculture. (IPCC 2007)
  • Current levels of atmospheric CO2 are the highest in the past 650,000 years. (NOAA)
  • “Average arctic temperatures increased at almost twice the global average rate in the past 100 years. Arctic temperatures have high decadal variability, and a warm period was also observed from 1925 to 1945.” (IPCC 2007)
  • “Palaeoclimatic information supports the interpretation that the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1,300 years. The last time the polar regions were significantly warmer than present for an extended period (about 125,000 years ago), reductions in polar ice volume led to 4 to 6 m of sea level rise.” (IPCC 2007).  The people in the island nation of Kiribati are planning to move their country in response to current sea level rise.
  • “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.  This is an advance since the TAR’s conclusion that “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”. Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns.” (IPCC 2007)

4)  Let your legislators know that climate change is an important issue to you and you really want to see some action on the issue.  Climate change is not a Democratic or Republican issue.  Legislators on both side of the aisle have stated the need for immediate action.  Check out statements and actions from  Representative Bob Inglis, Senator Olympia Snowe, Senator Susan Collins, Governor Chris Christie, Representative Chris Smith, President Obama, Representative (resigned) Jay Inslee, and Representative Henry Waxman.  Local governments around the country are preparing for the effects of climate change.  A May, 2010, article in Scientific American outlined how cities from Berkeley CA to Austin TX to Denver CO are introducing innovative programs to address climate change.  In 2009, the 1000th mayor signed the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, committing to reduce carbon emissions by 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.  As a group of committed citizens, we must support our elected officials when they act to slow climate change, and strongly encourage them to develop a national energy policy that puts climate change in the forefront.  

5)  Figure out your personal impact and resolve to make one BIG change.  Still not sure what your impact is?  Check out to see what your personal impact on climate change is.  You’ll see that burning fossil fuels, whether to produce electricity in your home, to produce food, or to run your car is a huge contributor to CO2 emissions that affect climate change.  Conservation of energy is the biggest way we, as individuals, can slow climate change. 

Here’s to leaving our comfort zones and entering a more Earth-friendly future!  Happy Earth Day to all!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Treehouse Chats–Erin and Daniel Lebbin

Actors have The Actor’s Studio, the Redskins have the Redskins Report, and politicians have Meet the Press.  Now the greenmomster’s got Treehouse Chats, a once-a-month introduction to someone working or volunteering in the environmental field.
This month, we’re chatting with Erin and Daniel Lebbin who both work for the American Bird Conservancy (and happen to be my next-door neighbors!).

What is your educational background?
Daniel- I studied Biology and Environmental Policy in college. After that, I earned a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology studying birds in the Amazon.  Erin- I come from a humanities background with degrees in English Literature and Art History.

What is your current job and what do you like best about it?
 Daniel- I currently work for American Bird Conservancy (ABC) where I manage conservation projects in South America. In these projects, I work with local partners to create new nature reserves for some of the most endangered birds in the world. The part I like best is the feeling that I can make a difference.  (Check out his book, The American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation)  Erin - Daniel and I are lucky to work together at ABC; my job is to raise money for conservation projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. I'm with Daniel-- the best part of my job is protecting land, including some of the most biologically rich forests in the Americas.  (Editor’s note:  their protection of birds is truly a family affair – their standard poodle accompanies them to the office each day!)

Tell us about some of your work/travel/research.
Erin- Since I have been working with ABC, I have visited some of our project sites in Colombia and Peru. I take people who have supported the projects so they can see the real results of their philanthropy.  Daniel- I travel to South America to visit partners and project sites where I document successes and work to resolve problems. I mostly go to Peru where we have projects high in the mountains where there are glaciers, to the lowlands of the steamy Amazon jungle. In two weeks, I will go to Bolivia where I will visit a project in the Beni Savannnah, home to the Blue-throated Macaw.

What is your favorite activity outside of work? (green or not green)
Erin- I love gardening, reading, hiking, and traveling.  Daniel- Birdwatching, ultimate frisbee, and spending time with friends.

Do you do any environmental volunteering outside of work?
Daniel- When Erin and I lived in Baltimore, we volunteered for Lights Out Baltimore, a program that monitored bird collisions with glass buildings along Baltimore Harbor. This involved getting up very early in the morning, pre-sunrise, searching the buildings for injured or dead birds and sometimes rescuing dazed and confused birds that were still alive. When birds migrate at night, they can get confused by artificial lights and collide with glass windows that they don't see. ABC is working to reduce this problem through better design of buildings, lighting, and retrofitting existing windows with bird tape to make them more visible.

Do you have a favorite environmental book or movie?
Erin-I can watch Planet Earth over and over again.  Daniel- Horton Hears a Who.

Favorite non-meat meal?
Erin- Spinach rice casserole from one of the Moosewood cookbooks.  Daniel- Polenta Pie

What's the place that most inspires you to keep working for the environment?
Erin- Definitely the giant Sequoia groves in the Sierra Nevadas of California.  Daniel- The Andes

Do you have one green tip for blog readers?
Erin- Plant native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers in your yard. In a time when more and more natural habitat is lost every year, our native gardens can provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects.   Daniel- Keep your housecats in doors. It's healthier for them, and better for wildlife. Outdoor cats kill hundreds of millions, and perhaps even a billion, birds in the US alone each year. Cats are also a favorite prey of coyotes, often get hit by cars, and are more susceptible to diseases. If you love your cat, keep it indoors.

Monday, April 16, 2012

5 Reasons that Przewalski’s Horses are cooler than thoroughbreds

The endangered species of the week is Przewalski’s Horse (pronounced “sheh-val-skee”). This horse is native to plains and grasslands of Mongolia, as well as other parts of Asia and eastern Europe, but I first saw one at the National Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA.  Although these horses are small (about 13 hands high and between 550 and 750 pounds), they’re impressive with tan fur on their bodies and a short, dark mane and tail.  They have evolved to survive the harsh winters in Mongolia, but in the 20th century the species had trouble surviving in the face of habitat loss, loss of water sources to domestic animals, and overhunting.  The Przewalski’s horse was declared extinct in the wild by the World Conservation Union in 1970.

Thanks to an active captive breeding program, Przewalski’s horses were reintroduced to the wild in 2008.  There are currently 1,500 horses in captivity worldwide, and approximately 400 horses in reintroduction sites in Mongolia, Kazahkstan, and China.  All of today’s current population of Przewalski’s horses come from 14 ancestors.  Thus, the gene pool for this horse is very narrow.  Scientists must very carefully coordinate breeding among the captive horses to try to maximize genetic diversity and make the population more able to withstand various stresses, such as disease.

So Przewalski’s horse is beautiful, but why should we care about its survival?  Because a species like this one tells us when we’re having too much of an impact on the ecosystem.  Humans are part of the natural world; we depend on natural resources for our survival.  But sometimes we take more than our share, and the ecosystem on which we depend begins to suffer.  Species like Przewalski’s horse tell us when our agricultural or hunting practices are unsustainable. 

And if you needed more reasons to protect the Przewalski’s horse, here are 5 Reasons Przewalski’s Horses are cooler than thoroughbreds:
  1. It is the only truly wild horse remaining in the world (it’s never been tamed for riding).
  2. I’ve never fallen off a Prezwalski’s horse.
  3. Prezwalski’s horses can make it through winter in Mongolia without a horse blanket.
  4. The Mongolian name for these horses is “takhi,” which means “spirit.”   That’s way cooler than names like Chicken Lips or Buck Naked.
  5. Przewalski’s horses have 2 more chromosomes than domestic horses (66 vs. 64).
Check out a video of this beautiful horse!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wildlife Heroes–book review!

Wildlife Heroes: 40 Leading Conservationists and the Animals They Are Committed to SavingAnyone who knows this greenmomster, knows that I’m a fan of the Today Show.  Last year on Presidents’ Day, my family and I stood outside of the Today Show studios for several hours in 20 degree weather as part of the Today Show crowd.  WeIMG_0219 eagerly held up our “Go Caps!” signs and shivered as we hoped to be on TV!  We got to meet Jenna Wolfe and Janice Huff (who were both very friendly, despite the fact that they were wearing skirts and heels in the aforementioned 20 degree weather), but alas, we did not meet Julie Scardina.  Who’s Julie Scardina, you ask?  She’s the Animal Ambassador for Sea World and my favorite guest on the Today Show.  I love watching as Julie nimbly handles both the wildlife she’s introducing to the audience and the hosts of the Today Show who often show a bit of animal angst.  I LOVE the animals!  I love hearing all the interesting facts about the animals, where they live, and why we should care.

My Today Show bliss has lately continued into the evening, as I’ve been reading the new book, Wildlife Heroes, by Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken (DC Office Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare).  This book tells the stories of 40 conservationists and the various animals they work to protect.  Each of the profiles includes information on a species and its habitat, stories about how these conservationists protect the animals, and beautiful photos.  We learn about the educational background of these conservationists (a very helpful piece of information, if you’re trying to inspire children to go into the sciences), as well as the current status (endangered, threatened, etc) of the animals.  I particularly liked the two sidebars in each chapter, “What you should know about [the species]” and even more important, “Why it is important to save [the species]”. 

The book is divided into sections on land animals, aquatic animals, animals that fly or live in the forest canopy, and critical wildlife issues.  The authors state in the introduction that their focus is on larger vertebrates, which I thought might make me less interested in the stories, since I love those invertebrates!  But each story was so fascinating, I just kept reading and reading.  I especially enjoyed the chapter on our recent blog endangered species of the week, the maned wolf, and the chapter on Nguyen Van Thai’s efforts to protect the Asian pangolins.  The book also includes a section on how readers can help with conservation – it’s as if they’ve been reading my blog!  Another great feature of the book is its organization.  The stories are each 4-5 pages long – just the right length for the time-pressed reader.  So while all the other greenmomsters in the waiting room of the orthodontist’s office were playing Angry Birds on their iPhones, I had just enough time to polish off a story or two before my kids emerged from the orthodontist’s chair.

Definitely worth a read – Wildlife Heroes by Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Meat-Free Friday -- Pasta with peas and "bacon"

photo from
This was our Easter dinner -- it's my son's favorite!


1 lb. rotelle pasta
3 tblsp olive oil
1 chopped onion
2 tsp bottled minced garlic
2 tblsp fresh thyme
1 package frozen peas
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tsp butter
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste


1)  Cook pasta and drain.  Reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
2)  Cook "bacon."  Here's what I do:  First put the strips on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on 1/2 power for 5 minutes, then flip the strips and microwave 3 minutes on high.  "Bacon" should be crispy.  Break it up into little pieces.
3)  Heat olive oil in a skillet.  Add onions, garlic, and thyme and saute until onions are soft.  Add in green peas and cook until the peas are warm.  Add green onions and saute for an additional minute or two.  
4)  Add half & half and pasta cooking liquid to the pea mixture and cook for about 2 minutes.  
5)  Add butter, salt, and pepper to pea mixture and cook until butter melts.
6)  Pour pea mixture over pasta and toss.
7)  Add crumbled bacon and parmesan, and toss again


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Eco-friendly Swim Suits

Vitamin AOK, maybe this is just a cheap attempt at getting more people to look at my blog (it worked for Sports Illustrated).  Or maybe it's proof that we green momsters clean up well....

Monday, April 9, 2012

Endangered species of the week–the Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus)

Maned wolf restingI’m a very fortunate person, because I’ve actually had a close encounter with this week’s endangered species, the Maned Wolf.  Maned wolves are beautiful creatures who live in the grassy areas of central south America (parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and possibly parts of Peru and Uruguay).  These wolves (people often say look like “foxes on stilts”) are omnivores, hunting at night and eating a diet which includes fruits and berries as well as small animals like rodents, reptiles, and insects.  Because of this diet, the wolves play an important part in their ecosystems, controlling animal populations lower on the food chain and acting as seed dispersers.  One of their primary food sources is the lobeira berry -- this fact caused some difficulty when zookeepers were first trying to raise the wolves in captivity many decades ago.  Zookeepers knew that the wolves were omnivores, but didn’t know about the importance of lobeira berries in their diet.  Until they worked out this puzzle, the wolves often suffered from dietary problems in captivity.

As mentioned on the ARKive website, these solitary wolves live in home ranges of 25 to 50 square km and only come together during the breeding season.  Females reach sexual maturity at one year and can give birth to litters of 1 to 5 pups.  The primary threat to these wolves, as is the case with many other endangered species, is habitat loss.  Scientists and conservation managers are working hard to protect these wolves from loss of their habitat, as well as negative contact with humans and road kills. 

I just read about Rogerio Cunha de Paula, one of the leading biologists working to protect the species.  He is working to protect the Serra da Canastra National Park in Brazil from logging, mining, and conversion of habitat from soil plantations (see the book Wildlife Heroes by Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken for more info).  Many other people are also working hard to protect the wolves, and that’s how I got my close encounter.  The National Zoo has been involved in maned wolf conservation for over 30 years and is the coordinator of the Species Survival Plan for the maned wolf.  As a volunteer with the zoo, I was an “interpreter” about maned wolves for the public.  One of the keepers at the maned wolf exhibit, my friend Kim, took extra time with me to teach me how truly special these animals are – she shared her knowledge of the wolves with me and gave me an unforgettable look at these fascinating creatures!  What a treat to see these animals close-up, to hear their specific vocalizations, and yes, even to smell their (very strong) scents during mating season.  Based on these encounters, I can say that the world would be a poorer place without the beautiful maned wolf.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Movie review–Coral Reef Adventure

Today, the kids and I headed down to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to check out the giant prehistoric snake, the new Nature’s Best photo contest winners, and a new IMAX documentary – Coral Reef Adventure.  As with other IMAX features, this one didn’t disappoint. 

The movie follows the 10-month adventure of two experienced scuba divers/researchers, as they travel worldwide to investigate the decline of coral reefs.  We travel with them from Fiji to Australia to Bali to see both healthy and dying coral reefs.  Liam Neeson’s narration discusses the various threats to coral reefs worldwide, including ocean warming, overfishing, and siltation.  The photography is, as usual, spectacular.  From incredible close-ups showing symbiotic relationships between gobi fish and shrimp (photo from the bbc) , to the usual sphincter-tightening aerial shots for which IMAX is famous, the film consistently shows the beauty of this natural world and emphasizes the importance of conserving these areas.  I really didn’t see too many weak points to the film. Sometimes the photographic techniques are a little heavy-handed, such as the use of flash when photographing healthy reefs, but no flash when photographing dead reefs.

Without being overly pessimistic, the filmmakers discuss the issue of coral reef decline and the possible extinction of most coral reefs within the next 30 years.  Pretty depressing stuff, but the film presents this information in a constructive, educational, and even hopeful manner.   Accompanied by the music of Crosby, Stills, and Nash (including a funny piece of “Our House” as the little shrimp cleaned house for the gobi fish), the film is as entertaining as it is informative.

I highly recommend seeing this documentary when it comes to your nearest IMAX!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Meat-Free Friday -- Onion Quiche

I've adapted this recipe from Family Circle Magazine (photo from, and boy was it a hit at my house!

1 frozen pie crust
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups chopped onions
5 eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tblsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup shredded swiss cheese

1)  Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2)  Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until browned and soft (stir once in a while), about 30 minutes.
3)  In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, mustard, salt, and nutmeg.  Remove pie crust from freezer, and sprinkle cheese evenly on bottom of crust.  Spread onions on top of the cheese.  Pour egg mixture over cheese and onions.  Bake quiche for 45 minutes or until eggs are set.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hyenas change diet for Lent

photo from ScienceDaily
It turns out, during Lent when fewer meat scraps are available for scavenging hyenas, hyenas quickly switch their diets and start eating more donkey.  I just had to post this, because who would've thought hyenas were so flexible in their eating habits.  Additionally, who would've thought someone would come up with a research question that included both hyenas and Lent:

Donkeys in Ethiopia are counting down the days to Easter!

Endangered Species of the Week–Puritan Tiger Beetle (Cicindela puritana)

Puritan tiger beetle
from U.S. FWS
This week’s endangered species is the Puritan tiger beetle, which was Federally listed as endangered in 1990.  This tiny beetle, measuring just 1/2 inch in length, is found in only two places on Earth:  in Maryland along the Chesapeake Bay and in New England along the Connecticut river.  Puritan tiger beetles are found on beaches and eroding cliffs, where they go through their two year life-cycles.  In June and July,   the adult beetles emerge from their burrows in the sand to mate along the beaches.  Females then move up the cliffs and dig burrows in which to lay their eggs.  The eggs hatch, and then the tiger beetle goes through three larval stages and eventually emerges as an adult.  Thus, eroding cliff faces are critical to survival of this beetle species.

Natural threats to the Puritan tiger beetle include flooding, parasites, and other insect predators.  More critical are the man-made threats – habitat loss due to shoreline development and bluff stabilization.  In the Chesapeake Bay area, conflicts between homeowners and wildlife managers have occurred.  Both sides are working hard to resolve these issues by working on compromises, including offshore segmented breakwaters and special geotextile materials on cliffs, but this is a very controversial issue in the Chesapeake Bay.  Efforts to protect the beetle include scientific studies into the ideal habitat for the beetles, removal of vegetation from habitat sites, translocation of larvae, and propagation of larvae.

So why do we even care about this tiny little beetle whose need for eroding cliff habitat threatens homes in the Chesapeake Bay area?  Scientists often say that these beetles, and other small species like them, act as “canaries in the coalmine” telling us about the health of the entire ecosystem.  As stated on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website:
“The vast majority of life on earth is made up of plants and invertebrates, like insects. Without these groups, ecosystems would collapse (no plants to eat; no insects to pollinate them). Puritan tiger beetles are a key predator (eats other insects and crustaceans) in its cliff habitat and is, in turn, preyed upon by other insects and birds. And, to the extent that its presence has protected the existence of natural cliffs, it has also protected the habitat of King Fishers, Bank Swallows, and many insect species.”