Monday, July 30, 2018

Mammal Monday -- Photo Ark

Our hope is that people will look these creatures in the eyes, and be inspired to care, while there is still time.
I was checking out my instagram feed the other day and saw Joel Sartore's post about Tasmanian devils, which I wrote about back in May.  These endangered mammals were featured on Sartore's page, Photo Ark, and are threatened by a cancer called Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DTFD).  The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program is working to conserve these incredible little carnivores (they actually eat their ENTIRE prey, bones and all).  To help, visit the program's website.

If you love wildlife and haven't seen Photo Ark, you should definitely check it out.  Sartore has spent the last 25 years trying to document every species in human care, to photograph species before they disappear, and to get people to care about these species.  I was lucky enough to see his Photo Ark exhibit at the National Geographic in Washington DC, and you can see the photos in his book. Here's a look at a day at the office for the Photo Ark crew:

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Life Well Lived


Today's Sunday TODAY included a really nice tribute to Lincoln Brower, the scientist who studied and taught all of us about monarch butterflies and their incredible annual migration.  If you plant milkweed in your garden, you can thank Lincoln Brower for helping to encourage protection of these beautiful insects.  Take a few minutes to watch this tribute and celebrate a life well lived.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Changes to the ESA

Over the past couple of weeks, we've seen some proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act from Congress and the Executive Branch. Conservation organizations are fighting many of the proposed changes, while oil and gas, ranching, and private land rights groups see these proposals as progress. One of the big changes will allow economic impacts to be considered when deciding whether to list a species as endangered -- current regulations say that economic impacts can be considered when deciding management, but not when considering the initial listing.  The current process allows science to be the basis of listing decisions, and should not be changed.

There is a middle ground -- it's in the proposals from the folks who are focusing on species recovery.  These groups think we should better fund recovery efforts and try new and creative partnerships that prevent the regulatory enforcement (the "hammer") of the Endangered Species Act.  We saw this in some of the 4(d) rulings passed under the Obama administration, such as the exemption for the greater sage grouse.  If you'd like to learn more about this issue, so that you can contact your elected officials during the current comment period, start by listening to this NPR On Point program regarding the new proposals.  The accompanying reading list is a great place to learn more about the ESA.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Is this really sportsmanship?

I don't hunt.  I don't have any desire to try hunting.  In fact, I don't even understand why someone might find hunting enjoyable.  That said, I know that many people enjoy hunting, and that hunters have significantly contributed to conservation in the U.S. (check out the valuable conservation work done by Ducks Unlimited).  Conservationists often work with hunters to preserve habitat, because hunters have the desire and expertise that makes them great teammates on conservation projects.

Unfortunately, today's political climate (and yes, I'll say it -- lead by and encouraged by our President) separates people who might be able to work toward common goals.  The latest example is the new policy on hunting in Alaska which goes against the opinions of scientists and land/wildlife managers to allow unethical measures to hunt bears and wolves on Federal land.  These practices are not only unsportsmanlike, they will damage the Alaskan ecosystem upon which these and other species rely.  Two conservationists and hunters, Dan Ashe (former director of US FWS) and Jon Jarvis (former director of NPS) recently outlined the problems with the proposed program.  I hope you'll read their piece and contact your elected leaders.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Mammal Monday -- rhinos

We've celebrated rhinos before on Mammal Monday, but today I realized we need to take another look.  Last night, CBS Sixty Minutes included a fascinating report about black rhino relocations -- why conservation experts feel it's necessary and why it's so difficult.  Here's a little clip on the background which causes these veterinarians think these relocations are necessary:

But this process isn't easy or risk-free.  Just last week, the Washington Post reported on the death of 8 endangered black rhinos that died after relocation to a sanctuary in Kenya.  Relocations of endangered species are not the best solution, but it's sometimes necessary.  The best solution is what conservationists call the "precautionary principle." Basically, we want to prevent harmful actions before they happen, rather than trying to fix disasters afterward.  While relocations are a valuable last-gasp effort, the ultimate conservation goal is to directly address the threats to rhinos -- habitat loss and poaching.  Want to learn more or help out?  Save the Rhino and World Wildlife Fund are both active in rhino conservation -- check out how you can help!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Mammal Monday -- koalas

In ecology, we talk about "generalist" species and "specialist" species.  A generalist is a species that is able to eat lots of different foods, can bed down in a variety of different places, and is relatively flexible in its lifestyle strategy.  If a generalist were a human (which we are), she'd be a good travel companion.  On the other hand, the specialists usually won't eat many different types of foods and are very choosy about habitat.  As Billy Crystal said in "When Harry Met Sally", they're "high maintenance."

Koalas are most definitely specialist species.  They're a marsupial that is able to eat eucalyptus leaves, which most animals find toxic.  Thanks to their unique genetics, koalas can produce an enzyme that breaks down the toxins in the leaves.  And although there are about 600 different types of eucalyptus, koalas focus on about 120 of these types of trees.    Koalas have many other unique characteristics, such as very limited genetic diversity.  To learn more about koalas and their evolution, check out this Washington Post article about koalas by Joel Achenbach.

Specialist species are often at greater risk of extinction, simply because they can't easily adjust to environmental changes.  So what's being done to protect koalas?  Check out this video and visit the Australian Koala Foundation website where you can learn about koala protection and help out by donating, planting a tree, or adopting a koala.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Meat-free Friday -- Peach Gazpacho!

If you’re a gazpacho lover, here’s a fun twist using the fruit that seems to be everywhere this time of year – peaches!

Peach Gazpacho

  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3 lbs fresh peaches, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
1) In a blender, puree the tomatoes, half of the peaches, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 of the onion, 2 tblsp olive oil, 1 tblsp vinegar, 1 tblsp tarragon, salt and pepper. Make sure the mixture is very smooth.
2) Add remaining peaches, water (you may need to add a little more), olive oil, vinegar, onion, and tarragon. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
Enjoy with some bread and a side of your favorite veggies!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Living with the neighbors

I ran across this blog post the other day, regarding the number of non-invasive species killed by a division of the USDA.  The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (part of USDA) reports that in 2017, 2,307,122 animals were killed, with 987,047 being invasive species.  Invasive species included feral pigs (65,264), nutrias (2,094), and brown tree snakes (21,886).  As I've written before, non-native invasive species can have huge environmental and economic impacts; thus the removal of these species is often necessary to protect ecosystems.  A little more puzzling is the removal of native species.  Sure, some individuals become nuisances or prey on agricultural species, but others are harder to explain.  The non-invasive species included downy woodpeckers (21), beavers (23,644), eastern bluebirds (yes, the ones we set up all those nest boxes for, 4), bobcats (983), brown-headed cowbirds (285,657), coyotes (68,913), great blue herons (564), and eastern meadowlarks (1,474), ospreys (92).  For a full list, see the USDA website.

After reviewing the website, it seems to me that there are ways that we can reduce these lethal animal removals, but it's up to us.  If we don't request unnecessary animal removals, USDA personnel won't be required to kill animals.  So check out these helpful fact sheets that USDA has produced before you consider killing pest animals:

Monday, July 9, 2018

Mammal Monday -- a change in plans

OK -- I was going to go in a totally different direction for Mammal Monday today, but there was this great video posted over at Osler's Razor today that I just had to share.  In case you've ever wondered about wildlife after a fire (I've posted about wildlife in a hurricane), here's some info on baby bears and fire, plus an odd appearance by Smokey the Bear...

Friday, July 6, 2018

Tasty stuffed zucchini!

This one's a little more work than usual, but well worth it.  I found the recipe in the June 2012 issue of Cooking Light. Make extra, because your family will really like the unique flavor!

Persian Rice – Stuffed Zucchini with Pistachios and Dill

  • 6 medium zucchini
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 tblsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup jasmine rice (I used brown rice)
  • 6 cardamom pods (or the equivalent in ground cardamom)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (I just used about 2 tsp of ground cinnamon)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper (I used a little extra)
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 8 dried apricots, coarsely chopped (about 1/3 cup – I added more because I love dried apricots)
  • 1/2 tsp grated orange rind
  • 2 tblsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tblsp fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped shelled dry roasted, unsalted pistachios (I used salted and didn’t chop mine, because I like lots of pistachio crunch and taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out pulp, leaving about 1/2 inch thick shell. Chop pulp. Place zucchini halves, cut sides up on an oiled baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/2 of the salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes.
  3. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tblsp oil. Add rice, cardamom, and cinnamon, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 tsp salt, cumin, red pepper, and 1 1/4 cups water (I usually use double the water as rice, so if you have 3/4 cup rice, use 1 1/2 cups water) Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat, and simmer 12 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Cover and let stand 10 minutes. 
  4. Discard cardamom (if you used pods) and cinnamon stick (if you used a stick)
  5. Spoon rice mixture into a large boil.
  6. Combine remaining 2 tblsp of oil, remaining salt and pepper, orange rind, and juices in a small bowl. Stir with a whisk. Add dressing, reserved zucchini pulp, pistachios, and remaining ingredients to rice mixture and mix.
  7. Preheat broiler to high (I set mine at 450 degrees)
  8. Spoon rice mixture into each zucchini shell and broil for about 6 minutes or until lightly browned.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

National Parks and Recreation Week -- Bryce Canyon!

July is National Parks and Recreation Month! To celebrate and kick-off this wonderful month, I'm going to repost some of my favorite write-ups of various parks we've enjoyed. So far, we visited Shenandoah National Park and Bear Creek Lake State Park in VA. Today we're off to Bryce!
Our family just returned from a fantastic trip to visit some of our nation’s most beautiful national parks.  First stop – Bryce National Park!  With its beautiful red canyons and Dr. Seuss-esque landscape covered with “hoodoos”, this park became my favorite of the trip.  Hikes into the canyons are not overly strenuous (assuming you brought lots of water), but they’re extremely rewarding with unbelievable views in every direction.  Bryce gets chilly in the winter, but if you’re from the humid east, you’ll find the summer weather in Bryce to be very comfortable (as everyone says, “it’s hot, but it’s a dry heat”).  Until you can visit on your own, enjoy a few of our shots:  

Bryce15  Bryce27brycecanyon7

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

National Parks and Recreation Month -- Bear Creek Lake!

July is National Parks and Recreation Month! To celebrate and kick-off this wonderful month, I'm going to repost some of my favorite write-ups of various parks we've enjoyed. Yesterday, we visited Shenandoah National Park; today we're off to Bear Creek Lake State Park in VA!

For my birthday back in February, my family gave me something I’ve been wanting for several years – a new BIG tent with 5 comfortable cots. Yes, greenmomster is no longer camping; it’s “glamping” for me! So I decided to take my beautiful new tent out for her maiden voyage to Bear Creek Lake State Park in Cumberland VA, about an hour west of Richmond. What a pleasant surprise this park is! This 326 acre park includes a 40 acre lake and is surrounded by the 16,000 acre Cumberland State Forest. Our campsite sat right next to the lake, so we woke up to million-dollar views of the lake out our tent window! We tried a little archery and took a canoe tour led by the very friendly park staff and interpreters (can you believe that $5 paid for a 1 1/2 hour archery lesson?) Of course, we went fishing, hiking, and swimming at the lake beach. And what camping trip would be complete without a campfire and s’mores? But our campfire had an international flare, as we shared s’mores with our camping “neighbors” from down-under! Now we know a little more about camping in Australia!
Definitely a park to visit, Bear Creek Lake will certainly be on our “to do” list again next year!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Happy National Parks and Rec Month!

July is National Parks and Recreation Month! To celebrate and kick-off this wonderful month, I'm going to repost some of my favorite write-ups of various parks we've enjoyed.  First stop -- Shenandoah National Park!

I am the queen of the mini-vacation! As Julie McCoy , cruise director of the SS Greenmomster, I find that planning vacations is almost as much fun as going on them. So this year, I decided that we were going to take a mini-vacation at the beginning of spring break. Lucky for us, we live less than two hours from Shenandoah National Park. This time of year, the trees aren’t quite budding (except for an early blooming dogwood or redbud), but there’s plenty of beauty to be had. The views are stunning and the early blooming spring ephemerals were out, including this cute little Hepatica (thanks Dirck!) Spring is also a great time for waterfalls , searching for salamanders on Fox Hollow trail , finding salamanders on Milam trail (one of my favorites) , and catching those first millipedes as they warm up . And there’s always time for relaxing in the leaves . Where’s your favorite National Park getaway?