Saturday, December 16, 2006

Animal Behavior in the City

People make many distinctions between City life and Rural life. So it seems that birds do, too - at the the Great Tit does. Great tits are small birds that live in rural, suburban and urban areas throughout the U.S. Science Magazine's online service ScienceNOW Daily News features an interesting story about the contrasting singing behavior of these birds that live in different habitats. Check it out here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Online Activity for Kids

The Saint Louis Zoo has an online activity to help kids learn more about animals and conservation efforts around the world.
Introducing Club Conservation

Club Conservation is a new a way for kids to become part of the solution and make a tangible difference for animals and people in other countries. What started as a letter exchange between a school in Kenya and a school in Kirkwood, Missouri has expanded into after-school conservation clubs in both locations.

The Saint Louis Zoo is hoping to get other schools involved, and for kids to learn on their own and in groups. A new section on our website, devoted solely to kids, will focus on our conservation work, but also give children options on how they can help.

Soon, each center of the WildCare Institute will have a set of pages dedicated to their flagship species, as well as information on the geography of the region, how the Zoo is helping and ways for kids to get involved.
Check out our first installment with the Center for the Grevy's Zebra in the Horn of Africa and see how you, and your kids, can get involved in animal conservation!

Have fun!!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Importance of Scientific Literacy. Part 2

I am a member of the world's largest Scientific Society, AAAS. AAAS is the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional association. In addition to organizing membership activities, AAAS publishes the journal Science, as well as many scientific newsletters, books and reports, and spearheads programs that raise the bar of understanding for science worldwide.

Scientific Literacy is very important and increasing the public's understanding of science and issues related to science is one of the purposes of Urban Science Adventures. However, the first hurdle is addressingthe Public Relations problem Science has in Society's eyes. Coincidentally, the most recent on-line newsletter, AAAS in Action, address this issue. Below are two snippets from the newsletter. Follow the links to read more in-depth.

A New Vision for Engaging the Public in Science Issues "Simply lamenting the tension or protesting attacks on the integrity of science and science education won’t work," wrote AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner in a commentary published in The Chronicle of Higher Education on 10 October . Rather, to overcome public skepticism on issues ranging from climate change to stem cell research, science organizations and individual scientists must reach out to local news media and religious, community, and school groups. Read about a workable new approach to public engagement: "Framing" is Shaping Science Policy Debate A mid-October seminar sponsored by AAAS Science and Policy and the Washington Science Policy Alliance examined how humans, as "cognitive misers," seek shortcuts for understanding massive amounts of information including embryonic stem cell research, climate change, and the teaching of evolution. Political strategists, scientists, and the news media can take advantage of our tendency to create mental shortcuts and influence public opinion using thought organizers, or "frames," which package complex information by focusing on certain interpretations, according to Matthew Nisbet, an assistant professor in the School of Communication at American University . Read more and watch the PowerPoint presentation:

Happy information hunting,

Thursday, November 16, 2006

George & Martha - the nation's first couple (of bald eagles)

Enjoying urban wildlife is for everyone, not just scientists. Visit the links that detail public interaction with a pair of bald Eagles in the Washngton, D.C. Area.
The Washington Post featured several stories about the pair this summer.
(April 2006-October 2006)
Story 1:
Story 2a:
Story 2b:
Story 2c:
Story 3a:
Story 3b:

More Info about George & Martha and the Bridge they called home
photo credit:

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Interesting visitors - Manatees in the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is home to many aquatic creatures, the most note-able of which is the catfish. But recently, a manatee was found swimming in the great river in Memphis, Tennessee. No doubt, this fellow was lost. It is normally found in warmer waters, such as the Gulf of Mexico. The sea cow, as it is also called, must have swam up the river from the mouth, near New Orleans, Louisiana. Read more about the discovered manatee, here & here and the attempted, yet failed rescue attempts here & here.
As strange as this may sound, even sharks have found their way far north up the Mississippi River. Some have even been sited in St. Louis, Missouri. Bull sharks are able to survive in marine, or salt water, and freshwater environments. Read here to learn more about Bull sharks and their occasional journeys north.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Missouri will vote on Stem Cell Research - The Importance of Scientific Literacy

Science can seem like a very intimidating field. It is loaded with jargon and language most lay people seldom use. But What is Science? What do Scientists do? Simply put, science is a principled or methodological way of learning about ourselves and our world. It involves closely observing phenonmena, formulating hypotheses about processes related to the phenonmena and rigourously testing the hypotheses for validity. Scientists take very careful steps to ensure honesty and intergrity of the research we undertake. This includes making proper and accurate measurements, controlling for errors, and most importantly making accurate and conservative conclusions about the results from our studies. We share this information with the general public in a variety of ways. But, most people receive information from media outlets to inform them about new scientific discoveries, especially about medicines and proceedures to improve our health and quality of life. More often than not, the public only learns about the discovery itself. How the discovery is made, the time, and resources necessary to yield the promising results, and the cautiouis conclusions are often not reported to the general public. This may lead to people making under- or uniformed decisions about policies related to ecosystems, utilties, health care, and biomedical research.

Understanding science and how scientific discoveries benefit humans and our quality of life is important. On, Tuesday, November 7, citizens of Missouri will vote on legislation related to Stem Cell Research in Missouri.

What are stem cells? Good question. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells which have the unique potential to produce any kind of cell in the body and self-renewal capacity. Undifferentitated means the cell hasn't yet matured to become a particular tissue or organ. Bone marrow is a commonly known type of stem cell. Embryonic stem cells are derived from early embryos that can replicate indefinitely and differentiate into many cell types. Stem cells serve as a continuous source of new cells.

How are embryonic stem cells created and harvested? You can found out here. If you have ethical concerns, you are not alone. Please use this information about HOW embryonic stem cells are created and harvested to help you make sense of this important issue.

Missourians are being asked to vote on this measure because medical researchers believe stem cells have the potential to change the face of human disease by being used to repair specific tissues or to grow organs. So, more than ever, it is important for citizens to understand what science is, how science can impact our quality of life, and how policy is created based on scientific discoveries. Specific to this matter, Missourians also need to accurately understand what this law - if passed- will and will not allow in the way of Stem Cell Research. For more information about this State of Missouri Ballot Initiative please visit

As a matter of history, t he United States Federal Government DOES allow stem cell research right now, but has imposed several limitations. You can read information from previous Science Magazine articles about Stem Cell Research and Funding here, here, here, and here. Also visit to learn more about current state of stem cell research in the United States. The federal statutes and the proposed Missouri statutes both prohibit/outlaw cloning and developing new embryonic stem cell lines. This means that women cannot offer to sell and labs cannot offer to pay for eggs.

Happy information hunting. DNLee

Monday, October 16, 2006

Scholarship to attend Conservation Conference

There is a conference scholarship for persons from under represented groups to attend a Conference on the perservation of parks, protected areas, and cultural sites.
Sponsored by the George Wright Society
Information and online application:
Conference dates: April 16-20, 2007 in St.Paul, Minnesota.
Scholarship deadline: November 10, 2006

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Promoting Environmental Education to Urban Communities & African-Americans

Part of the larger aim of the program/website is to promote environmental education to urban communities, especially among African-Americans. Hence, promoting Environmental Education to Urban Communities, especially to people of color, is very important to me. There are some existing organizations that engage these communities. I want to participate in ongoing efforts to promote environmental issues to urban residents and people of color. Urban Science Adventures - an Urban Environmental Education Program for Youth and Teens - will be my vehicle.

Environmental Education Organizations

Xavier University (Louisiana) Office of Environmental Education

Minority Environmental Leadership Development Initiative (MELDI)

New York Restoration Project

Thursday, September 07, 2006

In Memoriam: Steve Irwin

I was truly saddened to hear of the unexpected death of conservation ecologist and science program host, Steve Irwin. I think the words of my colleague, John Flunker best summarizes the solemn feelings of many of my fellow ecologists...
Truly a great loss to the biological community, especially in terms of generating public interest in the natural world and exuding passion for the subject. Such an embodiment of pure enthusiasm for life is a rare and admirable trait, the effects of which were (are) often contagious and thus particularly valuable in a world oftentimes dominated by passive and mundane attitudes.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Video - 13 lined Ground Squirrel

First Video Log: 13-lined ground squirrel
Check out my very first video log. The movie was put together from several mini-movies I recorded with a digital camera. I trapped this animal myself and created the final movie product myself, too.
Click on the link below. Please offer comments.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

High school students study why fish died suddenly at Forest Park

Below is a news release about some of the students participating in the summer program I mentioned in a previous article.

Contact: Justin Lopinot (314) 516-6690July 28, 2006
Back to News Release Main
University of Missouri-St. Louis
Media Services
One University Blvd.
414 Woods Hall
St. Louis, MO 63121-4499

High school students study why fish died suddenly at
Forest Park

Lyndell Bade (left), a biology student at UMSL, and Brittney Tyson, a senior at Normandy High School, collect a water sample from Post-Dispatch Lake at Forest Park in St. Louis.1.2 MB .jpg
University of Missouri-St. Louis students -- along with student-interns from Normandy, Pattonville and McCluer high schools -- on July 26 tested the water in a lake and two ponds at Forest Park in St. Louis as part of a preliminary study to determine why fish died suddenly last fall.
The researchers were taking part in Missouri Science Teaching and Education Partnerships, or
MO-STEP, a science and education program operated by the Department of Biology and International Center for Tropical Ecology at UMSL. The program is funded through a $1.6 million, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation.
Students tested for dissolved oxygen, pH levels and temperature in water samples taken over a 24-hour period. The samples provided information about the health and condition of the lake and ponds.
Several UMSL students took part in the project, which was led by Lyndell Bade, a biology student at UMSL and MO-STEP fellow.
Bade created a device to examine lake stratification by collecting samples at various depths of Post-Dispatch Lake and the two ponds. Study participants couldn't determine, based on their findings, exactly what caused the fish to die, she said.
"Our study did, however, provide a lot of data that can be used to determine future research at Forest Park," she said.
The pH levels of Post-Dispatch Lake, for example, were fairly neutral. And the water temperature of the two ponds dropped in the evening.
"We really would like to conduct additional testing to get more exact measurements," Bade said.
The study was about more than data collection to those involved.
"This program provided me with very good learning experiences, which will help prepare me to be a scientist," said student-intern Brittney Tyson, a senior at Normandy High School who plans to study birds by pursuing a career as an ornithologist.
Other student-interns who participated in the study were: Charlesatta Cunningham, a senior at Normandy High School; Nathan Fulton, a sophomore at Pattonville High School; and Tori Straussner, a recent McCluer High School graduate who plans to attend St. Louis Community College.
Also contributing to the study were Forest Park Forever and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Visit to learn more about MO-STEP.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Possibilties for creating an urban science TV program

Great news!
I discovered my local public access station teaches individuals how to create and produce their own television and radio programs. They offer a variety of classes to teach people the fundamentals of ‘media arts’. They offer classes in video blogging, lighting, engineering and everything else related to producing a radio or television program. They even rent their equipment and facilities for a nominal fee. . Plus, the radio and television stations offer air time to help people host their own programs. There are some hoops to jump through, but this is a beautiful discovery for me. I’ve downloaded the class schedules and the application for new television programs proposal form.
Visit or for more information.
I will take baby steps, though. First, I’ll create video blogs as my pilot episodes. This will allow me to learn how to basic production techniques, test the program itself, attract an audience, my ability to engage an audience, and get some real feedback on all of the aforementioned items. After I feel more confident on these fronts, I’ll try for the local public access cable channel.
I hope to air Urban Science Adventures soon. Wish me lots of luck!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Urban Wildlife Watch

Many people think that if you live in the city and you want to see wildlife, then you must visit the zoo or botanical gardens. But that is not at all true. Metropolitan areas are teeming with wildlife. There are trees, birds, grasses, flowers, weeds, butterflies, moths, lichens, squirrels, dragonflies, earthworms, ducks, and geese. Even predators like owls, hawks, coyotes and foxes live in the city and suburban areas.
The goal of my program will be to introduce youth, and adults alike, to the many different species of plants, animals, and other living things that are apart of the 'Urban Ecosystem' and help them understand more about our world the role we play in preserving it for future generations.

Members of the Urban Ecosystem
Keep a look out for some of these wild creatures.

Rodents and other Gnawing Mammals
Insects, Spiders, and other Arthropods
Ants, Bees, and Wasps
Predators and Raptors
Aquatic Animals
Snakes, Turtles, and other Reptiles
Frogs, Salamanders and other Amphibians
Trees, Flowers, Grasses, and Sedges

In the meantime, I invite you to take a closer look at the patches of nature that surround you and get to know some of your wild neighbors. To learn more about the wildlife in your area, check out some of these websites and begin your own Urban Science Adventures! Write to tell me about your adventures or to share your favorite wildlife websites with me.

Bird Watching and Identifying:
The Urban Bird Program -
Missouri Department of Conservation, Notes on Birds -
The Audubon Society -, the St. Louis Chapter -
The American Bird Conservancy -

Tree Identification and Crafts
Ohio Trees -
Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Urban Trees -
Leaf and Bark Rubbings -

Identifying Mammal Tracks and Marks
Missouri Department of Conservation, Notes on Mammal Tracks -

Bugs, Insects, Spiders, and other Invertebrates
North American Butterfly Association -

Fungi and Lichens
North American Mycological Association -

Reptiles and Amphibians (Herpetafauna)
Snakes, Urban Wildlife Control -
USGS News Articles about Amphibian Decline in Urban Areas -
Missouri Department of Conservation, Snakes of Missouri -
Missouri Department of Conservation, Guide to Amphibian and Reptil Conservation -
Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri's Frogs and Toads -

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bright Idea: Urban Science TV Program

Okay, now that I am seriously thinking about this [ad]venture, I've got to figure out all of the ins and outs. I surfed the web today just to know what's out there about starting a science show program. No webpages with checklists or recommendations. (If you have any, I'm all ears).
But while surfing, I did come across some interesting things. One news article I ran across is about an Arizonia PBS Station that recently kicked off a new Science program geared to tweenagers, DragonFly TV, The show even has 2 teenage girls as hosts. I've never watched it, but it sounds great. The show shows everyday kids doing science and loving it. A great idea!
Scientific Literacy, Science Education and Appreciation of Science are so improtant to me. And I feel that it is especially important to promote these three things to urban and African-American youth. So, that's my angle. I want to produce an urban-friendly science program that teens from this demographic can relate to.
So, my next step was to let others know my desire and interests. I shared my thoughts with my fellow lab mates and two of my advisors. One of which has produced a few non-commercial animal behavior films. He is actually an Animal Behavior Society Jack Ward Memorial Film Competition Award receipient, ( He was great enough to make many recommendations about program content and structure. Plus, it was really great to have my advisor, a committee member and my colleagues on board. They've even offered to participate and star in future episodes. But hold on, let me not get ahead of my self.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


A couple of years ago, a friend casually joked that I should have my own Science Television show. He thought I would make a great host of a science show that was specifically marketed to urban youth. I laughed about the idea and thought, how cute it would be to do such a project once I completed by dissertation in Animal Behavior.
From 2004-2006, I had the pleasure of serving as resource scientist at an urban (and I mean very urban) high school in the St. Louis, Missouri Metroplitan area. I helped design and implement lesson plans, hands-on laboratory and inquiry exercises. The work was challenging but I really enjoyed it. So much so that I helped create an After-school Biology Science Club. The kids enjoyed it. Until this program, rarely did they get the opportunity to interact with scientists or see real animals or even interact with living things in their science classrooms. This summer I am serving as a co-cordinator of a High School Summer Research Intership Program. I am working with two students (from the same high school mentioned previously). They are contributing to two independent projects related to my research. There are 7 other students working with other researchers at my University (University of Missouri-St. Louis). I really enjoy sharing science. And I think it's important to let all students know about the many career opportunities available to them. Soon, I began thinking that perhaps I could do a science program that exposes urban youth to the excitment, challenges, and career opportunities available in Life and Environmental Science. I can share these true life science experiences with a wider audience.
Now that I am nearing completion of my dissertation, I have become serious about this. I'll be sharing with you my efforts and attempts to create, produce, and market a science program for urban youth. I look forward to your comments and feedback.

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