Sunday, September 28, 2008

Green Jobs Now Day of Action Recap

Yesterday was National Day of Action to demand a Better Economy, A Green Economy. I went to the Green Homes Renewable Energy Festival. Here is how I participated.

I'm ready!

Go Green! Vote Green!

Visit Green for All for More information and to get involved. Sign the the I'm Ready Petition that will passed along to our Elected Officials.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Green Jobs Now National Day of Action

Whew! This is one fabulous green-centered weekend. Today, Sept 27th is also a National Day of Action to Build a New Economy – a Green Economy.

So as you and your family are enjoying this day, celebrating Take a Child Outside Week or Public Lands Day, also think Celebrate the Developing a New Economy. In fact, some people are co-opting National Public Lands Day celebration as a Green Jobs Now Action Rallies. That’s great.
Learn more about Green for All and their great work here.

If you live in the St. Louis, Missouri Metro Area below is a list of Green Jobs Now Day of Action Events.
University City , MO
National Public Lands Day - 09/27
Other National Public Lands Events see my previous post.
St. Louis, MO
Green Jobs Now March and Rally- 09/27
St. Louis, MO
Green Homes & Renewable Energy Festival- 09/27
(I’m going to this one, so maybe I’ll see you out!)
Litchfield, IL
Green Jobs Now- 09/27

If you participate, let me know about it.
Have a great weekend.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Go Outside! Take A Child Outside Week & National Public Lands Day

Go outside and enjoy this weekend! It's that perfect time of year when the height of the summer heat has passed, and the autumn breeze is taking over. The weather is perfect - not too hot, not cold. Plus, it is National Take a Child Outside Week! No kidding, September 24 - 30, 2008, is recommended as a time to take your family outdoors and share the love of nature and fresh air with your children, or the children in your life.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has a host of ideas for this week(end) to get you and yours out of doors.

And here's a recommendation from me - Celebrate National Public Lands Day, which is tomorrow, September 27, 2008.

National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest hands-on volunteer effort to improve and enhance the public lands Americans enjoy.

In 2007, 110,000 volunteers built trails and bridges, planted trees and plants, and removed trash and invasive plants.

This annual event:

  • Educates Americans about critical environmental and natural resources issues and the need for shared stewardship of these valued, irreplaceable lands
  • Builds partnerships between the public sector and the local community based upon mutual interests in the enhancement and restoration of America's public lands; and
  • Improves public lands for outdoor recreation, with volunteers assisting land managers in hands-on work.
This year marks the 15th annual celebration of our nation's public lands such as city parks, state parks, national parks and forests, scenic drives and waterways, prairies and wildflower fields, evenmedians. These are all public lands. They belong to all of us. And since it's ours, shouldn't we pitch in?

If you live in the St. Louis, Missouri Metro Area there are several opportunities for you to get outside and participate. Several public lands in the area will be hosting hands-on workdays and exhibits this weekend.

Sat Sept 27 – Sun Sept 28

Visit one of these natural places.

National Park Service Jefferson National Expansion Memorial at the Gateway Arch

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area - Missouri Department of Conservation

Confluence Point State Park - Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Ruth Park Woods - The Green Center

Learn more about these events on The Confluence website

See you Outside!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

International Polar Day! Celebrating the People of the Polar Regions

Today, September 24th, 2008 marks the sixth quarterly International Polar Day.

This is a special day within the bigger celebration of International Polar Year (IPY)- 2007-2009. IPY is a huge, multi-national research and educational awareness effort to bring attention to the importance of and the decline of precious Polar Ecosystems. This quarter’s International Polar day focuses on People – The People of the Polar Regions.

I’ll admit my own shortcomings. I don’t know much about the people of the Polar regions. So, I really appreciate the educational materials provided by the website. I read them and now I know that people of Arctic regions face many of the same challenges that we do – public health, raising families, maintaining communities, and adapting in the natural world. Please check out the materials. If you are an educator please conduct these activities with your students. Or if you are a parent or after-school youth leader, please consider these activities to keep your children busy and mentally active. They are a great resource.
Discussion Activity
People Summary

Finally, check out my other posts about International Polar Year.

I even launced a Virtual Balloon to mark my participation in this event. Will you launch yours, too.

Wordless Wednesday: Summer Says Goodbye

Cone Flowers losing their petals and turning brown at an urban prairie garden at Chicago's Lurie Garden in Millenium Park.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NPR stories about Urban Science

It is the start of autumn and along with crisp air and changing leaf colors, millions of birds are migrating south now. Along the river ways and waterways of this nation, several thousand species of birds will use these waterways, even man-made ponds and farm fields are rest stops on the long flight. Some will stay, many more will only pass through -- stopping over for the night, resting, eating and continuing south.
I was listening to NPR (National Public Radio) on the way home yesterday and I heard this wonderful commentary about helping migrating birds that get disoriented in big cities: The Magic Hedge: Haven For A Lost Bird In Chicago by Julie Zickefoose. Please check it out.

And All Things Considered did a piece about how Hurricane Ike has also impacted pets: Hurricane-Hit Pets Seek New Homes by Noah Adams. They so, stole my story. I presented this to you a week ago. But, please check out, too.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Announcing 2 Important Dates in Science Awareness

September 24th is International Polar Day

I posted about International Polar Year several times. 2007-2008 were designated as International Polar Years. It is a huge, multi-national research and educational awareness effort to bring attention to the importance of and the decline of precious Polar Ecosystems.

September 27th is National Public Lands Day
This is a day to foster awareness and appreciation of publicly owned natural spaces. It is also a grand-scale Service project. Volunteers are asked to help preserve and sometimes re-store these areas for future enjoyment by the public.

If you were unaware of these two special projects, this is a perfect time to learn more about them. And I love thematic teaching and learning – that’s why I like blogging about special days or call to actions. It’s a perfect way to connect people (and students) to current and relevant events and teach basic ecological concepts.

I’ll be posting special blog submissions for these days. So please participate!
You can :
1) Check out my posts and do some of your research into these projects
2) Join me in blogging about these topics on these days to help raise awareness
3) Tell me about how you celebrated these special days

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Producing PRODUCE from Waste water - I told you so

Back in April there was alot stink raised about a science study that spread sewage on the lawns of Baltimore residents. That study, conducted by scientists from John Hopkins University, and funded by federal research grants, was designed to lower the lead levels in the soil in order to prevent lead poisoning in children.

Especially among members of the Black-blog-o-sphere, this was a big shock and there was outrage. But what surprised me more, was how unfamiliar most people were to the routine re-use of sewer water and sewer waste in commercial farming and landscape practices. This practice really disgusted people. I guess I really took this information for granted because I've known since I was child that manure made good fertilizer. Farmers and landscapers use animal manure all the time to get pasture, crops, and lawns to grow tall and beautiful.

I addressed this topic, a little, but I mainly focused on educating people on how common it is to re-use waste water and sewage. I'm scanning my feed aggregator and low! Look what was announced: A new report by an international research organization finds that urban farmers in developing countries overwhelmingly rely on waste water for irrigation.

A shot of a Mexican farmer washes his spring onion crop in a river containing sewage.

Fresh produce from wastewater is a summary or web release (written in real people language) produced by the Environmental, Science & Technology Journal.

In urban areas were people depend on food being produced and transported from elsewhere, the cost to eat can get prohibitive. Even here in the US, we're beginning to feel the pressure. So, urban farming is an ideal (cost-effective) way for people to feed themselves and make some extra money selling extras to others. Water is still an important and often limiting factor. And in poorer nations, mass amounts of "clean water" just isn't necessarily available. You use what you've got. Industriousness is the provider of many. You see, waste water is filled with nutrients. Plants can take in alot of those chemicals and use them to grow strong and tall. Plus, waste water is free. I mean, it hasn't been treated with chemicals to make it potable or worth drinking. So it doesn't cost anything to use it.

I hope this gives you another reason to remember to wash your fruits and veggies off before eating them


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Taken Down by Ike

A Black Locust Tree (Robina pseudoacacia) that was felled in the wake of the Ike Storm that blew threw the Mid-west.
The tree seemed quite healthy, I suspect it fell because of the very wet soil. When soil becomes too wet and becomes the consistency of pudding, the roots just can't hold on and the weight of the tree brings it right down.

Location: The Principia (campus grounds), St. Louis, MO.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pets and Wildlife also hit hard by Hurricane Ike

Hurricane Ike has been devastating. Even as far away as the Midwest, we had some 'residual' damage, flooding, power outages, and deaths.

But natural disasters like this storm also separate families from the their pets, not to mention the lives of many companion and homeless animals. The Houston SPCA and other area animal agencies are hard-at-work with animal rescues.

The Houston SPCA has activated its Animal Response Hotline. Operators will be accepting lost and found animal reports, rescue reports and offering other animal related information. The hotline will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call notes are available so those who call in after hours may leave a message which will be returned first thing in the morning.
The number is 713-435-2990.

We don't think about how wildlife fares during storms. But think about it. Many trees are taken down or damaged during storms and this forever changes the urban forestry landscape in an area. It is often the old trees that fall and do the most damage - the same trees that serve as historical and important shelter sites, food resources, territory boundaries, and ecological landmarks for urban wildlife. With flooding, animals retreat to trees or little pockets of dry land or rooftops. These dry places are little islands, often providing no shelter or food, forces animals to huddle in close proximity that they are not accustomed to. Fighting and predation often result. And the food is gone, drowned in water, and starvation becomes a reality.

For the most part wildlife tends to be okay after such disasters. But I'm speaking in overall terms. In other words, the population should bounce back and everything will be fine after a while. But on an individual scale, there is always lost: shelters, refuges or hiding places, and scarcity of food. And it's usually the most vulnerable that don't fair so well - the sick and ailing, old, and the young.

Ike's Smallest Victims - This is a video of the urban wildlife that were also victims of Hurricane Ike. Wildlife Rehab and Rescue are sheltering over 200 baby squirrels and a flying squirrel who were injured in Hurricane Ike at the Houston SPCA. Video by Meg Loucks. September 14, 2008.

(A baby squirrel being hand-fed milk formula by a volunteer.)

Houston SPCA publishes Updates from the frontline that can be accessed here.
Or you may want to donate to their efforts.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Urban Wildlife Watch: House Sparrows

The House Sparrow is perhaps the most common bird in the world. This little brown bird is everywhere – no kidding. The bird was actually brought to the United States from Europe in the 1840’s. Originally released in Central Park New York , these little birds are spread all over the U.S. map. And they seem to thrive in cities!

I met Dr. Peter Pap at the 12th Annual ISBE conference at Cornell University and found his research about the House Sparrow so great. He looked at the size and colors of the feathers on the chest, called a bib, and at the feathers on the underside of the wing. The bib of the male House Sparrow is actually very distinct and stands out like a big black patch. If you were to pluck one of these feathers you’d find that it is actually both black and white, with black being the dominant color. Also, not all bibs are the same size. Some bibs are larger than others. Why is that? That’s what Dr. Peter Pap set out to discover.

He hypothesized that birds with larger black bibs were in better condition and better fed than birds with smaller black bibs. He fed birds different types of diets – high and low quality diets – and later measured the size of their bibs. Better fed birds, the ones in better condition did have larger black bibs.
In nature this can be a very important difference. Birds in better condition are able to secure better territories and mates so that they can have more babies. Considering how much some people like to feed birds and put out bird feeders, we may actually be contributing to the overall better quality of birds in our neighborhoods.

Look out for House Sparrows and take a closer look at that black bib on its chest.
Are the bibs of different birds the same size or do they differ?
Are the bibs of birds who frequently visit bird feeders nearly all the same or do you see of differences?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Community Organizing in Action - School Supply Drive for KidSmart (St. Louis)

The new school year has begun and the public education issues in St. Louis and throughout our nation are major issues that need to be addressed. Last week, my friends and I hosted a School Supply Drive.

We collected over $400 worth of much needed school supplies for needy St. Louis area classrooms for KidSmart. This organization allows teachers from needy public schools to shop for school and class room supplies for free. Needy is defined as a school that has 70% or more of its students receiving free lunch. So this means there are quite a few inner-city/urban schools that greatly benefit from this organization and contributors' philanthropy.

I'm no community organizer in the most romantic sense, but I beleive in doing what I can to help others. And I am especially interested in giving under-resourced urban children every leg-up possible. Plus, I dedicated to Service to All Mankind. Assisting those whose life is dedicated to service - e.g. teachers makes me feel good. Did you know most teachers spend $400 or more of their own money to purchase school and classroom supplies? They are neither reimbursed by their school districts nor receive tax credits beyond a $250 cap. And the poorer the school or district, the more the teacher tends to spend.

I encourage those of you who care about education and equalizing life's opportunities for all people to find a way to help others. Volunteer your time or use your talents to benefit a worthy cause to help others.

I challenge other Bloggers who work with young people to host a Community Event to benefit youth and education issues in your areas. Please let me know about it.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Bunny Rabbit

On the Campus of Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Let me get very close.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Urban Wildlife Watch: Voles

Voles are also called field mice, but there are several different types of field mice; it is a catch all phrase for mice that live out in nature. Voles are most common in undisturbed or not-so-much disturbed land areas - like field, woods, overgrown lots, and especially rural areas. But they can do okay in urban areas as long as there is some great lawns for them to occupy. A great sign of a vole in your yard is if you have sunken trails, usually along the fence line. Voles use tunnels or runways and they love tall grass. For those of you have have cats that do some hunting, you may have seen an unlucky vole in your pet cat's mouth. Unlike house mice, they have stouter bodies, are more uniformly brown and are distinct because of their small ears and short tail.

NPR has been busy lately - sharing many interesting stories about animal behavior. And of course my great (and nerdy) friends call me up and say "Oooh, did you hear that story on NPR about X animal? Do you know about that? Do you know the researcher?" Earlier this week NPR did a feature on faithfulness and genes that looks at the Mighty, Mighty Microtus ochrogaster - the Prairie vole: Marriage Woes? Husband's Genes May Be At Fault

Aren't they just cute and adorable? [photo credit:] And they are also monogamous, So researcher Dr. Larry Young from Emory (and yes, I do know of him. I haven't met him personally, but I gave him -his lab) many of my prairie voles last year when my studies were complete --- so there's a fewer than 6 degrees of separation, here....just go with me). Back to the Story. Dr. Young studies psychology and using animal models to duplicate some aspects of human behavior. This research looks at the biological underpinnings of monogamy and perhaps fidelity. Read the story, it's quick and easy so interesting.

My research with voles looks at how the family dynamics of this species influence how the young ones grow up and behave later in life. I am analyzing the results as at this moment (literally, no kidding), so I'll be quite happy to share it with you all in a few short weeks when I defend. Yeah!

In the meantime here are some pictures of me at work with the voles. Though I catch wild voles in the field, I raise them in lab and study them there.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Snug as a Bug

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