Sunday, September 27, 2009

National Parks - America's Best Idea

Tonight, Sunday, September 27, the first show in documentary series the National Parks - America's Best Idea airs at 8 pm EST/PST 7pm CST on PBS stations in the United States.

I'm quite excited about the documentary. It is a fabulous way to learn about our nation's natural resource heritage and to inspire awe in each of us. I also hope it encourages us all to appreciate these wonderful beautiful places and visit National Parks, as well as other public heritage lands like State Parks, National Forests and other heritage lands.

The series will air six episodes nightly (7pm CST) until October 9th. Full episodes are available on the PBS National Parks website.

This documentary also promises to be a celebration of diversity, too. It series captures the stories of the people who created, protected, and lived on/near these precious lands. Many of these stories have been lost to our collective memories. Yet thanks to people like Burns, as well as National Park supporters like Audrey & Frank Peterman founders of the Breaking the Color Barrier in the Great American Outdoors Conference, and James Mills an outdoor enthusiast and blogger, can once again know these stories and [re]discover our heritage. Be sure to check out Mills NPR/PRI To the Best of Our Knowledge interview with Burns and his interview about the important part the Buffalo Soliders played in American History and National Parks like Yosemite, Yellow Stone, and Sequoia.

I have visited:
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site - Little Rock, Arkansas
Hot Springs National Park - Hot Springs, Arkansas
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (& Gateway Arch) - St. Louis, Missouri
Ozark National Scenic Riverways - Float trip near St. James, Missouri
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site - St. Louis, Missouri
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - I'vedriven through it along Interstate 40 in Tennessee and North Carolina

waiting in line to enter Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park and inside the Museum (under the Arch)

Now, it's your turn.
This land is you land, this land is my land....A meme of sorts....
I'm calling out my blog friends to join in the fun.
The Oyster's Garter

How many National Parks have you visited?
Visit the site National Park Service map see which parks you may have visited or parks near you that you can visit soon.
Tell me in the comments and share on your blog (if you have one).

Friday, September 25, 2009

National Public Lands Day & Environmental Education

Tomorrow, September 26, 2009 is 16th Annual celebration of National Public Lands Day. Public lands are all of those lands that belong to the public such as parks, forests, grasslands, scenic by-ways and waterways. These public lands include state parks, nature reserves, national forests and parks and other public monuments. Each of these public lands have 5 things in common
1. They are owned by everyone and no one. Each citizen has a stake in its health but no one person can claim it for his or her own.
2. They are managed by our civil servants, such as local, state or federal employees
3. They are home to many wild creatures including threatened and endangered plant, animal, and bug species.
4. We are all responsible, individually and collectively for taking care of this land and its wildlife by not littering or removing necessary items from it.
5. These are special places that should be around for generations of ALL Americans and visitors to enjoy.

National Public Lands day is celebrated in nearly every community with a large public service event. The event keeps the promise of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the "tree army" that worked from 1933-1942 to preserve and protect America's natural heritage.
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;
  • Improves public lands for outdoor recreation, with volunteers assisting land managers in hands-on work.

    • This year's theme is Water and Public Lands...and it's not too late to Get Involved. Events are happening this weekend and throughout the autumn months. Visit the link discover what's happening in your town. (And be sure to check out the video featuring Alan Spears of the National Parks Conservation Association who is attending the Breaking Color Barriers in the Great American Outdoors conference in Atlanta, Georgia this week).

      Then Sunday evening be sure to tune into PBS' debut of Ken Burns Film The National Parks: America's Best Idea

      Now, it's your turn. Highlight your own Urban Science Adventure while participating in a National Public Lands Day activity. It's a perfect way to earn community service credit, high school and college students who are encouraged to do so or earn badges for scouts. It is also presents an opporuntity earn extra credit for your life science and environmental science classes.

      Enter the NPLD Photo and Video Contest 2009 or the Robert Bateman Get to Know Contest. It is a contest to encourage young people, ages 18 and younger to get venture outdoors and get o know their wild neighbors. Sound familiar?

      Use these opportunites to win prizes and have your work published - which is a great way to beef up college and scholarship applictions.
      Write me and tell me all about your Urban Science Adventures! ©. Share pictures, too.

      Additional online sources:

      Association of Partners for Public Lands: Engaging the public in caring for our nation's natural and cultural resources

      Land Trust Alliance: Together, conserving the places you love

      Wednesday, September 23, 2009

      Wordless Wednesday: Fields of Flowers (Travelog Europe)

      Photos of cultivars from Europe. Cultivars are a variety of a plants and flowers developed from a natural species and maintained under cultivation.
      Purple cone flowers. Leek, the Netherlands

      Black-eyed Susans (a yellow cone flower). Leek, the Netherlands

      Unknown Asteridae-type cultivar. Rennes, France
      Hanging basket of cultivars. Rennes, France

      Dedicated to the Tobin Family of Homer, Alaska in loving memory of their girl Sapphire.

      Tuesday, September 22, 2009

      Diversity in Science Carnival is back

      Calling all bloggers and blogging communities! Call for submissions for the Diversity in Science Carnival. The blog carnival that celebrates people, innovations, and programs that promote diversity in STEM!
      The upcoming edition coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month which is celebrated every year from September 15-October 15. Drug Monkey of Scienceblogs has graciously agreed to host and has posted an announcement: Diversity in Science Carnival in Honor of Hispanic Heritage Month: Call for Submissions!

      Blogs of every genre are encouraged to participate: science, nature, education - formal and informal, technology, engineering, math, industry, academic and personal blogs. Please share your stories. And we are happy to connect this carnival to other online initiatives such as the Year of Science 2009, The Year of the Gorilla, or the International Year of Astronomy or even past initiatives like International Polar Year and the Year of the Frog. It is a perfect way to introduce carnival readers to exciting research taking place in Latin America or by Latin Americans.

      You can submit your article by clicking on this link.

      Sunday, September 20, 2009

      In Memorium: Ms. Gloria Eggerson, Math Educator

      Ms. Eggerson taught me math in 7th grade (Riverview Jr. High) and also 10th grade Geometry (Whitehaven High School), both of Memphis, Tennessee. She also taught my mother, my uncle, my younger sister, my older cousins and their children. For 29th years Ms. Eggerson was an esteemed member of the faculty of Memphis City Schools and made quite an impression on the hundreds of students she taught.

      In addition to educating us, she was also a close friend of our family. Many of my earliest sleepovers were with her daughters and had many Sunday and holiday dinners at my grandmother's and later my mother's table. Her passing was a personal loss for our family. I have many memories of her, most of which brings a big smile and plenty of loud rambunctious laughter (which she and I are both known for).

      Yet, I learned something more than math from her for she embodied Pan-Hellenic love. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. - made November 1968 at LeMoyne-Owen College. She was very proud of her sorority and represented to the fullest. She loved Delta, but not once did I ever hear her say one disparaging word about other sororities or their members. (This despite some of the common misperceptions and mis-representations that members of different organizations don't get along). In fact, many of her best friends belonged to other sororities and they would all wear their T-shirts and hang together, often referring to one another as sisters. And when I pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. she'd refer to me as Little Skee Wee. She was the first person I had met who had belonged to a Black Greek Letter organization and I learned from her generosity and sweet nature the meaning of service and community.

      I am proud to call her my friend and I will miss her dearly.
      Link to her obituary in the Commercial Appeal here.

      Thursday, September 17, 2009

      Making Breakthroughs and Breaking the Color Barriers in the Great Outdoors

      The Breakthrough.

      I’m busy, busy, busy like a bee. I have been busy writing. Writing is a necessary part of science. I know my dissertation meter has moved in a while. It doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. It’s just that I am reluctant to count a word until I feel that what I have written is perfect. Perfectly worded and perfectly placed.

      But I’ve been feeling like I need to claim my words, all of them – even the imperfectly worded and placed ones. So my word meter reflects those words. I expect that I will lose many of those words – to revisions, and re-drafts. I also think that my final dissertation word count might actually be less than 40,000 words (10,000 words per chapter).
      I now claim 28, 981 words!

      I feel gravid – productive, full of promise and excitement.

      Breaking the Color Barrier in the Great American Outdoors
      My spirits have been quite high lately. I’ve made new online friends and discovered new websites and blogs. I feel excited to be apart of a community, a movement of people who care about increasing diversity in outdoor experiences.

      Not long ago I learned about a fantastic upcoming conference - Breaking the Color Barrier in the Great Outdoors. It meets next week - September 23-26 in Atlanta, Georgia, and will feature a host of great speakers including some people I am big fan of: Majora Carter
      Dudley Edmundson
      Dr. Carolyn Finney

      It's a conference of educators, environmental activists, outdoor recreationists, and nature enthusiasts that focuses on how members of diverse communities (people of color) participate in these activities and examines reasons/strategies for getting more people of color outdoors enjoying nature. Isn’t that right up my alley? See the CNN interview with conference organizer, Audrey Peterman: Aiming to add more diversity under America's blue skies -

      I've met some people online who are also involved in this barrier breaking, too.
      Wayne Hubbard, host and producer of Urban American Outdoors (Kansas City, Kansas)
      Kellen Marshall-Gillespie, fellow Ecology Ph.D. Student at the University of Illinois-Chicago and owner of Roots and Shoots Organic Gardening
      Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro (Albany, California)

      Even though I won’t be attending the conference (and I am so tempted to just go anyway), I really need to stay close to home and finish writing. I’ll catch up with all of those great people sooner or later.

      In the meantime, I’ll be sporting my swag (thanks Rue, cause I sport the the Afro outdoors all of the time. hahaha) and breaking down color barriers in the great outdoors my own way….By trying to win this contest to Antarctica!!! So, please continue to support me. Please vote and pelase spread the word.

      Wednesday, September 16, 2009

      Wordless Wednesday: Urban Waterscapes (Travelog Europe)

      The cities I visited in Europe were marked by internal waterways – rivers and canals. Here I share my views of the urban landscape as it meets the urban waterways.

      Canals of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

      Canals of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

      Canals of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

      Canals of Groningen, the Netherlands

      Vilaine River Rennes, France

      Vilaine River Rennes, France

      Seine River Paris France

      Seine River Paris France

      Seine River Paris France

      Tuesday, September 15, 2009

      Pollinators make the world go round (Travelog Europe)

      This is part of my Urban Wildlife Watch:Travelog Europe Series where I introduce wildlife and botanicals I came across while traveling to Europe August 18-31, 2009.

      Pollinators are animals that visit flowers and distribute pollen among individual flowers. Most pollinators are invertebrate species like bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies and vertebrate species like hummingbirds. These animals visit flowers for their nutritious, high-calorie nectar. Sometimes they also dine on the pollen.

      While consuming from the attractive (visually and olfactory) flowers, the animals get dusted with pollen - the white or yellow dust on the anthers of the flower. When the animal visits another flower and repeats the behavior, pollen from a previous flower gets left behind and the cycle repeats itself.

      The old saying "It's all about the birds and the bees" is about this very activity - pollination. The saying is also used to refer to sex. That's because pollen is actually the sperm cells, or male gametes, of a flower. In fact, flowers are the reproductive parts of plants. Next time you step to smell a flower, take a closer look. A complete flower has both the male and female equivalent parts. Flowers come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors with some plants have only one sex. But for the most part it isn't hard to find a flower that has all of the basic parts, just things maybe bigger or smaller.

      The male parts are called the Stamen and the female parts are called the Pistil or Carpel. The stigma is often moist and sticky and when a pollinator visits or if carried by wind and rain, pollen from other flowers land on it and travel down the tube (style) in the ovaries. Seeds develop and new flower life begins anew to be planted for new flowers.

      At the tip of this fragrant lavender stalk is an arrangement of dozens of little flowers. Pollinators, like this bumble bee inspects each of these tiny blossoms in search of food. Lavender and bumble bees are also common in North America. I photographed this pair in Rennes, France.

      I don't know the name of this flower - looks like a forb - or species of fly visiting this tall wild flower I found in an open-field in Groningen, the Netherlands. Notice the white-spiky parts, these are the reproductive parts of the plant, but I'm not exactly sure if it's the stamen or the pistil, I'm guessing stamen because of the volume.
      Despite the strong winds, the flies (there are 2 in this photo) were able to hold on tight and continue foraging. You'll also notice that many of the flower buds have yet to open up on this pink flower.

      A tiny little grass flower, very dainty with a small tender fly on the petal. If you look closely, the tiny knobs in a circle are the stamen. Photo taken in Groningen, the Netherlands.

      This Echinacea flower has a spiny head referred to as a cone, which is where it gets its common name the purple cone flower.. The stamen and pistil aren't very distinct, but the flower still attracts many kinds of pollinators with its height and colorful petals.

      A fly visiting the flower. Not sure of the fly species but there are similar - bee-looking flies in North America that also visit cone flowers, daisies, and sunflowers. I photographed these flowers in Niennord Park in Leek, the Netherlands.
      I was surprised to see this large bumble bee climbing along the stalk of the flower. That is not typical behavior at all. I wanted a closer look at this bee because I noticed it had a white rump. I had never seen a white-rumped bumble bee in the States before. When I returned to school, I asked my lab mate and bumble bee expert, Javier Hernandez to identify it for me. It is Psithyrus or cuckoo bumble bee. It gets this name because, like the cuckoo bird, the female lays her eggs in the nest of another species and let's that female take care of her pupae (babies).

      Check out this quick video clip of the bee.

      The bee was behaving strangely, crawling on the stalk of the flower and flying low to the ground. It's quite possible this bee may be infected with a fungus going around, but I don't know all of the disease ecology details right now.

      September Celebrates Biodiversity and Conservation

      Thursday, September 10, 2009

      Travelog Europe: Green Transportation

      Throughout this month, I am highlighting my experiences in Europe and comparing and contrasting the wildlife and ecology of the Old World continent to my home continent of North America. However a recent radio story on NPR about urban cycling tapped me on the shoulder.
      Is Biking Easier In New York? Ask The Bike Snob by Jo Ella Straley

      I thought in line with my own and this blog's committment of Environmental Education and Awareness, and my theme of comparing and contrasting European and North American Urban Ecology, I am going to discuss Green Transportation.

      Though I own a bike (a pretty cool one at that), I will admit to being slow when it comes to using it as my primary source of transportation. Why? Laziness. I'm not in good enough of shape to bike to my destination in a decent amount of time and still be energized enough to get my business done. Capacity. Motorized vehicles have better capacity to help me take care of errands while I am out - shopping, picking up something, picking up someone, etc.

      But while in Europe, and most notably in the Netherlands, bikes where EVERYWHERE. Thousands of bikes parked in lots at the train station, at bus stations, the plazas, shopping areas. Everywhere. Most of the street traffic was of bikes and some places had dedicated bike lanes - for each direction of traffic. Not only was I impressed with the infrastructure dedicated to cycle traffic - lots, bike rails, and roads - I was most impressed with how my two main biking concerns were non-issues for the Dutch.

      1. Laziness. People still seemed to get to wherever they needed to be in a reasonable amount of time using bikes. Plus, most people were in good shape - not alot of heavy people there. Nor were they thin and sickly, just in shape...and no one seemed to complain. Biking, walking, and the train were just very common ways of getting about town and the region.

      2. Capacity. Much like a carpool, groups of people biked together - keeping each other company, conversing and travelling. Plus, most bikes had a cargo bench on the back and/or baskets in the front. People carried parcels, packages, and books in them. I also observed quite a few people riding shot gun. It may look easy, but it ain't. That's some serious core muscles being used to maintain your balance...and many people were not holding on to the driver.
      I mean young and old alike were just chilling on the cargo bench. Moreover, cycling did not prohibit families from traveling together. It was not at all uncommon to see parents with babies and toddlers strapped into special seats at the handle bars or right behind the parent, which is another feat of strength. Sometimes children rode their bikes along side parents and siblings. But my favorite was the cargo bike, complete with belts for securing young ones.
      (See the photo slide show at the end of the post.)

      The NPR story - listen to the audio or read the transcript - reports that commuter cycling is growing in popularity and use in New York City. That's good. As New York goes, so does the rest of the nation, and I'm very proud of my region and it's bicycling advocacy programs. (Trailnet, St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation). However, the story does make it very clear there are some cultural attitudes of Americans that makes us very distinct from our European counterparts.

      1. Cycling is still largely regarded as a recreational activity. The movement for cycle-friendly streets and highways will have to overcome this perception before we will truly adopt cycling as utilitarian. And it is. It is a practical form of transportation - cheap, even with all of the bells, whistles, and safety gear. Maintenance is minimal and more cost-effective than an auto and no vehicle insurance is needed.

      2. Bike theft is real problem, but not taken seriously the authorities. Having one's bike and gear stolen is a major financial burden, particularly for working-class urbanites who could really benefit the most from bike transportation. In the Netherlands, bikes were everywhere. People still locked their bikes, but there was no overwhelming concerns about theft. In fact, I noticed many bikes just parked on sidewalks not secured to a bike rack or post. At first I thought these bikes were unsecured, but in actuality they were self-locked, with a device sort of like the Club. It locks on the back wheel and prevents the wheel from spinning. Neat.

      3. People are concerned about getting sweaty or getting stinky when they ride to work. I co-sign this concern. However, while I was in Europe, this concern didn't cross my mind. The Dutch biked everywhere and I don't remember my nose being assaulted. So, I think that is good news.

      Finally, I noted that the auomoblile culture of Europe was greener than ours, too. Motorbikes and scooters, as well as fuel-efficient sub-compacts were common. Plus, I noted this sign for electric car recharging station in Paris near the Arc de Triomphe.

      Wednesday, September 09, 2009

      Wordless Wednesday: Pesky Birds (Travelog Europe)

      Urban Wildlife Sightings while I was in Europe. These three bird species are regarded as pest species in the United States. Like their American cousins, they are also well-adapted to live near people in urban settings, eating discarded food and crumbs and congregating near centers of people activity.

      Young European Starling at the Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

      flock of pigeons in Rennes, France

      A raven, Paris, France

      A raven in a Sycamore tree, Paris France

      Pigeons begging, Seine River, Paris, France
      Tune into the Mario Armstrong radio program- Digital Spin - on WEAA 88.9 FM (Baltimore, MD), this Wednesday 6pm - 7pm CST/7p-8p EST.
      Tune in and listen live online
      I'll be discussing science blogging, including my recent 2009 Black Web Award for Best Science/Technology Blog and my bid to win the Blog Your Way to Antarctica Contest.

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