Friday, March 7, 2014
Rio Grande Del Norte, Climate Adaptation, Flying Aces of the Insect World, Peel Watershed, Indigo Snakes
Saving the Upper Rio Grande: In northern New Mexico the Rio Grande runs through a spectacular gorge formed by a rift in the Earth's crust. This river corridor is a critical flyway for migratory birds, and the arid plateau on either side of it is a major migration habitat for elk and deer. A pending bill in Congress would protect these areas as the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area, in addition to designating two majestic cinder cone mountains east and west of the plateau as protected wilderness. The bill has widespread support among local Hispanic farmers and ranchers because it would allow their traditional hunting, grazing, fishing and wood-gathering to continue, preserving the culture that developed there over hundreds of years. Facing Climate Change with Wind Power: Severe drought has taken a toll on farming and ranching communities in Eastern New Mexico. Residents are trying to adjust for prolonged dry times, and some are finding salvation in wind turbine projects that generate revenue for them as well as power for the Southwest. Flying Aces of the Insect World: Just how do these insects pull off complex aerial feats, hunting and reproducing in midair? These four- winged insects pre-date dinosaurs, and can fly straight up, straight down, or hover like helicopters. Researchers are getting some inspiration from these insects, to improve small- scale aircraft design. Peel Watershed: A hundred miles from the Alaska border in Canada's Yukon Territory, the Peel Watershed is a huge area of wild and pristine rivers, arboreal forests and mountain ranges. Caribou from Alaska migrate to and from the region, but they face threats from a modern day gold rush that also threatens other wildlife including grizzly bears and wolverines. Efforts are underway to protect this land, and these fragile ecosystems. But it looks like a fight is brewing with miners and developers. Indigo Snakes: Known as the "Lord of the Forest", the eastern indigo snake is the largest native snake in North America, averaging six to seve
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Arctic White Geese, Veterans in the Great Outdoors, Tracking a Coral Killer
Arctic White Geese: Snow geese and Ross's geese make an almost unimaginable 3,000-mile migration each year. So it's no wonder they enjoy spending a month or so in eastern Oregon, "bulking up" on tender grasses and nutritious bugs. The folks from Oregon Field Guide have captured the beauty of thousands of these birds on their stopover to the Arctic. Dedicated "citizen scientists" spend time during the birds' respite to study them. Some say the sky is so filled with geese that it often looks like a snowstorm! Veterans in the Great Outdoors: Some military veterans returning from combat have physical scars. Others have mental stresses that can also impact their families. We join the Sierra Club's Stacy Bare, a U.S. Army veteran, on an adventure down the Colorado River, where veterans deepen their connections with the land, and one another. The camaraderie and the healing power of nature come through in this beautiful and rugged setting. Tracking a Coral Killer: It's a detective story that has unfolded in the waters off Key West, Florida. What's been killing the Elkhorn coral? Biologist Kathryn Sutherland has identified human sewage as the source of the coral-killing pathogen that causes white pox disease. Elkhorn coral was listed for protection as an endangered species in 2006, largely due to white pox disease. Sutherland works with water treatment facilities in south Florida to try to make sure water is cleared of this pathogen before it goes back into the Atlantic.
Friday, March 14, 2014
Future Conservation Leaders, Natural Resources Revival, Fight for Frogs, Amazing Monarch Journey
Future Conservation Leaders: Santa Cruz Island, off the coast of California, is home to bald eagles, scrub jays, and the most adorable foxes you may ever see! This summer, the island is also home to high school students from the Los Angeles area, working side by side with scientists. Co-host Caroline Raville spent some time with these young people to learn about LEAF, Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future. This Nature Conservancy program not only gives high school students a chance to enjoy nature, but provides a spark for many of them to pursue careers in science and conservation. Natural Resources Revival: A county in eastern Oregon has transformed from being dependent on timber, to being a pioneer in using its natural resources. Lake County is known as the "Saudi Arabia" of geothermal power. Its schools and hospitals are already taking advantage of sustainable energy sources including solar and wind power as well. Folks who used to be at odds, from the lumber industry and conservation groups, have put aside their differences to come up with sustainable answers for the future. A Fight for Frogs: A third of the world's amphibians face extinction, with more than 400 animals listed as "critically endangered." Habitat loss is one major threat, and that's the challenge for the gopher frog. Their population is now at an alarming low. These amphibians need both sandy, forested areas, and wetlands in order to breed. But development is making it tougher and tougher for them to survive. Sharon Collins of Georgia Public Broadcasting shows us how scientists are working to save these animals. Amazing Monarch Journey: Monarch butterflies, up to two billion of them, have to fly hundreds of miles to get to their wintering site in Mexico. So even a tiny impact on their migration ability could mean the difference between survival and death. Ecologist Sonia Altizer studies how long distance migration in flying animals may also affect the spread and evolution of infectious disease. These beautiful insects face many threat
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Montana Wilderness, Bald Eagle Recovery, Lionfish Derby, Crocodile Man
Montana Wilderness: There's an ambitious plan to protect 700,000 acres of new wilderness in Montana. And after many years of argument, it looks like local residents, loggers, hikers, and conservation groups have put aside their differences so nature is the big winner. You'll meet one veteran outdoorsman, Smoke Elser, who's almost as comfortable in this back woods as the elk and the bears are! Bald Eagle Recovery: It was almost a national tragedy. The bold symbol the United States, the bald eagle, was nearly wiped out when pesticides interfered with their breeding. Our national bird has made quite a comeback, but there are still mysteries to solve in keeping the population healthy. Oregon Field Guide takes us to a "convocation, " a gathering of these regal birds, and introduces us to some of the heroes who saved them from extinction. Lionfish Derby: It's one of the most dramatic displays of how an invasive species can upset an ecosystem. Lionfish, originally from Asia, have found a comfortable home in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Government and conservation organizations have come up with some sporty ways to control these aggressive fish, because they are competing with commercially important species like snapper and grouper. We'll take you to one "Lionfish Derby." Crocodile Man: "If it can't bite you, it's not interesting," laughs Mississippi State University biologist David Ray. Ray does very interesting work, studying alligators, crocodiles, bats, and flies, among other creatures. Mapping alligator and crocodile genomes is helping scientists with everything from trying to save the odd looking Indian gharial, to tracing the links between modern reptiles, dinosaurs, and birds.
Friday, March 21, 2014
Critical Aquifer, Trout in the Classroom, Grizzlies Return, Dragonflies
Underneath the Great Plains, the Ogallala Aquifer holds a vast expanse of prehistoric water reserves, a vital source of moisture and a key asset for America's agricultural economy. But the Ogallala is now threatened by overuse in places like the Texas Panhandle, where farmers and ranchers now work with advisers from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to find ways to maximize their efficiency in irrigation and protect their water for future generations. Students in the Sierras in California help to restore threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout by raising the fish from eggs and releasing them in an approved trout stream; in the process, they learn about the life cycle of the fish, its value as a native species in the local ecosystem, and how invasive fish are crowding it out of its habitat. Students also learn how to monitor water quality and raise awareness about protecting native trout streams. In the Yellowstone Ecosystem, grizzly bears have made a dramatic recovery since they were federally listed in 1975 as a threatened species in the lower 48 states, increasing from 146 bears at that time to at least 602 in 2010. Grizzlies have reoccupied areas where they had been absent for decades, and are now considered to be at ecological carrying capacity with subadults emigrating to areas outside Yellowstone National Park. In a partnership production with Wyoming's Game and Fish Department, this success story is described by leading bear experts. Just how do dragonflies pull off complex aerial feats, hunting and reproducing in midair? These four-winged insects pre-date dinosaurs and can fly straight up, straight down, or hover like helicopters. Researchers are getting some inspiration from these insects to improve small- scale aircraft design.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Idaho Wilderness, Loggerhead Turtles, Sandfish Lizard, Wrangling Water
Idaho Wilderness: Its wild residents could fill a volume of some of the most iconic American wildlife: From elk and moose to spawning salmon, mountain goats and sheep to black bears and cougars. Efforts are underway to protect central Idaho's Boulder-White Clouds Mountains, designating 330,000 acres as wilderness. The proposed federal legislation would both protect these lands, and ensure economic sustainability. Loggerhead Turtles: These animals make one of the most treacherous journeys of any creatures, without any parental involvement. Human development is making their survival even more dangerous. Sharon Collins of Georgia Public Broadcasting shows us how these amazing reptiles struggle in an epic journey. These large sea turtles are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Sandfish Lizard: The sandfish is a little lizard that lives in the Sahara Desert. Scientists are fascinated by its slithering moves. It can tuck its limbs close to its body, and literally "swim" through the sand, just like an eel wiggles its way through water. Physicists are studying this little creature, and using it to inspire new robotic moves that could one day help search-and-rescue crews find survivors in piles of rubble, left from disasters like Hurricane Katrina. The little sandfish is teaching us a lot about what it takes to worm through rugged terrain and debris. Wrangling Water: Cattle are not the only things being rounded up in Florida. Ranchers are also herding water! For years, experts have searched for answers about how to increase water storage in the northern Everglades, and reduce the pollution levels. A pilot program pays ranchers to use their low-lying lands for "environmental services" - namely to store water. Water that's captured during the June through October wet season can then be slowly released during dry months into the tributaries of Lake Okeechobee. And it's proving to be a good thing both for the economy and the environment.
Friday, March 28, 2014
Artificial Bat Cave, Rocky Mountain Gas, Backpacking with Llamas
There comes a point during a wildlife crisis when scientists are compelled to stop studying, and do something. That's what prompted researchers who have been studying the deadly white nose fungus in bats to develop the idea of an artificial bat cave. Built right next to a huge natural cave, this underground Tennessee facility was built to try to slow the spread of the disease. After bats leave following their hibernation, the human-built cave can be disinfected. Experts say white nose disease is likely to be the worst wildlife disaster of our time, and that the human-built bat cave is an experiment that must continue. Rich deposits of oil shale in Colorado's Garfield County are yielding huge amounts of natural gas and oil for energy companies, but local residents are pushing back against intrusive air and water pollution, noise and traffic from drilling and hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"). Residents in communities like Rifle, Parachute and Battlement Mesa argue that oil and gas operations have gone out of control, and they're demanding more regulation of the industry to protect their homes and lands. In central Colorado's North Fork Valley, amid dozens of organic farms, orchards and ranches, the federal government has shelved plans to lease thousands of acres of public lands for oil and gas drilling. It was a victory for local residents, who came out overwhelmingly against the idea of drilling, saying it threatens a new economy rooted in tourism, wineries, and organic produce. Like the backcountry but can't carry a heavy pack? Try a llama! Monica Drost and her friends have been backpacking together since they were in college. But now, in their 50s, they can't carry their loaded packs anymore. Luckily, they found a llama outfitter and can now enjoy the Oregon wilderness without the aches and pains. Monarch butterflies, up to two billion of them, have to fly hundreds of miles to get to their wintering site in Mexico. So even a tiny impact on their migration ability could mean the difference between survival and d