Häagen-Dazs has launched a fabulous new campaign to protect the honey bee! From their website:
"We rely on honey bees for one-third of our food supply, so when honey bees are in danger, we’re all in danger.
At Häagen-Dazs® ice cream, we use only all-natural ingredients in our recipes. Bee pollination is essential for ingredients in nearly 50 percent of our all-natural superpremium flavors. Our goal is to raise awareness of the honey bee issue so that our communities to work together to bring them back."
Their interactive website has stats on how the honey bee affects our food supply, information about the honey bee crisis, and some great, fun videos to increase awareness of the issue. My favorite video is featured below. :)
It's been 20 years since the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill tainted Alaska's Price William Sound with over 11 million gallons of oil. I was only 10 when the spill happened, but I remember hearing about it, watching stories on the news, and being shocked by the damage done to plants, animals, and the beautiful coast. I recently came across a question from a reader of E-Magazine who asked, "I haven’t heard much of late about big oil spills like the infamous Exxon Valdez. Has the industry cleaned up its act, or do the media just not report them?"
Their response provides a basic recap of what's been done over the past 20 years in terms of deterring another accident like the Valdez spill, and discusses what still needs to be done. It's a short article and worth a quick read if you have time!
Sorry for the long lapse between posts...but we had our Annual Retreat last week, which was a great success! This week, we've been playing catch up at the office. The good news is that in the next few days we will be updating our website to a newer platform version...the bad news is that we'll be taking a few more days off from blogging while the site gets updated. But in the meantime, I leave you with this awesome article about zombie fire ants. From the N&O:
"The flies 'dive-bomb' the fire ants and lay eggs. The maggot that hatches inside the ant eats away at the brain, and the ant starts exhibiting what some might say is zombielike behavior."
I see a movie opportunity here...maybe Dead Ant Walking?
I just can't resist a good frog-centered blog post. So I wanted to pass on an article about new species found in Colombia! From an MSNBC article:
"The animals were cataloged during an expedition to the mountainous Tacarcura area of the Darien, near Colombia's border with Panama. Conservation International's experts on amphibians joined forces with bird experts from the Ecotropia Foundation, with the support of the area's indigenous Embera community.
During their three-week expedition, the scientists identified about 60 species of amphibians, 20 reptile species and almost 120 species of birds, many of them apparently found nowhere else, Conservation International reported. [...]
While this region is still being hard-hit by clear cutting and forest destruction, it's nice to hear about some positive findings. Especially when they involve our little amphibian friends, who not only help with the spread of disease but who serve as environmental indicators and harbingers of what's to come. Click on the pic to the right to view a slideshow of the findings!
Amidst all of the election coverage and get-out-the-vote efforts, I thought I'd take a break and blog about something completely different. A recent WRAL article sheds light on a new project to study the impact of our state's wild horses on the northern Outer Banks. From the article:
"Karen McCalpin, executive director of the fund, said the group plans to commission researchers from N.C. State to examine the effects the horse herd has on marshes and grass."
I don't know much about the wild horses, but after digging around a bit, I found a nonprofit called Wild Horses of Shackleford Banks. You can actually go on their website and "meet" the horses. Apparently, on Shackleford Banks there is an oft-visited watering hole called Mullet Pond where the horses love to congregate. Of course, my idea of the mullet must be much different from theirs...
With all of the talk about threatened wildlife, species extinction, and loss of habitat, I was very refreshed to stumble across an article from the Asheville Citizen-Times entitled "Survey finds new species in national park in N.C." According to the article,
"A 10-year study has found more than 6,000 species of plant and animal life previously unidentified in Great Smoky Mountains National Park."
Hopefully this new information will not only encourage folks to learn more about the importance of preserving native species, but will also provide an incentive for protecting the habitat of the Great Smoky National Park in years to come!
In an ongoing struggle between the Navy's proposed Outlying Landing Field (OLF) and many North Carolina counties in the northeast, there seems to be no end in sight. In the past week, many articles were printed regarding the most recent developments, highlighting many citizens' concerns about losing farmland and/or wildlife habitat if the land was used for the OLF. Coverage also focused on residents of Gates and Camden counties who feel an OLF would severely hurt their communities economically, despite the addition of approximately fifty jobs.
Gates, Camden leaders say they don't want Navy landing field. County leaders representing four potential sites for a Navy jet landing field in North Carolina pleaded Thursday to stay off a new list of finalists, saying the project would harm their economies and heritage.
http://www.journalnow.com (link suppressed)
Northeast counties oppose Navy field. Residents of Camden and Gates counties said the Navy's plans to build a practice airfield would damage the rural quality of life in the northeastern corner of the state.
New OLF sites panned, old sites still viable. Havelock advocates: OLF needed ‘somewhere.’ Debra Vaughn’s algebra students were without their teacher Thursday. Instead, she left them with a substitute teacher and traveled to the capital to oppose an outlying landing field in her native Gates County.
North Carolina panel hears pros, cons about OLF sites. A Navy admiral said in a meeting here Thursday that the Marine Corps Air Station at
Cherry Point does not need another practice landing site, and that sites in northeastern North Carolina would be closer and more economical for jets based at Naval Air Station Oceana.
Governor’s group studied economic impact of an OLF. Despite jobs, northeastern counties still opposed. Despite the promise of high-paying federal jobs to staff an outlying landing field, the Navy heard Thursday that counties in northeastern North Carolina still oppose an OLF at any of four sites being considered in that region.
Oh, the beleaguered frogs. You probably already know that amphibian species are declining around the world. You have probably seen the depressing photos of deformed frogs trying to get through life with too many (or too few) legs. You may even have seen Dr. Tyrone Hayes‘ breathtaking presentation on how the herbicide atrazine turns boy frogs in to hermaphrodite frogs.
This week the N&O ran a story about a new study that reinforces the theory that farm runoff is causing the deformed limbs. Excess nutrients in the water lead to lots more parasites in the water that turn normal tadpoles into sickly, deformed adult frogs.
One of the questions about this research is, how come the trematodes make frogs so sick? They’re not a new pathogen - they’ve always been in the frogs’ environments. It’s just that lately the frogs can’t seem to fight them off. Another stumper: if it’s one disease deforming the frogs, why does it affect so many species? Leopard frogs, bullfrogs, wood frogs, and many others have shown up with the deformed limbs, in many different parts of the U.S. and Canada.
The answer may actually lie in the frogs’ immune systems: one of Tyrone Hayes’ experiments found that wild frogs who live in pristine waters are easily able to fight off common infections, while wild frogs who live in waters containing agricultural runoff die at astonishing rates from the same exposure to disease. Distinguished researchers around the world have pointed at all sorts of explanations for the frog decline, deformities and hermaphrodism: climate change, habitat destruction, parasites, pesticides, and more. The sad answer may be that there is no smoking gun, but that an alphabet soup of environmental changes have over-burdened the frogs’ immune systems to the point of destruction. Parasites and infections that formerly posed little or no threat to amphibian populations become deadly.
Biologists like to call frogs a “sentinel species,” because they are so sensitive to their environments and serve as indicators for problems that can grow to affect other species as well. I hope we’re paying attention.
Cross-posted from PESTed's weekly news commentary, Fair Ground.
As an avid frog-lover myself, I was excited to hear that the state was considering adopting a North Carolina amphibian to join the ranks of the a-famed state drink, state tartan, and state rock. Who would've thought though that the bill introduced into the House to pass the state amphibian as the Bull Frog would cause so much controversy?
Turns out that a group of 4th graders from Plymouth were advocating for the Bull Frog--a popular species that we've all stumbled upon occasionally (hopefully not literally). Opposition to the bill was presented by folks at the NC Herpetological Society who sent a letter to a representative in the House asking them to reconsider the choice of Bull Frog and instead consider "a species that is truly original and unique to North Carolina." Among their suggestions were the Neuse River Waterdog, Yonahlossee Salamander, Eastern Hellbender, Marbled Salamander, and Carolina Gopher Frog.
NC Herps also suggested some changes to the bill's language including adding the statement "Whereas, amphibians play important roles in the natural systems of the state and serve as indicators of environmental health." [I was glad to see them advocate to get this phrase added--it's amazing how much work has been done studying amphibians for environmental impacts of toxics, pesticides, and much more (as noted by the work of the esteemed Dr. Tyrone Hayes.)]
Anyway, the bill passed the House this last Friday (I guess it's hard to say no to a group of politically involved nine- and ten-year olds) and is moving onto the Senate for their vote. While it will be interesting to see what the final decision is, the important part is that these very environmentally-sensitive creatures are getting some press and some recognition. If in the end folks still can't decide, might I suggest Kermit or the daring Frogger (not native to North Carolina, yet worthy of praise after crossing many a busy street and alligator-infested river.)
I was reading the paper this weekend and one headline caught my eye: “Easley opposes poisoning birds.” Now there’s a campaign position you don’t see every day. Imagine scrolling through a candidate’s webpage and you find a list of the candidate’s positions on major issues:
Candidate John Doe on the Issues:
Death Penalty: No
Iraq War: No
Smoking Ban: Yes
Poisoning Birds: No
If Gov. Easley runs for another office (like the U.S. Senate), do you think his opposition will try to paint him as “weak on killing birds?” Sadly, the article is no joke. Gov. Easley has had to take a position against bird poisoning because the US Navy wants to scare, poison, or kill migratory birds so that it can build a jet landing strip right beside the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in eastern NC.
From the Raleigh N&O:
A U.S. Department of Agriculture report done as part of the Navy's new environmental study recommends driving away birds that pose a risk by taking away the food crops they eat, scaring them with dogs and fireworks, and using poison and guns if scare tactics don't work.
There was a particular outcry from wildlife experts about the possibility that tundra swans, snow geese and other migratory waterfowl would be poisoned. The response from the Navy:
Federal agriculture officials who wrote the report said poisons could be used if necessary on smaller species such as blackbirds, starlings, pigeons and gulls. They said if lethal measures were required to control migratory waterfowl, the birds would be shot, not poisoned.
This is one bad idea. Help speak out against bird poisoning and protect the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge by writing a letter to the Navy and your Congressional delegation.