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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: nature, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 448
1. There’s a Bug in my Blossom, by J.C. Donaho | Dedicated Review

J.C. Donaho is a photography hobbyist that has combined his career in animal welfare and biomedical research, to create an early reader book well suited for young naturalists.

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2. “Illegal” movement of populations

What’s on my mind?
Indigenous peoples and their worry about being over run by other populations I guess could sum it up.
I suppose if cougars, wolves, elephants and such learned to shoot guns or band together better they would kick out the human populations who have transgressed on their land but as people go I believe we need to understand the reason for others unlawfully entering areas already overpopulated.
Overpopulation where they come from, economic despair, greed, the making of money into a God and the lust for power over others seem to be good places to start .
Seems to me that as people from a planet with finite resources we need to try to make all places a good place to live so people want to stay where they are. Make everywhere a good place to be.
Sharing with others does not have to mean give away my happiness but it could mean helping you gain yours. I hope I can do that with more than one other and if we all did it for just two other people it would cure the problem in my mind at least.
Bee6720081_copy


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3. Going inside to get a taste of nature

For many of us, nature is defined as an outdoor space, untouched by human hands, and a place we escape to for refuge. We often spend time away from our daily routines to be in nature, such as taking a backwoods camping trip, going for a long hike in an urban park, or gardening in our backyard. Think about the last time you were out in nature, what comes to mind? For me, it was a canoe trip with friends. I can picture myself in our boat, the sound of the birds and rustling leaves in the background, the smell of cedars mixed with the clearing morning mist, and the sight of the still waters in front of me. Most of all, I remember a sense of calmness and clarity which I always achieve when I’m in nature.

Nature takes us away from the demands of life, and allows us to concentrate on the world around us with little to no effort. We can easily be taken back to a summer day by the smell of fresh cut grass, and force ourselves to be still to listen to the distant sound of ocean waves. Time in nature has a wealth of benefits from reducing stress, improving mood, increasing attentional capacities, and facilitating and creating social bonds. A variety of work supports nature being healing and health promoting at both an individual level (such as being energized after a walk with your dog) and a community level (such as neighbors coming together to create a local co-op garden). However, it can become difficult to experience the outdoors when we spend most of our day within a built environment.

I’d like you to stop for a moment and look around. What do you see? Are there windows? Are there any living plants or animals? Are the walls white? Do you hear traffic or perhaps the hum of your computer? Are you smelling circulated air? As I write now I hear the buzz of the florescent lights above me, and take a deep inhale of the lingering smell from my morning coffee. There is no nature except for the few photographs of the countryside and flowers that I keep tapped to my wall. I often feel hypocritical researching nature exposure sitting in front of a computer screen in my windowless office. But this is the reality for most of us. So how can we tap into the benefits of nature in order to create healthy and healing indoor environments that mimic nature and provide us with the same benefits as being outdoors?

Crater_Lake_Garfield_Peak_Trail_View_East
Crater Lake Garfield Peak Trail View East by Markgorzynski. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Urban spaces often get a bad rap. Sure, they’re typically overcrowded, high in pollution, and limited in their natural and green spaces, but they also offer us the ability to transform the world around us into something that is meaningful and also health promoting. Beyond architectural features such as skylights, windows, and open air courtyards, we can use ambient features to adapt indoor spaces to replicate the outdoors. The integration of plants, animals, sounds, scents, and textures into our existing indoor environments enables us to create a wealth of natural environments indoors.

Notable examples of indoor nature, are potted plants or living walls in office spaces, atriums providing natural light, and large mural landscapes. In fact, much research has shown that the presence of such visual aids provides the same benefits of being outdoors. Incorporating just a few pieces of greenery into your workspace can help increase your productivity, boost your mood, improve your health, and help you concentrate on getting your work done. But being in nature is more than just seeing, it’s experiencing it fully and being immersed into a world that engages all of your senses. The use of natural sounds, scents, and textures (e.g. wooden furniture or carpets that look and feel like grass) provides endless possibilities for creating a natural environment indoors, and encouraging built environments to be therapeutic spaces. The more nature-like the indoor space can be, the more apt it is to illicit the same psychological and physical benefits that being outdoors does. Ultimately, the built environment can engage my senses in a way that brings me back to my canoe trip, and help me feel that same clarity and calmness that I did on the lake.

On a broader level, indoor nature may also be a means of encouraging sustainable and eco-friendly behaviors. With more generations growing up inside, we risk creating a society that is unaware of the value of nature. It’s easy to suggest that the solution to our declining involvement with nature is to just “go outside”; but with today’s busy lifestyle, we cannot always afford the time and money to step away. Integrating nature into our indoor environment is one way to foster the relationship between us and nature, and to encourage a sense of stewardship and appreciation for our natural world. By experiencing the health promoting and healing properties of nature, we can instill individuals with the significance of our natural world.

As I look around my office I’ve decided I need to take some of my own advice and bring my own little piece of nature inside. I encourage you to think about what nature means to you, and how you can incorporate this meaning into your own space. Does it involve fresh cut flowers? A photograph of your annual family campsite? The sound of birds in the background as you work? Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll leave you feeling a little bit lighter, and maybe have you working a little bit faster.

Image: World Financial Center Winter Garden by WiNG. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The post Going inside to get a taste of nature appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. Trees Sing?

This is an article after my own heart.  Check it out: “If Trees Could Sing” http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/tennessee/if-trees-could-sing/index.htm?src=e.gpFiled under: Nature's design Tagged: benefits, conservation, nature, NatureConservancy, save, shade, trees

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5. Fox's Garden



by Princesse Camcam
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

This newest book in Enchanted Lion's Stories Without Words series is magical and perfectly suited to being a wordless picture book -- it is the story of a fox who needs a safe place to give birth to her kits. 

The snowy nighttime scenes have the silence of secrecy as the fox moves towards a secluded house. She is chased by a woman and a man, but quietly observed by a boy as she finds shelter in the greenhouse. The boy brings her a gift but doesn't interfere. In the end, the fox repays the boy's kindness.

The quote opposite the title page captures the quietness of the story:

"On the fresh snow,
as in my heart,
footprints, traces."


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6. AUTUMN

This is the cover art for a book in an outdoor science series I did way back when...

The Wonderful Woods
Acrylic on watercolor paper
Steven James Petrucccio

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7. Shark Baby

Shark Baby
Author: Ann Downer
Illustrator: Shennen Bersani
Publisher: Sylvan Dell
Genre: Children / Animals
ISBN: 978-1-60718-6342
Pages: 32
Price: $9.95

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Shark baby is snug in his egg case, tied to a strand of kelp, wondering what’s outside. But when a storm hits, the rough ocean waves break the case loose, tearing it slightly. Shark baby can now see where he is and who he is encountering as he drifts about. But now he has a new question – what kind of shark is he?

Shark Baby introduces children to the life cycle of a shark and shows them a variety of shark species. A discussion guide with questions is also provided for classroom use. This book would be a great resource for science lessons.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


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8. Author/Photographer Interview – Cat Urbigkit

About three years ago I saw Cat’s photos popping up regularly in my friend Terri Farley’s Facebook feed (Terri is a fabulous advocate for wild horses and a children’s author). I quickly friended Cat and look forward daily to her … Continue reading

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9. Sing like nothing else matters !

When you are feeling all alone, if you just sing out loud you may be surprised how many others will join in with you …JDMn6Birds62920141


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10. #656 – Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

Flashlight_FC_LoResx
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Flashlight

Written and illustrated by Lizi Boydtop-10-use-eb-trans (1)
Chronicle Books           8/01/2014
978-1-4521-1894-9
Age 2 to 6        32 pages
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“Inside the tent it’s cozy. But what is going on outside? Is it dark? Is it scary? Not if you have your trusty flashlight! Told solely through images and using a spare yet dramatic palette, artist Lizi Boyd has crafted a masterful exploration of night, nature, and art. Both lyrical and humorous, this visual poem—like the flashlight beam itself—reveals that there is magic in the darkness. We just have to look for it.”

Opening

The young girl, let’s call her Amy, is outside with her flashlight, shining it on the ground. Look! she has found a mouse, no three mice, going about their nighttime activities. Looking up with her flashlight beam, Amy finds an owl, which looks a little spooked that Amy found it in its tree.

Flashlight Product Shot 1

Review

Flashlight is an amazing picture book. Without words, “Amy” has a nighttime adventure of a lifetime. With her flashlight, Amy finds all sorts of animals, but misses just as many who are in the dark. She spies an owl in a tree, a couple of fish in a pond, a fox, and doe with her two babies. If this is not the best adventure for a young child, I cannot think of what could be better. The artist strategically added a hole placed in each spread that focuses upon something the young girl does not see in the dark, but the reader now can. I like that little change that holds more surprises for the reader.

Oops! Amy tripped on stone, tossing the flashlight onto the ground. A raccoon has the flashlight and is lighting up Amy’s face. It passes the flashlight to a beaver, which lights up Amy’s backside. The animals continue to pass off the flashlight until the owl takes possession, pointing the light onto the opening of Amy’s tent. I believe the owl, as wise as it is, thinks Amy should be in bed. Amy tucks in then reads a story to the three mice. I wonder what the story she is reading those three mice.

Flashlight Product Shot 2

Flashlight is an amazing nighttime adventure right in the young girl’s backyard or park, there is no way to be sure. She enjoys finding the animals as well as young children will enjoy finding them. I enjoyed it. There are so many stories kids can imagine with each animal and what they are doing at might. Why does the wise owl want Amy to stop flashing its friends and go to sleep inside the tent? Is he worried about her sleep, or does he want her to stop interfering with the animals nighttime routines?

Children and parents will love this picture book adventure, as do I. Read as a bedtime story, Flashlight can about the young girl or the animals. Parents and their child will enjoy discovering the different animals. How wonderful that could be. The illustrations are all on black paper, with silver-lined animals (in the dark) and colorful animals as the flashlight shines upon them. Flashlight is a magnificent picture book and one of the most original I have seen this year.

Flashlight Product Shot 3

Flashlight is a Junior Library Guild selection for 2014.

FLASHLIGHT. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Lizi Boyd. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Three Questions with Lizi Boyd

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Purchase Flashlight at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryChronicle Booksat your favorite bookstore.

Learn more about Flashlight HERE.
Meet the author/illustrator, Lizi Boyd, at her website:  http://liziboyd.com/ 
Find more magnificent books at the Chronicle Books’ website:   http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

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Also by Lizi Boyd

Inside Outside

Inside Outside

Black Dog Gets Dresssed

Black Dog Gets Dresssed

I Love Mommy

I Love Mommy

I Love Daddy

I Love Daddy

 

 

 

flashlight

Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: backkyard camp-out, children's book reviews, Chronicle Books, illustrations only, Lizi Boyd, nature, picture books

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11. Frida Querida by Sandra Vargas


My tribute to an amazing artist and passionate woman, Frida Kahlo, who transformed her suffering into colorful pieces of art.

My original illustration was made using colored pencils and digital painting. Art prints, postcards and more accessories featuring Frida Querida are available through my shop and also here.

Frida Querida
© Sandra Vargas. All Rights Reserved.

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12. “Rose colored glasses”

JDM_G_Flower9720141

 

I was just thinking that it’s not the perfect flower I look for in my photography, it’s the perfect feeling, same with my friends, they all have little flaws just like me but when I close my eyes and think of them I only know the sweet essence of their perfection and see how wonderful life is to let me see them … Love you all !


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13. The Promise by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin

The Promise by written by Nicola Davies and magnificently illustrated by Laura Carlin is a modern day fable, of sorts. It reads like a harder edged, less whimsical version of Peter Brown's The Curious Garden that is powerful without being didactic or preachy. The narrator tells us about growing up in a city that was "mean and hard and ugly. Its streets were dry as dust, cracked by

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14. The Last Wild - an audiobook review

Torday, Piers. 2014. The Last Wild. Penguin Audio.  Narrated by Oliver Hembrough.

Like Eva Nine, in the WondLa series, Kester Jaynes finds that he can communicate with creatures of the wild - an ability that is particularly intriguing in a dystopian world where all animals are presumed dead - killed by the incurable red-eye virus.  Kester finds himself the leader of his own "wild," the ragtag remnants of the animal world.  Flora and fauna are pitted against commercial efficiency and industrialism in this first book of a planned trilogy.

The plot is occasionally predictable, but slow patches are often brightened by the humorous antics of The General (a likable but militaristic cockroach) and a befuddled white pigeon who speaks nonsense that is also somehow prophetic.

The author and narrator hail from the UK, so the reader or listener should be prepared for numerous British words that are uncommon here in the US (wellies, trainers, boot, windscreen, plaits, etc.).

My review of The Last Wild for Audiofile Magazine appears here.

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15. The Good and the Bad: Garden Pests and Beneficial Insects.

Today’s post comes through the courtesy and expertise of Shiela Fuller.

If you started a backyard garden in May, odds are you’ve encountered a few insects in your plot by August. Some are peskier than others. The good bugs arrive right along with the bad, so it is helpful to know the difference.
Before you head off to your local garden supply to buy your pest eradicator, it’s best to identify your pest so you know exactly what you are annihilating. Then before you go, take another moment to research homemade, nontoxic pest controls. They are cheap to make, safer for you to apply, and a healthier choice for the environment. Some commercial products will also kill the good bugs as well as the bad.

What have you planted in your garden and what are the most common pests?
• TOMATOES.
Backyard tomato plants attract a wide variety of bad pests. Most you can pick off by hand and eliminate the need for any spray. The tomato hornworm is a common pest. They start out small and may go unnoticed until you see large areas of plant chewed away. Or you see the telltale peppercorn – like droppings they deposit on the plant leaves. They are green with lighter green shaped “v” markings and a single “horn” poking off the end of its body. Occasionally, you will find white rice shaped eggs attached to the hornworms body. They are the parasitic eggs of a good pest. The eggs suck nutrients out of the hornworm. It dies and the braconid wasp lives on.

tomato hornworm

tomato hornworm

PEPPERS.
Pesticide spray is rarely needed for the pepper plant.
GREENS.
If you see tiny holes in the leaves of your lovely greens, the flea beetle is most likely the culprit. They won’t usually destroy your plant and you will probably have sufficient supply, even if you have shared your greens with a beetle. Just wash and eat.
POTATOES.
We love our potatoes and so does the Colorado potato beetle. The peskiest of the pests. If you decide to grow your own potatoes, you will become an expert inspector. It will be imperative that your plants are inspected twice a day. The potato beetle is prolific and the larvae, numerous. Begin by checking for the yellow eggs laid underneath the plant leaf. Remove the eggs. Dispose of them. Unfortunately, you will miss eggs and they will hatch. Numerous little specks of brown will begin to demolish your plant. Find and remove them. If you miss them they will quickly grow into reddish, slug like creatures. Pick them off. At every stage, they will eat your plant down till all that is left is a twig. Remain diligent in your search for potato beetle eggs and larva. Homegrown potatoes are worth it.

HERBS.
Most herbs are bad pest free. In fact, many are planted to do just the opposite, ward off the bad. However, important to note is that dill and parsley, attract the black swallowtail butterfly. It may be difficult to find the tiny pearlized eggs, but you may find the droppings or the black, prickled larvae eating your precious herbs. They are capable of devouring the entire plant, so always plant enough for all to enjoy.

swallowtail caterpillar courtesy of Mary Braccilli

swallowtail caterpillar courtesy of Mary Braccilli

How Do You Attract the Good Insects?

Food, shelter, and water are necessary to encourage and keep the good insects in your garden.
LADYBUGS
Plant herbs like chives or cilantro, and cosmos flowers to attract the ladybugs.
PRAYING MANTIS
Raspberry, yarrow and fennel attract praying mantis.
SPIDERS
The argiope is a large, harmless spider we should be thankful to see in our garden. With its spectacular coloring and circled web with zig zag stitching, it is a treasure to behold.
Food for good insects comes in the form of the bad insects that arrive in your garden. Provide daytime shelter for the good insects; low lying thyme or oregano offer good hiding places. Offer them a shallow tin of water and encourage them to make your garden their home.

garden spider

garden spider

Refrain from using insecticides/pesticides in your home garden. These products will actually keep the good bugs away from your garden. They are not good for the health of the insect. Or yours.

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.

 


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16. What’s all This Buzz-ness About Bees?

Jersey Farm Scribe here, and I’m so excited to do a post here on Darlene’s website.

It’s exciting for me to get a chance to talk about something farm-related, since I’m usually posting on writing on Kathy’s website Writing and Illustrating or Children.  http://www.kathytemean.wordpress.com

I thought about what I should write about. I could write about the animals that I have here on The Farm. I could write about the lifestyle, being more in touch with the world around us, agriculture and fresh food. I could write about one of the many projects that are always going on… and never quite finished.

In the end, I decided to write about something close to my heart that I HAVEN’T gotten fully involved in. What a great motivator for me to finally jump in!!! Plus, then perhaps I can do another post in a few months and update everyone on any progress that has been made.

So here we go… they’re cute… they’re amazing,

honey bee

honey bee

and they’re SUPER sweet. I had the amazing opportunity to visit an active BEE hive with my brother’s family, including their bee-guru boys. We went to Dan Price’s Farm, the founder of Sweet Virginia Foundation  http://sweetvirginia.com, a Honey Bee Conservation and Education Organization. Here we all are at their farm. The three little ones are three of my four amazing nephews. I’m the odd-ball in the green suit.

group shot (2)

There were some high school kids doing a project. The high schoolers were very leery of the bees, (understandably), and a bit skittish about going up to the hive.

My nephews, 12, 11 and 7, had absolutely no problems. They were informing the older kids of where to stand that was safe. (bees create a main highway where they travel in and out of the hive, and as long as you keep that area clear, you’re perfectly fine!) They operated the smoke puffer (definitely NOT it’s technical name) and answered all the questions the hive experts had like it was NOTHING.

Hive Manager: Does anyone know how many different types of honeybees there are?
7 yr-old-nephew (looks at her as if to say, um, who doesn’t??: Three. The queen. The worker bees, which are girls, and the drones, which are boys.

Hive Manager: That’s right. And the bees that we see flying around sometimes, which are they?

11-yr-old: Worker bees.

Hive Manager: And why’s that?

12-yr-old AND 7-yr old: Because they are the only ones that leave the hive. All the drones do is mate with the queen and all the queen does is lay eggs.

Eventually, the hive manager realized she was going to have to think of harder questions.
Then Marcus and Ethan, the 11 and 7-yr olds picked up a BEE COVERED slat from the hive, (without any gloves on!) and with absolutely no fear:

holding bees (3 part 1)     holding bees (3 part 2)

 

 

 

And here is Jared, (12) even letting a bee crawl on his hand!

bee in hand (4) I was unbelievably impressed, to say the least. (as were the high school kids who they completely showed up!)

I learned a lot. I won’t get into the dorky-science details here. (I’m a total science nerd at heart). But here’s a fun one:   Bees communicate with DANCE!

Seriously… how cool is that?

PBS has a great video on The Waggle Dance:  http://video.pbs.org/video/2300846183/

They use it to communicate where the good hive or flower is located. It’s pretty unbelievable.

I think most people know at this point that there are concerns for the honeybee’s health around the world, which would be devastating to our food sources. It’s more than just not having beautiful flowers. Fruits and vegetables pollinate and grow because of bees. And the animals that we raise for food eat these fruits and vegetables as well!

But luckily there is something really simple you can do that can make a BIG difference! You know those signs you see?       local honey sign (5)

Those are people who either run their own hive, or have someone come in and run a hive for them. This is GREAT for the honeybee population. You can help out your local farmer, and help the honeybees at the same time.

Honey is such a great natural sugar substitution. Try substituting it for sugar in recipes, to give an extra yummy flavor, and a much healthier sweetness. Sugar is sweeter than sugar, so you would about ½ to ¾ cup of honey for every cup of sugar.

I do a combination:

For every cup of sugar a recipe calls for I use:
¼ cup sugar
½ cup honey

This is amazing in almost ALL baking, cakes, muffins, cookies, breads, the works.

Honey has some pretty amazing healing powers as well. It’s been used as a natural antibacterial agent for years!

Feeling like you have a cold coming on, or just can’t kick one? Try this:

Hot water
Raw Honey – (natural antibacterial agent and throat coater)
REAL ginger – (natural anti-inflammatory)
REAL garlic – (natural antibiotic)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (with the mother) (balances the acidity level – excellent for chest cold)

Okay…. so I’m not gonna lie, this is not a delicious drink. But I can from personal experience it can really help to kick those sniffles!

Allergies? Try local honey. A full T every single day. The closer the hive is to your home, the better.

The idea is that you’re introducing a small amount of the pollen into your system via the honey, making your body more use to it (similar to how allergy shots work). This method of course depends on what you are actually allergic to, and there is actually not a lot of actual pollen in honey, but there is some.

I am lucky and don’t suffer from allergies myself, but I have a few friends I’ve suggested this to that swear it helped them. Plus, this one IS delicious!

(I am obviously NOT a doctor, these are just personal home-remedies I’ve always used)

Kids definitely like finding out where their food comes from. And there are also some GREAT Kid-Friendly Honey Recipes:   Bite-size Honey Popcorn Balls  http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/bite-size-hiney-popcorn-balls-10000001661174  honey popcorn (6)

 Honey Glazed Carrots http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/honey-glazed-carrots 

glazed carrots (7) And of course, a great dipper for apples, carrots, fruit, bread, chicken, you name it!!!!

So next time you see a local sign for…

honey sign (9) … take a quick stop and find out where their hives are located. You may end up in a more interesting conversation that you’d expect!!

As for me? I plan on trying to get a hive on my property by 2015.

And a big thank you to Darlene and all of you, because you all are part of what has motivated me to pursue it!!

bio picErika Wassall, The Jersey Farm Scribe is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. Check out her posts on Writing and Illustrating for Children every other week, and follow her on Twitter @NJFarmScribe.


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17. The biggest threat to the world is still ourselves

At a time when the press and broadcast media are overwhelmed by accounts and images of humankind’s violence and stupidity, the fact that our race survives purely as a consequence of Nature’s consent, may seem irrelevant. Indeed, if we think about this at all, it might be to conclude that our world would likely be a nicer place all round, should a geophysical cull in some form or other, consign humanity to evolution’s dustbin, along with the dinosaurs and countless other life forms that are no longer with us. While toying with such a drastic action, however, we should be careful what we wish for, even during these difficult times when it is easy to question whether our race deserves to persist. This is partly because alongside its sometimes unimaginable cruelty, humankind also has an enormous capacity for good, but mainly because Nature could – at this very moment – be cooking up something nasty that, if it doesn’t wipe us all out, will certainly give us a very unpleasant shock.

After all, nature’s shock troops are still out there. Economy-busting megaquakes are biding their time beneath Tokyo and Los Angeles; volcanoes are swelling to bursting point across the globe; and killer asteroids are searching for a likely planet upon which to end their lives in spectacular fashion. Meanwhile, climate change grinds on remorselessly, spawning biblical floods, increasingly powerful storms, and baking heatwave and drought conditions. Nonetheless, it often seems – in our security obsessed. tech-driven society – as if the only horrors we are likely to face in the future are manufactured by us; nuclear terrorism; the march of the robots; out of control nanotechnology; high-energy physics experiments gone wrong. It is almost as if the future is nature-free; wholly and completely within humankind’s thrall. The truth is, however, that these are all threats that don’t and shouldn’t materialise, in the sense that whether or not we allow their realisation is entirely within our hands.

The same does not apply, however, to the worst that nature can throw at us. We can’t predict earthquakes and may never be able to, and there is nothing at all we can do if we spot a 10-km diameter comet heading our way. As for encouraging an impending super-eruption to ‘let of steam’ by drilling a borehole, this would – as I have said before – have the same effect as sticking a drawing pin in an elephant’s bum; none at all.

775px-Sanfranciscoearthquake1906
San Francisco after 1906 earthquake. National Archives, College Park. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The bottom line is that while the human race may find itself, at some point in the future, in dire straits as a consequence of its own arrogance, aggression, or plain stupidity, this is by no means guaranteed. On the contrary, we can be 100 percent certain that at some point we will need to face the awful consequences of an exploding super-volcano or a chunk of rock barreling into our world that our telescopes have missed. Just because such events are very rare does not mean that we should not start thinking now about how we might prepare and cope with the aftermath. It does seem, however, that while it is OK to speculate at length upon the theoretical threat presented by robots and artificial intelligence, the global economic impact of the imminent quake beneath Tokyo, to cite one example of forthcoming catastrophe, is regarded as small beer.

Our apparent obsession with technological threats is also doing no favours in relation to how we view the coming climate cataclysm. While underpinned by humankind’s polluting activities, nature’s disruptive and detrimental response is driven largely by the atmosphere and the oceans, through increasingly wild weather, remorselessly-rising temperatures and climbing sea levels. With no sign of greenhouse gas emissions reducing and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere crossing the emblematic 400 parts per million mark in 2013, there seems little chance now of avoiding a 2°C global average temperature rise that will bring dangerous, all-pervasive climate change to us all.

Sakurajima, by kimon Berlin. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The hope is that we come to our collective senses and stop things getting much worse. But what if we don’t? A paper published last year in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, and written by lauded NASA climate scientist, James Hansen and colleagues, provides a terrifying picture of what out world will be be like if we burn all available fossil fuels. The global average temperature, which is currently a little under 15°C will more than double to around 30°C, transforming most of our planet into a wasteland too hot for humans to inhabit. If not an extinction level event as such, there would likely be few of us left to scrabble some sort of existence in this hothouse hell.

So, by all means carry on worrying about what happens if terrorists get hold of ‘the bomb’ or if robots turn on their masters, but always be aware that the only future global threats we can be certain of are those in nature’s armoury. Most of all, consider the fact that in relation to climate change, the greatest danger our world has ever faced, it is not terrorists or robots – or even experimental physicists – that are to blame, but ultimately, every one of us.

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18. Why are sex differences frequently overlooked in biomedical research?

By Katie L. Flanagan


Despite the huge body of evidence that males and females have very different immune systems and responses, few biomedical studies consider sex in their analyses. Sex refers to the intrinsic characteristics that distinguish males from females, whereas gender refers to the socially determined behaviour, roles, or activities that males and females adopt. Male and female immune systems are not the same leading to clear sexual dimorphism in response to infections and vaccination.

In 2010, Nature featured a series of articles aimed at raising awareness of the inherent sex bias in modern day biomedical research and, yet, little has changed since that time. They suggested journals and funders should insist on studies being conducted in both sexes, or that authors should state the sex of animals used in their studies, but, unfortunately, this was not widely adopted.

Even before birth, intrauterine differences begin to differentially shape male and female immune systems. The male intrauterine environment is more inflammatory than that of females, male fetuses produce more androgens and have higher IgE levels, all of which lead to sexual dimorphism before birth. Furthermore, male fetuses have been shown to undergo more epigenetic changes than females with decreased methylation of many immune response genes, probably due to physiological differences.

The X chromosome contains numerous immune response genes, while the Y chromosome encodes for a number of inflammatory pathway genes that can only be expressed in males. Females have two X chromosomes, one of which is inactivated, usually leading to expression of the wild type gene. X inactivation is incomplete or variable, which is thought to contribute to greater inflammatory responses among females. The immunological X and Y chromosome effects will begin to manifest in the womb leading to the sex differences in immunity from birth, which continue throughout life.

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate physiological processes, including cell growth, differentiation, metabolism and apoptosis. Males and females differ in their miRNA expression, even in embryonic stem cells, which is likely to contribute to sex differences in the prevalence, pathogenesis and outcome of infections and vaccination.

man woman

Females are born with higher oestriol concentrations than males, while males have more testosterone. Shortly after birth, male infants undergo a ‘mini-puberty’, characterised by a testosterone surge, which peaks at about 3 months of age, while the female effect is variable. Once puberty begins, the ovarian hormones such as oestrogen dominate in females, while testicular-derived androgens dominate in males. Many immune cells express sex hormone receptors, allowing the sex hormones to influence immunity. Very broadly, oestrogens are Th2 biasing and pro-inflammatory, whereas testosterone is Th1 skewing and immunosuppressive. Thus, sex steroids undoubtedly play a major role in sexual dimorphism in immunity throughout life.

Sex differences have been described for almost every commercially available vaccine in use. Females have higher antibody responses to certain vaccines, such as measles, hepatitis B, influenza and tetanus vaccines, while males have better antibody responses to yellow fever, pneumococcal polysaccharide, and meningococcal A and C vaccines. However, the data are conflicting with some studies showing sex effects, whereas other studies show none. Post-vaccination clinical attack rates also vary by sex with females suffering less influenza and males experiencing less pneumococcal disease after vaccination. Females suffer more adverse events to certain vaccines, such as oral polio vaccine and influenza vaccine, while males have more adverse events to other vaccines, such as yellow fever vaccine, suggesting the sex effect varies according to the vaccine given. The existing data hint at higher vaccine-related adverse events in infant males progressing to a female preponderance from adolescence, suggesting a hormonal effect, but this has not been confirmed.

If male and female immune systems behave in opposing directions then clearly analysing them together may well cause effects and responses to be cancelled out. Separate analysis by sex would detect effects that were not seen in the combined analysis. Furthermore, a dominant effect in one of the sexes might be wrongly attributed to both sexes. For drug and vaccine trials this could have serious implications.

Given the huge body of evidence that males and females are so different, why do most scientific studies fail to analyse by sex? Traditionally in science the sexes have been regarded as being equal and the main concern has been to recruit the same number of males and females into studies. Adult females are often not enrolled into drug and vaccine trials because of the potential interference of hormones of the menstrual cycle or risk of pregnancy; thus, most data come from trials conducted in males only. Similarly, the majority of animal studies are conducted in males, although many animal studies fail to disclose the sex of the animals used. Analysing data by sex adds the major disadvantage that sample sizes would need to double in order to have sufficient power to detect significant sex effects. This potentially means double the cost and double the time to conduct the study, in a time when research funding is limited and hard to obtain. Furthermore, since the funders don’t request analysis by sex, and the journals do not ask for it, it is not a major priority in today’s highly competitive research environment.

It is likely that we are missing important scientific information by not investigating more comprehensively how males and females differ in immunological and clinical trials. We are entering an era in which there is increasing discussion regarding personalised medicine. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to imagine that females and males might benefit differently from certain interventions such as vaccines, immunotherapies and drugs. The mindset of the scientific community needs to shift. I appeal to readers to take heed and start to turn the tide in the direction whereby analysis by sex becomes the norm for all immunological and clinical studies. The knowledge gained would be of huge scientific and clinical importance.

Dr Katie Flanagan leads the Infectious Diseases Service at Launceston General Hospital in Tasmania, and is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Department of Immunology at Monash University in Melbourne. She obtained a degree in Physiological Sciences from Oxford University in 1988, and her MBBS from the University of London in 1992. She is a UK and Australia accredited Infectious Diseases Physician. She did a PhD in malaria immunology based at Oxford University (1997 – 2000). She was previously Head of Infant Immunology Research at the MRC Laboratories in The Gambia from 2005-11 where she conducted multiple vaccine trials in neonates and infants.

Dr Katie Flanagan’s editorial, ‘Sexual dimorphism in biomedical research: a call to analyse by sex’, is published in the July issue of Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene publishes authoritative and impactful original, peer-reviewed articles and reviews on all aspects of tropical medicine.

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Image credit: Man and woman arm wrestling, © g_studio, via iStock Photo.

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19. Caring For Baby Birds.

It’s summer!
If you’ve maintained a wild bird backyard habitat throughout winter, you can continue through summer with added benefits. Providing food, water and shelter encourages birds to build a home and raise young when resources are plentiful. Fill a suet feeder with nesting supplies such as yarn threads, strands of hair, and broom bristles. Keep a part of your yard “natural” with a pile of leaves and pine needles, to offer a variety of supplies for birds to choose from. Keep your eyes out the window and take note to which birds make use of your materials.

Many birds will make their nest in close proximity to humans. Robins and mourning doves are known for making nests in shrubs, trees or on wooden ledges under decks. Swallows will build a nest from mud and attach it to the side of the house. Wrens love small bird houses and especially those that can safely swing in the breeze. Be on the lookout for neighborhood cats who like to lunch on unsuspecting baby birds. Snakes can also end the enjoyment of raising baby birds in your yard. I don’t recommend killing snakes as they also provide an important service in the ecosystem, but it’s never a good day, when a snake is found inside a nest box full of black-capped chickadees.     bird 1

In addition to prey, another hazard for baby birds is falling from the nest. If a baby bird found is very small and most likely dead, it has been pushed out by more aggressive siblings or from nest over load. If you find a baby bird that has feathers and can hop but cannot fly, it is most likely a fledgling, just learning to fly. Contrary to popular belief it is OK to pick up and replace the baby to its nest. Or, if it looks like the parents are attentive, leave it alone. If you cannot find the nest, place the bird in a tissue lined box in the same location in which it was found. Watch to see if the parents return to feed. Many do. If after a few hours you can’t be sure the parents are around, your best option is to take the baby to a local wildlife center. The people there will nurture the baby until it can survive on its own and usually return the bird to its original locale.           bird 2

Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge is in southern New Jersey and takes in wildlife of all varieties.
6 Sawmill Rd, Medford, NJ 08055
(856) 983-3329
http://www.cedarrun.org

Another note of caution, be careful of tree cutting in the spring and summer. Many nests have been dislocated when unsuspecting tree cutters take down a bird’s summer home.

Taking care of our feathered friends can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for young and old alike. Why not invite some birds into your backyard this summer?

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.

 


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20. Illustrator: Meg Hunt.

Meg Hunt is a fabulous illustrator and hand-letterer, although her aesthetic is informed by the printmaking process as well. In her own words, she’s inspired by “a sense of delight and the ability to tell stories.” She’s a self-described bookworm, nature buff, and former aspiring Muppeteer.

It’s obvious that Meg has a sincere love of nature and animals, a fondness acquired during childhood and one that flourished once she moved out west. A native of New London, CT, Meg attended the University of Connecticut and received a dual degree in printmaking and illustration. She’s mentioned that attending an interdisciplinary college aided in her own abilities to explore and play within her art–while there are obviously some pros and cons of attending state schools, I definitely agree with her sentiment on this. After finishing up college, Meg moved out to Phoenix, AZ for 4 years, then to settle in Portland, OR.

Meg turns to a variety of literature and comedic podcasts to help her draw out ideas. Her process shifts between analog and digital–she employs different physical tools such as watercolor paint, powdered graphite, mechanical pencils, wax pastels, and many more to add texture to her final compositions.

In addition to her work as a freelance illustrator, Meg has also taught at Portland State University and currently teaches Visual Techniques at Pacific Northwest College of Art. She is represented by Scott Hull Associates and her client list includes Nickelodeon Magazine, Junior Scholastic Magazine, Radiolab, Chronicle Books, and Threadless.

Follow along with Meg on her websiteblog, and Twitter.

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21. What's New? The Zoo! - a review

Krull, Kathleen. 2014. What's New? The Zoo!: A Zippy History of Zoos. New York: Scholastic.  Illustrated by Marcellus Hall.



What's New? The Zoo? is an illustrated overview of zoos that combines history with hard science and social science.  Kathleen Krull outlines the history of zoos, and offers insight into what compels us to keep animals, what we've learned from them, and what has changed in zoos since the founding of the first known zoo,

4,400 Years Ago, The Sumerian City of Ur, in Present-Day Iraq
The king of beasts lunges and roars.  The King of Ur roars right back, feeling like the ruler of all nature.  How delicious to wield his power over dangerous animals!  It's the world's first known zoo, and all we're sure about (from clay tablets in libraries) is that is has lions.
From this beginning, Krull highlights transitional moments in zoos throughout the ages and across the globe.  Just a few examples include:

  • Ancient Egypt and Rome where zoos were created to impress
  • Ancient China where the zoo was a contemplative and sacred place
  • Sweden where the science of zoology was established in 1735
  • The U.S. National Zoo where the concept of zoos protecting threatened species was introduced
  • South Africa's Kruger National Park where the protection of rhinos was so successful that rhinos were delivered to other zoos
  • Germany, 1907, where the "cageless zoo" concept is introduced
(Did you know that Aristotle wrote the first encyclopedia of animals?)

On most pages, humorous, watercolor illustrations nestle around paragraphs of simple font against white space.  Several pages, however (including one depiction of fifteen buffalo waiting for a train at Grand Central Station, 1907), are double-spreads with many amusing details.

The very talented Kathleen Krull never disappoints!  If you like your science accessible and entertaining, this is the book for you.

A SLJ interview with Kathleen Krull on the history of zoos.

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22. Boat is waaaaay over there, keep looking....

Pitter and Patter
Every month I look forward to June's inspirational word-of-the-month. July's word is BOAT. I don't really have an illustration of a boat that I care to post so you'll have to use your imagination a little. Imagine that there's a boat on the river but it's out of the frame, so you can't see it from here. And while you're imagining what sort of boat it is, why it's there, who's on the boat, please take a look at the dragonfly, otter and trout.

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23. What to Do on a Rainy July 4th: Watch a Hummingbird!

This female ruby-throated hummingbird has been perched on the feeder outside my window for some two hours. Unlike larger birds, such as finches, she doesn't care how close I get to the window in my bright red shirt, and is unfazed when I move the camera. Every few minutes she takes a drink or two from the feeder. I even saw her tongue!

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24. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic Video: When I was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode

[There is a video that cannot be displayed in this feed. Visit the blog entry to see the video.]

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25. August is for Readers

Animalogy by Marianne Berkes and illustrated by Cathy Morrison
August's theme is READING. Here's an image from Animalogy with a family reading by the campfire. This was my first book for Sylvan Dell Publishing, now Arbordale Publishing and I'm starting my eighth one now. And it's going to be another book by Marianne Berkes. Happy reading!

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