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21 posts from November 2012

November 29, 2012

Citizen Science: The Case of the Lost Ladybugs

LadybugCan you solve the mystery of the nine-spotted ladybug? Citizen scientists, here's your next challenge:

The Lost Ladybug Project

Sometimes, the "right" thing to do isn't clear. If you want to avoid pesticides, you should find alternatives. Ladybugs are popular, since they eat crop-sucking aphids by the dozen. But what happens when the ladybugs you use are an Asian ladybug species imported from Japan? And then, mysteriously, the native ladybugs start disappearing....

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November 28, 2012

Ask Mr. Green: Low-Cost Wind Power or Hot Air?

Mr. Green is Bob SchildgenHey Mr. Green,

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas noted one day last summer that out of 10,400 megawatts of its wind-power capacity, wind was only producing 37 megawatts. Wow! 10,400 mWs of wind construction to get just 37. How the hell do you guys expect to power the nation with no coal- or gas-fired power plants when wind is so expensive and unreliable? I don't know about you, but I like my power on all the time.  

—Andy in Texarkana, Arkansas

Hang on, podner. Nobody claims we’ll instantly get by without coal or gas. The Sierra Club’s goal is a bit more modest and realistic: retire a third of the coal plants by 2020. Besides, your knock on windmills relies on fudged numbers, because you’ve singled out an unusually calm day. If you’d picked, say, March 28, 2012 instead, you’d’ve noticed that wind power topped 7,900 megawatts that day24 percent of Texas’s total load. Already, 8 percent of the electricity generated in that massive state is from wind. Wind  power isn’t pricey, either. It costs about the same as electricity from new coal plants, averaging around $100 for your precious mWh, according to the Energy Information Administration. Iowa, for example, which gets almost 20 percent of its electricity from wind, enjoys a relatively low residential rate of less than 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. Even some nuclear-energy disciples have expressed surprise at the fast-dropping cost of wind power.

Continue reading "Ask Mr. Green: Low-Cost Wind Power or Hot Air?" »

Citizen Science: Project FeederWatch

Bird FeederBird lovers, this citizen science project is for you.

Project FeederWatch

How are our feathered friends? The Cornell Lab of Ornithology organizes a network of volunteers to monitor the numbers of birds that visit backyard feeders. For a small annual fee, volunteers get bird identification guides and data sheets, though they must provide their own feeders.

The data from Project FeederWatch is used in many scientific journals, tracking the populations and ranges of the most commonly seen backyard birds. The study runs each year from November to April, so get feeding and start watching!

To practice, can you identify the birds in the photos below?



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November 27, 2012

Citizen Science: How You Can Help Bees

SunflowerWant to help bees? Citizen scientists, we have a job for you. 

The Great Sunflower Project

For those with a fondness for the small and buzzy, the recent decline in honeybee populations is not breaking news. But a dearth of pollinators is everybody's beeswax, since about 1/3 of our food comes from bee-pollinated crops. Honeybees live both in commercial nests and in the wild, where they join hundreds of species of native bees in keeping wild and cultivated plants alive. With no bees, we'd be living in a much less colorful world.

To help track bee populations in urban, suburban, and rural areas, the Great Sunflower Project runs a Backyard Bee Count. They recommend bee-attracting flowers (such as sunflowers), offer bee identification guides, and provide instruction on how to observe and count the bees (both native and introduced) that visit during the blooming season. This provides a nation-wide count on how bees are faring in different environments, so we can learn how to better protect them.

How sweet is that?

Look below to see some of the plants that the Great Sunflower Project recommends for attracting bees.

Continue reading "Citizen Science: How You Can Help Bees" »

November 26, 2012

How To Be a Citizen Scientist: Nature's Notebook

Citizen ScientistHave you ever read a news story about scientists working to save the planet and wished that you could join them? Well, now you can, and you don't even need a Ph.D. Anyone can be a citizen scientist, helping researchers collect data for real studies all across the world. This week, we'll highlight four national citizen science projects. 

Project 1: Nature's Notebook

Phenology? What's that?

Phenology is the study of the timing of animal and plant life cycles. So for example, you expect geese to migrate in fall and cherry trees to bloom in spring. And today, when climate change is causing the cycles of many species to shift and change, phenology becomes important both as a sign of climate change and as a consequence.

Nature's Notebook is part of the National Phenology Network, a group that tracks the life cycles of many plants and animals throughout the country. Participants choose a site outdoors, mark plants, and look for animals and plants showing "phenophases," which are season-specific behaviors or developments (like laying eggs, dropping leaves, or flowering). The site provides a comprehensive list of plants and animals to observe, and printable and online data sheets.

So join up, if you have a spot you can observe in, and add to the store of knowledge that helps us figure out how climate change is affecting ecosystems.

To see which phenophases were happening this time last year, read the list below.

Continue reading "How To Be a Citizen Scientist: Nature's Notebook" »

November 19, 2012

Movie Review: Chasing Ice

Chasing Ice #2Chasing Ice is one of the most hauntingly beautiful, yet at the same time, socially disturbing films that you'll see this year. Brought to life by the same producer as The Cove, this documentary tells the story of climate change through the eyes, and lens, of photographer James Balog and a team of experts and interns who form the Extreme Ice Survey.

Watch as massive glaciers dissolve from the landscape, rivers of runoff slice through the arctic ice, and witness with your own eyes as the team catches the biggest calving event ever recorded. Combining both stunning visuals of glacial melt, alongside alarming statistics on the affects that global warming are having on the frigid landscape in Greenland, Alaska, Montana, and Iceland; this film will make even the harshest critic stand up and take notice of the drastic changes happening around us.

Aside from the visual aspects of the film, Balog's dedication to telling this story is truly inspiring. Toughing it out through multiple knee surgeries, even going as far as using crutches just to climb out and stay close to the action, shows a thirst for knowledge. To see that perseverance in Balog, and his crew, through personal and technical struggles, to share this story with the world is astounding. 

Continue reading "Movie Review: Chasing Ice" »

November 17, 2012

App Obsession: Commute Greener!

App Obsession Commute GreenerWhether you live in the spacious, outlying suburbs of Los Angeles or find yourself squeezed in between briefcases and sports coats during rush hour in Manhattan, there's no doubt that every one of us leaves some type of carbon footprint as we travel from home to work. Perhaps the most common is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the vehicles we drive and the taxis we take. The question is -- how much? We should definitely be conscious of the decisions we make during our commute and how it affects our planet. And with the Commute Greener! app, now we can. But smartphone users beware -- this app isn't only for vehicle or phone owners. Whether you utilize public transportation systems, walk, or ride your bike to and from work or school, this application, which is also available on the web, not only gives you an assessment of how green you are, but how you can continuously reduce your carbon footprint and encourage others to participate in the cause.

Ideal and convenient for spreading awareness about how our everyday decisions affect the earth, Commute Greener is a free application that you can download onto your phone as well as sign up for on the web. After creating an account complete with username and password, Commute Greener helps you track and reduce your carbon footprint in the following ways.

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November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipe: Turkey Soup

Turkey soupThere are always leftovers the day after Thanksgiving, and the best thing to do with all those veggies and turkey trimmings is to throw them into a pot and make some soup. It's simple, scrumptious, and freezable for later. 

Thanksgiving Turkey Soup


  • 3 small carrots
  • 2 small potatoes
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 8 cups turkey stock
  • 3 oz dried wide egg noodles (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cooked turkey
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper


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November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving Centerpiece: DIY Candle Holders

Pilgrim hat candlestick holdersIt can be hard to think of creative ways to decorate the table when you're preparing food all day long. These pilgrim-hat candlestick holders are a simple way to dress up the table, and they can be combined with any number of other items, such as flowers, pumpkins, leaves, or branches for a rustic-chic look. The best part is they can be reused for those Thanksgiving days when you've got too much on your plate. 

Centerpiece: Pilgrim-Hat Candle Holders

What you need: 

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November 14, 2012

Grand Canyon Trails Mapped by Google Cameras

Grand CanyonIt's safe to say that Google maps are pretty awesome. They give you directions from destination A to destination B; you can see your house through Google Street View; and this option also enables you to traverse parts of the world from the comfort of your own home or smart phone by offering 360 degree panoramic views of places such as the Swiss Alps or Atlantis Space Shuttle. But it doesn't stop there. While Google Street View has given us the privilege of seeing an array of amazing geography during all hours of the day, they've taken their street level views to another level: allowing us to see the nooks and crannies of the planet unavailable by car or plane. . . beginning with the Grand Canyon.

And why not? As one of the U.S.'s most popular landmarks to visit and see from around the world, the Grand Canyon's depth and mileage are both an awe to witness and explore. But while its trails offer exceptionally beautiful scenery, it is only available to those hikers treading the paths--ones that are typically accessible solely by foot. However, Google's Street View camera is giving us the opportunity to partake in those majestic views by mapping some of the Grand Canyon's most popular trails.

Continue reading "Grand Canyon Trails Mapped by Google Cameras" »

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