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Posts Tagged ‘steve curwood’

The humble horseshoe crab is a reminder of prehistoric times. Public Radio International’s Living on Earth recently devoted a segment to this curious character.

From the transcript of the show …

Steve Curwood: “For healthy oceans, it’s not enough to protect just the top of the food chain – the cod or halibut or swordfish we eat. The bottom of the food chain is vital too. That could be the plankton or the tiny forage fish eaten by many species – or it could be the extraordinary prehistoric-looking horseshoe crab.

“These helmet-shaped arthropods have been around for millions of years, and up and down the east coast of the US, volunteers come out to count them as the females come ashore to spawn. On Cape Cod, as Karen Zusi reports, scientists and volunteers are tagging and labeling the crabs to help conserve them.”

Karen Zusi: “There are a lot of reasons why someone might appreciate the lowly horseshoe crab. Eel and conch fishermen use them as bait, and medical companies draw blood from the animals. Horseshoe crab blood will clot in the presence of bacteria, so these companies can use the crab’s blood to make sure vaccines and medical implants are free of germs. Their blood is worth sixty thousand dollars a gallon.

“But horseshoe crab populations are dropping. To preserve them, scientists and volunteers on Cape Cod are wading into the water to count and tag the animals.

“Special labels help them keep track [says] Mark Faherty, the science coordinator at Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary. …

“The Massachusetts Audubon Society just recruited graduate student Michael Long to lead their newest horseshoe crab study. With researchers from the University of Massachusetts, he will be tagging the crabs this summer with a telemetry [label], glued onto the crab’s shell.”

Faherty: “My acoustic study is going to be putting on acoustic receivers out in the bay, and acoustic markers on the crabs. The receivers have about a 600-meter detection radius so anytime a crab that’s marked with an acoustic receiver comes within 600 meters of that receiver, it will mark where it is. So based on where each crab pings, you can kind of track its movements around the bay.”

Zusi: “None of this would be possible without the Audubon Society’s volunteers. They come from all walks of life.

“At an Audubon horseshoe crab conference, Long organizes new volunteers to help him count horseshoe crabs on the beach, and Faherty trains them in the basic survey procedures. …

“Once they got down to business, the volunteers were trained to divide the beach into small sections, count the horseshoe crabs, and record all of their information. The volunteers go out to survey when female crabs are coming to lay their eggs in the sand. Males follow to fertilize the eggs after they’re laid.”

Faherty: “The male crabs you quickly learn to recognize because they’re by themselves. They will mate with a model, if you make a model of a horseshoe crab — the males will congregate around it. They’ll spawn. They’ll spawn with your boot. These are just hormonally-charged animals that are ready to mate with anything. Females are not lonely for long in the horseshoe crab world.”

More here on the effort to study and protect horseshoe crabs.

Photo: Peter Massas, Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
A horseshoe crab floats by the shore on Union Beach in New Jersey. The species is listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

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Radio show Living on Earth did a segment in February on new technology to store and release solar heat. Here is host Steve Curwood on his outing to MIT to learn about the breakthrough.

“A team of researchers at MIT has come up with a chemical that would let windshield glass directly store solar energy and then release it on demand as heat to melt the ice. … The same chemical could be woven into clothing fibers to capture the sun’s energy and then give you some added warmth when you ask for it, even days later.

“I paid a visit to the lab where the MIT team has been working on this breakthrough and met up with researchers David Zhitomirsky and Eugene Cho, who work in the lab of professor Jeffrey Grossman.”

To Curwood’s question about the difference between the familiar electrical, battery-enabled solar technology and the MIT lab’s chemical version, Zhitomirsky replies,”We use these molecules that can absorb UV light and instead of generating charges, what they do is that they change shape, and by changing shape, they can store chemical energy …

“CURWOOD: OK, so sunlight hits this molecule, it changes shape and can storage its energy. And how do you get the energy out?

“ZHITOMIRSKY: So you can figure the material in several ways. One way is to add a small amount of heat, and the material will release more heat than you add in. The other methods are triggering it with light or you can apply an electrical field to the material. …

“The way we envision using it is to integrate into fibers that you then make clothing out of.” More here.

Release solar heat from my coat in a blizzard? Where do I sign up?

Photo: Helen Palmer
Living on Earth host Steve Curwood, right, in the MIT lab with Eugene Cho and David Zhitomirsky.

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I’m hearing more and more these days about “good bacteria,” including in a song by singer-composer Will McMillan on the friendly bacteria we humans carry around.

Now, it seems, bacteria found in soil may help to save amphibians from dangerous fungal epidemics. Public Radio International’s environmental news program, Living on Earth, has the story.

“Around the world, fungal diseases have been killing millions of frogs and bats and snakes. And a newly emerging disease in salamanders in Europe is scaring biologists here, so the US Fish and Wildlife Service has introduced a ban on their import to try to protect amphibians in the US.

“But now scientists see some hope in soil bacteria that get onto the salamanders and frogs and apparently protect them. Doug Woodhams is an assistant professor of biology at UMass Boston, who’s been working with amphibians in Panama – and he explained what his team has found to Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer.

“WOODHAMS: Some of the amphibians have beneficial bacteria that live on their skin and these have antifungal properties.

“PALMER: This is kind of like having good bacteria in your gut, for instance, that stop you from getting sick. … Is there any evidence that  good bacteria actually work against devastating funguses?

“WOODHAMS: Yeah, there’s quite a bit of evidence. Many of the bacteria that we can culture from some amphibian species are able to inhibit the fungus in culture. We also have some population-level data that shows populations that tend to have these antifungal bacteria can persist with Bd in the environment and survive. …

“Bd is the chytrid fungus that’s been spreading around the world and devastating amphibian populations. So salamanders, frogs, toads. Populations that tend to have more of these beneficial bacteria seem to be surviving, and populations that don’t have as many of the individuals that have these bacteria seem to disappear. …

“The next thing we want to try is adding some of these bacteria, not just to petri dishes, but to soil and see if infected amphibians can be cleared of their infection by being housed on soil that’s been inoculated with these bacteria. …

“There are other fungal pathogens, so it could be something that you could apply in a cave that could reduce White-nosed syndrome [in bats]. Also, rattlesnakes have been recently affected by fungal disease during hibernation, so it could be applied into a rattlesnake den.”

More on the science here.

Photo: Matt Becker
The Appalachian Mountains are home to this Cow Knob Salamander, Plethodon punctatus, from George Washington National Forest, Virginia.

 

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As a coffee drinker and a fan of Dean’s Beans (whose mission is “to use high-quality specialty coffee as a vehicle for progressive change throughout the coffeelands of Asia, Africa and the Americas”), I was interested to come upon a Living on Earth radio story about the wider sustainable-coffee movement.

Steve Curwood is host of the Public Radio International show.

“CURWOOD: A cup of joe might help sustain your energy, but it may not be so sustainable for the Earth. Just 12 percent of coffee is sold under the label ‘sustainably grown.’ A new initiative called the Sustainable Coffee Challenge aims to change the way the coffee industry operates to the benefit of the Earth. Peter Seligmann is chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Conservation International. … So tell me about the sustainable coffee challenge that CI has just formed. Why did you zero in on coffee as a target for sustainability?

“SELIGMANN: Well, we started working on coffee about 15 years ago with Starbucks, and after 15 years we’ve been able to announce with Starbucks that 99 percent of all their coffee is certifiably sustainably harvested and produced. Which means that as their company has grown they have not cut a single tree, and hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests have been set aside as Starbucks has expanded its coffee business. That inspired us to think, is it possible to make coffee the first agricultural commodity that is completely and 100 percent sustainably produced. …

“The dark side of coffee growing is that coffee that is not produced under the shade of forest, [is] produced by clear-cutting forests and planting coffee. And when you clear-cut a forest, you destroy the biodiversity, you put emissions — CO2 emissions — in the atmosphere, you lose soil, and you do industrial agriculture, which maximizes pesticides and chemicals and reduces the benefits to society.

“CURWOOD: So, what’s the obstacle to growing coffee sustainably?

“SELIGMANN: It’s convincing the producers that this is in their enlightened self-interest. To go from non-sustainable coffee to sustainable coffee requires an investment of money and it requires time. Most of these growers, farmers actually work in co-ops, and the challenge is getting the co-ops to agree that this is the transition they want to make from non-sustainable to sustainable and what’s going to motivate them is there being a buyer for the coffee they grow. And so it gets back to the consumer, and the consumer says it’s what we want.” Read on.

Photo: Martin Diepeveen, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Coffee beans are the pits inside the fruit or “cherry” of the coffee plant.

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The radio show Living on Earth recently reported how negotiations among environmental activists, the timber industry, indigenous people, and the British Columbia government protected 85 percent of a huge Canadian forest.

“Eighty-five percent of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia is now protected … Steve Curwood discusses [the compromise] with reporter Andrew MacLeod of the magazine The Tyee, who explains what’s been protected and what’s open for logging.

MACLEOD: “It’s an area of 6.5 million hectares between the top end of Vancouver Island and the Alaska Panhandle. So it’s an area, about the size of Ireland, and it’s quite remote. There are only about 1,400 people who live there. So much of it has never been logged. This is usually described as the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world, a very lush, mossy, moist year-round ecosystem. … We’re talking trees that five or six people put their arms around. Some of these cedars can be in 20 feet in diameter …

CURWOOD: “Tell me what is the [forest’s] Spirit bear?

MCLEOD: “They are a subspecies of black bear. They are a genetic variant that comes out white, so it’s a white black bear. There are also Grizzly bears there, there are whales, wolves, and just a relatively pristine ecosystem up there.

CURWOOD: “And who calls them Spirit bears? …

MACLEOD: “My understanding is that it goes back through the First Nations, there have always been these genetic variant bears there and they’re seen as special.”

When Curwood asks why the timber industry agreed to the negotiation, MacLeod explains that the campaign to protect the forest helped to avoid extended confrontation.

“Lots of First Nations people will tell you they’ve been on the land for thousands and thousands and thousands of years and it’s been sustainable, it’s been healthy, that it’s really only last 150 years of colonialism where you’ve seen clear-cuts and destruction and species driven to extinction. On the other hand, there are lots of people from First Nations who are working in the logging industry today as well. Over time, First Nations have sort of reestablished their rights. There have been some precedent-setting cases just in the last few years that have recognized aboriginal title does exist.” More here.

Of possible interest: Read how Wabanaki diplomacy smoothed a similar negotiation process in Maine, here.

Photo:  Elsen Poulsen/Animals Asia, Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0
A white Spirit bear fishing

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Last month, Steve Curwood of the radio show Living on Earth covered a special conference on climate change.

“Curwood: A coalition of 80 leading Islamic clerics, scholars and officials meeting in Istanbul has issued a declaration on climate change, ‘calling on all nations and peoples to phase out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.’ …

“Islamic nations, including wealthy oil-producing states, are taking action on global warming, says Wael Hmaidan. He’s director of Climate Action Network International, one of the conference organizers and joins us now from Istanbul. …

“Hmaidan: I was really happily surprised by how rigorous the Koran and the Islamic teachings on the environment and the care for the planet. It’s a core function of Islam to care for the planet. It’s a responsibility. … It talks about the delicate balance that all the creatures have on Earth and it’s the responsibility of humans to protect this balance.

“It also talks actually about how humankind should not think that they are more important than other creatures. It talks about the role of all creatures and the need of respect, this diversity in the planet. So all of these kinds of proverbs from the Koran and the Islamic teachings, as well as stories about Prophet Mohammed’s life and his care for the environment clearly [makes] environmental care and climate change key issue for an Islamic teaching. And hearing strong statements saying that it is forbidden not to phase out greenhouse gas emissions coming from Islamic scholars is something very inspiring, even for climate activists. …

“There’s an agreement to establish an informal group … that will follow up on all the ideas that came out from the conference. And the ideas are varied, some of them are high-level, like I mentioned going to the UN agencies, to governments, but also the representatives of the organizations that attended want to create action plans in their communities of influence, to bring the declaration. … We need to transform all mosques to renewable energy, and so on. So a lot of ideas, and they’ve created this platform Muslims for Climate to continue the dialogue.”

More here.

Photo: Islamic Relief
Mohamed Ashmawey, CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide and one of the Climate Change Symposium organizers addresses attendees.

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Over at radio show Living on Earth, “Steve Curwood spoke with farmer and author Audrey Levatino, who has written Woman Powered Farm: Manual for a Self-Sufficient Lifestyle from Homestead to Field. …

“CURWOOD: Why did you decide to write a book about farming specifically for women?

“LEVATINO: Well, women were coming up to me at the farmers’ market and asking about what I did and were very interested. Many of them wanted to know how to get into farming and growing things themselves, and so they wanted advice and instructions on how to get started. …

“CURWOOD: Audrey, what do women farm more typically as opposed to men?

“LEVATINO: That’s a great question, and that’s another thing that I really investigated when I was writing the book. And many women get into this farming business. It starts off as just wanting to provide the best and healthiest, most local food that they can for their families. So women are growing a lot of different things, but in many cases it is healthy, delicious, seasonal food. They know exactly where it came from, so that their children and their husbands and their neighbors can have the best food possible.

“But the other thing that I discovered as I got further into my research and interviewed lots of women farmers in my area and around the country is women are just amazingly creative: they grow herbs and other medicinal plants to make cheese, salves and tinctures. Women also tend to farm — when they do livestock — smaller animals. You know, things that are a little more manageable. And sometimes it’s for fiber — sheep and llamas and alpacas — other times it’s for milk, such as using goats to make cheese.” More here.

Audrey’s farm, Ted’s Last Stand, is located near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Photo: Michael Levatino
Audrey Levatino grows specialty cut flowers and sells them at local farmers’ markets to florists and restaurants, and for weddings.

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