Cecile LeBlanc

Pam Koch/Project FeederWatch

Feeding wild birds in the backyard is an enjoyable hobby for many. But for Emma Greig it’s much more—it’s a way to keep tabs on what’s happening with bird populations across the country.

JJ Cadiz, Cajay

Each year barn swallows dart and swoop in summer skies to catch insects. But these flashy blue and orange aerialists aren’t on the hunt for only food. As is true with our own species, barn swallows use athletics and appearance to show off to the opposite sex.

With their distinctive forked tails, barn swallows are widespread. On multiple continents they build mud cup nests under bridges and in barns and other human structures. But their choice of mates varies from place to place.

Cecline LeBlanc

How do you start a garden? That’s a lesson students at the West Sedona Elementary School have recently learned. And they learned it so well that they received a 2011 Youth Garden Award from the National Gardening Association.

Promotheus Solar

Flagstaff’s Southside Murdoch Community Center is about to get solar panels installed on its roof. That’s not innovative—but the way the panels are being paid for is. Thanks to 87 small-scale investors and a company named Solar Mosaic, the center will enjoy long-term energy savings without big upfront costs.

Solar Mosaic focuses on financing clean energy projects with help from what it calls the “power of the crowd.” So far the company has funded five solar projects in California and Arizona. 

Many parts of the Colorado Plateau are covered with distinctive soil crusts. Scientists are learning more about how they aid ecosystems—especially by providing good places for plants to grow.

Soil crusts rely on tiny organisms called cyanobacteria that are good at colonizing bare soil. In cold regions, frost heaving can give a dark, pinnacled appearance to soil covered with cyanobacteria. And that complicated micro-topography is key to what comes next.


Each year an average of 250 people are rescued from inside Grand Canyon. Many of them are hikers unprepared for the substantial temperature difference between the top of the rim and inside the canyon. Hikers can be surprised as they start with pleasant 70-degree temperatures at the top and approach a dangerous 100 degrees, or more, near the river.

Now the National Weather Service is working to address that gap in perceptions. With help from the Park Service, it installed two weather stations inside the Canyon: one at Indian Garden Campground, the other at Phantom Ranch.