Earth Notes

Earth Notes
8:00 am
Wed February 18, 2015

Earth Notes: Seeding the Clouds

Credit National Center for Atmospheric Research

  For generations western farmers have worried about getting enough water from the sky to nourish their crops. Some have tried to do something about it.

A century ago farmers in places like the Great Plains and California hired specialists who claimed they could water the land by shooting explosives into the sky or by releasing secret mixtures of chemicals. Sometimes it did rain then. Sometimes it didn’t—in which case the would-be rainmakers typically left town fast.

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Earth Notes
1:44 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Earth Notes: The Love Song of the Sandhill Crane

Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  People in New Mexico pay close attention to the sky this time of year, watching and listening for flocks of sandhill cranes flying in graceful V-formation.

Each winter, ten to twenty thousand sandhills arrive, spending the days resting and feeding along the Rio Grande around Albuquerque and south. Others winter in southeastern Arizona.

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Earth Notes
8:00 am
Wed February 4, 2015

Earth Notes: All the Poop on Rarely Seen Animals

Credit Northern Arizona University

For wildlife biologists, animal droppings are like nuggets of gold, packed with what they value most: information. Rather than spending weeks lurking in bushes hoping to dart an elusive animal with a tranquilizer gun, setting traps, or trying to catch it in a net, researchers have become poop detectives.

Arizona wolf biologists have even used specially trained tracking dogs to sniff out the information left behind by these secretive animals.

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Earth Notes
9:17 am
Wed January 28, 2015

Earth Notes: Expanding Goblin Valley

Credit Utah State Parks

  Many visitors discover Goblin Valley by chance on their way between marquee national parks like Capitol Reef and Canyonlands. But this Utah state park received unwanted publicity in 2013 when two men were caught on video toppling rocks off the weirdly rounded hoodoos that give the park its name.

That act of vandalism spurred a big idea: why not expand the park? Goblin Valley currently consists of about 3,500 acres of outlandish geology. But that may soon grow to about 10,000 acres under a State Parks plan.

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Earth Notes
9:20 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Earth Notes: Winter’s Main Act

  No one is neutral about snow. Depending on whether we’re planning to play in it or drive in it, go shopping or skip school, we hope either that it’ll fall or that it won’t.

The higher elevations of the Colorado Plateau can get lots of snow, with more than 200 inches recorded in a single winter at many mountain locations.

Major winter storms can pose big problems for animals such as deer, elk, and pronghorn, which can be trapped by heavy snowfalls and driven to starvation. But for smaller animals snow can be a blessing.

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Earth Notes
3:11 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Earth Notes: Climb On!

Credit National Park Service

  “The most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth” is how author Edward Abbey described the colorful wilderness of gorges, mesas, and buttes that is Canyonlands National Park, one of the last relatively undisturbed parts of the Colorado Plateau. That landscape also represents a special place of emotional healing and rejuvenation for returned combat veteran Michael Cummings. Haunted by traumatic memories after two tours of duty in Iraq, Cummings was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, survivor’s guilt, alcohol abuse and thoughts of suicide.

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Earth Notes
10:03 am
Wed January 7, 2015

Earth Notes: Winter’s Merry Songster

Credit National Park Service

  When chill winter winds buffet the juniper trees and sigh among the boughs of the piñon pines, the merry song of the Townsend’s solitaire rings out as cheerfully as any spring lark’s. Is the Townsend’s solitaire simply a jolly fool, drunk with Yuletide cheer, or perhaps befuddled by the way climate change is threatening western forests?

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Earth Notes
9:59 am
Wed January 7, 2015

Earth Notes: Miss Eastwood, a pioneering lover of plants

Credit California Academy of Sciences

  In the late nineteenth century, it would have been a brave undertaking for a woman to tromp around the wilds of the Colorado Plateau. But that is what Alice Eastwood did, in long skirt and fine flowered hat, following her passion for plants.

Born in Canada in 1859, Eastwood grew up in Denver and was a high school teacher there for a time. Armed with field guides and a plant press, she spent vacations exploring all over the West. An energetic woman, she traveled by foot, horse, and rail, and eventually won welcome to an all-male hiking club.

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Earth Notes
10:33 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Earth Notes: Photographing Climate Change

The historical photo collection at Northern Arizona University’s Cline Library will be a key tool in answering a very modern question over the coming months. Dating back to the late 1800s, the images will be used like a visual time machine to reveal the effects of changing climate – and land management – on northern Arizona’s plant communities.

Principal investigator Professor Tom Whitham says that comparing historical and contemporary photos will allow us to literally see how vegetation has changed over time.

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Earth Notes
2:48 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Earth Notes: Nature’s Pesky Gardener

Credit National Park Service

  They’re an animal many gardeners love to hate, though they’re rarely seen. Ribbons of dirt strung across the ground, and sometimes disappearing plants, are the only sign most people will see of pocket gophers, rodents that themselves are very active gardeners.

The dirt trails are created as these small animals excavate underground tunnels where they live, store food, and bear young.

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