Earth Notes

Earth Notes
5:06 pm
Wed November 4, 2009

Earth Notes - Gambel Oak

Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Gambel Oak

In the 1840s, a young ornithologist named William Gambel traveled to the Southwest with noted naturalist Thomas Nuttall. Sadly, Gambel's promising career ended early; he died of typhoid fever in 1849. But his memory lives on in a tree that bears his name.

A common species, Gambel oak covers nine million acres across the West. On the Colorado Plateau, this deciduous oak forms the green understory in the ponderosa pine forest. It's also found in canyons like namesake Oak Creek.

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Earth Notes
2:17 pm
Wed October 28, 2009

Earth Notes - Steam Heat

Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Steam Heat

Energy efficiency is in the news today, but it's not really new. For decades, buildings in one southwestern city were heated by plentiful, locally produced energy. The source was steam from a local utility, the Flagstaff Electric Light Company.

Sawdust, wood chips, and other waste wood from a local lumber mill fed the company's electrical boilers. For many years the steam had just gone up the stack, until someone thought to put it to good use.

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Earth Notes
1:54 pm
Thu October 15, 2009

Earth Notes - Lichens

Lichen on a ponderosa pine branch

Flagstaff, AZ – Earthnotes: Lichens


In the woods and around town, crusty growths cling to bare rocks, hang from tree branches, and hug the ground. Painted in shades of dusty green, sulfur yellow, and pumpkin orange, these subtle organisms are lichens, hardy colonizers of some of the harshest environments on Earth.

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Earth Notes
9:36 am
Wed October 7, 2009

Earth Notes - Pine Needles

Flagstaff, AZ – We all learned in elementary school that evergreen trees don't lose their leaves. Most conifers, including majestic ponderosa pines, are evergreens. By staying green all year long, these trees can photosynthesize anytime conditions are good. They don't have to spend valuable energy adding leaves once the weather warms.

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Earth Notes
8:31 am
Wed September 30, 2009

Earth Notes - Parks

Buffalo Park on McMillan Mesa in Flagstaff

Flagstaff, AZ – Earthnotes: Parks

Look closely at a detailed map of a southwestern forest, and you'll see numerous places labeled as "parks" or "prairies." They're openings in the woods, from the size of a baseball field to miles in extent, where the soil is generally too wet or too dry to support trees.

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Earth Notes
1:52 pm
Wed September 23, 2009

Earth Notes - Just Bad Luck?

Flagstaff, AZ – Earthnotes: Just Bad Luck?


Everyone knows you're supposed to take "nothing but pictures" at National Parks. But some visitors can't resist a souvenir. Some of them end up regretting it.

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Earth Notes
9:29 pm
Tue September 15, 2009

Earth Notes - Daylight Savings TIme

Flagstaff, AZ – The 1960s were a time of conflict. Among the decade's lesser-known controversies was one that took place in Arizona, where Daylight Saving Time was designated for the first and only time in 1967.

The idea wasn't new. Ben Franklin was an early proponent of adjusting clocks for long summer days so that evenings have more daylight and mornings less. Various U.S. states and cities tried out Daylight Saving Time beginning in World War One.

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Earth Notes
10:01 am
Wed September 9, 2009

Earth Notes - Natural Nutrition

A desert mesquite tree.

Flagstaff, AZ – It's tough, spare, and spiny, but the common mesquite tree is a nutritional wonder.

Ripening in summer, the dangling seedpods of mesquite trees are an important food source for humans and animals. They're rich in sugar and protein, as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. During the Ice Age, camels and mastodon ate them. Today, deer, foxes, coyotes, and even packrats do.

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Earth Notes
3:22 pm
Wed September 2, 2009

Earth Notes - Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold out in the field.

Flagstaff, AZ – One hundred years ago, a 22-year-old tenderfoot and new graduate of the Yale Forestry School arrived in eastern Arizona. He came by wagon from the railhead in Holbrook. His job? To serve as assistant forester of the new Apache National Forest in the White Mountains. His name? Aldo Leopold.

On his trusty horse, Jiminy Hicks, Leopold rode for two summers through the verdant high-country forests. He learned quickly from the Southwest's places and people, and was soon promoted to supervisor of New Mexico's Carson National Forest.

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Earth Notes
4:49 pm
Wed August 26, 2009

Earth Notes - Puye Cliffs

Puye Cliffs in New Mexico.

Flagstaff, AZ – For more than three centuries, the Puye Cliffs of northern New Mexico were home to hundreds of people ancestors of the present-day residents of Santa Clara pueblo. The soft volcanic rock of the cliffs was easily carved into rooms, handholds, and ledges, while the mesa above provided flat, fortified ground for buildings and gardens.

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