Get Out and Count: The Great Backyard Bird Count of 2018

2018 has been designated “The Year of the Bird”, and beginning today, Friday, February 16, 2018, bird lovers around the world will grab their binoculars, fill their bird feeders, update their eBird app, and look toward the skies. The 21st Annual Great Backyard Bird Count, one of the largest and longest running citizen science projects, begins today, and you can be part of this grand event of data collection.

All it takes is a mobile device (or computer) to log your results, an account at gbbc.birdcount.org , and 15 minutes of your time during the four-day event.

Can’t tell a red-tailed hawk from a red-winged black bird? That’s okay. The GBBC web site provides a handy online bird guide.  The web site also provides a guide for tricky bird IDs, including: Which Red Finch is it, Identifying Some Common Sparrows, and Identifying Doves.

I recently spent some time talking to Brian Schneider, one of the educators at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center in Monona, WI, to get some tips for first-time birders. Continue reading

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: Foam Coolers

12447811_IMG_3195Life science enzymes, cells and reagents are often temperature sensitive, and you need products that arrive cold and ready to work. This means that packaging often requires dry ice, gel ice and foam coolers—challenges for maintaining a small carbon footprint and environmentally responsible shipping and packaging program.

In the last few years, we have moved to unbleached shipping boxes, started using sustainably harvested materials and biodegradable and recyclable air pouches to offer product protection while minimizing negative environmental impact. Continue reading

Don’t Wear Your Retro Polyester Pantsuit into the Ecuadorian Rainforest (or a new player in the bioremediation of plastics)

Mindo Cloud Forest, Ecuador

Plastics are really cool. They keep you from having slippery glass shampoo bottles in the shower that can drop and break. They have allowed us to get rid of glass thermoses from student’s lunches. They are lightweight, making shipping and packaging of goods cheaper and lighter, and often, safer. The plastics industry, according to the Plastics Industry Trade Association Website, is the third largest manufacturing industry in the United States employing nearly 900 thousand workers (1). So there are many positives associated with the development, manufacture and use of plastics.

And, one more thing about plastics: They are durable. Perhaps too durable.

Plastics just won’t go away. We throw them away of course, but they cascade out of our landfills, onto our seashores, and into our oceans (2). Unfortunately approximately one-third of all plastic produced is single-use and only 15% of the plastic produced across the globe is recycled (3). This long life, single-use production, and lack of recycling combined with an increase in plastics production from 1.5 million tons in 1950 to 230 million tons in 2010 (4), makes plastic pollution a monumental problem.

Scientists have been working on creative ways to attack the plastics pollution problem. Continue reading

Ooooh, Fishy, Fish! Please Land on My Dish

Yes, I am a Monty Python fan and I like to play the “Find the Fish” video on YouTube when I need some midday amusement. However, this video brings up the topic of eating less red meat and enjoying more fish on my dish. My husband and I are trying to curb our beef-eating activities by diversifying the protein sources in our diet. We have recently adopted some dining rituals that include Friday Fish Fry (leaning more toward broiling, even though it’s hard to resist a traditional Wisconsin fish fry) and Meatless Mondays for vegetarian fare. One reason for doing this is to hopefully find more sustainable approaches to supporting a healthy diet.

So I was intrigued to learn more about fish farming (aquaculture) at sea when I read Sarah Simpson’s article in the February 2011 issue of Scientific American titled “The Blue Food Revolution”. Sustainability has become more important in many of the buying choices I have made lately, especially after learning that our global population will reach 7 billion in 2011 and is expected to grow to 9.3 billion by 2050. Yikes! How do we provide high-quality protein and nutrition to so many people? Continue reading

Walking in an Autumn Wonderland

leavesA recent paper in the Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. by Delmotte et al. gives me countless new worlds to contemplate as I stroll along the walking paths on crisp Wisconsin autumn days. Continue reading

A Discussion about Sustainability at the International BioEthics Forum

Leaf image What does sustainability mean? Is it composting your vegetable scraps and yard waste, and capturing rain water? Is it community-based action on policies dealing with land and water use? Is it educating our children about ecology and the connectedness of all flora and fauna in our biosphere? Is it bringing together religious leaders, scientists, nonprofit organizations, business leaders, educators, students and the public on a discussion of sustainability? On April 23 and 24, the 8th Annual International BioEthics Forum on Sustainability did just that, hosting a diverse group of people from many different perspectives to answer the question “what does sustainability mean?” Continue reading

Top 10 Reasons Not to Plant a Tree

10. You have no space on your property available to plant one.

9. You do not want to call your local extension agent to ask about the strange insects swarming the tree and stripping it of leaves in the middle of summer.

8. You had the composition of the “dirt” on your property analyzed Continue reading

Bioethics Forum: Sustainability

Everytime we enter a grocery store we are offered the chance to buy reusable, environmentally responsible grocery bags. “Go Green” is an oft quoted phrase, and almost every business in every industry is touting its “green” initiatives.

The 8th Annual International Bioethics Forum in Madison, WI, takes on the topic of sustainability. Continue reading