A plant with alternate fern-like leaves widely spaced along a stem topped by a cluster of tube-like yellow flowers.
A plant with alternate fern-like leaves widely spaced along a stem topped by a cluster of tube-like yellow flowers.
Furbish’s lousewort is found only along the banks of the Saint John River in Maine and Canada. USFWS

On more than six million acres in Maine and Canada, J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI), manages a diverse forested landscape that produces timber for construction, wood chips for glossy newspaper inserts, and wood pellets for fuel. It also supports a majority of the habitat for Furbish’s lousewort.

The company counts this rare plant, which is only known from the banks of the Saint John River, among its natural assets.

“It’s an honor really,” said Kelly Honeyman, Irving’s chief naturalist. “What other forestry company can say they protect more than half of the habitat for an entire species?”

A species with national distinction, no less. The Furbish’s lousewort was one of the first plants listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1978. Now four decades later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to change the species’ status from endangered to threatened. …

Emily Dziedzic started to think about a career in conservation science in her late 20s. But with a degree in art history, she knew it would be a long path.

A woman working in a labratory
A woman working in a labratory
Team co-lead Emily Dziedzic, who studies wildlife genetics at Oregon State University, was motivated by white-nose syndrome to pursue a career in conservation.

Ultimately, white-nose syndrome convinced her it was the path she had to take. First detected in upstate New York in 2006, the disease has now spread to 35 U.S. states and seven Canadian provinces, devastating populations of hibernating bats along the way.

“I had to complete years of undergraduate coursework first, but when I started working towards graduate school, it was specifically because I wanted to do something to help combat the fungus that causes white nose,” said Dziedzic, now a master’s student at Oregon State University focusing on wildlife genetics. …

December. The holidays are upon us. Last year’s New Year’s resolutions are buried beneath the pile of books you didn’t read. You’re having those recurring dreams about sugarplums again. And that reindeer you heard prancing on the roof last night? Actually a squirrel making a nest in the chimney.

Sometimes “the most wonderful time of year” can be a little overwhelming. Get ready to feel jolly: We can help you tackle your holiday shopping and get a jumpstart on a happy New Year with our guide to gifts that help support fish, wildlife and their habitats. …

Think cranberry bog, and you probably picture farmers waist deep in water, corralling herds of floating crimson berries destined to adorn a Thanksgiving turkey or tofurkey somewhere. Or quite possibly both.

Farmers in waders stand waist deep in a flooded cranberry bog, surrounded by red berries
Farmers in waders stand waist deep in a flooded cranberry bog, surrounded by red berries
Cranberry harvest in New Jersey. Keith Weller, USDA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

But when cranberry farmers decide to hang up their waders for good, the picture of a bog starts to change. Fields engineered to be flooded seasonally turn into shrubby wetlands. Rare bladderworts and bog asphodel appear among the cranberry plants. Pine Barrens tree frogs breed in pools of water once dotted with floating berries.

For land managers, the new picture looks like a conservation opportunity.

“By taking advantage of leftovers from the cranberry industry to retain open wetlands, we can support a greater diversity of plants of animals,” said Emile DeVito, Manager of Science and Stewardship for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “If you do nothing, these old bogs turn into a mixed hardwood swamp, mostly red maple and gum,” he explained. “There’s nothing wrong with red maple swamps, but we have a lot of them already.” …

When miners dug into rich deposits of graphite and iron ore in New York’s Adirondacks region in the 19th century, they carved out a place in history — providing the raw materials that shaped the nation and world in the industrial age.

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The entrance to an abandoned mine, gated off to protect hibernation space for bats. Lyme Adirondack Forest Company

But they also left something behind: enormous underground cavities that have become the setting for an important chapter in our natural history. Today’s stewards of these mines — and the forests around them — may help determine how that story ends.

When miners left, bats moved in.

“It happened pretty quickly,” said Carl Herzog, a wildlife biologist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “We have evidence of bats inhabiting mines within a decade of their closing.” …

If after participating in the Denkyem River Guardians program at Philadelphia’s Bartram’s Garden, a public garden on the banks of the Schuylkill River, a student sets out to become an environmental scientist or a recreational paddling guide, more power to them.

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Student interns in the Denkyem River Guardians program at Bartram’s Garden — a 2020 Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund grant recipient — surrounded by rowboats built by Philadelphia middle schoolers. In the summer, the interns help to operate a free community boating program, assisting visitors with orientation, safety, and comfort on the water. Photo by Joanne Douglas

But Aseel Rasheed explained that the vision for the program is bigger than that. “What’s more important is that students develop an understanding of their own relationship to water — how it impacts them, how they impact it,” said Rasheed, who is the Public Programs Director for the garden.

“Those ideas are relevant whatever work you do — to your health, your family’s health, your environment.” …

From an overlook along the Fort River Birding and Nature Trail in Hadley, Massachusetts, you can see a turning point in Andy French’s career — a saddle in the Holyoke Mountain Range called “the Notch.”

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A pull off along the universally accessible Fort River Birding and Nature Trail in Hadley, Massachusetts, offers a view of the Notch in the Holyoke mountain range, a turning point in Andy French’s career. USFWS

“In 1979, when I was 21 years old and infallible, I was driving my motorcycle too fast on my way back from South Hadley at 2:30 in the morning,” recalled French, who is the manager of Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge today, but was a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst at the time.

“Back when Route 116 was just about a hairpin at the Notch, I ran out of road on the left-hand side, went airborne, and took down the sign telling people coming from the other direction that a turn in the road was coming.” …

Tents the size of football fields decorated with lights, garlands, and Alpine scenery. Thousands of people elbow to elbow eating giant pretzels, Bratwurst, and Steckerlfisch. Hours of non-stop music, dancing, and entertainment. A sea of lederhosen and dirndls. And most importantly, beer. Lots of beer.

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Nothing says fall like pumpkins, foliage, festive beers, and snails. Emlyn Clark/Snailblazers

Alas, the annual Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany — started in 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Crownprince Ludwig to Princess Therese, and continued for two centuries (and counting) to celebrate Bavarian culture — has been cancelled this year. As have Oktoberfest-inspired events across the world, perhaps even at a brewery near you.

While you can’t have beer in giant tents with thousands of other people this fall, you can still have beer. In fact, you can have beer that makes you feel better about all the cancelled festivities. Not just because it triggers that happy feeling in your brain — because it helps the planet. …

For a long time, people thought of the Christina as Delaware’s “forgotten river.” Those who thought of it all, that is.

“Most people who live in this part of northern Delaware probably see it on a daily basis, but don’t even notice it,” said Jen Adkins, of the Christina Conservancy. “I-95 goes right alongside it.”

It lacked the mystique of its tributaries, the iconic upper Brandywine and the “wild and scenic” White Clay. In the wake of the industrial era, its banks were left highly developed, and highly contaminated.

Now after decades of work by numerous organizations to clean up and redevelop the riverfront, the Christina River is at a turning point. …

Birds calling, insects buzzing, water flowing, the dulcet patter of rain falling on dense vegetation — this is what home sounds like for the water monitor lizard, a large reptile native to low-elevation streams in the coastal rainforests of the Philippines.

A long black lizard’s tail sticks out of a cavity in the back of a speaker, where it was hidden.
A long black lizard’s tail sticks out of a cavity in the back of a speaker, where it was hidden.
The tail of a monitor lizard sticking out of the red-and-white-striped sock, stuffed in a cavity in the back of a speaker. USFWS

Over the course of multiple days in transit hidden inside speakers and subwoofers — devices meant to enhance sound — dozens of juvenile water monitor lizards smuggled into the United States in 2016 were surrounded by unfamiliar noises: tense voices, doors opening and closing, engines running, the deafening roar of a jet during the 16-hour flight, and at times perhaps, an unnatural silence. …


Bridget Macdonald

Always looking for a good science angle.

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