Gleanings of the Week Ending June 29, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Porcupines | National Geographic – I was disappointed that they didn’t include more pictures of the North American Porcupine. I’ve never seen one in the wild.

BBC - Future - How to build something that lasts 10,000 years – Specifically – this post is about building a clock that will last for 10,000 years…in West Texas!

Researchers uncover indoor pollution hazards -- ScienceDaily – Some surprises: pollutants change with temperature inside the house….and time of day makes a difference. Formaldehyde seems to be particularly prevalent. These studies are scary for existing homes. We need work on mitigations that homeowners can implement…and new construction that reduces the source of pollutants.

Infographic: Immunity Isn't the Body's Only Defense System | The Scientist Magazine® - Symbiotic bacteria, metabolism and pathogen mutation examples overlay the immunity strategy. As we learn more, we realize that the human body is more complex that we realized.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Blue – National Geographic Society Newsroom – So many blue birds!

Tortoises rule on Aldabra Atoll – Tortoises making their way through the huts where people bunked! The tortoises sleep with head and legs stretched out…no predators to fear on the inhospitable atoll.

Past climate change pushed birds from the northern hemisphere to the tropics -- ScienceDaily – Thought provoking. I wondered if some of the birds that now migrate from North America to Central or South America for the winter….will not go as far or will shift their range northward.  I suppose it would work if their food sources shifted and the birds followed the food. The synchrony of plants blooming and seeds ripening….of horseshoe crabs laying eggs…all while birds are migrating or getting ready to produce young; it’s not a simple system.

Making STEM Education More Welcoming to Underrepresented Minorities | The Scientist Magazine® - Education doesn’t happen in a vacuum that has well defined boundaries. We must do more than just academic support…I’m glad there is more research and conversation on how to move forward in tangible ways to make STEM education and careers more open to everyone.

An Ancient Asteroid Crater May Be Hiding Off Scotland’s Coast | Smart News | Smithsonian – Some recent work that points to a crater of a asteroid from 1.2 billion years ago.

Three Studies Track People's Microbiomes Through Health and Disease | The Scientist Magazine® - Interesting…but they could just be expensive association studies (a quote from the end of the paper). At some point, maybe the findings will lead to something that benefits the patient.

Gleanings of the Week Ending January 12, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

I have a growing list of gleanings from sites that are not operational because of the partial government shutdown; they’ll come out in the list for the Saturday after the sites are operational again.

Climate, life and the movement of continents: New connections -- ScienceDaily – Sediment, which often includes pieces of dead organisms, may create a lubricating effect between plates, accelerating subduction and increasing plate velocity!

BBC - Future - Six reasons your memory is stranger than you think – Timelines are hard (many times inaccurate) from memory…I’m glad I keep a running list of important family travel and events.

Regenerative Cities: An Urban Concept Whose Time Has Come! | CleanTechnica – Re-thinking what cities of the future could be.

Scientists call for eight steps to increase soil carbon for climate action and food security: International coordination and financing essential -- ScienceDaily – Big benefits…but hard to come by the collective push to obtain them.

Earthquake Damage Detected in Machu Picchu - Archaeology Magazine – Evidence of an AD 1450 earthquake that damaged Machu Picchu is seen in cracks and stone damage of the buildings. The Inca’s modified their construction techniques after the event too.

Shrinking of Utah National Monument May Threaten Bee Biodiversity | Smart News | Smithsonian – Grand Staircase-Escalante is home to 660 bee species, 84 of which live outside of protected land under changes. At a time when we know pollinators are under stress…one more reason why our Federal lands are needed as refuges from human activities that damage the environment.

Scientists Don't Stay for Long in Their Jobs Anymore: Study | The Scientist Magazine® - About half of scientists who enter a scientific discipline drop out after 5 years; in the 1960s, it was 35 years. We are probably training more people in science fields but many don’t stay in academia. This study used publishing records to determine if a person stayed ‘in the discipline.’ I’d prefer to see numbers of people that had careers in a STEM related field rather than just the one they trained in and find another metric than published papers to make the determination. There are a lot more jobs today where people use their science training that do not use ‘publication’ as a measure of success.

BBC - Future - Can we cheat ageing? – Some areas of active research to help us stay healthy longer (may or may not help us live longer).

Corn Domestication May Have Taken Thousands of Years - Archaeology Magazine – It all started 9,000 years ago in southern Mexico. The process continued in Mexico and the southwestern Amazon for several thousand years. It was a slow process.

Ring in the New Year With Dazzling Total Lunar Eclipse of a Supermoon | Smart News | Smithsonian – Hope we have good weather on January 20-21….since it should be visible from our house!

Belmont Hikes with Summer Campers V

The theme for last week’s summer campers at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont location was STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Math). I decided to a pick some STEM related activities that were more like field work than actual hikes.


As usual there were two groups of about 15 each. The first group was the younger one; some of that group were just getting ready for kindergarten. I started out by handing a ruler to each camper.

We started by using the rulers to measure samples I’d brought in a bin (a stick and tulip poplar seedling were popular) and parts of the nearby barn. We did quick tutorials for campers that had not used a ruler before. One student measured one of the tiles – discovering that it was the same across and up/down (i.e. a square). Six campers collaborated to measure the lentil over a low window of the barn (5 feet 4 inches)! Most of the time we tried to measure in centimeters although we used both sides of the ruler.

I started a log of everything we measured on a pad of paper and clipboard.

We measured most of what we encountered on our hike including flowers, several feathers, grass, pine needles and cones, a fake rock (used to cover equipment), holly leaves and berries, a stump and and some very colorful mushrooms.

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The second group campers were a little older – up to 12 years old. First, we talked about examples of science new sources (like Science Daily). I used an article about the discovery of moths roosting in hollow trees in Florida as an example. Then I showed them the information about the moth in the Maryland Biodiversity Project site…the way I knew the moth lived in Maryland as well as Florida. And we all knew there was a hollow tree nearby.


I had two small flashlights and we started out.

We didn’t find any moths but there were a lot of spider webs in the hollow tree. There was something there that kept the spiders well fed! We found a dead cicada nearby in the grass and examined it closely before we started out next activity.

The second activity with the group was to determine the height of a tree using a piece of paper and a tape measure. The technique worked but after using it for 2 trees we decided a 25 feet long tape measure for measuring trees over 125 feet tall was too painful (we measured a tulip poplar and white pine)…and it was too hot for more field work. We headed back to the air conditioning and lunch.

It was the last day of summer camp at Belmont. These STEM themed hikes were a good finale for us all. Everyone is getting ready for school to start…and the training sessions for field trip volunteers start too.

Gleanings of the Week Ending August 11, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Chemists characterize the fatal fungus among us -- ScienceDailyAspergillus fumigatus is deadly to people with compromised immune systems. It affects more than 200,000 people annually including 25% of all leukemia patients – killing half of them. Understanding more about the organism may enable better screening and treatment.

 Learning from ‘little monsters’ -- ScienceDaily – Research on macroinvertabrates. Since I volunteer for field trips with schools to streams and rivers to sample these critters – I read anything that comes up in ScienceDaily about them.

How Rising Seas Could Threaten the Internet - Yale E360 – Within the next 15 years, 4,67 miles of fiber conduit and 1,101 notes in the US are expected to be underwater. New York, Miami and Seattle will be the most effected. -- Visualizing the Impact of Humanity | CleanTechnica – Three very short videos…about earth’s temperature over the past 137 years, the more recent time sequence of wind turbine installation in Europe and solar installations in the US.

Pic for Today – Point and Shoot Photographer -  Nature photography with a point and shoot camera. I subscribed so I get the picture and short description with my news feeds every day.

Allergy clinic finds large percentage of anaphylaxis cases from tick bite meat allergy: Increased awareness, more available testing led to 33 percent of cases identified as alpha gal allergy -- ScienceDaily – Wow! This is not good. Lyme Disease is serious but not anaphylaxis serious. We’re going to have get even better at avoiding tick bites.

AGU and AAS: Working Together to Expand the Understanding of Exoplanets - From the Prow - AGU Blogosphere – There seem to be more areas where we are acknowledging that interdisciplinary approaches are needed. The old lines of specialty can be limiting.

Hollow trees host massive moth slumber parties -- ScienceDaily –black idia moths in Florida are found in roosting in hollow trees during the day (they are active at night like most moths). The post didn’t identify the species but there are black idia moths in Maryland. I am going to start looking more carefully in hollow trees when I’m hiking although it’s already close to the end of the season.

Great Fall-Blooming Plants for Pollinators - The National Wildlife Federation Blog – The fall-blooming plants are not just for bees…they help the butterflies too!

Free Technology for Teachers: Take a Look at Microsoft’s Free Hands-on STEM Lesson Plans and Projects – I am going to take a look at these…see if there are any that could be easily incorporated into field trip conversations this fall.

Gleanings of the Week Ending August 26, 2017

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week #101 and #102 – 50 bird pictures this week! My favorite in the first group is the barn owl (and the other owls in this group). My favorite in the second group are the two pictures of spotted owlets! --- I am drawn to owls this week for some reason.

Voyager: Inside the world’s greatest space mission – The two Voyager space craft were launched in 1977…and are both sending back messages to earth.

Trees with ‘crown shyness’ mysteriously avoid touching each other – I haven’t observed this phenomenon in our Maryland forests…but now when I am in a forest, I’ll always look for it!

Time Spent – Who Americans spend their time with (from Richard Watson’s blog). It changes with age. The last chart shows that as we get older we spend more and more time alone.

Air pollutions ranking in 32 cities –  LA ranks 24; Washington DC, San Francisco and New York are 26-28; Boston is 31. Delhi, Beijing, and Cairo are the top three.

Trees and shrubs offer new food crops to diversity the farm – Ongoing research from the University of Illinois trying to mimic the habitat features, carbon storage, and nutrient-holding capacities of a natural system with a farming method that incorporates berry and nut bearing shrubs/trees with alley cropping (hay or row crops)….to be economically and environmentally sound.

AWEA releases map of every wind farm and factory in America – There is a link to the interactive map. The red diamonds are manufactures and the blue dots are the wind farms themselves. It’s easy to see that manufactures happens a lot in areas other than where the wind farms are located….that the center of the country has a lot of installed wind turbines! We saw some of them in Iowa on our way to and from the solar eclipse last Monday.

Diversity Lacking in US Academia: Study – Under-representation of African Americans, Hispanics, and women in STEM faculties at public universities. There is a similar lack of diversity in PhD programs. On a positive note: the assistant professor is more diverse (more Asians, Hispanics and women) that the associate or full professor rank.  Unfortunately, this positive finding is not true for African Americans. Overall – still a challenge….and it impacts the broader labor market as well.

More than 300,000 Atlantic Salmon Spill into Pacific – Oh no! Hopefully this is not catastrophic in the long run. But – Why are they growing Atlantic salmon in pens in Puget Sound anyway?

Thanks to Co-op, Small Iowa Town Goes Big on Solar – Kalona, Iowa – not far from our route to the eclipse! It comes down to local self-reliance and economic development that made sense for this small town. Somehow a pointer to this article (from last February) was in a blog post I looked at when I returned home and I noticed where the town was…small world.