Saturday, April 30, 2011


During Earth Week a few weeks ago, there was a shoe drive on campus. Fifty shoes were collected during the week.
The program comes from Nike Shoe, and since 1990 they have globally collected over 25,056,779 pairs of shoes. They have collected so many shoes that you could "create a chain of athletic shoes that goes all the way around the world more than five times"! By collecting all of these old shoes and putting them to use in other ways, there is a decrease in the amount of virgin rubber and other materials. The recycled shoes can be used to build new courts (such as tennis and basketball), tracks, fields, and playgrounds. Nike's next goal is to be able to recycle sports shoes, apparel, and equipment back into new Nike products.
Their US facility that recycles the shoes is located in Memphis, Tennessee. They use a "slice-and-grind" process which separates the shoe into three parts: rubber outsole, foam midsole, and fiber uppers. The three pieces are fed through grinders and then purified. The shoes rubber outsole is used in playground surfaces, track surfaces, interlocking gym flooring tiles, and even some new Nike products. In addition, the rubber is also used in trim for things like buttons and zipper pulls. The foam comes from the midsole of the shoe and is used as a cushion for outdoor basketball and tennis courts. The upper part of the shoe, the fiber, is used for cushioning pads for things like wood courts and indoor synthetic courts. These are all just examples of uses. There are many other uses that I have not covered.
So you may be asking yourself, how do I recycled these shoes so I can help make an impact? Well there are over 300 locations in the US that have bins available for drop offs. Here in Ohio, you can take your old shoes to Aurora, Jeffersonville, or Monroe. Or you can even organize a group shoe drive for your school, youth organization, or nonprofit organization. Any brand of athletic shoes can be recycled along with LIVESTRONG bracelets. They cannot accept cleats, dress shoes, shoes with metal, sandals, other type of wristbands, and flip-flops (however, check Old Navy out for their recycled flip-flop program).
For more information and a quick video, check out

Friday, April 29, 2011

Your Environment

The EPA has online pages for kids of all ages. For the younger kids there is an online section for the kids. It is the "environmental kids club". This club contains activities and games that are all educational. There are games, wordsearches, funny videos, and quizes. All provide information about things such as recycling, water, and climate change. The club also provides links to science fair project ideas and an art room.
My personal favorite is the Lose Your Excuse game. It is slightly like some of the older video games. You must use stop the excuses that are being said by jumping on to different platforms and avoiding the bad guys who are wasting materials. There are 25 levels but I had a hard time making it past level 3 :(
The EPA offers a page for teens that has games, but more importantly it offers information about careers with the EPA and links to summer internships. In addition, there is a page for teachers that has great idea for presenting the topic to their students, examples to show, and fun activities as a hand on project.
So check out and try out your excuse stopping moves. Can you make it passed level 3?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Environmental Education for Kids

Environmental Education for Kids! (EEK!) is an organization dedicated to educating children in grades 4-8 about the environment. The site offers a variety of information. Animal information includes amphibians, birds, fish, insects, mammals, reptiles and endangered species. The site also discusses invasive species, seasonal animals and habitats. They offer a guide for children on spring plants showing children how to identify each species. There's even a page that teaches kids how to garden and what plants are best to start growing in what areas. The Earth is a big topic on the site. They discuss issues regarding the worlds water supply, air pollution and recycling. They offer "cool stuff" that features outdoor events and activities, a calendar with important environmental days, daily videos and rainy day games. It even gets into potential careers for young children who love science. There's also a teachers corner which has information and lesson plan ideas for teachers to discuss with their students.
I see this website being a useful tool for kids to get information about environmental issues. The website presents information in a way conducive for children to understand. I could see this website being part of an 'online search' where kids are given a worksheet and find the answers by looking around the website. It's very informative and complete with information. Having the information on a webpage also appeals to how people get their information. Society has begun the transition from a paper society to an electronic society. Where we once got all our information from the newspaper, most people now get information from the television or from the internet. Kids are now growing up with electronics all around them and they learn to use them from an early age. Using the internet as a media outlet is an effective way to get the attention of children and possibly spark their interest about environmental facts.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Buying Smart

Environmental sustainability seems like an overwhelming tasks, but it doesn't have to be! Future Friendly, a program through the consumer production company Procter & Gamble, was established to help consumers save energy, conserve water, and reduce waste. Their website lays out very easy and attainable ways to help create more sustainable consumerism and smarter shoppers. Future Friendly believes that "by taking small steps together with our consumers, we believe that we can create big benefits for the plant and ultimately improve lives every day, now and for generations to come".

Water is an important resource needed by all people, animals, and plants to survive. It is also been mentioned by many scientists that it will be the scarcest and hardest to get natural resource in the near future. Future Friendly suggests simple ways to reduce the amount of water we use in our homes each day. Their first suggestion is to only run the dishwasher when full. Another idea was to turn off the tap when washing your face, brushing your teeth, or shaving or switching off the shower while you lather. As a production company, Future Friendly suggests using Cascade Action packs with allow you to not pre-wash dishes which can save up to 2,600 gallons of water per year.

Reduction of the amount of energy used is another way Future Friendly is trying to help their consumers. They suggest not warming your car up and just driving as soon as you turn it on because modern engines do not need warming up. Another suggestion that I'm sure many of us can use is not plugging your cell phone in to charge at night because they only need a few hours to charge. Finally, they suggest that you give your computer a rest by turning it off at night to conserve energy The products they suggest to help reduce energy needs is Tide Coldwater and Duracell Rechargeable batteries. Tide Coldwater saves up to 80% of energy costs per washer load.

A final aim for Future Friendly is recycling waste at home. They suggest buying non-perishables in bulk to cut down on unnecessary packaging. Once you are finished with old furniture, they suggest donating it to a local furniture recyclers in order to save it from a landfill. Finally, when mowing your lawn, they suggest leaving the clippings on the grass to help fed the grass underneath. Future Friendly suggests PUR water filters to help save over $600 from buying water bottles and over 1,000 water bottles from going to a landfill.

Finally, the Future Friendly mission is to "reduce waste, water, and carbon dioxide through systematic conservation efforts when creating products...Since 2002 P&G operations have reduced, per unit of production, water consumption by 52 percent, energy usage by 48 percent, carbon dioxide emissions by 52 percent, and waste disposal by 53 percent.

Effective Science Communication

One of the most important aspects of environmental education is effective communication to the public. In the case of global warming and evolution, science has proven time and time again that these things are occurring and yet the public still does not believe it's true. What is the issue and where is the information being lost? In his book Don't be Such a Scientist, Randy Olson pin points the issue as being ineffective communication between scientists and the public. One of his biggest and most important points in the book in regards to environmental education and communicating science is how are scientists going to motivate people?

The first chapter of his book is titled "Don't be so Cerebral". In this chapter he challenges scientists and those who communicate science for a living to break out of their science training and become more public oriented. As scientists, we need to learn how to phase out confusing jargon and put complex topics into easier terms and concepts in order for our message to reach a greater audience. In order to do this he says that scientists need to get out of of the pattern of only using their heads and start using more of their heart, gut, and sex organs. By using their heart scientists can be sincere in their presentation of information, by using their gut scientists can relay information with humor an intuition, and finally through the use of sex appeal scientists will more effectively catch people's attention.

In the third chapter of his book, "Don't be Such a Poor Storyteller", Olson describes the importance of a storytelling. He describes an arousal and fulfill method where a storyteller should peak people's interest and then fulfill their desire to learn more exciting information. Without this effective story model, the message will not be effective. If people aren't aroused they will never get engaged with the message and if people aren't aroused they will walk away from a story unsatisfied. An effective story should also have a clear beginning, climax, and end. The three part story makes it easy for people to follow and since storytelling is how we communicate, it is important for scientists to also follow this model.

Likability is also important in portraying information. Olson directed a public service announcement for a non-profit called Shifting Baselines which supports awareness of disappearing diversity from our oceans. The PSA was a compilation of 20 comic celebrities in a bad ocean symphony with Jack Black as their director. Over 300 TV stations played the short clip for free and when asked why, they said it was because they liked it. This one example shows how important likability is for portraying science to the public.

Effective environmental education can be achieved through effective communication, good storytelling, and likability!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Teaching Kids about the Environment

On National Green Day a team from Rematerialise (who produces sustainable eco-friendly products as mentioned in my previous post) went to Dove House School to teach the students about sustainable materials. The team wanted to increase their outreach from industries to education.

The students (most of which are autistic) were asked to bring in any of the common items that they recycle such as plastic bags, containers, aluminum cans, jars, newspaper, etc. The Rematerialise team then showed the children what they could do with those "trash" items. An example was making a bar stool completely out of recycled aluminum cans. The team also brought along their own supplies, including BioViron Materials, which can quickly dissolve in water (within 24 hours) and leave no harmful toxins. From this they let the students create masks and hats. When the kids were tired with their new creations they could dissolve them in water rather than throw them away. This creates the idea that recycling is fun and that there are other more environmentally beneficial ways to dispose of things rather than just throwing it out. The event was such a success and had a great influence on the kids that the school has invited the team back for the next year.

Another source says that to have effective environmental education there are five steps that must be followed.

1. Programs must be learner-orientated, meaning that people develop personal meaning through the experience and that the program is age-appropriate.

2. Programs have to promote wonder in that individuals gain curiosity and pursue these feelings. This will lead to an appreciation for the environment.

3. Programs should relate directly to the individual's life and culture (ex: local awareness) so that they feel more encouraged to get involved.

4. Programs must be action-orientated where they're hands-on and address real problems. This builds confidence and hope in the learner.

5. Programs should focus on the bigger connection between people and their actions so that everyone feels like they have a role and can make a difference.

Catalogue of Sustainable Resources

Jakki Dehn has created and released Rematerialise, a catalogue that has taken 17 years to create. Rematerialise contains more than 1,200 eco-friendly products for contruction industry uses that have come from more than 15 countries. Rematerialise will make its debut at EcoBuild, which is the world's largest event for showing sustainable industrial materials. The materials are open for people to come and touch and interact with. This is beneficial because usually one would not be able to see the materials until they were already ordered and delivered.

What all do these materials entail? The products of Rematerialise come from recycled materials, resources that are abundant and easy to grow, and from resources that are rarely used and often overlooked. Some examples of these products include insulation that is made from mushrooms. The insulation was only an inch thick but when one's hand was put on one side and a blowtorch on the other, the person could not feel any heat through the material. There are also countertops made from recycled glass from cars and building sites. These countertops are comparable to the highly appeasing granite. Some other used materials include coffee grounds, currency, mobile phones, aeroplane windscreens, and fibers from banana plant stems. Creative, right?

Sustainable material manufacturers and producers can submit their ideas to the program for consideration. If the ideas are liked then they might become available in the Rematerialise library.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

CCC: Cryogenic Carbon Capture

Cryogenic carbon capture, patent pending, is used to capture CO2 from the emissions being produced by power plants. The gases produced by these power plants is filtered so that a nearly pure stream of CO2 can be separated from the rest of the emissions. This method could possibly be one of the cheaper ways of removing CO2 from power plant emissions and capturing this harmful compound.

This method does not require the building of a new facility for treatment of the gases. The emissions produced by the power plant can be processed on site and do not have to be transferred to a new cleaning facility. This can cut down on costs involved in building an off-site filtering and cleaning facility and can therefore be more cost effective than other techniques.

This technique can also separate other contaminants of the emissions being produced as well. Contaminants such as SO2, NO4, and mercury can be condensed out of the emissions during the process of condensing the CO2. The cooling of the CO2 can also be used to cool the new emissions as they pass through the processing chamber.

This can save on energy costs because the energy from CO2 capture can be harvested and used to continue the process of removing CO2 and other contaminants from the plant's emissions. Because of the multi-faceted benefits of this process, such as removing more than one pollutant and self-cooling mechanisms, this is one of the more promising sustainable solutions to pollutant removal from power plant emissions.

Cryogenic Carbon Capture Status
Sustainable Energy Solutions

Effective Environmental Education

It has become very important for people of higher education to be effective at educating others and providing them with useful information about their surroundings. One of the biggest challenges that educators face is how to effectively get their points across and to illustrate why what they are teaching is important. Environmental education is of great importance and there needs to be ways to effectively educate people about the environmental concerns that can affect them on a daily basis.

Many people are hands-on, visual types of learners. Being one of these types of learners myself, I can speak from experience when I say that it is much easier for some people to grasp concepts when they are able to see what is being taught and are able to interact with the instructor. Outdoor education can be used for these types of learners to effectively educate about environmental issues in a specific area. Showing the people what is actually going on instead of just telling them can have a greater impact on whether they care or whether they will remember the information you present them with.

When choosing how to educate people about the environment, it is important for educators to keep in mind their intended audience. If they are trying to educate young children, it would be important to include things that will keep their attention for a longer period of time and to bring the information down to a level in which they will understand what the educator is trying to get across. If the intended audience is higher level scholars, the important information that will hit home for them will be a completely different set of statistics and illustrations than when dealing with the smaller children.

Another important aspect of environmental education is that it must provide ways that the students can make a difference. If they are learning about all the environmental issues of an area, more likely than not, they will seek ways that they can make a difference and can become a positive influence on protecting the environment. If there is no "moral of the story" or "plan of action" that people can take away from the experience, they really have not learned very much. Environmental communication and education is very important and can be very effective if used correctly. Hopefully one day the environmental education programs will make a difference in many peoples lives and change can come about.

For more information: Elements of Effective Environmental Education Programs

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Public Environmental Education

There are several ways to increase environmental awareness and education in our communities. These ways include environmental rights (responsibilities and consequences), media usage, awareness campaigns, teaching environmental issues in the classroom, increasing awareness in target groups and the encouragement of public participation. Many sectors of society are involved in developing and delivering educational courses and campaigns. Theses include national, regional and local government bodies, domestic and international organizations, school systems, media and even celebrities.

The Media can be a powerful ally when trying to educate the public. In today's society, our primary source of information comes from computers, televisions or other electronic devices. If we can get these organizations to work alongside the media, they can educate those delivering the news through briefings. They can then inform the public about the situation. Other countries have had success utilizing the media to publicize environmental conferences and and public awareness campaigns. Information centers available to the public can also help to educate journalists with basic environmental information on a specific topic. These information centers should have recently published information like press releases, have a public library with many environmental sources and contain information on actively debated issues.

Community leaders have a very influential role in the community. The education of these community leaders can help organizations implement environmental procedures. When putting together a campaign for a specific area one must take into consideration several things. The campaign must be in the local language, it must be in a form that appeals to the people (posters, radio, TV) and it must contain a clear message in plain language so the general population can understand it.

Other approaches used to increase awareness include sustainable environmental education, information centers, environmental raffles and environmental holidays. Environmental raffles can be used to educate the public while raising funds for the organizations.

To summarize, public environmental awareness and education can be increased by the following actions:

- Generating public awareness and environmental education, particularly among targeted groups, about relevant laws and regulations and about their rights, interests, duties and responsibilities, as well as about the social, environmental and economic consequences of non-compliance
- Promoting responsible action in the community through the media by involving key public players (government officials)
- Organizing campaigns for fostering environmental awareness among communities, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and industrial and trade associations
- Inclusion of awareness and environmental educational programmes in schools and other educational establishments as part of education
- Organizing campaigns for increasing environmental awareness and environmental educational programs
- Organizing campaigns for encouraging public involvement in monitoring of compliance.

The United Nations Environment Program

Monday, April 11, 2011

Native Plants Can Also Benefit From The Invasive Ones

A pollinating insect on a Carpobrotus affine acinaciformis flowerhead.

Using empirical tests, a pioneering study shows how plant species, such as the prickly pear, invade Mediterranean ecosystems, and can either rob the native plants of pollinating insects, or, surprisingly, can attract them, thus benefiting the whole plant community, such as in the case of balsam. The research contradicts the hypothesis of the “floral market” whereby only the invasive flowers are seen to benefit and the native flowers are no longer visited by pollinating insects.
Biological invasions (species transported by humans outside their region of origin to other regions where these species become established and expand) are one of the major causes of the loss of biodiversity. The plants fight for nutrients, space and light, and for pollinating insects.
An article about this subject has been published in the “Oecología” [Oecology] journal by scientists at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB), [the Autonomous University, Barcelona], the Biological Station, Donana, CSIC [the Spanish National Research Council] and the Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (IMEDEA) [Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies]. According to the research, the existence of invasive plants in invaded sites can increase visits from insects to the majority of native plants. In this way the “floral market” hypothesis in which only the invasive flowers are seen to benefit and the native flowers are no longer visited by insects is contradicted.
Ignasi Bartomeus, a researcher at the UAB, and the main author of the study, points out some important details to SINC: “the invasions do not follow a single pattern: for this reason it is necessary to understand the mechanisms and structure whereby the native species compete”.
The two invasive plants under study, Opuntia stricata – a type of prickly pear – and Carpobrotus affine acinaciformis – also called Sally-my-handsome or balsam – have more eye-catching flowers and are richer in pollen that the rest of the native plants and receive many more insect visits that the latter.
The study reveals that the invasive plants play a central role in the plant pollination network. This is because during the period of the study, Opuntia stricta received 30.9% of insect visits, compared to 43.4% for Carpobrotus affine acinaciformis.
The scientists discovered that the more resources there are in the plant community, the more pollinators will be attracted towards all of the plants, although it is still not known whether the impact on the seeds of the native plant is positive or not. This is the case for Carpobrotus, which can impact upon the pollination of the native plants.
The researchers observed 23 pollinating insects for Carpobrotus and 17 for Opuntia. Compared to the native plants, the two invasive plants have a different impact. In the first case, there was no insect that was an exclusive pollinator, whereas in the second case, the carpenter bee (Xylocopa violacea) was an exclusive pollinator. “The Opuntia flowers monopolise the market, attracting all the pollinating insects in the area to their flowers, whereas the Carpobrotus attracts more pollinating insects to the area, but all the plants are seen to benefit”, Bartomeus points out.
The study concludes that Carpobrotus can improve the reproduction of the native plants whereas Opuntia reduces it. Bartomeus confirms to SINC that “the presence of the invasive plants can alter the structure of the plant community, and it is difficult to predict the long-term effects of this.”

Bartomeus I., Vila M., Santamaría L. Contrasting effects of invasive plants in plant-pollinator networks. Oecologia 155(4): 761-770 ABR 2008. doi: 10.1007/s00442-007-0946-1

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Invasive Species Battle

In New England the European crab (Carcinus maenas) and the Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus) are two invasive species that are causing a lot of harm... to each other. Ecologists had first expected to see that the two species would cause double the harm to the area and its organisms but really they are cancelling each other out.

The European crab came to New England by ship in the 1800s, ate through the American soft-shell clam industry, and spread rapidly into Canada and the southeastern United States. The Asian shore crab came over from Asia by ship in the 1980s. It was attracted to the same rocky holes and habitats as the European crab but it mostly fed on algae.

Upon being studied, the crabs do not do much harm to native plant and animal species. Most of the focus is on each other. The Asian shore crab would often drive the European crab from its rocky homes. Also, when the Asian shore crab was in the presence of the European crab, this caused the European crab to eat less shellfish and less food overall. The European crab's population grew slowly due to the bullying from the Asian shore crab but it is known to often get its revenge because the European crab was sometimes observed feasting on the Asian shore crab.

From this information, ecologists have drawn the conclusion that when there are two similar invasives living in one area, they often mutually attack one another. This information can better help conservationalists control invasive species. Previously a species may have purposely been introduced to kill the invasive but now it is known that if there is an invasive that a species that needs the same habitat and food as the invasive should be introduced. This creates competition and keeps either species from harming natives.


Nation's Smallest Seahorse

The Dwarf Seahorse is exclusively found in the Bahamas and the gulf regions of the US. Its natural habitat is subtidal aquatic beds, and is primarily endangered due to habitat loss. These tiny seahorses were initially experiencing a population decrease due to overcollection for aquariums. The Dwarf Seahorse population began to drastically decline after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The oil caused the decline of seagrass which let to a decline in the seahorse population. Its population was on the decline before the BP oil spill due to oil pollution and dispersants used to break up oil. Both these are toxic to seahorses and seagrass, their habitat.

Florida has lost more than 50% of its seagrass since 1950. Substantial loss has also been seen in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and the Bahamas. In addition to declining seagrass population, the seahorses are threated by poor water quality, damage from boat propellers, shrimp trawlers and global climate change.

Seahorses are very unique creatures because it is the males that carry the eggs. Researchers express concerns that chemical dispersants may have adverse effects on reproduction cycles due to the disruption of hormones. The solution most experts believe is to stop using seagrass beds as buffer zones and start protecting them.

Every 1 in 6 Threatened in Europe

Nearly one in six (15%) of every animal species in Europe is threatened for extinction. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) carried out the assessment of all European mammals. Besides that every 1 of 6 are threatened for extinction, it was found that more than a quarter of all populations are declining. Of Europe's marine mammals, 22% are classified as threatened by extinction. Also, 13% of all European birds are threatened with extinction. These numbers are likely to be higher because 44% of all species were classified as "data deficient" which means that all of the necessary data could not be collected. Of those threatened species, the Iberian Lynx and the Mediterranean Monk Seal are at the top of the list as critically endangered, both of which reside in Europe. The Arctic Fox and European mink are also a concern, along with the other two critically endangered species. Only 8%, although better than no percent, of all of the mammals were observed to be on an increasing trend in population numbers. The European Bison is one that has come back from the brink of extinction, with its last members saved in zoos and then re-introduced into their environments.

Along with many other areas of the world the main cause for the decline in population numbers is because of habitat loss and destruction, whether it be deforestation or wetland drainage. The second largest cause is pollution and the third is from over-harvesting. For marine species, the biggest cause of population loss is because of pollution and accidents (ship collisions). Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said that Europe needs to decrease the level of biodiversity loss and create better methods for protecting their threatened and endangered species, along with all of their species overall.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Save the Amphibians!

In the past 30 years, there have been major reductions in the amphibian populations around the world. These reductions have been due to viruses and other pathogens, climate change, and habitat destruction. Habitat destruction has been one of the most significant sources of declines in amphibian populations but pathogens are steadily becoming more evident as a major cause of these declines. One of the big pathogenic amphibian killers has been a fungal skin disease called chytridiomycosis. This fungus was originally discovered to be a cause of amphibian declines in Australia. Now it has been found that it is the source for declines all around the world.

There have been many species of frogs, salamanders, and caecilians that have gone extinct due to these various changes in habitat, climate, and pathogens. At least 120 species of frogs have gone extinct in Panama alone since 1980. Today there are conservation agencies and zoos that are making an effort to save some of the more critical frog populations in Panama. They are trying to develop techniques that could be used to try and bring the frog populations back through captive breeding.

One species in particular, Hyloscirtus colymba, has been of interest because of its rapidly declining wild population. The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project took on the project of trying to breed this frog in captivity. Apparently this frog is very hard to maintain and to keep alive in captivity. It has been a great accomplishment of this conservation project to successfully breed and keep 28 adult frogs alive.

They did some extensive work on figuring what the best techniques would be to care for the frogs in order to keep them healthy in captivity. Because they are so hard to keep alive, there has been very little work done with this particular species. These conservationists have come up with several ways to keep these frogs healthy and fit enough to reproduce. The techniques that they have perfected could possibly be used to help save other critically endangered frog species.

Visit the ScienceDaily article for further information

Friday, April 1, 2011

Itchy, Irritating Ivy!

The Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, defines an invasive species as a plant whose "introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health." In biology classes we often think first of invasive species as introduced, super competitors that are out competing native species and essentially removing them from our ecosystems. While this is true there are also plants, as defined by the EPA, that cause harm to human health and are therefore invasive species. The first plant that comes to my mind is poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. Deer can graze on this plant and many birds feast on its berries in the fall, but humans can get a nasty, itchy, oozing rash caused by an allergic reaction with the oil, called uruishol, located in its leaves and stems. Many people can also have this reaction in their respiratory systems after burning poison ivy and creating smoke that carries the oil which is breathed in. Another negative to this plant that results in more interactions with humans is that it prefers to establish itself in areas that have been disturbed which also happen to be recreation areas such as trials, parks, and yards.

How can you tell if you are looking at poison ivy? Remember the old nursery rhyme that I'm sure you have heard before: "Leaves of three, let it be!" However, it is often difficult to determine whether or not you are looking at poison ivy due to the fact that many plants have compound leaves of three. The center leaf of the compound structure is often symmetrical and has toothed edges on either side. Leaves that flank this center leaf are often shaped like a mitten with the "thumb" side of the leaf toothed. While this is common of many poison ivy plants that I have seen, these characteristics are not indicative of ALL plants! Poison ivy can be found growing up the trunks of trees in hairy vines, growing on the ground, or growing in shrub form. When flowering, poison ivy has blooms of up to 25 off-white flowers which produce yellowish-white berries in the fall. These berry supplies make many species of birds very happy! Poison Ivy is distributed widely throughout the eastern part of the United States.

Methods of control are important with this plant as allergic reactions can become serious if large portions of the body are covered in the rash, if the rash becomes infected, or if the rash is located on delicate respiratory tissues. Please wear gloves and cover any exposed skin before trying ANY of these control techniques! The cheapest way to control poison ivy is to remove the entire root of the plant from the ground by uprooting it. If this process is done in the late fall after the leaves have fallen, you are less likely to encounter the harmful oils. After pulling the plant, allow it to dry out before bagging it and throwing the plants AND your gloves in the trash. Do not ever compost these plants as resprouting can occur and never burn the plants as harmful smoke can be produced. Herbicides, while the are more expensive than the other method, can also be used. Glyphosphate or 2,4-D are the most effective herbicides for the job.

There are many myths in the rumor mill about poison ivy. Some people claim to be immune to the oils. While this can be true for a snapshot of their life, immunity can change. As a particular person who is immune to the poison ivy oils ages, they can become less and less immune. Eventually, that particular individual will have an allergic reaction to the oils. The oil will also stay potent forever. So, if you think a piece of clothing you wore came in contact with the urushiol oil, wash it in cold water or just throw it away! Finally, if you are exposed to the oil, wash the area with cool water and never take a hot shower directly after contact. A hot shower will only open your pores and spread the oil and rash even more quickly. If you ever have a rash from a poison ivy reaction that persists more than 3 weeks or covers wide areas of your body including your face, please go see a doctor!

Do Bison Threaten Alaskans?

The wood bison is also called the mountain bison or mountain buffalo, and is a larger cousin to the plains bison. The wood bison was thought to have been extinct through North America until they were found in Alberta, Canada. In 1957 a herd of about 200 was found. Their population is now about 2,000 thanks to the protection and restoration efforts of the Canadian government.
There is a herd of about 90 kept at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center east of Anchorage. The 90 includes the members and offspring of about 50 animals moved there in 2008. The plan was to hold them in quarantine for two years before releasing them in the Minto Flasts area north of Fairbanks. They weren't released as planned because there were fears about conflicts with hopeful natural gas developments. An interior Alaska native corporation, Doyon, hopes to find a mark able quantity of gas in the Monto Flats area.
Doyon along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are in favor of putting the bison back to where they were last known to range. This was the low, rolling hills of the Innoko country between Iditarod and the tiny village of Shageluk. The area is mostly an old ghost town with a little amount of gold mining still going on. Their original plan was to release the endangered bison to the area next spring. However, Rep, Alan Dick is putting his foot down to the idea. He fears that if the wood bison were transplanted to the area it would have a large affect on people living in more than 1,200-square miles in the Innoko River country. Dick, along with others, are questioning the implications of adding an endangered species to the mix of the big-game in the state.
The transplant of the wood bison to the area would complicate land-use issues. Currently, the people have problems with wolves and many go out to hunt for the wolves. However, if the wood bison are in the area and the hunting had to stop, then there could be an excess about of wolves. According to Dick, "The bison are going to be roaming free but the people are going to be locked up." A similar situation is currently occurring with killing wolves in Unimak Island, the location where the Unimak caribou herd is endangered by predation.
The state representative has submitted legislation that would require state lawmaker to approve any movement of bison from the wildlife center. The state's endangered species coordinator claims that the state and federal government has agreed that the bison wouldn't be moved until their EIS status was lowered to "threaten." The coordinator says that with the bison listed at "threatened," there would be better allowance for management of animals, and little if any, restrictions on what people could do. State biologist are questioning how long this will take and if they can even trust the government.

The Beautiful Karner Blue

Imagine walking through an oak savannah and seeing a tiny speck flutter past you. Was it a falling leaf? Could it be the illusive, endangered Karner blue butterfly? The Karner blue butterfly, Lycaeides melisa samuelis, measures in with a tiny one inch wingspan. The top side of the male's wings are silvery to dark blue with a black margin while the female is grayish-brown to blue with irregular orange crescents banded around the black boarder. Both have a gray, continuous band of orange crescents along the edges of both wings with black spots surrounded by white circles which are scattered about the bottom of both the male and female's wings. These small yet beautiful creatures have been on the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants since 1992. Small populations of these butterflies can only be found today in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, and Ohio after once covering 12 states with their strong, hearty populations.

What is leading to the loss of the hearty populations? Habitat loss due to both human development and fewer natural disturbances, from both natural wildfires and animal grazing, are to blame. These small butterflies prefer to feed on a small wildflower called lupin. Lupin grows in areas that have been disturbed by wildfires and animal grazing because they cannot compete with stronger and taller plants that are often controlled by these natural events. Development and the overtaking of natural habitats where both the lupin and the Karner blue thrive are also to blame for the decrease in populations. Another cause of decreased numbers can be attributed to the desire for butterfly collectors to have this particular butterfly in their collections due to their rarity and vivid color. However, the collection of these flying beauties has been outlawed and is illegal without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Not to worry, there are folks out there who care about the Karner blue butterfly and are working to recover lost habitat and reestablish hearty populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have devised a recovery plan that includes reintroducing populations into Concord, New Hampshire and West Gary, Indiana after the populations went extinct in these particular locations. Another population is being reintroduced into Ohio. Their ultimate, long term goal is to remove this species from the Federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. This goal will be reached and the Karner blue butterfly will be delisted after there are a minimum of 29 metapopulations have been established and 13 recovery units are being managed. Another group of concerned citizens at the state level in Wisconsin have established Wisconsin's Statewide Conservation Plan which promotes timber harvests and prescribed burns which may harm current populations, but will eventually have much larger ecological benefits for future populations. Further research is being performed on the Karner blue butterfly as well in order to determine what the best methods for conservation of this species. A final push for saving this beautiful butterfly is an attempt at habitat protection of pine and oak savannah where the Karner blue butterfly and the lupin plant they feed on thrive. While the Karner blue butterfly is a tiny part of extremely large ecosystems, their beauty and ecological importance must be conserved for future generations.