Monday, June 29, 2015

Chevrolet is using old batteries to save … bats?

Monday, June 29, 2015
Human ingenuity and creativity never fail to surprise us. As some of us may be aware, not only are bees dying out in worrying numbers, but bats are also suffering due to increased levels of ​white ​noise.
Perhaps bats do not have the same cutesy image as​ other animals, but they are really important for ecological balance, besides having an intrinsic value as any sentient being​.​ Bats can eat up to 5,000 insects per night, and as pollinators they play an important role in food crops. Pollinators are responsible for one-third of human food crops worldwide.
So, some clever folks at Chevrolet had a brilliant idea to re​-​purpose scrap Volt battery covers to protect bats.
The company has been building structures to protect bats for more than five years and more than 700 nesting boxes have been installed at its 40 wildlife habitat sites and on various public and private lands across the U.S. and Canada.
Bat man
​The initiative ​was thought up out ​of a need to meet environmental targets and find creative solutions for materials that are difficult to recycle, such as the battery trays​.
The company's landfill-free ​goal​ requires it to account for every single waste stream generated at its operations. Circuit trays called the attention of environmental engineers at the landfill-free Kokomo Operations in Indiana​ as they were not wanted by any local recyclers.
After a bit ​of ​stewing on the problem, Chevrolet staff John Bradburn had an eureka moment when he realized that he could swap out the wood pallet layers in the original bat box design with the trays, which also would save time as he could just notch two wood pieces on the sides, enabling him to slide these trays one after another right inside the battery case.
"When I held the circuit tray up, the length was about right and the width was perfect. I figured with some epoxy adhesive applied and sand sprinkled on it to make for a grittier surface, bats would have no problem hanging on," he ​said​.
After doing a trial run of the new design, Bradburn consulted with Rob Mies, a renowned bat expert. Mies put a little brown bat on it ​and it ​did what a bat does, namely, hanging on it.​
Giving kids a bat education
Efforts to protect bats have been ramped up due to a disease called white nose syndrome that's killing bats at a fast rate throughout the U.S. and beyond.
Recently, the Chevrolet Racing team, in collaboration with NASCAR Green and sustainability experts, assembled a pit crew of 50 little NASCAR fans during a recent race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania to build 15 bat boxes.
​​Besides helping save the​ furry flying creatures, the kids at Pocono got some firsthand experience with Chevrolet's new and improved, second-generation bat house design​ with ​scrap circuit trays from ​the​ truck and SUV engine control modules generated at ​the​ Kokomo​ plant.​​
Bat populations in Pennsylvania particularly have been affected. According to data from​ ​The Center for Biological Diversity, the bat population in the northeast has declined by an estimated 99 percent.
The situation has got so bad that the little brown bat, once the most common bat in North America, is now protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Providing more homes ensures bats can get out of spaces infested with the disease and help slow it from spreading​.
This story first appeared on: JustMeans

Friday, June 26, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Don’t trim your palms!

Don't trim your palms!  Or at least don't trim until the fronds are brown.
A question that we are frequently asked is whether or not palms in the landscape should be trimmed. The answer in almost all cases is NO! There are several reasons why this is not a good practice.
1.   Your palms have stored energy inside their fronds. Unless the frond is completely brown, there are stored carbohydrates (sugars) that the palm is expecting to utilize. As each frond changes from green to yellow to brown, the palm is withdrawing the stored nutrition inside the frond. The palm then uses those sugars to produce new growth. Removing even a few green fronds from a healthy palm will induce a nutrient deficiency and in some cases can be fatal. Similarly, removing chlorotic (yellow) fronds will create a vicious cycle and force the palm into a continually malnourished state, even if the deficiency has been corrected by proper fertilizer application. Removal of green fronds is an unnatural act and forces a palm to use its stored nutrition before it normally would. Think of each frond as a dinner plate with food on it. Removing plates of food will cause the palm to become hungry.

2.   The palm frond is the palm's sole source of energy. Palms, like nearly every plant, rely on photosynthesis to survive. Photosynthesis is the process of converting light into sugars, which are then stored in the fronds. Removing fronds prematurely reduces the photosynthetic capacity of the palm and therefore slows its growth. Unlike hardwood trees that can grow multiple leaves from multiple branches, palms can only create one frond at a time.

3.   Trimming can spread diseases.  When living fronds are removed from a palm, living tissue is cut.  Palms have a circulatory system and sugars and water are constantly moving throughout the palm.  If the pruning equipment has been exposed to disease from an infected palm, it is highly likely to be transmitted to a healthy palm when living fronds are removed.

Removing healthy fronds makes palms LESS storm tolerant.  Many people have their palms trimmed near the start of hurricane season.  This is not a good practice as stated previously, as palms store energy in their healthy fronds.  Over pruning leaves the fewer remaining fronds more susceptible to wind damage.  Healthy palms with full canopies are much more tolerant of hurricane force winds and are able to recover more quickly.  After a hurricane, leaving cracked, hanging green fronds on the palm is a good practice as well.  In the months after Hurricane Wilma in 2005, we observed a quicker recovery and less death on palms that were left alone rather than heavily pruned.
Palms that are fertilized properly at consistent intervals will remain green from top to bottom and will not prematurely yellow. Palms with a crownhsaft are self-cleaning and will drop their fronds naturally when they are finished using the energy stored inside. Palms that do not drop their fronds naturally are finished using the stored energy when each frond browns completely.
In conclusion, with regards to removing fronds from palms, the less you do, the better.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Missoula’s Clark Fork School Plants Trees for Wildlife

Wow, this combines a lot of my favorite things – kids, trees and wildlife!  -- Gene
Connecting with nature at the annual Unplug and Play community event. Photo from Clark Fork School
6/23/2015 // By Darcy McKinley Lester
Missoula's annual UnPlug and Play Week, hosted by Let's Move! Missoula, aims to reconnect kids and their families with nature and outdoor activity. Working with National Wildlife Federation's Missoula-based Wildlife Habitat and Sustainability Educator, AmeriCorps member Darcy McKinley Lester, teachers from the Clark Fork School (a Silver Award-winning NWF Eco-School) received a grant for trees through the National Wildlife Federation.
With this support, they led tree-focused crafts, like making a magic wand from downed twigs and branches, and handed out trees to families interested in improving the wildlife habitat at home.
Over 300 people attended the event, and over 50 families adopted trees to plant at home, choosing from native Montana species including Ponderosa pine, white pine, bur oak, and white oak.  Many families were interested in adopting an oak tree because they loved the idea of having a beautiful deciduous tree in their backyard, and they were also enticed by the thought of acorns! Other families were so excited to get a pine tree whose branches would one day shelter local birds and pollinators.
By the time the day was over, countless children were running around, completely unconnected from digital devices, enjoying playing in the nature that surrounded them.
Later that month, the Clark Fork School held their kindergarten graduation ceremony.  To celebrate the students' progress, each took home their very own tree to plant and care for—cementing the knowledge that trees truly are gifts, for both people and wildlife.
Help NWF affiliates, communities, and wildlife continue receiving free native tree seedlings by sponsoring a tree or purchasing holiday cards from NWF's catalog!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What is Light Pollution?

Light pollution is excessive, misdirected, or obtrusive artificial (usually outdoor) light. Too much light pollution has consequences: it washes out starlight in the night sky, interferes with astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems, has adverse health effects and wastes energy. 
A little more than 100 years ago, you could walk outside at night even in a city and see the Milky Way galaxy arch across the night sky. Being able to see thousands of stars was part of everyday life, inspiring artists like Van Gogh or musical composers like Holst or writers like Shakespeare. By allowing artificial lights to wash out our starry night skies, we are losing touch with our cultural heritage (e.g., what has made us who we are). We are also losing touch with what could inspire future generations.
With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, 3 out of every 4 people in cities have never experienced the wonderment of pristinely dark skies. How do you explain the importance of what they’ve lost to light pollution? How can you make them aware that light pollution is a concern on many fronts: safety, energy conservation, cost, health and effects on wildlife, as well as our ability to view the stars? Finally, how do you convince them that it’s worthwhile to take even small steps, to help fix this problem?
Effects of Light Pollution
In disrupting ecosystems, light pollution poses a serious threat in particular to nocturnal wildlife, having negative impacts on plant and animal physiology. It can confuse the migratory patterns of animals, alter competitive interactions of animals, change predator-prey relations, and cause physiological harm. The rhythm of life is orchestrated by the natural diurnal patterns of light and dark; so disruption to these patterns impacts the ecological dynamics.
With respect to adverse health effects, many species, especially humans, are dependent on natural body cycles called circadian rhythms and the production of melatonin, which are regulated by light and dark (e.g., day and night). If humans are exposed to light while sleeping, melatonin production can be suppressed. This can lead to sleep disorders and other health problems such as increased headaches, worker fatigue, medically defined stress, some forms of obesity due to lack of sleep and increased anxiety. And ties are being found to a couple of types of cancer. There are also effects of glare on aging eyes. (See text below.) Health effects are not only due to over-illumination or excessive exposure of light over time, but also improper spectral composition of light (e.g., certain colors of light).
With respect to energy wastage, lighting is responsible for at least one-fourth of all electricity consumption worldwide. Over illumination can constitute energy wastage, especially upward directed lighting at night. Energy wastage is also a waste in cost and carbon footprint.
The good news is that light pollution can be reduced fairly easily by shielding lights properly, by only using light when and where it is needed, by only using the amount that is needed, by using energy efficient bulbs, and by using bulbs with appropriate spectral power distributions for the task at hand.
Explore the effects of light pollution on the night sky with Light Pollution Interactive.
Going further… Three Main Types of Light Pollution
Clinically speaking, *three main types of light pollution include glare, light trespass and skyglow (in addition to over-illumination and clutter). Glare from unshielded lighting is a public-health hazard—especially the older you become. Glare light scattering in the eye causes loss of contrast, sometimes blinds you temporarily and leads to unsafe driving conditions, for instance. Light trespass occurs when unwanted light enters one’s property, for example, by shining unwanted light into a bedroom window of a person trying to sleep. Skyglow refers to the glow effect that can be seen over populated areas. Skyglow is the combination of all the reflected light and upward-directed (unshielded) light escaping up into the sky (and for the most part, unused). …Shielding lights significantly reduces all three of these types of light pollution.
By participating in the citizen-science campaign, Globe at Night, and taking as many measurements as you can from different locations, you will be promoting awareness and helping to monitor light pollution levels locally. The worldwide database is used to compare trends over years and with other data sets (like on animals) to see what effects light pollution has on them. Thank-you for your interest and participation in Globe at Night.  
The above information came from:
For a great article on light pollution from National Geographic -

Monday, June 22, 2015

Green Infrastructure As A Tool To Help Reduce Deadly Flooding

Just had a workshop on Friday with NOAA and local Cities and groups concerning green infrastructure.  --Gene
Houston, TX (May 27, 2015) — In a CNN Opinion piece following harrowing floods across Texas, Harriet Festing at the Center for Neighborhood Technology outlines the tools neighborhoods need to help reduce deadly flooding. Part of that arsenal is a strong green infrastructure including trees and other greenspace to help filter and absorb excess water.

The problem, according to Festing is that Houston — and many other cities — have paved over wide stretches of land increasing the chance of flooding. Houston is a pretty flat city in a subtropical climate just barely above sea level. Under those circumstances, realistically flooding may be unavoidable, but in some cities even just a few inches of rain can result in flooded basements and washed-out roads. Why? Because the way we have built cities makes them flood.
When we pave over absorbent dirt and grasses, rainwater runs off asphalt and concrete and often ends up overwhelming drainage systems and, in severe cases, flooding homes. The more impervious surfaces a city has, the more likely it is that it will suffer from urban flooding. Sprawling, heavily paved cities such as Houston can be especially vulnerable.
As the threat of climate change escalates, cities and regions must get serious about finding solutions. The Center for Neighborhood Technology created its RainReady program as a municipal-scale initiative designed to bring communities together to find solutions to the problems of too much or too little water.
Investments in natural and nature-based infrastructure to increase infiltration and collect rain where it falls, also known as green infrastructure, play a strong role in the RainReady program and offer a host of benefits over “gray infrastructure.”
Coordinated landscaping, plumbing and building improvements for properties include backwater valves, downspout disconnection into dry wells and flood walls; runoff from alleys and parking lots can be captured through the installation of permeable pavement, trees and landscaped sidewalks; temporary water storage can be created from ponds, parks, urban forests and wetlands; and rain sensor networks can provide enhanced monitoring and flood alert systems for communities.
Read Festing’s full article for more about building resilient communities: “What can be done to stop deadly floods?CNN

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dead Trees Are Anything But Dead

7/16/2014 // By Dani Tinker
This fallen log was found behind NWF’s headquarters building in Virginia. Photo by Avelino Maestas.
I recently learned that dead trees provide vital habitat for more than 1,000 species of wildlife nationwide. The two most common types of dead wood you’ll find in your yard, along a trail or at a park are snags (upright) and logs (on the ground). Despite their name, dead trees are crawling with life. From the basking lizards on top to the beetles underneath, the list of wildlife that depend on logs feels endless. Here’s a sampling of what you may find if you explore a log more closely. What have you observed on, under or near a dead tree?
Summer is a fantastic time to find lizards, turtles and other cold-blooded species basking in the sun. This behavior is primarily a matter of thermoregulation, but may also be a means to regulate Vitamin D. Ants, snails and other insects are often found crawling along a log, while chipmunks and squirrels may use it as a place to rest.
Broad-headed skink on top of a log. Photo by Dani Tinker.
Logs provide great cover for small mammals like foxes, rabbits, bobcats, skunks and raccoons. Bobcats are known to nap inside logs, while foxes may use it as a place to build their den. The inside of a log also provides protection from some predators. The picture below is of a red-tail hawk attempting to get a squirrel, who cleverly took refuge inside a log.
Red-tail hawk trying to get a squirrel out of a knot hole in a log, where it had taken refuge. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Cara Litberg.
A nature walk rarely feels complete without flipping at least one log. The treasures beneath a log may include beetles, worms, spiders, salamanders, newts or centipedes. What you find on your flipping adventure will depend on the time of year, weather, moisture, and a number of other factors, but it’s all worth it. As you flip, roll the log back toward you, using it as a barrier and giving critters a chance to get away.
This marbled salamander was found by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Nicholas Kiriazis after flipping a log in Illinois.
Snakes will often use the space next to a log to rest or look for food. Since logs are crawling with life (prey to a snake), it’s a good place to find a meal. They might also curl up against or inside a log to rest and stay hidden from predators. Egg-laying snake species may deposit their clutches in or under a logs to keep them protected.
Danielle Brigida found this snake next to a log while hiking in West Virginia.
Attached To
Moss, fungi and lichen are a few special organisms that can be found growing on logs. The simple structure of mosses (a type of bryophyte) allow them to grow where other plants may not be able. Dead wood is a place where many species of lichen and fungi thrive as well.
Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Philip Poinier.
Appreciate Logs
Whether you explore logs along your next nature walk. or decide to keep one in your backyard, logs need some appreciation. They provide both cover and a place for wildlife to raise their young. It’s also a step toward qualifying your yard as an official Certified Wildlife Habitat.
Understandably, not everyone wants or has space for dead wood in their yard. You can visit a local nature site and investigate the wildlife that depend on logs near you. Enter your zip code into Nature Find to get a list of parks and trails nearby.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bees Find Better Habitat in Urban Jungle than Farm Country

6/16/2015 // By Patrick Fitzgerald
What do you think about when hear the word "pollinators?"
Images of honey bees or bumble bees come to mind for most. Many of us urban and suburbanites have an idyllic image of bees and butterflies in the countryside. Something like this…
Idyllic rural area. Photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli via Flickr Creative Commons
Unfortunately, it more often looks like this…
Monoculture crops. Photo by Jan Tik via Flickr Creative Commons
A recent study published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B by scientists from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom found that land near towns supported greater insect diversity than those in rural areas. Lead researcher Dr. Deepa Senapathi explains that species have been declining in both urban and agricultural areas for years, but species declined further in rural areas. This is in part due to the increases in large expanses of monoculture. And this dynamic rings true in the U.S. as well with nearly 50% of America's land set aside as managed cropland, rangeland, pasture, or production forest land.
Dr. Deepa goes on to say, "While concreting over the countryside may appear to be bad news for nature, we've found that progressive urbanization may be much less damaging than intensive agriculture," she said.
Consider some of these pollinator gardens in our nations urban areas:
Creating pollinator gardens in Baltimore. Photo by Carolyn Millard
Students collect herbs on PS 41′s greenroof in Manhattan. Photo by Megan Westervelt
Native prairie in Chesterfield Central Park, MO. Photo from City of Chesterfield
A monarch butterfly feeds on nectar from goldenrod in Rhode Island. Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Bernadette Banville
 Here in the U.S. there is a real movement underway in our urban and suburban areas to help provide habitat for our nation's smallest wildlife – pollinators.
One Million Pollinator Gardens 
The White House has launched a new national strategy to address the decline of honey bees and other pollinators.  In response to this strategy the National Wildlife Federation and our partners founded the National Pollinator Garden Network and launched the Million Pollinator Network Challenge with a goal of planting 1,000,000 pollinator gardens in urban and suburban areas by the end of 2016.
Cities and Communities Making a Difference
City governments are already stepping up to help pollinators, including the monarch butterfly.  St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has been a champion for the monarch butterfly and launched a successful and growing Milkweeds for Monarchs program.  Austin Mayor Steve Adler and the Austin City Council recently passed a resolution to get more milkweed planted on city properties and launched a pollinator challenge.  Alpharetta, GA, is joining the Million Pollinator Challenge as well, encouraging its residents to create habitat within the community.
DC Inner City Outing volunteers Max and Corey. Photo by Kris Unger
Join the Movement
We need YOUR HELP to reverse the troubling decline of pollinators by creating pollinator habitat where you live, work, learn, play and/or worship.  Please join the 150,000+ Americans who are part of the National Wildlife Federation's Garden for Wildlife movement and access resources through Facebook, our Wildlife Promise blog and our website.
Certify your pollinator habitat so it is counted in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. Already certified? Then rally your entire neighborhood or city to get certified through the NWF Community Wildlife Habitat program.
To reach the scale of habitat restoration needed to turn the tide for monarchs and other pollinator species, we will need cooperation from urban, suburban, and rural landowners and land managers. We must all do our part. Combining our work in urban and suburban areas with restoration of habitat on public lands; utility, highway and railroad right of ways; hobby farms; stream buffers; edges of crop fields; rangelands; and on the 26 million acre Conservation Reserve Program; we can provide the acres of habitat needed to help insects that pollinate our food crops and those in steep decline, such as the monarch.