Think Globally- Worth A Thousand Words

By Sarah A. Meyer, Food Systems Program Manager at the Finger Lakes Institute

Sarah A. Meyer

Sarah A. Meyer

Mottainai, a term embedded in Japanese culture and based on Buddhist philosophy, roughly translates to “what a waste” or “a shame to throw away.” I first saw this word at the HWS One Half the World Conference when a presenter wrote it on a chalkboard and translated it. Being an environmentally minded person, I jotted down the word like it was a work of art, not knowing how to read the Japanese characters on my own, but intrigued by its meaning and symbolism. I encountered mottainai again when I met Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of The Green Belt Movement, in April 2008. Wangari promoted the concept internationally in the context of environmental protection, resource conservation, and empowerment. The greatest wastes in life are unused talents and untried ideas. Because of my fascination with the interaction of environment and culture, I photograph details of sustainability in daily life wherever I travel. These photos are a representation of the underlying environmental consciousness and exposed traditions I observed during my travels in Japan, Germany, and Africa. I hope it allows for some enlightenment; surely it would be a shame not to share my experiences.

Japan

Between Green and Grey. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

Between Green and Gray. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

Between Green and Gray: A farm can be found in the most unusual places. Tokyo is dotted with pockets of greenspace among the concrete jungle. Instead of vast rolling hills of grapes, corn, cabbage, and soybean often seen in the Finger Lakes region, the small, odd-shaped urban farms of Tokyo grow tomatoes, eggplant, okra, and bitter melon.

Wading for a Rainy Day. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

Wading for a Rainy Day. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

Wading on a Rainy Day: Japan’s native Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) sustains itself on shallow-water species such as fish, frogs, insects, and small mammals. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Grey Heron does not qualify as threatened or dependent on conservation. A similar species native to the Finger Lakes region, the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), often wades on the shores of the Finger Lakes or amongst our wetlands.

A Tasty But Invasive Ingredient. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

A Tasty But Invasive Ingredient. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

A Tasty But Invasive Ingredient: My final meal in Tokyo was tempura served with a side of white rice and steaming miso soup. I slowly sipped my miso soup, soon to find out what gave it its unique, silky flavor. At the bottom of the bowl were shells of Asian clams. Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) is familiar to Finger Lakes residents as an invasive species that have been found in Owasco, Canandaigua, Otisco, Seneca, and Cayuga Lakes. Maybe the key to controlling them is developing an appetite for them!

Germany

hotdog

Locals Eat Local. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

Locals Eat Local: Germany’s largest food industry, by production value, are meat and sausage products (23%) and it’s not surprising since they taste SO GOOD![i]  Bratwurst, also known as farmers’ sausage, was sold on streets of New York City in the 19th century by German immigrants, some of which later opened butcher shops and specialty meat companies like Zweigle’s in Rochester, NY. Local Zweigles products carry on much of the ‘old world’ characteristics in a brat that Germany serves daily!

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Tossed: The small towns and cities of Germany are well connected and communal, and somewhat held together by their serious take on materials management and zeal for recycling. Curbside pickup requires families to sort their disposables into 5 categories and litter is rarely seen on roadways. Rather than taking waste in from wasteful neighbors for landfill disposal like the Finger Lakes, Germany has phased out landfills and seeks waste imports from neighboring countries to burn and convert to electricity.

Grapevine. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

Grapevine. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

Grapevine: Driving the speed limit-less Autobahn in Germany gives you blurry views of the vineyards and wind farms draping over the landscape in the Rhine Valley until you take an exit, like to Rummelsheim. You will find an old castle-like structure surrounded by quiet vineyards. The geometric, parceled vineyards surround the town’s perimeter with one-lane muddy paths accessing the family-owned vines. Rather, in the Finger Lakes, the vineyards surround our lakeshores and are grown at a scale which seems larger and less marked by local history and deep ‘roots’.

Africa

Chimpanzee

Chimpanzee. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

Chimpanzee: In the Finger Lakes, families spend time at zoos to learn about exotic and local ecology and animals. There is actually one chimpanzee in New York State, cared for in a sanctuary in Niagara Falls. In Africa, efforts are made to restore native habitat and Chimpanzee populations. Ironically, people are also more likely to view Chimpanzees at sanctuaries that provide shelter, protection, and nutrition.

Delivered. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

Delivered. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

Delivered: As in the Finger Lakes, environmental awareness is provided to residents through roadside billboards in Africa. However, the signs in Africa carry messages that designate ownership or recognition to church and state, something that is rare to see so blatantly in the U.S. Delivered and treated drinking water is especially scarce, yet I observed watering of gardens, extinguishing municipal waste street fires, and dampening dusty roads, while children gathered basins of water from centralized public pumps to deliver to their family.

By Hand. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

By Hand. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

By Hand: It’s unusual for crops to be harvested by hand at a large scale in the Finger Lakes. For example, we use machinery to harvest fields of corn, soybean, and grain. Along the roadside in Mozambique, the largest sugarcane growing area of Africa (mostly handpicked), makeshift truck-bed markets sell handpicked sugarcane, much like how we commonly see garden vegetables sold from a farmstand. Having a sugar craving? Pull over and gnaw on the hand split cane! It’s a lot more work than grabbing a processed candy bar, but tastes so good!

 

[i] http://www.gtai.de/GTAI/Content/EN/Invest/_SharedDocs/Downloads/GTAI/Industry-overviews/industry-overview-food-beverage-industry-en.pdf

Posted in May 2016: Think Globally | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Local Commitments to a Global Pollinator

By Sarah Meyer, Food Systems Program Manager at the Finger Lakes Institute, and Marion Marsh, William Smith College ’17

Sarah A. Meyer

Sarah A. Meyer

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, approximately 80 percent of all flowering plant species are specialized for pollination by animals, mostly insects, and they affect 35 percent of the world’s crop production, increasing the output of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide. This global significance raises concern for our reliance on pollinators, such as honey bees, for food production, the global economy, and our livelihood. Interest in sustaining pollination and our reliance on pollinators for agricultural and natural ecological systems has grown in momentum on the Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ campus as students, staff and professors pursue coursework and implementation in supporting the globally significant natural process. Hobart and William Smith Colleges hosts two honey bee hives on the HWS Fribolin Farm in hopes of supporting student and faculty research interests in entomology, pollination, beekeeping, and potential direct market goods, like honey. The two hives, installed in May 2015, survived their first winter and are now thriving this spring with a newly added honey super atop each of them (see video). There have been many actions taken prior to these hive installations that motivated taking campus action for pollinator awareness. With these many initiatives taken and an eventual HWS Beekeeping Club soon to be established, HWS is a hopeful BeeCampus USA designee.

CHECK OUT a VIDEO of our hives: https://www.facebook.com/hwsfribolinfarm/videos/1038888926181428/

 

  • In fall 2013, students in HWS Environmental Studies Prof. Kristen Brubaker’s Senior Integrative Experience course proposed a Beekeeping 101 Readers College which would include readings, lectures, and discussions focused on the ecological, social, and human aspects of beekeeping and pollination.
  • In fall 2014, Finger Lakes Institute Food Systems Program Manager Sarah Meyer began to compile a list of campus students, staff, and faculty and alumni that keep bees as an indication of the campus’ social capital related to food and farming of the Finger Lakes.
  • HWS Environmental Studies Prof. Tom Drennen and Beth Kinne Senior Integrative Experience course (spring 2014) investigated the feasibility of installing an apiary at the HWS Fribolin Farm, which included planning for pollinator plantings and housing for solitary bees as well.
  • HWS Mathematics Prof. John Vauhgn has an ongoing project of beehive data logging in which his Embedded Computing course students are adding various sensors to beehives (temperature, humidity, sound level, etc.) to analyze data.
  • Finger Lakes Institute’s Wake the Farm Workshops utilized Day of Service volunteers in March 2015 to construct two complete hives, which were then hand painted by Geneva children of Roots and Shoots and Discovery Playground, and later installed at HWS Fribolin Farm.
  • In spring 2015, Andrew Thompson ’15 pursued research in honeybee hive design as part of an independent study project guided by HWS Geoscience Prof. Nan Arens, which led to the purchase of two bee colonies for the campus farm.
  • Profs. Susan Cushman and Brielle Frichman will offer the introductory Biology class, “The Secret Life of Bees” in spring 2017.
  • Marion Marsh ’17 worked towards an Independent Study Project throughout spring 2016, titled, “Beesearch”, which included this article as a representation of the global scale bees have on our ecosystem and the impact humans have on their management:

The Africanized Honeybee by Marion Marsh ’17

Marion Marsh '17

Marion Marsh ’17

To many people, a misunderstanding of what a killer bee is, can result in a fear and
prejudice towards any bee, when in fact they actually represent a small minority of the United States of America bee population, and the very title of ‘killer’ might not even be accurate (sciencedirect). When it comes down to it, in the United States of America, the highest bee population is the European honey bee, split up into different subspecies through years of selection breeding (Stanford). The Western or European honey bee, Apis mellifera, is a hardworking and gentle natured bee ideal for the word ‘bumbling’ and picked by humans to be interbred for the ideal bee type. Yet, the European Honey bee has quite the hotheaded-cousin, a species titled the ‘killer bee’ for only somewhat clear reasons. The killer bee often described is a human-bred subspecies of the Africanized honey bee, known for aggression and effective attack tactics. Still, it would be untruthful to label a single species as ‘killer’ without any real background data.

Apis mellifera scutellata lepeletier, also known as the Africanized honey bee or killer bee, is a subspecies of the western honeybee, Apis mellifera (Ellis). Africanized honeybees (AHB) originated from Southern Sub Saharan Africa, and were brought to South America in 1956 by biologist, Warwick Estevam Kerr. The Brazilian Agriculture Ministry had hired Kerr to interbreed European bees, known for their gentle nature and intense work ethic, with AHB, known for their aggression but acclimated to warm climates (Animal Review). The idea was to create a bee that was able to successfully produce honey in the tropics, but wouldn’t be too dangerous to be around. Kerr kept this new breed of bees in a Brazilian apiary. However, just one year later, in October of 1957, twenty six of the queen bees escaped from the apiary- a small mistake that would have a huge impact on the future of beekeeping and agriculture. Some believe this blunder was actually committed by a visiting beekeeper who viewed the queen excluder screen as inhibiting the queen from working, so they removed it, allowing the queens to go rogue (Stanford).

This resulted in the sudden and overwhelming spread of this species throughout the Americas. By the 1990’s, these bees had spread into the southern and western parts of the United States of America (Rabe 309). One possible reason for this spread is due to the aggressive nature of these bees. Such aggression allows them to swarm hives, either killing the inhabitants fully, or simply the queen and replacing the population that way (Stanford). Another possible cause is the abundance of man-made water sources available, a huge advantage to this breed of bee which can often be found nesting or working around water sources. In fact, this allowed AHB to live year round and survive environmental changes that once would have killed them, such as drought (Rabe 310). Since the initial spread through Mexico, these bees have been observed in states including: New Mexico, Arizona, California, Louisiana, and Alabama, to name a few (Ellis). And their arrival has been anything but unnoticed.

The influence of the AHB in the southern part of the United States of America has, in fact, had multiple and direct effects to the beekeeping community. One example is their attitude towards beekeepers. One of the biologists, Dr. Spivak, who was involved in the original experiment noted, “In all regions, there were beekeepers who were unwilling to modify their practices to adapt to new circumstances. They soon experienced extreme stinging responses and high incidences of swarming and absconding. Ultimately, these beekeepers abandoned their colonies.” (Stanford). And those colonies weren’t the only affected, as beekeepers have described the added annoyance of AHB populations means around 1/4 increase in work and 1/4 increase in stings received (Stanford). One unfortunate, and the most prominent, case involved the death of a local farmer in Rio De Janeiro in 1966, whose perceived cause of death was over 1,000 stings from AHB (Arkus). The release of the movie The Swarm during the same time period only lead to increased panic, frenzy, misunderstanding, and the eventual knowledge most have today that bees are, well, killer ( Animal Review ).

Now, before you panic, it is important to note that firstly, these bees are unlikely to be
seen in the Northern parts of the United States of America. Their placement in southern states is result of these bees inability to adapt to specific environmental changes, such as low temperature and high latitudes (mountains). In fact, it is unlikely the AHB will be seen anywhere below the 32° latitude in the Southern Hemisphere, and are just as unlikely to be seen anywhere above the 34° latitude in the Northern Hemisphere, due to similar climate restrictions (Ellis). Secondly, another reason not to panic is the simple truth behind all of this; which is, that even though AHB’s are dangerous, their population size is smaller than other bee species in the United States of America and the majority of people won’t be attacked. Any death caused by a bee is normally due to an allergic reaction and/or mistreatment of the sting, such as putting off medical attention. According to research done by the United States Department of Agriculture, only 12 people out of 1,000 is allergic to bees, and though a child might need medical attention immediately after excessive stings, the average adult can survive around 1,100 stings at once (USDA).

In conclusion, killer bees have been dealt a bad hand, with a rough beginning, and
misunderstood through falsified evidence and exaggeration. Unless one lives in the Southern parts of the United States of America, it is unlikely they will even be exposed to  AHB. Those who may be exposed, perhaps if a large grouping of bees is seen near a body of water, turn around. Personally, I highly recommend not standing directly in front of the hive, quickly running in a straight line, and covering the face (Animal Review ). If you believe you might have a nest near you, call local beekeepers and if you experience a bad sting, be sure to seek medical attention. So, be sure to remember this next time you spot a small, bumbling insect pollinating a flower, and simply mind your own beesiness.

Works cited:
Arkus, Michael. “Killer Bees.” Chicago Tribune 18 Mar. 1975, No. 131 ed.: n. pag.
Chicago Tribune Archives. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. <http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1975/05/18/page/50/article/killerbees#text>.

“Africanized Honey Bees (A.K.A. Killer Bees).” Animal Review. WordPress, 27 Jan.
2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. <https://animalreview.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/africanizedhoneybeesakakillerbees/>.

“Bee Stings / Safety.” Honeybee Research. United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA), 26 Apr. 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. <http://www.ars.usda.gov/Research/docs.htm?docid=11067>.

Ellis, Jamie, and Amanda Ellis. “Africanized Honey Bee Apis Mellifera Scutellata
Lepeletier.” Africanized Honey Bee Apis Mellifera Scutellata Lepeletier . University of Florida, Jan. 2008. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/bees/ahb.htm>.

“Killer Bees.” Africanized Honey Bees . Desert USA, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. <http://www.desertusa.com/insects/kbees.html>.

Livanis, Grigorios. “The Effect of Africanized Honey Bees on Honey Production in the
United States: An Informational Approach.” The Effect of Africanized Honey Bees on Honey Production in the United States: An Informational Approach . Science Direct, Nov. 2009. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800909004625>.

Ojar, Christine. “Killer Bees.” Killer Bees . Columbia University, Mar. 2002. Web. 22
Mar. 2016. <http://www.columbia.edu/itc/cerc/danoffburg/invasion_bio/inv_spp_summ/Apis_mellifera_scutellata.htm>.

Stanford, Malcolm T. “The Africanized Honey Bee in the Americas: A Biological
Revolution with Human Cultural Implications.” The Africanized Honey Bee in the Americas: A Biological Revolution with Human Cultural Implications. American Bee Journal, 2006. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. <http://apisenterprises.com/papers_htm/Misc/AHB%20in%20the%20Americas.htm>

Rabe, Michael J., Steven S. Rosenstock, and David I. Nielsen. “Feral Africanized Honey
Bees (apis Mellifera) in Sonoran Desert Habitats of Southwestern Arizona”. The Southwestern Naturalist 50.3 (2005): 307–311. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3672473>

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Research: Summer Research at the FLI

By Roxanne Razavi Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher at the Finger Lakes Institute

Roxanne Razavi, Ph.D.

Roxanne Razavi, Ph.D.

The Finger Lakes Institute is gearing up for a busy summer research season!

We have three exciting new projects starting this month. Find out more about them below and stay tuned for updates from our new summer student researchers.

The Cayuga Lake Project

Nearshore Cladophora on the north end of Cayuga Lake, August 2015. Photo credit: Lisa Cleckner.

Nearshore Cladophora on the north end of Cayuga Lake, August 2015. Photo credit: Lisa Cleckner.

In brief
Where? North end of Cayuga Lake.
What? Nearshore water quality and benthic algae production.
Collaborators? Cayuga Lake Watershed Network.
Funding Agency? New York Sea Grant.

Project summary
Beach fouling by decaying benthic algae is one of the most important nearshore water quality issues facing the Great Lakes region. Two species of benthic algae, Cladophora and Spirogyra, largely make up decaying algal mats that accumulate on beaches throughout the Great Lakes basin. The accumulation of these species on beaches presents both a public health and economic problem. Mats have been associated with nearshore anoxia, elevated counts of Escherichia coli, and severe odor issues.  In the Finger Lakes of the Lake Ontario basin, residents have recently reported the presence of benthic algae and Cladophora in nearshore areas resulting in beach fouling, odors, and interference with recreational activities including swimming and boating to the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network and government agencies including the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, County Health Departments, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts. This project involves a water quality monitoring program that works with citizen scientists on Cayuga Lake to determine levels and sources of nutrients and bacteria to the nearshore area. Nearshore water quality data will be combined with bacterial source tracking to identify the source of bacteria (human versus animal) to the nearshore. (Official project title: Demonstration project for mitigating nearshore algal production and nutrients.)

The FluoroProbe Project

The Finger Lakes Institute recently acquired a FluoroProbe (bbe Moldaenke, GmbH) that measures the presence of algae by class, including green algae, blue-green algae/cyanobacteria, diatoms/dinoflagellates, and cryptophytes. Photo credit: bbe moldaenke.

The Finger Lakes Institute recently acquired a FluoroProbe (bbe Moldaenke, GmbH) that measures the presence of algae by class, including green algae, blue-green algae/cyanobacteria, diatoms/dinoflagellates, and cryptophytes. Photo credit: bbe moldaenke.

In brief
Where? Honeoye and Canandaigua Lakes.
What? Nearshore water quality and algal community composition.
Collaborators? John Halfman, Geoscience and Finger Lakes Institute, Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Terry and Dorothy Gronwall, Honeoye Lake Watershed Task Force; Kevin Olvany, Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council.
Funding Agency? New York State Water Resources Institute.

Project summary
This project aims to characterize algal assemblages throughout a summer season in two representative systems of the Finger Lakes and the water chemistry conditions before, during, and after successive algal blooms to assess what factors are associated with a given assemblage. This project will test for differences in algal class assemblages in the nearshore and offshore habitats of lakes, and within oligotrophic and eutrophic systems. Advanced sensor technology will be purchased and employed for in situ measurements of chlorophyll differentiated by algal class. Specifically, a FluoroProbe spectro‐fluorometer (bbe moldaenke, GmbH) will be used to differentiate four major phytoplankton groups (green algae, diatoms/dinoflagellates, cryptophytes, and cyanobacteria) in the water column in pelagic and nearshore areas. (Official project title: Water quality and algal community dynamics in the Finger Lakes.)

The Nitrogen Project

The continuous-flow, intact sediment core incubation system will be used this summer on Honeoye Lake sediments to assess nitrogen transformations and nutrient fluxes from and into sediments. Photo credit: Silvia Newell.

The continuous-flow, intact sediment core incubation system will be used this summer on Honeoye Lake sediments to assess nitrogen transformations and nutrient fluxes from and into sediments. Photo credit: Silvia Newell.

In brief
Where? Honeoye Lake.
What?  Role of nitrogen in the occurrence of harmful algal blooms (HABs).
Collaborators? Mark McCarthy and Silvia Newell, Wright State University; Terry and Dorothy Gronwall, Honeoye Lake Watershed Task Force.
Funding Agency? Ontario County Water Resources Council.

Project summary
Freshwater systems are generally thought to be phosphorus limited, and current management practices aim to curb harmful algal blooms (HABs) via phosphorus control strategies. However, despite phosphorus controls, HABs continue to proliferate. Research shows cyanobacteria growth is higher with the addition of both phosphorus and nitrogen compared to either nutrient alone. Furthermore, HAB genera such as Microcystis cannot fix nitrogen, and are highly competitive for ammonium (NH4+). Yet, the overwhelming majority of nitrogen measurements in lakes focus on NO3, the least bioavailable form of nitrogen.

This project will quantify the most bioavailable form of nitrogen, NH4+, to assess the availability of this essential growth factor to cyanobacteria causing HABs. Additionally, this project will address the urgent need to measure the natural removal rate (i.e., denitrification) versus N recycling (i.e., converting organic matter to NH4+) to understand the source of NH4+ to cyanobacteria in Honeoye Lake using lab controlled sediment flux experiments. (Official project title: A preliminary study of the role of nitrogen in harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Finger Lakes.)

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Exploration and Education: Children In The Stream: A Unique Conference to Rejuvenate Your Curriculum

By Alberto Rey, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Visual Arts and New Media, State University of New York at Fredonia, Orvis-endorsed Fly-Fishing Guide and Founder/Director of the S.A.R.E.P./4H Youth Fly Fishing Program

Alberto Rey

Alberto Rey

About eighteen years ago, I started a youth fly-fishing program in a predominately lower-income city on the shores of Lake Erie. I had just started to learn fly-fishing and saw that it could provide a positive life-long activity for the inner city youth while providing them an appreciation of the Great Lakes and the tributaries that run into them. As with any new program, there were several obstacles to navigate through and unexpected setbacks, but the program steadily improved as it offered more community activities. The program now meets weekly and students go on field trips to our local bodies of water throughout the year. We host a brook trout restocking program, a stream cleanup/tree planting event and a fly fishing interdisciplinary conference.

Caption: S.A.R.E.P. / 4H Youth Fly Fishing Program was started eighteen years ago, providing a positive life-long activity for inner city youth and developing their appreciation for our local water resources. Photo credit: Children In The Stream.

S.A.R.E.P. / 4H Youth Fly Fishing Program was started eighteen years ago, providing a positive life-long activity for inner city youth and developing their appreciation for our local water resources. Photo credit: Children In The Stream.

The conference was started as a way to reach a wider audience by training adults who work with children across the country. The goal was to pass along the value of using fly-fishing as a way to engage students in the outdoors by integrating the sport into communities and schools through science, art and the humanities. There are various national programs that use fly fishing as part of the physical education curriculum, but this conference was designed to present an integrated, interdisciplinary approach. Fortunately, I found two other folks who were interested in the idea. One was a friend, a fly fisherman and colleague, Mike Jabot, who is a nationally recognized science teacher who has strong professional connections to NASA and the Smithsonian Institute. The other was my wife, Janeil Rey, who has been an English teacher, principal, superintendent and now is the co-coordinator of the Educational Leadership Program at Fredonia. As a professor of drawing and painting and an Orvis endorsed fly fishing guide, I provided knowledge of how to start a youth fly fishing program; how to access fly fishing equipment discounts; and how to combine art, fly fishing and science in a curriculum. We all work together at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

Mike Jabot working with a conference participant. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

Mike Jabot working with a conference participant. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

Janeil Rey shares an inspiring array of literature resources for grades K-12. Photo credit: Alberto Rey

Janeil Rey shares an inspiring array of literature resources for grades K-12. Photo credit: Alberto Rey

Nadia Harvieux from the Finger Lakes Institute practices tying a new fly pattern. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

Nadia Harvieux from the Finger Lakes Institute practices tying a new fly pattern. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

In the summer of 2012, our experiment started and we held the first, and what still remains as the only, national interdisciplinary fly fishing conference. The Children in the Stream’s intensive four-day conference was a huge success, and it continues to train adults who are interested in integrating fly fishing into the curriculum in their community, school, organization or company. These workshops use fly fishing as the foundation for investigating science, math, English language arts, visual arts and community outreach. We limit the enrollment to around a dozen participants, so we can provide a great deal of individual attention. This year will be our fourth conference and, although it is great deal of work on our part, it has become a very fulfilling experience as we have become attached to each participant over the four days and in the years afterwards.

Casting instruction and practice for program participants. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

Casting instruction and practice for program participants. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

Fly fishing success! Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

Fly fishing success! Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

Children in the Stream provides the instruction, materials and means of acquiring equipment needed to implement the participant’s own customized interdisciplinary curriculum and/or to start a youth fly fishing program. The truly unique programming also meets the needs of each school through the integration of the common core learning standards. We address how to accomplish these goals while working within limited budgets by providing significant equipment discounts up to 50% off. The conference’s interdisciplinary workshops also promote a holistic integration of conservation and community involvement that nurtures future stewards of our natural resources. The ultimate goal is to get youth outdoors and provide them with a fuller understanding and appreciation of their environment.

Capturing the moment through artistic expression. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

Capturing the moment through artistic expression. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

We are fortunate to hold the conference at the beautiful Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, New York. The institute was founded in Peterson’s hometown and is charged with preserving Peterson’s lifetime body of work while making it available to the world for educational purposes. This year’s conference will take place from Monday, June 27 – Thursday, June 30, 2016. The cost for the four-day conference is $350, which includes: instruction in the classroom and in the field, a fly rod outfit, fly tying kit and educational publications for each participant. The low conference fee is possible through the support of private foundations and individuals.

Conference participants receive a fly rod outfit, fly tying kit and educational publications as part of the program. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

Conference participants receive a fly rod outfit, fly tying kit and educational publications as part of the program. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

The Children in the Stream Conference is held at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, NY. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

The Children in the Stream Conference is held at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, NY. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

Children in the Stream conference participants in 2015. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

Children in the Stream conference participants in 2015. Photo credit: Alberto Rey.

For information about the schedule, comments from past participants and registration details please go to: http://www.childreninthestream.com

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Field and Food Notes: The Inner Lives of Chickens

By Mekala Bertocci, William Smith College ’14

Mekala Bertocci

Mekala Bertocci

We still don’t know why they cross roads, but there is a lot we do know about the most populous, most eaten, and most studied birds on the planet. No livestock is reared in greater numbers than chickens, and none has been studied in greater detail. In 2004, chickens became the first bird to have their full genome sequenced, uncorking a deluge of scientific inquiry into their physiology, as well as their social behaviors and even their psychological dimensions. Scientists have determined that they are smarter than toddlers and exhibit learning and communication behaviors on par with primates.

Needless to say, there is more going on in a coop than meets the eye—chickens aren’t just egg-laying robots with tender breast meat; they are sentient beings with lives of their own. So if you’ve never thought about what chickens might be thinking, here is some food for thought.

How Do They Communicate?

All that clucking is not random—chickens have a language of their own. Experts say that in addition to saying “cluck,” chickens “pok,” “brawk,” and “squawk.” And from these basic syllables, chickens are capable of at least 30 different calls, ranging from “hey, I found a bunch of grasshoppers” to “see you later, I’m going to lay an egg” to “come over here, you sexy rooster!”

Other calls are a response to stress, which vary between those that warn of a raptor circling above and predators that attack from the ground, like foxes. Hens start talking to their chicks in soft tones while they are still in the egg—if you listen close you can hear them peeping back from inside the shell.

Do Chickens Have Feelings?

Yes, says British researcher Jo Edgar, who determined that hens, at least, experience empathy. He designed an experiment that simulated chick stress and found that the mother hens behaved as if they themselves were experiencing the pain—a classic sign of empathy. Chickens are also known to display mourning behavior when another chicken in the flock dies, and they will show signs of depression if they are removed from the flock and placed in solitary quarters.

chicken2_mekala

Mail-order meat birds from Wolfe Spring Farm, summer 2012. Approximately 2 weeks old. Photo Credit: Mekala Bertocci.

What Do Chickens Dream About?

We don’t know exactly, but we do know they dream. Along with humans and other mammals, chickens (all birds, really) have an REM phase of sleep, a period of “rapid eye movement” that signifies dreaming. We’d like to presume that most of their dreams are filled with imagery and emotions from their daily lives, just as ours are, perhaps punctuated by occasional dreams that stem from chick-hood trauma or aspirations of flying like an eagle (chickens can only fly for a few seconds at a time). Chickens have another phase of sleep that humans lack, however, called USWS (unihemispheric slow-wave sleep), in which one half of the brain is resting, while the other half is awake. This is why chickens can be seen sleeping with one eye open and one eye closed, an evolutionary adaptation that allows them to keep watch for predators while they doze.

How Smart Are Chickens (and should we be afraid of them taking over the planet)?

A surprising number of people suffer from fear of chickens, a condition known as alektorophobia, which may not be as unreasonable as it sounds given what scientists have been discovering about them. Recent research has shown that chickens can distinguish between more than 100 faces of their own species and of humans, so they know who you are and will remember you if you treat them badly. They’ve demonstrated complex problem-solving skills and have super-sensory powers, such as telescopic eyesight (like birds of prey) and nearly 360-degree vision (like owls). Chickens are the closest living relatives of the Tyrannosaurus rex (researchers determined this in 2007 by testing proteins from a particularly well-preserved T-rex leg bone), and they outnumber human beings on the planet 3 to 1. There hasn’t yet been an Orwellian uprising of chickens revolting against farmers due to poor coop conditions, but to all those that use tiny “battery” cages, cut off beaks, and engage in other atrocities common to industrial chicken farming—watch out, your birds may be plotting against you.

Posted in May 2016: Think Globally | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

FL-PRISM Update: Where in the World Did They Come From?

By Emily Staychock, Aquatic Invasive Species Education Coordinator at the Finger Lakes Institute

Emily Staychock

Emily Staychock

The “Think Globally” theme of this month’s “FLI Happenings” is very appropriate for addressing invasive species because they come to us from around the world. Invasive species make their way to the US by many different means. Terrestrial invasive species are brought to the U.S. by vectors such as the horticulture industry, agricultural importing, international shipping, and the pet trade. Aquatic invasive species (AIS) hitch rides in the ballast waters and cling to the hulls of ships used to transport international goods. Other AIS are released by humans who don’t consider their impact when they dump aquariums or bait buckets into the most convenient water body. Many fish and aquatic plants were brought to the U.S. for the aquaculture industry. Once AIS become established in a new water body they reproduce and aggressively out compete natives, and they can be accidentally transported to new water bodies by hitching rides on boats, trailers and aquatic gear.

Aquatic invasive species are typically described as originating in “Eurasia”, as Europe and Asia are the most common homelands for the AIS present in the US, although Africa is also fairly common. Hydrilla, the highly invasive, highly damaging plant that has received a lot of public attention, is from Korea (although the hydrilla that infests the southern states is different and is from the Indian subcontinent). In New York, hydrilla is present in the Cayuga Lake inlet, Tonawanda Creek outside of Buffalo (which is part of the Erie Canal), a pond in Tinker Park in Henrietta, the Croton River (which is a tributary of the Hudson River), and a few ponds in downstate NY. Water chestnut, which is another high profile AIS plant, is native to Western Europe, northeast Asia, and Africa. In the Finger Lakes region sites where water chestnut is present include Cayuga Lake, the Canandaigua Lake inlet, the Keuka Lake outlet, Lake Ontario, and part of the Genesee River. Starry stonewort is a highly invasive macroalgae that originates from Europe and Asia and is being identified throughout the Finger Lakes region, including Canandaigua, Cayuga, Owasco, Oneida, Tully, Duck, Upper Little York, Waneta, Lake Ontario, and the Keuka Lake Outlet . Eurasian watermilfoil is one of our most common AIS plants found throughout NY State, and its name points to its origin, as it is native to Europe and Asia, as well as North Africa. European frogbit’s native range includes much of Europe, as its name implies. In the Finger Lakes region locations it is present include Oneida Lake and the Montezuma Wildlife refuge.

Zebra mussels are one of the most well-known and common AIS in the Great Lakes region and are native to the Black, Caspian, and Azov Seas. Zebra mussels are widespread throughout the Finger Lakes region. The lesser known quagga mussel, which is spreading throughout New York State, originates from the Dneiper River drainage of Ukraine and Ponto-Caspian Sea. Quagga mussels are now common in most of the Finger Lakes region. Asian clam is less common in the Finger Lakes region and is native to Southeast Asia as well as parts of central and eastern Australia, Africa and the Mediterranean. Water bodies where it has been identified include Canandaigua, Keuka, Otisco, Owasco, and Seneca Lakes. Bloody red shrimp originates from the Black Sea, the Azov Sea and the eastern Ponto-Caspian Sea, and is known to be present in Lake Ontario and Seneca Lake. Round goby is a fish that comes from Eurasia, particularly the Black and Caspian Seas and the Sea of Azov. In the Finger Lakes region round goby is known to be present in Lake Ontario, Cayuga Lake, and the Seneca River. The fishhook water flea is a predatory zooplankton that comes from Ponto-Caspian region of eastern Europe/western Asia. Water bodies where it is present in the Finger Lakes include Seneca, Cayuga, Otisco, Canandaigua, Owasco and Keuka.

AIS have an advantage over native aquatic species because they lack the natural checks and balances on their populations that are provided in their native lands by predators, parasites, disease, and other mechanisms. Researchers hoping to manage AIS using biological controls (i.e. insects, parasites, etc.) study the AIS in their native lands to learn about their natural controls. Potential biocontrol candidates go through vigorous study and scrutiny by researchers and the federal government before they are approved for use in the U.S. It must be proven that any introduced biocontrol must not impact any species other than the AIS it is intended to control. The hydrilla infestation in Tinker Park in Henrietta is currently being managed by sterile grass carp. Grass carp are native to Eastern Asia, and the sterile form is approved for AIS control through a permitting system. Purple loosestrife, a common invasive species native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa that invades riparian areas, is currently being managed through the use of two types of leaf beetles and two types of weevils. Research is currently underway to determine appropriate biocontrol agents for different invasive species.

The United States is part of a global economy, and that carries the unintentional risk of invasive species introductions. The more we understand about vectors for invasive species introduction and how to mitigate or prevent these circumstances, the better prepared we will be to protect our resources. For example, boaters throughout NY are asked to “Clean, Drain, Dry” their boats, trailers and aquatic gear as well as to not dump bait buckets in an effort to prevent the spread of AIS. Visit the NY Department of Environmental Conservation website http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/93848.html to learn what terrestrial and aquatic species are regulated and prohibited in New York State. Contact the Finger Lakes PRISM http://fingerlakesinvasives.org/ to learn more about invasive species and how to manage them, particularly if any are present on your property. We can all make a difference!

Posted in May 2016: Think Globally | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Green Jobs

By John Clarkeson, Hobart ’75 and Director of Contracts and Procurement for the Department of Conservation and Recreation for Massachusetts (DCR)

John Clarkeson

John Clarkeson

For over 7 years I coordinated the intern program at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA).  EEA is the cabinet secretariat in Massachusetts. The Secretary oversees the activities of six agencies. The agencies and offices of EEA preserve open space and working landscapes, enforce pollution laws, review the environmental impact of major real estate and infrastructure developments, enhance the state’s role in energy conservation and production, and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation and access at the parks, beaches, and farms that make Massachusetts a wonderful place to live, work, and play.

As part of the summer intern experience, students would frequently meet with professionals with careers in the energy and environmental sectors.  What were their “green jobs”?  Anything and everything!

While the green focus, I and these other professionals share a similarity. Our backgrounds are as varied as any liberal arts college curriculum. Each work from their own unique perspective. Examples include private consultants, legislators, agency managers, architects, electricians, government regulators, fundraisers for non-profit organizations, lobbyists, corporate entrepreneurs. These all could be considered a “green job” based on our preference to work on issues related to the natural world around us.  The green industry needs scientists, financial managers, public relations professionals, lawyers, economics and political science specialists. Some studied international relations and even philosophy during their undergraduate years – something I noticed as I began as a Philosophy major myself while at Hobart.

What makes a job green is not the skill set or the background, but the anticipated goals one hopes to achieve. No matter your background or major, there is a green job for you!

Pursuing a career in the environmental realm holds the same challenges as any other area.  Eventually, graduate school will be an important part of your preparation for the job market. There are very few entry level positions and most jobs carry a preference to candidates with a Master’s Degree. But do not wait until you’ve completed a graduate degree program before getting serious about your career path. Internships, paid and unpaid, are a great way to learn about the different organizations and job types you might place on your long term plan.  Internships also help build your networking contacts as you begin your job search in earnest – not all jobs are found through public postings or message boards. Network contacts expand your eyes and ears in finding opportunities in your desired career choice.

I began working on environmental issues over 20 years ago, focusing primarily on water.  Then water quality was an important issue – pollutants in the water column and their sources.  Over time, water quantity took on increased importance. While clean water goals remain elusive in many areas around the world, including the Unites States, concerns over the ongoing availability of a sufficient water supply to ensure not only public health and safety but a continued growing economy have taken on increased importance. And while human demand increases, the state regulatory frameworks over water allocation have included increased recognition of the need for ecological factors to be considered. One example of this is the new water management act regulations recently adopted in Massachusetts, based in part on the studies regarding the impact of hydrologic alterations on the ecology completed by the United States Geological Survey, with Hobart graduate David Armstrong a key research lead and author[1].

Where are the green jobs likely to be found in the years to come? While climate change is a major focus for this generation, it was not a major focus of environmental professionals 15 years ago. Efforts to halt those factors contributing to climate change are important, but even if all state, federal and international goals were met tomorrow our earth will experience changes we may not be fully prepared to predict today but need to prepare for.  Any sector with that many unknowns commensurate needs for response, while certainly a cause for concern, provide tremendous opportunity for those entering the workplace.  Research, planning, design, raising public awareness – these are just some of the tasks that addressing climate change will require. And as these issues become increasingly important the economy worldwide will respond by creating jobs for those with the passion as well as the skills to work on them.

So how would someone prepare for the green jobs as tomorrow?  In today’s market, comfort with basic computer software is needed, and familiarity with data management programs and GIS a definite plus. But while the focus of one’s career may change over time, many of the key skills needed to succeed remain the same today as generations past.  A proficiency in math, strong research skills, the ability to articulate technical concepts to a general audience in both the written and spoken word, the tenacity to see something through to the end, and the discipline necessary to keep a commitment to yourself and others – these will lead to success.

Author’s Note:
John Clarkeson ’75 is Director of Contracts and Procurement for the Department of Conservation and Recreation for Massachusetts (DCR). Mr. Clarkeson is responsible for the overall management of contract administration and procurement functions within DCR through the approval and oversight of over $320 million in design, engineering, and construction services as well as the procurement of supplies, goods, and professional services related to fire services, water supply protection, parks, pools, beaches, bridges, parkways, roadways, forestry, land acquisition, dams, flood control, pier, buildings, and skating rinks.  Prior to joining DCR, he served as Assistant Director of Water Policy for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, serving as a policy advisor on water as well as climate change issues as well as administrator of the $38 million Dam and Seawall Repair and Removal program.

[1] https://www.conservationgateway.org/ConservationPractices/Freshwater/EnvironmentalFlows/MethodsandTools/ELOHA/Pages/ecological-limits-hydrolo.aspx

Posted in April 2016: Green Jobs | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Research: Benefits Outweigh Costs Of Mercury Emissions Reductions

By Roxanne Razavi Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher at the Finger Lakes Institute

Roxanne Razavi, Ph.D.

Roxanne Razavi, Ph.D.

Dr. Charlie Driscoll, Professor in Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, recently weighed in on the question facing the Supreme Court that will affect how much mercury is emitted into U.S. atmosphere. Dr. Driscoll and colleagues weighed in with a perspective piece in a high profile journal, Environmental Science & Technology. They find that emissions reductions from the Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS) would far outweigh the costs to industry.

See their findings summarized below in a recent Phys.Org article.

The coal-fired power plant on Cayuga Lake is a source of mercury to the Finger Lakes. Photo credit: stateofthereunion.com.

The coal-fired power plant on Cayuga Lake is a source of mercury to the Finger Lakes. Photo credit: stateofthereunion.com.

How should cost factor into the protection of human health and the environment? That was the central question in a Supreme Court case last summer that pitted the coal industry and 20 U.S. states against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The court ruled that the EPA did not properly take into account what it would cost power plants to comply with new regulations to reduce the emission of mercury, a powerful neurotoxin. Now the EPA has until the self-imposed deadline of April 16 to come up with a cost consideration plan.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-02-benefits-reduction-mercury-emissions-outweigh.html#jCp

Posted in April 2016: Green Jobs | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Exploration and Education: Making A Difference

By Bruce Gilman, Professor and Director of Muller Field Station, Finger Lakes Community College, Department of Environmental Conservation and Horticulture

Bruce Gilman

Bruce Gilman

Every spring, with the first warm evening rains, spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) begin a synchronous migration from hillside forests to the southern Honeoye Valley floor.  They are seeking breeding pools, ponds, and shallow depressions in the extensive silver maple-ash swamp forest that occupies nearly 900 acres of the valley floor. Perhaps it is this abundance of potential breeding sites that contributes to the large migrating population observed every spring. As adults during the summer, spotted salamanders are seldom encountered, spending much of their time burrowing underground in the upland forests.

Photo credit: Bruce Gilman.

Photo credit: Bruce Gilman.

Spotted salamanders belong to a group known as the mole salamanders characterized by their plump, robust body and short, blunt head. Their stout body most often has a black dorsal surface with two irregular rows of yellow to orange spots. The ventral surface is slate gray. There are usually twelve costal grooves between the legs along each side. They can grow to ten inches and live for twenty years. No way are they a large charismatic wildlife species, but they are still attractive in their own way to me and my college students.

Photo credit: Bruce Gilman.

Photo credit: Bruce Gilman.

My college’s Muller Field Station is ideally located in the center of this migratory pathway but, unfortunately, so is County Road 36. To decrease the accidental road kills of spotted salamanders, we annually organize a campaign to physically move salamanders across the highway. This year, over the course of two nights, we moved an estimated 1100 spotted salamanders to safety on the opposite side of the road. We also moved just over 100 Jefferson’s salamanders (Ambystoma jeffersonianum), one red eft (Notophthalmus viridescens) and a few spring peepers (Hyla crucifer).

In addition to making a difference for the salamanders, this activity profoundly affects my students. Going beyond wildlife observation to actual wildlife conservation put into action, saving salamanders is an instantaneous reward and a memory that will continue to inspire and transform one’s conservation ethic in the future.

Photo credit: Bruce Gilman.

Photo credit: Bruce Gilman.

Posted in April 2016: Green Jobs | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

FL-PRISM Update: Using iMapInvasives As A Tool For Mapping Invasive Species Across The Landscape

By Jennifer Dean, Program Manager for the New York Natural Heritage Program

Jennifer Dean

Jennifer Dean

Invasive species have become a familiar, albeit complicated, challenge to managing our natural resources. We need to be strategic when deciding where to focus our efforts, whether for control projects or for finding new infestations early. These types of decisions necessitate good data and a way to quickly share new information. The New York Natural Heritage Program manages the state invasive species database, iMapInvasives, and provides a way for agencies, organizations, and concerned citizens to view known distributions of species and report new locations.

NYiMapInvasives_logo_color (2)iMapInvasives is an online mapping system for recording observations, survey efforts, and control projects. All interested groups are encouraged, from natural resource professionals to citizen scientists, to help keep the map current and accurate by reporting invasive species locations and control efforts. This collective of information has become a valuable resource for conservation professionals who need a big picture view of invasive species.

Anyone can request an account to iMapInvasives at www.nyimapinvasives.org/request-login. In order to enter data, you need to take some type of training, whether through the website videos or at one of the free iMapInvasives workshops being offered across the state this May and June. Check out the training calendar at www.nyimapinvasives.org/Training/nyimapschedule/2016-spring-training-blitz to find a session near you. Two sessions will be offered in the Finger Lakes region: May 12 in Ithaca, NY, and June 16 in Letchworth State Park.

iMapMobile screenshot (2)Once you have an account, please download the iMapInvasives Mobile app for your smartphone or tablet. With this app, you can report new locations using the camera and GPS in your device while out in the field, and then upload the reports directly to your iMapInvasives account online once back in connectivity.

There are many ways to get valuable information from iMapInvasives. With your account you can search the map and generate species reports for selected geographic areas, like your county, lake, or nearby park. You can also create email alerts to stay informed of new reports in your area. Another useful feature is the “Approaching Region” report which lists species found in neighboring regions, but not found in your region, letting you know which species could be “knocking at the door”. If you need to conduct custom data analyses outside of iMapInvasives online, you can make a data request for certain species and locations at imapinvasives@dec.ny.gov.

Posted in April 2016: Green Jobs | Tagged , , | Leave a comment