Students get virtual taste of real-world life on the farm

With help from Alberta farmers, an online animal science course is giving U of A students an inside look at the agricultural industry

Students get virtual taste of real-world life on the farmOnline classes during COVID-19 can feel a bit distant. But add in 48 farmers and a real-time calf birth, and things perk up considerably. That vivid minute-by-minute experience of watching a Black Angus cow give birth was a matter of lucky timing as Jesse Emery gave University of Alberta animal science students a virtual walking…

Why birds sing before winter weather breaks

Many species court and breed in the dead of winter

Why birds sing before winter weather breaksWe may sometimes feel as if we’re still locked in the dead of winter, but to birds, mammals, insects and even plants, things are changing. Faithful readers will recall how I recently explained that my trees were getting ‘fat,’ as the buds enlarge in anticipation of spring. But they’re not alone in their rush towards…

How changing boreal forests could affect caribou

Researchers examine what logging, climate change and other factors mean for caribou populations

How changing boreal forests could affect caribouNew research by University of Alberta biologists paints a clearer picture of how food webs are shifting in response to changing habitats in Canada’s boreal forests, and what it means for dwindling caribou populations. “We know that habitat, prey and predators such as wolves are all pieces of the caribou conservation puzzle, and here we…

Differentiating truth from myth about snowflakes

Marvel at these seemingly simple structures that rely on all the forces of nature for their beauty

Differentiating truth from myth about snowflakesAs I grow older, I like the cold less and less. I still love winter, but I wish it was warmer – wait, isn’t that summer? My favourite part of winter is when it snows – I never cease to marvel at the tiny flakes drifting down to earth, covering everything in a white blanket.…

Are owls wise, all-seeing and good luck – or harbingers of calamity?

One superstition about owls had it that making a potion from the ash of owl eggs improved vision

Are owls wise, all-seeing and good luck – or harbingers of calamity?Folklore abounds with superstition related to owls. I thought it might be fun to share some superstitions I’ve gleaned about owls, since this is the best time of year to see them. These nocturnal creatures often appear in horror films since tufts of feathers on the top of some owls’ heads give them the appearance…

Managing invasive species better than eliminating them: research

Every year, hundreds of introduced species cause billions of dollars in damage

Managing invasive species better than eliminating them: researchManaging invasive species – not eliminating them altogether – is a better use of time and conservation resources in many cases, according to a study led by a University of Alberta biologist. Every year, hundreds of introduced species cause billions of dollars in damage to ecosystems, agriculture and infrastructure in North America alone. The research,…

Fireball was a comet fragment burning up in Earth’s atmosphere

U of A scientists use fireball monitoring network to capture images of the meteor that lit up the skies over Western Canada

Fireball was a comet fragment burning up in Earth’s atmosphereWestern Canadians caught a glimpse of a bright flash overhead this week as a fireball lit up the sky on the morning of Feb. 22. Now, University of Alberta researchers have used Western Canada’s most advanced fireball network to capture images and trajectory of the fireball – revealing it to be a small piece of…

How zebra finches choose materials for their nests

U of A scientists find that learning and past success play a role in how birds build their nests

How zebra finches choose materials for their nestsWhen building a nest, previous experience raising chicks will influence the choices birds make, according to a new study by University of Alberta scientists. The results show that birds that have successfully raised families stick with tried-and-true methods when building their nests, whereas less successful birds will try something new. “We found that when presented…

Research aims to reduce use of chemical pesticides

Which creepy-crawlies can be harnessed to act as the most effective natural method of pest control?

Research aims to reduce use of chemical pesticidesFields used to grow food are naturally crawling with insects – but which ones can help crops just by being there? A University of Alberta research program aims to find out. Using next-generation DNA analysis, researcher Boyd Mori of the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences is looking to see which creepy-crawlies can be harnessed to act as…

Strange weather, stranger words to describe it

In the odds and sods category, hunch weather is windy and drizzly, so much so that one has to hunch over just to walk

Strange weather, stranger words to describe itYou’ll recall I talked last column about some unusual words to describe weather phenomena. I thought I could share some more I’ve discovered. Storm chasers will know that derechos are winds that strike in straight lines and often accompany thunderstorms. The damage they cause is from a downdraft where the winds rush toward the ground,…
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