Survival of the fittest, from a very young age

Some orphaned babies are unlikely to survive if very young but others can fend for themselves at an early age

Survival of the fittest, from a very young ageI was working on a breeding bird survey recently and encountered a scene that was both moving and shocking. Huddled in the short grass on the shoulder of the road was a baby raccoon, only days old, snuggled up beside its mother. At first I thought the scene was a Disney moment – one of…

Butterflies ‘sentinels’ of climate change in mountain ecosystems

U of A scientists urge more monitoring of butterfly populations to help understand alpine environments predicted to change rapidly

Butterflies ‘sentinels’ of climate change in mountain ecosystemsMountains and butterflies are conceptualized as the ultimate juxtaposition – enduring and resolute versus fleeting and delicate – but the surprising robustness of alpine butterflies could help scientists better understand the impact climate change is having on mountains. In an essay written for the third annual State of the Mountains report by the Alpine Club of Canada, University…

Is alien life floating in the clouds of Venus?

There’s a good chance the global shift from skepticism to possibility about extraterrestrial life is about to extend even further

Is alien life floating in the clouds of Venus?Is there life on other planets? That question has intrigued man for generations. Most people used to scoff at the suggestion of the existence of UFOs and tales of little green men from Mars (or worse). Societal attitudes have shifted due to our increased fascination with Roswell/UFO sightings, Phoenix Lights, Lubbock Lights, and depictions of…

As California burns, so does our winter lettuce

Canada depends on imports for fruits and vegetables. We need to think differently about how we feed ourselves during cold months

As California burns, so does our winter lettuceCalifornia is on fire. Although most of the fire-affected territory has nothing to do with agriculture, the smoke is so intense that it could damage many crops. And as fall approaches, the California fires could affect Canada’s food supply for the coming months. Like the labour issues affecting Canadian farmers this summer, this is certainly…

Crickets, grasshoppers, songs and heatwaves

Grasshoppers existed long before dinosaurs. And crickets are eaten, reviled and revered around the world

Crickets, grasshoppers, songs and heatwavesFolklore widely claims that you can tell the temperature simply by listening to how fast crickets ‘sing.’ Is that really true? Read on and I’ll share the truth by the end of this column. But first, let’s learn something about these little guys and their buddies. Crickets are related to grasshoppers and resemble them a…

Common sunscreen ingredients dangerous for freshwater ecosystems

Research by U of A biologists shows detrimental effects on tiny water fleas that are fundamental to freshwater food chains

Common sunscreen ingredients dangerous for freshwater ecosystemsThe active ingredients found in sunscreen have detrimental effects on freshwater ecosystems, according to new research by University of Alberta biologists. The results show that long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) filters – including avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octocrylene – is lethal for some organisms living in freshwater environments. One of the largest sources of UV-filter contamination…

Jewelweed is a jewel of a weed

Herbalists have long espoused the benefits of jewelweed, primarily as a remedy for the treatment of poison ivy and poison oak rashes

Jewelweed is a jewel of a weedIn many areas of the country grows a little plant that has remarkable medicinal qualities: jewelweed. In my last column, I wrote about my encounter with poison ivy and the discomfort my carelessness caused me. Now I want to share more of the story. Natural medicines are well-known and much studied, here and abroad. Jewelweed…

B.C. rec sites a natural delight for hardy campers

Visitors just have to be prepared to go with the flow, consider unconventional approaches and be flexible enough to adapt to travel with no reservations

B.C. rec sites a natural delight for hardy campersTo say it is a challenging year to travel out of province is to put things mildly in the extreme. With the enduring COVID-19 threat, most provinces have residents-only campsite reservation policies and national campgrounds have been booked tight for months. Yet with a little ingenuity and adventurous spirit, we discovered that British Columbia is…

Being careless around poison ivy can cost you

There’s a high likelihood of a rash arising as a result of contact with the plant. Have I mentioned I’m in agony?

Being careless around poison ivy can cost youI write this week’s column from a position of grave discomfort, for my careless attitude toward poison ivy has left me blistered and in some agony … sigh! I always thought I was immune to this dangerous plant, for I have tromped through it all my life and never even had a glimmer of an…

Pollinators in peril and need our help

Pollinators are responsible for about one out of every three bites of food people eat. Without them, we would starve

Pollinators in peril and need our helpWe hear with alarming frequency that honey bees are in decline around the globe due to mysterious diseases, climate change, pesticides and habitat loss. But what of the other pollinators – solitary bees, bumblebees, pollen wasps, bee flies, ants, midges, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and beetles? How are they faring? Pollinators don’t have to be tiny…
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