It’s Snow-and-Tell time! We’re deep into winter right now, and spring seems snow far away. So, we decided to embrace the season and look into recent research around a topic that would be sure to provide plenty of puns for this write-up: SNOW! We delve into recent studies about how much snow actually falls on North America, if the indigenous peoples of the north really have 100 words for snow, how climate change is affecting snowfall levels, and how those changes impact Snowshoe Hare populations (Lepus americanus) . Plus, in honor of Darwin Day, Steve insults the father of natural selection. All this, plus, we follow up on last episode’s cliffhanger, filling you in on the results of Bill’s Lyme disease test. Enjoy!
Have you ever heard of a burrowing crayfish? We hadn’t, until our much-smarter-than-us friend, Dr. Wayne Gall, shared the story of how he discovered one particular species living in western NY 30 years ago - Cambarus diogenes - the Devil Crayfish.
Wayne invited us to join him on a hunt for this species, to see if it was still present at Tifft Nature Preserve, three decades later.
Now, we invite you to come along with us, braving deep mud, crayfish pincers, and audio challenges (Tifft is lousy with the sound of trains, barges, and jets overhead). Along the way, Wayne proves himself a consummate storyteller, spinning the yarn of amazing coincidences that led to his connection with this species and publishing research about its presence in New York. We also give some visitors to the preserve a good scare.
A big thank you to Wayne for his time, expertise, and persistence. This episode may be shorter than usual, but we want you to know that Wayne spent hours with us at Tifft, his arms buried in the mud up to his shoulder, searching for our target species.
During this bonus episode, Bill interviews Gordon Maupin, former director of the Wilderness Center in northeastern Ohio and, along with Joann Ballbach and Gary Popotnik, the former host of "Wild Ideas...The Podcast".
"Wild Ideas" was (and is) an excellent resource for information on natural history and it was a strong influence on our decision to start our own podcast after it ended in November 2014- less than a year before we released the first episode of The Field Guides.
Enjoy the episode and "...as always, all you moms and dads, make sure your children get outside. Always great to let them go out there and roll over a log, turn over a rock. Make sure they get wet, muddy, and dirty, Just make sure they get outside and play."
Can one specimen of a native plant be more "native" than another? For those ecologists who are working to restore damaged ecosystems, whether or not they should use local ecotypes is an important question to consider. In this episode, Bill and Steve hit the road to visit Sonnenberg Gardens and the NYS Parks staff working to help restore ecosystems with an emphasis on natives and local ecotypes.
Winter is often perceived as a time of dormancy and inactivity, but underneath the snow, in the subnivean zone, a complex and fascinating world of plant and animal interactions exists. Weasels hunt through snow-roofed tunnels, herbivores graze on grasses, bark, and seeds, and occasionally the taloned feet of an owl punch through the roof, searching for a meal. In this episode, Steve and Bill pull back the snowy curtain, sharing recent research into what’s happening in the subnivean zone and the impacts of climate change on this intriguing and unseen winter world. This episode was recorded in the Shale Creek section of Chestnut Ridge Park, located in Orchard Park, NY.
What the flock is up with murmurations? And what's the difference between a swarm, a herd, a school, and a flock? In this first of a two-part episode, Bill and Steve explore the world of collective behavior, and take a specific look at murmurations of the European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). This species gathers in large flocks (sometimes numbering into the tens of thousands!) that dive and swoop across the sky, creating beautiful, shifting forms that delight, amaze, and mystify. Researchers from numerous fields study these formations, and this month, the Field Guides share the latest research into this stunning natural phenomenon.
Have you ever heard of Valcour Island? Bill and Steve heard tantalizing rumors about it and journeyed to Lake Champlain to check it out. Champlain borders both New York and Vermont, and one of its largest islands is Valcour, home to a number of rare plants and the largest Great Blue Heron rookery in New York. The Field Guides camped out on this special place, exploring, botanizing, and demonstrating why they are the slowest hikers on the planet. Come along for the ride and experience the fascinating finds Bill and Steve discovered.
OK, Field Guides listeners - *Bill and Steve crack their knuckles* - this one's a touchy subject for some people, but it's an important one. Just how much DO our food choices impact the environment? There's ample rhetoric on both sides, but what does the research say? In this episode, Steve and Bill tell you what they discovered, all while trying their best not to get too preachy. (As an added bonus, they fill you in on what they thought of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). This episode was recorded in the Letchworth Woods area of the University at Buffalo's north campus in western NY.