This is the story of two guys who enter the woods looking for Arisaema triphyllum, the graceful woodland wildflower known to many as Jack-in-the-pulpit. Not only is it beautiful to behold, but this member of the Arum family has a fascinating natural history; it can switch its sex, fool midge flies, and cause botanists to have heated debates about subspecies. During the episode, Steve makes a contribution to botanical history by coming up with the best alternative common name Bill has ever heard (see title), and we wrap things up with Bill eating some of this toxic plant. Listen to the end to see if Bill dies. Enjoy!
The great salamander migration has begun! ...and ended... Every spring there is a small window of time when adult spotted salamanders emerge from their subterranean homes and mate in nearby seasonal wetlands. Bill, Steve, Rich, and Donna venture out to find these elusive critters.
The first half of the episode takes place at Beaver Meadow Audubon center and is recorded in the typical style (...we see one salamander). The second half takes place at Donna's property and is much more free-form than usual (AND we see more salamanders than we can count). Enjoy!
It's not a skunk... and it's not a cabbage... This month, Steve and Bill discuss Skunk Cabbage. The guys go over the spathe, spadix, contractile roots, and thermogenesis, among other things. We also pose maybe too many questions to our audience:
1. Is Skunk Cabbage a clonal species?
2. Can Skunk Cabbage have multiple inflorescences?
3. Do warblers nest in Skunk Cabbage spathes?
4. Does Skunk Cabbage heat up to to promote cross pollination?
Enjoy (and help us answer these questions)!
Today we begin the first of many future episodes about spring ephemeral wildflowers. During this episode, Steve and Bill talk about Coltsfoot's adaptations, life cycle, use as a cooking spice, and toxicity. Unfortunately, the guys never figure out what the species name, farfara, means... if you know, share the love. Enjoy!
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.
Steve and Bill start off 2018 with an episode about Eastern Screech-owls. The guys talk about the Eastern Screech-owl's dichromatism, adaptations for hunting at night, and even call one in during the podcast. Make sure to wear headphones for this one- the birds calling in the distance aren't always easy to hear. Steve also gets really nervous about being killed by a bobcat for some reason... Enjoy!
*it doesn't actually fly.
Steve and Bill wrap up 2017 with an episode about Flying Squirrels. They talk about their adaptations for gliding, evolutionary history, and baculum morphology. They also talk about the new species that was discovered earlier this year. Enjoy!
We hope you're ready for a bonus episode all about Cooper's Hawks in cities. We teamed up with The Urban Wildlife Podcast for this episode's topic, so make sure that you go check them out. We also announce an artsy relationship with Always Wondering Art, as well as a tasty relationship with Boxerbar Energy Bars. You should go show them all some support. We hope you enjoy the episode!
This episode is all about the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA)! Steve and Bill explain this insect's history, biology, and it's negative effects on Eastern and Carolina Hemlock. The guys dive into what damage has already been done, what damage is still projected to happen, and what we're currently doing to stop the spread of this destructive asian hemipteran! We hope you enjoy!
Eastern Hemlocks are a staple of northeastern US forests. During this bonus episode, Steve and Bill make some tea and dive into what makes this tree so special. Historically, Hemlock has experienced 3 major declines, with the most recent happening right now. The culprit is an introduced hemipteran from Asia. Later this month, the guys will release a regular episode on that insect. But for now, enjoy this primer for episode 23!
This episode is nuts! Like peanut butter and jelly, Blue Jays and oak trees go together - they have a fascinating relationship that plays out in our forests every fall. Jays (and many of their corvid relatives) collect boatloads of acorns and engage in a caching behavior called scatter hoarding. The extent to which oaks have evolved to rely on this behavior is startling, and in this episode, Bill and Steve (he's back!) pull back the curtain on the fascinating world of acorns and corvids, revealing why these two groups are MFEO (Made For Each Other),
This episode was recorded on Oct. 30, 2017 at 18 Mile Creek Park in Hamburg, NY.
What's better than a regular episode about ticks? That's right, a bonus episode featuring someone who actually spent their career as an entomologist specifically studying ticks. Enter entomologist, Dr. Wayne Gall.
The first half of this episode follows Steve and Wayne sampling for ticks at Stiglmeier Park in Cheektowaga, NY. The second half takes place at the Julia Boyer Reinstein Library where Wayne dives into more detail about his work in Western New York.
This episode was recorded in spring 2017, but we're releasing it during mid-October. Believe it or not, Autumn is still an important time to think about ticks and Wayne would often hold off sampling for ticks until early to mid October. We hope you enjoy this special bonus episode!
Grasslands birds and the habitats they depend on are some of the most threatened components of our North American landscape. But take heart! Because people like this month's guest co-host, Kyle Webster, are working to restore and maintain grasslands for the birds (and other organisms) that require them. As a member of New York State Park's environmental field team, Kyle works to use the latest research to understand and improve the management of these critical habitats. Join Bill and Kyle (Steve's still in Illinois) as they discuss birds, burns, and conservation biology.
So, how do you feel about deer? Over the past 100 years, populations of the White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) have gone from scarce to ubiquitous. There’s a significant body of research pointing to the detrimental impacts of deer overbrowsing on our forests. Here at The Field Guides, we don’t like to exclude anyone, but we are interested in learning about deer exclosures – structures designed to keep these plentiful herbivores out of an area. Usually they are placed to allow for forest regeneration or to study the effects of deer exclusion; often, it’s done for both reasons. So what does the research show? Does excluding deer lead to healthier forests? This episode will shed some light on the answer. Listen to this rare, Steve-less episode as Bill is joined by Kristen Rosenburg, an environmental educator with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. They discuss deer exclosures, check some out at Kristen’s work site, and talk about what happens when researchers “Build That Wall!”. Special thanks to Kristen for sharing her time and expertise with us, as well as to the NYS DEC for allowing us to steal Kristen away for a morning.
This episode is all about ticks! Bill and Steve describe the difference between Ixodidae (hard ticks), Argasidae (soft ticks), and Nuttalliellidae (a single extant African species with ancestral tick traits). They also discuss the right way to remove a tick, Lyme disease, and how ticks may be partly responsible for humans being “naked apes.” We hope you enjoy!
During this episode, Steve talks about EVERY SINGLE extant non-human animal that drinks xylem or phloem sap. Join the guys as they explore the paradox of phloem sap, the barriers to eating it, how squirrels tap maple trees, hemipterans (true bugs), yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and much, much more. This episode stands alone, but we highly recommend listening to episode 17, "The Sappiest Podcast Ever..." either before or after this one. Either way, we hope you enjoy the episode!
During this episode, Bill and Steve talk about nature's junk food - sap! Join the guys as they cover how sap moves through Maple trees, as well as how climate change will affect Maples and the sap collecting season. They also interview two volunteers at the Beaver Meadow Audubon Center about turning Maple sap into syrup, cream, and sugar. Enjoy the episode!
Our 2nd bonus episode has arrived! This episode, Steve is joined by Matt from ‘In Defense of Plants’ & Sara from ‘Midwest Explorer’ for a hike at Hunter’s Creek Park. They talk about tree bark, bird poop, and American Sycamore Trees. Steve also ventures into Buffalo, NY to see the oldest American Sycamore in the world… allegedly (but probably not). Enjoy!
This episode, Bill and Steve discuss whether or not we should be feeding birds. Do filled feeders stop birds from migrating? Do they help birds survive the winter? Do they contribute to spreading disease throughout bird populations? All this and more - enjoy!
For this bonus episode, Bill, Steve, Chris, and Dave participate in the Christmas Bird Count. They count birds, talk about the history and findings of the count, and tell their own birding stories. Enjoy!
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.
This week Steve leads the discussion on "ice spikes." This is a rare winter phenomenon that Bill and Steve stumbled across at Stiglmeier Park (Cheektowaga, NY) during January, 2016. Join the guys as they run through two (presumably) incorrect hypotheses on how ice spikes form, and one well-documented method for their formation within freezers. We also explore the conditions that increase the chance of ice spikes forming in natural areas. While the episode mainly focuses on the "spike" form, "vase," "candle," and "tower" forms are also possible.
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.
This month's episode features Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana). This is a fascinating plant with some surprising tie-ins with American history. Join Steve and Bill as they tell you about pokeweed's uncommon red pigment, its use in phytoremediation, and the various ways in which it demonstrates toxicity. Enjoy!
Have you ever heard of a Fool's Hen? It’s just one of the many nicknames of the Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis), a bird of extremes and paradoxical behaviors. It often allows people to come within just a few feet before taking flight (hence the “fool” part of its nickname), but it can also be notoriously difficult to find. In addition, this species is adapted to survive on food that few other animals eat. Join Steve and Bill (and their friend, Rich) as they head into the wilds of Ontario Canada to search for this elusive critter, share the fascinating stories of its natural history, and shed light on some recent Spruce Grouse research. This episode was recorded in March of 2016 in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.
Exploding seed pods?!? Flowers in the winter?! Many species have evolved unusual strategies for reproduction, and this month’s target species is no exception. Witch Hazel (Hamemelis virginiana) is a small tree of the eastern forest understory that is easy to miss. It’s small and unassuming, but closer inspection reveals an array of fascinating adaptations that make it unique among our woodland species. Join Steve and Bill as they hunt for this wonder of the woods and share what they learned about it.
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.
It may be "the most numerous forest vertebrate" in many areas of the northeast, but the Redback Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) is rarely seen unless you're looking for it. In this episode, Steve and Bill hunt for some Redbacks while sharing recent research on its ecology. Give a listen, and hear the fascinating life history of this abundant but seldom seen forest denizen - and find out why Steve and Bill haven't posted an episode in three months!
Episode 6 of The Field Guides is here!
This episode Bill and Steve talk about Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina).