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News from The Treetalker

July 20, 2018 – In her blog for Scientific American, Jennifer M. Archambault wrote about Using Herbicides to Save Endangered Snails.

The habitat of the rare, tiny Panhandle pebbles snail, which consumes algae and other microorganisms and is integral to maintaining the ecological balance in river systems, is threatened by an invasive aquatic plant called hydrilla. Introduced through the aquarium trade in the 1950s into the ponds and canals of Florida, it has worked its way into many southern states and is on the Federal Noxious Weeds list. Humans aid in its spread, as it can easily propigate from small fragments on boat motors or fishing equipment. After much field study and testing, it was found in a pilot study in the Eno River in North Carolina that, with applications of a herbicide, the hydrilla is dramatically thinning, and the snails’ population is growing. A great deal of work is left to do to control the hydrilla in the greater Southern water system, but the data gives hope. Read Jennifer’s blog post here.

From ScienceDaily, July 5, 2018. Bacteria-powered solar cell converts light to energy, even under overcast skies!

U of BC researchers have found a cheap, sustainable way to build a solar cell using bacteria that convert light to energy. Their cell generated a current stronger than any previously recorded from such a device, and worked as efficiently in dim light as in bright light. This innovation could be a step toward wider adoption of solar power in places like British Columbia and parts of northern Europe where overcast skies are common. This is great news, particularly since it’s from Canada, where the government hopefully cares about its environment more than the current administration in the U.S.

“We recorded the highest current density for a biogenic solar cell. These hybrid materials that we are developing can be manufactured economically and sustainably, and, with sufficient optimization, could perform at comparable efficiencies as conventional solar cells.” Read the article here.

Another article from ScienceDaily, June 18, 2018

Cementless fly ash binder makes concrete ‘green’
Engineers use byproduct from coal-fired power plants to replace Portland cement. It is made primarily of fly ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants. If you noticed an article in the NY Times this week that reported the EPA is easing standards on the disposal of toxic coal ash, this development could provide some way of cleaning up some of the messes created by these plants. Read more about this new composite, environmentally friendly material here.

Another, related article about this sustainable alternative to traditional concrete using coal fly ash is here. This article mentions that the production method doesn’t require heating, which is one of the other polluting aspects of concrete manufacture. The cement less binder also aids groundwater and mitigates flooding, because water can pass through it, unlike cement. Read this article here.

Also, Focus On the Anhinga.

This bird quickly spears a fish with its sharp bill, then flips it into the air and swallows it head first. Sometimes the Anhinga spears the fish so hard it has to return to shore to get the fish off its bill by banging the fish against a rock.
Also known as snakebird, the Anhinga sometimes swims slowly underwater stalking fish around submerged vegetation, but when hunting at the surface, it stretches its head and neck flat out on the surface of the water, above its submerged body. With head and neck stretched out, it has the appearance of a snake is gliding through the water.
The Anhinga’s feathers are not waterproofed with oils, and can get waterlogged, but this helps it stay submerged for long periods of time. Afterwards, it will perch for long periods with its wings spread to dry them. If it tries to fly with wet wings, it has difficultly getting airborne, so it has to take off by flapping energetically and running on the surface of the water.
Once in the air, it is a graceful flier and can go long distances without flapping its wings, using thermals for soaring, and can achieve altitudes of several thousand feet.

 

 

 

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Environment, Excerpts, Nature, Uncategorized

This week from The Treetalker

This week, I have posted another excerpt from Volume Two: The Midcontinent of Secret Voices from the Forest.

 

The pages are from Chapter Four: Lower Midwest—Pecan.  Each tree’s information contains a section on its “Companions,” which is how I refer to a few selected plants and animals within the trees ecosystem The section begins with a listing of what is pictured on the page on the right side. The list reads clockwise, starting from the top left image. Inside the page is a poem from or about the tree itself, written by my friend Brian Mitchell. The four pages following the listing and poem contain interesting and/or fun facts about some of these companions.Pecan-pg-1C

 

Purchase your copy at http://secret-voices.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pecan-pg-2cPecan-C-#3

 

 

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Environment, Excerpts, Nature

This week from The Treetalker

This week, I have posted another excerpt from Volume Two: The Midcontinent of Secret Voices from the Forest.

The pages are from Chapter Four: Lower Midwest—Pecan.  Each tree’s information contains a section on its “Companions,” which is how I refer to a few selected plants and animals within the trees ecosystem The section begins with a listing of what is pictured on the page on the right side. The list reads clockwise, starting from the top left image. Inside the page is a poem from or about the tree itself, written by my friend Brian Mitchell. The four pages following the listing and poem contain interesting and/or fun facts about some of these companions.Pecan-pg-1C

Purchase your copy at http://secret-voices.com

 

 

 

Pecan-pg-2cPecan-C-#3

 

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Excerpts

from  Secret Voices from the Forest, Volume Two:

Eastern Subterranean Termite

Eastern Subterranean Termite

Midcontinent

I’ve been working on the Companions for several months now, and will be showing a few of them, more or less as they will appear in Volume Two, as well as other bits and pieces, till the Volume is released. I’m guessing that won’t be till 2014 at the earliest.

Eastern Subterranean Termite
Reticulitermes flavipes forms subterranean colonies of several hundred to several million individuals. Members of the highly organized community consist of three castes: workers, soldiers, and reproductives. The largest number of colony members, the workers, are sterile and do all the grunt work, but are capable of molting into other castes. Soldiers, whose job is defending the colony, cannot molt into anything else, and also cannot feed themselves, so are fed by the workers. They only make up one to two percent of the colony. The reproductives—the king, queen, alates, or winged primary reproducers—those destined to start new colonies, alate nymphs, and supplementary reproductives (spares), make up the rest.
All castes look different. Workers are blind, wingless, and about 1/8 inch long. Soldiers are slightly larger, and have large mandibles that are used for defense. Alates have wings and compound eyes and are a darker color. Queens can produce up to 2000 eggs a day, adding extra sets of ovaries, their bodies can become massive, their extended abdomens getting as long as 3.5 inches over the period of their forty-five year life spans. The king, who looks more like a worker, remains necessary to the queen’s reproductive ability for life, unlike ant consorts, who mate with their queen only once, then become superfluous.
Although termites ingest wood, they cannot digest wood fibers. They rely on protozoa, single-celled animals, and bacteria living in their gut to free up the cellulose. Because termites can produce up to two liters of hydrogen from digesting a single sheet of paper, they are one of the planet’s most efficient bioreactors. Fermenting bacteria in the bodies of the termites produce simple sugars, which are then used by other bacteria, producing hydrogen as a by-product. The U.S. Department of Energy is studying this process, and hopes there is potential to scale it up enough to generate commercial quantities of hydrogen from woody biomass.

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