Tag Archives: Nature

Amusing Monday: Student artists share views of rare species

A student art contest focused on endangered species produced some impressive paintings and drawings this year for the 14th annual Endangered Species Day, which was celebrated this past Friday.

The contest, called Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest, is sponsored by the Endangered Species Coalition. It gives the young artists and their audience a chance to understand species at risk of extinction. Some choose plants and animal that are well known; others go for the obscure.

Texas blind salamander by ©Sam Hess
Image: Endangered Species Coalition

The grand prize this year was awarded to Sam Hess, a first grader from Portland, Ore. He depicted a Texas blind salamander, a rare cave-dwelling species native to just one place, the San Marcos Pool of the Edwards Aquifer in Hays County, Texas. The salamander, which grows to about 5 inches, features blood-red gills for breathing oxygen from the water.

The art contest, for students K-12, is sponsored by the Endangered Species Coalition, including more than 450 conservation, scientific, education, religious, recreation, business and community organizations.

“We owe it to this generation of children to pass down healthy ecosystems brimming with wildlife,” said Leda Huta, the coalition’s executive director, in a news release. “Every year, their artwork demonstrates how deeply they feel for nature and all of its wondrous creatures – large and small.”

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Amusing Monday: Life, death, sex in the natural world

For the past year, online comedian/vlogger Ze Frank has been narrating and producing videos about the strange behavior of various animals. He seems to pay particular attention to matters of reproduction, digestion and other physiological functions.

I believe there are 21 videos under the title “True Facts About … ” It doesn’t take long to realize that Frank’s slow narrative style with anthropomorphic touches emulates that of narrators for National Geographic and other nature videos. In fact, he created an entire video in which he talks about the unusual powers of Morgan Freeman (see “True Facts About Morgan Freeman”), who is well known for nature film narration.

Ze Frank, who was born Josea Jan Frank, was a pioneer in video blogging and soon gained a following for his short video commentaries he called “The Show with Ze Frank,” which ran for a year beginning in March of 2006. One episode, called “Outside,” served as an experiment for his future nature videos.

For the full list of his “True Facts About … ” videos check out the zefrank1 chapter on YouTube. Here are some of my favorite videos in the series:

Amusing Monday: python versus alligator

Here’s another battle between species. In November on Water Ways, I repeated a “dramatic” video showing a life-or-death fight between a shark and an octopus. The video was filmed at the Seattle Aquarium and was produced by National Geographic.

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

This time, the fight (actually a double billing) is between an alligator and a python in the Florida Everglades, where Burmese pythons are not native but have grown to incredible numbers in recent years. So which animal is the king of the swamp? Left to their own battles, will the alligator survive or will the python become the dominant predator?

This video, taken from a Nature program last year on PBS, shows that individual battles between an alligator and a python depend on the size of the individuals.

The program describes research in which pythons have been found to eat a wide variety of mammals, birds and reptiles. Because the invasive pythons could wipe out endangered species, a serious effort is under way to keep them out of the Florida Keys, where they have not yet established a comfortable home. The invasion is a serious, but interesting, challenge. I can recommend the entire 50-minute episode if you have not seen it.

A vision for a holistic ecosystem, humans included

Hood Canal Coordinating Council is undertaking an effort to bring average residents into the discussion about how to preserve the Hood Canal ecosystem.

While Hood Canal is becoming known for its low-oxygen problem and occasional fish kills, it’s good to remember that the canal remains famous for its shrimp, oysters and crabs. Furthermore, history tells us that the canal once abounded in sealife, including all kinds of salmon and bottomfish.

Can the canal ever come close to its heyday? I don’t know, but plenty of people would like to give it a try. (By the way, if you want to argue that the problems are caused entirely by over-fishing, we’ll need to discuss individual species — including those that aren’t harvested at all.)

The underlying premise of the Hood Canal Integrated Watershed Management Plan is that people can find ways to benefit from a healthy ecosystem, that natural processes — including the survival of plants and animals — can continue without wrecking the lifestyles of humans. Check out my story in the Kitsap Sun Oct. 26 for an overview of this project.

The vision for this approach is articulated in a document called “Development of Ecological and Socioeconomic Targets” (PDF 60 kb). The vision section begins with a short, positive statement:

Humans benefit from and coexist sustainably with a healthy Hood Canal.

The document goes on to elaborate on the vision within various goals, consistent with goals of the Puget Sound Partnership:
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Amusing Monday: Quotes to make you think

This week I’d like to share 20 quotes about humans and their relationship to the environment. Some of these quotes are odd; some are witty; and some border on the profound. But I like them because they cause me to think.

Thanks goes to the Quote Garden for compiling a huge list of “environmental quotes” from which these were taken.

1. “The command ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ was promulgated, according to our authorities, when the population of the world consisted of two people.” — William Ralph Inge, More Lay Thoughts of a Dean, 1931

2. “Time and space – time to be alone, space to move about – these may well become the great scarcities of tomorrow.” — Edwin Way Teale, Autumn Across America, 1956

3. “Because we don’t think about future generations, they will never forget us.” — Henrik Tikkanen

4. “The rose has thorns only for those who would gather it.” — Chinese Proverb

5. “For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.” — Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962

6. “Give a man a fish, and he can eat for a day. But teach a man how to fish, and he’ll be dead of mercury poisoning inside of three years.” — Charles Haas

7. I conceive that the land belongs to a vast family of which many are dead, few are living, and countless numbers are still unborn.” — Author Unknown

8. “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” — Native American Proverb

9. “The struggle to save the global environment is in one way much more difficult than the struggle to vanquish Hitler, for this time the war is with ourselves. We are the enemy, just as we have only ourselves as allies.” — Al Gore

10. “Till now man has been up against Nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature.” — Dennis Gabor, Inventing the Future, 1964

11. “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” — Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

12. “Man is a complex being: He makes deserts bloom – and lakes die.” — Gil Stern

13. “Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.” — Bill Vaughn

14. “The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.” — Ross Perot

15. “Economic advance is not the same thing as human progress.” — John Clapham, A Concise Economic History of Britain, 1957

16. “We say we love flowers, yet we pluck them. We say we love trees, yet we cut them down. And people still wonder why some are afraid when told they are loved.” — Author Unknown

17. “Why do people give each other flowers? To celebrate various important occasions, they’re killing living creatures? Why restrict it to plants? ‘Sweetheart, let’s make up. Have this deceased squirrel.'” — The Washington Post

18. Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. — Chief Seattle, 1855

19. “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” — John Muir

20. “We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.” — Kurt Vonnegut Jr.