Private landowners in Pennsylvania work with government support to provide critical forest habitat for threatened populations of bats. Along the Meramec River near St. Louis, residents try to break the costly cycle of flooding, cleaning up and re-building by adopting more natural solutions to flood mitigation. Managing forest plantations in Florida, landowners use prescribed fires to reintroduce a natural process that results in healthier ecosystems for wildlife as well as better forest and ranching operations.
A widely based coalition of local interest groups campaigns for permanent protection of forests, watersheds and wildlife habitat in a critical northern Montana landscape. Small-scale farmers in Montana learn how to grow crops organically with helpful support from advisers with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Crop dusters commonly spray a toxic brew of pesticides on farmworkers in the fields, and the impact on the environment and the health of many people in Lake Apopka, Florida is obvious (co-produced with Earthjustice).
Tiny Fish: Big Deal:
Researchers on the Oregon coast study the role that forage fish play in the food chain. Sometimes called “bait fish”, sardines, anchovies, smelt and other small fish are vitally important in sustaining larger species – including sea birds, salmon, and marine mammals like sea lions. Humans also catch forage fish, mainly for animal feed, and there’s growing concern that large-scale commercial harvesting of forage fish comes at the expense of other marine life, potentially with catastrophic results.
Wild Olympics: Spectacular Olympic National Park is the centerpiece of the verdant Olympic Peninsula in northwest Washington State, right up against the Canadian border. There’s now a bill in Congress that would add more protection to the forests and watersheds around the park, and we explore why there’s wide support for the proposal among the people living there.
Biofuel from Cornfield Residue: In another report on emerging second-generation biofuels, we travel to Iowa where farmers are discovering there’s growing demand for the residue in their cornfields – stalks, leaves, husks and cobs – left on the ground after the corn is harvested, That residue, called “corn stover”, is biomass that can also be converted into ethanol.
Fire Ants: Everybody wants to eradicate biting, invasive fire ants, but scientists say they can learn a great deal by studying the social structure of these insects. New research shows that the widespread success of fire ants has been assisted when humans disturb natural areas with roads and development.
Saving the Upper Rio Grande: In northern New Mexico the Rio Grande runs through a spectacular gorge formed by a rift in the Earth’s crust. This river corridor is a critical flyway for migratory birds, and the arid plateau on either side of it is a major migration habitat for elk and deer. A pending bill in Congress would protect these areas as the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area, in addition to designating two majestic cinder cone mountains east and west of the plateau as protected wilderness. The bill has widespread support among local Hispanic farmers and ranchers because it would allow their traditional hunting, grazing, fishing and wood-gathering to continue, preserving the culture that developed there over hundreds of years.
Facing Climate Change with Wind Power: Severe drought has taken a toll on farming and ranching communities in Eastern New Mexico. Residents are trying to adjust for prolonged dry times, and some are finding salvation in wind turbine projects that generate revenue for them as well as power for the Southwest.
Flying Aces of the Insect World: Just how do these insects pull off complex aerial feats, hunting and reproducing in midair? These four- winged insects pre-date dinosaurs, and can fly straight up, straight down, or hover like helicopters. Researchers are getting some inspiration from these insects, to improve small- scale aircraft design.
Peel Watershed: A hundred miles from the Alaska border in Canada’s Yukon Territory, the Peel Watershed is a huge area of wild and pristine rivers, arboreal forests and mountain ranges. Caribou from Alaska migrate to and from the region, but they face threats from a modern day gold rush that also threatens other wildlife including grizzly bears and wolverines. Efforts are underway to protect this land, and these fragile ecosystems. But it looks like a fight is brewing with miners and developers.
Indigo Snakes: Known as the “Lord of the Forest”, the eastern indigo snake is the largest native snake in North America, averaging six to seven feet in length. Endangered and in decline, this nonvenomous reptile is extinct from a third of its former range, the coastal plain of the Southeast. The Orianne Society is using cutting edge science, fire, and longleaf pine restoration to ensure the survival of not only indigo snakes, but an entire complex of animals that inhabit this unique landscape.
Idaho Wilderness: Its wild residents could fill a volume of some of the most iconic American wildlife: From elk and moose to spawning salmon, mountain goats and sheep to black bears and cougars. Efforts are underway to protect central Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds Mountains, designating 330,000 acres as wilderness. The proposed federal legislation would both protect these lands, and ensure economic sustainability.
Loggerhead Turtles: These animals make one of the most treacherous journeys of any creatures, without any parental involvement. Human development is making their survival even more dangerous. Sharon Collins of Georgia Public Broadcasting shows us how these amazing reptiles struggle in an epic journey. These large sea turtles are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Sandfish Lizard: The sandfish is a little lizard that lives in the Sahara Desert. Scientists are fascinated by its slithering moves. It can tuck its limbs close to its body, and literally “swim” through the sand, just like an eel wiggles its way through water. Physicists are studying this little creature, and using it to inspire new robotic moves that could one day help search-and-rescue crews find survivors in piles of rubble, left from disasters like Hurricane Katrina. The little sandfish is teaching us a lot about what it takes to worm through rugged terrain and debris.
Wrangling Water: Cattle are not the only things being rounded up in Florida. Ranchers are also herding water! For years, experts have searched for answers about how to increase water storage in the northern Everglades, and reduce the pollution levels. A pilot program pays ranchers to use their low-lying lands for “environmental services” – namely to store water. Water that’s captured during the June through October wet season can then be slowly released during dry months into the tributaries of Lake Okeechobee.
And it’s proving to be a good thing both for the economy and the environment.
Arctic White Geese: Snow geese and Ross’s geese make an almost unimaginable 3,000-mile migration each year. So it’s no wonder they enjoy spending a month or so in eastern Oregon, “bulking up” on tender grasses and nutritious bugs. The folks from Oregon Field Guide have captured the beauty of thousands of these birds on their stopover to the Arctic. Dedicated “citizen scientists” spend time during the birds’ respite to study them. Some say the sky is so filled with geese that it often looks like a snowstorm!
Veterans in the Great Outdoors: Some military veterans returning from combat have physical scars. Others have mental stresses that can also impact their families. We join the Sierra Club’s Stacy Bare, a U.S. Army veteran, on an adventure down the Colorado River, where veterans deepen their connections with the land, and one another. The camaraderie and the healing power of nature come through in this beautiful and rugged setting.
Tracking a Coral Killer: It’s a detective story that has unfolded in the waters off Key West, Florida. What’s been killing the Elkhorn coral? Biologist Kathryn Sutherland has identified human sewage as the source of the coral-killing pathogen that causes white pox disease. Elkhorn coral was listed for protection as an endangered species in 2006, largely due to white pox disease. Sutherland works with water treatment facilities in south Florida to try to make sure water is cleared of this pathogen before it goes back into the Atlantic.
Digging for Dinosaurs: Talk about a special delivery! Co-host Caroline Raville got to witness the recovery of thousands of pounds of dinosaur fossils by helicopter, deep in the Utah desert. Paleontologists from the Bureau of Land Management call Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument one of the best “bone yards” on the planet. Scientists continue to identify new species of dinosaurs and other reptiles in this remote area. Many are 75 million years old!
Sonoran Desert Protection: There’s a quiet beauty in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. A wide range of residents work to make sure wildlife and ancient artifacts here are protected, now and for the future. You’ll meet a pastor who’s come up with a game for his young parishioners to learn about nature. Local farmers embrace the daily visits of wild animals to their land. Conservationists, and even the U.S. Air Force, realize the need to keep this land safe for future generations.
“Swamp People”: The Okefenokee Swamp is constantly changing, from its river trails to its alligators and beautiful bird populations. Sharon Collins of Georgia Public Broadcasting joins some self-proclaimed “swamp people” who make their living in this National Wildlife Refuge. It is a wetland of international importance, but for anyone who visits, it is simply a captivating place to watch plants and animals.
Beaver Builders: Beavers are nature’s engineers. It turns out they are also good at restoring ailing ecosystems. In eastern Oregon, researchers are doing some extreme fieldwork (snorkeling in rivers and streams in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter!) to learn more about how beaver dams are helping create healthier streams and rivers for salmon, trout, songbirds, and for nearby communities.
Wrangling Water: Cattle are not the only things being rounded up at some Florida ranches. Residents are also herding water! And it’s proving to be a good thing both for the economy and the environment. A pilot program pays ranchers to use their low-lying lands to store water. Water that’s captured during the wet season can then be slowly released during dry months into the tributaries of Lake Okeechobee.
Body Electric: Ever listen to a fish? It’s possible with an electric knifefish! While better known electric eels use electricity to stun their prey, these creatures use electricity to navigate and communicate. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are intrigued by this sixth “electro sense,” and are learning more about how these fish use this tool to find their way around— and locate their next meal.
Census in the Smokies: This nature audit has been going on for 10 years and gives scientists a good idea about the trends of life in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A small army of “citizen scientists” help researchers collect specimens, and then analyze their findings.