In northern California, residents in five counties work to protect and restore wild public lands and rivers that provide enormous economic benefits for the region. A summary report recaps how conservationists in 25 states are working together to restore grassland habitat for the bobwhite quail, an iconic game bird that has declined dramatically in recent decades. In Idaho, a wide coalition of local groups support federal wilderness designation for the remote Scotchman Peaks roadless area, one of the last and the largest wild landscape in the region. Scientists face the engineering challenge of harnessing the energy of ocean waves to generate electric power.
Herring Lift: Every spring, on the Saugatucket River in Rhode Island, tens of thousands of river herring try to swim upriver from the Atlantic to spawn, facing dams on the river that block their way. Many fish find it too exhausting to use fish ladders on the dams, and they give up their struggle. But happily there are people who volunteer to help the fish on their journey, using buckets in an effort called a “fish lift” to get the herring over the dams.
Biofuel Start-ups: We look at the new frontier in renewable sources of energy – sources grown as agricultural crops. New biofuel enterprises based on switchgrass, corn stover and wood waste are still in the start-up stage, trying to develop their technologies, scale up their production, and secure a market for their ethanol product with some controversial government support.
Fabulous Filtering Fungi: On a small island off Washington’s coast, high school students create
barriers with oil-absorbing mushrooms to filter stormwater runoff that drains into the ocean.
Prickly Pear Cactus for Clean Water: Our Science Nation report takes us to a lab where researchers are testing a Mexican folk recipe: using the “goo” inside prickly pear cactus to purify water contaminated by chemicals or oil spills.
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.
Among the most solitary and elusive mammals in North America, wolverines were wiped out decades ago by fur traders and poison in the lower 48 states. Now these mammals with a ferocious reputation are making a slow comeback, migrating south from Canada. It takes rugged and dedicated scientists—and photographers!—to sneak a peek into their world! See how they are working to understand and preserve the wolverine’s habitat.
For decades U.S. soldiers headed for battle spent weeks in training at Fort Ord, California. Trucks, tanks, grenades and artillery—they spread over this land on the Pacific Coast. When the base was shuttered in the early 1990s the community nearby was devastated economically. But residents, the military and local businesses put their heads together to give a re-birth to these tens of thousands of acres. Now it attracts hikers, mountain bikers, researchers, even young school kids who can share and enjoy this land. Host Bruce Burkhardt takes us on a tour.
What do casino executives, Moapa Paiute Indians and nature photographers have in common? They are all eager to protect an area known as Gold Butte in Nevada. The group “Friends of Gold Butte” is working to add the highest federal protection to the region, by designating it a wilderness. This could help add law enforcement to this huge acreage, to protect ancient cultural sites and prevent vandalism in this stark and beautiful desert.
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.
Paddling and protecting the spectacular Cascadia Marine Trail along Washington’s coastline. Robotic underwater gliders investigate mysterious “dead zones” off the Pacific coast. Young students in Oregon learn how destructive crayfish were transported across the Rockies for science experiments in their own school! A landfill gets a second career as a solar power station. Powerful grizzly bears test new designs for bear-proof trash cans.
We’ll take you to Colorado, and one of the most breathtaking places you’ve probably never heard of. More than 30 years after Mt. St. Helens blew, researchers witness an amazing rebirth. High fashion took a huge toll on America’s wading birds that have now recovered to face new threats. Loggers and environmentalists reach a “timber truce” that seems to be working. And moose, bears and elk are just not the same up close as they are on TV; what’s the National Park Service doing to keep humans and wildlife superstars at a safe distance?