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Puerto Rico in the Great Backyard Bird Count 2013

Puerto Rico in the Great Backyard Bird Count 2013
Date: February 21, 2013

This year, and for the first time ever, the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico promoted the Great Backyard Bird Count, an annual event led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.

Now in its 16th year, the program included participants from more than a hundred countries. Joining in to report bird observations during the weekend of February the 15th through the 18th, Puerto Rico came in ninth place with more submissions to the bird count than Spain and Belize.

This is a great achievement considering the size of Puerto Rico! The Trust would like to thank all our collaborators that participated in this weekend’s count and invite them to continue observing and recording bird information on

The Downside of Dams: Is the Environmental Price of Hydroelectric Power Too High?
dams, rivers
Photo: iStockPhoto/ThinkStock
Author: Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss
Date: September 18, 2012

Dear EarthTalk: How is it that dams actually hurt rivers?—Missy Davenport, Boulder, Colo.

Dams are a symbol of human ingenuity and engineering prowess—controlling the flow of a wild rushing river is no small feat. But in this day and age of environmental awareness, more and more people are questioning whether generating a little hydroelectric power is worth destroying riparian ecosystems from their headwaters in the mountains to their mouths at the ocean and beyond.

According to the non-profit American Rivers, over 1,000 dams across the U.S. have been removed to date. And the biggest dam removal project in history in now well underway in Olympic National Park in Washington State where two century-old dams along the Elwha River…

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Tundra Trek
article spread
Photo: Gerrit Vyn
Author: Gerrit Vyn

Energized and excited by the activity around me, I drove on and stopped to explore an icy stream. There I watched a pair of Harlequin Ducks swim against the cold current of the thawing landscape and a pair of Wandering Tattlers probing quietly along the rocky shore. A bit higher, near the pass, several Northern Wheatears and American Pipits sang overhead in flight, and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches, Snow Buntings, and Baird’s Sandpipers shared a recently thawed hillside with two bachelor Dall sheep chewing their cud.

After crossing Atigun Pass, the road descends through a long glacial valley to the North Slope. The gently rolling landscape is carpeted in dry tussock tundra, interspersed with small lakes, streams, and wide braided rivers. Smith’s Longspurs run among the…

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How Dangerous Is Pesticide Drift?
peticide drift
Photo: iStock/Thinkstock
Authors: Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss
Date: September 17, 2012

Dear EarthTalk: What is “pesticide drift,” and should I be worried about it?—Nicole Kehoe, Burlington, Vt.

If you live near a big farm or an otherwise frequently manicured landscape, “pesticide drift”—drifting spray and dust from pesticide applications—could be an issue for you and yours. Indeed, pesticide drift is an insidious threat to human health as well as to wildlife and ecosystems in and around agricultural and even residential areas where harsh chemicals are used to ward off pests. The biggest risk from pesticide drift is to those living, working or attending school near larger farms which employ elevated spraying equipment or crop duster planes to apply chemicals to crops…

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Discovering the Ozone Hole: Q&A With Pawan Bhartia
Pawan Bhartia in front of Earth on a Sphere exhibit
Photo: NASA
Author: Kathryn Hansen
Date: September 17, 2012

On Sept. 16, 1987, representatives from nations around the world drafted a landmark treaty known as the Montreal Protocol. This step marked the beginning of the international agreement to phase out substances that deplete Earth’s protective ozone layer. Now, 25 years later, NASA satellites continue to provide clear snapshots of a generally stabilized Antarctic ozone hole as it cycles toward its annual maximum depth by late September or early October.

The protocol is hailed as an international policy success story. That success, however, rests on the ingenuity of numerous scientists involved with the initial discovery and analysis of the then-mysterious atmospheric phenomenon.

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MetOp-B Launches with NASA Goddard-Developed Instruments
MetOp-B conceptual image
Image: ESA/Eumetstat
Author: Cynthia O’Carroll
Date: September 17, 2012

A new European meteorological satellite soared into space today, Sept. 17, with five environmental instruments aboard that were developed by the Polar Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. These instruments were developed under a reimbursable agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“This launch is exciting not only because of the engineering accomplishment of building and launching complex instruments and satellites, but equally rewarding for the multinational cooperation and teamwork that got us there,” remarked Karen Halterman, POES Project manager at Goddard.

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Bird Seed Poisons Wild Birds
Photo: Ali Taylor
Author: David Biello
Date: September 16, 2012

Birds face many man-made mortal threats: windows, cats, habitat destruction, even climate change. And now, there’s poison—in their bird seed.

You see the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company had been in the habit of applying banned pesticides to its wild bird food products. In particular, the company applied a chemical known as Storcide II to its bird food despite a warning label for that product that reads “Storcide II is extremely toxic to fish and toxic to birds and other wildlife.”

Why add a compound toxic to birds to food meant to be eaten by birds? Because Scott didn’t want bugs infesting its bird food during storage.

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The Dark Side of LED Lightbulbs
LED lightbulbs,
Image: iStock/Thinkstock
Authors: Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss
Date: September 15, 2012

Dear EarthTalk: Are there health or environmental concerns with LED lightbulbs, which may soon replace compact fluorescents as the green-friendly light bulb of choice?—Mari-Louise, via e-mail

Indeed, LED (light emitting diode) lighting does seem to be the wave of the future right now, given the mercury content and light quality issues with the current king-of-the-hill of green bulbs, the compact fluorescent (CFL). LEDs use significantly less energy than even CFLs, and do not contain mercury. And they are becoming economically competitive with CFLs at the point of purchase while yielding superior quality lighting and energy bill savings down the line.

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The Gravity of Water
Two ranchers walk across the plains of drought-stricken West Texas in July 2011.
Author: Holli Riebeek
Date: September 12, 2012

After a year without much rain, it was no surprise that the drought lingered below the land’s surface. “Groundwater takes a long time to be depleted, but it takes a long time to be recharged as well,” says Wardlow, a remote sensing specialist at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. From experience, he expected regional groundwater supplies to be diminished. But this time he could see it in greater detail than traditional well measurements had ever provided.

Observing the water buried beneath layers of soil and rock was no small thing. When the twin satellites known as the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, were launched in March 2002, few hydrologists believed they could see—no less measure—changes in groundwater. But at least two scientists did:

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NASA’s ‘Earth Now’ App Now Available for Android
NASA's Earth Now ad for the Android
Author: Alan Buis
Date: September 10, 2012

PASADENA, Calif. — One of the top iPhone education apps in the iTunes store is now available for Android. The free NASA “Earth Now” Android app immerses cyber explorers in dazzling visualizations of near-real-time global climate data from NASA’s fleet of Earth science satellites, bringing a world of ever-changing climate data to users’ fingertips.

Available at , Earth Now displays data on many of the key vital signs of our planet that NASA satellites track. The data, displayed on your smart phone in 3-D, include current surface temperature, carbon dioxide levels and global sea level.

The regularly updated data are displayed as color maps projected over a 3-D Earth model that can be rotated…

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