Natural Selections

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About
Natural Selections

On Natural Selections each week, join a short conversation on the natural world. Topics range from evolutionary biology to geology and wildlife, from climate science to animal and human behavior.

Ellen Rocco
The program is hosted by NCPR news director Martha Foley joined by naturalist Dr. Curt Stager of Paul Smith's College.

Support for Natural Selections is provided by the Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation, dedicated to improving the quality of life for year-round residents of the Adirondack Park, and by Paul Smith's, the College of the Adirondacks.

New Book: Deep Future

"The course we take in the coming decades will affect not just the next hundred years, but the next hundred thousand years of life on this planet." --Curt Stager

Deep Future
In bookstores now

Order at: Amazon | Borders
Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Powell's Books
And please remember your local independent booksellers. Find one near you.

 

Nature features

Curt Stager on On Point

Curt StagerListen to Dr. Curt Stager as the guest on On Point, 3/24/11, talking about his new book, Deep Future: the Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth.

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Curt's Save the Carbon Blog

Spring, 2012: Just A Fluke, or A Taste of the Future?

Partial ice-out on Lower Saint Regis Lake , March 22, 2012.Record-high March temperatures have driven the ice... more

The weather of 2011: a waste or a wake-up call?

We've been having a difficult time with weather this year in the North Country.  But let's not... more

The Power of Moving Water

Spread your arms out sideways and your hands will be roughly one meter apart.  Use that span to sculpt an... more

Upper Jay, six days after Irene.

Six days after Irene drove the Ausable River and its tributaries over their banks, Kary and I visited the heavily... more

Irene devastates the Ausable Valley

Former hurricane ("tropical storm") Irene did relatively little damage last Sunday near my home in Paul Smiths, here in... more


Natural History
The Smithsonian is set to unpack something it's never had before: a rare, nearly complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. It's a gift from a Montana museum that says this T. rex deserves to be famous.
 
A 325 million-year-old fossil find shows that the gill structures of modern sharks are actually quite different from their ancient ancestors.
 
Curators say they'll use the big grant from Boeing to better highlight how exploratory flight — from the Spirit of St. Louis to the <em></em>Starship Enterprise — has transformed the world.
 
An apprenticeship program in New York City helps lower-income and minority students break into advanced sciences. For one, the love of the stars was motivation to tackle the tough field of astronomy.
 
OK, maybe it just munched vegetation, small animals and eggs. But this newly named dino looked like a cross between a chicken and a bulked-up ostrich. Five-inch claws? We'd have stayed out of its way.
 
more science news from NPR

Natural Selections with hosts Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager airs Thursday mornings during The Eight O'Clock Hour.

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 Recent Natural Selections programs
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A male bumblebee about to alight on an alumroot. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bumblebee_heuchera.jpg">Sjjubs</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
A male bumblebee about to alight on an alumroot. Photo: Sjjubs, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

How bumblebees keep warm

Bees need to be warm in order to fly. That's usually not a problem, since it takes millions of round trips to flowers to make a pound of honey. But should they fall idle long enough to cool down, bees fire up their wing muscles by shivering. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley, with more about bees.  Go to full article
Barred owl in the rain. Archive Photo of the Day 12/19/12: Butch Bramhall, Croghan, NY
Barred owl in the rain. Archive Photo of the Day 12/19/12: Butch Bramhall, Croghan, NY

Natural Selections: Barred Owl

The barred owl is often heard but seldom seen. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley discuss the habits of this nocturnal hunter, and Curt demonstrates his own highly-regarded version of its distinctive call.  Go to full article
Estimated change in annual mean sea surface pH between the 1700s and the 1990s. Graphic: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WOA05_GLODAP_del_pH_AYool.png">Plumbago</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Estimated change in annual mean sea surface pH between the 1700s and the 1990s. Graphic: Plumbago, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: How rising CO2 levels are changing our oceans

Most of the concern about carbon dioxide is focused on the quantity in the atmosphere and its effect on climate. But rising CO2 levels in the oceans can have equally significant effects on the ecosystems of the seas. Martha Foley and Curt Stager discuss the changing aquasphere.  Go to full article
American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), in Quebec. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tamiasciurus_hudsonicus_CT.jpg">Cephas</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), in Quebec. Photo: Cephas, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Squirrel diet

Red squirrels do well in an abundant year for spruce and balsam cones, eating as many as fifty a day. Introduced to Newfoundland for the first time in the 1960s, squirrels eat as much as two-thirds of all the black spruce cones produced. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley talk about the eating habits of squirrels and their impact on the environment.  Go to full article
Photo: <a href="http://capl.washjeff.edu/2/l/4348.jpg">Washington & Jefferson College</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Washington & Jefferson College, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Sense of smell

Humans aren't naturals at tracking smells like dogs, but they can, in fact, track by scent just like dogs. The main difference is humans get better with practice. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about people's sense of smell.  Go to full article
Ripples in sand: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30302870@N08/2839605958/">Markles55</a>, and in snow: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/n031/3285104971/">Clear Inner Vision</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Ripples in sand: Markles55, and in snow: Clear Inner Vision, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

No, the North Country's not the coldest place on earth

Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss the hottest and coldest places on earth. Death Valley is no longer the hottest. Libya takes (or bakes) the cake these days. The lowest, as you would expect, is in Antarctica. How cold? You don't want to know.  Go to full article
Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/hobgadlng/11393404204/">Tee La Rosa</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved<br />
Photo: Tee La Rosa, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

You're a moth: How do you defend yourself?

The battle for survival among insects is not always carried out with mandible and stinger. This branch of the animal kingdom also employs chemical warfare. Some moths and butterflies store plant poisons in their bodies that make them so toxic, spiders will cut them loose from their webs. Some spiders make their webs and the food stored within deadly to ants and some create toxic "veils" to protect their mates while they are vulnerable. Martha Foley and Paul Smith's College biologist Curt Stager explore the arsenal of the natural world.  Go to full article
Opossum with "babies on board," near Brier Hill, NY. Archive Photo of the Day 6/26/13: Bruce Dana
Opossum with "babies on board," near Brier Hill, NY. Archive Photo of the Day 6/26/13: Bruce Dana

Why Opossums are coming to the North Country, and why they look like they're made from spare parts

Opossums may be thought of as a southern animal, but they are becoming more common in the North Country as they expand their range north and west. They are the only marsupial, or pouched mammal, in North America.

Martha Foley tells Curt Stager that they look a little weird, as if they were made from parts of other animals: the tail of a rat, the pouch of a kangaroo, funny little hands.  Go to full article
A turtle under the ice. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/90434877@N00/3206736457/">Richard Due</a>. Creative COmmons, some rights reserved
A turtle under the ice. Photo: Richard Due. Creative COmmons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: How do turtles survive a winter underwater?

Unlike frogs, turtles don't hibernate through the winter. In fact, sometimes you can see snappers and other species moving around under the ice. While their metabolism runs at very low ebb in the cold, they remain alert to changes in light and temperature that signal the coming spring.

How do they survive without oxygen? As Paul Smiths College biologist Curt Stager tells Martha Foley, they get energy from their body tissues, and their shells neutralize the resulting lactic acid build-up.  Go to full article
Flying Squirrel. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/errrrrrrrrika/3150513527/">errrrrrrrrika</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Flying Squirrel. Photo: errrrrrrrrika, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Flying squirrels

Rarely seen during the day, flying squirrels don't actually fly, but use flaps of skin that connect their fore and hind legs that enable them to glide up to a hundred feet, between trees and from tree to ground.

Unlike their more earthbound cousins, they do not hibernate in the winter. And their preferred diet is lichens and mushrooms, rather than nuts and cones.  Go to full article

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