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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Natural History
Maybe it was messier than we thought, some scientists now say. Big brains, long legs and long childhoods may have evolved piecemeal in different spots, in response to frequent swings in climate.
 
Passenger pigeons used to be the most abundant bird in North America. But hunters drove them to extinction, and by 1914, only one was left. A century later, that pigeon, named Martha, is on exhibit.
 
This bird likes livers, kidneys, entrails — anything it can pluck that's freshly dead. But what if you served it ... a painting?
 
Museums are filled with dead insects, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles meticulously gathered worldwide in the name of scientific discovery. But some researchers now say scientists should think twice.
 
A secretive, nocturnal species that lives on a remote island off the coast of Mexico had not been spotted since 1936. Scientists have concluded it is genetically distinct from mainland neighbors.
 
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 polar vortex centered over Maine, 1/21/85. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Polarvortexjan211985.jpg">National Meteorological Center</a>, Camp Springs, MD
A polar vortex centered over Maine, 1/21/85. Photo: National Meteorological Center, Camp Springs, MD

Natural Selections: Polar vortex

The meteorological term "polar vortex" has a dramatic and ominous sound--the title of a disaster movie, maybe. But it is a just pattern of winds that is with us all the time and played a big role in recent deep cold snaps. They occur when the southern edge of this weather system pushes farther south than usual. Martha Foley and Curt Stager take a little of the hype out of this winter's weather buzz-word.  Go to full article
Flappy the muskie, 54 inches. She swam happily away after being caught and released last November near 40 Acres Shoal off Grindstone Island. The fishermen: Leo Greene (age 8, 52 inches), and guide Mackie Hodges in the <em>Tinker Toy</em>, owned by Richy Glassberg. Photo: Andy Greene
Flappy the muskie, 54 inches. She swam happily away after being caught and released last November near 40 Acres Shoal off Grindstone Island. The fishermen: Leo Greene (age 8, 52 inches), and guide Mackie Hodges in the Tinker Toy, owned by Richy Glassberg. Photo: Andy Greene

Natural Selections: Muskies, Part 2

The muskellunge, or muskie, is a popular fighting fish found in Northern waters--and so is its cousin, the Northern Pike.

Martha Foley and Paul SMiths College naturalist Dr. Curt Stager continue their discussion about primitive fresh water predators.  Go to full article
Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy). Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Esox_masquinongyeditcrop.jpg">Eric Engbretson</a>, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy). Photo: Eric Engbretson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Natural Selections: Muskies, Part 1

The muskellunge, or muskie, is a popular fighting fish found in Northern waters.

Martha Foley and Paul Smiths College naturalist Dr. Curt Stager talk about this primitive fresh water predator.  Go to full article

Natural Selections: "A Field Guide to Bacteria"

Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss Betsey Dexter Dyer's book, A Field Guide to Bacteria, and the distinctive traits of individual bacteria that are visible to the naked eye.  Go to full article
Myxobacteria detect surrounding cells in a process known as quorum sensing, migrate toward each other, and aggregate to form fruiting bodies up to 500 micrometres long. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Myxococcus_xanthus.png">Ayacop</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Myxobacteria detect surrounding cells in a process known as quorum sensing, migrate toward each other, and aggregate to form fruiting bodies up to 500 micrometres long. Photo: Ayacop, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Bacterial "quorums"

Bacteria have an awareness of when they are part of a large population, and change their behavior as a result. In the sea, bioluminescence is governed by this phenomena, known as "quorum-sensing." In the body, it may trigger the disease-causing effects of large infections. Martha Foley and Curt Stager get together with microbial crowds.  Go to full article
Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluestardrop/4574604134/">Andrea Mucelli</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Andrea Mucelli, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Elders

Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about the role of individuals once they are past fertility. Elders help hold communities together by acting as the living histories and resource libraries.  Go to full article
The striking colors in this peacock feather come from irridescence, not pigments. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/9422878@N08/7557113322/">Bill Gracey</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
The striking colors in this peacock feather come from irridescence, not pigments. Photo: Bill Gracey, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Feathers and irridescence

Most color in nature is the result of pigments that reflect a particular wavelength of light, but some of nature's brightest offerings are created by physical structures within skin, scales and feathers that scattter and interfere with light.

Martha Foley and Curt Stager talk about one of nature's flashier displays--irridescent bird feathers.  Go to full article
Chipmunk with attitude. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wainwright/234922450/">Chrissy Wainwright</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Chipmunk with attitude. Photo: Chrissy Wainwright, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Bold Chipmunks

Chipmunks aren't exactly shy--their metabolism runs too high to turn down a free lunch--but neither are they social among themselves, once beyond the nest. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley talk about this aggressively territorial backyard fixture.  Go to full article
People have wondered how colors work for a long time, as shown by <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boutet_1708_color_circles.jpg">Claude Boutet's 7-color and 12-color color circles</a>, from a publication in 1708.
People have wondered how colors work for a long time, as shown by Claude Boutet's 7-color and 12-color color circles, from a publication in 1708.

Natural Selections: Seeing Colors

The notion that all colors mixed together make white can be disputed by any child who has made a stew of his paint set, but that is what a prism shows us. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley talk about colors, and how they differ to different eyes.  Go to full article
<em>Elysia chlorotica</em> is a photosynthetic slug that uses chloroplasts from the algae it eats to make energy from sunlight. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Elysia_chlorotica_%281%29.jpg">Patrick Krug</a>, Cataloging Diversity in the Sacoglossa LifeDesk
Elysia chlorotica is a photosynthetic slug that uses chloroplasts from the algae it eats to make energy from sunlight. Photo: Patrick Krug, Cataloging Diversity in the Sacoglossa LifeDesk

Natural Selections: "Alternative" animals

In general, plants make food from sunlight, and animals fuel themselves by "burning" oxygen. But some animals think outside the box.

Curt stager and Martha Foley look at a photosynthetic slug that hijacks the genetic machinery of the algae in its diet, and at a jellyfish that needs no oxygen, burning the alternative fuels of hydrogen and sulphur.  Go to full article

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