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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Common redshank, foraging on a mudflat, hunts better thanks to light pollution. Photo: <a href="">Stefan Berndtsson</a> Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Common redshank, foraging on a mudflat, hunts better thanks to light pollution. Photo: Stefan Berndtsson Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: You're welcome, Mother Nature

Much of human activity has a big downside for the natural environment. But sometimes, the problems we pose to nature can give a leg up to certain species. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss the upside of light pollution and cigarette butts.  Go to full article
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius). Photo: <a href="http://www.lucnix.be/">Luc Viatour</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius). Photo: Luc Viatour, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: "Spying" jays and wren "lullabies"

Bird songs do more just decorate the air. Dr. Curt Stager talks with Martha Foley about Eurasian jays, who "spy" on each other's sounds--for clues on where they might be able to raid a little food--and about the fairy wren that teaches chicks still in the egg a "family song," preventing imposters in the nest.  Go to full article
Salt shaker. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/50388630@N00/2081320295/">pboyd04</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Salt shaker. Photo: pboyd04, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Why we need salt

Besides making our food taste better, sodium chloride (salt) is necessary for our bodies to function. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager whet their appetites on the science of salt.  Go to full article
A salt formation at Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/__piq/2064297906/sizes/z/in/photolist-49q4Rd-49kZNk-61hFYx-8nDhP8-8nDi3r-5oZn33-j3dK-9mtQJn-9zYDfq-ufiVB-4iv4TC-4ir13M-zUmTX-8ksEg8-dwDNQi-dG4ffo-4kcfAZ-4eAFb-9ABV55-4bxMaq-5mQaz2-9kVkEx-9kYo4S-9kYvdm-9kYrF7-99fghd-5tW8C3-5p5uct-a6pu9w-PNzYK-dG5EuG-2d2v2-8Hgj8V-7exijk-eadSEq-87LdgY-87Lcbh-87GYu6-4kVvaX-8nGsbA-5AFqsv-9kVp9v-87LctE/">notphilatall</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
A salt formation at Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Photo: notphilatall, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

What's the deal with salt?

It's a delicious flavor, for humans and deer alike...but it's also so much more.

There's just something special about salt, a naturally occurring mineral that humans and many animals crave. Found naturally in its crystalline solid form sea water and rock deposits left behind by ancient oceans, this chemical compound is among those that many of our cells need to survive.  Go to full article
Manufacturing adds a lot of carbon to the atmosphere. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/akeg/376488289/">Eric Schmuttenmaer</a>, Creative Coimmons, some rights reserved
Manufacturing adds a lot of carbon to the atmosphere. Photo: Eric Schmuttenmaer, Creative Coimmons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Carbon

Last week we learned how nitrogen affects us. This week, Martha Foley talks with Dr. Curt Stager about how carbon cycles through the atmosphere and the bodies of all living things.  Go to full article
The nitrogen cycle. Infographic: <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nitrogen_Cycle.jpg">US EPA</a>
The nitrogen cycle. Infographic: US EPA

Natural Selections: Nitrogen

Our atmosphere is about 80 percent nitrogen. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager explore the ways this common element and necessary component of all life forms interacts with the biosphere.  Go to full article
Cliff swallows have happily adapted to manmade "cliffs." Photo: < href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dermoidhome/3496409189/">Carol Foil</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Cliff swallows have happily adapted to manmade "cliffs." Photo: < href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dermoidhome/3496409189/">Carol Foil, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Cliff swallow adaptation

Researchers have found that variations in the wingspan of cliff swallows has a measurable impact on their survival in a human-dominated environment. In this week's Natural Selections, Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley discuss how cliff swallows living in a high traffic area have adapted to survive the conditions.  Go to full article
Bumblebee on miniature petunia. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/spike55151/4799765572/">spike55151</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Bumblebee on miniature petunia. Photo: spike55151, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Bumblebees and "flower power"

Static electricity plays a role in getting pollen to come loose from the blossom and to stick to the pollinator. According to a recent study using petunias and bumblebees, British researchers observed that the flowers increase their electrical charge in response to the presence of pollinating insects. The charge peaks in intensity just before the potential pollinator begins feeding on nectar, and decreases after they go away. Martha Foley and naturalist Curt Stager discuss this unique example of "flower power."  Go to full article
One would expect coffee blossoms to give a little caffeine "buzz," but so do flowers in the citrus family. Honeybees on an orange blossom. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/danorth1/3442778069/">Daniel Orth</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
One would expect coffee blossoms to give a little caffeine "buzz," but so do flowers in the citrus family. Honeybees on an orange blossom. Photo: Daniel Orth, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Flowers, bees... and caffeine

Plants have many strategies for manipulating animals to do their bidding. Some flowers focus the attention of their pollinators with a familiar pick-me-up--caffeine. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss the natural world.  Go to full article
This road in Iceland runs down the fault line where the Eurasian continental plate meet the North American continental plate. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/watz/519498840/">Marius Watz</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
This road in Iceland runs down the fault line where the Eurasian continental plate meet the North American continental plate. Photo: Marius Watz, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Continental Drift

The theory of continental drift--the idea that the continents are islands of rock adrift on the earth's molten core--first gained acceptance in the 1960s. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley talk about the consequences of their extreme slow motion collisions--earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  Go to full article

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