Sunday, May 24, 2020

Big Day Birding in a Snowstorm

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Biodiversity
Nature
Edward Hessler


Big Day 2020 was not what the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's birders (aka Team Sapsucker) pictured when they envisioned a day of birding in upstate New York in May."But it was" Team Sapsucker reports, "nothing short of amazing."
For the first time, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Team Sapsucker brought Big Day to our own backyard, in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Despite average highs typically creeping up above 70 degrees this time of year, Team Sapsucker instead faced a highly unusual May snowstorm! 
In this short video (1 m 22 s) is a recap of Team Sapsucker's day in a decent snowstorm or24 hours of birding in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State--midnight to midnight. 
So did they meet their goal? I'm not saying! 

Here is a list of the species seen/heard and the number sighted.And for informaton about the Lab of Ornithology's Big Day bird count, the press release about it explains all.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Greetings from St. Paul on day #143 of the 21st week of 2020. About 39 percent of the year is in our rear view mirror and it has been 140 days between our first Friday (January 3) and today (May 20). Twenty-nine days from now will be the Summer Solstice, the first day of the slow slide into fall and eventually winter. Here there will be 15 h 07 m and 18 s of glorious light with the sun rising at 5:36 am and setting at 8:43 pm.

Morgan Alexander Yesnes, a young man whom I didn't know lived his life in very dark shadows cast by ill-health--10 years of his life were described as mostly normal. I liked what he had to say about greeting a new day: Every day you wake up, you live.

Today's poem is another by the late Maxine Kumin.

You may think she is the only poet I know and I hope I've not send more of her poems than you want. But my, what a poet!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

One Thiing is Connected to Another And Another

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Society
Culture
Edward Hessler

Humans are very good at changing Earth biologically and physically. Many of these changes result in changes to societies and cultures, animals and plants. Some small and others large. Much of what humans do has occurred without thinking of possible consequences or knowing enough at the time or, too often, deferring the change to the future. Not caring plays a large role, too. An example follows of a consequential change although it is not to be judged by what we know today. At the time it seemed like the thing to do.

I finished The Texas Indians by David Levere a few weeks ago. It was a gargantuan self-assignment. Since he is a historian and had to cross several borders to write this book, it is likely that anthropologists and archeologists will find flaws and raise questions about interpretations and the use of evidence. The book, I think, is for general readers like me. What I like is the Indians are center stage throughout. Levere is now retired.

At the dawning of the 16th century--I suppose one could name a date as Levere does: November 6, 1528, the day on which Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and most of the ship's crew came ashore on the southern coast of Texas. They were starving, their clothing ripped and torn. deVaca and a few others survived thanks to the Indians but Indian life in what is now Texas changed forever. At first gradually and then rapidly.

One of the changes following was the introduction of cattle by the Spanish. Never fenced, they roamed, becoming feral cattle. As they made their way north, "ate mesquite, and in their wake left droppings filled with mesquite beans, which sprouted, took root, and thrived."

The mesquite edged ever north, "essentially turning grasslands into scrub brush, it formed a southern border limiting the range of buffalos. By the early 1700s the buffalo had disappeared south of the San Antonio River making it harder and harder for the people of South and Southwesern Texas to depend on this food source." (quotes from pp. 71 and 72).

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Report on Re-Opening Pre-K Through 12th Grade

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Health
Medicine
Children
Education
Early Childhood
Edward Hessler

Yesterday I posted about the opening of Finish early education schools--a visit to one of them to learn how COVID-19 has changed the school day. Today is a long report on opening schools in the United States and some of the important questions. What may be of most interest other than the summary are the tables which show what several other countries are doing in re-opening their schools.

Among the many debates about reopening institutions and business is waged around schools, especially since the current research suggests that children tend to have less sever forms of the COVID-19 infection and that school closures have a blunt impact on the reopening of the economy. Many adults will not be able to return to work if schools are not open this fall.

There is, of course, a devastating impact on children who don't return: learning but this is not the purview of the report. In schools, learning occurs in a variety of grouping situations, e.g., individually, small groups and whole classes. Additionally, a teacher is there to provide nearly on-demand help.

The John Hopkins Center for Health Security has just published a comprehensive guidance document because there are many unanswered questions, e.g., viral transmission to one another as well as to staff and teachers and the effect of the virus on children with underlying medical conditions. There are blanks to be filled in what we know as well as the nature of the risks.

The introduction to the report states that "There is an urgent need to understand the evidence that would support how students could safely return to school. This is an extremely difficult decision, because of the uncertainties relating to risk. While published studies to date indicate that children with COVID-19 are less likely than adults to suffer severe illness, there is only limited scientific evidence, models, and anecdotal accounts attempting to gauge whether children with COVID-19 in school can efficiently transmit the virus to other children, teachers, school staff, and family members. Unanswered questions include: How vulnerable to severe illness are students who have underlying health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or severe obesity? How safe is it for adults who themselves have serious underlying health conditions to send their children back to school without fear of those children bringing the virus home and infecting others in the family? How safe is it for teachers, administrators, and other school staff, especially those who are medically vulnerable, to return to school and interact with students who may be asymptomatic but infectious? Are certain school communities at greater risk than others relative to exposure, and should each school community be evaluated independently to determine level of risk?"

It is long (50 pp) and in a PDF format. The focus is on pre-K through 12th grade. It does not include boarding schools, colleges/universities because the challenges there are different, e.g., congregate living arrangements. 

The appendix includes detailed and documented information in the form of easy to read tables on the following countries are dealing with this issue: Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Opening Primary Schools in Denmark During COVID-19

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Health
Medicine
Early Childhood
Children
Education
Edward Hessler

Denmark appears to have had early success in limiting the effects of the Corona virus (< 550 deaths so far). It was the first country in Europe to reopen its primary schools.

BBC correspondent Jean Mackenzie recently spent a day in a primary school in Finland and reports what she learned about the reopening in this video (3m 39s).

This report from U. S. News & World Report (May 15, 2020)  provides more information about COVID-19 in Denmark. "Denmark's total number of confirmed cases rose by 78 to 10,791 since Thursday, with the number of hospitalisations falling by 10 to 137. The death toll remained unchanged at 537."

Monday, May 18, 2020

Edittorial: The Lancet--On Politicizing US Public Health

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Health
Medicine
Society
Edward Hessler

The British medical journal, The Lancet, published an editorial (unsigned) which was scalpel sharp in its criticism of the Trump's administration politicizing of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The editorial calls attention to its long history in discovering new viruses and the development of accurate tests for them and notes its role in helping the World Health Organizaton (WHO) eradicate smallpox. However, it notes that "funding to the CDC for a long time has been subject to conservative politics that have increasingly eroded the agency's ability to mount effective evidence-based public health responses." The current administration has continued this by first cutting back CDC staff in China and then recalling the "last remaining CDC officer in China (July 19)."

The editorial also notes that CDC has made mistakes, "especially in the early stages of the pandemic. The agency was so convinced that it had contained the virus that it retained control of all diagnostic testing for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, but this was followed by the admission " that it had developed faulty test kits.

Perhaps the largest problem is an administration "obsessed with magic bullets--new vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear." However, the emergency will be brought to an end based "on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate." Furthermore, CDC leadership must be assured that s/he can lead "without the thrat of being silenced and who has the technical capacity to lead today's complicated effort."

It ends with this endorsement, unusual I think, foran overseas journal : "Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand public health should not be guided by partisan politics.

Strong stuff and may be read here (it is short).

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Francois Clemens, AKA Officer Clemens: An Interview

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Early Childhood
Children
Health
Edward Hessler

Franciois Clemmons, better known to many of us as Officer Clemmons of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, has written a memoir, "Officer Clemmons: A Memoir."

NPR sat down for a wonderful interview with him.

Here is one sample, one I'm sure many who watched this always respectful and intelligent PBS program have wondered about? What would Mr. Rogers do during this pandemic? Mr. Clemmons doesn't disappoint with his answer. It is what you'd expect from this loving, compassionate, wise man.

"A few people have asked me that. I don’t think this is something that Fred should be dealing with. It’s something we need to be dealing with, and asking what he would do is OK, but what it boils down to is you and I are in charge now. Fred’s not in charge anymore. He’s not instructing us the same way. He’s left us in charge. He knows that he did his job, what he imparted to us is so special. Now it’s your turn to show that you are worthy of sitting in that driver’s seat, and that would be an adult. We adults have to talk with each other and decide what’s best."

Fred Rogers would, I think, applaud this answer and also lead in the cheers honoring this wise man.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Spending Time in Nature Via Documentaries: A Good

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Nature
Wildlife
Edward Hessler

This short video (2 m 22 s) from BBC Earth on the value of watching nature documentaries.The study was a partnership between BBC Earth and the University of California.

And for further information about this project see BBC Earth's  Real Happiness Project.

Still, get out there, too.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Greetings from St. Paul on this 20th week of the year, its 135th day--230 to go, the 20th Friday of the year,  with 36 days to go before SS on June 20.Today sunrise is at 5:43 am and sunset at 8:35 pm giving us 14h 52m 41s of daylength.

Yesterday, The Writer's Almanac observed the late Hal Borland's birthday. He was a journalist who had a remarkable run as the NYT's nature writer--1750 columns. Pinned to the wall of his office was a New Yorker cartoon with the caption: "Here's another of those crackpot editorials about the voice's of frgos shattering the autumn stillness."

Today's fondly remembered poem is by Martha Zwieg.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

German Society for Nature Photography; 2020 SELECTIONS

Environmental & Science Education
Wildlife
Nature
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

The German Society for Nature Photography (GDT) has selected its Nature Photographer of the Year.

The Guardian has posted it and a few other entries as well as photographs for categories such as mammals, landscapes, nature's studio, and special category (water). The circumstances of the winning image is described as "part of a series of photographs taken in Dortmand's north by Peter Lindel. Compared with many international nature photography hot spots, this region has little to offer. Lindel spent a lot of time and blood, sweat and tears working on this project on his doorstep. It is a beautiful statement about the long-term exploration of a single species and region."

This is a competition for members of the society.