Grass for gas: new frontiers in growing biofuels
In Iowa and Tennessee, researchers and farmers are on the front lines of the biofuel revolution where switchgrass, sourgum and miscanthus are grown specifically as renewable fuel sources
Backyard wilderness in Los Angeles
Unlike most wilderness areas that are remote and hard to access, the San Gabriel Mountains are within easy reach of the L.A. urban sprawl, forming the centerpiece of an imaginative plan for a 600,000-acre national recreation area
Restoring native plants in Utah
High school students in Kanab learn the importance of protecting vanishing native plants and tackling invasive species. Harvesting native seeds, sprouting them in a greenhouse and transplanting them in acre-sized test plots, they track the plants’ progress with GPS technology
Artificial cave fights deadly bat disease
White nose fungus is likely to be the worst wildlife disaster of our time, and researchers in Tennessee hope that a human-built cave can attract enough hibernating bats to slow the spread of the infection
Rocky Mountain fracking riles Colorado residents
Rich deposits of oil shale in Garfield County yield huge amounts of natural gas and oil for energy companies, but local residents are pushing back against intrusive air and water pollution, noise and traffic
Colorado farmers and ranchers win fight against drilling
The federal government shelved plans to auction leases for oil and gas drilling in the North Fork Valley after local residents came out overwhelmingly against it as a threat to their new economy rooted in tourism, wineries and organic produce
Backpacking with llamas in Oregon
Older hikers have an alternative to carrying heavy backpacks: an outfitter providing sturdy, affable llamas loaded with chairs, tables, wine and other luxuries that allow full enjoyment of wilderness treks without aches and pains
Beaver Builders: Beavers are nature’s engineers. It turns out they are also good at restoring ailing ecosystems. In eastern Oregon, researchers are doing some extreme fieldwork (snorkeling in rivers and streams in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter!) to learn more about how beaver dams are helping create healthier streams and rivers for salmon, trout, songbirds, and for nearby communities.
Wrangling Water: Cattle are not the only things being rounded up at some Florida ranches. Residents are also herding water! And it’s proving to be a good thing both for the economy and the environment. A pilot program pays ranchers to use their low-lying lands to store water. Water that’s captured during the wet season can then be slowly released during dry months into the tributaries of Lake Okeechobee.
Body Electric: Ever listen to a fish? It’s possible with an electric knifefish! While better known electric eels use electricity to stun their prey, these creatures use electricity to navigate and communicate. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are intrigued by this sixth “electro sense,” and are learning more about how these fish use this tool to find their way around— and locate their next meal.
Census in the Smokies: This nature audit has been going on for 10 years and gives scientists a good idea about the trends of life in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A small army of “citizen scientists” help researchers collect specimens, and then analyze their findings.
Volunteers clean up and restore a desert wilderness in Oregon. Local residents campaign to protect a mining-scarred but still spectacular landscape in Colorado’s San Juan Range. “Animal magnetism” guides loggerhead turtles across thousands of miles of open ocean. With a rich population of raptors, a conservation area in Idaho draws visitors eager to learn about hawks, eagles and falcons. Invasive insects destroy countless majestic hemlock trees in the southern Appalachians. A feisty bald eagle survives a horrific highway crash.