Cricket Chorus // Foliage Science

This week’s How On Earth features the following two segments:

Snowy Tree Cricket. Photo credit: Scott Severs

Snowy Tree Cricket.
Photo credit: Scott Severs

Late-summer Cricket Chorus (start time: 1:02) One of the most poetic sounds of the end of summer is …. no, not your kids kicking and screaming because summer is over. It’s the sound of crickets, katydids and other melodic insects “chirping” at night. Our focus here is Snowy Tree Crickets in Colorado. They are called “temperature” crickets because you can calculate what the temperature is outside based on how many times these crickets “chirp” in a certain time period. How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender took a stroll recently with two Boulder naturalists — Steve Jones and Scott Severs — to learn more about how, and why, crickets in general make their chirping sound, and why we hear so many of them in the evenings this time of year. Some resources about crickets and their brethren: 1)  http://songsofinsects.com/  2) biology and recordings of nearly all singing Orthopterans (crickets, grasshoppers, katydids), at  Singing Insects of North America (SINA)  http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/Walker/buzz/.

Big Blue Canyon, Colo. Photo credit: Jeff Mitton

Big Blue Canyon, Colo. Photo credit: Jeff Mitton

The Science of Aspen (and other) Foliage (starts: 9:40) One of the most iconic images of Colorado is aspen groves quaking in early fall in their brilliant yellow, orange and even red hues. This year, the aspen, and many other plants, are changing colors earlier than normal. Due largely to the extended warm and dry conditions, many aspen leaves are fading and shriveling without turning bright colors. Dr. Jeff Mitton, an evolutionary biologist and a professor emeritus at the University of Colorado Boulder, talks with host Susan Moran about what dictates the timing and intensity of foliage. Dr. Mitton also writes a bimonthly column, called Natural Selections, in the Daily Camera. Here’s one (of many) on crickets.

Hosts: Maeve Conran, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Contributions: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Tracing Methane’s Source in Drinking Water // Safe Place for Captive Wolves

lee-stanish__120by180Methane in Drinking Water (start time 05:36) Flaming water faucets were infamously exposed in the documentaries Gasland and Gasland 2. The water isn’t catching fire–methane in the water is. People are deeply concerned that methane, dredged from kilometers down, is leaking into our drinking water supplies through poorly constructed and maintained oil and gas wells, but methane can be produced by living organisms much closer to the surface too. How can we tell where the methane in the water is coming from? One way is to look at stable isotopes of carbon, but the tests are expensive and require a lot of expertise. But our guest Dr. Lee Stanish explains to host Jim Pullen that she is working on much cheaper ways to trace the source of the methane. Lee is a Research Associate in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She’s trying to raise money for her research through crowd-sourcing–learn more here.

Apollo-KWHaven for Captive Wolves (start time 14:25) Right now in the United States, about a quarter of a million wolves live in captivity and fewer than 10,000 wolves in the wild. Most of the captive wolves born each year do not survive to see their first birthday.  They’re either destroyed or they die of neglect.  Colorado’s Mission Wolf refuge has rescued three dozen of these born-in-a-cage wolves to give them a better life, and to use some of them as ambassadors who educate people around the U-S about the amazing intelligence of wolves, and their plight. How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender and Boulder Naturalist and KGNU volunteer, Steve Jones, bring us the story.

Hosts: Beth Bartel and Jim Pullen
Producer/Engineer/Executive Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions: Shelley Schlender and Joel Parker

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Fairy Science // Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count

We offer two features on this Christmas Eve How On Earth.

Oxygen and Hydrogen fairies bond to make water. From Real Fairy Folks: Explorations in the World of Atoms, by Lucy Rider Meyer, 1887. (Chemical Heritage Foundation collections)

Fairies in 19th century science education (start time: 3:52): Victorian educators used the magical world to teach young children about science. That was before fairies fell out of favor in science, alas. How On Earth co-host Jim Pullen talks with Melanie Keene, director of Studies for History and Philosophy of Science at Homerton College in Cambridge, England, about the understanding of fairies in science education in the Victorian age.

 

 

BoulderCBC_ValmontTeam2_Schmoker_14DEC2008Christmas Bird Count (start time: 12:51) It’s the time of year when humans are flying hither and yon to gather with family for Christmas. Others are heading somewhere south for vacation to escape the winter chill.  Many birds are on the move as well, heading south to overwinter. Others are sticking around.  These human and avian patterns are converging with the annual Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.  Steve Jones and William Schmoker of the Boulder County Audubon Society talk with co-host Susan Moran about how the Bird Count emerged more than 100 years ago and why it’s important.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Jim Pullen
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
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How On Earth is produced by a small group of volunteers at the studios of KGNU, an independent community radio station in the Boulder-Denver metro area. KGNU is supported by the generosity and efforts of community members like you. Visit kgnu.org to learn more.

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