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Saving Nature in Urban Areas – guest post by Karin DeLaitsch

Chicago's Lurie Garden at Millenium ParkI’m always interested in seeking new places to visit. For me, new surroundings stimulate new ideas to bring home. This year’s travels were no exception. Each contained a populated urban area with a distinctly different approach to connecting people with nature and that got me thinking…

My winter get-away led me to the southwestern region of the US where it’s a short drive to escape the populous Phoenix metro area and relax in the vast expanse of the Sonoran desert. Whether hiking or biking, one can still find solitude to quietly observe a large variety of flora and fauna in an undisturbed setting. A fantastic means to let nature stimulate a personal sense of well-being.

In spring, I ventured to Spain’s Andalusia region to breathe in the temperate Mediterranean climate. I immediately fell in love with the relaxing, social atmosphere created by neighborhood plazas where residents on foot gathered daily (and I mean, daily) to converse among immaculate gardens and fountains surrounded by trees. Cities like Seville have created a wonderful way to weave human-nature connectivity into an urban way of life. (more…)

Defeating the Frederick Incinerator – Guest post by Don West

incinerator2large[1]The (Frederick) Board of County Commissioners struck down plans Thursday for a regional waste-to-energy incinerator … by canceling the contract and related permits.“   Frederick News Post Friday, November 21, 2014

 How on earth did we get to this point, when as recently as April 2014, both Carroll and Frederick Counties were under contract to build this 1500 ton per day incinerator and all the necessary permits had been issued?

Many people worked (more…)

A Puerto Rican Coral Island – guest post by Lori Lilly

DSC08137Culebra is an 11.6 square mile island located off of the northeast coast of Puerto Rico. It is home to 1,900 residents, beautiful coral reefs and a robust tourist economy. It is a somewhat harrowing yet stunning plane ride from the main island to this priority coral reef protection area. My first visit to Culebra was with my family in 2013 where we had a great time touring the island in our Jerry’s Jeep (“It’s not a heap, it’s a Jerry’s Jeep!”) and snorkeling off of the white sand beaches. We collectively, quite simply, fell in love with Culebra.

My second trip to Culebra in 2014 was entirely different. I was contracted by (more…)

Threats to the Blue Ridge Mountains – guest post by Mark Southerland

Mary Julia Pjordani on treeEight acres on the south side of Sugar Mountain in western North Carolina, remain in my family from the first permanent Scotch-Irish (and Welsh) settlement of the mountain by my ancestor Martin Banner and his brothers in 1848. Our family, as well as our adjacent relatives, retain most of the land in its natural state of forest and streams. As a result the biodiversity of the land remains such that 13 species of salamander can be found on it, enough for me to complete a doctoral dissertation on their communities. (Photo of salamander on tree -Plethodon jordani). This homestead remains our connection to the natural and cultural history of one of the most beautiful regions in the United States, the southern Blue Ridge mountains.

The forces threatening this and other southern Appalachian ecosystems include (more…)

Sounds of our Special Places – guest post by Kathy Bell Tillman

artmax_1294[1]Recently, The Sun magazine had an interview with Bernie Krause, who has spent years recording the collective sounds of nonhuman living things (called biophony) and nonbiological natural sounds of the earth processes such as waterfalls and cracking ice (called geophony) in places all around the world. Krause challenges us to be present in nature by actively listening to the sounds around us as we venture out in the natural world.

I live near Lake Elkhorn in Columbia, Maryland, and I take daily walks around the lake. Since reading the Krause interview, I have been (more…)

Where I went this summer – A guest post by Tim Bechtel

In addition to the need for all of us to take an interest in restoring our favorite places, it will be increasingly important for good science to be done to understand these natural system so we know what to do. Here is a good example of scientists and students studying an area in order to recommend to citizens and governments alike on what we can do to help restore the area’s groundwater. 

The Gottesacker (God’s Acre) Plateau on the border of Austria and Germany

by Tim Bechtel, Prof. of Geoscience at Franklin & Marshall College

alps 2The Gottesacker (God’s Acre) Plateau on the border of Austria and Germany is a very high alpine karst (limestone) terrane. It receives abundant rainfall, but is a rocky desert because the water soaks right in and flows underground in a system of caves and conduits, to emerge in large springs in the Kleinwalsertal valley below. Because the water soaks in and flows to the springs very rapidly there is little opportunity for the (more…)