Tag Archives: endangered species

Bats! They’re not just for Halloween.

Geode Roosting Bat Pendant

I’ve been hoarding this bead for years waiting to find a geode slice the right size to try to make a roosting bat pendant. That’s what started the whole ‘wait, there are people that don’t know about WNS’ discussion.

 

WNS is a fungus that grows on the muzzles and wings of hibernating bats. It was first found in New York state in early 2007 and has already spread throughout the Northeastern US, north into Canada, south into Alabama and as far west as Missouri. (It was just confirmed in Arkansas this past week.)

A cluster of little brown bats exhibiting the symptoms of white-nose sydrome. Photo Credit: New York Department of Environmental Conservation

 

 

Two years ago scientists identified the fungus, recently renamed Pseudogymnoascus destructans, but identifying it hasn’t helped in finding a treatment. (Apparently it can respond to topical antifungal treatments but they aren’t sure what to do with that information.) Thus far the mortality rate for some species is up to 95% (Word geek aside-this is not decimation-this is devastation.)

little brown batThey’re trying to track the spread of the fungus, collect information about the numbers of bats infected and trace the movements of cavers that have visited infected caves.

 

Scientists think that the fungus is spread through direct contact. It’s been found in healthy bats in Europe so they suspect it might have been brought to the United States by people who brought spores back in their clothing or caving equipment.

 

The fungus grows only in low temperature climates. It can’t cope with temperatures above 20 C. It causes the bats to wake up too often when they should be hibernating. They end up starving to death because they’re up and flying and using energy in a season with nothing to hunt.

 

It’s been a huge threat to the bat populations. The little brown bats that I loved to watch in the backyard as a child might be extinct in the Northeast within two decades. (I don’t know how to get across just how much that chills me.)

 

Scientists expect if to spread to the rest of the United States and probably Canada as well, driving some of the species to extinction.

 

Nine species of hibernating bats are confirmed as being affected. Some are already on the US Endangered Species List.

The Indiana bat has been listed as endangered since the 1960s and WNS is another emerging threat.

 

 

Why should we care? Besides the whole losing a species is a loss to every other species and biodiversity is important…

Indiana bat

 

 

On an immediate and personal level-the Forest Service has estimated that with the decreased bat population at least 2.4 million pounds of insects will go uneaten a year. 2.4 MILLION, and it’s not like they weigh much. That sort of increase can mean more damage to crops, a burden especially to smaller farmers already battling atypical weather.

 

In Science they estimate the reduced bat populations could cost North American agriculture $3.7 billion a year in lost benefits of insect control and crop pollination.

 

If you’re as tasty to mosquitoes as I apparently am, that’s also a lot more itchy bites. (Plus the whole insects as vectors of disease problem…)

 

More info:

 

US Geological Service Wildlife Health Center

 

Bat Conservation International

 

The National Speleological Society with links to articles about the disease, policies and strategies for cavers.

 

BBC

 

Center for Biological Diversity Map 

 

An entertaining blog article about trying to photograph a bat: An Argument for Double Bagging

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The Thing With Feathers

puerto_rico_amazons_by_ravenari

Puerto Rico Amazons by Pia Ravenari

 

Mostly sneaking back by to give a brief shout out to a kickstarter. I’d spoken about it on here before and it didn’t run, this time its going and they’re at reach goals now.

 

The project is called Losing Altitude. It’s a collaborative art book featuring threatened and endangered bird species from allover the world, illustrated by over fifty artists, also from all over the world. Arras, who is spearheading this, will be researching each species, so this should be an awesome mix of art and information. I’m excited to be getting my copy next year!

 

I don’t have the requisite illustrative skills, so I’m contributing some key and tree pendants towards the kickstarter incentives.

 

Bird's nest ringThough, since it is a bird themed entry, a quick look at a very WIP project: an adjustable bird’s nest wire wrapped ring. This one is antiqued copper, bright copper and freshwater pearls.

 

Front view bird's nest ringA friend sent me a link to a bird nest pendant tutorial. I’ve seen plenty of the pendants, and make enough other styles, but most of the rings I’d seen involved a wire nest glued to a base. Since I don’t have the setup for soldering I decided to try to make the nest and ring from the same wire. It’s a bit bulky, I found the thickness of wire that makes a stronger ring shank makes for a large nest, but as said, work in progress.

And now for gratuitous Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

 

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

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Losing Altitude

An adorable barn owl plush Arras made awhile back.

Losing Altitude is a kickstarter project I’m tangentially connected with. It will be a collaborative art book highlighting endangered bird species from all over the world.

 

Arras (animuspanthera on both deviantart and etsy) has gathered dozens of artists (also from all over the world) to illustrate their favorite endangered species in their own unique styles. Each illustration will be accompanied by information about the species.

 

There’s already have a tease of some of the gorgeous and exuberant art that will be included.

 

Pia Ravenari is working on some intricate and stunningly colored parrots.

 

And Tania Avila Villalba has a strikingly austere Javan hawk-eagle.

 

Not having the illustrative skills to contribute directly I offered some of my tree and key pendants to use toward incentives.

 

I’m excited this is finally live, kind of silly, but I made a bird treasury on etsy in honor of its inception. I hope it goes, I would really love to see this book in print! (I have a place on my bookshelves all picked out…)

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Extinction and Engraving

We saw a northern white rhino (well, the rear of one) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The guide told us that they’re extinct in the wild, that the last ones left in zoos are too few (and too old) to breed. Conservationists tried to quasi-release some under guard in the wild again some years ago, hoping maybe that would encourage some last minute breeding…

It wasn’t even subtle human messing about with environment or land encroaching so much as poaching. One more species humans hunted out of existence.

 

For horns.

 

How do you react to that? I mean, really?

 

The guide was saying that they’re as happy as animals can be, they’ve food, a lot of land to wander in, and they’re safe. They don’t know that they’re the last of their kind.

 

My first thought was how surreal it is, to see something alive and *know* it’s extinct. That it’s past the point of no return and will be gone in my lifetime. Fossils are one thing, they’re long gone. I admit that I don’t get pangs working with ammonite fossils. I feel rather more disgusted with our species looking at the bones of megafauna that humans killed off in prehistoric times, though with that at least you can plead ignorance.

 

It was hot and sticky out and I still had that wet blanket feeling dropped on me feeling. Sometimes it’s really embarrassing to be human. Like you need to apologize to every other species on the planet. (Okay, except perhaps for rats, pigeons and mosquitoes, they’ve done well off of us!)

 

That was thought one on seeing the rhinos.

Thought two? Durer!

 

Size.

            Strength.

                        Shock.

                                    Awe.

                                                Sketch.

Powerful first impressions,

whispers down the lane…

exotic gift from afar-

mythical beast lost at sea.

 

When I saw the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros at the San Diego Zoo I decided that for never having seen one and being really inaccurate, Durer did an excellent job capturing the general power and texture and feel of a rhinoceros. You can’t entirely fault him for adding rivets and plates to the cobblestone hide.

They’re not attractive (okay, so maybe they’re a little cute in an odd way when nibbling at leaves) but boy are they impressive. The ground was dry enough that they were making little dust storms on every exhale.

 

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) was a German artist with a workshop in Nuremburg. (Though he work was greatly influenced by his travels through Italy.) He worked in a broad range of media-drawing, painting and printing. (Two of my favorite pieces are his young hare and owl, both of which are watercolors.) The delicacy of his lines across styles always astounds me.

 

Durer’s Rhinoceros is actually a woodcut, not an engraving. It recorded the first arrival of a rhinoceros in Europe in 1000 years. That particular rhinoceros was a gift from an Indian ruler to governor of Portuguese India who then gave it to the King of Portugal. It arrived in Lisbon in May 1515. The king then sent it as a gift to the Pope, but it died in a shipwreck. (Poor thing, talk about regifting!)

 

A description of it reached Durer in Nuremburg, probably with some sketches.

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Happy Earth Day

 

It’s Earth Day, and hard to think of anything that hasn’t been said (and oft ignored) a million times or more. Reduce, reuse, recycle. We learn the three Rs in school, and then everything else seems to bury them. At the simplest, just be mindful of what you use, try to limit the amount of trash you make, and clean up your mess as you go. Picking an altoids tin off the top of the trash like I did this afternoon is optional. (Mind you, I thought everyone bought altoids for both mints and tin…) I scrubbed it up and it’ll make a great mini paint set to keep in my car! Take a look at etsy, a world of inspiration for small tin projects. As well as plenty of other upcycled treasures.

If you’re feeling creative and need some inspiration on how to reuse or upcycle the things in your life, there are plenty of places to go for inspiration. DeviantArt is having a Trash to Treasure contest that runs through mid-May. My finished submission is a plein air watercolor set. It’s an old velamints tin (love those candies, haven’t seen them in ages!) that I painted and decorated with polymer clay that has a paint pan made from the plastic bubbles from a gum pack, a watercolor pen from a kid’s paint pen, and a denim folder that fits both set and water brush plus a sketchbook and other pens or pencils.

I used a slight fire theme to tie the elements together. The polymer clay design on the tin was something I made while watching Henry V and the “Oh, for a muse of fire that would ascend/The brightest heaven of invention” line snagged me. So I opted for a subtle muse of fire vein running through the design. Fire also connects to the myths of the phoenix and rebirth, so it seemed to work doubly, even if my original inspiration was a little on the arcane side.

I’m also hoping to make a denim slipper set, I’ve been meaning to try it out ever since I ran across the tutorial. Seems like a nice idea for a holiday gift.

The New York Times recently ran an article about how there are so many threatened species that the Fish and Wildlife Service can’t cope with the number of petitions and are themselves petitioning the government to limit the number of requests that can be submitted. Limiting the number of officially endangered species doesn’t limit anything, all it does is give threatened species even less of a chance than ever. I understand that paperwork can be brutal, but simply ignoring issues and underlying causes… yeah.

The cartoon of the classic Seuss book, The Lorax. One of my favorite children’s books. Listen to the Lorax and back away from the thneed…

BBC & Discovery Channel’s South Pacific was an excellent and beautifully photographed series. Oddly enough there are multiple versions with multiple narrators, apparently they were concerned that the British accent would put off American audiences. I’m partial to the BBC version.

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