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Beyond the Book Articles
Nature and the Environment

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Archaeopteryx: The Link Between Dinosaurs and Birds (11/14)
In S. J. Gazan's The Dinosaur Feather, when Professor Lars Helland, a cantankerous PhD advisor at the Institute of Biology in Copenhagen, is found dead in his office, the police soon discover a copy of PhD student Anna Bella Nor's thesis on his lap…covered in blood. Her controversial paper puts to rest a major scientific debate ...
Make Room for Ducklings? (08/14)
In her review of How The Light Gets In for The Washington Post, Maureen Corrigan writes: 'Penny's voice — occasionally amused, yet curiously formal — is what makes the world of her novels plausible. I can think of few other writers who could sidestep cuteness in a scene that features an elderly female poet and her pet duck.' ...
Ayumu, the Chimpanzee (04/14)
In Virginia Morell's Animal Wise, the reader learns many surprising things about a chimpanzee's skills. The book features one chimpanzee in Japan, Ayumu, who was has been extremely successful at sequence-memory tests. Ayumu lives with his mother Ai at the University of Kyoto's Primate Research Institute, headed by Professor Tetsuro ...
The Tasmanian Tiger (10/13)
When Hannah, the narrator of Lois Nowra's Into That Forest, encounters her first Tasmanian tiger, she is mesmerized:

I turned and there, on the bank not more than ten yards from us, were a wolf creature with yellow fur and black stripes. It were about the size of a real large dog…It had a long muzzle and stripes on its sides like...

Gifford Pinchot National Forest (06/13)
The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is featured in a few of the stories in Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain. Several characters maintain trails and clear brush, and these serve as interesting metaphors for dealing with life's hurdles. But of course, a national park is more than just a metaphor.

Named for the first Chief ...
The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (06/13)
The misguided migration of monarch butterflies to southern Appalachia in Flight Behavior is a fictional event, but Kingsolver grounds her theoretical occurrence in reality. As readers see through the character of Lupe, the Mexican wintering grounds of the monarch butterfly are damaged by drastic flooding and mudslides. This event is, ...
The World's Water Tables in Crisis (04/13)
In How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, the protagonist starts out in the water business by boiling tap water and selling it in plastic water bottles. Later on, he is approached by the country's Defense Department because it wants to build a reliable and safe water supply for the country. But the protagonist and the head honchos in the ...
Mountain Gorillas of Africa (02/12)
One of the main characters in Audrey Schulman's Three Weeks in December - an American ethnobotanist named Max who has Asperger's Syndrome - finds herself in East Africa searching for a medicinal plant. Along the way, she follows a family of exquisite mountain gorillas that have somehow escaped local poachers and finds that she has an ...
Colony Collapse Disorder (07/11)
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon in which bees mysteriously disappear from their hives. 'The main symptom of CCD is simply no or a low number of adult honey bees present but with a live queen and no dead honey bees in the hive. Often there is still honey in the hive, ...
Bonobos (07/11)

Vanessa Woods with bonobos in a wildlife sanctuary
in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Sydney Morning Herald

Bonobos (Pan paniscus) are one of the two species that make up the genus Pan, along with Pan troglodytes, the Common Chimpanzee. Chimps and bonobos are the closest extant relative to humans, sharing almost 99% of our...

The Swallows of San Juan Capistrano (07/11)
All my life, the swallows returning every March 19th to San Juan Capistrano, California, has been a symbol of the strength of nature and of how some things never change. Except they do and, what's more, maybe it never happened anyway, or, even worse, we may be responsible when things do change.

For over a century, St. Joseph's Day ...
The White Mountain National Forest (07/11)
It is no wonder that Elliott Hansen chose the White Mountains of New Hampshire to restore health and hope to his friends and family. The White Mountains have long been revered as a deeply spiritual place by the Abenaki, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micman, Maliseet, and other Native American tribes in the region. With its breathtaking scope...
Giant Waves (06/11)
Giant waves were once the stuff of nautical tall tales, filed alongside stories of mermaids and giant squid, but today we know better.

The force of waves is hard to comprehend. According to The Wave, an 18 inch wave can topple a wall built to withstand 125-mph winds; a breaking 100-foot wave packs 100 tons of force per square ...
Monument Rocks (02/11)
Nancy Pickard says that the fictional Testament Rocks in The Scent of Rain and Thunder are based on Monument Rocks located in Gove County, Kansas, a few hundred miles west of her home in Merriam, close to Kansas City.

Set in the high plains, Gove County is cut through from west to east by a deep valley caused by the Smoky Hill River,...
Polar Bears (02/11)
In Village of the Ghost Bears, Trooper Nathan Active and his fellow law enforcement personnel must discuss the problem of polar bear poaching, because at least one of the suspects in the arson/murder has been involved in the illegal trade of selling polar bear gallbladders to China...

The Value of Bear Gallbladders
As the book ...
Factory Farm Alternatives (10/10)
Foer suggests that meat lovers who don't want to support factory farms consider patronizing small family farms rather than buying grocery store meat, which has been produced by factory farms. The products offered by these small farmers tend to be pricey, but these producers say that their animals live most of their lives outdoors, pain-...
Entomology: Did You Know? (10/09)
Entomology is the scientific study of insects. Defining characteristics of insects are: three main body parts (head, thorax and abdomen), an exoskeleton and no more than 6 legs in their adult form.

'The geneticist J.B.S. Haldane remarked, when questioned by a cleric about the putative properties of God, that one sure characteristic of ...
Helping Injured Birds (06/09)
The WildBirds.com website offers the following advice if you come across an injured bird:

If you find an injured bird, make sure it is really injured before you act. Often the bird is simply stunned. It may fly away in a few minutes if you leave it alone. Birds often become stunned by flying into glass windows.

If the bird has a ...

Animal Behaviors in Grief and Mating (02/09)
There have been many observations of elephants grieving.  In Joyce Poole's Coming of Age With Elephants,  Poole illustrates the depth of elephant grieving. A clan of elephants was moving towards newer territory, when suddenly one of the elephants fell over. Soon enough the other elephants noticed that one of their ...
All About Bananas (01/09)
Bananas may look like they grow on trees but in fact they grow on plants that are related to the lily and orchid family.

The term 'banana republic' was coined by American humorist and short story writer O. Henry, in reference to Honduras - 'republic' in his day being a common euphemism for a dictatorship.

On a number of occasions the term ...
Fishing Facts (04/08)
Did you know:
  • Today, the British know the North Sea as muddy and cold. It's always been cold, but evidence suggests that it wasn't always muddy. Just 100 years ago there were vast oyster beds up to 120 miles...
Gray Whales (02/08)
Adult Gray Whales weigh 30-40 tons and measure about 45 feet (14 meters); they have dark skin with gray patches and white mottling, the calves are born dark gray to black (sometimes with distinctive white markings). They are baleen whales (with a series of 130-180 fringed overlapping plates hanging from each side of the upper jaw in lieu ...
The Mobile Bay Jubilee (11/07)
In "Titan" a man recalls a boyhood vacation spent on the coast of Alabama in which he experiences a "Jubilee".Jubilee is a natural phenomena that occurs in Mobile Bay from time to time, usually before dawn on a warm summer night, when large numbers of fish, crabs and shrimps swarm close to shore, making themselves ...
Pigeons and Doves (10/07)
  • Pigeons and doves are one and the same thing, 'pigeon' is simply a French translation of the English word 'dove'.
  • Pigeons have been domesticated for at least 5,000 years, probably closer to 10,000.
  • It is said that a pigeon delivered the results of the first Olympics in 776 BC.
  • Pigeons are credited with saving thousands of soldiers' lives ...
Coal (04/07)
Facts & Stats according to Big Coal

  • More than 1/2 of the USA's electricity comes from coal.
  • The USA burns more than a billion tons a year - an average of 20 lbs per person per day.
  • Coal plants account for 40% of carbon dioxide emissions in the USA.
  • According to alternate energy guru Amory Lovins of The Rocky Mountain ...

Ways to Reduce Global Warming (12/06)
  1. Change to accredited Green Power option = Eliminate household emissions from electricity.
  2. Install energy-efficient hot water system = Up to 30% reductions in household emissions.
  3. Install solar panels = Eliminate household emissions from electricity.
  4. Use energy-efficient white goods = Up to 50% reduction in household ...
Recycling tips (09/06)
Here are a few suggestions, edited from Royte's site, on how each of us can make a difference:

  • Support recycling industries by buying goods made or packaged in recycled content.
  • Don't buy individually wrapped single servings; buy in bulk whenever possible.
  • When possible, compost food and yard waste.*
  • Visit Ecocycle for...

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