by Carola Lott

On Friday, August 16, eleven college students from all parts of the country presented the results of their summer research projects at the Cary Institute’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Symposium.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the institute's REU program is the longest continuously funded of all the NSF biology programs, which are located at more than 100 sites nationwide. At 12 weeks the program at Cary is the longest.

Twenty-six years ago, Cary scientists began a program to give students an experience of independent research to help them decide whether they wanted to pursue a career in science. They also wanted to teach students how to communicate, how to translate ecology into something the layperson could understand. Under the leadership of Dr. Alan Berkowitz, who directs the program, they secured the necessary funding. 

Festival is August 10 and 11
by Carola Lott

Although most of us are aware of the Sharon Audubon Center a few miles east of the clock tower, few of us know much about its many valuable programs. The Sharon Audubon Festival, held this year on  the weekend of August 10 and 11, is an excellent opportunity to discover what this place has to offer.

The Sharon Audubon Center, given to the National Audubon Society in 1961, consists of 1,147 acres, most of it wooded, with 11 miles of trails and 2 ponds. There is a raptor aviary with live birds of prey and an herb garden maintained by the Millbrook Garden Club, as well as the Eleanor Loft Bird and Butterfly Garden. A small natural-history museum, a nature shop and the children's Adventure Center are housed in the main building, where most of the programs and events are held. An old ice house has been transformed into a working sugarhouse.

Evan Pritchard—storyteller, descendant of the Micmac people of Canada, teacher at Marist College (philosophy and ethics) and founder of the Algonquin Cultural Center—is also an author and thus was employed on July 27 in telling an audience about his latest book at Merritt Bookstore, a bookshop of some renown in the village of Millbrook. 

Pritchard told stories from the native peoples who lived in the Northeast prior to the arrival of the Europeans, about how birds send messages that were understood in native culture.  His new book is called Bird Medicine, The Sacred Power of Bird Shamanism (Bear and Co., 2013).

The book contains some two hundred messages and warnings from the bird world.  

by Arvolyn Hill

The complex story of how New York City gets it water was told by puppets last Sunday, July 28, in a theatrical production at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.  

The reservoirs in the Catskills and the Ashokan dam were built in 1910 when it became clear that the Croton Reservoir system could not meet the city’s needs. In 1902 the city considered building the reservoir in the Tenmile River watershed, which would have flooded the towns of Dover and Amenia.  

392 by Arvolyn Hill

To build the Ashokan dam, the entire valley was cleared of trees and houses. At 1,000 feet long, 250 feet high and 240 feet thick, it was the largest dam of its time.  

Puppeteers Patrick Wadden and Marlena Marallo told the story, delighting the audience filled with children at the Cary Institute auditorium, using puppets of papier-mâché, cardboard, silk and wood.

The story begins with water. Rain falls from the sky, turning into rivers in “rhythms that have been repeated for millions of years.” Huge tree roots act like the filtering kidneys of the forest, trees grow and streams ripple—blue silk scarves wave as precious water.

THE first time around, in Gasland, the producer, director, and writer Josh Fox was the eyes-wide-open innocent, predisposed to be suspicious of big corporations yet a journalist driven by his need to know. Personally, he was hoping that the $100,000 he was offered to lease the family land was wholly legitimate—that shale gas was exactly what the industry and many newly well-off landowners said it was, a boon to rural America and the best answer to the country’s energy needs.  

Then Fox learned about Dimock (dim-ahk), a hilly, hard-luck township of 1,500 in northeastern Pennsylvania 20 miles from the New York border and just a few leagues from his place. Cabot Energy had hydrofractured gas wells there. Residents started finding methane (natural gas) in their home water.  Pure methane is colorless, odorless, poisonous to most life forms, and violently explosive, even in small quantities. Ultimately, at least 18 homes were infiltrated.  

“The timing of the publication of the book and the return of the cicadas is perfect,” remarked Cary Institute President, Bill Schlesinger in his introduction to a lecture on cicadas on June 6.  

John Cooley, an entomologist who teaches at the University of Connecticut and David Rothenberg, a self-described ‘interspecies musician’ and author of the book, “Bug Music: How Insects gave us Rhythm and Noise” have teamed up to celebrate and describe the complex mating calls and rituals of the species which Dr. Coley referred to as “the marvelous magicicada,” which is actually its species name.

The cicadas can be heard almost every year of the 17-year cycle in different regions of the U.S. during any one year. However because this year the periodic 17-year is happening all at once along the Eastern coastline it is getting a lot of press. 

381 the cicadas visit after a 17 year absence - photo by Dave Rothenberg

When the periodic cycles appeared in the 1600’s the pilgrims thought they were deadly plagues of locusts and many people still call cicadas locusts.  They are not, infact locusts, but members of the grasshopper family.  

The towns of Dover and Pawling will be recognized by The Appalachian Trail Conservancy at a ceremony on June 15 for their cooperation in promoting and hosting a portion of the famed 2000 mile hiking trail that runs from Maine to South Carolina. 

The designation draws attention to the role the towns play in protecting the land through which the trail runs and the land which hikers see from the ridges - the scenic views that are not owned by the government.  Only a portion of the land is protected by an easement.    

Expected speakers include Congressman Chris Gibson, Wendy Janssen, Superintendent of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Mark Wenger and Karen Lutz of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and officials from Dover and Pawling. Mary Kay Verba, Director of Dutchess County Tourism, Ed Goodell of the NY-NJ Trail Conservancy and Karin Roux of the Dutchess Land Conservancy are also expected to speak.