Environment

“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. 

by Carola Lott

Poet Katherine Larson said the two weeks she spent as the writer in residence at the Cary Institute were an “absolutely fantastic” experience. 

The opportunity to talk the institute’s scientists about topics ranging from urban ecology to disease ecology to ecological engineering gave her fresh insights for the two book projects she is currently working on. One project is a book of poetry and the other a “lyrical novel.”  Even when writing fiction Larson says, “As someone with a background in science, I’m a writer that’s very invested in getting the details right.”

Larson, who was born and raised in Arizona, has been interested in biology since childhood. Her father was a professor of forestry and her mother a fourth grade teacher with a passion for science. At the University of Arizona in Tucson Larson received a B.S. in ecology and evolutionary biology as well as a B.A. in English and creative writing. 

The havoc wrought by hurricanes Sandy and Irene heightened awareness of the impacts of flooding.  In a forum sponsored by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess, Columbia, and Greene counties; the New York Water Resources Institute; the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Hudson River Estuary Program; and the Hudson Estuary Watershed Resiliency project, an impressive roster of experts came together at the Cary Institute to present an overview of major flooding events, which are expected to happen more frequently. New York has suffered eleven flooding events requiring FEMA assistance in the last 15 years, according to Wayne Reynolds, one of the presenters.  In 2007, in Delaware County, four lives were lost, hundreds of homes destroyed, and 11 inches of rain came down in four hours.  In 2011, again in Delaware County, $15 million of damage was sustained, with bridges and roads having to be replaced and repaired. According to the experts who presented at the forum, the answer is not in engineering. We have to work with nature, move away from old infrastructure and understand where we can and cannot develop.  

Volunteerism in science has two sides: it helps scientists collect data that needs many hands to accumulate and it saves money, which is in short supply in the research field, but it also subjects the data collected to question as to its reliability. These issues were discussed by Dr. Stuart Findlay, a Cary scientist who runs an annual data collection program called Submerged Aquatic Vegetation on the Hudson. His remarks followed a talk at the Cary by Akiko Busch, whose book The Incidental Steward was inspired by her Cary residency. Her experiences there led her to better understand the role of volunteer scientists and what insights can be gained from being one.       

During the last week of April, my brother, Alex Shoumatoff, and I had the privilege of canoeing the Great Swamp with Dr. James Utter, President of FrOGS (Friends of the Great Swamp), who wrote a study called “Birds of the Great Swamp” for Bedford Audubon. He is considered the biodiversity expert of the area.

Alex, who writes about nature and far-flung places, had just come back from Nebraska, where he witnessed the migration of 600,000 sandhill cranes for a story he is writing for Smithsonian magazine.

We put in our canoes in Patterson at the little state park past the train station, and I was immediately impressed by a swath of wild trout lilies growing in a rich and moist clump under the trees.      

As we started paddling through stands of ominously gloomy dead swamp maples, my brother said he heard the clucks of red-bellied woodpeckers, who are there in greater numbers now because they have moved north due to climate change. He said he heard but did not see a few yellow warblers, delayed by the late and cold spring weather.

The Cary Institute’s Annual Ned Ames Honorary Lecture
by Tom Parrett

FEEL free to eat any fish that’s caught legally. Be comfortable with the decision. By the way, you’re probably helping the planet

This message comes from one of the world’s most respected, honored, published, and thoughtful ocean fisheries scientists, and it’s emerged from intensive analysis of an accumulating number of fish stocks that now includes 500 species.