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Current issues roundup: You’re not going crazy edition

3 Oct

It’s common enough to hear people jokingly refer to vegetarians as plant murderers. But today I present you with a study that may cast this notion in a strange new light. That’s right: plants can communicate using sound — and I’m not just talking about the Botanicals Twitter Kit.

Researchers from Britain, Italy and Australia recently found that plants not only respond to sound, but likely use clicking sounds to communicate with one another. The report, published in Trends in Plant Science, details experiments that used powerful acoustic equipment to record clicking sounds coming from the roots of corn plants. A simulated noise produced at the same frequency also caused young roots to grow in the direction of the sound.

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Adventures with sawdust

22 May

Because I have a completely awesome instructor, my Timber Harvesting & Products class gets to take the best field trips ever. We recently traveled to the McDonald-Dunn Forest near Corvallis to observe the Oregon State University student logging crew in a thinning operation, and then went to the historic, zero-automation Hull-Oakes mill in Dawson for a tour, and finally to Freres Brothers mill in Lyons to observe a state-of-the-art automated operation. Thank goodness our instructor is energetic and excited about putting these trips together.

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From a plant’s perspective

23 Mar

I haven’t made a current issues post in a while, and something from 2007 may not qualify as ‘current.’ But the idea that “looking at the world from other species’ points of view [can be] a cure for the disease of human self-importance,” seems as relevant as ever.

This is a TED talk about looking at the world from a plant’s perspective, which close friends know is a subject that is dear to me. The speaker, Michael Pollan, is the author of books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire (which I hope to review at some point). I first saw this link posted by a friend/coworker of my husband‘s. The two of them cook for a fabulous Japanese restaurant here in Portland, so I’d imagine they approach this talk from a foodie angle, while I approach it from — spoiler alert! — a botanical perspective. I want to make some comments after the video:

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The importance of recording everything: A book review

22 Feb

Field Notes on Science and Nature (ed. Michael R. Canfield) was recommended to me by a teacher a while back. It made loads of Best of 2011 lists, too, and for good reason — it’s a fascinating exploration of keeping field notes.

On the surface, this may not sound so interesting, but the book illuminates the approaches of several contributors spanning fields from anthropology to wildlife conservation, and it not only explains what sort of things they record, but why, and even what benefit there is in doing it one way instead of another. A great example is the chapters that alternately sing the praises of Polaroid instant film and of black-and-white sketches. Because each contributor makes a convincing case for his or her method of choice (which often involves explaining why another method should not be used), it can seem like a tangle of contradictions. But the wealth of perspectives is exactly why I found it valuable.

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Interview with the author of “Forest Forensics”

23 Jan

Image via Glenn Winshall at NMH School

After reading and reviewing Forest Forensics recently, I had many questions; I was particularly curious about the procedure one might use to write such a book, and how a person becomes an expert landscape reader in the first place. So, I tracked down author Tom Wessels for an interview, which I have here to share with you.

Q: First off, how do you go about writing a really great dichotomous key, especially on something like landscape? What steps did you take to develop and organize it? What gave you the idea in the first place?

The idea came up when I heard from lots of people who like my first book, Reading the  Forested Landscape, that they loved the idea but couldn’t keep all the evidence straight while in the field. To make a field guide work, a key was the best approach.

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Fun with petitions!

21 Dec
World Forestry Center Main building entrance

World Forestry Center image via Wikipedia

Well, one post and here I am feeling like we’re old friends already. In lieu of a gossipy life update, I wanted to tell you all about something I’ve been working on with friends. We’re founding a student chapter of the Society of American Foresters on our campus.

I had hoped this would be a more interesting topic, but every time I try to write about it, it ends up being about as gripping as listing the agenda items for a city council meeting. In case you don’t know, that is so boring you will weep and gnash your teeth, which I know because I used to cover them.

So far, this process has involved a lot of paperwork, plenty of e-mails, some storming of offices, and general confusion. And maybe I will come clean about how awkward I can be sometimes. Maybe that sounds more fun than it did on first description?

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RUSSELL DORNAN | museums | digital | natural history | photography

Midwest Naturalist

Living in harmony with our creator, his creation and all living things.