Natural Selections podcast
Shrews: living in the fast lane06/11/15
Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley revisit this feisty predator, whose fierce reputation comes from a high metabolism and the need to consume 80-90 percent of their body weight in food each day to survive. The small insectivore is active throughout the...
Is it OK to create a glow-in-the-dark bunny?
Gene sculpting has gained cautious acceptance for medical research and treatment, but a bioluminescent rabbit created by a "transgenic artist" for aesthetic purposes pushes the limits of the debate. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley discuss the...
How are pencil leads and diamonds made from the same stuff?
Pencil leads and diamonds are chemically identical; the difference is in the crystal structure. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about carbon crystals, and what it take to form a natural diamond.
Daddy Long Legs: not quite a spider
This familiar household "spider" is not a spider, but an ancient near relative in the arachnid family. Martha Foley and Curt stager discuss its characteristics, and how it differs from other creepy crawlies.
What makes a new species?
What draws the line between one species and another? Scientists believe new species diverge when mutations occur that make it impossible to interbreed. Sometimes the mutation is very small. A case in point is humans and chimpanzees. Curt Stager told...
Can Adirondack lake trout survive climate change?
Lake trout require a lot of cold oxygenated water to survive. Lakes in the Adirondacks are at the southern edge of their natural range. While about 100 lakes and ponds there are still home to lake trout, even a small increase in temperature could...
Are your tonsils as useless as they seem?
Your tonsils, when infected, may be useful to doctors in keeping up their bottom line, and to popsicle vendors in providing the means to soothe recovering children. But it seems they do also have a use, when healthy, as part of the front line of the...
Nature journals put the history in natural history
Martha Foley has never succeeded in keeping a nature journal long-term, but Curt Stager finds them invaluable in his work. He records his observations on paper, but also finds great data through researching the journals of past observers, from Samuel...
Fun and games when it's way too cold
In some places, winter is just too long to ignore. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley explore some ways to have fun in extreme cold, everything from throwing hot water up into the air to guessing the temperature by the facial-hair scale.
Just how individual are animals?
We tend to think that dogs do this, and that cats do that. We think animal species have a recognizable set of behaviors that define the nature of their kind. But what about individual animals? Does each have something we could understand as a unique...
A new neighbor in the north: fish crows
There’s a new crow in the neighborhood! "Fish crows" look an awful lot like our regular crows, but they’re new to New York State and moving north.Martha Foley and Curt Stager share the scoop on the life and habits of the immigrant species.
How do electric eels use their "juice"?
Aside from their properties as biological dynamos, electric eels have other peculiarities—they are not true eels, but are a kind of fish—and a kind of fish that needs to breathe air. The South American predator of river bottoms can reach 40 pounds in...
Closet nemesis: the clothes moth
Keratin, the substance wool, hair, and feathers are made from, makes a pretty thin diet, but the clothes moth has been dogging humanity's closets and drawers for hundreds of years, unravelling the work of generations of knitters and weavers to feed...
Bats can sing, too!
Humans, birds, and whales are not the only creatures who can sing. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss recent research that uncovered bats also use learned songs to communicate.
Are porcupine quills like hairs or like feathers?
Porcupine quills are hollow, like feathers, and are made from the same material, but then so are hairs, and fingernails, and claws and scales. The quill is a unique adaptation of one of nature's commonest substances and it varies even among...
Why does the moon look bigger when it's on the horizon?
Why does the moon look bigger when it's on the horizon, than it does when it is high in the sky? Curt Stager shoots down all of Martha Foley's theories.There are a couple ways it could be a trick of the mind, but why then doesn't it work all the time?...
Why is the sky blue?
Martha Foley poses the classic child's question. According to Dr. Curt Stager, the answer lies in the composition of the atmosphere, and in the refractive qualities of different wavelengths of light.
The Adirondacks in 300 years, part 1
Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley gaze into the crystal ball to imagine the Adirondack Park in 300 years. The effects of invasive species may be more noticeable than those of global warming. Three of the commonest trees face disease threats ??? most...
Shy and rare: the softshell turtles of Lake Champlain
The eastern spiny softshell turtle is rare in the north, but a small population lives at the top of Lake Champlain. Shyer than their armored cousins, the encroachment of human activities is making it harder for them to breed.Martha Foley and Paul...
Are there really no snakes in Ireland?
Were there really no snakes before St. Patrick showed up? Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager ponder this and other questions. They explain that there are, in fact, places with no native snakes, particularly isolated places like New Zealand and Greenland.
- Canton, NY