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Natural Selections podcast

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Location:

Canton, NY

Description:

Each week join Martha Foley and Professor Curt Stager from Paul Smith's College as they discuss various topics from the world of nature.

Language:

English


Episodes

How lichens live on next to nothing

9/21/2017
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(Sep 21, 2017) What we call reindeer moss is nothing of the kind. It's not even a plant; it's a lichen. Lichens, which account for half of the natural nitrogen fertilizer used by plants and animals, are a combination of a fungus colony with algae and cyanobacteria that can live on practically nothing - dust, pollen, rain and snow.Martha Foley and Curt Stager talk about nature's original minimalists.

Duration: 00:04:45


Natural deceptions: crime (and punishment) among animals and plants

9/14/2017
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(Sep 14, 2017) Social primates are supposed to share when they find food, but some will cheat. If they are caught, the group will punish them. Some plants and fungi use a kind of barter system to swap nutrients, and some of them will also cheat. But they risk being caught and cut off.Martha Foley and Curt Stager look at crime and punishment in the natural world.

Duration: 00:05:03


Natural Selections: natural deceptions

9/7/2017
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(Sep 7, 2017) Birds and other creatures have a sly side and will use deceptive communications to create an advantage for themselves in finding food and finding mates. Blue jays can imitate the sound of a hawk, scaring other species away from the feeder. Some birds mimic the alarm cries of other species, making them think that another of their kind is warning them about a predator.But they can't pull the trick too often. "Crying wolf" has the same consequences in the animal world as it does...

Duration: 00:05:20


The tawny crazy ant is coming to America

8/31/2017
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(Aug 31, 2017) What can take on the big agressive poisonous fire ants that invaded the U.S. decades ago? The tawny crazy ant, also an import from South America. This new "superorganism" is immune to fire ant poison, and they are displacing the previous invaders.Martha Foley and Curt Stager discuss a new addition to the invasive species list.

Duration: 00:05:17


Well-dressed birds of the North Country

8/24/2017
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(Aug 24, 2017) While the North Country is not exactly the tropics, we do have our share of exotically-colored birds. Blue creatures, for example, are rare in nature but we have the bluebird, the blue jay and the indigo bunting.Then there are the goldfinches and the cardinals, the ruby-throated hummingbird and more. Martha Foley and Curt Stager celebrate a little of the local color in colder climes.

Duration: 00:05:09


Humans pass the smell test better than we think

8/17/2017
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(Aug 17, 2017) Contrary to longstanding theories, the human sense of smell is roughly as acute as that of other mammals, with an equivalent amount of neural hardware devoted to the detection of odors. So why do we seem to be so nose-blind compared to the family dog?Martha Foley quizzes Curt Stager about a sense that often operates unnoticed by our conscious minds.

Duration: 00:04:38


What isn't a GMO?

8/10/2017
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(Aug 10, 2017) While genetically modified crops are the result of the intentional introduction of "foreign" genes by humans for a specific agricultural purpose, it turns out that nature uses the same trick all the time.Bacteria of different species share genes for antibiotic resistance. Longhorn beetles borrow bacterial and fungal DNA to digest wood. And some salamander species that produce only female offspring mate with other salamander species in order to continue their line.Even Martha...

Duration: 00:04:37


Ferns pay off ants to protect them from caterpillars

8/3/2017
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(Aug 3, 2017) Ferns invented nectar - a sugary reward - long before flowering plants evolved. But instead of using it to attract pollinators, the bracken fern uses it as "protection money," paying off ants and other predatory insects that will keep voracious caterpillars away when the plants are young and vulnerable.Martha Foley and Curt Stager unveil the mobster economics of nature.

Duration: 00:04:30


A graphic account: How Walden Pond has changed since Thoreau (the planet, too)

7/27/2017
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(Jul 27, 2017) Dr. Curt Stager took students to Walden Pond, the retreat of philosopher and citizen scientist Henry David Thoreau, to take sediment samples and compare modern observations with the meticulous records kept in Thoreau's journals.They found evidence of a changing climate and a lake ecology that has been altered by human use. The graphic novel that records the expedition might have bemused and amused the famed transcendentalist. Curt talks about the work with Martha Foley.

Duration: 00:04:37


How Saharan dust makes our lives better

7/20/2017
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(Jul 20, 2017) The last time the climate warmed the Sahara was green and had a huge lake in the middle that left behind vast deposits of fine mineral-rich sediments. In these drier days the dust from that ancient lakebed now blows all the way across the Atlantic to nourish the Amazon with phosphorus and the ocean with iron.It also shades the patch of the Atlantic where hurricanes form, lessening the strength and frequency of tropical storms that reach the North Country. The current trend...

Duration: 00:04:29


Human taste buds drive 4,000 years of citrus evolution

7/13/2017
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(Jul 13, 2017) The modern supermarket holds a bewildering variety of oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines and more. But they are all the product of 4,000 years of selective breeding by humans to tease out tastier, larger, sweeter and juicier variations and hybrids from four ancestral Asian fruits. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley climb back down the citrus family tree to look at the Mandarin orange, the pomelo, the citron and the papeda.

Duration: 00:04:29


Plants that punk pollinators

7/6/2017
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(Jul 6, 2017) Flowers get pollinated, bees get nectar; that's supposed to be the deal. Except that some plants cheat. Known as "food decepters," they advertise rewards they don't deliver. Orchids are notorious for variations on bait and switch, with fully one-third of species giving bupkis to the hard-working insects that help them to propagate their kind.

Duration: 00:04:14


Most widespread carnivore on the planet? The red fox

6/29/2017
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(Jun 29, 2017) The red fox isn't always red. The silver fox, for example, is the same species. But they will usually have a white tail tip and always wear black "boots." You can find the red fox pretty much everywhere, from the North Country back yard to the Australian Outback.

Duration: 00:04:03


Two North Country foxes, but only one climbs trees

6/22/2017
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(Jun 22, 2017) The gray fox has been in North America for millions of years, but the more common red fox is a relative newcomer, crossing over during more recent Ice Ages. The two kinds of fox are not only different species, they do not even belong to the same genus.Besides differing in color and aggressiveness, the gray fox has semi-retractable claws that allow it climb trees to escape from predators. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss the slyer end of the canid family.As a bonus...

Duration: 00:04:37


Red squirrels have a 50 spruce cone a day habit

6/15/2017
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(Jun 15, 2017) Red squirrels do well in an abundant year for spruce and balsam cones, eating as many as fifty a day. Introduced to Newfoundland for the first time in the 1960s, squirrels eat as much as two-thirds of all the black spruce cones produced. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley talk about the eating habits of squirrels and their impact on the environment.

Duration: 00:05:52


Natural Selections: Can you smell that?

6/8/2017
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(Jun 8, 2017) Humans aren't naturals at tracking smells like dogs, but they can, in fact, track by scent just like dogs. The main difference is humans get better with practice. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about people's sense of smell.

Duration: 00:04:34


You don't need a microscope for "A Field Guide to Bacteria"

6/1/2017
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(Jun 1, 2017) Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss Betsey Dexter Dyer's book, A Field Guide to Bacteria, and the distinctive traits of individual bacteria that are visible to the naked eye.

Duration: 00:05:18


Muskie: the big toothy bad ass of Northern waters

5/25/2017
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(May 25, 2017) The muskellunge, or muskie, is a popular fighting fish found in Northern waters. Martha Foley and Paul Smiths College naturalist Dr. Curt Stager talk about this primitive fresh water predator.

Duration: 00:05:58


Animals that make their living outside the box

5/18/2017
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(May 18, 2017) In general, plants make food from sunlight, and animals fuel themselves by "burning" oxygen. But some animals think outside the box.Curt stager and Martha Foley look at a photosynthetic slug that hijacks the genetic machinery of the algae in its diet, and at a jellyfish that needs no oxygen, burning the alternative fuels of hydrogen and sulfur.

Duration: 00:05:44


Why pigeons feel at home in the city

5/11/2017
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(May 11, 2017) The ubiquitous bird of cities and towns was designed for a different environment. The pigeon's distinctive style of flight is adapted for maneuverability in tight places - near vertical takeoffs and quick changes of direction. This adaptation to cliff and mountainside environments serves them well among our urban cliff dwellings. Curt Stager and Martha Foley discuss.

Duration: 00:05:06

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