Lime shows promise for controlling clubroot in canola crops

Spot-treating soil with lime could give farmers another option to stem the costly disease and improve soil health

Lime shows promise for controlling clubroot in canola cropsLime is showing promise as an additional way to help manage clubroot, a deadly disease in canola crops, University of Alberta research shows. Spot-treating soil with the mineral reduced the overall occurrence and severity of the disease by 35 to 91 per cent, growth experiments showed. The finding, published in the Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology,…

Canada Jay is the best choice to be our national bird

The Jay lives and breeds from coast to coast to coast

Canada Jay is the best choice to be our national birdMy friend and colleague Dr. David Bird, formerly of McGill University, has been driving a movement to have a national bird declared for Canada. Although many thought it was a done deal already and we had affirmed the Canada Jay as our national bird, Canada has not yet done so. Starting in 2016, the community…

What to do when you see wildlife on urban trails

Four tips on making wildlife encounters of every description safe and enjoyable for all parties

What to do when you see wildlife on urban trailsIt seems one can’t swing a cat without hitting a coyote, a jackrabbit, a Canada goose, or a bear – and not just in the far-flung wilderness. Wildlife encounters are now common in cities, with urban populations of coyotes, skunks and Canada geese increasing throughout North America. Here are four tips on making wildlife encounters…

Running Everest Marathon takes a community to reach your goals

Edmontonian Kate Storey ran the 42.2-km Everest Marathon. It took her seven and a half hours

Running Everest Marathon takes a community to reach your goals  When you hear stories about Everest, they usually involve people trying to get up the mountain. Not for Kate Storey. At the end of May, she ran the Everest Marathon – a 42.2-km race down the mountain from Everest’s South Base Camp that took her seven and a half hours. She finished as the second-quickest international…

Parasites may be taking heavy toll on mammal populations

May not kill, but have heavy effect on mammals overall health

Parasites may be taking heavy toll on mammal populationsA new study looking at research on parasitic worms suggests the pesky, but pervasive creatures have a far greater impact on the health of mammal populations than previously known. “Parasites don't have to kill the animal to control a population,” says Kyle Shanebeck, a PhD student in the Faculty of Science’s Department of Biological Sciences…

There’s room for everyone in nature – if we’re respectful

The only time we need to stand up is when nature is negatively impacted by someone’s actions

There’s room for everyone in nature – if we’re respectfulI sometimes wonder how people with disparate desires share a common resource while respecting other people’s differing ideals and goals. I’m a dedicated birdwatcher, as I think you might have figured out by now. Years ago, I went to Rondeau Provincial Park in Ontario to look for a very rare bird – a sage thrasher…

Researchers create new method for making lifelike aquatic artificial habitats

Studying living habitats that attract and retain different organisms is crucial in restoration planning

Researchers create new method for making lifelike aquatic artificial habitatsResearchers have devised a new method of making lifelike aquatic artificial habitats that could help scientists better understand and restore real-world environments. Aneri Garg, who completed the research as part of her master’s studies under the supervision of Stephanie Green, first developed the 3D scanning, printing, moulding and casting (3D-SPMC) method on a project involving coral reefs. As…

When is the right time to mow hay fields to protect birds?

Knowing birds' behaviour and nesting habits allows nesting and mowing to coexist

When is the right time to mow hay fields to protect birds?Every year about his time I feel sadness for the many birds and small mammals killed by haying. I know there are many and varied reasons why fields are cut, and I respect that, so please don’t think I am criticizing farmers. Mowing hay fields is a necessary and important part of agriculture. We forget…

New strains of wheat sought with built-in resistance to wheat midge

There’s currently only one genetic defence to protect from wheat midge – but researchers want to change that

New strains of wheat sought with built-in resistance to wheat midge Agricultural scientists in Western Canada are teaming up to give wheat a boost of built-in resistance to a destructive pest. “Wheat midge is the number one insect pest threatening wheat crops across Western Canada,” says James Harynuk, a professor in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Science. Harynuk notes that wheat midge can cause about $60…

Can beavers catch chronic wasting disease?

New research suggests beavers may be susceptible to the fatal illness – increasing spread between species

Can beavers catch chronic wasting disease?Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is an infectious disease that affects the central nervous systems of animals, typically affecting cervids such as deer, elk and moose. “CWD is always fatal. There’s no cure; there are no treatments,” says Debbie McKenzie, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. CWD is increasing its geographic range as well…

What the heck are jumping worms?

Though we think they’re helpful, all worms upset the balance, making soil quality poorer

What the heck are jumping worms?Worms are meant to crawl and slither … aren’t they? Then how come some are jumping? We’re all familiar with earthworms, which can be quite large but essentially always look alike. They’re pinkish and look sort of like small snakes. Gardeners among us will also recognize wrigglers, which are small, bright pink worms that favour…

My neighbour the osprey in all its grandeur

These magnificent birds often nest in odd places, such as the light standards and hydroelectric towers

My neighbour the osprey in all its grandeurThe waterfront of Port Perry, Ont., is hosting new neighbours. Two osprey have taken up residence right in the middle of town on the waterfront. These magnificent birds inspire awe but often nest in odd places, such as the light standards and hydroelectric towers. A pair has nested for years at the ball fields at…

Forestry grad harvests his passion for the outdoors into a career

Fergus McSween is applying his new knowledge of forests, plants and animals to help protect them

Forestry grad harvests his passion for the outdoors into a careerFergus McSween loves the outdoors. Growing up in Calgary, he spent much of his youth outside the city, roaming Alberta’s forests as a Scout, on school outdoor education trips, or camping with friends and family. “Nature is so peaceful and tranquil. It’s a place where I can be myself, turn my brain off and just…

Indigenous knowledge sorely lacking in Canadian education system

Age of Enlightenment partly responsible for the destructive colonial logic that has wreaked so much havoc among Indigenous peoples

Indigenous knowledge sorely lacking in Canadian education systemThere is a wisdom principle known as wâhkôhtowin underpinning how Cree peoples fundamentally see the world. Literally, it means kinship but refers more widely to the interconnectedness of human beings with each other and with all other forms of life. According to Dwayne Donald – freshly appointed Canada Research Chair in reimagining teacher education with…

Passion for nature sparks a career in environmental education

Julie Ostrem has spent her life building relationships with the land – and wants to help others do the same

Passion for nature sparks a career in environmental educationWhen Julie Ostrem was a child, she spent most of her time outdoors on her family’s acreage just outside Sherwood Park, Alta., playing with earthworms and collecting bugs. These critter-filled hours, paired with family camping trips and her mother’s influence, shaped how she viewed the world around her. “My mother really taught me why caring…

Plant diversity minimally affected by intensive cattle grazing: study

The large-scale study adds to the understanding of how different grazing practices affect the land

Plant diversity minimally affected by intensive cattle grazing: studyThe way ranchers graze their cattle doesn’t make much difference in plant diversity on the land, according to a U of A study. That’s important because plant diversity is a useful metric to gauge the resilience of a landscape, including rangeland used by cattle producers, says Jessica Grenke, first author of the study. Researchers compared adaptive…

Does the internet make us better naturalists?

While the amount of information available is astounding, it is usually hard to find the answers

Does the internet make us better naturalists?When I was a kid, we didn’t have cellphones, the internet or even computers. Facebook, TikTok, Tumblr, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram or myriad other social media platforms didn’t exist. Add to that the many apps that are available to help us learn bird songs or identify everything from plants, mammals and insects to mushrooms, and we…

A watershed moment – rethinking our relationship with water

Maricor Arlos grew up around water, but when she came to Canada she found purpose in sustaining it

A watershed moment – rethinking our relationship with waterGrowing up in the Philippines, a country in the western Pacific Ocean made up of 7,107 islands, Maricor Arlos didn’t think much about the water that surrounded her. With no central sewage system, many households in the Philippines have septic tanks or other forms of decentralized waste collection that would be cleared out periodically without…

New approach using species traits could be critical for conservation efforts

Examining characteristics could help scientists better predict how climate change will affect all life

New approach using species traits could be critical for conservation effortsIt’s not enough to understand what the effects of climate change are. Society needs ways to get ahead of these changes, to predict them before they actually happen. And when it comes to conservation, the approach scientists use to study species in the wild could be critical to these predictions, according to a recent research…

Uptick in avian flu cases poses little threat to humans

Risk of transmission to people and pets is very low unless you're regularly in contact with birds

Uptick in avian flu cases poses little threat to humansIf the recent increase in avian influenza cases has you concerned, you likely have nothing to worry about and don’t need to take any added measures, according to a University of Alberta expert on influenza in birds. As with human flu, there are a variety of strains of avian flu, explains Katharine Magor, a professor…

Discovery offers new clues to lichens’ evolutionary advantage

New research challenges understanding of organisms that have been textbook cases since late 1800s

Discovery offers new clues to lichens’ evolutionary advantageOur understanding of the marriage of fungus and algae in the formation of lichen is being upended by a University of Alberta research team whose work is rewriting the biology that introduced symbiosis to the world. “New discoveries happen with symbiosis all the time, but the exciting thing here is this is the symbiosis that…

Give a hoot and support the Great Canadian Birdathon

The Great Canadian Birdathon is designed to raise much-needed funds to protect Canadian birds

Give a hoot and support the Great Canadian BirdathonOne of the biggest challenges birds face is the journey north each spring. Migration is rife with obstacles to survival. This spring is especially problematic due to the cold and wet weather we’ve had. Birds that rely on insects to fatten up for the migration face unprecedented challenges as snow, rain, wind and very cold…

Birdwatching in Honduras – plumage aplenty

Daily delights greeted us – toucans, parrots, butterflies, flowering trees, towering mountains

Birdwatching in Honduras – plumage aplentySpring is an exciting time of year as everything awakens and regrowth is rampant. I always eagerly anticipate the return of the birds that migrated southbound last fall. Their beauty and – more importantly – their song delights and revitalizes me. I know where they go, but I seldom get a chance to see them…

Including Indigenous perspectives in conservation planning

How Indigenous and Western knowledge can be equal partners in conservation solutions

Including Indigenous perspectives in conservation planningProtecting the world’s increasingly fragile environments through land and wildlife management, using the thoughtful approach of Indigenous knowledge, is an idea close to Jared Gonet’s heart. As a citizen of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, the University of Alberta student in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences is working with his community and with…

Breeding bird study offers insights into health of the environment

Continuing intensive breeding bird survey involves thousands of volunteers, hundreds of thousands of bits of data

Breeding bird study offers insights into health of the environmentEvery spring, I get excited as the birds start to return to Ontario from South and Central America. Life is emerging everywhere. Even though nature sometimes seems to conspire against them with cold snaps following sunny days, birds persist. Fire, rain, wind, predators, agricultural and industrial activities, cars, cats and inadvertent human disturbance all work…

Perennial rye crop shows potential for greener agriculture

Experimental crop absorbed CO2 equivalent to a vehicle burning 35,000 litres of gasoline

Perennial rye crop shows potential for greener agricultureAnnual crops are the farmer’s bread and butter, the crops they rely on most, but at least one type of perennial grain is proving much more beneficial to the environment. A crop of perennial rye absorbed a substantial amount of carbon dioxide, or CO2, a University of Alberta study showed, while an annual crop had no…

Cluster flies on your window? Spring has sprung

They share our home until the weather warms enough, then emerge and try to find their way home

Cluster flies on your window? Spring has sprungIt isn’t hard to see that the land is awakening as spring slowly unfolds before our eyes. One of the revelations I always marvel at in the spring is the rapid emergence of insects when it’s still so cold outside. Even though the outside temperature was only a few degrees above freezing at my house…

Biologists develop better way to identify individual animals at night

Will help answer questions related to population density, foraging patterns and more

Biologists develop better way to identify individual animals at nightBiologists and ecologists often need to identify individual animals in the wild to help answer questions related to population density, foraging patterns and more. But there’s an issue: many of the markers they use, such as tags with colours or numbers, are only clearly visible in daylight – which poses a challenge for studying nocturnal…

Are we Earth’s protectors if we carelessly wipe out species?

The well-being of the animals and the benefits they provide us rarely factored in

Are we Earth’s protectors if we carelessly wipe out species?Typically I note articles that cross my desk that report negative stories about nature. Historically, they didn’t emerge that frequently and nature, in general, was doing pretty well, despite some ongoing issues with overhunting, predator control, urbanization, pesticides and poaching. I read and keep these stories because sometimes lessons can be learned by studying other…

How bugs and worms could help restore land after industrial use

‘A whole world under our feet’: soil dwellers offer a fuller picture of how reclamation efforts are working

How bugs and worms could help restore land after industrial useThe tiny creatures teeming in the dirt under our feet don’t seem important, but University of Alberta research is starting to unearth ways some of them could help measure land reclamation efforts. Invertebrates such as worms, mites, centipedes and beetles affect the soil, but they aren’t included in current criteria that help mining, forestry, oil…
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