Want to enjoy wildlife? Here’s how to do it safely

Don’t be afraid to enjoy nature – just do it on their terms and with their survival in mind

Want to enjoy wildlife? Here’s how to do it safelyWith COVID-19 an overriding part of our lives, many folks have begun to see and appreciate nature like never before. Whenever we encounter nature, and while our actions may seem harmless, they might be dangerous to wildlife. Wildlife can be negatively impacted by what we do and how we do it. Having studied wildlife most…

Lakes in Canadian Rockies losing turquoise lustre as glaciers fade

Changing colour of alpine lakes may be a sign of worsening water quality, according to reports

Lakes in Canadian Rockies losing turquoise lustre as glaciers fadeAnother casualty of the disappearance of glaciers in the Canadian Rockies is the vanishing of the iconic turquoise of glacier-fed alpine lakes, according to a University of Alberta limnologist who documented the unfortunate change in the latest look at the health of Canada’s mountains. In an essay written for the fourth annual State of the Mountains…

ConnecTour Chronicles: Good luck dodging bad weather finally runs out

Calling it a downpour is a disservice. It would be much more accurate to call it a deluge

ConnecTour Chronicles: Good luck dodging bad weather finally runs outTroy Media publisher Doug Firby is part of a group of Canadians who call themselves ConnecTour. Starting last May in British Columbia and ending in October in Newfoundland, they hope to make an 8,000-km bicycle journey across the country, discovering how the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our lives and sense of community. Watch for their…

Exploring bee behaviour opens new career possibilities

Tianna Tanasichuk's internship was a chance to gain experience – not learn about herself

Exploring bee behaviour opens new career possibilitiesWorking in the sunshine, surrounded by the soft hum of a dozen beehives this summer, Tianna Tanasichuk couldn’t help thinking of her recently passed Métis great-grandmother. “Whenever I was working with the bees, I felt like if she was here, she’d be proud of me, knowing I took this risk, of trying to grow by…

Grad student helps town plan for sustainable growth

For Nicklas Baran, pitching an environmental strategy was a chance to have real impact

Grad student helps town plan for sustainable growthPitching a plan to a municipal government isn’t usually on the learning curve for a university student, but that didn’t dim Nicklas Baran’s excitement as he presented his work to the Town of Stony Plain this summer. “It made me feel great, like an expert who has great in-depth knowledge of some mysterious topic.” That…

Is there a good side to forest fires?

Fires are a form of selective harvest

Is there a good side to forest fires?The media is abuzz with the devastating wildfires in western and central Canada and across parts of Europe. Tens of thousands of hectares and countless lives and families have been impacted. As you read on, please don’t think for a moment that I’m uncaring for those affected. But is there an upside to these fires…

Predicting which species most at risk from voracious lionfish predators

We have only two to five years to act once lionfish arrive

Predicting which species most at risk from voracious lionfish predatorsCoastal countries have between two and five years to act to protect native fish species once voracious lionfish arrive in their waters, according to a University of Alberta ecology professor who helped create a tool to predict which fish are in danger. The lionfish, originally a popular aquarium species native only to the Pacific and…

What’s in a name when it comes to groups of animals?

One might find a shrewdness of apes, a congress of baboons, or an obstinacy of bison

What’s in a name when it comes to groups of animals?Often we struggle to name a group of animals when we see several feeding or playing together: Was that a bunch of birds or a flock of felines or a gambit of gnus? Actually, it’s none of those. I decided to compile a list of as many names as I could find for as many…

Venomous fangs evolved independently in vipers and cobras

U of A biology grads shed new light on the evolution of an iconic feature of some modern snakes

Venomous fangs evolved independently in vipers and cobrasVenom fangs evolved separately in several species of modern snakes, according to a new study led by former University of Alberta students and post-doctoral fellows in an international collaboration. “This research provides a textbook example of convergent evolution, in which two or more lineages with a common ancestor tweak that ancestral body plan in similar…

When it gets cold, where do all the bugs go?

Insects reduce their functions so only essential processes work: respiration and waste elimination

When it gets cold, where do all the bugs go?I know it’s still summer but soon it will get colder and things will be radically different. Sometimes I wonder where all the bugs go in the winter. Seems a bit silly but they’re out there somewhere all winter – at least most of them. But where are they? Insects and their allies (e.g. spiders,…

My close and unforgettable encounters with wolves

The wolf came within 25 metres and stared at me as if looking through me, then trotted back into the bush, satisfied that I was neither tasty nor a threat

My close and unforgettable encounters with wolvesThe eastern grey wolf is a mysterious animal that evokes different emotions in us. How you react comes down to how much time you’ve spent with them or, more importantly, how much time you’ve taken to learn something about them. I’ve always revered them, having had several close encounters over the years. Each has left…

How do zebra finches learn to build their nests?

By observing the building techniques of other birds

How do zebra finches learn to build their nests?Like archeologists learning how past humans built their homes, birds can learn construction techniques by observing unoccupied nests, according to a new study. University of Alberta scientists found that zebra finches learn about nest building by observing an empty nest – but only if they first learn what a nest is. “We gave half our…

Student discovers threatened beetle is actually two separate subspecies

Discovery means the nationally threatened Gibson’s big sand tiger beetle is more at risk than previously thought

Student discovers threatened beetle is actually two separate subspeciesAn undergraduate research study has found that a threatened type of beetle found in Saskatchewan and Colorado is, in fact, made up of two genetically distinct subspecies. The discovery has important implications for conservation efforts for the insects and shows that both populations of Gibson’s big sand tiger beetle are more threatened than previously thought.…

Preventing transmission of chronic wasting disease in white-tailed deer

Discovery of protein variant may reduce spread of the highly contagious and fatal neurological disease

Preventing transmission of chronic wasting disease in white-tailed deerA variant of the prion protein may reduce the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) among white-tailed deer, according to a new study by University of Alberta scientists. This variant of the prion protein, called the S96 variant, blocks CWD transmission in the lab – an important discovery in the fight against the highly contagious…

The nasty ways insects inflict damage on humans

Only the female mosquito seeks a blood meal. She needs to penetrate the skin of warm-blooded mammals to get her meals

The nasty ways insects inflict damage on humansAs a naturalist, I wonder about things – sometimes obvious things, sometimes odd things but always interesting things. Today’s thought surrounds interactions with insects, their kin and other critters that on occasion negatively interact with us. People often claim to have been bitten by an insect. “That mosquito just bit me!” But did it? Or…

Augustana grad eager to share her love of the outdoors with others

Everyone should have the chance to connect with nature and understand its importance to our lives, Kate Corrigan believes

Augustana grad eager to share her love of the outdoors with othersKate Corrigan still has blister scars from backpacking up to the base of Mount Robson during a high school field trip, but it was that first trek that sparked a passion for the great outdoors. “For me, the outdoors is a place to disconnect, to reconnect. You’re away from the stress of work, school, social…

Gypsy moths have invaded North America. What can we do?

Insects are already in serious decline throughout the world, so killing insects for the sake of killing them seems ill-advised

Gypsy moths have invaded North America. What can we do?This seems to be a good year for gypsy moths and a bad one for people who love trees. Have you never seen a gypsy moth? This might be the best time to find them. Look for a light to dark brown, medium-sized moth flying in a seemingly erratic way. These are the males. They’re…

Nationwide citizen science program critical for bird conservation

Canadian Nightjar Survey recruits volunteer citizen scientists for the study of nocturnal birds

Nationwide citizen science program critical for bird conservationTen years ago, University of Alberta PhD candidate Elly Knight started a volunteer citizen science program. Since then, the Canadian Nightjar Survey has grown from a single volunteer in southern British Columbia to several hundred citizen scientists across the country – and more volunteers are needed. Their mission? To monitor the nightjars that breed in Canada. These fascinating,…

Cannabis should not be taken during pregnancy: study

New U of A research has implications for prenatal development in humans

Cannabis should not be taken during pregnancy: studyZebrafish exposed to the leading cannabinoids found in cannabis in the earliest stages of development suffer a significant drop in neural activity later in life, according to a University of Alberta study that has implications for prenatal development in humans. Richard Kanyo, the lead author on the study and post-doctoral fellow in the Faculty of Medicine…

Ancient sand reveals missing piece of 3.2-billion-year-old continent

U of A researchers shed new light on the structure and formation of Earth’s earliest continents

Ancient sand reveals missing piece of 3.2-billion-year-old continentScientists have found evidence for a missing piece of a 3.2-billion-year-old continent, according to a new study by University of Alberta scientists. The research identifies the only remnant of ultra-hot lavas within this ancient landmass, located within tiny mineral grains preserved in sandstone. “Our research developed a method to identify and date pieces of our…

Scientists reveal the secret lives of Canada lynx

Cutting-edge recording technology captures never-before-heard sounds of the elusive boreal predators hunting, fighting and sleeping

Scientists reveal the secret lives of Canada lynxUsing a Fitbit and a spy mic, University of Alberta scientists have revealed new insights into the behaviour of the elusive Canada lynx. The research provides a first look at how miniaturized technology can open the door to remote wildlife monitoring. “Working on one of the boreal forest’s top predators, the Canada lynx, we found…

Is your cat outside killing wildlife right now?

Cats have contributed to the extinction of 33 species worldwide

Is your cat outside killing wildlife right now?What a lovely sight! Look at Patches as she heads out for her morning jaunt in the fields near her home. How cute is she as she tiptoes through the dew-drenched grass, trying her best to keep her paws dry? Millions of cats do exactly this every day, and the outcome is always devastating for…

New research chair will look into the future of forests

The work of the $4-million endowed position will help inform forest companies as they sustainably manage land for timber and biodiversity

New research chair will look into the future of forestsRobert Froese can tell you the exact moment he knew forestry would be his lifelong career. He was an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia, standing in the forest with his classmates. “My professor went crashing into the woods … and he came back with a big Douglas-fir branch,” said Froese. “It was rainy…

Why do city planners put bicycles ahead of people?

People who don’t have yards or nearby open spaces should come before bicyclists

Why do city planners put bicycles ahead of people?Vancouver city council is considering a motion this week to turn sections of Granville Street and Commercial Drive into European-style pedestrian-friendly malls by reducing or eliminating automobile access. This is described as putting people over cars. Reducing car traffic leads to cleaner air and quieter neighbourhoods – good things. Some local businesses will benefit. But…

Your pet may not be safe in the great outdoors

As we encroach on wild places, wild animals will see our pets as a food source

Your pet may not be safe in the great outdoorsOur pets are such an important part of our lives – loyal and forgiving – but there’s danger out there, even in your garden! Lots of things are trying to eat, infect or nibble on pets. It’s not possible to list everything that might hurt your pet in this column, but here are a few…

Bears that mark more trees more successful in mating

Brown bears that rub against trees more often tend to have more offspring and more mates

Bears that mark more trees more successful in matingBrown bears that are more inclined to grate and rub against trees have more offspring and more mates, according to a University of Alberta study. The results suggest there might be a fitness component to the poorly understood behaviour. “As far as we know, all bears do this dance, rubbing their back up against the…

The elegant and essential cones of coniferous trees

Many birds explore the nooks and crannies of these seed-bearing pods as they try to pry the seeds loose or find minute insects

The elegant and essential cones of coniferous treesAs we welcome spring, we see the remnants of pine and spruce cones previously covered by snow. Few of us think about how important these cones are to the floral and faunal communities – as food and to ensure the next generation of trees is born. Many species of coniferous trees produce cones – pines,…

Snake jaw structure yields new understanding of evolutionary origins

Study re-examining what early snakes might have looked like

Snake jaw structure yields new understanding of evolutionary originsNew research led by a University of Alberta graduate student could lead to reimagining what early snakes might have looked like, suggesting that some of the world’s supposedly simplest snakes have a more complex evolutionary history than traditionally thought. Snakes are broadly divided into two groups based on their feeding mechanisms: macrostomatan snakes, able to…

How we can keep birds from crashing into windows and dying

Bird Safe Buildings Across Canada and other organizations are working hard to encourage building owners to take bird-saving measures

How we can keep birds from crashing into windows and dyingEver since European settlers occupied North America, our influences on avian populations have varied between positive and devastatingly negative. I would love to just write about the good stuff, but an important issue needs to be discussed: windows and how they can be deadly to birds. A new grassroots organization has been founded by a…

Students get virtual taste of real-world life on the farm

With help from Alberta farmers, an online animal science course is giving U of A students an inside look at the agricultural industry

Students get virtual taste of real-world life on the farmOnline classes during COVID-19 can feel a bit distant. But add in 48 farmers and a real-time calf birth, and things perk up considerably. That vivid minute-by-minute experience of watching a Black Angus cow give birth was a matter of lucky timing as Jesse Emery gave University of Alberta animal science students a virtual walking…
1 2 3 4