Flying Mammals, Insect Warrior, Friend

bat pic 1

The light is turning shades of blue and purple as the sun drops below the horizon. The air is cooling from a warm summer day.  Crickets are beginning their night time singing, and through the sky comes the faint whirring of bats. Swooping and gliding through the air, indulging in an early evening snack. Some of my fondest memories growing up in Wisconsin start on nights like this. Watching the bats and reveling in the idea that there are finally warriors to take on the thick clouds of mosquitos that crowd the Wisconsin sky. I loved anything that would eat bugs; mosquitos are the Wisconsin state bird, after all. I was always amazed at the way bats took to the sky; dropping out of slumber in an almost synchronized fashion, swooping gracefully and clearing the pests surrounding me.

I knew early on the benefit of the bats regarding personal pest control but had yet to learn all the ways in which bats help humankind. Yes it is wonderful to have a night time warrior friend to clear the bugs from around our heads, but what else do they accomplish? It is thought that these flying mammals contribute over 3 billion dollars annually to pest control for farmers all across the United States. They clear cropland in a frenzy of feeding, each bat consuming up to or more than their body weight in pesky bugs each night. This fundamental trait of bats reduces the amount of chemical pesticides used on cropland, creating a feedback loop that saves farmers money, keeps pesticides out of watersheds, and in turn lowers health and food costs to customers (us). Bats unintentionally help farmers in another major way — pollinating fruit. Do you enjoy a margarita or tequila from time to time? Well you can thank bats; without night time pollination agave would never produce the fruits needed for that icy cocktail. Don’t imbibe alcohol? How about eating mangos, bananas or avocados?  Bats to the rescue.  Bats are the only natural pollinator for these fruits. When fruit bats feed on night flowers, spreading pollen from plant to plant, they also clear the flower of any parasites that may harm it in the future. Double whammy!

bat pic 2

Small bat pollinating agave

Bats play another crucial role in plant life and biodiversity as the world’s most prolific seed transmitters. Bats regenerate forests around the world by dispersing seeds and spreading guano accounting for nearly 95% of the first plants that sprout out of a new forest floor. Having few predators, they often fly long distances at night covering large open spaces. All the while spreading some of the most nutritious feces of any living species; Johnny Appleseed has nothing on bats. So to reflect; bats fertilize and distribute seeds in those hard to reach places, bats pollinate difficult species of plants, bats are living breathing insecticide keeping in check those destructive and disease spreading insects. And these are just the actions that benefit growth. But what else are bats capable of?

Bats as bomber pilots? Sure, why not. Shortly after the attack at Pearl Harbor a dental surgeon named Dr. Lytle S. Adams came up with one crazy idea — utilize bats to plant and distribute hundreds of small incendiary bombs throughout Japan. Bats have an amazing ability to carry a large load in comparison to their size. Remember they eat their weight or more in bugs each and every night. Some species can carry almost three times their weight. Dr. Adams joined with thousands of other concerned Americans and sent his bat plan to the American Military and the top brass liked it. Once President Roosevelt signed off on the idea, Dr. Adams was directed to Army Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) along with several naturalist from the University of California who worked together to implement it. After an exhaustive search they realized that Mexican free-tailed bats had all the right stuff; they were numerous and powerful enough to carry the load, and they were easy to catch. The idea was simple; force the bats into hibernation, attach a clip from the small incendiary to the chest of the bats, put the bats into a cardboard contraption, fly them in a B-52 bomber releasing them at 5000ft., cardboard contraption breaks open, bats come out of hibernation in time while freefalling to roost under buildings eaves, then they would naturally chew off the clip holding the mini bombs. Once the clip was loose the bomb’s fuse would ignite and BOOM — off go hundreds of bombs strewn throughout the country in no particular order, creating chaos. Whew, that made me tired just typing it, but simple enough for the magical bats, right? Alas all did not go as planned. They had some trouble with the timing of hibernation; first they were coming out too late and splat, then they came out too early and created chaos at the test site. Then a careless act by a scientist released a number of bats with miniature incendiary devices attached, causing a hanger to be bombed and a general’s car to be lit aflame. Needless to say the 2 million dollar project was scrapped for a much more promising one, the Atomic Bomb.

Alright, so bats are amazing little flying mammals and there are a lot of bat species around the world, over 1,300 in fact. So they will be with us for a very long time, fulfilling their silent duty for centuries to come. Wrong. Or possibly wrong; it is our turn to help the bats. Some think that the Mexican free-tailed bat, those little bombers, may be dying off due to insecticide. Oh the irony. Then there is global climate change, an issue facing all living creatures in their own way, some being affected in ways that no one could have predicted. The bats are one such mammal. Humans have looked to alternative energy to slow the release of greenhouse gasses, one cause of global climate change. One piece of the greenhouse gas solution is wind farms, yet they are directly affecting bats. During bats migratory times in the fall, they seem to be attracted to the blades of wind turbines. Bats not only get caught in the blades themselves but as they come near to them the wind pressure change can crush their delicate little bodies in mid-air, stopping their hearts. Scientist have yet to figure out why they are more apt to be attracted to the turbines in the fall and have been working with the owners of wind farms. Together they have found that by furloughing the turbines a few hours around dusk for the month and a half that bats migrate, they can reduce the number of fatalities drastically. Unfortunately these are not the direst issues facing North American bats.

bat map

Map showing the spread of WNS

A more mystifying issue at hand is the rapid proliferation of a psychrophilic (cold loving) fungus called Pseudogymnoascus Destructans or White Nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS is thought to have come from Europe and East Asia, first appearing in the Northeast during the winter of 2006-2007. WNS has now spread throughout the east and in the last two years has been found in small pockets of Washington State. At this point scientist believe that over 5 million bats have succumbed to WNS. Bats that live in the colder regions tend to hibernate in humid cooler dwellings, a perfect environment for the fungus to survive. It can be spread by close contact of bats but can also live in the soil surrounding a cave. Bats are very social critters, huddling together during hibernation, especially the females. These attributes cause near-perfect conditions for a pandemic. WNS does not directly kill bats but can spread quickly, causing dehydration and an uncomfortable annoyance, waking the bats up from hibernation. Rising earlier than they should, the affected bats wander around disoriented and burn off crucial reserves needed to make it through the long hibernation. Unable to find food and relief from WNS, they become weaker and weaker until they perish. The fungus can also attack the delicate wing membranes of bats causing debilitating tears. It is thought that over 90%of the little brown bats in the North East Coast have died due to White Nose Syndrome in the last decade. And that is no good.

bat pic 3

A small brown bat inflicted with WNS

Scientists have yet to find a reliable way of combating WNS, but there have been several attempts in which they are slowing the disease’s progression. A plant that the bats have been helping throughout evolution may be the key to saving bats in the future. A group of scientist had been testing a natural bacterium, R. Rhodochrous, to see if they could elongate the shelf life of bananas for shipping. They planned on doing this by inhibiting fungal growth and thus extending ripening times. A grad student working on the banana project saw photos of the spread of WNS and had a winning idea: Try the bacteria on bats as well. The bacteria have been found in preliminary trials to feed off of the fungus, causing no negative effects on the bats themselves. They are now moving onto the next batch of studies to make sure that the bacteria will have no known side effects on the cave environs in which the bats live. Fingers crossed, little buddies!

At this point you may be asking yourself, what can I do? Similar to all ecological disasters popping up every day, this seems like a problem too big for each of us individually to make a difference. Oh but we can help our little bat friends. Bat detective is a website dedicated to an interesting world-wide citizen science project. They are asking people to join in by learning the different calls that bats make in your area. Then you can help scientist track bats around the world. Another great online resource is Bat Conservation International. The website is full of information. On it you can find other citizen science projects, places and safe ways to view bats, and plans on how to make bat houses as well as successfully getting bats to roost. Building and caring for a bat house is a tangible and meaningful way to help the local bat populations and helps keep them out of your attic. They can be the bug warriors in your backyard, create hours of entertainment, and be a wonderful learning tool for young and old alike. Or just learn about bats and teach others. Together we can build a band of bat warriors.

Humans and bats are intricately intertwined. Their future will directly affect ours just as their past has molded our present. Phil Richardson in Bats speaks to the evolution of fruit bats, which “branched off from primates, the group that contains monkeys, apes and humans. It is possible, therefore, that these bats are distantly related to us.”

 

Resources:

New to the Fontana system is a great video resource called Kanopy. With a library card you can access this video library of over 30,000 titles. Try Bats in the search bar and see what you can find!

Books in Fontana Regional Library on bats:

Bats of the United States and Canada

Bats by Phil Richardson

Books on the continuing extinction crisis we face:

The Sixth Extinction; an unnatural history by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Ends of the World; volcanic apocalypses, lethal oceans, and our quest to understand Earth’s past extinctions by Peter Brannen

Each of the blue links in this blog leads to another great online resource for learning all that you can about bats. It’s our turn to lend them a helping hand.

Bibliography:

Amos, Amy Mathews. “Bat Killings by Wind Energy Turbines Continue.” Scientific American, 7 June 2016, www.scientificamerican.com/article/bat-killings-by-wind-energy-turbines-continue/.

Jemison, Micaela. “Not Just the Birds and Bees – 6 Fast Facts About Pollinating Bats.” The National Wildlife Federation Blog, National Wildlife Federation, 18 June 2014, blog.nwf.org/2014/06/not-just-the-birds-and-bees-6-fast-facts-about-pollinating-bats/.

Mart Miller Special to the Reformer. “Researchers May Have Found Solution to White-Nose   Syndrome That’s Killing Bats.” The Brattleboro Reformer, Brattleboro Reformer, 1 Nov. 2016, www.reformer.com/stories/researchers-may-have-found-solution-to-white-nose-syndrome-thats-killing-bats,428973

Richardson, Phil. Bats. Firefly Books, 2011.

Broadband Connectivity on the Regional Level

By Guest Contributor Sarah Thompson, MPA

SarahT

Sarah Thompson is the Executive Director of the Southwestern Commission, and Administrator of the Mountain West Partnership.

-What is Region A and the Southwestern Commission?

The Southwestern Planning and Economic Development Commission was formed in 1965 by concurrent, joint resolution of the counties and municipalities within the seven westernmost counties of North Carolina (Cherokee, Graham, Clay, Swain, Macon, Jackson, and Haywood) [Swain, Macon, and Jackson are the 3 counties served by Fontana Regional Library]. It was within this same time period that COGs all across the state and U.S. were formed. Initially, the driving factor behind this movement was money.  Between 1965 and 1975, state legislatures and the US Congress created thousands of grant-in-aid programs totaling billions of dollars in funds available to local governments. Funds were appropriated for water and sewer systems, housing, solid waste, emergency medicine, juvenile delinquency, recreation, health care, law enforcement, economic development, job training, senior citizens services and a plethora of other purposes.

The Commission has three primary departments: Workforce Development, Area Agency on Aging, and Community and Economic Development. We are one of 16 Councils of Government in North Carolina. We are governed by the local governments in the region, and our board is comprised of county commissioners and town mayors and aldermen in our 7 county region.

[link to a library resource about the Southwestern Commission (aka Region A)]

-How and when did the Southwestern Commission become involved with broadband?

Through our work in economic development and community planning, it has become increasingly apparent that lack of high speed broadband is the number one deterrent to economic growth that our region now faces. Whereas in the mid-to-late 20th century, basic infrastructure such as roads and water/sewer were our primary needs for economic competiveness, in today’s information era, it is broadband. As we have historically been a regionally focused agency that works with local governments on infrastructure needs, we felt that we should be doing all that we can to improve and expand broadband service to the region.


-Why do you feel Broadband and Connectivity are important for our region?

The economic reality is changing for rural America. We’ve had three major industrial employers leave our region in the past five years alone. Although we still focus on attracting large employers, the majority of economic growth is trending in small businesses and entrepreneurs. Nearly all sectors of the economy rely on the internet- private business, education, health care, etc. Without adequate access to today’s technology, we will fall behind.

 

-What is happening in Region A regarding Broadband issues?

The Mountain West Partnership (gownc.org) is a new economic development partnership for the seven western counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Southwestern Commission administers the partnership. The Mountain West Partnership Board of Directors directed Southwestern Commission staff to find a way to address the lack of broadband access in the region. Due to legislative barriers in our state laws that do not allow local governments to compete with private sector providers, increased access cannot be achieved fully by the public sector. The solution will have to be some form of public/private partnership model, in which the public sector is able to put some infrastructure funds on the table to incent private providers to provide service. Infrastructure is expensive, and because of our low population density, a private provider cannot see a reasonable return on investment if they pay for all of the infrastructure. Our local governments have fairly limited budgets, and many services to provide. Our hope is that in the near future, some state and federal subsidies will become available to rural areas such as ours, as was the case in the past with issues such as electrification and telephone service.


-What specifically is the Southwestern Commission doing, especially with regards to a consultant?

The Commission has contracted with ECC Technologies to conduct a broadband assessment of our region this fall. In this Phase I of our efforts, we hope to achieve a high response rate on the survey so as to aggregate the actual demand for service. Phase I also includes training for each county’s broadband committee on laws, policies, and solutions. Phase II, next year, will involve using the data collected in Phase I to begin negotiating with private providers for increased or improved service in the communities within our region. We realize that many communities have already surveyed the public on this issue, and all of the data from those surveys will be used in our study. However we encourage everyone to please take and share the survey under way now, as it is a very important step in this process.

Link to survey: http://mountainwest.baat-campaign.com/campaigns/master

For more information and resources on broadband in general and in our area, please see Fontana Regional Library’s Local Broadband webpage: http://fontanalib.libguides.com/broadband 

{Fontana Regional Library is concerned about Connectivity as part of our Long Range Plan}

Katrina, Ike, Harvey, Irma, Maria, Etc.

 

Note:  In addition to books available in the collections of Fontana Regional Library and the NC Cardinal consortium I used articles from databases in NC Live.

In recent weeks three category four or five hurricanes devastated multiple Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico,  the Gulf coast of Texas  and the whole state of Florida.  Remnants of Irma made their way into Western North Carolina toppling trees and damaging power lines and buildings.  Historic flooding are part of both hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida.   NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) had already charted nine weather events in the United States this year that cost at least a billion dollars each before the two hurricanes landed on our shores. (1)  In this blog I am not concerned with the cause of these horrendous storms but why the cost of them goes up exponentially every time another one makes landfall in heavily populated areas.

hurricane

Having lived in both the Ohio  and Mississippi Valleys, I am familiar with the damage and loss of life caused by rivers rising out of their banks and strong winds generated by tornados.  The difference between  a hurricane and tornado and is the extent of the damage and the geographic size of the storms.   The latter can do serious damage to a limited area; a hurricane, on the other hand, can travel thousands of miles and can be as large as Irma, which was over 400 miles across,(2)  and its damage is the result of very  heavy winds (according to Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale,  a category 5 hurricane  can have sustained winds of 157 mph. Compare that  with a F5 tornado on the Fujita scale, which can have wind speeds up to 318 mph.) and torrential rain and storm surges that cause heavy flooding, especially near shorelines.  And, of course, widespread power outages. (3)

Catastrophic weather events have part of our country’s history for years.  Not only have hurricanes laid waste to states bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, but the middle of the country has to deal with tornados and flooding from streams in the Missouri and Mississippi Valleys. Texas has had the misfortune of having to deal with all of the above.

There is no doubt these storms are growing in size and power whatever the reason.  And, because of the growing population living where hurricanes usually make landfall, the damage they do is putting a burden on federal, state, and local governments, and therefore on us, the taxpayers as well.   Damage from these storms not only affects residential neighborhoods but often industrial and business section of cities too.  Anyone who watched the television coverage of Harvey in Houston and felt the effects on their pocketbook of the gasoline pipeline being closed for a few days because of floods in Harris County, Texas, knows this for a fact.

The winds and rain from hurricanes can cost business and industry millions of dollars.  Two years ago five scientists published an article in the science journal Natural Hazards entitled “Vulnerability of an industrial corridor in Texas to  storm surge.”(4)  The area studied in this article was the Houston Ship Channel Industrial Corridor which is laden with storage tanks containing toxic materials that can be released in a serious flood.  True to their warning, Business Insider passed along an AP report on explosion and a fire at a Houston suburban chemical plant as a result of flooding from Hurricane Harvey.  An mile and half buffer was established around the Arkema plant and the approximately 5,000 people nearby were warned to evacuate. (5)  In its September issue Oil Spill Intelligence Report® reported three major oil spills and 20% of the nation’s oil refining was of offline as a result of 51 inches of rain pouring down on the greater Houston area. (6)

If you have lived in a residential area affected by a severe storm that toppled trees and power lines over a wide area, the resulting power outages for a majority of people whose homes were nearby is arduous.  I lived in one such city about twenty-four years ago when we were hit by an ice storm.  Our house was without electricity for five days.  Friends who lived two blocks to the west were deprived of power for three weeks because workers for the power company had to go into each back yard on their block to fix the problems. In the current era, utility companies use modern technology, such as weather radar, to predict where most outages will occur and mutual assistance from other utilities to help with power restoration. (7)

Local governments have implemented stricter building codes to mitigate structural damage that is the result of hurricane force winds.   These ordinances do help cut the cost of rebuilding.   What hasn’t happened, according what I have read, is building restrictions  in floodplains.  As hurricanes increase in size, the more moisture that comes from their clouds means more flooding.   Katrina, Ike, Harvey, and Irma are cases in point.  Eastern North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, southeastern Texas, and other places that are below or barely above sea level are targets for devastating flooding.  Hurricane season isn’t over for this year yet. We’ll see what the remainder of 2017 and next year’s season brings to those areas who are the most vulnerable.

(1) https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/US/1980-2017   According to NOAA, the estimated cost for these nine events is  $10 billion.

(2)According to Simon Winchester in his book, Pacific, Typhoon Tip in 1979 was  1380 miles wide.  Winchester, p. 246.

(3) A news report from Miami told of residents of a high rise apartment building camping in the their parking lot after they been eight days without power.   WLOS, September 20, 2017.

(4)Daniel W. Burleson, et al., “Vulnerability of an industrial corridor in Texas to  storm surge,”Natural Hazards (77): 1183-1203.  NC Live

(5) Frank Bajak, Reese Dunklin, and Emily Schmall, Associated Press, “Harvey ignites a second fire and explosion at Houston chemical plant,” Business Insider, September 2, 2014.

(6)Oil Spill Intelligence Report®, September 11, 2017, pp. 1-2. NC Live

(7)Jump, Peter and Janneke Bruce. Electric Perspectives; Washington28.3 (May/Jun 2003): 22-39. NC Live

For further reading:

Heidi Cullen, The Weather of the Future

Verne Huser,  The Rivers of Texas

Simon Winchester,  Pacific : silicon chips and surfboards, coral reefs and atom bombs, brutal dictators, fading empires, and the coming collision of the world’s superpowers

and the articles cited above.

This is not an eclipse post.

Last night I was sitting at home reading as the sun faded away, and the droning of crickets outside the house gradually drowned out the sound of the words on the page in front of me.

This is the sound of a summer night – crickets raising heck outside, intermittent frog croaks from the pond, steady whirring of ceiling fans, the tumble of cat feet zipping from one end of the house to the other (oh wait, that’s every night). In Alabama, where I grew up, the crickets sing louder and for months longer than they do where I presently live in the steely shadow of the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment’s sharp edge. These friendly neighborhood sirens are my favorite part of summer – perhaps because they catapult me back into happy childhood memories, perhaps because I’ve grown grumpy toward heat and they signal cool nighttime hours ahead.

I wonder – will the crickets start their racket when the moon eclipses the sun on Monday?

eclipse
Does this really qualify as night?

Lately I’ve been hesitant to seek out answers to questions like that. Not knowing what to pay attention to sometimes forces me to pay attention to everything, which usually ends in wonder and joy. So I think – for me anyway, tucked away in a pocket of woods somewhere – the eclipse should be a joyful experience. I can’t help but have certain expectations of astonishment, but I tend to expect that out of any ordinary day, so nothing new there.

every day is earth day
Every day is Earth (and space) Day at Hudson Library!

After reading Annie Dillard’s essay “Total Eclipse,” I also expect to be at least a little weirded out. (Find it and other essays in anthologies here and here.)

There are going to be a whole lot of people here in Western North Carolina on Monday. I’ve heard predictions of mayhem – nothing new there either. Some of us locals aren’t too excited about the impending influx of bodies and vehicles, but I really hope we can recognize how lucky we are to live here, and be kind to each other. Aren’t we also lucky to live in a time when a total solar eclipse doesn’t portend doom and destruction any more than the relentless daily news cycle does? How cool is it that so many people in this state, this country, this world, are going to be staring up at the sky together in wonder and awe, and maybe a touch of primordial fear? The world needs more of that.

eclipse tips
Your friendly local library wants to help keep you informed.

We’re being told to prepare supply-wise as we would for an impending winter storm, so I have an apocalypse-worthy cache of toilet paper at the house, and my snowshoes are primed and ready to go. (Wait – what?) I can only focus on doing one thing right at a time, so today I’ll get food and, if I remember, toothpaste.

Don’t forget to stock up on library books!

faulkner
Words of inspiration from a favorite cheerful scribe, as quoted in Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir.

Celebrating National Science Month with Citizen Science

[Contributed by Carlyn, Circulation Supervisor @ Macon County Public Library]

April is National Science Month. There are many ways to celebrate, from reading about a famous scientist, to taking part in a science fair. You might attend Family Science Night at your library or school. One way to become more actively involved is to take part in a citizen science project.

First, what is citizen science? Citizen science has been described as “voluntary public participation in the scientific process.” In other words, anyone – everyone – can get involved with real scientific research! Most citizen science projects take a supporting role, in which the general public assists with projects developed by working scientists. Scientific research often involves either gathering or sorting through large quantities of stuff – data, photos, etc. Much of this work is being done by non-scientists with a minimum of training, which means that anyone can become a part of it. Adults, children, families, groups, or individuals all have a wide variety of opportunities.  Early examples of citizen science often involved using private computers’ idle time to crunch data, but today there are thousands of projects out there available for people to get involved in different ways. A lot of projects are done from a computer or smartphone, while many others involve getting out and about to gather information. These projects offer the public tremendous opportunities to take part in genuine scientific research. They provide scientists with free assistance; they provide hands-on science learning opportunities; and they create connections between the public and the science community.

Currently, most citizen science projects are in the natural sciences and astronomy. For example, many research projects involving birds have involved public participation for years; the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count , touted as the world’s longest-running citizen science project, dates back to 1900. Other birding projects include the Great Backyard Bird Count, eBird, and NestWatch. These projects, and others like them, help scientists to gather large amounts of data from locations all over the world; to do this solely with paid researchers would be prohibitive in both cost and scope, but by enlisting the assistance of thousands of private citizens the costs are minimized and the data pool greatly expanded.

While these projects involve outdoor time, some biology projects are done on a computer, such as EteRNA, which uses a game-like interface and fun graphics to teach non-scientists how to create new RNA.  Astronomy projects are often done on a personal computer or smartphone. Galaxy Zoo, for example, asks participants to view photographs of distant galaxies and identify characteristics about them. This allows scientists to narrow their focus to study only the galaxies that most interest them. Some citizen science projects require participants to attend training workshops, but the majority require little or no training, and any minimal necessary training can usually be completed in a few minutes online.

Increasingly, citizen science projects are making use of smartphones to collect data. Did you feel it?  is an app that allows citizens to submit their experiences with earthquakes, providing a great deal of information seismologists would otherwise be unable to gather. mPing gives people the opportunity to submit weather data, again greatly increasing the amount of data available for study. Project Noah lets people use their phones to share wildlife encounters, contributing to information about our planet’s biodiversity. Noisetube collects information about noise levels wherever a participant happens to be.

A citizen science project that is active right now throughout FRL is NC Candid Critters, and you can get involved through your local public library. Each library in the Fontana Regional Library system has Candid Critter kits ready for you to check out! With the kit, you are equipped to set up a special camera on either your own land or public land, leave the camera to take daytime and nighttime photos for several weeks, and then you get to see the results, identify the animals photographed, and add them to a huge database that is being used by scientists for a wide variety of research. In the process, you’ll also connect with another citizen science site, eMammal.

Does this sound a little daunting? Not to worry. Before you check out a camera kit, you’ll complete a short online training. It took me less than an hour. The training shows you exactly what you need to do, from choosing a location, to setting up your camera, to identifying the photos your camera captures. Once you’ve completed the training, you’ll be put on a list of approved volunteers for the project, and you’ll be able to check out a camera kit. My camera went up on March 11, so this past Sunday it was time for me to collect my camera and see what critters were photographed.  On this first deployment, I got several sightings of squirrels and raccoons; I’ve redeployed in a different location and in another three weeks I’ll have a second set of photos to identify, upload, and share.

Raccoons from my NC Candid Critters camera, taken at night (4:30 AM, to be exact). The one on the right is easy; don’t miss the one on the left, of which all you can see is the glowing eyes!

NCCC racoons

There are so many other citizen science projects, it’s impossible to list them here. An excellent book on the subject is Citizen Science Guide for Families: Taking part in real science. While the title gears the book toward families, it is equally useful for adults, groups, or individuals. Additionally, there are two great online websites that provide access to lots of current projects.

SciStarter serves as a clearinghouse for citizen science projects. Scientists can submit projects to the site, and people can pick from hundreds of projects to pursue. There are many projects that can be completed online, and many others that involve indoor or outdoor activities. SciStarter includes projects around the world as well as local or state projects.

Zooniverse serves as a clearinghouse for citizen science online projects involving analysis of large amounts of data. These often involve viewing and identifying photos or videos, ranging from Arizona bats to the Milky Way galaxy. Other projects involve deciphering handwritten data, ranging from Elizabethan journals to 1940’s African tree research. All Zooniverse projects have built-in tutorials which make it easy to get started.

Citizen science is the subject of a new television series as well. The Crowd and the Cloud is a four-part series airing on World Channel and selected PBS stations this April. You can also watch the series online and get additional information about citizen science at http://crowdandcloud.org/.

So what are you waiting for? It’s so easy, and so interesting, to become involved in citizen science today; the question isn’t whether to get involved, but which project to dive into first! The NC Candid Critters camera kits will be available at our libraries through July 2017, so that’s a great place to begin. Visit the NC Candid Critters website, http://www.nccandidcritters.org/, to get started as a citizen scientist.

Nutrition and Diabetes

By Krystle T. Holt, RD, LDN

dietitian holt

Krystle Holt is our guest contributor to this Shelf Life in the Mountains.  Krystle is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. She currently works as an outpatient dietitian providing Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) to patients. Krystle also works in Harris Regional Hospitals Cardio Pulmonary Rehab services where she provides individual MNT and group class for rehab patients. She helps with community outreach programs as well as employee wellness for Harris Regional and Swain Community Hospital. 

Each March the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sets out to remind people the importance of eating right and being physically active. This year the theme for National Nutrition Month® is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” This is a simple reminder of the small choices we can make daily that lead to a healthy lifestyle. Making every bite count can lead to big changes in our health. There are many ways you can “Put Your Best Fork Forward.”  Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Avoid skipping meals. When we skip a meal we tend to overeat at the next meal. Try to always have a good breakfast, lunch and dinner, using MyPlate to guide your choices. Making half of your plate fruit or veggies, one quarter of your plate lean protein, and a quarter of your plate grains, is a great start to healthy eating. Be sure to include low fat dairy at each meal which could consist of 1% or skim milk, low-fat yogurt or low fat cheese.

my plate

  • Have healthy snacks between meals. Snacks are a great way to avoid overeating at meals. Examples of a healthy snack may include: grapes and a mozzarella cheese stick or apple slices and peanut butter.
  • Choose a variety of different fruits and vegetables. Make sure half of your plate at each meal is fruit and veggies. Fruits and veggies are rich in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  • Make at least half of your grains whole grains. Choose whole grain breads, cereals, and pastas! Whole grains are a great source of fiber which helps us control weight, maintain normal gastrointestinal function, decrease cholesterol, decrease blood pressure and decrease risk of Heart Disease, Stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, and Digestive Cancers.
  • Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. Replace sodas and juice with water to help maintain adequate hydration. Limiting added sugars in the diet like the ones found in sugar-sweetened beverages will decrease the amount of empty calories you put into your body.
  • Be physically active. Try to engage in some type of physical activity each day. Start slow for example walking or playing ball outside with your kids for 10 minutes. Most importantly…..have fun!

Use these tips to help you get started on a journey to a healthier lifestyle. You can find many different and up-to-date books to aid you in your journey to a healthy lifestyle at Fontana Regional Library.

The Case Against Sugar

What Do I Eat Now? : A Step-by-Step Guide to Eating Right with Type 2 Diabetes

Eat Out, Eat Well: The Guide to Eating Healthy in Any Restaurant

Mayo Clinic: The Essential Diabetes Book

Go Fresh: A Heart-healthy Cookbook with Shopping and Storage Tips

Healthy Weight for Teens

There are also many different resources online. Visit some of these resources to help you learn more about MyPlate, track your exercise and calorie intake, and get educational handouts regarding National Nutrition Month®.

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate

https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/

http://www.eatright.org/resources/national-nutrition-month

In addition to the above resources you can contact your Harris Regional Hospital Registered Dietitians in Sylva at:

  • Krystle T. Holt, RD, LDN: (828) 631-8823
  • Melanie Batchelor, RD, LDN, CDE: (828) 631-8825

Watch it now: Embrace of the Serpent

Recently, a friend heartily recommended that I watch a film called Embrace of the Serpent after discussing one of my favorites, Aguirre the Wrath of God, written, directed, and produced by Werner Herzog. Both of the titles mentioned above present a strikingly similar plot in the same geographic location: the Amazonian jungle. Aguirre and Embrace follow the all-too-familiar conquest and exploitation trajectory of indigenous peoples and their pristine, resource-rich, and sacred environment. 

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In Aguirre, the goal of the conquistadors is the city of El Dorado; in Embrace, the goal of the barons is rubber. In Embrace, directed by Colombian filmmaker Ciro Guerra, the only signs of the brutal rubber plantations are villages burned to the ground, only a few remaining indigenous groups (mostly the ones who do not resist the rubber barons), a strong distrustful and traumatic relationship between the natives and the whites, and scarred trees dripping out white, violent rubber. In one of the most gut-wrenching and gruesome scenes of the film shows the protagonist and hero of the story, Karamakate known by all tribes as “The World Mover,” along with another native named Manduca and the German botanist Theo Von Martius walk up on a rubber extraction area. The trees all have the telling marks of rubber extraction with buckets beneath them to catch the unrefined liquid. Manduca, full of rage and heartbreak from watching the bloody rampage in the Amazon over the past few years, runs screaming and cursing and thrashing through each bucket of unrefined rubber. Hearing the commotion, a native man runs up to the site. His is missing a foot and a leg from amputation and torture from the plantation owners. His eye has recently been gouged. He frantically hops about on his amputated limbs picking up buckets and desperately tries to scoop up the rubber that has been poured onto the leafy forest floor. The man then kneels in front of Manduca (the travel aide and companion of Theo Von Martius) and begs him to shoot him. He pulls the barrel of the gun right up to his forehead. Manduca, with resolve, says he will shoot the man to save him from more torture from the rubber barons. Manduca fires, only to see that the gun was not properly loaded or misfired. They leave the man still kneeling, pleading for his death.

 

The film switches back and forth from past to present. Karamakate is in both space-times.Karamakate is young when a gravely ill Theo Von Martius and Manduca land their canoe on his isolated patch of land. Karamakate lives in complete isolation–his tribe and village were wiped out because they fought the rubber barons. He is distrusting of all white men, for in his experience, they only bring guns, violence, and death. Karamakate is a healer. Known throughout the Amazonian villages as “The World Mover,” his powers are not a secret–even to botanist Theo Von Martius. The German scholar concerns himself with gathering and recording plants, recipes, stories, myths, art, and other dwindling cultural institutions unique to the indigenous peoples of the Amazon.

When Manduca first introduces Theo Von Martius to Karamakate, Karamakate staunchly denies any part in helping the sick white man. Then, Karamakate explodes in anger, lunging at the sick German’s neck, which is adorned with a necklace particular to Karamakate’s clan. Karamakate screams “Where did you get this?” Theo Von Martius answers that he got it from a tribe that is now existing up the river. Karamakate promises the man that he will help him find the sacred plant “yakruna” if he takes him to his villagers. The three men, Manduca, Karamakate, and Theo Von Martius set out on the river to find Karamakate’s people. Throughout their travel, they come upon a Spanish mission for children, villages full of people welcoming a familiar Von Martius, and villages smoldering, bloody, leveled. Von Martius, somewhere along the journey, becomes a subject that needs protecting by only Karamakate. Karamakate administers healing but temporary substances to the ailing Von Martius.
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The film then switches to an older Karamakate painting glyphs on the side of a rock. He is thigh deep in the river when a snake comes swimming past him. He senses something just like his younger self did in the beginning of the film as Manduca and Martius eddy out and approach him. This time, many years later, the white man is alone. He claims that he, too, is looking for the sacred yakruna plant. He explains to Karamakate that his illness is that he cannot, nor has ever, dreamed. The old Karamakate realizes that, in his interactions with this scientist from the United States, that in his old age and years of isolation, he has forgotten many of the recipes and traditions of his life. The American figure obviously has been taught how to make medicinal substances out of coca leaves and many other plants of the Amazon. Karamakate sees the American scientist, Evan, as a dream coming to fruition. The dream he refers to is his journey decades earlier with Von Martius. The old Karamakate has forgotten many things. He tells Evan that it is Evan who will lead the way to the yakruna plant, not the other way around. Evan is dumbfounded. They embark on their quest. They come across the same Spanish mission from Karamakate’s earlier journey. He and Evan get out of their boat and approach the mission to find an Apocalypse Now scene: a Brazilian man has assumed the figure of Jesus on the cross. His followers, now grown, were once the young children that young Karamakate, Von Martius, and Manduca encounter during the first journey of the film. The scene is delirious, unsettling, and full of Catholic imagery. There are signs throughout the mission that praises the priests who kidnapped the Amazonian children from their parents and villages. The signage claims that the priests brought God to savage cannibals. The scene escalates into a moment driven even further by a psychosis ailing the men who were taken as boys from their villages. Young Karamakate snuck away to teach the children the mythology of their culture–the tinctures and medicines and origins and uses for it all. But what he taught them was not enough. Their lack of mythology led them down a path of complete discord. Now, the children saved from savagery and cannibalism, are worshipping a figure whose flesh is consumed for communion. The effects of Catholic missions, money hungry rubber barons, conquistadors, etc., are felt strongly in this cathartic scene that see Karamakate and Evan escape the village while they mill around in complete hysteria after drinking a hallucinogenic substance mixed by Karamakate. Narrowly escaping the debauchery, Evan and Karamakate continue their journey down the river. To find out what happens, you must watch this gem!

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This description has no spoilers, for the meaning of this film is in every quiet moment, every pan-out, every crackle of a fire, bend in the river. The story is about cultural syncretism. It’s about protecting knowledge, but also not hindering anyone from it. It’s about remembering the actions of our ancestors–conquered or conquerors. It’s about defending what’s sacred, but destroying it when it’s threatened. It’s about the cycle of life and death–not fearing death and not taking each breath for granted.

Watch this beautiful film. The cast is just as diverse as the plants in the Amazon. The story as timeless as the Milky Way (part of the myth of the Great Serpent). The connection between humans as ancient as our first guttural grunts in communication.

I will leave you with director Ciro Guerra’s explanation of the origin of this title from an interview with Cineaste:

Cineaste: Does your film’s title refer to “the serpent” as a metaphor for time or of the Amazon? And why an “embrace”?

Ciro Guerra: In Amazonian mythology, extraterrestrial beings descended from the Milky Way, journeying to the earth on a gigantic anaconda snake. They landed in the ocean and traveled into the Amazon, stopping at communities where people existed, leaving these pilots behind who would explain to each community the rules of how to live on earth: how to harvest, fish, and hunt. Then they regrouped and went back to the Milky Way, leaving behind the anaconda, which became the river. The wrinkled skin of the serpent became the waterfalls.

They also left behind a few presents, including coca, the sacred plant; tobacco, which is also another kind of sacred plant; and yagé, the equivalent of ayahuasca, which is what you use to communicate with them in case you have a question or a doubt about how to exist in the world. When you use yagé, the serpent descends again from the Milky Way and embraces you. That embrace takes you to faraway places; to the beginning where life doesn’t even exist; to a place where you can see the world in a different way. I hope that’s what the film means to the audience.

 

 

Telescopes now available to checkout

Before I ventured into the world of Library Science, I worked in the Planetarium at MOSI– Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, FL about 10 years ago. I remember thinking, “I like Space, so why not – I’ll give it a try!” Something to that effect. It seems by chance I was hired and so started my fascination with all things astronomy! It’s like getting bit by the astronomy bug – the fascination never ends and a lifetime of stargazing begins.

When I moved to the mountains and saw the night sky, I mean wow – we are so lucky to live here! When I lived in the city, you might be able to see the half-moon on a good night! The light pollution was just awful. Still though, with the right location, time of year, and a telescope (even a small telescope or binoculars) – you can see some really cool things.

During my time at MOSI, we took telescopes out to public programs, schools and other events and showed them the night sky. We would look at whatever would be hanging out in the sky at that time like planets, craters of the moon, and even nebulas. It never got old seeing the look on someone’s face at seeing Saturn’s rings, or look at Jupiter and its four largest moons for the first time through a telescope. I was told so many times that it must be fake! I must have put a small sticker of Saturn on the end of the telescope. My answer was always the same, look Saturn is moving – I have to move the telescope every few minutes – it can’t be fake!orion-telescope

 

Fontana Regional Library, which includes Swain, Macon, and Jackson county libraries in North Carolina, recently received a grant to purchase a portable planetarium and a telescope for each library! These telescopes are about to be available for checkout to any patron with a library card. That’s all you need – a library card and you can check out a telescope for 7 days for free! We even included a star chart, pocket size guide book for stargazing, a red laser (fun for the whole family), and simple instructions to get the most out of your telescope time!

So don’t hesitate to dream big and get ‘stars in your eyes’ by checking out a telescope at your local Fontana Regional Library!

LSTA grants awarded by the State Library of North Carolina are made possible through funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. These federal funds are investments that help libraries deliver relevant and up-to-date services for their communities.

Where’s My Flying Car? Science Fiction Predictions

It is always fun to read science fiction and see how the author predicts the future. This is especially true for older books. Not only was our technology not nearly as advanced back then, but we can also truly see how it all turned out. For instance, a lot of writers still had us using cassette tape forever. Now there are plenty of blogs and articles out there that will give you a list of books that made “predictions” that came true. I am going to go in a slightly different route and just talk about some books that I have read and what wonders I found in them. Some you will have heard of, and some you probably haven’t. Hopefully some of them you will want to read.

A warning or a reminder?
A warning or a reminder?

Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984). It is an eerie feeling when you read something like this and realize just how close he came. Gibson’s protagonist Case is a former computer hacker and current petty criminal. Drug addicted and despondent, he searches for a way out and gets caught up in a tangled scheme that allows him to once again use his Internet skills. Now, look at that summary again and notice the publication date of the book. Although it is called the “Matrix” in the book, it really is the Internet. He coined the term cyberspace, after all.

Neuromancer isn’t always an easy read (although it is a very good read), and cyberpunk isn’t that popular of a genre, but it is an important book. It is one of those that you kind of feel embarrassed about not having read, so if you haven’t already please add it to your list.

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Impossible Things by Connie Willis (1986-1992). I suppose you could say that in a short story collection the author has more chances to hit a successful prediction. Whether that is true or not, I found a few interesting ones in here. “Last of the Winnebagos” has characters accessing the “Lifeline” to pull up info on people, such as their schooling and employment history and hobbies. Sounds a bit like Facebook to me. “Even the Queen” has tablet computers, which isn’t that noteworthy since Arthur C. Clarke had those in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). But it also features a Mandela led South African government, and optional genetic surgery.

You also get things like a Humane Society run amok, PC (political correctness) run amok, and ruminations on who really wrote Shakespeare’s play, which is a debate (of sorts) that still goes on. The fact that there are multiple award winning stories in the book means that you shouldn’t read it for the predictions but for the great writing.

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (1959). Video games are something this blog hasn’t talked about enough. One of the premiere game franchises of recent times is Halo. When I read the first chapter of Starship Troopers I thought to myself “this is Halo”. Then I checked the copyright on the book and had one of those stereotypical jaw dropping to the floor moments. The beginning of the book details a human attack on an alien city, with soldiers wearing fully mechanized armor complete with an onboard computer system and multiple weapon packages. Just like in Halo. And the movie is better than you remember.

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Star Trek. The many TV series and movies has become well known for using many types of technology that have become reality. Let me point you to a couple of pieces on that, here and here. I think it is a good reminder about how wonderful it is to live in this day and age and to have access to this stuff. 3D printing technology, for instance, is truly amazing and is revolutionizing the way people do things. And remember, there are lots of great Star Trek novels, such as Imzadi and Spock’s World.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953). Okay, this is a famous book. But did you remember the earbuds in it? Montag’s wife Millie uses them while watching her flat panel TVs.

The Wonderful Future That Never Was by Gregory Benford and the editors of Popular Mechanics. Okay, so they don’t always get it right. Popular Mechanics started out in 1902, and over the years gave many scientists and writers a chance to predict the future. This fun book compiles many of the misses, and gives credits to some of the hits too. You can get more recent issues of Popular Mechanics at the library.

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The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester. This is a classic, and while the main new technology in it, teleportation, hasn’t come into reality it is very interesting to think about the ramifications of such a thing. In the book it causes economic disruption substantial enough to start wars. Similarly, when reading newer scifi it is interesting to contemplate how the fictional technologies portrayed might affect us if (or when) they become real.

The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. Vogt. Besides the tech predictions it is fun to read books that inspired future stories. Such is the case with this one, which like many books of its time was actually a compilation of four stories originally published in magazines. The Ixtl seems awfully familiar to those who have seen the Alien movies. In fact it was familiar enough that Vogt sued. The Couerl has appeared in many Final Fantasy games, and also became the Displacer Beast in Dungeons & Dragons. Classic fantasy is rife with elements that made their way into D&D, as is evident by reading authors such as Vance, Moorcock, Howard, and of course Tolkien (which also led to litigation), but I suppose that is a conversation for a future blog.

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Live Long and Prosper

UPDATE from Youth Services Staff:

 The “Under the Stars” program at Macon County Public Library has been rescheduled due to the rain and thunderstorms that are forecast for Thursday evening, March 12.

It will now be held on Thursday, March 26 at 7 PM. Consequently, Science Club will be at 7 PM that day (instead of 3:30 PM). Should the weather be bad that day, we will still have Science Club at 7 PM and instead of covering astronomy, we will cover electricity that evening.


Live long and prosper.
Live long and prosper.

This past week a man who helped popularize science fiction (and science!) with his role as Spock on Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy, died at age 83.  Nimoy’s performance as Spock spawned a new generation of scientists, showing that cold, dispassionate logic could be tempered-and even improved- by compassion and sensitivity. Star Trek was a show that inspired imagination and the characters & performances of the actors helped draw in audiences that may have never dared to dream about space exploration.

Science fiction, however, doesn’t just beget daydreams. Many technologies that improve life on Earth have originated from the ideas first proposed in science fiction. The 1902 film, A Trip to the Moon, (inspired in part by the 1865 Jules Verne novel From the Earth to the Moon ) depicts a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a cannon-propelled capsule to explore the moon’s surface- 67 years before the Apollo 11 crew rocketed to the moon. NASA’s push to explore space has led to technologies such as infrared ear thermometers, artificial limbs, invisible braces, portable cordless vacuums, solar power technologies, as well as improvements in highway, fire, mine, and food safety- and so much more.

Image provided by Astronomy Club of Asheville
Image provided by Astronomy Club of Asheville

Space exploration, in general, is not really seen as a topic of great importance in the “real world.” Many people seem to still dismiss the idea as a fanciful pursuit- one to, realistically, remain squarely in the realm of science fiction; not nearly as important as the economy or other political issues. Stephen Hawking, however, recently said that space travel will save mankind.

Technological advancements aren’t the only benefits gained from space exploration. Working on the problems and puzzles of space exploration often gives us new perspectives on the immediate problems on Earth. The sort of out-of-the-box thinking that is required to do the seemingly impossible prompts breakthroughs in other realms- those sparks of imagination spread like wildfire!

Library Loaner TelescopeThe awe that people, children especially, feel when studying space can’t be underestimated. The impact that sort of wonder can have is enormous and life-changing, even if it’s not immediately seen.  If you have children, bring them out to Macon County Public Library on March 12 at 6:30pm for the “Under the Stars” Science Club event with special guests from the Astronomy Club of Asheville. Children will get the chance to use a refractor telescope to check out the night sky and learn about astronomy.

Who knows? Maybe your child will discover the inspiration or passion to become an astronaut, a sci-fi writer, or an unforgettable TV alien.

Do you have a favorite science fiction show or book? Has space or science inspired you or had any impact on your life?