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12 November 2019

The Overstory, by Richard Powers

This is an interesting novel. The book came highly recommended to me from two friends who have literary and environmental sensibilities that I respect, and it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year, which is an accolade worth noting – a validation of its quality. It is a story about trees, and about “radical” environmental activists who try to save them. I suppose it could be viewed as a …

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1 May 2019

The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben

Peter Wohlleben is a forester, managing a forest in Germany. Over decades among the trees, he has had major insights into the “inner lives” of the trees, and uses this book to collate them and share them with a wider audience. The book opens with an anecdote: he walks by some moss-covered lumps in the forest, and peels up the moss to see what he expects will be “stones” underneath. …

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25 April 2019

How We Got To Now, by Steven Johnson

I was very impressed with Steven Johnson’s The Invention of Air when I read it last summer. So recently, I decided to sample another of his books, this one a six-part microhistory about innovations that altered the course of human history. The six are: 1) cleanliness/hygiene (specifically in medicine and drinking water), 2) measurement of time, 3) glass (think lenses!), 4) understanding of light, 5) refrigeration, and 6) the recording …

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15 January 2019

Easing of selective pressure on Opuntia cacti in the Galapagos Islands

A cactus you can pet with your bare hand? Turns out it can tell you something about whether that island contains any land iguanas. A case study in the easing of natural selective pressure.

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14 January 2019

A tale of three iguanas

As noted last week, I spent the week spanning New Year’s Eve in the enchanted isles of the Galapagos. The previous week (over Christmas) my family and I were in coastal Ecuador. I saw a total of three species of iguanas in the two locations, and they offer a neat little story of evolution. Let’s take a look. First, let’s introduce the key players: The green iguana, Iguana iguana (coastal Ecuador, …

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25 April 2018

Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Kentucky

A visit to a natural sandstone arch (or “bridge” as the locals call it) in eastern Kentucky yields unexpected bonuses, like fossil wood, Liesegang banding, and the honeycomb-like weathering pattern called “tafoni.”

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9 October 2017

Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass is a collection of thematically-linked essays by Robin Wall Kimmerer, an environmentalist, academic, and Native American. The themes that unite them are plants, the human relationship to the natural world, and love.  I’ve read Kimmerer’s essays in Orion before, but there’s a sort of literary force multiplier when you get a whole book full of her thoughtful insights, story after story, back to back.  Braiding Sweetgrass is a …

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29 September 2017

Friday folds: soft sediment deformation in thin sections of MTD sandstone

The Friday folds are small soft-sediment deformational features within a dismembered, folded sandstone (a “ploudin”) from a mass transport deposit from the latest Devonian of West Virginia.

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2 May 2017

Leafing out to bring down CO2

It’s getting green outside – what’s it mean for the planet? Find out in this blog post contemplating the relationship between spring leaves and atmospheric CO2.

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24 December 2016

A wondrous transformation

It’s bonfire season here in the Fort Valley. I live in a forest, and that forest is full of dead and downed wood. Motivated by a desire to (a) reduce forest fire risk and (b) clear out some of the area under the trees for unobstructed recreation, I gather it up and periodically burn it off in batches. We time these blazes to the weather – before or after after …

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10 September 2016

Peat slide!

Not only does it turn out that peat grows on hill tops, not just valley bottoms, but it can slough off and create “peat slides” too!

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24 May 2016

Nine new GigaPans from Team M.A.G.I.C.

Alethopteris fern fossil: [gigapan id=”187190″] Link GIGAmacro by Robin Rohrback Rapid River Canyon, Idaho: [gigapan id=”187535″] Link GigaPan by Callan Bentley River cobble of brecciated Columbia River Basalt, Hammer Creek (Salmon River), Idaho: [gigapan id=”187524″] Link GIGAmacro by Callan Bentley Petersburg Granite exposed at Belle Isle, Richmond, Virginia: [gigapan id=”187523″] Link GigaPan by Jeffrey Rollins Ammonite: [gigapan id=”187221″] Link GIGAmacro by Callan Bentley Slickensides in ultramafic rocks of the Wallowa …

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7 April 2016

New GIGAmacro images of rock samples

Another week, another batch of new images produced on my home-based Magnify2 imaging system from GIGAmacro. Leptaena brachiopod in (Mississippian?) limestone from Montana: [gigapan id=”185784″] Link Here’s the flip side of the same sample, with a lot of fenestrate bryozoans to see: [gigapan id=”185809″] Link Fault breccia from the Corona Heights Fault of San Francisco: [gigapan id=”185868″] Link Amygdular metabasalt from the western Sierra Nevada of California: [gigapan id=”185894″] Link …

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2 April 2016

Five new GIGAmacro images

Here are a few new images I’ve been working on with my home-based Magnify2 imaging system from GIGAmacro. Strophomenid brachiopods from Mississippian Mauch Chunk Formation, West Virginia: [gigapan id=”185738″] Link Boninite from New Caledonia: [gigapan id=”185707″] Link Lepidodendron scale-tree bark from Poland: [gigapan id=”185689″] Link Potassium feldspar crystal, from a pegmatite: [gigapan id=”185688″] Link Catoctin Formation greenstone from a feeder dike east of Linden, Virginia: [gigapan id=”185681″] Link Enjoy exploring …

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21 February 2016

Founding Gardeners, by Andrea Wulf

I just finished this book, about the botanical and agricultural predilections of United States ‘founding fathers’ George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison. Three of these farmed and gardened in Virginia, one in Massachusetts. Some were federalists, others republicans who championed the rights of the states. Some were slave owners, others not. All saw gardening as foundational to a sustainable democracy. This history examines the revolutionary war and …

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23 March 2013

Skunk Cabbage

On Friday, I took a field trip to DC with Geologic Map of the Washington West Quadrangle author Tony Fleming, City of Alexandria Natural Resource Specialist/Plant Ecologist Rod Simmons, and a host of interested folks from many different professions and localities. We were interested in looking at ecological relationships between rocks and plants, and had a pleasant afternoon hiking through Rock Creek Park. We also got in a little archaeology! …

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