This year, the earliest hours of April 15 provided a somberly luminescent spectacle in the sky for viewers in North America. To the naked eye, a round dark shadow grew imperceivably across the face of the moon, within hours consuming the lunar glow entirely. Just as slowly, the shadow passed, the bright crest of the familiar full moon growing back into the dawn. The phenomenon witnessed was a lunar eclipse – one of four such that our satellite will experience in this year.
While not as rare or shockingly magnificent as the total solar eclipse, total lunar eclipses offer a very special view of our place in the solar system. The strange red shadow that creeps across the bright white moon is that of our own planet – the earth briefly passes between the sun’s line of sight of the moon, cutting off the solar light that is usually reflected so strongly by our closest companion. While lunar eclipses are frequent occurences, total lunar eclipses are less common, as the entire moon falls into the earth’s shadow, rather than any portion. Continue reading →
The United States National Football Leage (NFL) and it’s Hunky Dory Saucery Thing (which is beyond my scope of imagination) have never held any interest for me. The sport doesn’t elicit any reaction other than sympathy for the players’ bodies, although my disinterest bears no grudge against those who enjoy a game, whether from within the dynamic minefield of titanic collisions or from the comfort of their own home’s sofa, or anything in between. In fact, I know so little of the culture, statistics, and geopolitical implications of the sport that before last week I couldn’t have named three teams off the top of my head. Today, I unsuspectingly watched this:
Stemming from a spontaneous fascination while living in India, I have photographed and written extensively about dragonflies in the past, and as an untrained naturalist, my interest has been mainly focused on dragonflies’ aesthetics rather than their physiology or ecological significance. However, as my interest in holistic ecology and the natural world grows, my thoughts have wandered from dragonflies and mushrooms to a bigger-picture ideology focusing on the connectedness and relationships between organisms within an ecosystem. Those relationships are present across the globe, year-round – regardless of how lifeless a place may seem. Being used to tropical climates unfortunately gives me a predisposition to fear the painful cold of Colorado mountain winters, and I retreat to a less hands-on approach to my research.
While seeking food for thought online, I stumbled upon a TED Talk given in 2009 on dragonflies – which in itself would interest me. But this talk concerns an exceptionally interesting species of dragonfly (though I didn’t realize it when I noticed its swarms in Gavi) – and one that aligns more with my current biological interests than those I held in the past few years (skimming the surface, some might say). Continue reading →
This Bald Eagle is one of at least two that fly through the valley where I live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. This one surprised me by swooping down meters away from me as I read a book outdoors on a warm winter day. Springing from my post on the roof of my house, I scrambled down onto the deck and into my kitchen in a mad dash for a camera. The eagle had thankfully not left its position in a tree barely thirty feet from my house in that time. With a harsh glare radiating from the sun just short of dead center behind the eagle Continue reading →
Artemisia tridentata, or Big Sagebrush, is a ubiquitous herb in the North Fork Valley and elsewhere in the Rocky Mountains and beyond. It has been traditionally used by Southwestern Natives in many ways to many effects. It has been used to prevent contamination of wounds, ward evil spirits, relieving indigestion, and to treat colds and fevers, among many others.
This photograph was taken in Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala. This male boar was one of several dozen in a sounder (wild boar’s collective noun) seen from our vehicle at close proximity – we shared the road with them for some time and I was able to capture it from eye level before he wandered back into the forest.
On June 5, we’ll celebrate World Environment Day. This year UNEP focuses on the theme Food waste/Food Loss. At Raxa Collective we’ll be carrying out actions and sharing experience and ideas. Come and join us with your ideas and tips to preserve foods, preserve resources and preserve our planet.
When I tell people that it’s possible to grow highly nutritional food on agricultural waste products with almost zero technology, I usually get a blank look. On a good day, someone will demand an explanation. Why would such a process, if existent, be so obscure if it could help solve malnutrition in underdeveloped communities? While I’m sure there is a logical explanation for this, it remains a mystery to me at present.
Wadi Araba is a section of the Jordan Rift Valley – one which separates a stretch of Israel and Jordan (Wadi means valley – Araba means dry and desolate). The day these photographs were taken I found myself facing the sun descending over Israel while my Bedouin companions alternated between relaxing and preparing an exceptional meal baked in a cut steel drum buried in the fine sand of the dune we stood upon. Continue reading →
Entomology is a relatively minor hobby of mine. I enjoy chasing after and photographing insects when I have the chance – and most places in the world have an abundance of insects. Cabo’s airport, located on the southern point of Baja California, is no exception. These photographs were taken mere minutes after disembarking the airplane on which we arrived. The thousands upon thousands of egg-laying moths were easily mistaken for bird droppings, until examined more closely.
Trametes versicolor is a fascinating mushroom on many fronts – as a specialized organism within an ecosystem, as a beautifully variable natural art piece, and as valuable medicine. Fungi are an untapped resource in many scientific fields, and are vastly underappreciated as an entire natural kingdom. Food, medicine and art can all be created from but a single species alone, and the Kingdom of Fungi is one inhabited by thousands upon thousands of unique species, each of which has its own human uses and limitations.
Human uses and limitations. Mushroom hunters (including myself) often inadvertently train themselves to ignore categories of fungi that don’t hold any immediate interest. Small, white polypores, for example, tend to be tough as bark, tasteless, or crumbly, so one simply doesn’t pick them. Little brown gilled mushrooms, on the other hand, are soggy and crumbly, and could be any of a million species. One usually does not pick these. However, human knowledge of fungi over the ages has waxed and waned – several ancient traditional medicines have made use of fungi with huge medicinal potential, but which modern scientists are unable to understand. That said, human industry has improved the lot of frustrated medical researchers by refining the process of mushroom cultivation to the point that almost any species is accessible for study.
Anyone who has been to Thekkady is familiar with their extroverted nature. They screech and cackle, chase and fight each other in the most public spaces possible, and love to make themselves a nuisance. Bonnet Macaques are ubiquitous, quite probably because of how outgoing and shameless they are – and they seem to like their families big.
Geckos are more or less ubiquitous throughout the tropics, but visualizing them outside of such environments poses a challenge. Ptyodactylus guttatus,however, is a desert-dwelling species I found and photographed extensively in Jordan. Not only was this species my first subject to attempt capturing nocturnal macro photographs of, its residence within my own probably saved me quite a few mosquito bites over the weeks we shared it. Continue reading →
Last weekend I ventured for the first time into Ithaca’s Sapsucker Woods – a forested area adjacent to Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, which among many other projects, strongly influences ornithological citizen science far and wide. Sapsucker Woods, however, is not merely a place where birds nest and feed. It is a living, breathing organism – an ecosystem that is more than the sum of the parts of the intricate denizens, both biotic and abiotic, within it. The complexity of a forest is fractal – from the way sunlight is distributed to the canopy, to the well-known food chain, to the molecular structure of the enzymes saprophobic fungi use to break down the hydrocarbon bonds in the wood they devour. Through a magnifying glass, or a microscope, or out of an airplane’s window – a forest is beautiful. Continue reading →