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Category Archives: natural history

I am an ecologist because baselines are shifting

I grew up in Calgary, which is in southern Alberta. The city itself sits right at the intersection of the Great Plains and the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountain. The Elbow River flows into town from the south and meets the Bow River where downtown now sits. The Bow itself flows from Banff in […]

The stuffed arctic fox

What the hell am I doing underfoot of a polar bear damn it?

Coffee kiosk polar bear

This podium is no ice floe and those creatures aren’t seal meals. I’m just hoping that one of them walks a bit too close to that cordon. I’m hungry. Plus I hear the lattes are to die for.

An ode to the muskox in the lab building basement

  Imagine for a moment that you’re a muskox and it’s damned cold and even more damned windy. You scrape your hoof over a rock to get at a veneer of moss under a drift of snow which incidentally is blowing around you and your herd in diagonal-horizontal mini-tornadoes. A threat appears out of the […]

Vast. Silent.

Around 1.3 billion years ago, a vast distance from where you are sitting, two massive black holes completed their eons-long spiral tango and merged into a blacker (is that possible?) hole. A massive event; a collision of pure darkness. But one that no one could have heard in the vacuum of space, were anyone actually […]

A tiger in your back yard?

When we think of endangered animals, among the first things to come to mind may be creatures like rhinoceroses, tigers, or condors. Large animals, lots of press, and pressing concerns. There are an estimated 799 eastern black rhinos, ~400 Siberian tigers, and 237 California condors left in the wild. In some cases, as with these animals, their numbers have […]

Skiffs and shifts

Over the past few summers, I have been spending about a day a week (give or take) on the Crooked River just north of Prince George. This little river, just a few dozen kilometres in length, flows north from Summit Lake into McLeod Lake. Its source is just on the north side of the Arctic […]

Book review: Field Notes for the Alpine Tundra

Field Notes for the Alpine Tundra by Elena Johnson 2015, Gaspereau Press 48 pages $17.95         One of my favorite poets, Dylan Thomas, once wrote the following in response to being questioned on his definition of poetry: I, myself, do not read poetry for anything but pleasure. I read only the poems […]

Book review: The Book of Beetles

The Book of Beetles: A Life-size Guide to Six Hundred of Nature’s Gems Edited by Patrice Bouchard Contributions by Patrice Bouchard, Yves Bousquet, Christopher Carlton, Maria Lourdes Chamorro, Hermes E. Escalona, Arthur V. Evans, Alexander Konstantinov, Richard A. B. Leschen, Stéphane Le Tirant, and Steven W. Lingafelter 2014, University of Chicago Press 656 pages, 2400 […]

Wharf borers

Some of the nicest things about the older entomological literature are the short papers that record interesting observations. To some extent these almost seem like the blog posts of that era – reasonably short and pithy with some useful information as well. I really enjoy reading these short accounts, in part because of the interesting […]