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…

Why birds sing before winter weather breaks

Many species court and breed in the dead of winter

Why birds sing before winter weather breaksWe may sometimes feel as if we’re still locked in the dead of winter, but to birds, mammals, insects and even plants, things are changing. Faithful readers will recall how I recently explained that my trees were getting ‘fat,’ as the buds enlarge in anticipation of spring. But they’re not alone in their rush towards…

How changing boreal forests could affect caribou

Researchers examine what logging, climate change and other factors mean for caribou populations

How changing boreal forests could affect caribouNew research by University of Alberta biologists paints a clearer picture of how food webs are shifting in response to changing habitats in Canada’s boreal forests, and what it means for dwindling caribou populations. “We know that habitat, prey and predators such as wolves are all pieces of the caribou conservation puzzle, and here we…

Ancient moccasin suggests Dene migrated farther south than thought

Artifact found in a cave in Utah reveals precolonial connection between Canadian Subarctic and American Southwest

Ancient moccasin suggests Dene migrated farther south than thoughtA piece of leather from an 800-year-old moccasin found in a Utah cave has helped researchers retrace the ancient steps of a remarkable migration that saw some Dene (Athapaskan) people leave their homes in the continent’s Subarctic and eventually create new homes scattered across the southern United States as Dineh (Navajo) and Ndee (Apache) ancestors,…

Are owls wise, all-seeing and good luck – or harbingers of calamity?

One superstition about owls had it that making a potion from the ash of owl eggs improved vision

Are owls wise, all-seeing and good luck – or harbingers of calamity?Folklore abounds with superstition related to owls. I thought it might be fun to share some superstitions I’ve gleaned about owls, since this is the best time of year to see them. These nocturnal creatures often appear in horror films since tufts of feathers on the top of some owls’ heads give them the appearance…

How zebra finches choose materials for their nests

U of A scientists find that learning and past success play a role in how birds build their nests

How zebra finches choose materials for their nestsWhen building a nest, previous experience raising chicks will influence the choices birds make, according to a new study by University of Alberta scientists. The results show that birds that have successfully raised families stick with tried-and-true methods when building their nests, whereas less successful birds will try something new. “We found that when presented…

Putting bison back where they belong heals land and people: researchers

Ecological restoration offers opportunities for reconciliation and decolonization

A project conceived to rebuild a long-lost bison herd in Banff National Park is not only healing the land, according to a pair of University of Alberta undergraduate researchers, but has created a framework for reconciliation and decolonization to follow moving forward. What started out as a literature review of the Bison Belong Project soon revealed…

Researchers pinpoint where wildlife most likely to be killed by trains

Reducing speed limits outside towns of Banff and Lake Louise could mean fewer fatal collisions, study suggests

Researchers pinpoint where wildlife most likely to be killed by trainsThe number of mammals killed by trains in Canada’s Rocky Mountains could be slashed if the railway reduced speed limits along eight km total of track on either side of the Banff and Lake Louise townsites, according to a study by University of Alberta researchers who used the train mortality record to pinpoint the most dangerous…
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