“Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.”
These were the words of President Richard Nixon when he signed the landmark Endangered Species Act 45 years ago.
In 1973, the outlook was grim for many animals and . . .
9/13/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 37
Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, insects are the least loved.
Anyone who’s been bitten by ticks, stung by bees, swarmed by mosquitos, bothered by flies or had ants crash their picnic – in other words, everyone – has, at some point, wondered if the world would be better without bugs.
But be careful of what you wish for! A world without bugs would be uninhabitable for most species.
Insects pollinate plants, including crops, control pests and . . .
9/6/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 36
If you are wondering whether fall will ever come, just take a look at the birds!
At the Jersey shore, you may have noticed tiny sandpipers known as sanderlings pecking and scurrying along the water’s edge. They just spent their summer breeding in the Canadian arctic. Some are now following New Jersey’s coastline on their way to South America, while others will stay at the Jersey coast all winter.
If you were at a Labor Day picnic, you may have spotted common . . .
New Jersey is home to about 2500 native plants, and over one-third are considered rare! Some have always been rare - like the Stalked Woolgrass - which was just re-discovered by NJDEP State Botanist David Snyder along the Delaware River in Sussex County after not having been seen in over 100 years.
Many others are rare due to lack of wildfires, habitat destruction, filling of wetlands, over-browsing by deer, or harm from invasive species or diseases. The last known population of the . . .
New Jersey’s wildflower meadows are spectacular this month!
“Meadows are beautiful, they’re vibrant and they host diverse wildlife,” said wildflower expert Tama Matsuoka Wong of Flemington, who has two meadows on her property. “The plants are changing all season … every two weeks you get new plants. I don’t think you can match nature. It’s really magical.”
One of the state’s newest science classrooms is uniquely suited for water testing and studying plankton under a microscope. But you’ll need a life vest!
This spring, the “Study Hull,” a 40-foot pontoon boat outfitted with a laboratory, was launched by the nonprofit Lake Hopatcong Foundation after years of planning. The custom-made floating classroom cruises up and down Lake Hopatcong, providing field trips for schoolchildren and summer ecological cruises for . . .
8/9/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 32
You’re looking up at the night sky when – whoosh! – a brilliant streak of light whizzes past so quickly you almost miss it. Some shooting stars contain ancient stardust, far older than our young solar system - tiny diamonds manufactured deep within an exploding star somewhere in our Milky Way galaxy over 10 billion years ago!
Everything on Earth except hydrogen atoms - essentially all of you and everything you have ever seen, breathed, or touched – came . . .
8/2/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 31
How many times have you bent down to check out a mushroom, only to be told, “Stop! It may be poisonous!”
New Jersey has several poisonous mushrooms … and it goes without saying that you shouldn’t eat anything growing in the wild (including plant leaves, roots and berries) unless you know what you’re doing.
But you don’t need to stay away from mushrooms! They’re beautiful to look at and fascinating to study and photograph, as . . .
During summer heat waves, you know your body will be hot and sluggish. But did you know that your brain is affected by the heat too?
Two new studies show how heat waves and temperature spikes – which are expected to become more frequent due to climate change – are impacting our lives in surprising ways.
In a new study by Harvard University, researchers found that extreme heat makes it harder to think! The study was published in the July 10 edition of . . .
7/19/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 29
What do Wharton State Forest in the Pine Barrens, Jesse Allen Park in Newark, Camden Waterfront Park, the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Island Beach State Park and Paterson’s Great Falls National Historic Park have in common?
These parks and natural areas – and many more throughout this state we’re in - have all benefited from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a 52-year-old federal program to create and improve public parks, recreation areas, beaches, . . .
7/12/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 27
In 1974, reptile researcher Robert Zappalorti captured a female bog turtle in a Sussex County swamp. In keeping with protocols, he marked the turtle by cutting tiny identifying notches on the edge of her shell. After snapping her photo – which became the cover of his guidebook – Zappalorti released the turtle back into the swamp.
More than 40 years later, in 2017, the same turtle was found by another researcher, Colin Osborn of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. . . .
Street flooding is not unusual in New Jersey’s coastal towns, especially during high tides, heavy rains, on-shore winds and full moons.
But coastal residents are noticing more frequent flooding than in past years. In some places, sea and bay waters spill over the roads at high tide, even on clear days with little wind.
New research shows that the sea level is rising at faster-than-anticipated speeds. This is due to both sea level rise and land slowly sinking (an . . .
In the musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” a mysterious Venus flytrap in a florist shop reveals its appetite for human flesh and blood.
Fortunately, there’s no real-life equivalent of Audrey, the diabolical, man-eating plant. But there are many carnivorous plants that trap and digest animal prey – mostly insects – and some of them are found in New Jersey!
This state we’re in has three groups of native carnivorous plants: pitcher plants, . . .
6/21/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 25
New Jersey may be the nation’s most densely populated state, but how many of its citizens know the Pine Barrens?
The Pine Barrens wilderness includes more than a million acres of pine forests, rivers and streams … with few roads, cars or developments. It’s a place with a unique plants and animals, fascinating history and culture, and it sits atop one of New Jersey’s biggest underground freshwater reserves.
It’s also highly accessible, located . . .
6/14/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 24
Have you seen unusual groups of joggers and runners breaking stride to pick up litter from the ground?
They’re “ploggers,” part of a fitness trend that migrated to the United States from Sweden. “Plogging” combines the Swedish term “plocka upp” - meaning to pick up - with jogging. Ploggers are an increasingly common sight in Scandinavia and Europe.
Here in the United States, plogging is now catching on among runners, joggers and . . .
6/7/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 23
For many New Jerseyans, it wouldn’t be summer without blueberries, peaches, tomatoes, and many varieties of melon and squash, all grown in this state we’re in.
And we have dozens of unfamiliar, native pollinating insects to thank!
The production of most fruits, seeds, and nuts requires insect pollinators, who transfer pollen from the male anthers of a flower to the female stigma residing within another flower of the same species. Without this cross-fertilization, . . .
5/31/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 22
How can you tell if an ecosystem is healthy? Take a look at the plants and animals living there.
In New Jersey – especially the southern counties - one sign of healthy forested wetlands and headwater streams is the presence of the evergreen lily known as swamp pink (Helonias bullata).
The plants produce a beautiful and unusual looking bloom, a grapefruit-sized cluster of tiny, bright pink flowers with blue anthers atop a long, slender stalk. They’re often . . .
5/24/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 21
A dozen years ago, wildlife experts were sure that the fisher – a member of the weasel family – was long gone from New Jersey.
But a biologist using a motion-triggered camera proved them wrong. Believing fishers were back, the late Charlie Kontos, an adjunct professor and Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers, set up a camera along a trail in Stokes State Forest in Sussex County.
The image captured by the “trail cam” in October 2006 clearly showed a fisher, its . . .
5/17/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 20
Look around and you’ll see plastic bags everywhere: tumbling along roads, washed up on beaches, caught in tree branches, and clogging rivers, streams and storm drains.
In 2017, volunteers for Clean Ocean Action collected more than 9,000 plastic bags during their spring and fall “Beach Sweeps” up and down the Jersey shore. In April, volunteers for Raritan Headwaters Association picked up 2,370 bags along the Raritan River and its tributaries.
These cleanup . . .
5/10/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 19
Bluebirds have been a symbol of happiness for thousands of years and across many cultures. With their brilliant blue plumage and flash of red on the breast, these year-round New Jersey residents are breathtaking.
But the last century hasn’t been the happiest time for these small thrushes, which historically nested in hollow tree cavities.
The Eastern bluebird was once common up and down the East Coast, especially in open habitat with little understory and sparse ground . . .
5/3/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 18
Along New Jersey State Highway 72 in New Lisbon, just around the bend from Brendan Byrne State Forest, is a publicly-accessible forest fire observation tower. The view is stunning: one can see the vast expanse of our Pine Barrens, a sea of green extending in every direction.
At first glance, the forests may all look alike. But look more closely and you'll begin to see a rich diversity of trees and plants, surprising for a place called barren.
Maintaining diverse forests and . . .
4/26/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 17
Clean energy like solar and wind got a huge boost last week with the passage of a new clean energy bill.
The clean energy bill was passed by the state Senate and Assembly in Trenton. Once Governor Phil Murphy signs it into law, this state we’re in will join New York and California in leading the nation in clean energy. The bill will also put New Jersey on the path to meet the Governor’s goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
Today, New Jersey only gets 15 . . .
4/19/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 16
Grant Harris took a bold step last week when he preserved nearly 375 acres of grasslands surrounding his famous Cowtown Rodeo in Pilesgrove Township, the oldest weekly professional rodeo in the United States and the only one in New Jersey.
Preserving the land where his horses and cattle graze allows him to continue a five-generation family rodeo legacy while helping keep agriculture alive in Salem County. What many folks may not realize is that preserving these rolling green . . .
4/12/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 15
Step outside at night and gaze up at the sky. Do you see a dim orangey glow? If so, you’re experiencing the modern problem of light pollution.
Our multitude of outdoor lights – streetlights, home lighting, stores, illuminated signs and more – obscure the magnificent dome of constellations and planets that have inspired a sense of wonder since the earliest days of mankind.
Raising awareness about light pollution and promoting solutions is the goal of . . .
4/5/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 14
Imagine a 500-acre island oasis for birds and wildlife, and an urban nature education center, in the Delaware River between Camden and Philadelphia.
Fifteen years ago, an improbable alliance formed. Petty’s Island’s owner, the CITGO Petroleum Corporation, teamed up with environmentalists from across New Jersey and local urban residents to preserve the island.
The battle to preserve Petty’s Island is captured in “500 Acres of Controversy: Saving . . .
3/29/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 13
Do you have Japanese angelica, Siebold’s viburnum or trifolate orange in your yard? If so, they can spell trouble.
All three are invasive plants, meaning they’re alien to New Jersey and can spread widely. They’re not a food source for native wildlife, and they’ll aggressively crowd out native plants.
Japanese angelica, Siebold’s viburnum and trifolate orange are among several new invasive plants identified by the New Jersey Invasive Species . . .
3/22/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 12
In spite of another snowstorm on the first day of spring, it’s impossible to ignore that spring is here. And lots of snow-weary New Jerseyans will be heading outdoors to explore new places.
Where to go? You could visit state and national parks. But how about following a different path? Check out the county parks in this state we’re in!
County parks are the Garden State’s hidden treasures: uncrowded places known mostly to locals. Some are compact neighborhood . . .
3/15/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 11
There’s no “magic potion” to cure everything that ails us, but a nonprofit health group is touting the next best thing: walking.
Walk with a Doc, whose mission is to encourage physical activity and reverse the effects of sedentary lifestyles, says walking is the most effective way to improve the health of people of all ages.
Walking is low-impact and easy on the joints. It can be done anywhere. And, according to the American Heart Association, walking has . . .
3/8/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 10
It’s a beautiful day and you’ve got some free time. Will you spend it outdoors in nature or hanging out with your friends? Don’t answer – it’s a trick question! You don’t have to choose. It turns out that being social is one of the best ways to enjoy nature.
A recent study, “The Nature of Americans,” found that although most folks say nature is a top interest, they don’t actually spend much time outdoors. The majority of adults . . .
3/1/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 9
Trash seems to be an inevitable part of life in our modern culture. But is it possible to reduce your garbage by half? How about 75 percent … or even all of it?
New Jersey has always been in the forefront of trash reduction. In April 1987, this state we’re in became the first in the nation to require recycling. But some people are going further.
Proponents of the “zero waste” movement say it’s possible to create so little trash that you can . . .
2/22/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 8
Record-breaking warm temperatures may be welcome to humans, but for wildlife it’s still winter.
Late February and early March are great for wildlife watching in New Jersey, especially along the coast. Winter migrants from the north are still here, and longer daylight means more sightings of seals and birds that haven’t yet returned to their spring breeding grounds.
Grab your binoculars and field guide, and get out to watch our winter species!
Seals< . . .
Forrest Gump claimed life is like a box of chocolates; we believe a healthy forest is like a layer cake.
At the bottom of the cake is the “understory” layer, with seedlings, saplings, woody shrubs and other plants. Next up is the “mid-story,” with taller young trees and larger shrubs. The “canopy,” with the oldest, largest trees is the top layer of the cake!
What happens to a cake if the lower layer is pulled out? It collapses. And, . . .
2/8/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 6
In 1968, biologists were working to unravel the mystery of the other-worldly sounds made by humpback whales. What did they mean?
Looking for help, biologist Roger Payne came to New Jersey to visit Scott McVay, who years earlier had researched dolphin communications. Scott knew how to use a sound spectrograph, a machine that turns sounds into visual graphs, and Payne brought him new recordings of humpback whales.
Scott and his mathematician wife, Hella, converted the . . .
2/2/18 RELEASE: Feb.2, 2018 - Volume XLVIII, No. 5
What will New Jersey be like in 30 years?
If bold recommendations from Governor Murphy’s Environment and Energy Transition Team become reality, this state we’re in will be cleaner and greener along with more urban parks and protected wildlife habitats. Talk about a breath of fresh air!
The year 2050 figures prominently in a report just released by the governor’s Environment and Energy Transition Advisory Committee. First, 2050 is the year when New Jersey is . . .
There’s been lots in the news lately about proposed new natural gas pipelines. And you've probably noticed serious opposition from landowners, environmental groups and elected officials.
That’s because New Jersey has found itself dead center in the face of a new type of sprawl. Right now, our little state has 1,520 miles of existing natural gas pipelines with enough capacity to supply New Jerseyans even in the coldest weather. But if we don’t change . . .
1/18/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 3
Got cabin fever? If you’re already stir-crazy from spending too much time indoors this winter, it’s time to get out and hike, cross-country ski or even snowshoe!
New Jersey’s parks and forests are lovely in winter, especially with a fresh coating of white fluff. Without leaves on the trees, you can enjoy views that are hidden in other seasons, and fresh snow will reveal animal tracks. All without ticks, chiggers, mosquitos or crowds!
A brisk winter hike is a . . .
Forty years ago this week, then-Governor Brendan Byrne stood before the New Jersey Legislature to champion a cause that would win him no political points: the preservation of the Pine Barrens.
“It’s a politically unpopular issue – trees don’t vote,” he said in his State of the State address on Jan. 10, 1978. However, Governor Byrne added, he would not be “dissuaded by the pressures to develop the . . .
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12/28/17 Volume XLVII, No. 52
This article is the final installment of a three-part series, "It's Elemental: Air, Water and Earth in the State We're In."
New Jersey’s got a state bird (Eastern goldfinch), state tree (red oak), state flower (violet), state animal (horse) and even a state dinosaur (Hadrosaurus foulkii). Did you know it also has a state soil?
It’s called “Downer,” but it’s really more of an upper! It’s the most common soil type in New Jersey, . . .
This article is the second installment of a three-part series, "It's Elemental: Air, Water and Earth in the State We're In."
Much is over-hyped lately, but there’s no exaggerating the importance of abundant clean water. Quite simply, it’s critical to our health, environment and economy.