Wednesday 30 December 2020

Barry Lopez, 1945-2020

Mexican gray wolf

“We cannot, of course, save the World because we do not have authority over its parts. We can serve the world though. That is everyone's calling, to lead a life that helps.” (Barry Lopez) 

“Barry Lopez, a lyrical writer who steeped himself in Arctic wildernesses, the habitats of wolves and exotic landscapes around the world for award-winning books that explored the kinship of nature and human culture, died on Friday at his home in Eugene, Ore. He was 75.” (The New York Times

“The cold view to take of our future is that we are therefore headed for extinction in a universe of impersonal chemical, physical, and biological laws. A more productive, certainly more engaging view, is that we have the intelligence to grasp what is happening, the composure not to be intimidated by its complexity, and the courage to take steps that may bear no fruit in our lifetimes.” (Barry Lopez) 

“My goal that day was intimacy—the tactile, olfactory, visual, and sonic details of what, to most people in my culture, would appear to be a wasteland. This simple technique of awareness had long been my way to open a conversation with any unfamiliar landscape. Who are you? I would ask. How do I say your name? May I sit down? . . . . It seems to me you must find some way in a new place—or with a new person—to break free of the notion that you can be certain of what or whom you’ve actually encountered. You must, at the very least, establish a truce with realities not your own, whether you’re speaking about the innate truth and aura of a landscape or a person.” (Barry Lopez, Love in a Time of Terror

“To put your hands in a river is to feel the chords that bind the earth together.” (Barry Lopez)

Monday 28 December 2020

A New Year's Chorus of Birds

Hooded Oriole (male and female)

Songs, snacks, glamour, and games – welcome in 2021 with a bevy of birds. 

The carol of the birds is performed by Nancy Rumbel and friends, including black-capped chickadees, red-winged blackbird, song sparrow, house finch, pine siskins, and mourning dove. 

Bird Bingo features 64 species of birds from around the world – mark them off on your card and bingo! 

“The ravens of Mount Seymour are well known for their lunch and snack stealing prowess. On almost every hiking or snowshoeing trip there we’ve witnessed a skilful heist of one sort or another, with prizes ranging from sandwiches to chocolate bars to full party-sized bags of chips.”

Just eat one chip when there are three? Not a chance, said the crow! 

The strangest bird I’ve ever seen is called the Bokhara Trumpeter. Such a mass of feathers crowns its head that it looks disturbingly faceless, like a living tassel. Long plumes jut out from its ankles, like a second pair of wings. But for all its gaudiness, the Bokhara Trumpeter is, in fact, just a specialized breed of pigeon. It’s a frou-frou version of the same bird you might see choking down an entire Pop-Tart on the streets of any major city. 

“The Bokhara Trumpeter is one end-point of humanity’s long entanglement with pigeons, a relationship that began when the birds were first domesticated at least five thousand years ago. Since that time, pigeons have carried love-letters and military dispatches, assisted fortune-tellers, and inspired cutthroat bird-racing subcultures.” 

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Did you know? Evening Grosbeak's thick, cone-shaped beak is very strong and can crush large seeds, such as cherries and olives.

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Santa Goes Green: Games, Books & Magazines

Monarch butterfly

We've found some fun stuff to amuse you over the holidays. Enjoy!

Biographic, an online photography magazine, shares images and stories of some amazing species from around the world. There’s a female flying fox who carries her nursing pup under her wings as she moves from foraging grounds to roost, a sinuous comb jelly that resembles an underwater strip of the Northern Lights, and a video of the sacred salamanders of Mexico City. 

Based on the popular webcomic, Bird and Moon, Birding is my Favorite Video Game by Rosemary Mosco “is a collection of fun, quasi-educational comics combining weird science, cute visuals, sweet wit, and a strong environmental message.” 

Looking for more environmental cartoons? Check out Green Humour by Rohan Chakravarty. 

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson is an anthology of women’s art, poetry, and prose on climate change. “My heart is moved by all I cannot save: So much has been destroyed/I have to cast my lot with those who age after age, perversely/with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” (Adrienne Rich) 

Kids’ Books for All to Enjoy 
Wild Symphony by Dan Brown takes you on a world tour to meet a wide variety of creatures. As you can expect from this author, there are clues and coded messages. Plus you can play related songs by hovering your smart phone’s camera over each page. 

Get your kids hooked on astronomy when they’re still toddlers with the Animals in the Sky board book by Sara Gillingham. (The 10 Best Children's Books of 2020, Smithsonian Magazine)

Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Animals explains how to use a few simple shapes, letters, numbers, and symbols to draw almost any animal. 

Create your own nature reserve, follow monarch butterflies on their migration, try your hand at evolution with these natural history board games

You can also rethink orthodox economic theories with a tactical card game

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner). 

Did you know? Birds and other predators know that Monarchs taste horrible and stay away.

Tuesday 15 December 2020

EcoSask News, December 15, 2020

Bald Eagle

Upcoming Events 
Christmas Bird Count for Kids, Jan. 2 (Regina) 
Nature Saskatchewan is hosting a Christmas Bird Count for Kids at 1 pm, Jan. 2, in Regina. 

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Dec. 20 – Qu’Appelle Dam (Elbow, Douglas Park) Christmas Bird Count 
Dec. 26, 9 am-5 pm – Saskatoon Boxing Day Bird Count 
Dec. 28 – Borden/Radisson Christmas Bird Count 
Jan. 2, 9 am-4 pm – Pike Lake/Whitecap Christmas Bird Count 
Jan. 10, 2-3:30 pm – Sanatorium Site Bird Walk 
Field trips are currently for members only, so sign up now

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Local News 
SaskPower/Natural Resources Canada are offering no-cost virtual energy efficiency training for small and medium businesses between now and Mar. 31

A look at the missing pieces in Alberta’s Geothermal Resource Development Act reveals issues that may need addressing in Saskatchewan.


From Information to Action 
Part of pandemic preparedness is acknowledging that human, wildlife, and ecological health are inseparable

The Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources’ Indigenous Climate Change Adaptation Planning Toolkit provides user-friendly tools, resources, and key considerations to support Indigenous individuals and communities interested in undertaking climate change adaptation planning. 

Changing what our clothes are made of can make a big difference in cutting climate pollution. 

Wall Street has begun trading water futures, putting "a basic human right into the hands of financial institutions and investors, a dangerous arrangement as climate change alters precipitation patterns and increases water scarcity.”

Thin coatings of this material could soak up sun in summer months and provide heat to buildings in winter, all without using fuel or electricity

Natural Wonders 
Ferocious chompers, elephant birds, and a spike-covered turtle tail – Lost Animals: Extinct, Endangered, and Rediscovered Species [book review]. 

From snow-tunnelling ptarmigans to cheery robins and jingle shells – celebrating the season with Canadian nature

This is the last issue of EcoSask News for 2020, but we’ll be posting holiday specials over the next two weeks to keep you entertained. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner). 

Check out EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion, a free nature app for Canada’s four western provinces

Tuesday 8 December 2020

EcoSask News, December 8, 2020


Upcoming Events 
Fish & Water Boatman, Dec. 10 (online) 
Stephen Srayko will discuss fish predation on migratory water boatman at the 7:30 pm, Dec. 10, online meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society. Join the Society to participate

Members’ Slides, Dec. 14 (Regina) 
Members of Nature Regina will share their photographs from 7-8:30 pm, Dec. 14. 

For Our Kids SK, Dec. 14 (online) 
For Our Kids Saskatchewan will be meeting online at 7 pm, Dec. 14. 

Backyard Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 14-Jan. 5 (Regina) 
Nature Regina is inviting as many members as possible to record the number of birds at their feeders between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. 

STEAM Powered New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31 (online) 
Join the Saskatchewan Science Centre in celebrating an out-of-the box New Year’s celebration full of STEAM experiments and activities. Order your kit before Dec. 14 to ensure a timely delivery. 

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Local News 
Shanon Zachidniak, founder of Regina’ EnviroCollective and now a city councillor, says she isn’t interested in arguing with people. Instead, she wants to build relationships and hopefully expand each other’s perspectives. 

From Information to Action 
The average car loses ¼- 2 kg of tire fragments annually, making car tires one of the top 7 contributors of plastic in the world’s oceans

The US Department of Transportation has released its first Pedestrian Safety Action Plan in an effort to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries. 

North Dakota’s water supplies are at risk from contaminants from fracking wastewater, but residents are fighting back. 

Next-generation solar cells promise to be cheaper and more efficient

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner). 

Check out EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion, a free nature app for Canada’s four western provinces

Thursday 3 December 2020

All About Fungi


Numbers & Diversity 
“When a stinkhorn mushroom crunches through an asphalt road, it produces enough force to lift an object weighing 130 kilograms.” (Merlin Sheldrake, Entangled Life) 

There are an estimated 2.2 to 3.8 million species of fungi worldwide. We use them to make wine and bread (yeast), cure infections (penicillin), and break down waste (rotting fruit and leaves). They’re responsible for both causing and curing plant diseases, providing hallucinogenic compounds for religious and recreational use, and producing enzymes used industrially and in detergents. And yet, they go almost unnoticed. You may notice a few mushrooms in the grass after it rains, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. 

A mushroom is the small fruiting portion of a much larger entity. Below ground spreads the mycelium, a lacy network of thin, thread-like structures called hyphae. Water, nutrients, and electrical activity pass through the mycelium as they entangle themselves in tree roots and plants forming a complicated pattern of interrelationships. 

When the fungus is ready to reproduce or is under stress, hyphae felt together, rapidly inflating with water to form a mushroom. Mushrooms can vary in shape and size (bracket fungi jut out from trees like a shelf, completely different from the fairy-tale red and white-spotted fly agaric or the shaggy lion’s mane), but they all have the same purpose – to release their spores. 

Fungi have developed an amazing variety of methods for dispersing their spores. Jacey Bell is the founder of the Saskatchewan Mycological Working Group. She explains that some mushrooms have gills on the underside of their cap that are designed so that air can blow between them, dispersing the spores on the wind. Other mushrooms, such as the shaggy mane, are white when they first emerge but turn black and the cap curls up and out as they mature. The spores drip down as inky black drops that can be dispersed by the rain or, when they dry out, by the wind. Puff balls are entirely enclosed except for a small hole on the top that releases a tiny cloud of spores when hit by a raindrop. One of Jacey’s favorites is the earth star: “A thick outer layer protects a sac full of spores as it comes out of the ground. As it dries, the outer layer flips open, the whole unit detaches from the ground, releasing its spores as it tumbles across the ground.”

Complex Relationships 
“Most plants . . . depend on fungi to provide them with nutrients from the soil, such as phosphorus or nitrogen, in exchange for energy-giving sugars and lipids produced in photosynthesis.” (Merlin Sheldrake, Entangled Life) 

Plants, animals, and humans rely on mycorrhizal fungi to survive. More than 90 percent of all plant species collaborate with fungi, exchanging food from the air for food from the soil. Deep in their underground caverns, leafcutter ants cultivate a fungus, feeding it with tiny pieces of leaves, removing contaminants, and producing amino acids to help the fungus thrive. The fungus is then harvested to feed the ant larvae. Fungi in the soil affect the quality of agricultural crops. Yeast live on our skin, in our lungs, and in our gastrointestinal tract. 

Researchers have more questions than answers about the ways in which fungi interact with plants and animals. We know that vast, complex fungal webs connect with the trees in a forest, allowing them to share resources and messages. Nutrients appear to flow from areas of plenty to areas of scarcity. Originally, it was thought that the trees were “talking” to each other. But it may be the fungi that are monitoring the situation, shifting resources from one tree to another.

Functional Diversity 
“As you read these words, fungi are changing the way that life happens, as they have done for more than a billion years. They are eating rock, making soil, digesting pollutants, nourishing and killing plants, surviving in space, inducing visions, producing food, making medicines, manipulating animal behavior, and influencing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere.” (Merlin Sheldrake, Entangled Life) 

Fungi have one primary purpose – to consume. And they’re not too fussy about what they consume. Researchers have found that one mycelium can produce edible oyster mushrooms on a diet of used diapers. Others degrade pesticides, dyes, explosives, and plastics. 

Fungi can also be used to create. Researchers are experimenting with employing the outer layers of portobello mushrooms to replace graphite in lithium batteries. Other species can be used as a substitute for skin, helping wounds to heal. Companies are making furniture with fungal leather, using fungi to replace plastic packaging, and even growing temporary housing. 

Citizen Science in Action 
“Only fifty-six species of fungi have had their conservation status evaluated, compared with more than twenty-five thousand plants and sixty-eight thousand animals.” (Merlin Sheldrake, Entangled Life) 

As a botanist and university instructor, Jacey Bell has a particular interest in taxonomy, “the science of naming, describing and classifying organisms,” so she was concerned to discover that there were no complete, up-to-date lists of Saskatchewan fungi. She reached out to acquaintances and was pleased to discover that they shared her interest, and the Saskatchewan Mycological Working Group was established under the auspices of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan. A beginner mushroom ID webinar was a first step in helping people to identify mushrooms and Jacey hopes that the group will eventually host mushrooms forays where knowledgeable people can team up with beginners to identify the species they find. Jacey has also established an iNaturalist list to log observations that can be accessed by the Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre. 

Note: This article relies extensively on information in Martin Sheldrake’s book, Entangled Life as well as an interview with Jacey Bell and material provided in her Beginner Mushroom ID webinar

Facebook Groups 
Saskatchewan Mycological Working Group (fungi enthusiasts interested in documenting fungi and sharing information) 
Saskatchewan Mushroom Picking (dedicated to mushroom picking and cultivation) 

Resources – Identification 
Beginner Mushroom ID webinar, Jacey Bell, Saskatchewan Mycological Working Group
Glossary, U of S (with pictures) 
Mushrooms of Western Canada, Helene Schalkwijk-Barendsen, Elaine Butler (comprehensive guide to the mushrooms of the Northwest) 
All That the Rain Promises and More & Mushrooms Demystified, David Arora (a fun guide with anecdotes, recipes, and more) 
The Fifth Kingdom, Bryce Kendrick (textbook, portions available free online) 

Resources – Expanding Your Knowledge 
Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake (the world from a fungal point of view) 
Fantastic Fungi, Paul Stamets (how mushrooms can heal, shift consciousness & save the planet) (book and film
The Mushroom Fan Club, Elise Gravel (children’s book about mushroom hunting)
Shaggy Mane mushrooms

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EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion is a free nature app for Canada’s four western provinces

Tuesday 1 December 2020

EcoSask News, December 1, 2020


Upcoming Events 
TRC, Climate Action & Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Dec. 2 (online) 
The University of Regina is hosting an online town hall regarding TRC, climate action, and Indigenous ways of knowing from 10:30-11:30 am, Dec. 2. 

Lake Winnipeg Data Stream, Dec. 10 (online) 
Find out about Lake Winnipeg’s open access platform for sharing water data at noon, Dec. 10. This is an online webinar organized by Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin. 

Sustainable YXE, Dec. 3 (online) 
Find out what teens can do to make Saskatoon more sustainable at the Saskatoon Public Library event from 6-7 pm, Dec. 3. 

Farmland Drainage & the Environment, Dec. 7-11 & Jan. 11-15 (online) 
The Citizens Environmental Alliance is hosting an online conference on farmland drainage and the environment from Dec. 7-11 and Jan. 11-15. Registration is by individual daily session. 

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Saskatoon Young Naturalists 
Dec. 29 (tentative) – Christmas Bird Count for Kids
Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Dec. 5, 9 am-5 pm – Gardiner Dam Birding 
Dec. 19, 9 am-5 pm – Clark’s Crossing/Warman/Osler/Martensville Christmas Bird Count 
Field trips are currently for members only, so sign up now

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Local News 
Privilege and climate justice – a new post from the YXE Youth Climate Committee.
frost and ice

From Information to Action 
Done right, online shopping can have a lower carbon footprint than brick-and-mortar stores. This benefit can be eroded when consumers opt for fast delivery options, especially same-day or next-day options. 

By dragging its feet on specific measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the Trudeau government is shoehorning Canadians into expensive, unproven and unreliable technologies

Bottom-up biodiversity restoration projects are making a difference

Now That’s Interesting 

A wooden cargo ship powered by sail and electric battery is already accepting shipment bookings. 

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner). 

Balsam Fir's thick branches provide winter cover for wildlife. The seeds, twigs, and bark provide food for mice and squirrels as well as bears and moose. Find out more in Nature Companion, a free nature app for Canada’s 4 western provinces.