Monday, December 14, 2015

Farewell from City Science Kids

Dear friends:

It's with sadness and quite a lot of regret that I write today to tell you that due to time constraints, I've decided to give up City Science Kids. It's been so much fun these past few years to bring you stories and videos about all the fascinating things that happen in cities right under our noses. I hope you'll be on the lookout for fascinating stories of your own. Meanwhile, you can read more about the science that interests me (and hopefully you, too) in my ongoing articles for Muse and other magazines.

Have a happy, science-y holiday!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Compost Redux

About 3 years ago, our family started composting out here in the wilds of Brooklyn, NY. Instead of throwing away apple cores and banana peels and cucumber skins, we stuck them in a bag in our freezer. And at the end of every week, we took the (very) full bag to the farmers market, where we could throw it in with compost collected by other Brooklyn folks. Then the Sanitation Department brought it all to a composting facility, where it was broken down into nutritious dirt. Which is great for anyone who has a garden and wants to fertilize it without using chemicals.

But maybe the biggest benefit of composting is that it cuts down on the amount of garbage we send to landfills. Landfills are so full of trash that stuff that should rot quickly away to nothing, sticks around for years and years, because there's not enough air circulating to break it down. We did a CSK episode all about composting, which you can watch here.

Now, the City of New York is expanding it's composting program, which is great news! Because now, even more garbage will go to composting facilities instead of landfills. Today, our building received its very own compost bin:

There are so many things to like about this but one of my favorites: Now we'll have some extra room in our freezer for some ice cream!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Don't Dump! A Post from Boston

While we've been gearing up for our next episode, City Science Kids friend Renee Riccardo has been traveling in Boston. She came across this plaque on a storm drain and wondered what it was:

Photo by Renee Riccardo
Renee's friend Robert Chambers, who used to work in marine science before becoming a sculptor and art professor, jus happened to know all about it! 

"The round symbol with three wavy lines represents the Lady of the Water, the deity Sulainor," he wrote. "She is the patron of ponds, bays, harbors, rivers. 

"The fish is a flounder, found in the Boston harbor and an important bio-monitoring tool (like frogs). [That's because] the liver of the flounder, a bottom feeder, metabolizes pollution like lead, cadmium, and pcb's that unfortunately end up in the harbor. Environmental scientists study the flounders' poor diseased livers to monitor pollution. 

‪"The cast iron plaque is letting you know that the nearby drain dumps (unfortunately) directly into the harbor and that gasoline, oil, or anything toxic should not be dumped down any drain connected to oceans, lakes, rivers."

We love citizen scientists who know so much about the world around us and how it works! What about you, have you seen any interesting plaques where you live?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Clue #2 for Our New Episode

Do you know how all this works? You will soon if you stay tuned for a new episode of City Science Kids—coming soon!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Finally! We're Working on a New Episode

And here's the first clue:

Stay tuned to this space for more clues as summer winds down!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Who Ate the Eggs?

A few weeks ago, my friends Carolyn and Dave found this mallard duck hanging out on the sailboat they moor in City Island in the Bronx:

They thought she was just resting, or possibly attempting to hitch a ride somewhere. But the next time they went out to the boat they found these:

It's not such an easy thing to take your boat out for a sail when there are mallard eggs rolling all over the deck. It's certainly dangerous for the eggs, and also, extremely stressful for their mother-to-be. So, Carolyn and Dave contacted a woman known as the Duck Whisperer, who works at a place on the Upper West Side of Manhattan called the Wild Bird Fund, which rescues all kinds of birds around the city, including pigeons and swans with broken feet and migrating songbirds that crash into buildings. The Duck Whisperer recommended that they build these eggs a nest:

Which Dave did, using a pillowcase, rope, the seat from a broken chair he found on the street. He gently put the eggs into the nest hoping that, eventually, he'd be able to move the whole thing off the boat, so the mother mallard could hatch them in peace (although, she looks pretty peaceful in these photos):

Last week came news from Carolyn that the nest was down to only three eggs. And today I learned that as of this weekend, all five eggs had disappeared. What could have happened to them? 

Most likely, they were eaten. And most likely, they were eaten by seagulls—although other common city pests, such as crows, rats, and raccoons also eat duck eggs. An alternative theory, since there was no evidence of broken shells on the deck, is that the eggs were doomed to never hatch and the mother mallard pushed them into the water. 

Regardless, it's certainly a sad day for duck rescue. But we're crossing fingers that the mother mallard has much, much better luck next year.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Vet Checks for the Wild Horses of Assateague

Over spring break, we traveled to Virginia to visit the Chincoteague ponies that live on Assateague Island. Along with Mustangs in the western part of the country, these horses (genetically, they're actually horses, not ponies) are among the last wild horses in the United States. There are three herds of them: one on the northernmost, Maryland, end of the island; and two on the southernmost, Virginia, end of the island. The horses in Maryland are managed by the National Park Service (NPS) and they are truly wild; they have very little contact with humans. The only interference they receive from the NPS is contraception, to keep their herd at around 150 animals. Otherwise, they would take over the island and destroy the habitat for other animals.

The Virginia herds are owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. If you've ever read Misty of Chincoteague by Margeuerite Henry, then you've already had an introduction to these horses! And you've probably already heard of the annual pony swim that happens every July. This is how the firemen keep their horse population down at 150 animals—they drive yearlings across the Chincoteague Bay, and auction them off. 

But every spring and fall, the firemen also give veterinary care to the horses. That's what you'll see in this episode—along with the amazing roundup by the Saltwater Cowboys who bring them in to the corral. 

To learn more about the history of the wild horses of Assateague, visit the National Park Service

A three-day-old foal with his mother.