October is a month of change. Forested hills fade from green to a kaleidoscope of red and gold that dazzles the eyes. Here’s your field guide to some moments that you might not otherwise notice during these few precious weeks that feature colorful hills beneath a deep blue sky, calls of migrating geese high overhead, and the last Monarchs gliding silently southward.
Mercury in the Mountains: VCE Research Yields More Questions than Answers
VCE's recently published paper (in Ecotoxicology) from our long-term research on mercury accumulation in montane forest birds describes unexpected results. We had hoped that verified reductions in mercury emissions across the Northeast would be reflected in lower blood mercury levels of Bicknell’s Thrush than we had documented 10-15 years earlier. To our surprise, and disappointment, results did not support this. Learn more about our research on mercury in the mountains on the VCE blog!
New species to Vermont: Melonworm Moth, found by iNaturalist Lewis Holmes.
Four New Species to Vermont added to the Vermont Atlas of Life
Moths and spiders and horseflies, oh my! iNaturalists - you've done it again! Four new species never before recorded in Vermont (and one that hasn't been seen since 1991) were identified on the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist this fall. A new species of horsefly almost demanded to be discovered, as it flew through an open window into the car of one of our citizen scientists; a University of Vermont student snapped a photo of a cute little spider that turned out to be an introduced species never before documented in Vermont; and three mothwatchers from three different towns submitted photo-observations that turned out to be pretty darn exciting!
We are pleased to introduce our new ECO Americorps Citizen Science Outreach Naturalist - Emily Anderson! Emily is a native Vermonter and life-long nature enthusiast whose experience in the environmental field ranges from research to education to policy. She looks forward to answering your questions about eBird, iNaturalist, e-Butterfly, and a whole lot more. Welcome Emily!
P.S. We're also pleased to announce that Nathaniel Sharp, our previous ECO AmeriCorps Citizen Science Outreach Naturalist, has joined VCE's staff as our first-ever Data Technician! Nathaniel will be organizing and managing big-data projects such as the Vermont Atlas of Life, VCE's long-term bird-banding operations, and other citizen-science databases. While he won't be on the front lines to answer your natural history questions, you'll still find him birding throughout Vermont or identifying observations on iNaturalist.
Nearly 3 Billion Birds Gone
By now you've probably heard about the recent study led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that quantifies the precipitous decline in bird populations across the continental U.S. and Canada -- a loss of almost 3 billion breeding adult birds. That's nearly 1 in 3 birds lost since 1970.
VCE’s wrap-up Mansfield banding session on 17-18 September dispelled memories of a summer in which the ridgeline was far too quiet and our nets far too often empty. In light of the recent Science article that documented sobering continent-wide bird declines, we took a welcome measure of hope in our tally of 82 mist net captures. Despite most of these being passage migrants, rather than local breeders or locally fledged young, the sheer volume of activity on Mansfield’s ridgeline rekindled optimism. Read more and view fabulous photos on our blog.
Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist, where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking 'fav' on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries - and you could be a winner!
The Vermont Center for Ecostudies promotes wildlife conservation across the Americas using the combined strength of scientific research and citizen engagement. Find us online at: vtecostudies.org