Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sams Lake Sanctuary is Site for Nature Photography Tips October 30

Saturday, October 30th, 7:30 am
"Fall Colors & Close-ups"

Donna Rosser, The Barefoot Photographer, will give nature photography pointers at Sams Lake Sanctuary on October 30th. Come ready to learn and loaded up with your camera gear.

Be sure to enter your best images in Nature, Undisturbed 2011.


Photo: Line Creek in Drought, The Barefoot Photographer


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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Birds of Prey Program at Sams Lake Saturday Nov. 6th

Hosted by Southern Conservation Trust

Southern Conservation Trust presents Dale Arrowood and his Winged Ambassadors at Sams Lake Sanctuary on Saturday afternoon November 6th.

The Winged Ambassadors are a group of trained non-releasable birds of prey that will perform soaring free flight demonstrations over the wetlands. Master Falconer Dale Arrowood will showcase the differences and similarities between a variety of raptor and owl families.

Birds will include Quasimodo the black vulture, various species of owls, several hawks and a pair of kookaburras native to Australia. Don’t miss the gorgeous Gyr falcon, the largest falcon that is most popular for hunting. These birds are not “trick animals” - they simply do what comes naturally to them.

Sams Lake Sanctuary, a restored wetland habitat and certified wildlife sanctuary, is owned and managed by Southern Conservation Trust, a non-profit community land trust based in Fayette County. It is open dawn to dusk and is the home of deer, wild turkey, beaver, and many birds. Sams Lake is on Old Senoia Road, south of Redwine Road just outside Fayetteville.

This exciting and educational program begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 6th, weather permitting. Bring your camera to capture close-ups of these majestic birds. Donations will be requested for Winged Ambassadors Environmental for care of the birds.

For more information and directions, visit the Trust’s website sctlandtrust.org, call 770-486-7774 or
email info@sctlandtrust.org
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State Botanical Garden opens 2010 art competition

The University of Georgia State Botanical Garden is conducting an art competition open to all Georgia college and high school students ninth grade and above, regardless of age. This competition, funded by The J.A. and H.G. Woodruff Jr. Charitable Trust, celebrates student talent by using the winning designs to create signature items for the State Botanical Garden Gift Shop. The artist of the winning design will be awarded $1,000. Other awards of $500 and $250, plus certificates of merit, will be awarded.The deadline is Dec. 10.

Artwork should be within a certain size and must be two-dimensional. Entrants should keep in mind that the goal is to create items for the State Botanical Garden Gift Shop, such as journals, scarves, t-shirts, travel mugs and other unique gift items. All two-dimensional media including pencil, pen and ink, paint, photography and computer enhanced graphics are permitted. A botanical or nature theme, including plants, birds, insects and other animals related to Georgia is encouraged. One color designs are welcome. The artwork does not need to be framed but should be signed.

For more information, see the complete guidelines at www.uga.edu/botgarden/documents/events/artcomp.pdfor contact Connie Cottingham at 706/542-6014 or connicot@uga.edu.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Enjoy Wildlife In Your Backyard!

Editor Note:  Fayette County is a wonderful stop for birds who choose to winter over.  Have you noticed the beautiful American Bald Eagles in Peachtree City?  Right now, four have been spotted gracefully flying above our homes.  It's just, well, wonderful.

(StatePoint) Are you thrilled by the sight of wildlife in its natural environment? If so, you don't need to travel for the experience. With a little effort, your own backyard can become a stopover for some of North America's most colorful wildlife. 

Fall and spring are migratory season in America as flocks of birds migrate between hemispheres. Like any weary traveler, these natives look for places to rest and refuel. Welcoming them to your yard is a way to protect our natural heritage and enjoy their beauty at the same time.

"Transforming your yard or garden into a wildlife refuge is fun," says Spencer Schock, Founder of WindowAlert, makers of bird-friendly products for homes. "Children love an outdoor project and the sight of wild birds adds dazzle to your family's seasonal experience."

Here are some tips for watching and keeping birds safe during migration:

* Birds migrate because of food, not weather. The cooler months make it more difficult to find sustenance, so placing a bird feeder in your backyard with water and high energy foods like meal worms, black oil sunflower seeds, or suet will help them complete their journey.

* Birds don't just take one long flight. They need lots of stopover and staging areas during their travels. Encourage them to linger in your backyard by providing shelter, such as a bird house. Opt for water-repellant bird houses with hinged roofs so the house can be cleaned after nesting. Avoid perches, which make birds easy prey for predators like cats.

* Man-made structures, even in rural areas, can be hazardous to migrating birds. For example, birds don't "see" clear glass and as a consequence, millions of birds worldwide die every year when striking glass. To protect birds from hitting your windows, you can apply special decals that reflect ultraviolet sunlight, such as those made by WindowAlert. The decals have the appearance of frosted glass -- so they won't ruin your view -- but glow like a stoplight for birds, with their unique ability to see ultraviolet rays.

* The best way to enjoy wildlife is to avoid interfering in any way. To do so, invest in good binoculars and get out in the early morning when birds are most active. A field guide book can help you identify the creatures you see.

* Record-keeping is not just for ornithologists. By keeping a journal of feeding and housing patterns of birds populating your backyard, you can be better prepared for next year. In addition, consider becoming a "citizen scientist" by submitting your observations to The Audubon Society and Cornell University's database at ebird.org.

For more information on making your home and garden a bird haven, visit WindowAlert.com or call 877-733-2753.

"There are many ways to assist birds on their journey, from installing birdbaths to applying window decals," says Schock. "Once you have made a few modifications, don't forget to enjoy that flash of color by the feeder."


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

UGA researchers to study transmission of human pathogen to coral reefs

The spread of lethal diseases from animals to humans has long been an issue of great concern to public health officials. But what about diseases that spread in the other direction, from humans to wildlife? A multidisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Georgia has just been awarded a five-year $2 million Ecology of Infectious Diseases grant from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health to study the first known case of such a “reverse zoonosis” that involves the transmission of a human pathogen to a marine invertebrate, elkhorn coral.

White pox disease has devastated coral reefs throughout the Caribbean and Florida Keys, and is believed to be responsible for much of the coral reef loss there since 1996. White pox disease is caused by a human strain of the common intestinal bacterium Serratia marcescens, which causes the hospital infection serratiosis. Historically, many emerging human diseases, such as AIDS and Ebola, have come from the natural world. The researchers are concerned that the transmission of Serratia marcescens from humans to elkhorn coralmay indicate the beginning of a new phenomenon of diseases jumping from humans to wildlife.

The UGA team will investigate the mechanisms of transmission of white pox disease and the factors that drive its emergence in marine animals. “This bacterium has jumped from vertebrate to invertebrate, from terrestrial to marine, and from anaerobic to aerobic environments,” said James W. Porter, associate dean of the Odum School of Ecology and the team’s leader. “Triple jumps like this are rare.” Understanding the modes of transmission will allow the scientists to attempt to predict future impacts of the disease and to begin to develop effective control strategies.

The scope of the team’s research will extend beyond gaining an understanding of the impact of white pox disease on elkhorn coral and how to counter it. The most likely source of the pathogen for coral reefs is under-treated human sewage, so the study will also explore the intersection of public health practices and environmental health outcomes.

“This investigation addresses not only environmental protection, but also the socio-ecological determinants of coastal zone protection,” said Porter. “This includes the cost of wastewater treatment infrastructure. Given a reliance on tourism by most Caribbean countries, this study addresses a disease system that is of great economic importance and public health concern to developing nations.”

The complexity of the problem required assembling a team of researchers from different scientific disciplines. “The Odum School is extremely well-positioned to lead this study,” said Dean John Gittleman. “Working effectively in collaboration with units from across campus is one of our strengths, and aquatic ecology, theoretical ecology and disease ecology are three of our areas of particular depth that facilitate such interdisciplinary team building.”

Porter, who has spent decades studying coral reefs in the Florida Keys and the Caribbean, said that this is the most exciting and groundbreaking study of his career. “This is science in action to save an endangered species and a threatened ecosystem,” he said. “We are linking good public health practices to effective environmental protection.”

Microbiologist Erin K. Lipp, associate professor of environmental health science in the College of Public Health, will be looking at the genetic diversity of Serratia marcescens to determine which of its different strains are pathogenic to corals, and why. She will collect and analyze samples to determine how the different strains of the bacterium are related, and will then conduct challenge experiments. “We’ll inoculate fragments of corals with different strains and see which cause signs of disease,” said Lipp. “If we can identify strains that do versus those that don’t cause disease, we can then conduct genetic comparisons to isolate the genes that are responsible.”

Assistant professor Andrew W. Park, who has a joint appointment in the School of Ecology and College of Veterinary Medicine department of infectious diseases, will use the data gathered by Porter and Lipp to create models to inform analysis of the spread of the disease. “My part of the project is about making sense of the data in terms of transmission,” said Park. “We’ll use the modeling to help test the hypothesis that there is variation for resistance to the bacteria and explore different candidate hypotheses for how the disease spreads. The pathogen can be spread in different ways—forinstance, by predatory snails, or through water currents. We’re trying to untangle all those competing explanations.”

John Wares, assistant professor of genetics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, will be looking into the interactions of the pathogen with the microbial environment of coral reefs in the Caribbean. Unlike humans, corals do not have classic immune systems, with white blood cells to take on and destroy invading bacteria. Instead, they appear to rely primarily on external defense systems, such as beneficial bacteria that live on their surface. Wares will investigate this system to determine whether healthy bacterial communities can defend corals from disease. “This is essentially high-tech community ecology,” said Wares. “I’ll be looking at what organisms are living on the coral and what role they play in promoting coral immunity.” He said he is excited about the opportunity to use next-generation genetic sequencing, through the Georgia Genomics Facility at UGA. “In the past, we might have been limited to looking at a sample of a few hundred microbes from a given sample of the community,” he said. “For this study, we can study tens of thousands from each sample. It will be very powerful.”

Understanding the transmission process is critical, but Porter said that the study has wider implications. “By incorporating the role of land use practices and water quality into our environmental models of disease prevalence and transmission, this project will have particular significance for sustainable development activities and coastal-zone carrying capacity studies worldwide,” he said. “The modeling element of this study connects disease transmission with water quality, climate variability and patterns of human population density. We expect to show that if you upgrade land-based wastewater disposal systems you improve survival of economically important natural resources such as coral reefs.”

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blue Suede blueberry perfect for home gardens

For years, University of Georgia plant breeder Scott NeSmith has created new blueberry varieties for the commercial market. Now, he has bred one just for home gardeners.

Blue Suede is a Southern highbush blueberry for edible home landscapes, said Nesmith, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

It produces flavorful, large, light-blue berries, and performs well in USDA Hardiness zones 6a through 9a.

“It bears attractive, very edible fruit and should look nice as a landscaping plant, too,” he said. “It has nice fall foliage color.”

Bred especially for home gardeners

Blue Suede is exclusively licensed to McCorkle Nursery, which plans to introduce it as part of their Gardener’s Confidence Collection early next year.

But isn’t a berry just a berry? NeSmith says he has to consider an entirely different list of characteristics when he breeds a blueberry plant for the commercial market.

“Commercial plants have to meet certain standards for several reasons, including the fact that berries have to travel long distances,” he said. “Yield is another factor. Commercial growers like all the berries of one variety to ripen at once, and then the next variety to come on. Home gardeners like to pick a bowlful at a time.”

Blue Suede has a “protracted ripening period,” he said, allowing harvest over a longer period of time.

Commercial berries have to survive shipping

Commercial growers also worry about problems like berry scarring. If a berry attaches to the plant, an open scar is created when it’s picked.

“You can’t have berries that leak and ooze while they are being shipped to the market,” he said. “But in a home setting, it doesn’t matter because you are going to eat them right away.”

When adding blueberry plants to your home landscape, Nesmith says to set aside the first year as a growing year for the plant. “You may see a small amount of fruit the second year, but the third year will bring a good blueberry crop,” he said.

Varieties bred for home planting like Blue Suede are designed to stand alone in the landscape. They are self-fruiting and do not require other plants for pollination.

“If you are a home consumer who wants to plant 10 to 15 blueberry bushes and create a patch, you may want to select a standard commercial variety,” NeSmith said.

Garden centers supplied by McCorkle's

McCorkle Nurseries is promoting Blue Suede as a deck or patio container plant.

“It’s perfect for people who live in condominiums or apartments and don’t have a space to plant more than one plant,” said Mike Sikes, a horticulturist with McCorkle Nurseries. “It’s perfect for all seasons, too. You can enjoy the beautiful colored foliage in the fall, green leaves in the winter, flowers in the spring and delicious berries in the summer.”

More to come

Blue Suede is the first UGA edible ornamental blueberry release, but it won’t be the last, Nesmith said. There are plans to breed and release blueberry plants that produce a variety of different traits.
“We are looking at one plant that produces a berry that turns yellow, orange and then kinda black,” he said. “They will all be very edible, very sweet and attractive in a landscape. One of our goals is to produce a plant that doesn’t just look like a stick most of the year.”



By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin picking time has arrived

One of the surest signs that fall is upon us is the appearance of pumpkins for sale along roadsides. If the pumpkins are ready for harvest, frost can't be far behind.

The search for the perfect pumpkin has become almost as important as scouring the woods for the perfect Christmas tree. Pumpkins come in many shapes and sizes, and people's preferences vary.

Check the local roadside markets

So where do we find the one “Great Pumpkin” that will satisfy our holiday desires?

The best pumpkin may only be an afternoon's drive away. Or it could be waiting at the local supermarket. Many roadside stands and local grocers offer pumpkins. A growing number of local farms, too, offer hayrides to the field and let customers pick their own pumpkins. This is akin to the stroll in the forest looking for the right Christmas tree or the Thanksgiving morning turkey hunt for the day's main course.

So how do you pick a great pumpkin? The American Phytopathological Society suggests the following tips:

• Check for moldy areas or soft spots on the fruit (remember to check the bottom). Choose one with a hard rind.
• Check the stem attachment. Healthy stems are green and securely attached.
• Most pumpkin varieties are a dull to bright-orange when mature.
• Keep the pumpkin in a dry, shady place, and try to prevent it from freezing.
• To help a Jack-o-Lantern last through Halloween, don’t carve it until a few days before the event.
• Pick pumpkins before frost. Leave at least 3 to 4 inches of stem on the fruit.

Most Georgia-grown pumpkins grown in the north

Don't expect to always find a pumpkin that is locally grown. Georgia farmers only grow about 600 acres of them each year, although that figure has been rising. Most of the pumpkins grown in Georgia are in the northern third of the state, although there are a few south Georgia growers.

Plant viruses and insect pressure have traditionally made growing pumpkins in south Georgia hard to do. However, in recent years, new varieties developed by the University of Georgia show promise for disease resistance.

For harvest near Halloween or Thanksgiving, pumpkins must be planted in early to late June, depending on the variety. Don't expect to break the world record (more than 1,000 pounds). It's virtually impossible to grow competitively large pumpkins in Georgia’s climate. Limit your competition to local and state fairs.

By Paul Pugliese
University of Georgia

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Burn Ban Lifted as Instant Permitting System is Unveiled

Georgia’s annual ban on outdoor burning ended at midnight on September 30th, clearing the way for residents to use a fast, new burn permitting system provided by the Georgia Forestry Commission. By logging on to GaTrees.org, users statewide can instantly receive a permit to burn hand-piled natural vegetation, when conditions in their communities are safe.

“Fifty-four counties, mostly in north Georgia, will have burn bans lifted that are imposed every year by the state Environmental Protection Division to comply with federal clean air regulations,” said Alan Dozier, Chief of Forest Protection for the Georgia Forestry Commission. “Open burning has been restricted in those areas since May to help manage the summertime surge in unhealthy ozone levels.
Those counties now join the rest of Georgia in having access to a simple new system that makes outdoor burning easier to conduct.”

The new 24-hour burn permitting process allows users to click through a simple online template that swiftly analyzes weather conditions, records user requests, and issues a numbered permit for use that day. Permits issued after dark are valid the following day. Residents who prefer to phone in their requests may still utilize 1-877-OK2-BURN (1-877-652-2876).

“The new automated system saves time for our customers who use the same computer to request permits,” explained Dozier. “The system ‘remembers’ the customer, and pulls up their previously entered data, which speeds the process.” Dozier said communities also benefit from the new system because it provides information about the location of permitted area burns and contact information for those in charge.

Permits are required for burning all natural vegetation that is hand piled, including leaf piles on the premises where they fall, and vegetative debris from storm damage, weed abatement, disease and/or pest prevention. It is unlawful to burn all man-made materials such as tires, shingles, plastic and lumber. Failure to secure a valid burn permit may result in penalties. If an unpermitted fire escapes and causes wildfire, suppression charges will be levied. The average suppression charge is $200.

Dozier noted that with mild to moderate drought conditions spreading across Georgia, extra caution will be necessary for anyone planning to burn outdoors. Fire safety tips and information about Georgia’s forest resource, visit GaTrees.org.

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Fall is pumpkin time and spider time

Whether you are an arachnophobe, or you just don’t like the creepy feeling of walking face first into a spider web, most people cringe when they see a spider. A University of Georgia expert says most spiders are actually helpful to keep around.

Brown recluse spiders seem to strike the most fear. Nancy Hinkle gets a lot of calls this time of year from people who think they’ve spotted a brown recluse.

Very few brown recluses live in Georgia

“We get calls about 'brown recluse' spiders being in webs outside people's houses,” said Hinkle, an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “There are two fallacies there: brown recluses are never found in webs, and they're almost never outdoors.”

Hinkle says the spider gets its name for a reason. It’s reclusive and almost never seen. They have been found in less than 20 percent of Georgia counties, mostly in the northwest corner.

“In all of recorded history, fewer than 100 brown recluse spiders have been collected in Georgia, despite hundreds of pest control operators and entomology students avidly looking for them,” she said.

Web-makers and insect-eaters

There are plenty of other spiders in Georgia. Barn spiders are to blame for creating the webs most often walked into by people.

“I would bet that almost every home in Georgia has a barn spider on the porch or somewhere nearby this time of year,” she said.

Hinkle has one on her deck, one at her back door, and one at her front door. They’re handy to keep around, she said. Being nocturnal, they construct new webs every evening, where they wait to trap insects. Rusty brown with legs extending 2 inches, they’re noticeable this time of year.

“Their webs trap all sorts of flying pests,” she said. “People get annoyed when they walk into these webs and get silk covering their faces, but I consider that a people problem, not a spider problem.”

The yellow garden spider is one of the longest spiders in Georgia. Found in gardens and around shrubbery, it constructs large webs. The abdomen has distinctive yellow and black markings while the front part of the body is white.

The female typically remains in one spot throughout her life, repairing or reconstructing her web as it is damaged or ages. Also called the “writing spider,” its web may have a distinctive zigzag of silk through the middle.

Another common Georgia spider is the orb-weaver. It makes large webs, too.

Larger in the fall

Spiders have been living in Georgia landscapes all summer.

They’re now just large enough to be really noticed. The first hard frost will kill most of them, Hinkle said. Until then, they are busy mating and producing egg sacs that will overwinter and re-establish the population next spring.

In addition to relying on the spiders to help with outdoor pest control, Hinkle uses them to avoid doing lawn work.

“A golden garden spider has built her web attached to my lawnmower handle,” she said. “Not wanting to disturb her, I haven't mowed in weeks!”


By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia


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