Thursday, May 19, 2011

GSU researcher discovers new method to provide better understanding of plant life

A Georgia State University scientist has found a new way to simulate data in examining processes during photosynthesis, a method which will lead to a better understanding of how plants work.

Gary Hastings, professor of physics, has developed a way to better interpret measurements that investigate the molecular interactions involved in photosynthesis. By using the data provided through Hastings' method, scientists will be able to more accurately develop a mathematical model of photosynthetic processes in plants.

The research appears in a journal article released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In photosynthesis, plants capture sunlight and use it to produce carbohydrates used as energy. In the process sunlight is used to transfer electrons across a membrane, Hastings explained. There is a positive terminal on one side of the membrane and a negative terminal on the other.

"Essentially, a plant is a solar-powered battery," he said. "The process is remarkably efficient, much more so than in artificial materials. The question is: 'How do electrons get across this membrane with such efficiency?'"

Plants contain pigment molecules, such as chlorophyll and quinone, which give them their colors. In the process of photosynthesis, electrons "hop" from one pigment to the next to get across the membrane. Proteins interact with these pigments, and this gives them special properties allowing them to move electrons quickly and efficiently across the membrane.

"The burning question is, what is it about these protein interactions that modify the properties of the pigments to help get electrons across the membrane? This is really a structural biology question, and everything we do is geared towards understanding how proteins modify these pigment properties," Hastings said.

The new method Hastings shows in his article provides an approach using numerical, or quantitative, data to describe the results of research using a process called Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. Previously, the norm for the field was to use a more descriptive, or qualitative, approach.

This research, in time, may lead to ways to predict how new plant strains might function more efficiently - something with implications in many fields, including biofuel research.

Hastings' research was made possible by powerful supercomputing resources at GSU. Hastings and his team used the university's IBM p5 supercomputer, called URSA, which allowed for the efficient processing of huge calculations in days, instead of the months it would have taken on even the fastest desktop computers.

GSU recently increased its supercomputing power by acquiring an IBM p7-755 supercomputer, named CARINA. It can run calculations at more than 14 trillion calculations per second.

Hastings' article, "Calculated Vibrational Properties of Pigments in Protein Binding Sites," appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, located online at


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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Outbreak of strange moth posing danger to oak trees

Researchers at the University of Georgia are tracking an outbreak of caterpillars that can eat and strip the leaves off oak trees, potentially affecting the tree’s health for a year or more. The leaf-eating caterpillars have been confirmed in several counties surrounding Athens, including Clarke, Madison, Oglethorpe and Oconee. They are also possibly in both Barrow and Gwinnett counties, but UGA researchers fear they are also spreading throughout the state.

Kamal Gandhi, an assistant professor of forest entomology in the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, said home- and landowners began bringing her caterpillars last year for help with identifying the insects. The grayish-brown caterpillars had black heads and thin white lines down each side and were moving into the oak canopies at night to feed on leaves and seemed to favor white oaks. And they weren’t in the book on moths in North America that Gandhi could find, so she sent them to moth expert David Wagner with the University of Connecticut for help identifying them using DNA coding. That’s when they found that Georgia is now experiencing what appears to be an outbreak of the Black-dotted Brown moth (Cissusa spadix) that until now weren’t considered pests. They even found that this caterpillar defoliated a large white oak tree growing in Athens’ Whitehall Forest in just four days last year. This year, Gandhi said its spring leaves were delayed, and the caterpillars have returned in higher numbers.

Gandhi and Jacqueline Mohan, an assistant professor of terrestrial ecosystem ecology in the Odum School of Ecology, speculate that the moths went into an outbreak phase because of much warmer weather conditions with abundant autumn rainfall in 2009 and 2010, which stimulated the development and growth of both oak trees and leaves, and caterpillars. Entomologists living in Athens for decades and across eastern North America have never witnessed an outbreak of this moth species before.

What should homeowners look for? Gandhi said the specific signs that those caterpillars have possibly made themselves at home include:
- Oak trees on a homeowner’s property that have been stripped of leaves;
- Dark grayish-brown caterpillars with thin white lines on both sides that feed on the leaves mostly at night;
- A yard covered in the small black insect frass (excrement); and
- Caterpillars that come into the house at night and vomit reddish-brownish liquid.

Very little is known about how to manage these insects, Gandhi said, but if a landowner does have an infestation, there is a simple way to help thwart their efforts to feed on oaks: Put burlap bands on high value trees to stop them from moving into the canopy. Burlap bands can be made by tying a piece of twine, rope or string around the tree and then slipping a foot-wide piece of burlap between the rope and tree, folding it in half over the string. The band should circle the entire tree, and the bottom part should be duct-taped to stop caterpillars from crawling under and through the bark cracks. The caterpillars should become caught in the burlap and can then be disposed of using soapy water after capture. Burlap bands are only partially effective, however, and Gandhi said it is unclear how effective pesticides are as well.

This insect is a bit of a mystery to scientists. They’re not even sure where the insects lay their eggs. What they do know is that the hatched caterpillars typically spend a day in leaf litter on the ground and under bark cracks and furrows, especially on white oaks. They then climb into the trees for feeding, pupating in early May in the litter layer until emerging as an adult the following year.

Gandhi and Mohan have launched both individual and collaborative research projects into the strange insect. Gandhi and her post-doctoral researcher, David Coyle, are working on determining what host plants the caterpillars prefer, its life-cycle, the extent and scale of defoliation this moth can inflict, and insecticide options to guide home-owners. Mohan and her students, Fern Lehman, Shafkat Khan and Paul Frankson, also are using the caterpillars to determine how herbivorous insects might respond to oaks grown in higher temperature conditions.

Based on the their 2010 research, they are finding that oak leaves grown under the higher temperature conditions predicted over this century lead to higher rates of caterpillar herbivory as the foliage becomes less nutritious and the insects need to consume more of it.

Gandhi and Mohan need to know how widespread the moth is in Georgia. Any calls and emails from homeowners from other counties will assist in research and management activities. Anyone with questions or information about this caterpillar can contact Gandhi at


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Thursday, April 28, 2011

100 Young Birders Seek, Find Scores of Bird Species in Annual Contest

Conservation, birds and about 100 young Georgia birders all benefited from the 2011 Youth Birding Competition.

The 24-hour birding event held Saturday and Sunday, April 16-17, drew some 25 teams of contestants from preschool-ages to teens. They spotted scores of bird species and raised nearly $1,500 for conservation organizations. Fundraising is a voluntary component of the competition.

The Country Cuckoos, four brothers and a first cousin from Bainbridge, saw or heard 133 species to win the overall competition, checking birding hotspots across the state and overcoming a windy Saturday evening that kept many birds quiet. Member Josiah Austinson found a silver lining in the blustery weather. “It saved us from the mosquitoes,” he said smiling.

The reward for competition coordinator Tim Keyes, a Georgia Wildlife Resources Division biologist, is the “increase of new faces every year … (and) the return of repeat teams, which shows they’re getting hooked!”

The Youth Birding Contest is aimed at cultivating an interest in wildlife and conservation. Sponsors include The Environmental Resources Network Inc. (TERN), the Audubon Society, the Georgia Ornithological Society and others.

T-shirts worn by birders and team leaders at the banquet and awards ceremony at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center Sunday featured the artwork of Rosemary Kramer of The Rock community in Upson County. The red-breasted nuthatch by Kramer, an eighth-grader at Upson Lee Middle School, proved the grand-prize winner in the event’s T-shirt Contest.

Coordinator Linda May said judges chose four division winners from among 166 drawings and paintings of native Georgia birds. Kramer’s entry led the middle school category. “I'm so excited to see all of these kids enjoying birds, whether it's through birdwatching or creating artwork,” May said. “They're gaining a much better understanding and appreciation of nature than I had at that age.”

The 2012 Youth Birding Competition is set for April 27-28. The annual competition and art contest are free. This year’s bird-a-thon started at 5 p.m. Saturday and ended at 5 p.m. Sunday. Groups used as much as of that time as they wanted to count bird species throughout the state. But teams had to arrive at the “finish line” at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield by 5 p.m. Sunday.

2011 Youth Birding Competition Winners

Overall and high school division – Country Cuckoos (133 species)
Middle – Chaotic Kestrels (116)
Elementary – Eagle Maniacs (94 species)
Primary – Little Chickadees (38 species)

1. Birding Brothers, raising $516.
2. Country Cuckoos ($360)
3. Atlanta Wood Thrushes ($200)

The money goes to conservation groups chosen by the teams.

Top Rookie Teams (first-year teams)
High school – G’Nats 1 (90 species)
Primary – Daisy Ducks 1/prime time (37 species)

Birding Journal
High school – Anna Hamilton
Middle – Emmilyn Wade
Elementary – Madeline Studebaker
Primary – Dalton Gibbs

T-shirt Art Contest
1. Primary division (out of 54 entries): Jordan Beam of Newborn, second-grader at Piedmont Academy (barn owl drawing)
2. Elementary school division (89 entries): Hanka Kirby of Cumming, fifth-grader at Chattahoochee Elementary (cardinal drawing)
3. Middle school division (19 entries): Rosemary Kramer of The Rock, eighth-grader at Upson Lee Middle School (red-breasted nuthatch painting). Kramer also was the grand-prize winner.
4. High school division (four entries): Taylor Green of Covington, 12th-grade homeschooler (white-eyed vireo painting)

Art contest division winners received $50 gift cards to Michael's. The grand-prize winner received a $100 gift card to Michael’s and their artwork was used for the 2011 Youth Birding Competition T-shirt.


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Monday, April 25, 2011

Georgia Forestry Commission Urges Prevention in Wake of South Georgia Wildfires

Georgia Forestry Commission crews have successfully contained fires in south Georgia, where tens of thousands of acres have been scorched since early March. Recent rainfall helped firefighters gain the upper hand on the blazes, which had prompted a weekend restriction on outdoor burning throughout the state. Firefighting resources are now being released to their home districts, and the Georgia Forestry Commission is again issuing burn permits when local weather conditions allow.

Burn restrictions were lifted April 1, 2011,  in the GFC Ogeechee District (Wilcox, Pulaski, Bleckley, Laurens, Dodge, Telfair, Wheeler, Treutlen, Montgomery, Emanuel, Toombs, Tattnall, Evans, Candler, Jenkins, Screven, Effingham, Bulloch, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Bryan and Chatham counties), with the exception of Long County, where permits will not be issued until further notice. The GFC Satilla District (Jeff Davis, Appling, Wayne, Glynn, Coffee, Bacon, Pierce, Brantley, Camden, Charlton, Ware, Atkinson, Berrien, Lanier, Clinch, Echols and Lowndes counties) has extended the restriction on permits for outdoor burning at least through Monday, April 4, when conditions will be reevaluated.

Despite the rain's temporary relief, fire authorities say a severe drought is expected to persist this summer, raising the risk of wildfire and posing a threat to property and lives.

"Now is the time to take steps to protect your home from fire," said Troy Floyd, Incident Management Team Commander of the Georgia Forestry Commission. "Getting a burn permit for any outdoor debris burning is an absolute must, but there are actions residents can take around the home to minimize damage from wildfire."

Cleaning flammable materials from a 30-feet barrier around the home is extremely important, according to Floyd.

"Homeowners should break the chain of ignition from the forest to the home," he said. "That includes clearing yard debris and firewood and moving gas tanks. Pine and leaf litter should be removed from roofs, gutters and eaves regularly."

Floyd said water is an obvious tool to have close by, and recommending that hoses with faucets be installed on each side of the home. Other tools comprising an emergency kit include a rake, shovel, bucket, garden hose, axe and a ladder that will reach the roof.

Floyd said summer staples such as barbecue grills and lawnmowers are also possible sources of ignition and should be used carefully, especially in times of drought.

"The number one cause of wildfire is escaped debris burning," said Floyd. "When weather conditions are appropriate, burn permits for hand piled natural vegetation are issued online at" Permits for machine piled or area burns can be obtained by contacting a local office of the Georgia Forestry Commission, he said.

"Our number one concern is for the protection of people and property from wildfires," said Floyd. "We depend on the cooperation of every Georgian to make that happen."

For more information about fire safety and services of the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit


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Conserve water with compost

Recycling paper and bottles is good for the planet. Recycling food waste into compost is good for your garden, saves water and makes your plants happier, according to a University of Georgia expert.

Compost is decomposed organic matter. In heavy clay soils, compost reduces compaction, increases aeration and helps water seep better into the soil. In sandy soils, it helps retain both water and nutrients, said Bob Westerfield, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“Incorporating finished compost into vegetable garden beds or plant beds amends the soil and allows water and air to filter more easily through the soil,” he said. “This can help prevent run-off and adds nutrients to the soil.”

Wait to add compost to gardens until the soil is dry enough to be worked. He suggests tilling finished compost into the soil 6 to 8 inches deep.

Nearly finished compost can be used as mulch. It helps plants retain moisture and prevents weeds.
To make compost, mix brown and green organic materials. Brown compost material includes dry dead plants, leaves, grass clippings, shredded paper and wood chips. Brown compost provides carbon. Green compost material includes fresh-plant products, coffee grounds, tea bags and fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen. It provides nitrogen.

Westerfield says to include more brown items than green. The ratio should be 3 to 1. Materials should be added in layers, alternating brown and green. Don’t add meats, bones, grease or other animal-based food waste. They can smell bad and attract rodents.

A pile of compost can take three weeks to six months to process, depending on the care. Adding fresh material to a pile can cause the process to take longer.

“The composting cycle will work faster if the pile is kept moist and turned frequently,” he said. “The more you agitate the pile, the faster it will compost.”

Along with turning the pile a few times a month, rainwater helps maintain moisture. Water should be added only to keep the pile moist, not wet.

“It is nice to have two or three bins so you can have several stages of compost,” he said.

Remove finished compost from the pile and put in a separate bin for use. “Some people are disappointed because they fill the bin up. And when it becomes compost, they end up with 10 to 20 percent of what they put in,” he said. “As it biodegrades, its volume drastically reduces.”

Fertilizer can be added to the pile. A little 10-10-10 mixed fertilizer and a few scoops of garden soil are suggested. Don’t add lime.

Composting provides organic material to plants and is a valuable type of recycling. “It’s a way to recycle waste and save money by producing a product from trash you would otherwise have to buy,” Westerfield said.

By April Reese Sorrow
University of Georgia

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Georgia Natural Gas® to Give Away Trees in Celebration of Earth Day at Atlantic Station

Atlantic Station Earth Day Celebration (Central Park) April 22, 2011 from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

 /PRNewswire/ -- For the second year in a row, the first 200 visitors to Georgia Natural Gas' (GNG's) venue at Atlantic Station's Earth Day Celebration will receive a free sapling (one per household) to celebrate the event. GNG acquired the young trees from the Georgia Forestry Commission. The saplings are native to Georgia and ideal for planting and cultivation immediately. The trees will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Plus, visitors can enjoy a close-up view of the Honda Civic GX natural gas vehicle, "powered by GNG." The vehicle will be displayed next to the GNG booth.

GNG representatives will be available on Earth Day to discuss weatherization tips with the public and to share It's a Natural -- the company's guide to free or low-cost energy efficiency solutions for the home. The company's representatives also can discuss GNG's internal and external sustainability efforts. The company received the Clean Air Campaign's Pace Award in 2009 and in late March was awarded the Atlanta Business Chronicle's 2011 Environmental Award in the "Ennovation" category.

The Ennovation Award recognizes GNG's landfill gas initiative and its Recycled Natural Gas program now powering the Honda Civic GX.

Georgia Natural Gas serves nearly half a million residential, commercial and industrial customers. GNG is part of SouthStar Energy Services, a Georgia-based joint venture between AGL Resources (NYSE: AGL) and Piedmont Natural Gas Co. (NYSE: PNY). SouthStar also operates in Ohio as Ohio Natural Gas, in Florida as Florida Natural Gas, in New York as New York Natural Gas, in the Carolinas as Piedmont Energy, and in other parts of the Southeast as SouthStar Energy Services. For more information, visit


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Friday, April 08, 2011

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner reminds residents about termite control and prevention this spring

Springtime is in full swing and with it comes many insects we have not seen since last year. This month, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black would like to remind residents of the importance of protecting their homes and businesses against termite infestation.

“Every year, termites invade homes and cause billions of dollars worth of damage while compromising the structural integrity of the residences they infest. The Southeast has a very high termite presence due to our climate and soil conditions,” said Commissioner Black. “It is important for Georgians to prepare a plan of action to help prevent damage from occurring.”

Properties are generally protected by either liquid termiticide barrier treatments or termite monitoring and baiting programs, which help protect a building’s structure. Additionally, disturbance to the foundation soil or flooding can affect the protective measures and a licensed pest management professional can confirm whether a home or business is still protected against termites.

“Now is a great time to have your home or business checked out to determine if it’s necessary to re-establish termite control measures,” said Commissioner Black. “And termite inspection and control is one homeowner project that is best left to the professionals.”

For an average-sized home, a termite inspection from a licensed professional should take about one hour. To ensure Georgia’s consumers receive proper termite treatments, the Georgia Department of Agriculture provides free inspections of treated structures to confirm the treatment meets established standards and is safe and effective. If residents have a termite control contract that is active, or no more than two-years expired, they can set up this free service. State field agents can also inspect structures that have a Georgia Wood Infestation Inspection Report, or termite letter, as long as the letter is no more than 90 days old.

Homeowners can also take simple, preventative actions by keeping damp areas away from the home, because termites prefer damp wood. Wood debris and piles of wood (including firewood) are feeding grounds and should not be left near the home. Most professional liquid termite treatments are effective for five years, and a quick follow-up plan with your service provider will ensure steady protection for the life of your home.

Property owners should review their termite control contract to determine who is responsible for the reestablishment of the termite protection, which should be listed under the ‘terms and conditions’ within the contract.

Consumers are urged to only seek advice and use licensed professional pest control companies. If a company is not licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, it is illegal for them to practice termite control work. Residents can find a list of all licensed professional pest management companies by visiting or by contacting the Structural Pest Control Division at (404) 656-3641.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture is responsible for licensing the professional pest management companies who perform termite control. There are approximately 1,200 of these companies operating in Georgia. Consumers can learn more about the Department’s Structural Pest Control Division by visiting

Friday, April 01, 2011

Carpenter bees work on wooden structures

As enthusiastic, bored children, we would try to hit them with baseball bats. A tennis racket would have been a better choice, but there were no tennis courts on our farm. Nonetheless, carpenter bees were a lot of fun for growing boys.

Adults, though, usually aren't into fun things like that. People who live in cedar-sided or log homes see no humor at all in these obnoxious bees. They just want to get rid of them.

About this time every year people see large, black bees hovering around their heads and homes.
They're probably carpenter bees. We get very little pollination benefit from them, but we do get some headache.

Look similar to a bumblebee

Carpenter bees resemble bumblebees but have a couple of noticeable differences. The upper surface of the carpenter bee's abdomen is bare, shiny and black. Bumblebees have a hairy abdomen with at least some yellow markings.

The other difference is where they nest. Bumblebees usually nest in the ground. Carpenter bees build their nests in tunnels they create in wood. They chew a perfectly round hole about the size of a dime into soft, untreated, unpainted weathered wood.

Male carpenter bees seem to be mean. But it's all an act. They'll hover in front of people who are near, even dive-bombing occasionally. But the males are harmless. They don't even have stingers.

Females hurt, damage most

Female carpenter bees do have stingers, though, and their sting can be quite painful. I had to be stung several times before I learned to leave them alone. The females seldom sting unless they are handled or disturbed.

Even if they don't sting, female carpenter bees aren't harmless. It's the fertilized females that excavate the tunnels and lay eggs in a series of small cells.

They provision each cell with a ball of pollen, on which the larvae feed until emerging as adults in late summer. The adults will overwinter in abandoned nest tunnels to return again the next year.

Prefer bare softwoods

Carpenter bees prefer bare softwoods, especially redwood, cedar, cypress and pine. They don’t typically bother painted or pressure-treated wood.

Common attack zones are eaves, window trim, fascia boards and decks. Sawdust beneath the hole is an easily recognizable sign of attack.

Control can be a combination of things. A fresh coat of oil-based paint is very effective. They don't like paint. Wood stains and preservatives are less reliable, but better than bare wood.

Where the bees have already attacked, spraying insecticide on the wood surface won't work. You have to inject it into each burrow to be effective. An aerosol spray for wasp and bee control will work if you direct it into the hole. Applications of cypermethrin or permethrin may provide short-term control when applied to wood surfaces, but will have to be reapplied after 1 to 2 weeks to maintain control.

Plug the hole

After a couple of days, plug the hole with a piece of wood dowel coated with carpenter's glue, wood putty or your choice of filler. This last step protects against future use of the old tunnel and reduces the chance of wood decay.

It's best to spray at night to kill the adults and the brood. If you spray during the day, the adults may be gone. And they may just start a new colony.

Remember, the females can pop you pretty good, so treating towards sunset or at night helps. Or you could make it a two-person job and arm the other with the tennis racket.

By B. Wade Hutcheson 

(Wade Hutcheson is a county Extension agent with UGA Cooperative Extension serving Spalding County.)

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Cooper Lighting Pays it Forward

Cooper Environmental Excellence Award

Cooper Lighting, Peachtree City, GA, has been awarded its company’s prestigious Environmental Excellence Award in recognition of innovative product design. The local facility has chosen to pay it forward by donating the $7,500 award grant to Southern Conservation Trust for much needed improvements to Line Creek Nature Area.

Cooper’s annual Environmental Excellence Awards are presented to Cooper facilities that best demonstrate significant, lasting and measurable excellence in such areas as process improvement, pollution prevention, and innovative product design and resource conservation. Cooper employees at these facilities drive environmental efforts and have proven that doing the right thing can lower costs, improve performance and create direct financial benefits for both the customer and Cooper. The scope of this award program is broad enough for all major environmental and conservation accomplishments of any Cooper operation to be eligible. Nominations can relate to a specific accomplishment or to a group of projects demonstrating continuous improvement. Cooper honors top performers on an annual basis with grants to local programs promoting environmental stewardship. Top performers have the freedom to select which community programs benefit from the grant.

The Cooper LED Innovation Center in Peachtree City, GA, identified energy saving measures that could be molded into innovative products that help customers reduce their environmental impact. Cooper Lighting designed and developed the new Halo LED H7 collection at the Cooper LED Innovation Center. This new lighting collection offers energy savings to customers by providing the same quantity and quality of light as traditional light sources while operating more efficiently. Cooper Lighting also designed the Halo LED modules to have a longer lifespan, which also minimizes relamping maintenance costs. The Halo LED H7 1200 series exceeds light output of a 90-watt PAR38 halogen lamp, a 120-watt BR40 incandescent lamp and a 32-watt compact fluorescent luminaire, while consuming less than 25 watts. These LED fixtures also provide 70% of their initial light output after 22 years of use. The new Halo LED H7 collection is just one of the innovative lighting solutions Cooper is creating at its new LED Innovation Center.

Southern Conservation Trust is a nonprofit land trust, based in Fayette County, which conserves land to enhance the quality of life in our communities, for today’s and future generations. Working closely with landowners, the Trust works to protect land in Metro Atlanta’s Southern Crescent and the Upper Flint River basin. The Trust’s mission includes preserving land and our “rural” character, protecting habitats and natural resources, and enhancing greenspace for education and passive recreation. Environmental education and fun outdoor events are also provided as part of the Trust’s ongoing efforts to encourage stewardship in our community.

The Trust now owns, manages, or holds conservation easements on more than 1300 acres throughout Fayette, Clayton, Meriwether, and rural South Fulton counties. The Trust currently has three popular public nature areas; Line Creek Nature Area and Flat Creek Nature Area in Peachtree City and Sams Lake Sanctuary in Fayetteville. The Trust’s fourth public preserve, Morgan Grove Nature Area is currently in development and will open to the public in late 2011. All public nature areas owned or managed by the Trust are free and open to the public from dawn to dusk.

“We are excited to have Cooper Lighting as a conservation partner,” says Pam Young, Trust Executive Director. “This grant allows the Trust to make needed improvements to Line Creek Nature Area, including a new driveway, stone edging for the parking lot, additional parking lot safety barriers, and erosion control with decorative landscaping at the entrance to the nature area.” Young adds, “With more than 23,000 annual visitors to Line Creek Nature Area there are always maintenance needs. This grant has provided the financial support for supplies, making it possible to complete these projects with the help of volunteers who contribute their time and effort to make the improvements.”

For more information about land preservation, supporting conservation efforts, or to volunteer visit our website,, call 770-486-7774 or email

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Now Open! New Fishing Pier Completed at Morgan Falls Dam

Anglers that frequent the Morgan Falls Dam portion of the Chattahoochee River should be excited about the completion of a new fishing pier. The pier, built by Georgia Power as a recreational improvement for Morgan Falls Dam, will provide great additional angler access below the dam according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division.

“We are very pleased with the construction results,” says WRD Fisheries Management Region Supervisor Chris Martin. “This pier is in a great location, it provides increased angler access - including handicapped access - as well as giving anglers great places to get to the fish.”

The construction of the new pier began in October 2010 and concluded this past week. During construction, the boat ramp located at this area was unavailable. Since the pier is now complete, the entire area, including the boat ramp is now fully open for the public.

For more information on fishing in Georgia, visit

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Georgia Income Tax Checkoff Helps Conserve Rare Animals, Plants

Georgia’s rare animals and plants need your help.

Conservation of this state’s nongame wildlife – from sea turtles to southeastern American kestrels – as well as native plants and natural habitats is supported largely by the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund. In turn, the fund depends on public contributions.

One main source of contributions is the Give Wildlife a Chance state income tax checkoff. Yet giving through the checkoff has declined sharply since 2005.

The $205,000 donated in fiscal year 2010 marked the least amount since the 1990s.

What’s at stake? The checkoff and the Wildlife Conservation Fund have played a role in Georgia’s wildest success stories, such as the rebound of bald eagles and the acquisition of thousands of acres of prime habitat along the Altamaha River. This past year, fund-supported projects included the first coast-wide census of American oystercatchers and Wilson’s plovers in 10 years, surveys that discovered rare amber and freckled darters in the Coosawattee River, and hands-on conservation that reached nearly 50,000 students at six regional education centers.

By using the Wildlife Conservation Fund to attract and match federal and private grants, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section also gains about $1 for every 25 cents spent from the fund.

Nongame Conservation Assistant Chief Jon Ambrose has called the state income tax checkoff critical in “providing the match we need to get additional funding from other sources.”

More than 1,000 Georgia plant and animal species are species of conservation concern. This spring, make your mark to help them: Fill in any amount more than $1 on line 26 of the state’s long tax form (Form 500) or line 10 of the short form (Form 500EZ).

Visit for more information, or call Nongame Conservation Section offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218). State income tax forms are available online at

The Nongame Conservation Section receives no state appropriations for its mission to conserve nongame wildlife – native animals not legally hunted, fished for or trapped – and native plants and habitats. The sales of bald eagle and hummingbird license plates also benefit the agency and the Wildlife Conservation Fund. Details at

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New software puts forest ecology in public hands

The U.S. Forest Service and its partners released this morning (March 10) the newest version of their free i-Tree software suite, designed to quantify the benefits of trees and assist communities in gaining support and funding for the trees in their parks, schoolyards and neighborhoods.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell unveiled the new software suite in a ceremony at the Fairmount Horticultural Center in Philadelphia.

i-Tree v.4 , made possible by a public-private partnership, provides urban planners, forest managers, environmental advocates and students a free tool to measure the ecological and economic value of the trees in their neighborhoods and cities.

The Forest Service partnered on the project with The Davey Tree Expert Company, the National Arbor Day Foundation, the Society of Municipal Arborists, the International Society of Arboriculture and Casey Trees. The Forest Service and its partners will offer free and easily accessible technical support for the i-Tree suite.

“Urban trees are the hardest working trees in America,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Urban trees’ roots are paved over, and they are assaulted by pollution and exhaust, but they keep working for us.”

Urban trees provide temperature control, clean water, clean air and mitigate climate change by sequestering tons of carbon, said Tidwell.

The i-Tree suite of tools has helped communities of all sizes gain funding for urban forest management and programs by quantifying the value of their trees and the environmental services trees provide.

One recent i-Tree study found that street trees in Minneapolis provided $25 million in benefits ranging from energy savings to increased property values. Urban planners in Chattanooga, Tenn., were able to show that for every dollar invested in their urban forests, the city received $12.18 in benefits. New York City used i-Tree to justify $220 million for planting trees during the next decade.

“Forest Service research and models on the benefits of urban trees are now in the hands of people who can make a difference in our communities,” said Paul Ries, director of Cooperative Forestry for the Forest Service. “The work of Forest Service researchers, the best in the world, is not just sitting on a shelf, but is now being widely applied in communities of all sizes, around the world, to help people understand and leverage the benefits of trees in their communities.”

Since the initial release of the i-Tree tools in August 2006, more than 100 communities, non-profit organizations, consultants and schools have used i-Tree to report on individual trees, parcels, neighborhoods, cities, and even entire states.

"I am proud to be part of a project that is doing so much good for our communities," said Dave Nowak, lead i-Tree researcher for the Forest Service Northern Research Station. " i-Tree will foster a better understanding of the importance of green space in our cities and neighborhoods, which is so important in a world where development and environmental change are stark realities."

The most important improvements in i-Tree v.4:

i-Tree will reach a broader audience in educating people on the value of trees. i-Tree Design is designed to be easily used by homeowners, garden centers, and in school classrooms. People can use i-Tree Design and its link to Google maps to see the impact of the trees in their yard, neighborhood and classrooms, and what benefits they can see by adding new trees. i-Tree Canopy and VUE with their links to Google maps now also make it much easier and less expensive for communities and managers to analyze the extent and values of their tree canopy, analyses that up to this point have been prohibitively expensive for many communities.

i-Tree will also expand its audience to other resource management professionals. i-Tree Hydro provides a more sophisticated tool for professionals involved in stormwater and water quality and quantity management. Hydro is a tool that can be applied immediately to help communities evaluate and address the impacts of their urban forests on stream flow and water quality that could be helpful in meeting state and national (EPA) clean water and stormwater regulations and standards.

With each new release of i-Tree, the tools become easier to use and more relevant to the users. i-Tree developers are continually addressing feedback from users and adjusting and improving the tools so that they are easier to use by a much broader audience. This will only help to increase its use and impact not only in the United States but around the world.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Electronic, Paint Recycling, Paper Shredding Event Mar 26

Get a jump on spring cleaning by being GREEN for secure disposal! Electronics & Paint Recycling, Paper Shredding Event Saturday March 26 at Hapeville Charter Career Academy at 6045 Buffington Road, Union City (9am-3pm). Hosted by Keep South Fulton Beautiful, Electronics: Laptops, Computers, (Hard drives are securely wiped clean of all data.) Printers, Copiers, Scanners, Fax Machines, Power/Network Cables, Batteries (no automotive), Stereos, VCR’s, etc. (A $15 charge for TVs & a $10 charge for Computer Monitors for proper disposal of hazardous materials including lead, cash only.) Paint & Stains: $1/gallon (no aerosols). Paper shredding: $5/box. Help keep hazardous materials from our landfills!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Johns Creek, GA Timeless Art – Fresh Flowers

This spring, celebrate timeless art and fresh flowers with an exhibit showcasing the talents of regional floral artists, whose designs interpret works of art on loan from galleries in metro Atlanta. The inaugural Art in Bloom Festival presented by the Johns Creek Arts Center starts April 29 with a Preview Gala and opens to the public April 30-May 2.

Gala - $75.00.
Exhibit - $12 Adult, $8 Group (10 or more tickets), $5 Students, Children 12 and under free.

Sat., April 30 enjoy a free family day of kids’ activities, crafts, featuring a Home Depot flower box build project. Browse the Art in Bloom Shop of local vendors specializing in fine, homemade arts and crafts. Additional events include special lectures and workshops.

Workshop Info:

Sponsorships still available.

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Southern Living™ Plant Collection Debuts Plant Variety Videos

Editor Note:  With hints of spring in the air, our thoughts are turning back to enjoying the warmer weather and getting ready to plant.  These videos are great!

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Just in time for spring garden planning, Plant Development Services, Inc. and Southern Living® are excited to announce the launch of new videos showcasing plant varieties in the Southern Living™ Plant Collection, according to Kip McConnell, director of Plant Development Services, Inc.

The videos are live now at, and on the Southern Living Plant Collection Facebook page and You Tube Channel.

“This is an extensive video gallery designed to help home gardeners pick the perfect plants for their landscape,” says McConnell. The video shorts depict Collection varieties planted in natural habitats so gardeners can see the plants as they look growing. They feature plant attributes and uses in the garden, as well as growth and bloom habits.

“Considering the richness of content, these videos are a great source of information on these popular plant varieties,” said McConnell. The plant variety videos are also available to retail garden centers to display in store and on their websites.

The eighteen videos making their debut include these plant varieties from the Southern Living Plant Collection:

Little Black Magic™ Dwarf Elephant Ear
Jubilation™ Gardenia
Emerald Snow® Loropetalum
Purple Diamond® Compact Loropetalum
Purple Pixie® Weeping Loropetalum
Spring Sonata™ Indian Hawthorne
Rosalinda® Indian Hawthorne
Mountain Snow™ Pieris
Blush Pink™ Nandina
Flirt™ Nandina
Obsession™ Nandina
Yewtopia™ Plum Yew
3 Cleyeras: Bigfoot™, Bronze Beauty™ and LeAnn™
2 Hollies: Oakland™ and Robin™
Early Bird™ Crapemyrtle
Delta Jazz™ Crapemyrtle
Queen Mum™ Agapanthus
Marc Anthony® Variegated and Cleopatra™ Liriopes

The Southern Living Plant Collection, first introduced in Spring 2008, provides gardeners with innovative new plants designed to solve specific landscape challenges and to excel in Southern gardens. Each plant in the collection is the result of years of plant evaluations, plant trials and research.

Spring 2011 new introductions include a variety of new shrubs, heat tolerant rhododendrons and early-blooming crapemyrtles. The Collection is available at garden centers across the South.

For more information, to request sample plants, and to watch the new videos, please visit

A leader in horticultural innovation, Plant Development Services was founded in 1996 by Greg Smith after he recognized a need for an industry resource that could manage new plant introductions. Of particular interest to PDSI are plants with unique performance attributes that can be patented, branded and successfully introduced to the consumer market. Plant Development Services owns and/or licenses more than 100 patented plant properties, including the number one azalea brand in the world, Encore® Azalea. Growers interested in the program and plant breeders with potential new cultivars should contact Plant Development Services on the web at

Southern Living® is a premier lifestyle and entertaining magazine of the South and the 6th largest consumer magazine in the U.S. (based on readership). It reaches nearly 16 million readers and enjoys a circulation of 2.8 million. Published 12 times a year, Southern Living celebrates the heart of Southern life.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Forestry's Economic Value Recognized as Georgia Celebrates Arbor Day

Governor Nathan Deal has proclaimed Friday, February 18 Georgia Arbor Day, and the Georgia Forestry Commission is using the occasion to highlight the new bottom line created by healthy forests.

A study just released by The University of Georgia shows Georgia's forestlands provide essential ecosystem services to the state worth an estimated $37 billion annually. This is the first time these indirect benefits of Georgia's private forests have been estimated, and they are in addition to the annual value of timber, forest products and recreation.

"Georgia forests are known economic workhorses for our state," said Robert Farris, Georgia Forestry Commission Director. "Our forests contribute $27.2 billion to the state economy and provide more than 118,000 jobs. For the first time, this landmark study puts a number to the clean air, clean water, soil filtration and wildlife habitat services Georgia forests have been providing for centuries. This information is critical to the sustainability of our remarkable forest resource."

The first Arbor Day was celebrated in 1871 in Nebraska as a special day for planting trees and has grown to thousands of celebrations in communities across our nation each year. In celebration of Georgia Arbor Day, tree plantings and special events are being held across the state. "Edu-tainer" Tim Womick, a modern day Johnny Appleseed, is bringing his Trail of Trees performance to several locations, sharing information about tree benefits in a fun and engaging style. In Savannah, a special tree planting will take place at historic Forsyth Park at 9 a.m. in memory of urban forestry founder, Mary Helen Ray, who died in October. For information about the many benefits of trees and services of the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit For complete details about the recently released UGA study on forestry ecosystem services, visit

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Downtown Canton Farmers Market Seeks Farmers and Artisans

The Downtown Canton Farmers Market promotes local farmers and local artisans. All produce is Georgia grown and most is organic. All of our artists hand make their items. We started the market in 2009 and it has been a huge success. The market is located in Cannon Park by the gazebo and the hours of operation are 8:00am – 12:00pm.We will have the market every Saturday through October, rain or shine.

The Grand Opening Day, May 14th will feature live music to kick off the event. This year we will have cooking demonstrations and more kid’s activities. We urge you all to come check out the freshest and most beautiful produce. Some of our vendors may give out samples. We promote buy local, shop local. We support our downtown community and downtown merchants. We also promote lots of fun! Hope to see you there.

We are currently seeking vendors for our 2011 season. Please contact me for application and information.
151 Elizabeth Street | Canton, GA 30114 + Ginger Garrard | 770-704-1548 |

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Students Create Walking Trail That Teaches Visitors About Importance of Creek

Soon residents will be able to learn about the area’s native plants while enjoying nature along the newly created Creekside Native Woodland Plant Walking Trail behind Cleveland Elementary School in Fayette County.

The school’s enrichment students from Laura Brown’s class are creating the trail that is also an entry in the Disney Planet Challenge, an environmental competition for elementary and middle school students throughout the United States. The program inspires students to be good stewards of the environment and empowers them to make a difference in their school, at home, and in their local communities, all while teaching the about science, conservation, and positive ways to impact the planet.

Students have done a ton of research on the creek that runs behind the school, learning that it impacts the quality of downstream waters, and ultimately the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers. They have also learned about what plants are important to preventing erosion along the creek’s banks, and which ones need to go.

The class has been working diligently creating the trail, installing missing native plants and labeling some of the trees and vegetation. Visitors will enjoy the outdoor activity cards with suggestions of things to do along the trail as well as facts about the creek and the native plants growing along it.

Brown hopes she and her students will have the trail completed by mid February since that is the deadline for submitting the project for the Disney competition. Thousands of dollars in cash and prizes are being awarded to winning schools.

“I am very proud of my students because we only meet once a week and entered the competition late. We hope to win money for our school, but if not, I am still proud of them,” says Brown.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

City of Newnan Celebrates Arbor Day

In celebration of Arbor Day a tree planting ceremony will be held at the Male Academy Museum on western end of Temple Park at 11:00 a.m. on Friday morning, February 18, 2011. The City of Newnan will also be receiving its Tree City USA designation award, for the 21st consecutive year, issued by the National Arbor Day Foundation. A representative from the Georgia Forestry Commission will present the award. This year a white dogwood will be planted at the site.

To qualify as a Tree City USA community, a town or city must meet four standards established by The Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. These standards were established to ensure that every qualifying community would have a viable tree management plan and program. It is important to note that they were also designed so that no community would be excluded because of size..

1. A Tree Board or Department
2. A Tree Care Ordinance
3. A Community Forestry Program With an Annual Budget of at Least $2 Per Capita
4. An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation

In addition to the Arbor Day ceremony every year, the City's Beautification Department, the Newnan Tree Commission, and Mayor Keith Brady will soon visit each of the City's six local elementary schools to meet with each of the schools' kindergarten classes to emphasize the value of trees. This is the 10th year the program has been in existence. This year due to the generally colder weather in February the plantings will be scheduled for the elementary schools in late March, instead of on Arbor Day.

"Arbor Day and the Kindergarten Tree Planting Program hopefully bring the beauty and significance of trees to the public's attention. General public education and learning at such a young age about trees is beneficial to us all., The tree planting ceremonies held in various City parks and at the local elementary schools are events that we look forward to each year. The kids are quite enthusiastic, and it's a lot of fun," said Mike Furbush, the City's Landscape Architect and Arborist.

Arbor Day is celebrated in Georgia on the third Friday of February.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Pruning class set at UGA garden in Griffin

EVENT DATE: Feb. 25, 2011 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM

Learn to prune fruit trees and ornamentals at an upcoming course offered on the University of Georgia campus in Griffin, Ga. The course will be offered Feb. 25 and March 4.

In addition to proper pruning techniques, participants will learn what equipment to use, when to prune certain plants and techniques for creating a professional looking landscape. Participants will also learn pest prevention through pruning.

Taught by Bob Westerfield, a consumer horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the class will consist of both indoor lectures and outside hands-on demonstrations.

The one-day class will be held from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. either day at the UGA Research and Education Garden on Ellis Road in Griffin, Ga. The cost of the course is $39 and includes lunch and break refreshments. Pre-registration is required by calling (770) 233-5598.

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Global Soap Project Creator to Speak at Next Clayton State Lead the Way Series

Clayton State University’s Department of Campus Life will sponsor its monthly LEAD the WAY Leadership Speaker Seminar on Tuesday, Feb. 1, at 6 p.m. in the Student Activities Center Ballroom C, located on the Clayton State University Campus.

Derreck Kayongo, chairman, social entrepreneur, and creator of the Global Soap Project ( will be the speaker. The Global Soap Project recovers and recycles soap from American hotels and facilitates a process by which it is sanitized, melted and remolded into new bars, then distributed to refugee camps in Africa.

LEAD the Way is a series of leadership seminars in which students have the opportunity to interact with leaders in the community to explore the leadership and skill sets needed to be an effective leader. All Clayton State students, staff and faculty are invited to come out and hear about how Kayongo uses his leadership skills to inspire change. This event is free and open to the public.

For further information, contact the Department of Campus Life at or LaShanda Hardin at (678) 466-5433. A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Coastal Habitats Mapped; Seven New Natural Communities Described

After three years, dozens of trips to the field, hundreds of hours in front of the computer and at least 20 collaborative meetings, a simple idea that grew into a full-blown multi-agency project is approaching the finish line. 

A comprehensive habitat mapping and assessment project coordinated by the Nongame Conservation Section of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division will be completed this month, providing up-to-date information on the location and condition of natural communities in Georgia’s 11 coastal counties.

The vegetation mapping project is part of the larger Coastal Georgia Land Conservation Initiative. The collaborative effort between the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Conservancy and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia is aimed at preserving critical coastal lands and promoting sustainable growth and development in the state’s coastal region. The coastal assessment was outlined as a priority conservation action in the State Wildlife Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy that guides Wildlife Resources and DNR efforts to conserve biological diversity.

To complete this massive mapping project within three years, the coastal counties were divided into two tiers. Georgia DNR botanists Eamonn Leonard and Jacob Thompson took the lead on the first six -- Camden, Glynn, McIntosh, Liberty, Bryan and Chatham. Here, Leonard and Thompson mapped natural communities at the association level, the most detailed level in an international vegetation classification system developed by NatureServe, a nonprofit conservation organization.

 The other five counties, Effingham, Long, Wayne, Brantley and Charlton, were mapped at the ecological system level by Matt Elliott, a Nongame program manager, and Dylan Severens, a DNR GIS intern. While the ecological systems level is coarser in resolution, associations are nested within ecological systems in the NatureServe classification scheme, providing a common basis for conservation planning and regional assessments. 

Jon Ambrose, assistant chief of the Nongame Conservation Section, said the products of the mapping project “represent an unprecedented data set that will be used in conservation planning for years to come.”

DNR and its conservation partners will use the information to identify high-priority conservation lands in the coastal region through the Coastal Georgia Land Conservation Initiative.

Leonard said the work also illustrates to county planners, other biologists and the public “the richness of natural communities and resources that make up the Georgia coast.”

The ecological communities of the coast represent a diverse set of natural resources that provide habitats for many rare plant and animal species, while also supporting basic ecological functions on which people rely. For example, the barrier islands and associated intertidal salt marshes help reduce the impact of storm surges on adjacent habitats, homes and developments.

The coastal assessment and mapping project has resulted in several notable discoveries. Seven previously undescribed plant associations have been documented and added to the international database of plant communities. 

Thompson said botanists had to create names and descriptions for those natural communities. “For me, that was one of the more rewarding parts of the job," he said.

Efforts to define and protect globally rare natural communities will continue as a focus of the project in years to come.


Georgians can help conserve nongame wildlife, native plants and natural habitats through buying a wildlife license plate featuring a bald eagle or a ruby-throated hummingbird. They can also donate to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund through the state income tax checkoff and other ways. Contributions are vital to the Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state general funds for its mission to help conserve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats in Georgia.

The license plates are available for a $35 fee at county tag offices, by checking the wildlife license plate box on mail-in registrations and through online renewals ( Specialty plates include an annual renewal fee. 

For the Give Wildlife a Chance checkoff, fill in any amount more than $1 on line 26 of the state’s long tax form (Form 500) or line 10 of the short form (Form 500-EZ). Contributions can be deducted from refunds or added to payments.

 Georgians can also donate online at Click “Donate the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund” and follow directions. The process is secure. Donations are tax-deductible.

For more information, go to, or call Nongame Conservation Section offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218). State income tax forms are available online at

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wildflower Colors Tell Butterflies How To Do Their Jobs

The recipe for making one species into two requires time and some kind of separation, like being on different islands or something else that discourages gene flow between the two budding species.

In the case of common Texas wildflowers that share meadows and roadside ditches, color-coding apparently does the trick.

Duke University graduate student Robin Hopkins has found the first evidence of a specific genetic change that helps two closely related wildflowers avoid creating costly hybrids. It results in one of the normally light blue flowers being tagged with a reddish color to appear less appetizing to the pollinating butterflies which prefer blue.

"There are big questions about evolution that are addressed by flower color," said Hopkins, who successfully defended her doctoral dissertation just weeks before seeing the same work appear in the prestigious journal Nature.

What Hopkins found, with her thesis adviser, Duke biology professor Mark Rausher, is the first clear genetic evidence for something called reinforcement in plants. Reinforcement keeps two similar proto-species moving apart by discouraging hybrid matings. Flower color had been expected to aid reinforcement, but the genes had not been found.

In animals or insects, reinforcement might be accomplished by a small difference in scent, plumage or mating rituals. But plants don't dance or choose their mates. So they apparently exert some choice by using color to discourage the butterflies from mingling their pollen, Hopkins said.

Where Phlox drummondii lives by itself, it has a periwinkle blue blossom. But where its range overlaps with Phlox cuspidata, which is also light blue, drummondii flowers appear darker and more red. Some individual butterflies prefer light blue blossoms and will go from blue to blue, avoiding the dark reds. Other individual butterflies prefer the reds and will stick with those. This "constancy" prevents hybrid crosses.

Hybrid offspring between drummondii and cuspidata turn out to be nearly sterile, making the next generation a genetic dead-end. The persistent force of natural selection tends to push the plants toward avoiding those less fruitful crosses, and encourages breeding true to type. In this case, selection apparently worked upon floral color.

Hopkins was able to find the genes involved in the color change by crossing a light blue drummondii with the red in greenhouse experiments. She found the offspring occurred in four different colors in the exact 9-to-3-to-3-to-1 ratios of classical Mendelian inheritance. "It was 2 in the morning when I figured this out," she said. "I almost woke up my adviser."

From there, she did standard genetics to find the exact genes. The change to red is caused by a recessive gene that knocks out the production of the plant's one blue pigment while allowing for the continued production of two red pigments.

Even where the red flowers are present, about 11 percent of each generation will be the nearly-sterile hybrids. But without color-coding, that figure would be more like 28 percent, Hopkins said. Why and how the butterflies make the distinction has yet to be discovered.

Hopkins will be continuing her research as a visiting scientist at the University of Texas, and the clear message from all of her advisers is "follow the butterflies. Everyone wants to know more about the butterflies!"

The research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.

By Karl Leif Bates

"Identification of two genes causing reinforcement in the Texas wildflower Phlox drummondii," Robin Hopkins and Mark D. Rausher. Nature, Advance Online Publication, Jan. 9, 2011 DOI:10.1038/nature09641

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Monday, January 10, 2011

NASA's Fermi Catches Thunderstorms Hurling Antimatter Into Space

/PRNewswire/ -- Scientists using NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have detected beams of antimatter produced above thunderstorms on Earth, a phenomenon never seen before.

Scientists think the antimatter particles were formed in a terrestrial gamma-ray flash (TGF), a brief burst produced inside thunderstorms and shown to be associated with lightning. It is estimated that about 500 TGFs occur daily worldwide, but most go undetected.

"These signals are the first direct evidence that thunderstorms make antimatter particle beams," said Michael Briggs, a member of Fermi's Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) team at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). He presented the findings Monday, during a news briefing at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

Fermi is designed to monitor gamma rays, the highest energy form of light. When antimatter striking Fermi collides with a particle of normal matter, both particles immediately are annihilated and transformed into gamma rays. The GBM has detected gamma rays with energies of 511,000 electron volts, a signal indicating an electron has met its antimatter counterpart, a positron.

Although Fermi's GBM is designed to observe high-energy events in the universe, it's also providing valuable insights into this strange phenomenon. The GBM constantly monitors the entire celestial sky above and the Earth below. The GBM team has identified 130 TGFs since Fermi's launch in 2008.

"In orbit for less than three years, the Fermi mission has proven to be an amazing tool to probe the universe. Now we learn that it can discover mysteries much, much closer to home," said Ilana Harrus, Fermi program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The spacecraft was located immediately above a thunderstorm for most of the observed TGFs, but in four cases, storms were far from Fermi. In addition, lightning-generated radio signals detected by a global monitoring network indicated the only lightning at the time was hundreds or more miles away. During one TGF, which occurred on Dec. 14, 2009, Fermi was located over Egypt. But the active storm was in Zambia, some 2,800 miles to the south. The distant storm was below Fermi's horizon, so any gamma rays it produced could not have been detected.

"Even though Fermi couldn't see the storm, the spacecraft nevertheless was magnetically connected to it," said Joseph Dwyer at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla. "The TGF produced high-speed electrons and positrons, which then rode up Earth's magnetic field to strike the spacecraft."

The beam continued past Fermi, reached a location, known as a mirror point, where its motion was reversed, and then hit the spacecraft a second time just 23 milliseconds later. Each time, positrons in the beam collided with electrons in the spacecraft. The particles annihilated each other, emitting gamma rays detected by Fermi's GBM.

Scientists long have suspected TGFs arise from the strong electric fields near the tops of thunderstorms. Under the right conditions, they say, the field becomes strong enough that it drives an upward avalanche of electrons. Reaching speeds nearly as fast as light, the high-energy electrons give off gamma rays when they're deflected by air molecules. Normally, these gamma rays are detected as a TGF.

But the cascading electrons produce so many gamma rays that they blast electrons and positrons clear out of the atmosphere. This happens when the gamma-ray energy transforms into a pair of particles: an electron and a positron. It's these particles that reach Fermi's orbit.

The detection of positrons shows many high-energy particles are being ejected from the atmosphere. In fact, scientists now think that all TGFs emit electron/positron beams. A paper on the findings has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters.

"The Fermi results put us a step closer to understanding how TGFs work," said Steven Cummer at Duke University. "We still have to figure out what is special about these storms and the precise role lightning plays in the process."

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership. It is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. It was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States.

The GBM Instrument Operations Center is located at the National Space Science Technology Center in Huntsville, Ala. The team includes a collaboration of scientists from UAH, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany and other institutions.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Georgia Power Announces Environmental Stewardship Grants

/PRNewswire/ -- Georgia Power has announced two new and two continuing grants to conservation and natural resource agencies through the Power of Flight partnership program to protect birds in Georgia through habitat and species restoration and environmental education.

The grants are part of Southern Company's partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Two new grants were awarded under Power of Flight:

* National Wild Turkey Federation – to establish and maintain Golden-winged Warbler habitat in the Chattahoochee Wildlife Management Area and the Chattahoochee National Forest in north Georgia's Rabun County through commercial timber thinning, timber stand improvement, herbicide stump treatment, non-native invasive species eradication, native warm-season grass establishment, road and ditch improvements and prescribed burning.
* Avian Research and Conservation Institute – to produce a rangewide strategic plan for recovery of the remnant, steadily-declining population of Southeastern American Kestrel. This project will prioritize specific sites; improve management of habitat and nesting opportunities; perform and evaluate translocations; and select reintroduction sites to establish captive-reared falcons. This project includes activities across the Southeast, including Georgia.

Continuing support was provided to two grants under the Power of Flight program:

* Operation Migration USA – to increase by approximately one-third the number of whooping cranes led south each year using an ultralight aircraft. Through this award increase, Operation Migration will assemble six staff members to condition, train and care for whooping cranes over the summer; imprint and condition up to 12 whooping cranes for southward migration in the fall; and conduct actual southward migration from Wisconsin to Florida. The migration route includes southwest Georgia.
* Milliken Forestry Company – to accelerate translocation efforts for the red-cockaded woodpecker over a five-year period. Funds are supporting a biologist on the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida who monitors potential donor families, with the goal of increasing from 20 to 40 the number of woodpeckers available for translocation each year. This is a continuation of a grant formerly made to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over several years. The project includes activities across the Southeast, including Georgia.

Power of Flight and Longleaf Legacy, two major Southern Company and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation partnership programs, have provided more than $11.3 million through 96 grants since 2002. In addition, grant recipients have contributed more than $45.8 million in matching funds, resulting in an on-the-ground conservation impact of about $57.2 million since the program's inception. These two programs will help more than 279,367 acres of longleaf pine and other critical habitat on public and private lands to be restored, enhancing bird populations across the Southeast.

"Our partnership with Georgia Power is generating tangible, on-the-ground results through the restoration of longleaf pine forests in Georgia," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. "In addition to protecting land and water systems, these projects also provide critical habitat for native bird populations. The benefits to both our natural resources and our wildlife are far-reaching."

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, established by Congress in 1984, is an international leader in developing public and private funding to protect wildlife and natural resources. In 26 years, NFWF has funded 3,700 organizations and leveraged $490 million in federal funds into $1.6 billion for conservation. The achievement of clear, measurable results is central to NFWF's work, bringing together diverse stakeholders — from industry to Congress to local leaders — to accomplish positive outcomes. To learn more, visit

Georgia Power is the largest subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), one of the nation's largest generators of electricity. The company is an investor-owned, tax-paying utility with rates well below the national average. Georgia Power serves 2.3 million customers in all but four of Georgia's 159 counties.

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Monday, January 03, 2011

4th Annual Fayette County Earth Day Festival

The 2010 Fayette County Earth Day Committee is currently seeking vendors for the 4th annual Fayette County Earth Day festival. This event will be held on Saturday, April 16, 2011 at the Stonewall Avenue Complex from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Educators, mentors and leaders in the community are wanted to provide Educational Exhibits to help our community learn about sustainability, ecology, and green practices.

We are also looking for eco-friendly businesses to provide Vendor Booths in our Green Market, with products and services such as organic produce, Fair Trade gifts, eco-fashions, and items made from renewable resources. Food vendors are also needed to keep our attendees happy and well fed!

Join us and share your products, services and knowledge with hundreds, gain visibility for your company or organization, and connect with other successful businesses and organizations by participating in this county wide sustainability event.

The 2010 Fayette County Earth Day Festival, FREE to all attendees is hosted by Fayette County and coordinated by the Fayette County Earth Day Committee.


Green Market & Food Vendors: $30 for 12 x 12 booth space if registered before March 1; $45 thereafter

Educational Exhibitors: Free for non-profits, government agencies and educational institutions only.

Electricity: $10 extra if required.

To become a Green Market Vendor, Educational Exhibitor, Sponsor, or Volunteer for the festival, please go to to obtain additional information for the 2011 Earth Day Festival.