Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm meeeelting!

Since climate change was on the minds of many around the world this week, on the December 16th show we heard a Nature Stories podcast about the effects of warming on the arctic. One of the most dramatic effects can be seen in the satellite images above. These photos show the reduction of sea ice during winter months from the years 1979 to 2007. Continuous sea ice is important habitat for many of the mammals living in the arctic, such as polar bears, seals, and foxes. We also briefly talked about some of the major goals of the UN Conference on Climate Change that took place Dec 7-18th in Copenhagen.

In the news...

For the sound quiz, we heard vocalizations of critters of the arctic such as the arctic fox, harp seal, and caribou.

As for music, we heard from the artists: Robyn, Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead, Damien Jurado, Weezer, The Pixies, and The Who.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Farm animal conservation? Why I never...

In the December 9th show, we covered a random smattering of things, including the conservation of our farming heritage. We listened to a podcast from the Nature Conservancy series Nature Stories entitled "Philosophy of Pig". In this story, we heard from a woman who was laid off from her environmental policy job. Instead of finding a similar job, she decided to raise an endangered breed of swine called the Large Black Pig. She has found happiness in the more hands-on career switch and feels she is still working in the conservation field.

We also learned about the  Christmas Bird Count, organized by the Audubon Society each December. This event offers a chance for citizens to help with a bird survey effort that has been going on for over 100 years. Each year, recreational and professional ornithologists gather all over the Americas to count bird communities, compile the data, and share the information. To get involved, contact your local Audubon Society to find trip leaders. If you live in Northwest Arkansas, visit our regional Audubon's homepage.

Here are some news stories from the week:
No sound quiz this week, but we did learn how to identify different wood warblers by their song. We also heard from musical artists such as: Elbow, Talking Heads, The Books, The Soft Machine, Feist, The Violent Femmes, Miles Davis, Reeltime Travelers, and Andrew Bird.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nature and the Apocalypse

On the December 2nd show, I discussed several authors' takes on what life would be like for humans and nature after the apocalypse. First we talked about the new film "The Road" based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. In this story, a father and son make a journey through a post-apocalyptic world in which the sun is obscured by ash and plants and most animals have perished. Humans are pushed to their limits and have turned to cannibalism. It is a story of what humans will do to survive, both physically and emotionally.

We also heard some passages from the Kurt Vonnegut book "Galapagos". In this tale, the human population experiences a severe bottleneck event in which only a handful of fertile humans are left to continue the species after a disease renders most humans infertile. This motley crew of humans is shipwrecked on an island in the Galapagos archipelago. The story is told millions of years later from the viewpoint of ghost that inhabited the ship on which they traveled. At this point, humans have evolved to be coastal creatures that use their flippers and teeth to procure food from the ocean. As with most Vonnegut books, readers will laugh at the silliness of the characters, yet be uncomfortable with how much they can identify with their problems. For another laugh, we also heard from the comedian George Carlin who had some strong opinions on human arrogance exhibited when we try to "save the planet".

Finally, we heard an interview from the NY Times with author Alan Weisman who wrote "The World Without Us". In this book, Weisman explores how nature would take back the earth if the human population suddenly disappeared one day.

As for the news...
Music for this episode included: DJ Shadow, Doc Watson, Cat Stevens, M. Ward, Radiohead, Grandaddy, Islands, Mirah, and more.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Test Hiatus No More

    NYSK has been on hiatus for 3 weeks because I have been taking comprehensive exams for my doctoral program. The written portion is now over and I have just the oral exam left. As you can see by the posts below, I have been playing catch-up today and hopefully will be back regularly, even through the holidays.

    Close the loop!

    Humans are trashy... it's a natural fact. In the November 4th show, we learned about some human events that should probably have their own landfill! What are humans doing to deal with all the trash we generate? We could just throw it all away, or we could take three easy steps: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse... and close the loop! You can reduce and reuse by making smart decisions when it comes to purchasing. For example, avoid products with excessive packaging (reduce) and use cloth shopping bags (reuse).

    Unfortunately for recycling, the success of this effort is partially determined by the facilities and services available to citizens. The city of Fayetteville, AR (home to KXUA) has had great success with its curbside recycling program, and we talked about some of the guidelines for what exactly can be placed in the green bins. The University of Arkansas campus has an active recycling program that is now sometimes extended to cover big events, such as football games (see Recycling with the Razorbacks).

    As for the news, we heard about:
    No sound quiz this week, but we heard from the likes of Modest Mouse, Sonic Youth, The Cramps, G. Love, Grandaddy, The Faint, Bloc Party, Trinity Roots, and more.

    In nature, there are scarier things than ghosts!

    In the October 28th show, we learned about bark and wood boring insects such as the European Elm Bark Beetle (Scolytus multistriatus), which is nonnative to the United States. This beetle is a vector for Dutch Elm Disease (DED), caused by a fungus which is transported via the water carrying vessels (i.e. xylem) of elm trees. In response, the tree plugs up its own xylem, thus stopping the movement of the fungus, but unfortunately also blocking movement of water and nutrients. An infected tree eventually loses its leaves prematurely and experiences branch dieback. Elms are commonly planted in urban areas because of their beautiful shape, so the effects of DED are quite visible. Treatment only prolongs the life of the tree at best, so research is currently underway to develop DED-resistant elms.

    There are many stories of invasive insects in the U.S. that are changing our forests. For more information on such insects, visit the Forest Pests website. One thing you can do to help prevent the spread of damaging insects, particularly those that bore into wood, is to only burn firewood in areas where it originated, i.e. don't move firewood.

    We also learned about the history of pumpkin carving and heard about some recent tidbits from nature:
    For the sound quiz, we heard from some traditionally scary beasts such as vampire bats, screech owls, ravens, wolves, and mountain lions. Music featured included David Bowie, Aphex Twin, Mogwai, Blur, Starlight Mints, Devendra Banhart, Liz Phair, Yo La Tengo, and more!

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Our pals, the pigments

    On the October 21st show, we learned about why leaves change color during the fall in a temperate deciduous forest. Leaves are important sites of photosynthesis during the spring and summer months. The light-absorbing pigment, chlorophyll, gives leaves their green color. Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter in part because there is less water available for photosynthesis during the winter because of freezing temperatures. As the leaves senesce, the green pigment cholorphyll is broken down for its nitrogen, thus revealing accessory pigments such as carotenoids (oranges and yellows). Red is also often revealed, although these pigments (i.e. anthocyanins) are thought by some to be produced during the chlorophyll breakdown in order to protect tissues against the harmful rays of the sun - just like sunscreen!  It has also been proposed that red colors may help make plants less susceptible to attack by insects.

    As for the news...

    For the animal sound quiz, we heard from some bird species that spend their winters in the southeast United States, including the Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet (pictured right), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Dark-eyed Junco, and White-throated Sparrow.

    Music featured included The Twilight Sad, Azure Ray, Vivaldi, Olivia Tremor Control, Can, Radiohead, Joan Baez, Talking Heads and more.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Whales do the darndest things!

    Check out what these Beluga Whales can do!!! Make sure you watch long enough to see the bubble rings. Want to know more about how and why cetaceans blow rings? Read this article from Scientific American!

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Animal Bands

    On the September 30th show, I featured bands that love the Kingdom Animalia so much that they decided to make animals their namesake. We heard from the likes of Deerhunter, Grizzly Bear, Cat Stevens, Fruit Bats, Cat Power, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Bonobo, Deerhoof, The Mountain Goats, and The Toadies. Some of you may be thinking... hmmm... I wonder why that list is so disproportionately Class Mammalia! Well, so did I. Perhaps in future shows I will do a catalog search to come up with some bands whose names reflect Class Insecta or Aves... or maybe Subphylum Chelicerata? You can be assured that I will be doing more shows in which I focus on the music because I had a blast playing these tunes. Hope you enjoy them!

    As for the news, we learned that:
    It was an unconventional show, but a lot of fun. Check out the animal bands!

    UPDATE: The following week, I did another animal bands show because I had so much fun with this one. Click here for the October 7th podcast.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Turn down that racket!

    Inspiration for the September 23rd show came from the noise of the motorcycles that roared into Fayetteville for Bikes, Blues, and Barbecue - an annual motorcycle rally in Northwest Arkansas.  I featured stories about noise pollution and its effects on wildlife... particularly that associated with roads.  But it's not just automobile traffic that messes with wildlife... sonar used by seafaring vessels has been shown to wreak havoc on the navigation and health of marine mammals such as dolphins and whales.

    Some interesting things were in the news...

    Artists featured included: Mariee Sioux, Cake, The Pixies, Sufjan Stevens, Beck, Mylo, Islands, Ted Leo, Brian Eno, Grand National, The Mountain Goats, and America.

    Monday, September 21, 2009

    Most frequently quoted b.s. animal facts

    Truth or fiction? Unfortunately this question does not oft enter the mind of a person when blurting out some of the most frequently quoted bullsh*t animal facts. On the September 9th show, we ran through a list of these erroneous ideas as seen on They included the mass suicide of lemmings, bees that fly in the face of the laws aerodynamics, the old ostrich with its head in the sand bit, and more.

    As for the news in nature, we covered:No sound quiz this week :( Artists featured included: Rilo Kiley, The Faint, David Bowie, Eddie Vedder, Wire, Echo and the Bunnymen, Ryan Adams, Tripping Daisy, Deerhoof, Blackalicious, Calexico, and Billie Holiday.

    Monday, September 14, 2009


    Blaze like the fires in California. Blaze like a... fire.. fire.. fire. Just like The Cure is sweeping through my brain right now, so the wildfires swept through California at the end of the summer. In the September 2nd show, we talked all about wildfire and its effects on wildlife. The chaparral ecosystem of California is particularly susceptible to out of control fires because of the hot dry conditions of late summer. So often the media focuses on the property damage caused by these wildfires. What about the turtle that cannot outrun it? Or the bird whose nest goes up in flames? Sometimes even larger animals such as deer cannot out run it, as seen in shocking photos from this video. We learned about other critters affected by fire such as salamanders and shrews from a USGS podcast.

    As for the news in nature, we heard about:No sound quiz again :( Darn wireless internet at the station is being finicky!

    Music featured included: The Cure (of course), The Decemberists, Voice of the Seven Woods, John Fahey, M. Ward, Starlight Mints, Arcade Fire, Franz Ferdinand, and Billy Bragg and Wilco.

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Gone grabblin'!

    Forget your pole... if you want to catch the biggest, meanest catfish out there... you gotta use your hand. In the August 26th show, we heard a Nature Stories podcast out of Mississippi in which Doc Harrington describes how best to grabble.

    We also listened to a recorded version of The Auklet from 1977, a lampoon publication put out by the American Ornithologists Union at their annual meeting (bird dorkdom at its finest). It included such gems as "Women's Lib. and the search for Graduate Students" and "Patience in Mistnetting by George Junkie".

    In the news, They Might Be Giants have come out with a new album all about science. We heard an interview they did for Nature Podcasts. Check out their website for more news.

    For the news in nature, we learned about:
    Alas, we ran out of time for the sound quiz... but we did hear from such artists as: Primus, The Books, Aphex Twin, Brian Eno, Blockhead, TV on the Radio, Al Green, Nat King Cole, Josh Rouse, Ratatat, The Beatles, and the Pixies. Lots of music this week!

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Pygmy Marmosets Grooming at the Philly Zoo

    Here's a video of pygmy marmosets grooming one another at the Philadelphia Zoo. These are the smallest of the monkeys - weighing in at around 4.5 oz. They live in the rainforests of South America. An interesting things about these guys is that they are gummivores, meaning that they gouge the bark of trees with their elongated lower incisors to release sap or gum, which they then lap up. I was SO excited to see them close up because you could actually see their miniature underbites. For more on these little cuties, click here.

    I just had to include the picture below to show how tiny their offspring are. These marmosets reproduce by twinning, meaning they have two offspring at a time. The young cling to their family members as the troop moves through the canopy in search of food.

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    A little taste of man vs. nature

    I wrote a little ditty for the August 19th show, and it goes something like this:

    Oh Great Pacific Garbage Patch
    Your trash a turtle mouth does catch
    And airplanes do get in the way
    Of migrating birds on their flyway
    Why does man have to make
    Our presence appear such a mistake?

    So you might guess that we covered some ways in which man and nature collide, including the article that definitively linked the US Airways Flight 1549 crash to an air collision with Canada Geese. We also learned about some current research regarding the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a clump of trash the size of Texas swirling in the Pacific Gyre.

    As for the news in nature, we learned about:
    We spent some time listening to an awesome record of nocturnal bird vocalizations that I scored at the annual conference for the American Ornithologists' Union in Philadelphia. To carry on the theme, the sound quiz was all about owls like the Great-horned Owl and the Northern Saw-whet Owl... my favorite! You should google images for this owl for some seriousness cuteness.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    And your mouse can sing

    La-te-da! For the July 29th show, we heard from animals that you might not typically think of as being big noise makers. For example, did you know that mice can sing? Oh yes... of course you did. Ever wonder why? If you've learned anything from listening to this show, you probably guessed it's sex. Well... you're right!

    Another oddball in the noisy animal world is the midshipman, a fish that vibrates its swimbladder to attracts mates. Hear what one sounds like at or watch video here.

    We also talked about how to get rid of pesky animals in a friendly way by visiting a webpage for how to get rid of things. I recommended visiting the site Bird-X for gear and tips for getting rid of nuisance birds specifically.

    As for the news in nature, we learned how:

    For our animal sound quiz, we heard from midshipman, singing mice, a pika, a bonefish, and a back-swimming congo catfish.

    Music featured included The Wrens, Bert Jansch, PJ Harvey, Pavement, Paul McGrattan, Joanna Newsom, The United States of America, Modest Mouse, Catfish Haven, and Animal Collective.

    Wednesday, August 5, 2009

    Ornithology I

    Deviating a bit from the usual show, on July 22nd I featured music provided by my future father-in-law, David Peeples. He called the mix 'Ornithology I' because each of the songs has something to do with birds.

    Artists included: Jerry Douglas, The Everly Brothers, Tom Leher, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Leon Russell, and more! Check out the links for samples of the music, or check out the entire show for one big serving of bird.


    For the July 8th show, I had a James Van Dyke, a graduate student in the Biological Sciences Department, join me in the studio for a chat about issues concerning invasive reptiles in the United States. We also touched on how pesticides used by your local "bug-man" could harm non-target animals such as lizards.

    As for the news in nature, I featured the following articles:
    As for the sound quiz, we heard from the likes of alligators, rattlesnakes, frogs, and toads.

    Music featured included Matt Pond PA, Jose Gonzalez, Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, and Mirah.

    Friday, July 10, 2009

    Mayfly + Herbie = Bacon

    That equation makes no sense you might say... but if you give a listen to the July 1st show, it will all become clear. I had a special guest in Pablo Andres Bacon, a graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Arkansas. He studies mayflies and their habitat here in Arkansas. He spoke to us about his project as well as his love for Herbie Hancock. We got to hear a lot from Herbie, including how he believes women are as delicate as butterflies.

    As for the news in nature we learned about evolution heating up in the tropics and how salamanders keep from regrowing tails where their arms should be.

    For the sound quiz, we covered the realm of crickets. Including the confused ground cricket pictured here. For more on singing insects of North America, visit this website.

    Music featured included: Curtis Mayfield, Neil Young, The Maybelles, Elvis Perkins, Belle and Sebastian, and of course... Mr. Hancock himself.

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    Are ya hungry?

    For the June 24th show, we talked about some questionably delectable dishes from the natural world. Could I interest you in a spot of blood? If you were a tick... you would say "Yes, please"! Ticks are a part of summer if you spend time in the woods of Arkansas. Just coming back from the field... I can say that I've had many ticks try to make a meal of me recently. Some have succeeded... others have met my friend the lighter. Whether you're a friend or foe of ticks, you have to admit that they are persistent and well-adapted little buggers. The folks at Living Healthy podcasts agreed.

    Another "tasty" treat we featured were aquatic turtles... although I'll say right now that I'm not a fan of freshwater turtle harvests. But... apparently there are those who are because the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission recently shot down a proposal to ban freshwater turtle harvests for commercial purposes. What does this mean for our fine, scaled friends? That's just the problem... we don't know! We don't know how populations of Arkansas turtles are doing right now... which makes frequent harvesting a dangerous idea.

    Stories featured in the news in nature included a study with evidence that suggests birds did not descend directly from reptiles, the big C in animal populations, and a 35,000 year old flute found in Germany.

    For the sound quiz, we heard a random smattering of creatures from our stories of the day: tortugas making sweet love, beluga whales, elephants, canaries, and Stephen Colbert, Jr. (aka a Bald Eagle).

    Music featured included: Devendra Banhart, The Knife, The Cure, Radiohead, Calexico, Tortoise, Johnny Cash, James Brown, and Aphex Twin.

    Monday, June 22, 2009

    Back in the saddle again.

    Nature You Should Know is back this week - same day, DIFFERENT TIME. For the summer, we'll be on Wednesday nights 8-10pm CST.

    Tune in this week for discussions on ticks and aquatic turtles and dinosaur-birds, oh my!

    Saturday, May 16, 2009

    In the field and out of touch

    I'm officially in the field doing my research on the effects of forest disturbance (e.g. fire, ice, oak decline) on breeding birds of the Ozarks. I regret that I wasn't able to post decent summaries of my final three shows before the break, but with family visits, graduations, and field prep... somehow I didn't find time. I will post the links to the shows now and hopefully get a chance to write standard recaps once I return to the world of technology. For now, it's all birds, vegetation, and arthropods for Mojo!

    April 22nd: Earth Day Extravaganza

    April 29th: 100% Pure New Zealand

    May 6th: Baby's on Fire

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    "I love you" - Them's fightin' words

    Love is in the air, and so is hate! On the April 15th show, we talked about the aggression that is born of the mating season. Many animals, like these male elephant seals, battle it out to secure mating rights to females. Often we see this combat in polygamous mating systems - where one male mates with many females.

    It's thought that some animals have evolved elaborate visual, auditory, and olfactory displays as a strategy for avoiding costly conflicts. For example, through singing loudly and visibly from perches, male songbirds broadcast their presence to both males seeking their own territories and females searching for a mate. Lions rub their scent on trees and rocks to alert neighboring lions of their presence. Think of it as putting up a "No Trespassing" sign.

    So do the ladies really just care about the biggest baddest boy on the block? Well, a male can woo a female in other ways. For example, male chimps have been shown to barter burgers for bonks. And in one ant species, the females have sworn off men completely!

    For the sound quiz, we heard from some of these aggressive males: lions, elephant seals, chimps, moose, and the more showy peacock.

    Music featured included John Fahey, Tony Trischka, The Appleseed Cast, The Flaming Lips, The Shins, The New Pornographers, PJ Harvey, Pajo, and Marvin Gaye.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    Great horny toads, and horny frogs for that matter!

    For the April 1st show, we focused on the sounds and trials of frogs, toads, and other amphibians. First we heard from Nature Stories in an archived piece called Frogs on the Road.

    Good news for froggers (is that what the people are called who like to compile lists of frog species they've seen in the wild?) - new species of frogs found in Papua New Guinea! This photo is of a green tree frog discovered (Genus Nyctimystes). This warrants an emoticon :D

    I also played a wee joke on my listeners... it was April Fool's after all. I featured the following video clip, pretending that I was a believer. Of course, anyone familiar with the Onion knows better.

    Then we busted the recently born myth that spider bites can cure paralysis. Where were these people's editors?

    Other topics discussed: skewed sex ratios in the tropics and trouble for scientists in Madagascar.

    The weekly sound quiz was all frogs and toads of course! The eastern narrowmouth toad goes out to my boy, Jason. His love of this toad was the inspiration for this show.

    Some music featured included Mirah, Vivaldi, America (Last Unicorn Soundtrack, that's right!), Doc Watson, Tom Vek, Blur, the Police, the Flaming Lips, the Faint, and Dana Falconberry

    Tuesday, April 7, 2009

    Take a hike!

    Oh Spring Break, how I wish I could have enjoyed you like so many other students. Alas, I was tied to my duties as teacher and researcher that week. I did, however, feature outdoor recreation during the March 18th show, because if I can't go play outside, I'm at least gonna talk about it!

    First off, we covered some of the fantastic hikes you can do in Northwest Arkansas. Find out more at Some of my favs include the Buffalo River Trail, Lost Valley, Cecil Cove Loop, and Whittaker Point.

    We also learned about how to build a shelter of leaves from Gimme Shelter, a Nature Stories podcast, and heard about how to follow some of core principles of Leave No Trace ethics.

    As usual, we ended the show with the weekly sound quiz, which featured mammals of Arkansas. Download the podcast linked to the date above and see if you can figure out which mammals are making the vocalizations!

    Friday, April 3, 2009

    Most Underrated Predators

    It's all fun and games until someone loses a throat! On the March 4th show, we covered the top 10 underrated predators as seen on

    Dolphins were #10, so we spent some time learning about their vocalizations from the Dolphin Communication Project and then we heard a song about the diversity of dolphin species out there.

    We ended with the domestic house cat, which most people tend to ignore when it comes to identifying vicious predators... which is exactly why they make this list. Most people explain away their killing rampages as natural, and therefore justified. But here's the deal... most domestic cats kill for shits and giggles... not because they need to eat (excluding the strays of course). And their human owners enable this killing by letting them roam outside. If you care about wildlife (e.g. backyard birds, moles, snakes, etc.) then you'll keep the killers inside. Besides, vets and the Humane Society recommend it for their health anyway.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Animal Oscars and the Battle of the Mammae!

    For the February 25th show, I awarded Oscars to the best actors and actresses in the animal kingdom. Among the winners were female gorillas for their strategies in tricking males into thinking they're the baby-daddy. The superb lyre bird was awarded best actor for his ability to mimic sounds, both natural and unnatural. We also heard about some of the animals in the world that blow Octamom's birthing abilities out of the water! Go tailess tenrec and naked mole rats!

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    Learning to fly

    'Nature You Should Know' is off the ground and flying, although it is more like a fledgling songbird than a soaring turkey vulture just yet! I've had a lot of fun getting the show organized each week, but I've also realized that it is more work than I expected. So the blog has suffered from lack of posts, but that should be changing soon! I can fly for short distances now... at least far enough to escape predation.

    Podcasts of the past few shows are available through mediafire. Here's the special on Darwin, who celebrated his 200th birthday on February 12th. And here's the show from February 18th, which featured the topics: acute mountain lion denial syndrome in Arkansas, a super long snake discovered in the tropics, and cloacal breathing in bog turtles!

    More to come soon! Listen tonight from 6-8pm on

    Tuesday, January 6, 2009

    Birth of a Show

    I'm a fan of nature. So much of one, that it's my career. I'm also a fan of music. So much of one, that I'm a radio dj. So I've decided to start a radio show that marries these two interests.

    Starting January 14th, DJ Mojo of KXUA 88.3 FM will be doing a show with the title of this blog. If you're in the northwest Arkansas region, you can tune in over the airwaves. If you're out of reach, then check out to listen online. The show will run throughout the spring semester of 2009 every Wednesday night from 6-8pm.

    I am open to suggestions for show themes, natural sound recordings (biotic and abiotic), and comments on the show. Please feel free to contact me anytime!