Recent Articles

Mexico’s natural wonders are under threat. Can a poet save them?

August 23, 2018By
Mexico’s natural wonders are under threat. Can a poet save them?

As Mexico emerges from the most violent election campaign within living memory and embarks on the presidency of Andres López Obrador, one prominent citizen watches at a diagonal: a veteran of Mexico’s other war – not that over narco-traffic and its clients in politics, but that against nature.

In a recent interview with the daily El Universal, Homero Aridjis – award-winning poet and former ambassador – described all the candidates at last June’s election as “environmental illiterates” – referring to the battle he has fought for decades now, and which he sees reaching its final stages – for Mexico’s natural and cultural heritage.

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Science put at risk along U.S.-Mexico border

August 13, 2018By
Science put at risk along U.S.-Mexico border

Off the southern coast of California, just across the border from Tijuana, Mexico, dolphins swim around the fence that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. “They don’t really care,” said Jeff Crooks, a University of San Diego scientist who has been doing research along the U.S.-Mexico border for the past 16 years.

The border fence here was built long before President Trump’s campaign promises to “build a wall.”

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Renowned monarch butterfly expert Lincoln Brower dies, but his legacy lives on

July 21, 2018By
Renowned monarch butterfly expert Lincoln Brower dies, but his legacy lives on

The Sweet Briar community was saddened to learn of the death of Lincoln Brower, a world-renowned entomologist and research professor at the College. Brower died peacefully at his home in Nelson County on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, after an extended illness.

Brower came to Sweet Briar in 1997 after retiring from the University of Florida as Distinguished Service Professor of Zoology, Emeritus, joining his wife and research collaborator,

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All About Monarchs: The Royals of the Butterfly World

May 3, 2018By
All About Monarchs: The Royals of the Butterfly World

Monarch butterflies, which pollinate many different kinds of wildflowers, are among nature’s great wonders. Their annual migration is one of the most awe-inspiring on Earth: Each fall, millions of these striking black-and-orange butterflies take flight on a 3,000-mile journey across the U.S. and Canada to wintering grounds in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains.

The monarch population, which is determined by measuring the number of hectares the butterflies occupy in their Mexico habitat, has declined to 2.48 hectares—almost 30 percent less than last year’s population.

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The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson

March 26, 2018By
The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson

The house, on an island in Maine, perches on a rock at the edge of the sea like the aerie of an eagle. Below the white-railed back porch, the sea-slick rock slopes down to a lumpy low tideland of eelgrass and bladder wrack, as slippery as a knot of snakes.

Periwinkles cling to rocks; mussels pinch themselves together like purses. A gull lands on a shaggy-weeded rock, fluffs itself, and settles into a crouch, bracing against a fierce wind rushing across the water, while, up on the cliff, lichen-covered trees—spruce and fir and birch—sigh and creak like old men on a damp morning.

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Monarch butterfly migration was off this year and researchers are worried

January 21, 2018By
Monarch butterfly migration was off this year and researchers are worried

Thanksgiving was right around the corner, and a sizable number of one of America’s most famous migrants could be seen still sputtering south. Not across the Texas-Mexico border, where most monarch butterflies should be by that time of year. These fluttered tardily through the migratory funnel that is Cape May, N.J., their iconic orange-and-black patterns splashing against the muted green of pines frosted by the season’s first chill.

This delayed migration is not normal, and it alarmed monarch researchers across the country.

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Recent Triumphs for Science and “Silent Spring”

December 10, 2017By
Recent Triumphs for Science and “Silent Spring”

Two serious diseases (one in people and one in animals) transmitted by insects have been totally eliminated from specific locations. Such news would be noteworthy in any season. During this environmentally troubled holiday period especially it merits celebrating and sharing with friends, relatives and colleagues in the year ahead. Why?

Because the methods used in each case involved science-based strategies that minimized or removed reliance on toxic chemical pesticides.

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Butterfly Mortality and Salvage Logging

September 17, 2017By
Butterfly Mortality and Salvage Logging

A severe late spring storm in central Mexico in March 2016 that struck the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve was unique because it was accompanied by high-velocity winds that eliminated the normal thermal protection provided by the Oyamel fir forest.

Temperatures throughout the forest merged with the colder open-area ambient temperatures. The storm was in effect a rain and snow storm sandwiched within a powerful and sustained wind storm, followed by lethal freezing that killed 31–38% of the butterflies in the Sierra Chincua and Cerro Pelón overwintering colonies. Several lines of evidence point to greater than 40% mortality of monarchs in the Rosario colony.

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