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Exec's Blog &News dgregg on 10 Mar 2011

Roger Goos, URI Prof. of Botany, Emeritus—1924-2011

Roger Goos, a professor of botany at the University of Rhode Island from 1970 to 1995, passed away on Monday, March 7 at the age of 86. Roger grew up on a farm in Iowa, serving in the Infantry in WW II (European Theater) earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Dr. Goos received his B.Sc, MSc and Ph.D from the University of Iowa. He served as president of the Mycological Society of America, published many articles and papers on mycology, conducted mushroom walks for numerous community groups, and was well known in mycological circles. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Lisbon and an Indo-American Fellowship to the University of Madras. In 2005 he received the Distinguished Naturalist Award from the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, which published his life’s work, The Mycota of Rhode Island, in 2010. His encyclopedic knowledge of fungi earned him invitations to collaborate around the globe, including in India, Japan, Iraq, Hawaii and the United Kingdom.

A memorial service for Dr. Goos will be held on Saturday, March 12 at 11 a.m. at the Apponaug Pentecostal Church, 75 Prospect St., Warwick. From 9:30 to 11 will be an informal gathering of friends and family. All are welcome. Dr. Goos will be buried in Iowa.

Animals &Exec's Blog &News dgregg on 03 Feb 2011

White Nose Syndrome Update February 2011

White Nose Syndrome was first discovered to be affecting bats in northeast North America in 2007. Since then it has devastated bat populations in the region and spread substantially across the eastern United States. There are several new developments that may be of interest to Rhode Island naturalists.

The following is a news item sent to RINHS by Bob Brooks, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Amherst, Mass.:
There has been significant documentation of WNS-associated declines in bats populations in winter hibernacula, excellently summarized by Frick et al. in their 2010 Science article. We are now starting to document the effects of this mortality in summer activity surveys. The first report was by Dzal et al. from surveys along the Upper Hudson River, NY. I am pleased to announce that an “in press” report on a 2010 re-survey of my 2004-2006 Quabbin sites is available on the Biodiversity and Conservation website.

Abstract: White-nose syndrome (WNS) was first reported in a hibernating bat population in central New York State in February 2006. Since 2006, WNS has been reported from bat hibernacula across much of eastern United States and adjacent Canada and has been associated with a dramatic decline in the populations of hibernating bats in the northeastern U.S. We are only beginning to discover how these declines are manifest in changes in summer bat abundance and activity at local scales. A 3-year (2004–2006) acoustic survey showed that the forested watershed of the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts supported an abundant and species-rich summer bat community. In 2010, 4-years following the initial occurrence of WNS, a re-survey of the same habitats and sites found a 72% reduction in bat activity on the watershed. This is the identical rate of decline reported from cave hibernacula surveys (73%). This decline in summer activity levels is most likely a consequence of WNS-caused mortality. The impacts of population losses of this magnitude of a once widespread and abundant taxa are unknown but are presumed to be ecologically significant.

If anyone is interested in the paper and is unable to access it from the journal website, I would gladly send a digital reprint. -Bob Brooks

WNS is, in all likelihood, caused by a fungus (Geomyces destructans), and has been shown to be transmissible not just from bat to bat but from G.d. spores in the environment, it is imperative that those venturing into caves or other bat habitats and those handling bats take steps to prevent movement of spores and other contamination. To that end, a decontamination protocol has been developed using the best available science. Those interested can follow this link:
WNS decontamination procedure

Here in Rhode Island, the Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish & Wildlife, has been developing bat monitoring procedures to better understand the importance of bats in our local ecosystem and any long-term changes that may result from WNS. DEM Biologist Charlie Brown has been the lead on this project and those interested what’s happening or in what they can do to help should contact him using the DEM Fish & Wildlife website.

Awards &Conferences &Exec's Blog &News dgregg on 26 Jan 2011

Nominations Sought for 2011 Distinguished Naturalist Award

Nominations Sought for 2011 Rhode Island Distinguished Naturalist Award

Once a year the Directors of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey seek nominations for the Rhode Island Distinguished Naturalist Award, an honor presented to one or more people annually by the Rhode Island Natural History Survey.

Over the years this award has become an expression of the deep and abiding respect our community holds for individuals who excel in their studies of Rhode Island ecosystems and in their ability to communicate the knowledge and understanding thus gained to others.

Consider the individuals who fired your interest in the natural world, served as role models for your own accomplishments in natural history, or contributed to the knowledge and protection of the organisms, geology, and ecosystems that you now enjoy. Please take a moment to nominate for this award those whom you respect and would wish to recognize.

A Distinguished Naturalist is someone who has excelled in one or more of the following categories:

• Significantly advanced scientific knowledge of Rhode Island’s organisms, geology, and ecosystems as evidenced by published books, scientific papers, and monographs;

• Is recognized as an outstanding teacher and educator to students and the public on the form, functions, and ecological significance of Rhode Island’s plants, animals, geology and natural systems;

• Contributed considerably to enhancing public awareness of the importance of understanding the natural history of Rhode Island’s ecosystems.

Currently serving RINHS staff and directors are not eligible for the award.

To learn more about past Distinguished Naturalist Award recipients, visit the DNA page of the website.

Submit nominations describing how your candidate fits these criteria by email to programadmin@rinhs.org or by mail to P.O. Box 1858, Kingston, RI 02881.
Deadline is Tuesday, March 1, 2011.

Past nominations are kept and reconsidered every year, so if you’ve nominated someone in the past who did not win, you aren’t required to re-nominate them. You may wish to provide additional information if you feel it would help the committee.

Nominations will be reviewed by the RINHS Board of Directors and
the recipient(s) will be announced in April and recognized at the RINHS annual conference April 28.

Events &Exec's Blog &Invasives &News &Plants dgregg on 24 Jan 2011

Memorial Service for Les Mehrhoff Scheduled

RINHS received the email below this morning through the invasive species grapevine (or would that be bittersweet vine?). It is from the family of late invasive plant guru Les Mehrhoff and announces a date for a memorial service. Someone from RINHS will definitely be going so anyone from the RI area interested in attending the service, there may be an opportunity to car pool. Please contact Kira at the office if you’re interested.

“Hello everyone,
Jessie and I have finally settled on a date and time for the memorial service. It will be held at the Storrs Congregational Church at UConn. The date is Saturday, March 12th at 11:00 AM.

We also want to thank all of you for your beautiful cards, endearing notes and well wishes. We received such an outpouring of love that it really meant a lot to us and truly gave us the strength to move forward. We were also overwhelmed by the stories of how many lives Les really did touch or impact in some way…it just completely filled our hearts with so much pride. We always knew we had a really special guy in our lives.

Thank you all again and we hope to see you at the memorial service.
Sincerely, Olga and Jessie”

Exec's Blog &Invasives &Natural History &News &Plants dgregg on 03 Jan 2011

Memories of Les Mehrhoff

With the unexpected death, on December 22, of Les Mehrhoff, the natural history family lost one of its greatest, most visionary members. Les–botanist, ecologist, teacher, founder and leader and leader of IPANE (Invasive Plant Atlas of New England), and all-round invasive plant guru–suffered a massive heart attack at his home in Connecticut. Les was working hard right to the end on one of the greatest priorities in conservation, one that he did much to bring to all our attention–mitigating the environmental damage caused by invasive plants. Les had been a long time adviser and supporter of RINHS and was a frequent companion to RINHS staff, board, and members in the field, at meetings and conferences, and in all manner of regular communication. Les presented at three of RINHS’s annual conferences–1999, 2003, and 2007–each time addressing a different aspect of invasive plants. Whomever was the nominal keynote speaker at the CIPWG (Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group) annual meeting, everyone looked forward to Les’s appearances just as much.

Events such as Les’s unexpected passing, like the sudden loss of member and mycologist Doug Greene this spring, remind us how much we naturalists owe to each other for our interests and passions and how each such loss highlights a responsibility to share and promulgate those interests and passions so they do not pass with us, when it is eventually our time.

There will be a celebration of Les’s life organized in Storrs, CT, later in the winter and RINHS will pass word when we know more. You may also contact the RINHS office to be kept up to date. Les’s family has asked that we remember him by performing an act of kindness for the preservation of our environment.

Websites remembering Les include:
Published obituary
UConn Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Walking the Berkshires [blog]

Bioblitz &Events &Exec's Blog &News dgregg on 17 Jun 2010

Remembering Doug Greene

Thanks to all who’ve been contacting the Survey to remember Doug Greene, who passed away suddenly on Sunday on his way home from BioBlitz. There will be a service for Doug in his home town of Reading, Mass., on Friday, June 18–visiting hours from 6-8 pm, memorial service at 8 pm. This link has more information:
LINK

Animals &Bioblitz &Events &Exec's Blog &Natural History &News &Plants &Rare Species dgregg on 14 Jun 2010

BioBlitz 2010 A Success

The teams are just back in from BioBlitz 2010 and I’m sure people are working hard to unload gear, hang out sleeping bags and tents out to dry, and catch up on sleep. Thank you all for your tremendous efforts that made the event such a success. Thanks to the Block Island community for their help and hospitality. The preliminary count is 916 species, which is great by any standard and for an island and rainy weather, it is terrific. We have a lot of work to do to cross check the numerous data sheets, especially for the marine organisms, and we look forward to receiving the many specialist reports, so I am confident that the final number will be higher, perhaps approaching the magic 1,000 barrier.

A special shout-out to the art team. It was great to have you with us this year, you added a lot and helped put the biodiversity and the event into a whole new light. Should we be looking forward to a gallery show in the fall? Can’t wait.

Platanthera flava

Platanthera flava

Notable finds: American burying beetle, pale green orchid, wood duck, spiny skate, jonah crab, citrine forktail. We will post more details on the finds as they come in.

One special and sad note: Doug Greene, who had just done lichens for the BioBlitz, collapsed on his way to the ferry and, despite the best efforts of emergency medical personnel, died on the island. Doug helped in 7 RI BioBlitzes, incl. the 1st one, in 2000, and contributed to many other science efforts. We will be sure to get word out about a service or other memorialization when we know more.

Doug Greene, at the 2007 BioBlitz at Trustom Pond
Doug Greene, at the 2007 BioBlitz at Trustom Pond

Exec's Blog &Natural History &Research dgregg on 03 Jun 2010

Proof that Naturalists are Smarter?

New research reported from the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego shows a positive correlation between learning and exposure to a common soil bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae.

Here’s the link: SMARTER

So don’t be a dumby, get out there and play in the dirt. And perhaps more to the point, bring the kids. They’ll pick up on your enthusiasm for nature and outdoors and they could just end up smarter!

Animals &Exec's Blog &Natural History dgregg on 12 Aug 2009

New salamander genus found in U.S.

We’ll never know so much about the world around us that there’s nothing left for naturalists to discover and just to prove that point, scientists recently announced the discovery of a new species (in fact it belongs to a whole new genus) of lungless salamander in the hills of Georgia.  Urspelerpes brucei , as it will be known, is the first new genus of four footed vertebrate found in the U.S. since 1961 (another lungless salamander, in fact). You can READ MORE from the BBC or go to the source, the abstract and paper in Journal of Zoology. So get out there and start scrounging around. You never know if the next creature you encounter might be your ticket to immortality! (Immortality among a select community of naturalists, that is.)

Exec's Blog &Natural History dgregg on 15 Jun 2009

Overheard in the Taxonomy Dept…. “Hello? Anyone here?”

One thing that RINHS is here for is to encourage the practice of taxonomy: connect those with taxonomic expertise with those interested in learning and otherwise to facilitate by preserving systematic collections, maintaining a reference library, and organizing and publishing the results.

All this is useful (necessary, in fact) if you want to know what’s going on in Rhode Island’s environment, but it is also our small contribution to improving the prospects for taxonomy generally. Hopefully, as she picks up her nobel prize in biology, the next great taxnomist will cite the encouragement she received at BioBlitz! Here’s a very interesting assessment of the field of taxonomy, its importance and prospects, that was brought to my attention by Lisa Gould (my predecessor as Director for the newbies in the audience).

Link to taxonomy article in The Scientist.

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