Saint Louis art & tech crawl

I attended the Strange Loop conference in St. Louis this past week. I got a little time to have a look at the city, which I haven’t seen since I visited my departed friend Jim Wilson in University City many years ago. Ted Drewes is still there, although you can buy a concrete from a vending machine in the airport now.

faded oneI found another fallout shelter sign, this one exposed to the weather and badly faded.

texture and shinelined upRichard Serra’s quadrilateral Twain is not in great condition, and the landscaping around it is a bit lumpy and wild (perhaps by design?), but this iridescence caught my eye. And the framing of the courts building across the street is too perfect to have happened by chance.

fancy topcotta cottaI was sitting in the hotel, eating my breakfast, idly looking out the window, and I spotted a rather fancy looking building a few blocks away. “Let’s take a closer look,” I thought. “That looks interesting.” Oh, yeah. It’s the Wainwright Building.

car 4007I spent a little time birding for the Saint Louis specialty, unsuccessfully, alas. But I did add a light rail system to my list.

double archI found the arch, too! This pair of barrel-vaulted tunnels had been abandoned, but were repurposed by MetroLink. This is the south end of the 8th and Pine station.

IWLA Bethesda-Chevy Chase herps

Our final field trip with Rachel Gauza’s class took us to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, 600-odd acres near Poolesville and McKee-Beshers WMA. Out host was Larry Anderson. Our targets were snakes, but we didn’t score well with that taxon. However, we found plenty to look at off the West Woods trail. Please don’t mind the nearby gun range.

structureAs you might imagine, deer management is an advanced art here, so it’s not uncommon to see nicely developed understory vegetation. Although we did see patches of the usual non-native invasives, we also saw some good natives—lots of Pawpaw (Asmina triloba), some Smilacina, a chance encounter with a bellwort, not yet in flower, Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana) on the ridgetops; Cathy spotted Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).

today's mystery: 1today's mystery: 2I tried to puzzle out some ferns, unsuccessfully. This possible myxomycete also caught my attention.

chubby tailAnd we did see some herps! Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris), too hoppy for my camera, and multiple Marbled Salamanders (Ambystoma opacum). Rachel says that this is the first time that she’s seen Marbleds on the property.

Big strides

Robert Rice updates us on the progress of the Smithsonian’s Bird Friendly (BF) coffee program, and connects it to research programs here and abroad. The program is retailing north of 700 thousand pounds of java annually.

The biggest challenge facing the BF coffee program is marketing. Currently, less than 10% of the coffee certified as BF actually makes it into the market as such. This shortfall is partly due to the fact that BF coffee is certified organic (as a pre-requisite) and thus often is sold into the organic coffee stream as organic only—not being purchased or marketed as BF. We presently are working with a consultant to help us design plans to increase demand. Creating more demand will result in more shade coffee farms being certified as Bird Friendly, and that is our main goal of this program: conserving viable, quality habitat for migratory and resident birds in the tropics.

Some links: 72

Many conservation-oriented links piling up on my virtual desk, unremarked—so this needs must be a roundup post.

  • Sharman Apt Russell describes her experiences collecting phenology data for Nature’s Notebook.
  • Caren Cooper summarizes the findings in her recent paper in the Journal of Wildlife Management: birders and hunters alike are more likely to engage in conservation-supporting actitivies. Cooper’s “conservation superstars” are birders who are also hunters: these people are even more likely to donate money for conservation and do other things to preserve our legacy.
  • Jason Goldman sings the praises of shade-grown coffee from an unexpected part of the world: Ethiopia, the land where Coffea was first domesticated.
  • And Goldman summarizes a paper by A.M.I. Roberts et al., working with 222 years of phenology data collected by Robert Marsham and his descendants from the family estate in Norfolk, UK. For certain tree species, “winter chilling” turns out to be a more important factor determining leaf out than the warmth of “spring forcing.”

Cogent connections

Our feeling is that triple certification [of coffee] has great potential. Consumers might have a short attention span, but they’re not stupid. If presented in short, cogent messages that explain the connections between the social and the environmental arguments, the average coffee drinker can undoubtedly understand the triple certification concept—and if you think about those groups that are “target audiences” for such messages (social action groups in churches or labour unions; vegetarian and organic devotees; birder associations, etc.) then the message may be even more palatable and likely to be heard.

—Ivette Perfecto, John Vandermeer, and Angus Wright, Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation, and Food Sovereignty, p. 156

Works in the Old World, too

In the past, when I’ve posted about shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee (for instance, here, here, and here), the research focus (by scientists like Ivette Perfecto and Russell Greenberg) has been on Central American farms and neotropical migrants. New research indicates that birds in Africa and Eurasia also benefit from shade cultivation in Ethiopia (the cradle of all domesticated coffee), as Brian Clark Howard reports. Ethiopian coffee farmers are under the same pressures to convert to intensive “sun coffee” production that their New World counterparts face.

“Importance of Ethiopian shade coffee farms for forest bird conservation” is now in press. Co-author Cagan H. Şekercioğlu

suggests that the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center or the Rainforest Alliance, which certify bird-friendly coffee from other countries, should consider extending their programs to Ethiopia. Certification allows farmers to recoup a price premium, which can help deter the impulse to convert farms to full sun or otherwise develop their land.

I’d go with Freedman’s Village Hwy

Eric Green wonders why major thoroughfares in the Commonwealth are named for traitors to their country:

It’s been suggested that Jefferson Davis Highway should be called the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial Highway (for obvious reasons) or Freedman’s Village Highway, to honor a camp, established in South Arlington during the Civil War, where African Americans fled to escape slavery in the South.

I’ll sweeten the deal: find new names for Jeff Davis Highway and Lee Highway and I’ll stop referring to DCA (officially Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport) as Strikebreaker Airport.

Greater Greater Washington