A Precarious Partnership of Pine and Bird
Winter 2014. American Forests. Washington, DC.
Whitebark pines are approaching the brink of extinction, caused by two major factors: mountain pine beetles and a disease called white pine blister rust, both of which are bolstered by climate change. I research the vital role these trees play in their alpine ecosystems, particularly the relationship they have with a bird called the Clark's nutcracker. Close-knit clusters of researchers have fanned out across the Rocky Mountains, from Colorado to British Columbia, and have started foundations exclusively dedicated to the conservation of these incredible trees. This article also investigates the reasons why the US has not yet listed the whitebark pine as endangered, despite the IUCN and Canada giving it this status. A researcher in Glacier National Park explained to me that where the whitebark pines disappear, the nutcrackers vacate. "...It is like a zombie tree," an eminent ecologist in Colorado told me of those trees that become infected.
Rare Plants in Alberta Endangered by Tar Sands Extraction
May 2014. Earth Island Journal. Berkeley, California.
The nefarious oil sands in Alberta have become well-publicized in recent years, but the environmental policies surrounding it remain unclear. Currently, all projects are required by the Alberta government to have an assessment, yet there is no legislation requiring Albertan developers to heed the reports made by the environmental consultants they hire. I show how there are multiple lists of rare and endangered plants in Alberta, but nothing that enforces their protection across most of the province.
The Dreaded Sweat: the Other Medieval Epidemic
May 2014. History Today. London.
Less than a century after the infamous Black Death pummeled Europe, the English Sweating Sickness spread across northern Europe. Although magnitudes fewer people died compared to the Black Death, the illness was apparently more deadly in that victims died within 24 hours by sweating to death. With modern science and testimonials from 15th century Europe, today's researchers endeavor to learn more about the inexplicable etiology of this strange pandemic. Two culprits are emerging: hantavirus and anthrax.
Secrets of Overwintering Plants
Winter 2013. The Gardener for the Prairies. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Recently researchers have made breakthroughs on the genetic pathway of cold tolerance in plants, and on how studying these genes could prevent global crop loss.
With the Wassailing Bowl: Resurrecting the Festive Tradition of Wassail
November 2013. The Tomato. Edmonton, Alberta.
We all sing about wassail every winter, but how many know what it really means? The truth is older and more bizarre than you might imagine. I explore the weird history of this drink by talking to a medieval researcher who tells me this tradition dates back to 4th century Anglo-Saxons, and that the verb toast derives from it. I also speak with folks in Southern England's cider country, who still follow the age-old tradition of offering wassail to apple trees to encourage the next year's harvest.
Exploring Jasper by Snowshoe
November 2013. Vue Weekly. Edmonton, Alberta.
Planning a winter visit to Jasper National Park, but want to avoid the hassle of the ski slopes? Try this alternative to skiing that will bring you the serenity of Jasper's winter landscape. Here I not only reveal some great spots for snowshoeing, but I go further to break down various winter activities by price and amount of calories burned to show how snowshoes stack up.
Anne Sees the Dead
October 2013. Morpheus Tales. London.
Horror short fiction about a corrupt NGO board member in Haiti who is driven to madness by the spirits of those who died in the 2010 disasters.
The Forgotten Pines
October 2013. Natural History. Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
White pines, including limber pines and the endangered whitebark pines, are the basis of their fragile alpine ecosystems, and both are threatened by a deadly combination of white pine blister rust and mountain pine beetles. This is a brief summary of the exposé that appeared in American Forests (above), but which includes the limber pine.