As California burns, so does our winter lettuce

Canada depends on imports for fruits and vegetables. We need to think differently about how we feed ourselves during cold months

As California burns, so does our winter lettuceCalifornia is on fire. Although most of the fire-affected territory has nothing to do with agriculture, the smoke is so intense that it could damage many crops. And as fall approaches, the California fires could affect Canada’s food supply for the coming months. Like the labour issues affecting Canadian farmers this summer, this is certainly…

Crickets, grasshoppers, songs and heatwaves

Grasshoppers existed long before dinosaurs. And crickets are eaten, reviled and revered around the world

Crickets, grasshoppers, songs and heatwavesFolklore widely claims that you can tell the temperature simply by listening to how fast crickets ‘sing.’ Is that really true? Read on and I’ll share the truth by the end of this column. But first, let’s learn something about these little guys and their buddies. Crickets are related to grasshoppers and resemble them a…

Common sunscreen ingredients dangerous for freshwater ecosystems

Research by U of A biologists shows detrimental effects on tiny water fleas that are fundamental to freshwater food chains

Common sunscreen ingredients dangerous for freshwater ecosystemsThe active ingredients found in sunscreen have detrimental effects on freshwater ecosystems, according to new research by University of Alberta biologists. The results show that long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) filters – including avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octocrylene – is lethal for some organisms living in freshwater environments. One of the largest sources of UV-filter contamination…

Jewelweed is a jewel of a weed

Herbalists have long espoused the benefits of jewelweed, primarily as a remedy for the treatment of poison ivy and poison oak rashes

Jewelweed is a jewel of a weedIn many areas of the country grows a little plant that has remarkable medicinal qualities: jewelweed. In my last column, I wrote about my encounter with poison ivy and the discomfort my carelessness caused me. Now I want to share more of the story. Natural medicines are well-known and much studied, here and abroad. Jewelweed…

B.C. rec sites a natural delight for hardy campers

Visitors just have to be prepared to go with the flow, consider unconventional approaches and be flexible enough to adapt to travel with no reservations

B.C. rec sites a natural delight for hardy campersTo say it is a challenging year to travel out of province is to put things mildly in the extreme. With the enduring COVID-19 threat, most provinces have residents-only campsite reservation policies and national campgrounds have been booked tight for months. Yet with a little ingenuity and adventurous spirit, we discovered that British Columbia is…

Being careless around poison ivy can cost you

There’s a high likelihood of a rash arising as a result of contact with the plant. Have I mentioned I’m in agony?

Being careless around poison ivy can cost youI write this week’s column from a position of grave discomfort, for my careless attitude toward poison ivy has left me blistered and in some agony … sigh! I always thought I was immune to this dangerous plant, for I have tromped through it all my life and never even had a glimmer of an…

Pollinators in peril and need our help

Pollinators are responsible for about one out of every three bites of food people eat. Without them, we would starve

Pollinators in peril and need our helpWe hear with alarming frequency that honey bees are in decline around the globe due to mysterious diseases, climate change, pesticides and habitat loss. But what of the other pollinators – solitary bees, bumblebees, pollen wasps, bee flies, ants, midges, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and beetles? How are they faring? Pollinators don’t have to be tiny…

No evidence predator control will save caribou: study

U of A scientists suggest renewed emphasis on securing habitat rather than culling wolves or fencing in pregnant caribou

No evidence predator control will save caribou: studyAddressing potential threats from predators has not slowed the dramatic decline of mountain caribou in British Columbia and Alberta, according to a new study by scientists from three Western Canadian universities. Biologists reassessed data from research published in 2019. The original research has been cited as showing that killing wolves and fencing pregnant caribou are solutions…

Living close to green space benefits gut bacteria of infants: study

First study of its kind shows formula-fed babies’ gut microbiomes more like those of breastfed babies when they live near natural environments

Living close to green space benefits gut bacteria of infants: studyLiving close to natural green space can mitigate some of the changes in infant gut bacteria associated with formula feeding, according to new research published in the journal Environment International. “Not every infant can be breastfed,” said Anita Kozyrskyj, pediatrics professor at the University of Alberta. “This is one of the first pieces of evidence for a nature-related…

Don’t squish that spider!

We may be genetically programmed to fear spiders, but they're here for a reason. Leave them alone to eat other insects

Don’t squish that spider!“The itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the water spout. …” So many people are afraid of spiders, but I’ll bet almost none of them can tell you why. According to a new study out of Columbia University, it may be genetic. Our ancestors had to fear spiders – in Africa, where our roots all take us,…
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