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Entries in environment (48)

Monday
Mar022015

Resistance Futile?

Emerald ash borer beetles target ash trees, like this one at Fairmount Park’s Smith Playground. | Photo by Christian Hunold

Tiny green beetles are coming to kill our ash trees

You might expect something as scary as the emerald ash borer to be much larger than it is. The shiny green beetles from East Asia top out at about a centimeter, but they’re enough to bring down an 80-foot ash tree as their populations explode.

“Once they show up, the trees in an area just start to crash really rapidly because they get so overwhelmed,” says Curtis Helm, Project Manager in Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s Urban Forestry and Ecosystem Management unit.

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Tuesday
Feb102015

Getting Their Feet Wet

Rachel Rosenfeld, a citizen scientist, measures phosphate levels for Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association’s Creek Watch program near Valley Green Inn in Fairmount Park. | Photo by Christian Hunold

Volunteers wade in to monitor the Wissahickon

Rachel Rosenfeld crunched her way through the ice near the shore to get to where she could drop her thermometer into the Wissahickon Creek, just upstream from the Valley Green Inn. Fishing it out of the near-freezing water would hurt, but you need measurements throughout the year to draw a complete picture of the Creek. Rosenfeld, along with other volunteers checking 35 sections of the Wissahickon and its tributaries, visits monthly to check on its health, even in the cold months.

You cannot step into the same river or creek twice, which makes it hard to monitor water quality. The flow at any given moment is a mix of rainwater, groundwater and whatever chemicals have been washed in from the land or generated by life in the river. Any water sample you take is a snapshot, but the more snapshots you get, the better you can understand the state of the creek.

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Friday
Jan232015

Mobile App Helps Improve Transparency of Unconventional Drilling

FracTracker’s free mobile app gives users the power 
to share the impact of fracking

As New York State’s decision to ban high volume hydraulic fracturing continues the conversation on the dangers of fracking to the environment, the public is actively moving forward in recording and sharing the effects of drilling throughout the United States.

The FracTracker Alliance, a nonprofit organization that aims to increase transparency of, and access to, data and information relating to unconventional oil and natural gas development, has created a free mobile app to accomplish just that. The FracTracker app is designed to give users the ability to “Share a Shot,” or submit photos of oil and gas production, “Report an Issue,” regarding near-by drilling and “Check the Map,” to view an interactive interface of oil and gas wells drilled in your area.

According to FracTracker’s “Pennsylvania Shale Viewer” map, there have been 1,365 wells drilled in 2014, all of which can be seen on the app. The map has several data layers where you can click and see the sites that have received violations such as “the failure to contain a pollutional substance in a lined pit or tank” and “potential pollution to waters of commonwealth” as well as the location of drilled unconventional wells and areas that were approved for permits.

“FracTracker’s app contributes to the collective understanding of oil and gas impacts and provides a new opportunity for public engagement,” says Brook Lenker, Executive Director of the FracTracker Alliance. “We hope that our mobile app will revolutionize how people share oil and gas information.”

This map, along with others, such as the “The PA Beer and Unconventional Drilling Map” that shows drilled and permitted wells and their proximity to breweries and brewpubs throughout Pennsylvania, can be seen and shared with the FracTracker app with just a few swipes on your smartphone.

The FracTracker app is available for iPhones and Androids and can be downloaded at fractracker.org/apps.

 

Monday
Nov172014

Hard-Working Mussels

A new effort brings the mysterious mussel
back to a Philadelphia waterway

The lack of mussels in the Tacony-Frankford Creek made the stream a desirable target for the reintroduction of the hardy Elliptio complanata species. | Photos by Brian Rademaekers

When you think of mussels in Philadelphia, your first thought might be of ordering moules-frites, Belgium’s signature dish, from Monk’s Café. Ecologist Danielle Kreeger and a team of volunteers is trying to add another association. They want you to think of the Tacony-Frankford Creek, whose swampy terminus is at the Delaware River in Northeast Philadelphia, where the once plentiful mussel is being reintroduced.

In late August, Kreeger and her helpers took coolers with 50 mussels, scrubbed clean and fitted with tiny radio transmitters, to the creek. Carefully selecting spots along the streambed where they’ll be able to weather storm surges, Kreeger, a scientist working for the nonprofit Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE), and her team gently placed them in small clusters. A GPS location and basic water quality data were recorded at each new mussel bed. The mussels will be monitored periodically. If the mussels survive, Kreeger and others will measure shell growth to determine how healthy the new beds are.

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Sunday
Nov162014

Bug Net

An innovative project studies urban insect biodiversity

Isabelle Betancourt fished bugs out of Swann Fountain three times a week. | Photos by Jen Britton

"Most of the things I catch are drowning or dead,” says Isabelle Betancourt, curatorial assistant of Entomology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, as we stood next to Swann Fountain in Logan Circle, surrounded by some of Center City’s great landmarks: the Academy itself, the Franklin Institute, the Free Library and the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

Some may picture entomologists dressed like 19th century explorers, decked out in khaki with pith helmets and butterfly nets. Betancourt was dressed like a casual office worker—sweater and jeans—the day in early October that I accompanied her. As for her sampling equipment, Betancourt carried two collecting vials and “a fishnet that I borrowed from my fish at home.”

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