S3C: STEM Student Science Cafes, science fun for tweens & teens first Tuesdays, Bookmans, Mesa

In partnership with the Arizona SciTech Festival & Bookman’s Entertainment Exchange, Mesa, Desert Rivers Audubon Stem Science Cafe FB2hosts monthly Science Cafes for Middle & High School Students on the first Tuesday of the month.
STEM Student Science Cafe (“S3C”) is an event that takes place in a casual setting; is open to Middle & High Schools Students, their parents & siblings; and features an engaging conversation with a scientist about a particular topic. Learn something new, ask questions, and meet other science fans!

Run by students for students

Lori Whipple, Mesa Community Relations, Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

“Run by students for the students, we love the new direction the Bookmans Science Cafe is taking,” said Lori Whipple, Mesa Community Relations, Bookmans Entertainment Exchange. “Our continuing partnership with Desert Rivers Audubon and The Arizona SciTech Festival will ensure that STEM is something to be celebrated year round.”

“We’re looking forward to having the students moderate and choose topics they would like to discuss with a scientist or engineer,” said Desert Rivers Audubon Communications Director Eileen Kane, “instead of having a science cafe done by adults for or at students.”

“Stuff About the Universe” Tuesday, February 5

ASU physicist Subir Sabharwal talks with students about the cosmos with volunteer student moderator Emma.

ASU physicist Subir Sabharwal talks with students about the cosmos with volunteer student moderator Emma.

Our pre-Festival cafe features ASU Physics Dept. cosmologist Subir Sabharwal discussing “Stuff About the Universe,” with middle school volunteer moderator, Emma, Tuesday, February 5, 2013, 6:30pm, Bookmans Mesa, 1056 S. County Club Dr., Mesa, 480-835-0505.

 “Citizen Science”  Tuesday, March 5

Gail Morris will let students know how they can participate in Monarch butterfly tagging.

Gail Morris will let students know how they can participate in Monarch butterfly tagging.

During the Arizona SciTech Festival, March 5, 2013, 6:30pm and again at Bookmans Mesa, we’ll feature the topic of “Citizen Science” with Eric Proctor, Arizona Game and Fish Department and Gail Morris of MonarchWatch and the Southwest Monarch Study. Eric will highlight the many citizen science projects that support our understanding of our unique desert ecosystems and how you can help. Gail will discusses her work tagging and tracking Monarch butterflies.

Kids’ vote counts, Tuesday, April 9

Our next STEM Student Science Cafe topic, April 9, 2013, will be decided by the participants in the two previous S3C events.

A Hundred Birds for a Hundred Years

By Joy Dingley
Early Birds Club
Desert Rivers Audubon

The Early Birds have set themselves a target in this Centennial Year for Arizona. They are going to try to find 100 bird species. They began in February and submitted their list to the Great BackYard Bird Count which is run by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.

We are hoping lots of people will want to sponsor us at a few cents per bird. At one cent for each species the sponsor would pay one dollar if we manage to see 100 different species. What we would like to do with the money is buy a set of good field guides so we can all use them when we go out together.

These are the “rules” for adding species. We can only add a bird if it has been seen when we are out together as a group at our normal monthly meetings. So no birds seen while any of the children are on vacation. The counting stops after our meeting in January 2013 – that will be a year after we started.

So one hundred birds will not be easy to find. We have seen 55 different species since we began and we are keeping our record on E-bird. But we’ve only got Oct, November, December and January at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve and one other meeting when we have our annual picnic at a location that has yet to be decided. So it’s not going to be so easy!

If you would like to help us by sponsoring us,  email me, joy.dingley@cox.net. Wish us luck!

Desert Rivers and Tropical Cats

by Mike Evans
Conservation Director 
Desert Rivers Audubon Society

The recent stories of jaguars and ocelots being spotted in Arizona got me thinking about the historic role that our desert rivers played in wildlife population distribution. My thoughts wandered to the impact the “dang fence” on the border would have in limiting the future distribution of these tropical species back into Arizona. I also got to thinking about how our modern system of canals has come to partially replace the role that our desert rivers historically played in wildlife distribution, especially here in the Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa area.

Jaguar, Panthera onca.

For those that missed the news reports, the Arizona Game and Fish Department confirmed through photographs that a mountain lion hunter treed a jaguar southeast of Tucson.  The Arizona Daily Star also reported that in June a helicopter pilot for Homeland Security spotted a jaguar loping down a forested hillside in the Santa Rita Mountains of southern Arizona. Arizona Game & Fish also reported that a further five reports by hunters have been confirmed and the department is now attempting to determine through photographic analysis how many jaguars may be roaming about southern Arizona. The Game & Fish believe that these individuals represent the most northern part of a population of jaguars living in Sonora, Mexico.

We were also recently briefly regaled with the story of a sighting of an ocelot. Upon further analysis, the Game and Fish Department believes that the cat was more likely a serval, or serval hybrid, an African cat popular in the pet trade. However, there were two other confirmed sightings of ocelots earlier in the year, both in the Huachuca Mountains.

These are only the third and fourth reports of ocelots in Arizona since the 1960’s. It was generally agreed by most wildlife observers

Ocelot, Leopardus pardalis, also known as the dwarf leopard or McKenney's wildcat.

that the ocelot was extinct in Arizona until one was found dead along the highway in the Globe area in 2010 and one was photographed in 2009 by a trail camera belonging to the Sky Island Alliance.  There is a small remnant population of ocelots in Texas and the rest of the range was believed to be much farther south in Mexico, but now Arizona has to be added to the list of locations where the species is still holding on to some territory.

Historically, Arizona’s desert rivers have been corridors for wildlife. Although the exact locations of the traditional corridors used by jaguars and ocelots remain uncertain, there is good evidence that the prey species of both cats were originally found in abundance along our desert rivers. For these species to survive, movement corridors need to be maintained. Conservation efforts are crucial as habitat becomes more fragmented and isolated. The Sky Island Alliance is one organization working to maintain the connections north and south of the border through their Wildlife Linkages program.

One threat to the continued efforts to conserve both of these species is the proposed border fence. The Center for Biological Diversity  has been warning of the environmental catastrophe that the border fence would be for wildlife populations for five years. Back in 2006, the Center said:

More border walls, militarization, low-level aircraft and roads would further damage already-stressed wildlife and places, such as the Cactus Pygmy Owl and Sonoran Pronghorn in Arizona, Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard and Peninsular Ranges Bighorn Sheep in California, Jaguar and Mexican Gray Wolves in New Mexico, and the Rio Grande River, Ocelot, and Big Bend National Park in Texas. Triple walls are harmful to wildlife blocking critical migration corridors and destroying valuable habitat. The distance of the triple wall – 370 miles – is approximately the distance of the entire border in Arizona.

With two Arizona desert rivers having their headwaters in Mexico, the border fence will affect wildlife distribution. It seems clear that the northernmost range for the ocelot and jaguar would be cut off from the population in Mexico and stop any natural repopulation of these species in Arizona.

Roosevelt Water Conservation District

Closer to home, our canal system is the wildlife corridor for coyotes and other mammals. In the southeast valley, the four SRP canals (Consolidated, Eastern, Western, & Tempe) plus the Roosevelt Water Conservation District canal are regular coyote corridors. When we add in the Eastern Maricopa Floodway, we have a wildlife corridor that stretches from the San Tan Mountains in the south to the Salt River Recreation Area. So the next time you see a coyote in one of the East Valley riparian areas, or a coyote loping through a southeast valley neighborhood, remind yourself that it is the same mode of transit that wildlife has always used in the southwest: our riparian desert rivers. And, if you want your children and grandchildren to someday see jaguars and ocelots in the wildlands of Arizona, let your opinion be known to our elected officials the next time they start talking about building “the dang fence”.

Guestblog: A Few Healthy Bird Feeding Techniques

When one of our members expressed concern that there seemed to be too many dead birds in her yard, MaryAnne Kenefic, Co-Owner of Wild Birds Unlimited, Mesa, had a few suggestions about preventing the possible cause, Canker, a protozoan infection.

By MaryAnne Kenefic
Wild Birds Unlimited
Mesa, AZ

Clean feeders, birdbaths and hardware every few weeks with a weak bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) rinse and dry thoroughly before refilling the feeders. Or purchase a feeder that is made with Agion technology, which has antimicrobial properties, then just clean with soap and water.

Bird feeders with cracks and crevices are difficult to sanitize and should be replaced.  Use feeders that are easy to clean i.e. one with a quick clean release bottom.

Move feeders around to avoid build up of waste materials and bird droppings. Keep the ground below and around the feeders clean. Rake and discard seed debris or turn it under.

Give the birds room to move, feeders should not be crowded together. Add a feeder and spread the feeders farther apart. This will reduce the potential for disease transmission and reduce the birds’ stress.

Always discard seed that has become wet.  Limit the amount of seed provided in feeders to only the amount birds will consume in one or two days.  By lessening the amount of seed in the feeders, you ensure that the seed is eaten quickly and always stays fresh.  Always discard moldy, rancid or foul-smelling seed as it could present a health hazard to birds. Never mix old seed with new seed. Use a high quality seed. If you are unsure about the freshness of the seed, it is best to discard the old seed and provide fresh new seed.


Turn Garbage to Gold

Audubon @Home, Arizona

by Krys Hammers
Desert Rivers Audubon Society

The goal of course  is rich garden compost, which will help your vegetables or landscape plants thrive.  The most obvious advantage to composting is the nutrients that are added to the soils when you add compost, but it can also enhance pest control and eliminate diseases in plants.

Of particular importance in our desert, compost helps soils retain moisture longer.  According to the EPA, it can even help to clean up contaminated soils.  It has additional benefit of diverting organic solid waste from landfills, where it can contribute to production of methane, a greenhouse gas

and acidic leachate.

Most cities, including Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa can help you get started with composting.  They may offer classes with all necessary information to get you started.  They will also deliver a compost bin to your house.  Mesa charges $5 refundable deposit for the bin.  You can also buy bins in yard and garden stores.  The fancier models have mechanisms to help you turn the compost pile.

The concept is simple you add green and brown organic matter, dampen it and turn it over and before long you have compost.  The

Greens provide nitrogen.  This waste would include green yard clippings, fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds and filters and breads and grains.

The Browns provide the carbon.  They would include saw dust, straw, shredded paper, dried yard clippings, nut shells, egg shells, dryer and vacuum cleaner lint.   You do not want to add plastics, dairy products, meats scraps, oil or lard, pet waste, yard clippings that have been treated with pesticides, weeds, glass or metal.

You should have about 4 parts browns to every of part of greens.

The pile needs air and moisture. Most of the bins have ventilation holes and you will need to aerate the pile by turning the contents every week or every time you add to it.  You will need to dampen the pile to keep it moist.  The pile will actually generate warmth as the materials decompose.  In the summer, it may be necessary to keep the pile in a shaded or partially-shaded area.

Your compost is ready when the material is dark brown and crumbly.  You can sift your compost to get a finer soil additive.  If you find any materials that haven’t decomposed completely, you can add it to your new pile.

Your plants and garden will thank you and you can feel good about reducing your need for fertilizers, pesticides, as well as helping to reducing greenhouse gases.

Give a Valentine to Wildlife: Eat Local

Wild peach-faced lovebirds

Audubon @Home, Arizona

by Krys Hammers
Desert Rivers Audubon Society

One way to reduce your carbon footprint is to eat local.  According to the website, www.eatlocal.net, the average distance that food travels in the US from the farmer to the final consumer is 1,518 miles.  The fuel used and the pollutants generated from trucking your food can be greatly reduced if you buy local foods.

Additionally, when you buy food directly from the source, the farmer gets $.90 of every dollar you spend. The farmer only makes $.21 on the dollar on food he sells to food distributors.  The rest goes to transportation and distribution.   In turn buying locally supports your local farmers and your local economy.  Foods that don’t go into the distribution chain are also less susceptible to contaminants.

The East Valley area hosts a number of Farmer’s Markets. Most operate seasonally and the season ends in June.  That’s the case in Tempe and Chandler, but the Mesa Farmers Market; located at 263 N Center operates year-round.  They are only open on Fridays from 9am to noon.

If you can’t get to a Farmer’s Market, you may want to consider participating in a co-op or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You pay a fee and each week you receive a bag full of fresh local vegetables, sometimes with recipes or ideas for using them.  You can also preserve some fruits and vegetables for use when they are out of season.

The ultimate in eating locally is growing your own food.  We all know how harsh our desert can be.

Winter vegetable garden at University of Arizona Maricopa Extension, Phoenix

Yet some fruits, vegetables and herbs are well-adapted to our climate.  The soils can be treated to be more productive.   It gives you a use for that compost that you’re creating.  It doesn’t take a lot of space.  It’s amazing how much you can get out of a 5 foot square raised bed.   And if you plan well, you can have 2 growing seasons a year.

I’m trying my hand at gardening for the first time in this climate.  I expect to have all the cherry tomatoes and cucumbers that I can use this summer.  And I’ll have more basil, rosemary and oregano than I can use.  Not to forget my feathered friends, I also planted a sunflower with a huge seed head, just for the birds.  It is so much fun when cooking to go out to the garden for some ingredients.   It’s fresher, and you know it’s got to taste better.  When you grow it yourself, you can know for certain if you have used pesticides or chemicals.  I recommend the book, Extreme Gardening by Dave Owens to help you get started.

Not everyone may want to grow their own food, but we can all support markets and restaurants that use local foods. I challenge you all to become a locavore and go on a 100 mile diet.  The next time you’re tempted to buy that cantaloupe that was shipped all the way from Argentina, think twice about what it truly costs us.