Friday, October 10, 2014

Sukkah in Washington Square Park

The sukkah has returned to Washington Square Park. This year, Sukkot is observed from October 8 to October 15. Sukkot is a harvest festival and building a sukkah is the first step in celebrating the holiday. The sukkah must be located outdoors - "under the open sky" - with a vegetated roof and a minimum of two and half walls.

Image: Sukkah, Washington Square Park, 2011
The park's sukkah in 2011 was built by the NYU Chabad House. This year's sukkah has a similar design so I assume it was also constructed by the university Chabad House.

My introduction to Sukkot was the Sukkah City 2010 exhibition in Union Square Park. The twelve competition finalists displayed their sukkahs for two days. A couple of my favorites are shown below. For more photos, read Sukkah City in Union Square Park.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Window Box Gardens in Munich, Seattle, Tokyo, and London

Last year we reached out to friends of the blog who garden and/or love gardens to tell us about their window boxes. We received four responses and fortunately there were no repeat locations. Leslie Kuo of Urban Plant Research is an admirer of other Berliners' window boxes in Berlin (she's since relocated to Hawaii). Kelly Brenner of Metropolitan Field Guide plants for wildlife in Seattle. Across the Pacific, Jared Braiterman of Tokyo Green Space gardens on his balcony. And back to the Atlantic, Melissa Harrison grows vibrantly red strawberries in South London. (Melissa Harrison is the author of the novel Clay and blogs at Tales of the City.)

Image: Strawberries in South London, image courtesy Melissa Harrison

For primer on how to garden in exterior window boxes, check out Gardenista's Hardscaping 101: Window Boxes. Need plants for an interior window box? Consider these species for the windowsill which were photographed during my Sprout Home field trip.

P.S. The first image is of one of many window boxes at 41 Bond Street in NYC.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tree guides to five Manhattan playgrounds

Image: London planetrees tower over the jungle gym at the Playground of the Americas

My most recent collaboration with ioby was the successful fundraising campaign for a mobile map of the trees and other wild things in Washington Square Park also known as Washington Square Park Ecology.  A couple of years ago, I was invited by the organization to write a local ecology series for the organization's blog. We decided on tree guides to five playgrounds in downtown Manhattan. 

Naturally, a guide for Washington Square Park was the first installment! Learn about the Trees in Tot Playground in Washington Square Park.  The remaining four guides are the Trees of the Playground of the Americas, the Trees of Minetta Playground, the Trees of the Playground at Pier 25, and the Trees of Evelyn’s Playground in Union Square Park.

Do you have a favorite treed playground? Let us know in the comments.

This post has been edited. It was originally published on June 25, 2012.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Martha and the extinction of passenger pigeons

"...100 years ago this week, the very last pigeon of her kind died in her cage at the Cincinnati Zoo. Her name was Martha, and her passing merits our close attention today." Read Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick essay about the "swift" eradication of the species and the lesson of "timely conservation" in the New York Times Sunday Review.

Joel Greenberg, who wrote a book and produced a film about passenger pigeons, penned a requiem for Martha at Yale E360. Barry Yeoman for Audubon Magazine also wrote about what this species' extinction can teach us.

NPR covered a commemorative event for Martha at the Cincinnati Zoo.

National Geographic wrote about the de-extinction of the passenger pigeon!

P.S. In today's Times, Andy Revkin argues that the 19th century social network, the telegraph, hastened the demise of the passenger pigeon, while today, social media might "forestall future extinctions."

P.P.S. Was there an "additional factor" in the demise of the passenger pigeon? Elizabeth Kolbert discusses possible scenarios in The New Yorker.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Wild About: Ants

Wild About is a celebration of the flora and fauna commonly found in our cities. Instead of fact sheets, this space will showcase books, art, music, societies, and whimsical objects about urban-adaptable plants and animals. If you would like to see your favorite urban-oriented plant or animal featured, please email us at info at localecology dot org. 

Image: Unknown species of ant, Fossil Butte National Monument, WY by Sam Droege via USGS Bee Lab Flickr (source)

Have you ever collected ants? Almost two years ago I joined the Your Wild Life team on an ant collecting expedition in Riverside Park. The preferred bait for park ants is pecan sandies! I learned how to capture ants with tweezers -- squeeze gently.

Image: Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants of New York City cover via Your Wild Life (source)

A great resource about New York City ants is Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of New York City. Dr. Eleanor is a member of the Your Wild Life Team. You can download her book for free on iTunes.

If you want to see "high quality images of all the world's ant species," check out AntWeb. There are 158,626 total specimen images archived on the website.

Image: Unknown species of ant, Fossil Butte National Monument, WY by Sam Droege via USGS Bee Lab Flickr (source)

Bees are the central characters of Laline Paull's debut novel, The Bees, but they are not the only insects to star as fictional protagonists. E. O. Wilson, renowned for his ant expertise, wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning novel about ants titled Anthill. His short story "Trailhead" was published in The New Yorker in 2010. Is "Trailhead" excerpted from Anthill? His 1990 non-fiction book with Bert Hölldobler, The Ants, also received a Pulitzer.

Watch NOVA's profile of Wilson here. The program is titled Lord of the Ants!

For a bit of fun, watch a video of The Ants Go Marching. (Note: there is a commercial preceding the video.) Want to wear something antsy? The MoMA store sells a MoMA Ants tote bag.

More Wild About
Snowy owls
Eating insects

P.S. Did anyone see the Ants in the City Solo Exhibition by Su-Chen Hung in San Francisco last year?

Wild About was inspired by Design*Sponge's Animal Love.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wild About: Bees

Wild About is a celebration of the flora and fauna commonly found in our cities. Instead of fact sheets, this space will showcase books, art, music, societies, and whimsical objects about urban-adaptable plants and animals. If you would like to see your favorite urban-oriented plant or animal featured, please email us at info at localecology dot org.

Image: Stenotritus pubescens by Sam Droege, USGS Bee Lab (flick/source)*

Two things inspired this edition of Wild About. The first is Laline Paull's excellent novel titled The Bees. The second is a Your Wild Life blog post about urban native bee research at North Carolina State. If you need to expand your summer reading list, I strongly recommend The Bees.  Emma Straub reviewed the book for the New York Times.

I was browsing issues of Edible East Bay for photographs of iced tea (!) and came across two bee-related essays, one about native bee habitat restoration and the other about backyard bee keepingEdible Austin profiled Brandon Fehrenkamp, owner of Eastside Honey Company.

Image: Rococo Bee Bar, screen capture from Candy Blog (source)

In addition to my love of iced tea, I like candy. I have not eaten the Rococo Bee Bar, but Candy Blog gave it high marks: 7 out of 10, or "worth it."

Did you know that there is a bee box in Union Square Park?!  And that you can buy NYC rooftop honey at the Union Square Greenmarket?

Image: Nomia species by Sam Droege, USGS Bee Lab (flick/source)

This Wild About would not be completed without a nod to children.  An adventure with Ms. Frizzle and her students is a great way to learn about the natural world and scientific concepts.  The Magic School Bus: Inside a Beehive does not disappoint.

Finally, Design*Sponge has a nice round-up of objects inspired by bees

Would you like to read more Wild Abouts? Check out other posts in the series: Horses, Snowy owls, Squirrels, Eating insects, Chipmunks, Pigeons, Ginkgo.

P.S. Want to raise bees in the city? Listen to this hands-on guide by beekeeper James Fischer on WNYC.

* I discovered the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab Flickr via Legal Nomad's Tutorials on the Art of Photographing Wildlife.

Wild About was inspired by the Animal Love series at Design*Sponge.   

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Three proposals for the NY-NJ Waterfront from Matthew Baird Architects

Image: Repurposed oil tankers to generate algal biodiesel, Matthew Baird Architects via MoMA (source)

In 2009, five multidisciplinary teams of landscape architects, architects, ecologists, artists, and other specialists were selected by the Museum of Modern Art to participate in its Rising Currents exhibit which debuted in 2010.

Baird Architects was among the five teams and designed solutions to rising sea levels in Zone 2, the Bayonne and Kill Van Kull shipping route area in New Jersey. I learned of the Baird master plan for Zone 2 from a profile in the Spring 2014 Alumni Horae published by St. Paul's School. [N.B. I am not an alumna of the school.]  The team's proposals are summarized below

The proposals of the Matthew Baird Architects team relied on the waste-stream and existing infrastructure to mitigate flooding associated with sea level rise and storm surge.  One proposal was to use the approximately 93,000 tones of water glass to create artificial reefs.  A second proposal was to use dredge material from the Ambrose Channel to create berms at the shoreline.  And the third proposal was to generate renewable energy onsite using repurposed oil tankers and combined sewer overflows in an algal biodiesel system.