Monthly Archives: March 2011

Do you know who Monsanto is?

If you haven’t heard of Monsanto before, here are some things you should know as an educated citizen. Monsanto is an enormous corporation responsible for RoundUp pesticide and a variety of patented vegetable products. Read that again: patented vegetable products. Monsanto is a purveyor of genetically modified organisms (GMO), which the US government allows them to patent. (For those of you not picking up on what I’m trying to say, I’ll make it clear: when you patent a food plant, you are allowing the owner of that food to make it as expensive or as hard-to-come-by as they want. You allow monopoly. ON FOOD.)

Monsanto has a history of buying up seed companies and getting farmers to throw away their own hard-collected seeds by suing them when Monsanto’s GMO products are found randomly growing in their fields. Again: Monsanto is creating a monopoly on vegetable seeds. That we eat. Right now.

“Monsanto’s control of the seed market is so high that 93% of soybeans, some 82% of corn, 93% of cotton and 95% of sugar beets grown in the U.S. contain Monsanto’s patented genes.” (FDN) Which means that you’re eating GMO corn and soy every single day of your life. GMOs are created by inserting genes from other things (and by ‘other things’ I mean non-plant items like fish) into the cells of the vegetable plant. These genes also include things like genes from antibiotic-resistant E. coli, and there hasn’t been enough testing to determine if any of these GMOs cause health complications in humans like an increase in antibiotic resistance (which is the last thing we need).


RoundUp Ready corn is resistant to RoundUp pesticide, so farmers can dump all the pesticide they want on these bad boys.

Monsanto and other GMO producers have slipped people right into Congress and the EPA to fight their battles for them. GMO companies, despite huge public outcry, have stifled any laws that would force GMOs to appear on food labels. If it’s on the label and it causes an illness or reaction, the GMO company can be held responsible; if it’s not on the label and you have some reaction, there’s no one to blame, so GMO companies get off scott-free.

The GMO industry is insidious, and Monsanto is their king. In the film Future of Food, GMOs are explained in greater detail and Monsanto’s offenses are better described. I highly recommend this documentary – it’s presented in a down-to-earth way and it’s critical information for the informed person to have. In fact, everyone has the right to know this information, and the GMO companies don’t want you to know it because they’re making a shit ton of money off of our uninformed selves.

Besides that, Monsanto is involved in Terminator gene technology. Terminator genes disallow the plant containing them to make viable seeds. Which means if you want to grow corn, you have to buy the seed every single season; you can never harvest your own.

Moreover, these plants can interbreed with other plants, passing on the Terminator gene and destroying viable seed worldwide.

Ethical Investing has rightfully called this technology one of the greatest “threats to humanity” and stands against investing in Monsanto.

Look, I can’t make you care, or watch this film, but you should care, and you should watch this film. Why? Because you eat food every day. Because it’s unconscionable to allow corporations to own our food and seed supply. Because it’s unconscionable to allow these companies to load our foods with unknown-entities, without proper research, and to disallow us to force labeling restrictions. What could possibly be more basic than having equal access to food?

If you’re as impassioned as I am about this battle for equal food access, you can go to Food Democracy Now to sign a petition telling the Department of Justice that it’s time to break up the megalith that is the Monsanto Corporation. It will only take a minute to take a stand for our food supply. Spread the word and if you can take a couple hours to watch Future of Food, I highly recommend it. As always, the strongest voice can be heard through actions: talk to your local grocers about GMO labeling, contact food companies about GMO labeling, educate others you know, and if nothing else, make an effort to support non-GMO foods. You may pay a little more, but it’s worth it for the sake of our children’s future on this planet. (Whole Foods and other natural food stores sell lots of products with voluntary GMO labeling.)

Thanks for reading everyone.

[Naturalist Notebook] Rosy Boa’s First Meal at Home

Mmmm, mouse.

This is the Rosy Boa’s first meal since I brought her home, and she didn’t think twice about nabbing it. (It was dead, I can’t do the live mouse thing.) The Rubber Boa wolfed down four pinkies the same evening (she’s tapping on the glass right now and I think I hear the muffled yelling of something like “Hey human, let’s go, I’m still hungry! You feed the dog twice a day, I SEE YOU DO IT”).

Since snakes are sans thumbs, they’ve evolved some pretty cool ways of eating handless. For one, their jaws disengage from one another to allow their mouths to open wider. Their skin is elastic, allowing for a large blob to enter the body without tearing the dermis (usually; I’ve seen some images of reticulated pythons splitting some skin after eating, oh, like, AN ANTELOPE). Also, they have tiny sharp teeth on either side of those jaws and they “walk” them along the mouse, pulling it in side by side.




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Now THAT’S a dinner baby.


Read about the Rubber Boas here and about the Rosy Boa here


Predator Quiz

Okay friends, I need your help. All of you.

I’m developing a program on predators and I want some unbiased feedback. Throw me some answers to the following questions in the comments section. It will only take a few minutes and I would be so greatly appreciative! Pass it along to friends, colleagues, students, etc; the more, the merrier!

1. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you read or hear the word “predator”? (If the movie “Predator” comes to mind, that’s okay.)

2. What kind of feelings do you have when you hear or read the word “predator,” or think about predators?

3. How educated do you feel about predators in general? Have you ever sought to become more educated?

4. Do you think predators are important/beneficial, or do you think they’re inconsequential?

5. What kinds of words come to mind when you think about predators?

6. Name five to ten predators that you are most familiar with off the top of your head.

7. Do you think it’s necessary to teach kids about predators? What about adults?

8. Would you like to learn more about predators, their natural histories, and their effect on the environment?

9. Do you have hobbies or a profession that predisposes you to information about predators?

10. Do you think the media (news, movies, TV) provides an accurate portrayal of predators?

To show my heartfelt thanks, here’s a photo of a baby numbat being hand-fed. GOO.

Baby Numbat, via Click to be taken to the awesome article (and more photos!).

[Video] Suzie Gilbert on Raptors

At the Nature Center we do a limited amount of raptor rehab. Last year we were able to successfully release three beautiful raptors after they healed from injuries. Suzie Gilbert is a passionate rehabber and this beautiful video tells a piece of her story. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in learning more about Suzie or raptor rehab, check out these two books, written by her:

“Flyaway,” by Suzie Gilbert.

“Hawk Hill” is out of print but clicking on the link will take you to its Amazon page, where you can purchase it used.

Do you have a local raptor rehab center? Post a link to them in the comments section so others can visit! Thanks for reading. :) GO RAPTORS!


Despite the fact that there’s a fresh inch of snow on the ground here, my spirits for Spring Equinox aren’t dampened a bit. There’s more light, the birds are starting their respective parties, and plants buried beneath the cold earth are waking up.

To honor this momentous occasion (I’ve been effing sick of winter since, oh, probably December), I’ve written a poem.

Spring approaches;
I can feel the air drawing away north
I can smell the quiet stirrings beneath the soil.
Spring approaches;
I can hear it in the blackbirds claiming cattails
And the juncos singing for sex.
Spring approaches.
We quicken, towards the sun, maybe without noticing
And a fawn stumbles to her feet for the first time.
Spring approaches.

Wishing you an Equinox filled with promise, hope, and sunshine! :)

Take Ohio State’s large predator survey.

Ohio State is doing a study on attitudes about large predator management, Gray Wolves in particular. As a subject near and dear to my heart, I took the survey and it should only take you about 10 minutes. It’s important work being done right now and this is a great way to help out.

Go to Wildlife News’ blog to read a short explanation of the survey from one of its creators and click on their link to take it, or just go here, to the survey itself.

The wolves thank you!

[Naturalist Notebook] Introducing Isis, the Rosy Boa

Without further ado…

I’m in love with the blue/gray and orange stripes she’s sporting. Maybe I can find a matching outfit and be *that* person.

The Rosy Boa and the Red Dog. He’s mystified and intrigued by the snakes, and maybe a tad jealous.

The Rosy’s new name is Isis (she told it to me) and she’s so incredibly mellow. She doesn’t seem to mind being handled at all, and while she’s an active snake, she doesn’t seem to be trying to escape. She’s got a nice 20 gallon tank full of aspen shreds since she, like the Rubbers, enjoys digging around. Rosies are desert snakes, found in only small portions of the southernmost part of California and the Southwest, and otherwise are found mostly in Mexico. They’ve been actively bred for the pet trade since they have a wide range of beautiful colors (in combination with those three sweet racing stripes), don’t get much larger than 2-3 feet, and have a mellow temperament.

Do you see how her eyes look a little funny in the top pics? It turns out she has a problem shedding her eye scale when she sheds, but it dries out and dents so it ends up looking funny. I just take a Q-tip dabbed in warm water and gently press it to the scale until it loosens. Usually the scale comes right off onto the Q-tip.

The Rubber Boas seem to be doing just fine – the small female overcame a respiratory infection and literally grew overnight after digesting a pinkie.

Male on the left, female on the right. I should name the male Googly Eyes.

Still so tiny!


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The baby Rubbers have sweet digs: a 15 gallon tank complete with great digging substrate and some aquarium decorations. In this tank, the two of them will have more than enough room to grow.

Yes, that’s a fake alligator skull.

The family expands!

Thanks for reading. :)

The Truth About Chickens. (And cute baby chicken photos.)

I’m going to play it cool like I haven’t been MIA for the last week+ and treat you to some gratuitously cute photos. Deal? Okay.

I also want to talk to you about chickens. Do you have a minute?

Read the rest of this entry