Category Archives: Bill’s Notes

Signs of Summer 11: The Biology of Smell

(Click to access an audible version of this blog) Almost every living organism can detect chemicals in its environment. From our large, complexly structured, vertebrate perspective, we call this chemosensory ability the “sense of smell” (or, more precisely, “olfaction”). The … Continue reading

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Signs of Summer 10: To Anthropocene or not to Anthropocene?

(Click here for an audio version of this blog!) One of the things about science that puts many people off is the incredible number of words that you need to learn to be able to talk about (or listen to) … Continue reading

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Signs of Summer 9: Something is Missing

(Click to access an audible version of this blog) It always takes me a long time to notice that something is not where (or when) it should be. I am pretty quick to see new things right when they occur … Continue reading

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Signs of Summer 8: Monarchs!

(Click here for an audio version of this blog!) Over the past month I have seen a number of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) both around my house and up at Harrison Hills Park. The fields at Harrison Hills are loaded … Continue reading

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Signs of Summer 7: Amphibians

(Click to access an audio version of this blog!) Amphibians are the oldest group of terrestrial vertebrates. They arose during the Devonian Period of the Paleozoic Era some 370 million years ago and are the evolutionary forerunners of all of … Continue reading

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Signs of Summer 6: Cavity Nesting Team, Year #4!

Click to access an audio version of this blog! Over the past four years I have written a number of articles about our Cavity Nesting Team study up at Harrison Hills Park in northern Allegheny County. This year we have … Continue reading

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Signs of Summer 5: Insects (good, bad and “other”)

(Click to access an audio version of this blog) The relationship between insects and humans is complicated. Many people initially react to the word “insect” with the image of household vermin, or a biting/stinging nuisance, or a disease transmitting vector, … Continue reading

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Signs of Summer 3: Vagility and Salmon Hatcheries

(Click to access an audio version of this blog) “Vagility” is a word that I first came across in a February 19, 2018 article in the Science section of the New York Times. Its word root, “vagile,” means “free to … Continue reading

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Signs of Summer 2: Our Yard Ecosystems (part 2)

(Click to access an audio version of this blog) Last week we talked about the plant components of our home-ecosystems. Listed in that post were estimates of $30 billion dollars spent each year by Americans on lawns and $14 billion … Continue reading

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Signs of Summer 1: Our Yard Ecosystems (part 1)

(Click to access an audio version of this blog) Each of us who owns a house manages the ecosystem that surrounds it. We make choices about what plants we want to grow in our home-ecosystems, and we make choices about … Continue reading

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