Bark Beetles

Observe, Listen, and Protect

On this weeks episode of Terra Informa the sounds of bark beetles in New Mexico are transformed into music for the ears.  Also, the forces behind stopping shark finners as well as the protective measures put in place to gives the sharks a safe future are explored.  Finally, the Red Squirrel of the Yukon is revealed to have more skills than meet the eye.

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The Los Brazos Cliffs of New Mexico, a State rich in habitat for all life, including the dark beetle which spends a large part of it's life eating off the bark of native New Mexico pines.

The Los Brazos Cliffs of New Mexico, a State rich in habitat for all life, including the bark beetle which spends a large part of it’s life eating off the bark of native New Mexico pines.

The Acoustics of Bark Beetles

David Dunn, sound artist and composer produced an album in 2006 called The Sound of Light in Trees: The Acoustic Ecology of Pinyon Pines, in collaboration with the Acoustic Ecology Institute. With tiny microphones, he records the sounds of bark beetles in New Mexico’s pinyon pines. Beyond a fascinating listening experience, this is an innovative approach to the ecology of insects, and to monitoring bark beetle populations.

More on this story: The Sound of Light in Trees: The Acoustic Ecology of Pinyon Pines

Catching shark finners on the high seas

Have you ever wondered how shark finners get caught? The US strengthened its laws against shark finning in 2011, banning the practice for almost every shark species in American waters. Paul Raymond is a special agent with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. He’s helped enforce the US laws protecting sharks. Chris Chang-Yen Phillips reached him in Florida to ask how they do it.

More on this story: Wired, Oceana

The Little Squirrel That Could

The Red Squirrel of the Yukon Territory weighs less than half a pound. They can be seen spending their days collecting pine cones, and scampering up trees. They are an animal that wouldn’t be out of place in your favorite children’s cartoon.  Not a very formidable presence when you consider their imposing surroundings in the great wilderness that is the Yukon.  But as we’ll soon find out, the red squirrel has a little trick up its sleeve.

Matt Hirji spoke with University of Alberta biologist Stan Boutin to find out more.

What’s Happening

Garlic Mustard is a native species to Europe and Asia that were originally introduced to North America as a medicinal and culinary herb.  The species is very invasive to our environment and can be destructive to native biodiversity and habitat.  It causes long term negative effects in soil and reduces available plants for wildlife such as deer, birds and insects.  It’s been listed as a prohibited noxious weed in the Alberta Weed Control Act.  Mill Creek ravine is one of few known locations in Edmonton where this non-native species occurs.

To prevent further distribution and reduce the negative impact on other areas in Mill Creek, the Edmonton Naturalization Group and the City of Edmonton organize Garlic Mustard pulls in Mill Creek.  They are looking for volunteers to come and help remove this weed on Saturday, May 25, 2013, 9:30–11:30am

For more information visit our website at

or visit Edmonton Pest Control

Does Solar electricity, solar hot water, geothermal heating, water collection, retrofit or new construction interest you?  After many years of arranging tours of homes in Edmonton, the Eco-Solar Tour is branching out to commercial buildings.  This year, they will be conducting the second Eco-Solar Tour of Energy Efficient Buildings.  The Tour will feature businesses that are doing their part to reduce their energy use and to improve the working environment for their employees.  The Eco-Solar Tour of Energy Efficient Buildings will feature one energy efficient building, per day, for nearly two weeks, starting on May 28th and finishing on June 6th.

Each weekday, from Monday to Friday, one building will be open for touring from noon until 4 pm.

Check out more details of the tours at

Summer Reading

During the summer months there’s nothing quite like soaking up a little sun with the company of a good book. With that in mind, on today’s show we’re going to take a look at a few titles you may want to add to your summer reading list. We interview Adria Vasil, author of the immensely popular Ecoholic series, which aim to help consumers make healthier and more environmentally friendly purchasing decisions. We also  speak with Andrew Nikiforuk about his new book Empire of the Beetle, which examines the causes of the bark beetle outbreaks that have plagued North America in recent years. All that, plus your wrap up of the week’s news headlines.

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The cover of Andrew Nikiforuk's book, Empire of the Beetle, showing a bark beetle superimposed in front of a forest of orange trees.

Andrew Nikiforuk’s new book explores the causes of the recent bark beetle outbreaks that have plagued North American forests.

Ecoholic Body
Adria Vasil is an environmental journalist and author of the best selling Ecoholic series. She’s been a vocal advocate for a healthier environment for more than two decades. After witnessing the Exxon Valdez oil spill as a child, Vasil has dedicated much of her life to investigating the enormous environmental costs of corporate malpractice. But in 2004 her career took a distinctly different path when she began writing a column in Now! Magazine, one of Toronto’s alternative weekly’s. The column, offering tips on how people can mobilize to help the environment through the products they purchase and the daily decisions they make, has spawned three books in the now best selling Ecoholic series that cover everything from the most environmentally friendly cosmetics to how to detoxify your house. To find out more, Terra Informa’s Matt Hirji spoke with Adria Vasil about her career in environmental advocacy and how her latest book, Ecoholic Body, plays into her fight for a more sustainable Earth.

Empire of the Beetle
Andrew Nikiforuk just published an excellent new book on bark beetles, titled Empire of the Beetle. In it he explores some of the current theories on what’s caused the recent outbreaks which have devastated huge swaths of BC’s forests. Climate change is in there, but it’s certainly not the only culprit. Nikiforuk also does a great job of examining the social impacts of bark beetle outbreaks, which is a side of the issue that often gets forgotten about. And he puts the outbreak in western Canada into the larger context of bark beetle outbreaks that have erupted all the way from Alaska to Arizona over the last couple of decades.

Mountain Pine Beetle & New Research On Oil Sands Reclamation

On this week’s show Myles talks with a previous contributor to Terra Informa, Rebecca Rooney, whose recently published research into oil sands reclamation has gained attention in the scientific community and challenged the industry’s public claims  regarding the quality of their reclamation practices.  We also bring our focus to another devastating force in western Canada, the mountain pine beetle, in an interview with researcher Dr. Janice Cooke. All of this and our weekly eco-headlines will give you your fix for Canadian environmental news.

Download this week’s show.

From Dr. Rooney's media presentation on the paper 'Oil sands mining and reclamation cause massive loss of peatland and stored carbon'

News Headlines

World Water Forum declaration falls short on human rights, claim experts

MPs’ plan to streamline environmental oversight draws opposition fire

NDP says leaked documents show feds abandoning fresh water oversight

Environmental crunch worse than thought: OECD 2050 report

Mountain Pine Beetle

Mountain pine beetles are about the size of the head of a match. Even for an insect, they’re pretty insignificant. But their effect on forests is hard to put into words. Over the past decade they’ve turned the mountains and valleys of central BC from lush green to red, wiping out the province’s lodgepole pines for hundreds of kilometres on end. Now they’re slowly moving eastward, with the outbreak well under way in Alberta. What does this summer hold in store for Canada’s forests? And how far east will the mountain pine beetles ultimately advance? We speak with Dr. Janice Cooke for the latest on the outbreak.

Bonus Content: Interviews with Andrew Nikiforuk and Dr. Dezene Huber

Peatland & Stored Carbon Loss Due To Oilsands Reclamation Plans

This week Terra Informa correspondent Rebecca Rooney took a break from reporting on the news, and instead made some headlines of her own. Rebecca holds a PhD in wetlands ecology from the University of Alberta and is the lead author of a new scientific study on the reclamation of the Alberta oil sands. The study quantifies for the first time the changes in the ecology and ecological services offered by the areas which are to be reclaimed after mining operations are complete. Terra Informa correspondent Myles Curry met up with Dr Rooney to get a summary of what these new findings reveal about the tar sands’ cumulative impacts.