Forest Fires

Forest Fires and Science Faction on Spider Silk

spider web

Spider Web by Jeanne Menjoulet

This week, we have an archive show that delves into the science of forest fires and forest rejuvenation, and how climate change disrupts that cycle. Then on Science Faction, we learn about how spider silk can be used by humans in many strange and unexpected ways. Hear from Utah State University’s Dr. Randy Lewis & BioArt Laboratories’ Jalila Essaïdi about “Spider Silk Superpowers.”

Download episode now.


What makes dogs so friendly? Study finds genetic link to super-outgoing people.

Ever wonder what makes your pup’s smiley lick-kisses and excited full body wiggling so infallible every time you walk in the door? New research into the genetic basis for the friendliness of dogs may have revealed some clues. Read more here.

Environment groups wait for charges in year-old Husky oil spill in Saskatchewan

Husky Energy is awaiting charges stemming from a major oil spill in Saskatchewan a year ago, when one of their pipelines leaked 225, 000 liters of oil onto the riverbank near Maidstone, Saskatchewan, contaminating the water sources of 3 different cities. Read more here.

Bears Are Being Milked for Bile. Vietnam Pledges to Rescue Them.

Vietnam has pledged to rescue around one thousand bears from Vietnamese farms keeping them captive in order to extract and sell their bile. Bile, a liquid found in gall bladders to aid digestion, has a long history in traditional Asian medicine, but there is no proof of its effectiveness in treating many of the conditions it is sold to cure. The practice of extracting bile often results in inhumane treatment of the bears, with farms keeping often malnourished bears in small cages. Read more here. 

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Save The Experimental Lakes, Return To Slave Lake, and more!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Well, while the rest of you folks have been enjoying the reveleries, we’ve been hard at work preparing this week’s show. To celebrate Canada’s greenest holiday, we’ve pulled a story out of the archives that will help you identify the budding greenery in your own backyard. And like a people overcoming adversity, our correspondent shares the story of Slave Lake two years after the devastating wild fire swept through. Finally, they’re no Fighting Irish—but Save The ELA is mounting a vigorous fight to restore funding to Canada’s world famous Experimental Lakes Area by the end of the month. Here’s hoping for a St. Patrick’s Day Miracle, on Terra Informa.

Download this week’s episode

Photo by Flickr user esagor

Photo by Flickr user esagor

Slave Lake: The Sky Was On Fire

Slave Lake, Alberta. About two and a half hours north of Edmonton. In May of 2011, tragedy struck when a raging inferno rolled through part of the town. Nearly 2 years later, Slave Lake resident Kyle Muzyka shares his story, along with some stories from Len Ramsey’s book, “The Sky was on Fire,” a book about the struggles of the residents of Slave Lake during that time.

Len’s book is available both online, by mail and at Audrey’s Books in Edmonton.

Save The Experimental Lakes Area

I bet you don’t know the reason why there aren’t any phosphates in our detergent, do you? Well! It’s all because of a Canadian research facility up in northern Ontario. The Experimental Lakes Area is facing incredible change. Less than a year ago, the government announced it was cutting funding to this internationally recognized research centre on March 31 of 2013. If there’s no money, there’s no research. Terra Informa’s Nicole Wiart spoke with Britt Hall from the Save ELA coalition to find out more.

For more information on what you can do to help keep this world-renowned site running:

ID Cards for Plants

  • Have you ever wondered about which plants are indigenous to the area you are living in?
  • What are the different uses for the plant and what are the plant’s names?
  • What has contributed to the dwindling of indigenous species of plants in some areas and what are the impacts?

In this conversation, John Bradley Williams and Jennifer McMullen tell Terra Informa about a set of Indigenous plant identification cards that they have both taken part in creating. The cards identify a number of plants on the unceded Coast Salish Territories of Vancouver Island. From our archives, Annie Banks asked John Bradley and Jen to describe the cards and the ideas behind their creation.

Cards are available on Etsy; or for pick up and purchase at the Saanich Adult Education Centre.

What’s Happening

Join Terra Informa at Latitude 53‘s third Winter Salon. We will present stories on the theme of “Cold/Warmth” alongside Anthony Goertz, Body Habitat (Lily Gael & Lisa Wells), and Anya. Thursday, March 28th at 7pm (McCauley School – 9538 107 Avenue).

Cold Recall: Roald Amundsen’s Reflections from the Northwest Passage. Running at the Royal Alberta Museum until April 28, 2013.

David Janzen’s Transfer Station. Running at the Art Gallery of Alberta until June 16, 2013.

Resetting the Table

This week on Terra Informa, we’re talking strategy. Listen in to hear why guests like Ecoholic Body author Adria Vasil are asking us to reset the way we think about the cosmetics we buy, where our food comes from, and how forests rebuild after a fire. Then we’ve got you covered with this week’s environmental events.

Download this week’s episode.

Jill Johnstone (far right) joins in an intrepretive dance demonstration of boreal forest succession after forest fires.

Susan Roberts on People’s Food Policy

“When Canadians sit down to their evening meal tonight, two key ingredients will be missing: a coherent national food policy in the public interest, and active participation in the food system.” That’s a quote from “Resetting the Table: A People’ Food Policy for Canada”

The People’s Food Policy is the first Canadian policy to be advanced based on food sovereignty principles — an approach where food is viewed as a foundation for healthy lives, communities, economies and ecosystems.
Correspondent Kathryn Lennon spoke with Susan Roberts in November 2011 about food sovereignty, food systems change, and the need for a national food policy. Susan is a coordinator for Growing Food Security in Alberta, and a steering committee member of Food Secure Canada.

Effects of climate change on forest fires

Like us, you’ve probably been watching the recent forest fires in Australia with a mixture of awe and caution. Have you ever wondered how fires change the forests they burn, though? Or how that might change now that climate change is driving fires to come more often, and get more intense? Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips reached University of Saskatchewan ecologist Jill Johnstone in Yukon last summer to ask her about her research studying fire in forests there. She explained how climate change is making fire a disruptor of boreal forests, rather than a regenerator.

More on this story: Slideshow – A Sensitive Slope: Forest recovery after fire in a changing climateyourYukon article on Jill Johnstone’s researchSlideshow – Once burned, Twice shyJill Johnstone’s Northern Plant Ecology Lab cookbook

Adria Vasil on Ecoholic series

Adria Vasil, an environmental journalist and author of the best-selling Eco-holic series, has 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 become mobilized to help the environment through the products that they purchase and the daily decisions that they make, has spawned into three books in the now best selling Eco-holic series that covers everything from the most environmentally friendly cosmetics on the market to how to detoxify your house.  To find out more, Terra Informa’s Matt Hirji spoke with Vasil about  her career in environmental advocacy and how  her latest book, ‘Eco-holic Body’, plays into her fight for a more sustainable Earth. In this interview she explains that being conscious of the products that we consume fits within a larger paradigm of advocating for a cleaner, healthier environment.

More on this story: Ecoholic book series, Adria Vasil’s column in NOW Magazine

What’s Happening

Building Resilient Communities through Forestry Management
From January 16 to 18, the who’s who of environmentalists, first nations, and government representatives will be speaking at a conference on building resilient communities through community based forest management. This conference is happening at Algoma’s Water Tower Inn in Sault St. Marie, Ontario If you are interested in developing a research plan to counter forest management issues, sharing your own experiences, and networking with other Canadians, then make sure to register for this event. Tickets are $120 and include meals and banquet.

More information: How to register.

The Economics of Happiness
On January 19, documentary film The Economics of Happiness will be screened at beach business hub in Toronto. This documentary explores the two opposing forces of localization and globalization, as well as provides practical solutions for creating a sustainable economy. Author and director of the film, Helena Norberg-Hodge has received recognition for her groundbreaking contributions to the new economy movement, making this a must see.

More information: Reservations for the screening.

Creating (and Using) Your Fundraising Plan
This all-day workshop is happening on January 25th, at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto. The workshop is designed for grass-roots and non-profit organizations to understand how to raise and manage money. Like anything else in life, fundraising works better if you have a plan — and even better if you follow it. The registration cost is $100 per person and includes a full day of instruction, lunch, refreshments and handouts.

More information: How to register.

Invasive Species Art Competition
Artists are invited to create two-dimensional artworks of any archival media in the themes of biodiversity and/or invasive species for the Invasive Species Centre’s juried art competition.
There are cash prizes and the final date for submissions is February 8th. To register, and for more information, complete the registration form online and email the form and digital image of your artwork to

Forest Fires, Terra Nullius, and Mercury in Fish

Today we talk to a researcher who is investigating how climate change is affecting the way that wild fires interact with forest ecosystems, we explore the colonial concept of Terra Nullius and how it ties in with modern environmental issues, and we hear from a biologist who is studying the accumulation of mercury in the fish we eat. All that, plus your wrap up of the week’s news headlines, on today’s edition of Terra Informa.

Download this week’s show.

The glow of a ground fire illuminates the canopy of a pine forest against the black night sky.

Professor Jill Johnstone has found that with climate change increasing the frequency of fires, they’re  having significant new impacts on our forests. Photo by the US Department of Agriculture.

Terra Nullius
What is the Doctrine of Discovery or terra nullius? Today on the first episode of Decolonize Your Mind, a segment that looks at environmental issues with a decolonizing lens, we ask this question, along with a bunch of others. What’s colonization? And what is the responsibility of environmentalists to look at these kinds of things? We’ll also hear an audio clip from Winona LaDuke, speaking about the impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery and some of her thoughts on empire.

Effect of Climate Change on Forest Fires
Across North America we’re getting into the thick of forest fire season. Have you ever wondered how fires change the forests they burn, though? Or how that might change now that fires are coming more often, and getting more intense? Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips reached University of Saskatchewan ecologist Jill Johnstone in the Yukon to ask her about her research studying fire in forests there. She explained how climate change is making fire a disruptor of boreal forests, rather than a regenerator.

More on this story: sdf, Forest recovery after fire in a changing climate (PDF), Northern Plant Ecology Lab Cookbook, yourYukon

Mercury in Fish
Most people consider fish to be a healthy dinner choice, and for the most part, they’re right. But there is a complication – some fish species can absorb mercury, a toxic heavy metal. Some of this mercury is natural, and some of it is from industrial pollution. Can anything be done? And what species of fish should we be wary of? Today Terra Informa correspondent David Kaczan chats to Tina Willson, a researcher at the University of Wyoming.