A Wilderness Science and Art Collaboration

Aldo & Leonardo, a partnership between Colorado Art Ranch and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, is a project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The project is inspired by the scientific wisdom of Aldo Leopold and the artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Our endeavor is an interdisciplinary collaboration of artists and scientists designed to celebrate the lands, resources and opportunities protected by the Wilderness Act. In 2013, we are hosting one-month residencies in six diverse wilderness areas. Artists will work alongside wildland research scientists and gain firsthand knowledge of the wonders, complexities and challenges of our nation's wildest places. The result will be a body of work that creatively illustrates the value of wild areas and honors the scientific efforts to preserve wilderness for the next fifty years.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

When Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy

By Jeremy Underwood

Work in the tern colony on Monomoy takes a special type of person.  I never put much thought into the aggressive behavior of birds until I experienced it first hand.  Now, visions reminiscent of Hitchcock's The Birds play in my head as I think about the nesting colony.  Here is a little raw footage to give you a piece of the experience...if only it were in 3D.  

Letters to a Young Scientist by E.O. Wilson

By Peggy Lawless

E.O. Wilson's latest book, Letters to a Young Scientist, speaks to the importance of projects such as Aldo & Leonardo. In an NPR interview about the book he says, "The ideal scientist thinks like a poet and works like a bookkeeper." He advises young scientists to dream, play with metaphors, and fantasize about possibilities. "Innovators in both literature and science are basically dreamers and storytellers." He proposes that in the remainder of the 21st century the best science will come from the cross-fertilization of disciplines, including the creative arts.

NPR interview with E.O. Wilson: http://sciencefriday.com/playlist/#play/segment/9146

At Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Young-Scientist-Edward-Wilson/dp/0871403773/

Waste Consciousness

By Elisabeth Nickles

Few of us can plead "not guilty" to one-time use plastic, but please consider, when tossing it in the trash, that it ends up somewhere and that somewhere is often times the ocean

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Papermaking with Atlantic BioInvader: Codium Fragile

By Megan Singleton

The relationships that exist within the natural world inspire me. A large part of my studio practice is exploring the materiality and transformative properties of plants, specifically I investigate invasive plants and their impact within the ecosystems they are invading. The first day I arrived on Cape Cod I encountered Codium fragile, commonly known as "Deadman's Fingers" or "Green Fleece".  It is native to Pacific waters and was accidentally introduced to the Atlantic Coast in 1957, most likely from international shipping traffic.  Part of the success of this plant's population boom is due to the fact the dominant herbivore in these waters, the Green Sea Urchin, does not prefer to eat it. MIT Marine Bioinvasion Fact Sheet  As you can see below this plant dominates shorelines here in Chatham, washing up in heavy ropey masses.  It's negative impacts on the ecosystem include choking out important native species such as eel grass, thus displacing marine fauna such as oysters and clams that inhabit the eel grass beds.

The papermaking process for me begins with exploring sites that are being affected by invasive species and collecting plants.  The images above are from Cockle Cove in Chatham, MA.  The following images and heading will outline the process I used to create paper from these plants. 
Collecting Fiber on a Rainy Day at Cockle Cove

Collected Fiber is piled up and then sorted to remove the Atlantic Slipper Shells and their inhabitants 

Detail of Codium Fragile connected to Atlantic Slipper Shell

The fiber is then cut into about one inch pieces and cooked with Soda Ash.
The Soda Ash is a caustic, which when cooked with plant materials separates the cellulose and non cellulose matter from the plant. This batch was simmered and cooked for 3 hours.

The fiber is then rinsed with fresh water.  
Rinsing removes the soda ash residue and non cellulose matter from the plant.
Next this fiber was put into a blender to make a pulp slurry.

The pulp slurry is poured into a vat.  Next sheets are pulled
 using a mould and deckle I brought from my studio.
The sheets are couched onto interfacing as you can see in the bottom left.  
Detail of a freshly formed sheet on the mould.

After the sheets were formed I hand pressed them and dried them in a variety of ways. Above you can see some of the sheets were rolled onto a glass sliding door to dry.

This is one of the sheets after it dried and was peeled off the glass window.
The paper is surprisingly very strong considering it was not processed in a hollander beater and was only pressed with the weight of my body. The texture is almost waxy and the translucency is very appealing.

These images show a stack of 4 sheets that were allowed to air dry without restraint.  They shrunk about 40% and are very strong.  For those of you familiar with papermaking and processing pulp in a hollander beater, the fiber has similar qualities of a high shrinkage abaca, yet it was only processed for 30 seconds in a blender.

I also wanted to test the ability of the sheets to be wrapped around armatures. I found some cut up thorny branches in the nearby the salt marsh and lashed them together to make this form.  This fiber has a lot of sculptural potential and I am excited to share my findings with members of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Papermaking community.

Lines and Labels

Posted by Elisabeth Nickles

This morning I have been thinking of the "wilderness “area” and the observations of the wildlife manager at Monomoy, Dave Brownlie. We use territorial indicators but in reality, the ecosystems are not bound by etymologic definition or official paperwork. Nor do the influences of the “non-wilderness” remain outside of the waters and air of the protected wild spaces.

The demarcations of ‘wilderness’ are like the lines we draw on the earth to delineate ownership, boundaries, and territories. Lines placed upon a spinning globe, travelling through space, at times, seem like the grasping of an insecure species. In relation to the actual textural and seismic lines on the earth, the measurement of time, space and area on something as immense and moveable as land, sea and space, our definitions and lines are flimsy. I am reminded of the poem by Rilke, The Man Watching, a good poem for a stormy day.

The Man Watching

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes,
that a storm is coming.
and I can hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
And the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the angel, who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler’s sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel,
(who often simply declined the fight),
went away strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Robert Bly

And so, we come to discover that what we do here, and what they do there, affect each other across the globe. We find out with  measuring tools, systems and symbols to research, quantify, build, plot and discover. We try to make sense of what we observe, hopefully in the larger scheme of things and not just within our own boundaries.

So we are here this month, as artists interacting with scientists, to blur another boundary- a line in the sand of who we each are, by definition and profession: Scientist/ Artist. I am here to say today:  I am here as another human being and I need water, food, air, beauty and connection. How can we work together to make the way we live more harmonious with the larger environment? 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Non-native Species

By Elisabeth Nickles

Over time, whether intentional or not, species thrive in areas where they did not evolve and can displace and undermine native species 

Codium Fragile

Also known as Dead Man's Fingers or Green Fleece 
Native to Korea and Japan

Stay tuned to see what my fellow artist in residence at Monomoy Wilderness,  Megan Singleton,  is making with this invasive seaweed!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Birds Everywhere

While working in the tern colony you are, perhaps, closer to birds than you will ever be. The birds are protecting their young, it is understandable that they attack. 
If any creature that bonds and feels their young is threatened, it will do the same. 

By Elisabeth Nickles
I spent most of the day in the tern colony.  I observed, took pictures and lingered over what may have become commonplace to the others and more familiar with the routine of collecting data.

Muybridge studied the movement of animals and humans. With photography came a greater understanding of our natural world, and how animals move through space. Here, in these images, I can see what I cannot see with the eye alone in real time. I can understand the mechanisms of flight and the amazing design of wings, and how birds respond to pressure and air. The gesture of the birds is revealed in these photos. With technology, can we get closer instead of further away? Oh Muybridge, how you would love the Iphone.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eadweard_Muybridge)

For me, being attacked by birds and touching their newly hatched chicks was epic. I have long loved birds and I have been enchanted by nests with eggs and newly hatched chicks. I have always been told not to touch them, that the mother would reject the young. These birds, not so.  My day at the colony was an immersion into reality, it challenged what I ever thought about the innocence of birds and the illusions of a fairy tale natural world.

This particular bird is not fearful and will attack you. I never took it personally and I felt somewhat guilty for being a human in their place of settlement. Why should I interfere with their place in the landscape as much as I should walk into any human's home and start looking at their infant? And so that is what we do as a human in this time frame on planet earth. It is necessary, perhaps, to keep the animals from disappearing further into a distance that does not exist any longer. The edges of the wild are far and few in between the metropolis, highways and industry. So we come to monitor what is left, and hope we can preserve, that which once was, although we really have no idea what that really is.

 Do we know how to judge what is nature and what is ourselves? If we have a word for nature and a word for humans, then are we destined to be separated by our language alone? 

another sequence of movement

Fragile Lives and Fierce Protectors

The Tern Colony

by Elisabeth Nickles

This video shows a Common Tern, male or female, protecting and hovering over the nest where it has its eggs and chicks. The Common Terns are prolific and even have their nests throughout the camp where the fish and wildlife employees and interns live during their time monitoring the nests and their productivity. The work the staff does is intense, impressive and tedious. The successful population of the colony on Monomoy attests to its ideal habitat and is also a confirmation of the hard work of the refuge manager, David Brownlie; the biologist, Kate Iaquinto and staff.

The colony is a place where you must be aware of every 
step you take or shift in your body when you are crouching or sitting. 
There are chicks and nests everywhere!

Many of the people working on the census are interns working on degrees
in wildlife management, ecology or avian biology

Kate landed upon. The flags on the helmets are to distract the birds from
pecking their beaks on the helmet 
The nests are checked daily in several enclosed areas throughout the tern colony.  The areas are used to create averages as an indicator for the entire population of common terns on the island.  The areas are checked for the number of nests and the nests are checked for the number of eggs, if the eggs are starred (cracking), pinging (a chick beginning to break through) or hatched.  If there are chicks hatched, the chicks are banded. If the chicks are already banded, they are checked on daily for their condition. The information is logged daily for each nest within each sample area within certain timeframes of the spring and summer.

Kate checking the number on the band, each day every chick is accounted for
and their number checked with the data already entered
Kate holding a chick that is starting to form its true feathers,
making it possible to more correctly judge its age at about seven days old

 A Common Tern parent feeding the chick. Both mother and
father share in the roosting and raising of the chicks.
Some of the areas have fabricated wooden nesting areas to help the chicks
find shelter once they are hatched. The downy chicks fledge in 22-28 days

The chicks are completely vulnerable once hatched. The tern evolved
in areas where land predators were uncommon. Today they must be protected from
species that have migrated successfully to the area because of the
absence of larger predators. For instance,  coyotes have adapted well
in the presence of human development, they are not habitat specific as are the terns.
Before human encroachment, wolves were the largest land predator in the area.

Within the Tern Colony are nesting Roseate Terns. The Roseate Tern is an endangered species and it benefits from building its nests and breeding near the more aggressive and protective Common Tern.

Roseate Tern Chick, a few days old

Kate holding a roseate tern chick. The beak still has the eye-tooth that the chick uses to break the shell when it is hatching

Preparations for my Western Adventure

By Esther Rogers

Wednesday morning...
Sitting at my desk in the corner listening to a recording of Gustav Mahler's 3rd Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein conducting. It's really quite an amazing recording and is actually homework for my job: In July I'm playing a chamber music version of the symphony for a fascinating gig with Good Luck Restaurant. "A five-course dinner, with wine pairings, will draw inspiration from the final movement of this piece, in which a child recounts his vision of heaven as being a feast for the saints."

Preparations for my western adventure continue... Tickets purchased! Have decided on taking the train from Rochester to Denver where I will car pool to Durango and then I'll fly home. Taking the train on the way there will keep my cost down by about a third and add to the adventure! It's also a little easier with a cello... but it will be LONG! I'm looking forward to the time to focus on preparing my mind for the residency after what I expect will be a really busy month previous...

I have also been doing a little reading about Canyon of the Ancients and am learning lots of new things:

-The most famous cliff dwellings were built by a group called the "Anasazi". The earliest members of this group, known as Basket Makers, began farming in northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Utah, and southern Colorado about the time of Christ. They gradually developed a type of many-storied building called a Pueblo. For this reason, all groups in Anasazi history after about AD700 are called Pueblo Indians.
WORLD BOOK Encyclopedia

-Anasazi is the Navajo name for the people who lived in the Four Corners between AD 1 and AD 1300. The population size varied over time, but at its peak many thousands of families occupied the southwest corner of Colorado. Their modern descendants, the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona, prefer the term Ancestral Pueblo rather than "Anasazi." http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/ahc/more.html

-FALL CONDITIONS:  Autumn may be the ideal season to experience Canyons of the Ancients. The months of September, October, and November are usually dry and sunny with moderate temperatures, and December can be mild as well. Daytime highs are often between 50 and 70 F (10 to 20 C) although nights are significantly colder. The lower angle of the midday sun brings richer color and more dramatic shadow to the canyon landscape.

I'm mentally making note of packing items... staff paper, good pencils, soft cello case in addition to hard- (probably I don't have room?!), hat... Can I purchase extra large paper in Durango?... I am anxious to learn more about exactly where I'll be housed, what I'll need!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

First Overnight on Monomoy

By Megan Singleton
There are many aspect of research, monitoring, and managing being done on Monomoy that I had the opportunity to experience over the last few days.  I really enjoyed working with members of the Wildlife and Fisheries team, experiencing first hand the field work that is being done to protect and foster the growth of the population of Terns, Plovers, and American Oyster Catchers. Just a few of the things I observed and assisted with included Plover nest checking, Tern Productivity, and Horseshoe Crab tagging. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Life, Death and Rebirth in the Monomoy Wilderness

By Elisabeth Nickles

Whatever ambitions we have, as humans, they will all succumb to the greater rhythm of time. We are not giants, nor can we steer the wind and rain in the direction we want. As much as we desire to be immortal, it can never be so… unless to accept that we are faithful and eternal partners to all that gives us sustenance.

We are bound, as much as we forget, to the millions of years in our evolutionary making. Our lives on this earth intimately tied to the animals and plants that we eat, the air we breathe, the ground we stand upon and the sky full of stars that envelop us at night. We are just one element, a manifestation of life turning upon life, over time, kindred to all of the other forms that developed before and along with us. 

The countless forms of beauty that take shape around us exist in us as well. These are the true intimates, the familiars of life. They can leave you breathless with their magnitude and beauty; struck down with sorrow at their passing. As with all things, every thing must come to an end.  With so much passing, comes many births and beginnings.

Life finds a way to take form in every speck of space. In infinite, confounding figures of design. In each moment, life is lost and life is gained, like the tides and the coming and going of the cycles of the moon.

Marine Eelgrass

Northern Moon Snail

Horseshoe Crabs Mating

Grey Seal Femur

 Grey Seal 

Common Tern Nest and Eggs