Tag Archives: Natural History

Fur, Fortune, and Empire: A History of American Fur Trade


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“The fur trade was a powerful force in shaping the course of American history from the early 1600s through the late 1800s,” Eric Jay Dolin writes in his new comprehensive history Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America. “Millions of animals were killed for their pelts, which were used according to the dictates of fashion — and human vanity,” Dolin writes. “This relentless pursuit of furs left in its wake a dramatic, often tragic tale of clashing cultures, fluctuating fortunes, and bloody wars.”

The fur trade spurred imperial power struggles that eventually led to the expulsions of the Swedes, the Dutch, and the French from North America. Dolin’s history of the American fur trade is a workmanlike retelling of those struggles that sits well on the shelf beside Hiram Martin Chittenden’s 1902 two-volume classic The American Fur Trade of the Far West, and The Fur Trade in Colonial New York, 1686-1776., the only attempt to tell the story of the fur trade in New York. The latter volume, written by Thomas Elliot Norton, leaves no room for the Dutch period or the early national period which saw the fur trade drive American expansion west.

Dolin’s Fur Fortune, and Empire, is not as academic as last year’s Rethinking the Fur Trade: Cultures of Exchange in an Atlantic World by Susan Sleeper-Smith. It’s readable, and entertaining, ranging from Europe, following the westward march of the fur frontier across America, and beyond to China. Dolin shows how trappers, White and Indian, set the stage for the American colonialism to follow and pushed several species to the brink of extinction. Among the characters in this history are those who were killed in their millions; beaver, mink, otter, and buffalo.

Eric Jay Dolin’s focus, as it was with his last book Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, is the intersection of American history and natural history. Readers interested in the history of the New York fur trade will find this book enlightening for it’s connection of the state’s fur business with the larger world as the first third deals with the period before the American Revolution, when New York fur merchants and traders were still a dominate factor. Yet, like last year’s Sleeper-Smith book, Dolin’s newest volume is simply outlines the wider ground on which the still necessary volume on the fur trade in New York might be built.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Wild Center Museum Puts Money Where Its Mouth Is


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The Wild Center, the innovative natural history museum in the Adirondacks, demonstrated its commitment again to sustainable practices by making components of the building part of the exhibition. A new heating and hot water systems, fueled by renewable resources and part of the ‘New Path’ exhibition, will explore and test the technology that decreases our dependence on fossil fuels. First announced in July 2009, the highly efficient wood pellet boiler is integrated with a solar hot water system that will supply much of the hot water required to heat the 54,000-square-foot facility in Tupper Lake.

The new boiler system is the first highly efficient, commercial-sized, gasification wood-pellet boiler of its kind and size manufactured and installed in New York State. Additionally, the solar hot water collection system is the first of its kind used in a commercial application in the Adirondack region. The project just won the Best Building Integrated/Innovative category in the 6KC Awards, recognizing the best and brightest solar projects and industry champions in the Empire State, by the New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA).

The project is supported by a $350,000 contract award by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in response to a competitive solicitation, “Energy and Environmental Performance of High-Efficiency Wood-fired Heating Equipment.” Francis J. Murray, Jr., NYSERDA President and CEO, noted NYSERDA’s interest in this demonstration installation: “We commend The Wild Center for its commitment to incorporating renewable energy into its operations. Their use of pioneering made-in-New York technology will help promote high-efficiency, renewable-fuel boilers that reduce harmful emissions, burn local fuel, and further New York’s efforts to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, while helping to build New York’s clean energy economy. We look forward to the installation’s benefits, savings and economic efficiency,” he said.

A key component of the project is that Clarkson University will conduct a rigorous scientific evaluation of the energy-efficiency and emissions performance of the boiler as well as the integrated heating system and report its findings to NYSERDA. It is anticipated that this evaluation will provide objective scientific information to be used by decision makers developing renewable energy strategies. It will also serve as a model for others looking to evaluate ways to heat with renewable fuels in an efficient manner.

“We are eager to see the results of Clarkson’s evaluation,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe, Executive Director of The Wild Center. “We know that since the system has been online our propane consumption has decreased, but we’re very interested to see how much of our heating and hot water needs will be met by this system. Positive results could prove to be immensely beneficial for the Adirondacks, New York State and the country, encouraging others to implement similar technology.”

In New York State, renewable energy for heating is gaining increased interest as it addresses the goals of reducing fuel costs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, stimulating local economic development and reducing dependence on foreign sources by replacing imported fossil fuels with locally available renewable fuels. In the Adirondacks, the most abundant and inexpensive renewable fuel is wood. However, traditional wood burning stoves, some common commercial wood boilers and, more recently, outdoor wood boilers suffer from low efficiency and high levels of pollution from incomplete combustion. The planned project offers a very clean-burning, highly efficient alternative use of wood fuel.

The Wild Center is the first museum in New York to receive a LEED certification, with a Silver distinction, from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). The LEED standard is considered to be the international benchmark for green building. In selecting The Wild Center as the site for this project, backers pointed to the Center’s position as a leader in sustainable operational practices.

The successful installation and usage of the boiler system has the potential for a positive economic impact on the Adirondacks. By harvesting the “waste” in logging and sawmill operations to create wood pellets and then selling that back to local institutions the money that is currently sent abroad for the purchase of fossil fuels is kept in the Adirondacks where it can potentially lead to job creation.

The 1.7 million BTU boiler unit is in The Wild Center’s basement boiler room, next to the Museum’s existing propane boiler. The pellets are stored in an outdoor recycled shipping container next to the Administration wing of the Museum. The storage vessel also supports the solar thermal array to preheat water for the system. Pellets are augured through a series of pipes into the basement and directly into the boiler. Hot water from the solar thermal array is piped into the boiler through underground pipes.

The Wild Center’s high rate of visitation means the new project will be explained to a large audience that will be able to see the heating technology up close. Visitors will be able to see the pellets on their journey from the storage vessel to the boiler. The interpretation of the system will be added to the Museum’s ‘New Path’ Exhibit, which showcases elements of green design and how these features benefit the health of the human and natural world.

The wood gasification boiler was fabricated by Advanced Climate Technologies of Schenectady, NY. The solar thermal heating system was designed and installed by E2G Solar and APEX Thermal Services. Similar projects, supported by NYSERDA, are taking place within the Saranac Lake Central School District and North Country School.

Finger Lakes Museum Selects Keuka Lake Site


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On Thursday, the Finger Lakes Cultural & Natural History Museum Board of Trustees adopted a resolution to select Keuka Lake State Park in Yates County as the future home of the Finger Lakes Museum. The vote was unanimous with one abstention.

After nearly a year of evaluating 19 sites that were originally submitted, the Site Selection Committee, under the direction of chairman Don Naetzker, recommended two sites for the Board’s consideration: Seneca Lake State Park in and adjacent to the City of Geneva, and Keuka Lake State Park near Branchport.

The idea to create a museum to showcase the cultural heritage and ecological history of the 9,000 square-­mile Finger Lakes Region was first floated in a Life in the Finger Lakes magazine article by John Adamski in March 2008.

After enlisting ConsultEcon Inc., a Boston­based market research firm in March, it was determined that the project is viable at either site although for different reasons. Board president, John Adamski added, “While the Seneca Lake site has significant advantages like a central location, the Board determined that the Keuka Lake site more closely met the requirements that were originally established in the Strategic Plan, especially as they relate to natural history programming.”

Among the advantages that he said tipped the scales in favor of the Keuka Lake site are the following:

• There is 700 feet of intimate lakefront with a level, sandy beach.

• The natural history element of the project is predicted to draw the most visitors. The rolling, hilly terrain, ravines, brook, woods, and areas of natural succession that exist there are ideal for wildlife exhibits in natural habitats.

• Several hundred acres of land are available for wildlife habitats and interpretive use—now or in the future.

• A 350­-car paved parking lot already exists.

• Keuka College has offered to add Museum Sciences to its curriculum
and become a partner in the educational aspect of the Museum.

• Yates County and Keuka­area business leaders have pledged over $2 million in start-up funding.

In addition, Adamski said, “The Branchport Elementary School, which is presently vacant, has been purchased by the Finger Lakes Visitors Association for use as the Museum’s base of operation during the project’s start-up phases. The building will provide 15,000 square­ feet for business offices and initial programming as well as storage for the acquisition of artifacts and collections.” Its 13­-acre site provides navigable water access to Keuka Lake.

He also stated, “Finger Lakes State Parks and the Finger Lakes Museum Project will undertake a joint master plan for the entire 620­acre park. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation has been very cooperative and enthused over the proposal and we look forward to working with them to bring the project to fruition.”

Although the Museum will be built on lands leased from Finger Lakes State Parks, it will remain a privately­-owned and mostly privately­-funded not­-for­-profit educational institution.

Earth Day: A Revolution 40 Years In The Making


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On Earth Day 1970, people around the country, mostly college students, demonstrated on behalf of environmental causes. Forty years later, the environmental movement has come into the mainstream and secured state and federal agency leadership positions. More importantly, the movement has significantly improved the quality of our rivers, lakes and forests and in doing so has provided for the proliferation of local wildlife. While there are certainly challenges that remain – invasive species, inappropriate development, toxic exposures, nitrate and storm water management, climate change, the plight of amphibians, migratory birds, and bats – the environmental successes of the last 40 years should not be underestimated.

By and large, the first Earth Day was much like those that have followed: politicians, celebrities, concerts, environmental fairs, and the like. But Earth Day 1970 was a radical proposition in a time before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded, and before there were state sanctioned bodies like the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to protect the environment. At Boston’s Logan Airport, where a few hundred demonstrators had gathered in what a CBS reporter called a “thoroughly peaceful and non-disruptive demonstration”, police charged the crowd and arrested 13.

In the 40 years since that first Earth Day the Adirondack region has seen a revolution in the way we interact with our environment. Sure, we can point to the founding of DEC (1970), the establishment of the EPA (1971), the Clean Air Act (1970), and the Clean Water Act (1972), State Environmental Quality Review Act (1980), the Superfund Law (1980), and the Environmental Protection Fund (1993) but there has been a leadership revolution as well. Today, Pete Grannis, who was part of the first Earth Day demonstrations, is now the head of the DEC. Judith Enck, the state’s leading environmental activist in the 1980s, is now the Administrator of EPA’s Region 2.

Changes in the natural environment have been extraordinary. The Hudson River, once an open sewer where no one dared to boat, never-mind swim or fish, now bustles with recreation activities in summer. According to the DEC, the number of seriously polluted waters in the state has fallen by 85% and Sulfur Dioxide pollution is down by 90%, with a corresponding improvement in Acid Rain.

Successes we don’t typically consider include the closure of outdated and poorly located landfills (more than 100 in Adirondacks alone), the elimination of the tire dumps (including more than 27 million tires statewide), the cleaning up of Superfund and brownfield sites (1,800 statewide) and the thousands of water bodies large and small around the state that have been cleaned-up in the last 40 years through waste-water management.

We may not consider those victories as much as we should, but local wildlife certainly has. In 1970 there was just one occupied Bald Eagle nest in New York State, in 2010 there are 173. Eagles and other raptors we rarely saw in the 1970s and 1980s, birds like the peregrine falcon, are now fairly frequent sights; ravens and osprey have returned to the Adirondacks. Wild turkeys have exploded from about 25,000 in 2010 to 275,000 today, and so turkey hunting has returned to the Adirondacks. Native trout have been returned to more than 50 ponds according to the DEC, and the average number of fish species has increased by a third offering increased angling opportunities. Beaver, fisher, and otter have flourished in cleaner, more diverse waters and so trapping seasons have returned for those species. In 1970 there were no Moose in the Adirondacks, today there are 400 to 500 in the region.

Clean water, clean air, and open spaces were the demands at the first Earth Day in 1970. Those demands were met by legions of combative corporations, industry alliances, business groups, chambers of commerce and their attorneys. A look at a local paper on any given day shows that those battles continue, but 40 years has shown that the environmental movement has been an enormous success. Despite the attacks and “enviro-nazi” insults, the former hippies, political greens, organization environmentalists, and wildlife conservationists who have made up the environmental movement have much to be proud of.

Illustration: Earth Day 1970 Poster

John James Audubon’s 225th Birthday Event


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John James Audubon’s 225th Birthday will be commemorated on Saturday, April 24th 2010 at 4PM in the Riverside Oval (156th Street at Riverside Drive, NYC), a few steps from the site of the naturalist’s final home in northern Manhattan.

In May 1842, Audubon moved his family to a fourteen-acre farm in northern Manhattan, a large triangular plot resting on present-day 155th Street, stretching from Amsterdam Avenue to the Hudson River, and including the land surrounding the Riverside Oval, the site of one of the Audubon barns. 765 Riverside Drive, adjacent to the Oval marks the site of Audubon’s house (pictured here).

Audubon called his farm Minnie’s Land, but after his death, his sons and wife renamed it Audubon Park, selling large portions of their land to wealthy New Yorkers who inhabited villas under the forest trees, laying out their gardens and drives where Audubon once had enclosures for both wild and domesticated animals. Audubon Park was a name familiar to New Yorkers from the mid 1850s until about 1910 when developers, capitalizing on the newly-opened subway with a stop at 157th Street, purchased large portions of the land and erected the magnificent Beaux Arts apartment houses that exist in the area today. In 2009, Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the blocks between 156th and 158th Streets west of Broadway the Audubon Park Historic District.

The event is being sponsored by the Riverside Oval Association, a not-for-profit neighborhood organization, plants and maintains green spaces in the Audubon Park Historic District, presents musical events, and sponsors oral history evenings at neighborhood buildings. Audubon’s 225th Birthday Celebration will kick off the 2010 gardening season and give residents in the neighborhood an opportunity to meet Oval Association members and become involved in the Association’s activities.

In the event of rain, the celebration will take place in the community room at the Grinnell, 800 Riverside Drive.

Adirondack Wild Center Museum Launches ‘Wings’ Group


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When a group of young Adirondack enthusiasts first met in 2009 they never imagined the energy and passion they brought would grow so quickly, drawing in other like-minded people to form Wings. Wings recently launched, bringing together the next generation of Adirondackers who want to share their passion for the natural world of the Adirondacks, while supporting the important educational and environmental work of The Wild Center.

According to the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project Report, if current population trends continue in the next 20 years, the Adirondacks will rival Florida’s west coast as the region with the oldest population in America. It is time for the younger generation to actively participate in the future of the Adirondacks. Wings will encourage and engage this exciting group of 21-45 year olds who live in and outside of the Adirondacks in social, educational and philanthropic ways. They will come together for regular gatherings where they can network, develop a greater understanding for the natural world of the Adirondacks and support the programs and initiatives of The Wild Center.

Wings will play an active role in the future of The Wild Center. “It is so important to incorporate various perspectives into the future of The Wild Center,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe, Executive Director of The Wild Center. “Wings is a way of actively engaging the younger population both inside and outside of the Adirondacks in the future of the region. Creating future stewards of the Adirondacks is integral to the survival of the area.”

Ed Forbes and David Bickford, Co-Chairs of the Steering Committee, will serve as Wings representatives to the Advisory Board of The Wild Center. A former resident of Lake Placid, Ed graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2002 and joined the staff of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise as a reporter covering Saranac Lake and the Adirondack Park Agency. In 2003, he became the editor of the Lake Placid News. He left the News in 2007 to pursue a Master’s degree at the Columbia University Graduate School. In 2008, he became an editor at The Journal News in White Plains. He and his wife, Emily Hunt Forbes, live in Bronxville and visit the North Country as often as they can. “Emily and I think about and miss the North Country every day,” said Ed. “While I grew up in northern New Jersey and she was raised in Buffalo, we consider the Adirondacks our home. Wings, to us, offers a range of opportunities: We can connect inside the Blue Line and out with other expatriates who share our love for the region, we can learn more about the Adirondacks’ natural wonders and we can support the critical mission of The Wild Center.”

Dave currently lives in New York City with his wife and six-month old daughter. A 2000 graduate from St. Lawrence University, over five generations of his family have been going to Upper Saranac Lake since the 1940s. He currently works in ad sales at CNBC.

Joining Wings provides numerous opportunities for attending Wings events in various locations and visiting The Wild Center. Wings participants will see their contribution make an impact at the Museum in the form of a collective annual gift toward a specific program or exhibit.

Using an email mailing to announce the launch of Wings demonstrates how the group will continue to communicate and spread the word. “The way of the world has shifted dramatically towards internet-based communication and social networking,” said Dave Bickford. “If we can use it to harness the energy of our supporters, while using fewer resources and funds, it won’t matter where someone is in the world. If they love the Adirondacks and want to be involved, they can. We plan to use our Facebook fan page to keep in frequent communication with everyone. Our social events will be both inside and outside of the Adirondacks, enabling everyone to meet in person too.”

The Wings Steering Committee is actively seeking like-minded supporters, people who want to get together with others who share a love for the Adirondacks, be future stewards of the Adirondacks, and get involved in Wings. For more information, visit www.wildcenter.org/wings.

"Moose on the Loose" at the Adirondack Museum


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On Sunday, March 28, 2010, Ed Reed, a wildlife biologist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 5 office in Ray Brook, New York, will offer a program entitled “Moose on the Loose in the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y. The presentation is part of the popular Cabin Fever Sunday series.

“Moose on the Loose in the Adirondacks” will review the history, current status, and future of moose in New York State. Moose were native to New York, but were extirpated before 1900. The expansion of moose from Maine and Canada across New England reached the state in the 1980’s, and the population is now well established and self-sustaining.

Biologists estimate that there are around 500 moose in the state, with the population expected to increase rapidly in the next decade. The program will cover food habits, breeding biology, habitat needs, mortality factors, and recreational values of moose.

Ed Reed has worked for DEC for twenty-five years in fisheries and wildlife, and has been the big game biologist for Region 5 since 2001. His main areas of expertise include management of whitetail deer, black bear, and more recently moose. Ed received a degree in wildlife biology from Colorado State University and has worked in the outdoor field for over 35 years.

The program will be held in the Auditorium, and will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m. Cabin Fever Sunday programs are offered at no charge to museum members. The fee for non-members is $5.00. There is no charge for children of elementary school age or younger. Refreshments will be served. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s web site at
www.adirondackmuseum.org.

Photo: A moose on the loose at the Adirondack Museum. Photograph by Liz Forsell.

Finger Lakes Museum Site Selection Narrowed to Two


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First there were nineteen. Then there were five. Now there are two. John Adamski, president of the Board of Trustees of the Finger Lakes Cultural & Natural History Museum, said today that the Site Selection Committee has referred two sites to the board for further assessment. They are the Geneva/Seneca Lake State Park site along the lakefront in Geneva and Keuka Lake State Park near Branchport in Yates County. Both sites offer lake frontage.

No longer in contention is the Bush Farm in Ledyard, the Wells College campus in Aurora, and Sampson State Park in Romulus. Sponsors of those sites were informed of the decision last Friday and in a show of commitment and dedication, each pledged to continue supporting the project.

Adamski said that a great deal of effort was put into proposals from the five site sponsors and that each had to be fairly evaluated. Site selection committee members logged more than 150 hours in multiple site visits, committee meetings, and deliberations, not to mention the uncounted miles that were driven.

The committee has asked the board to consider a comparative marketing study to help determine which of the two remaining sites would be the most viable due to concerns for the long-range economic stability of the project based on its location.

Adamski said, “The advantage that the Geneva site has is its central location, which is close to the Thruway and halfway between Rochester and Syracuse. The benefit of the Keuka Lake site is its intimate lakefront and wilder setting, which is more conducive to outdoor wildlife exhibits.” Plans call for natural habitats to showcase native wild animals such as bald eagles, beavers, black bears, coyotes, foxes, otters, and the unique Seneca White Deer.

The proposed $40 million Finger Lakes Museum is planned to be primarily funded by private donations and corporate grants. A committee is currently working on a fundraising program.

NYS Museum Exhibit: George Eastman House Photos


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“Seeing Ourselves: Masterpieces of American Photography from George Eastman House Collection” opens February 12 at the New York State Museum and will be on view through May 9 in the Museum’s West Gallery. The exhibit will introduce visitors to historical and contemporary photographic masterpieces. Proving the power of photography, more than 155 images and artifacts tell the story of America over the last 150 years.

The photographers range from professionals such as Lewis W. Hine, Dorothea Lange, Matthew Brady and many others, including several who are unidentified. The images capture America and Americans in various ages and stages. They depict grandeur and simplicity, joy and anger, beauty and grit. A limited number of brochures on the exhibition will be available at the gallery entrance.

The exhibition is drawn entirely from the collection of George Eastman House. It is arranged into five sections: “American Masterpieces,” “American Faces,” “America at War,” “America the Beautiful” and “American Families.” Each section addresses key photographic works documenting the American cultural experience.

The “American Masterpieces” section displays photographs that show outstanding artistry, skill or workmanship. They show that American masterpieces cover a broad spectrum of subject, format, and history. Some photographs began as intentional works of art while others began as something else – propaganda, information, aide memoire, or novelty — and only later achieved iconic status. This section will include “The Steerage” by Alfred Stieglitz, “Nautilus” by Edward Weston, and “Yosemite Valley, Summer” by Ansel Adams.

In the “American Faces” section visitors will see photographs of people that have been used to create celebrity, establish identity, and influence our perceptions. Photographers who have captured these American faces include Mathew Brady, Richard Avedon, Alfred Stieglitz, Dorothea Lange, Edward Steichen, Mary Ellen Mark, and Gordon Parks.

The “America at War” section reminds visitors that of all the information that photography brings us, little is more pressing than news about war. Since the beginning of photography, images have defined our understanding of conflict. Images will include “A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg” by Timothy O’Sullivan; David Douglas Duncan’s “Combat, Korea”; “Reaching Out, The DMZ” by Larry Burrows; and “Vietnam Memorial, Washington, DC” by Hiroshi Watanabe.

Timeless photographs that exemplify the beauty and power of nature and an expanding America are included in the “America the Beautiful” section. On display will be William Henry Jackson’s “Mt Sopris, from Junction of Rock Creek,” “Refugio Beach” by Ansel Adams, “Dunes” by Edward Weston and “Desertscape, Death Valley” by Marilyn Bridges.

The “American Families” section explores the role photography can play in helping to put our own family experience into context and define “family” for ourselves. Included are “Tenement Penthouse” by Weegee, “Italian Family, Ellis Island” by Lewis Hine, “East Harlem” by Helen Levitt and “The Damm Family in Their Car” by Mary Ellen Mark.

Forty-minute Interpretive Tours of Seeing Ourselves, and an open discussion focusing on several photographs, will be held at 1 and 2 p.m. on February 13-14, 27-28, March 20-21, April 24-25 and May. 8-9.

A podcast is available at http://podcast.eastmanhouse.org/discussing-seeing-ourselves/.


Photo: Powerhouse Mechanic, 1920, by Lewis W. Hine. Courtesy George Eastman House.

Old NYS Ornithological Association Journal Online


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With a hat tip to the outstanding birding blog The Zen Birdfeeder we point readers to an interesting new online database of 57 years of the New York State Ornithological Association’s (NYSOA) quarterly journal The Kingbird. 229 issues of the journal are currently online, along with 4 ten-year indices; four new issues will be added each year. The journal includes commentary of historic bird lists, natural history field observation reports, an archive of NYSOA development and history, and a lot more.

Here are a few gems I found in the collection – warning – these are all pdfs!

Merriam’s Adirondack List

Stanley Lincoln’s History of the Federation of New York State Bird Clubs

John M.C. Peterson’s Report of the Great 1995 Blowdown from the Bouquet Valley

The Common Loon in New York State

Birds of New York Opens At New York State Museum


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Birds of New York and the Paintings of Louis Agassiz Fuertes opened at the New York State Museum on Saturday, showcasing the original watercolors painted a century ago by one of America’s foremost science artists. The exhibition, in the Museum’s Crossroads Gallery, will run through September 6th. It will feature 40 of more than 100 paintings that Fuertes created to illustrate Birds of New York, a monumental book that combined beautiful art and scientific scholarship. The first edition of the book will be on display, along with a print portfolio and specimens from the Museum’s ornithology collection.

The first volume of Birds of New York – Water Birds and Game Birds – was published to much acclaim in 1910. Volume Two – Land Birds – followed four years later. Birds of New York was collaboration between Fuertes and author Elon Howard Eaton and served as a model for ornithology books that followed. Fuertes’ watercolors celebrated the beauty of wild birds, while Eaton advocated for the stewardship and conservation of birds and their habitats. Produced by the State Museum and published by the University of the State of New York, the book inspired the citizens of New York to observe and care for the state’s birds.

The book was commissioned by former State Museum Director John Mason Clarke, who served from 1904 to 1925. When he began his tenure it had been 60 years since the last book on the state’s birds had been published, and he wanted a new study that would update scientific knowledge. He commissioned Eaton, a biology teacher in Rochester, to research and write the book. Eaton enlisted Fuertes, a famous bird artist from Ithaca, to provide the illustrations.

Clarke’s written correspondence with Eaton and Fuertes, preserved in the New York State Archives, reveals that Clarke was a guiding force in producing the book, sometimes attending to even small details.

Named for the naturalist Louis Agassiz, Fuertes’ interest in the natural world was encouraged and he began to draw birds at an early age. He attended Cornell University in Ithaca. While still a student, Fuertes met a prominent Smithsonian ornithologist who recognized and promoted his artistic talent. This helped launch an active career and, soon, he was considered to be the leading bird artist of his day.

Just as John James Audubon inspired bird painters in the early 1800s, Fuertes influenced artists a century later by skillfully capturing the lifelike poses and natural settings of birds. Roger Tory Peterson, an avian artist and author of well-known field guides, wrote that while Audubon was famous for his dramatic compositions Fuertes “caught more of the character of the bird itself.”

Eaton also was a lifelong student of natural history. As a young man he prepared bird mounts and studied skins after enrolling in a taxidermy course. He established the Department of Biology at Hobart College in Geneva, where he taught from 1908 until his death in 1934. In 1901 he became known statewide when the Rochester Academy of Science published a paper he had written on the birds of western New York.

The lasting scientific importance of Birds of New York stems from Eaton’s authoritative compilation of original research that is included in the book, such as distribution maps, migration surveys and detailed observations of nests, eggs, songs and behaviors. The book continues to be cited by ornithologists studying changes in bird abundance and distribution since that time.

It also has strengthened interest in the study and protection of birds, and spurred the formation of local birding clubs and bird sanctuaries. Sixteen thousand copies of a print portfolio, including all of the color illustrations in the book, were widely distributed and inspired “Bird Day” celebrations across the state.

The State Museum will sponsor a free program in connection with the exhibition. Creative Art Day will be held Sunday, March 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. Families will be invited to participate in artful activities based on the exhibition. More information is available by calling 518-473-7154 or e-mailing psteinba@mail.nysed.gov.

The Birds of New York book is available online through the New York State Library’s digital collections at http://www.nysl.nysed.gov. A video tour of the Museum’s biology range, that includes its bird collection, is available at http://www.youtube.com/nysmuseum.

The New York State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Founded in 1836, the museum has the longest continuously operating state natural history research and collection survey in the U.S. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open daily from 9:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Further information can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

Adirondack Research Library’s Adk Chronology


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Fans of Adirondack history will want to check out the Adirondack Chronology. The Chronology is a project of the Protect the Adirondacks!’s Adirondack Research Library at the Center for the Forest Preserve in Niskayuna. The Chronology consists of a chronological listing of significant events (natural or human-made) over the years and centuries, back to prehistoric times, that have taken place directly in the Adirondacks or which directly impacted the Adirondacks. The document, available as an online pdf, stretches to more than 300 pages and covers everything from the Big Bang (15 billion years before present) to a sunspot cycle in 2012 and 2013 that is predicted to causing major impacts on global electronics. The Chronology also includes an extensive and useful bibliography of relevant sources.

The Chronology is easily searched using the pdf search function, making it one of the most important documents for Adirondack history. Here is a short description of some of the kinds fo things you’ll find there from the Chronology’s introduction:

The Adirondack Chronology deals with all aspects of the Adirondack region to best suggest the various causal processes at work; several examples: forest exploitation leading to forest fire, in turn leading to protective legislation; trails of the Haudenosaunee leading to roads fostering development and then protective legislation, and so on. Crucial events also often occur well outside of the Adirondack region, e.g. invention of the snowmobile, the building of coal burning plants in the Mid-West, the growth of nickel-copper smelting in the Sudbury region of Ontario, the explosion of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, federal and state legislation, the introduction of the European Starling in New York City, the painting of a great picture or the writing of an inspirational poem.

The Chronology, last revised and enlarged in November 2009, is edited by Carl George, Professor of Biology, Emeritus at Union College, Richard E. Tucker of the Adirondack Research Library, and newest editor Charles C. Morrison, Conservation Advocacy Committee, Protect the Adirondacks!

The Adirondack Research Library holds the largest Adirondack collection outside the park boundaries. The library’s collections include maps, periodicals, technical reports, photos, slides, video and audio tapes, and archival materials from prominent Adirondack conservationists of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Photo: The Center for the Forest Preserve, located in Niskayuna, NY, is owned and operated by Protect the Adirondacks!

Theodore Roosevelt: The Wilderness Warrior


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A new book on Teddy Roosevelt by New York Times bestselling historian Douglas Brinkley is described by the publisher as “a sweeping historical narrative and eye-opening look at the pioneering environmental policies of President Theodore Roosevelt, avid bird-watcher, naturalist, and the founding father of America’s conservation movement.” For those interested in the Adirondack region, this new biography helps put TR’s Adirondack experiences into the lager context of wilderness protection and wildlife conservation history.

Brinkley draws on never-before-published materials for his look at the life of what he calls our “naturalist president.” Launching from conservation work as New York State Governor, TR set aside more than 230 million acres of American wild lands between 1901 and 1909, and helped popularize the conservation of wild places.

Brinkley’s new book singles out the influential contributions of James Audubon, Charles Darwin, and John Muir in shaping Roosevelt’s view of the natural world. Some of the most interesting parts of the book relate to TR’s relationship with Dr. C. Hart Merriam, who reviewed the future president’s The Summer Birds of the Adirondacks in 1877; Merriam’s own The Mammals of the Adirondacks Region of Northeastern New York, published in 1884, was duly praised by TR.

Merriam and Roosevelt later worked successfully to reverse the declining Adirondack deer population (they brought whitetail from Maine), and to outlaw jack-lighting and hunting deer with dogs and so helped establish the principles of wildlife management by New York State.

During his political stepping-stone term as 33rd Governor of New York (1899-1900) TR made the forests of the state a focus of his policies. He pushed against “the depredations of man,” the recurrent forest fires, and worked to strengthen fish and game laws. Roosevelt provided stewardship of the state’s forests and the Adirondack Park in particular, that led to the most progressive conservation and wilderness protection laws in the country.

TR also worked to replace political hacks on the New York Fisheries, Game, and Forest Commission (forerunner of the DEC), according to Brinkley, and replaced them with highly trained “independent-minded biologists, zoologists, entomologists, foresters, sportsman hunters, algae specialists, trail guides, botanists, and activists for clean rivers.” To help pay the bill he pushed for higher taxes on corporations while also pursuing a progressive politics – what Brinkley calls “an activist reformist agenda.”

The book ranges with Roosevelt to Yellowstone, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Dakota Territory, and the Big Horn Mountains. It does capture Roosevelt’s time in the Adirondacks, but its’ strength is in putting that time into the larger context of Roosevelt’s life as a wilderness conservationist. For example, TR’s opposition to the Utica Electric Light Company’s Adirondack incursions is only mentioned in passing, though Brinkley’s treatment of the relationship between Gifford Pinchot and TR is more developed. An index entry – “Adirondack National Park” – is lightly misused bringing into concern how much Brinkley really appreciates the impact of Roosevelt’s Adirondack experiences (both in-country and in Albany) on his wilderness ethic.

All in all, however, Wilderness Warrior is a well written collection of the strands of Roosevelt’s conservationist ideas, woven into a readable narrative. Considering TR’s role in so many disciplines related to our forests, that’s no mean feat.

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US Fish Commission Annual Reports Available Online


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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has placed online the annual reports of the United States Fish Commission, also known as the United States Fish and Fisheries Commission, from 1871-1940 and 1947-1979 in PDF format. The Commission was also part of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and these annual reports present comprehensive overview of the U.S. Fish Commission’s activities for each year. The reports are helpful for historians of commercial fishing areas in New York State including Long Island, the lower Hudson River, the St. Lawrence River, and Lake Erie. The entire collection can be found here.

The U. S. Fish Commission was established in 1871. By 1881 the Commission was known as the U.S. Fish and Fisheries Commission. The Bureau of Biological Survey was established in 1885. In 1903 the name was changed to Bureau of Fisheries. The Bureau of Fisheries was transferred on July 1, 1939, from the Department of Commerce to the Department of the Interior. In 1940 the Bureau of Fisheries and the Bureau of Biological Survey were consolidated to form the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Beginning in July 1946, during the transition from war to peace, the Annual Report became a series of Quarterly Reports which presented a summary of bilogical investigations conducted by the Division of Fishery Biology and a general resume of progress of investigations during the entire year. 1957 was the last issue of Annaul Reports of the Fishery Biology, Department of Interior.

The Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 created the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife within the Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Interior. The Report of the Bureau of Commerical Fisheries for the Calendar Year 1958… (published in 1962) was the first report for calender year 1957 and reviewed, in detail, the organization of the Bureau, the history of fishery administration and the operation of the Bureau’s predecessor organizations, U.S. Fish Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries.

The Report of the National Marine Fisheries Service for Calendar Year 1970-1971 covers the period of transition of the Federal fisheries agency from the Deparment of Interior to the newly formed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce.

Photo: A diagram of a gill net used for Salmon on the St. Lawrence River from the 1871 U. S. Fish Commission annual report.

Research Fellowship in Museum Anthropology


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The Bard Graduate Center and the American Museum of Natural History announce a Research Fellowship in Museum Anthropology. The fellowship provides support to a postdoctoral investigator to carry out a specific project over a two-year period. The program is designed to advance the training of the participant by having her/him pursue a project in association with a curator in the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). The Fellow will also be expected to teach one graduate-level course per year at the Bard Graduate Center (BGC). The Fellow will thus be in joint residence at BGC and AMNH. The fellowship includes free housing.

A major purpose of the BGC-AMNH Research Fellowship in Museum Anthropology is to promote mutual scholarly interest and interaction among fellows, BGC faculty and students, and AMNH staff members. Candidates for Research Fellow are judged primarily on their research abilities and experience, and on the merits and scope of the proposed research.

Candidates with a research interest in the History of Collecting for Anthropology Museums are especially encouraged to apply for the 2010-12 fellowship. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to develop a research program drawing from the Asian Ethnographic Collections at the AMNH. We wish to encourage scholarly investigation of how objects move from the sacred and particular to the market, and of the collecting process and the role of collectors, whether scholars, missionaries or dealers.

Application Procedures: Interested researchers should send a statement of research accomplishments and intentions, curriculum vitae including list of publications, and three letters of recommendation to Research Fellowship Competition, Bard Graduate Center, 18 W.86th Street, New York NY 10024, USA. Research Fellowship applications must be postmarked by December 15. At this time, applications are not accepted by fax or e-mail.

Easier Access to Old New York State Museum Publications


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The New York State Library has a new web page that highlights and links to New York State Museum publications that have been digitized by the Library. These publications include links to the Museum Memoirs and Handbooks series, which have been recently scanned from print copies in the Library’s collection.

To make it easier to find the digital copy of a specific Bulletin, Memoir or Handbook, the titles in each series are listed in tables which can be sorted in several ways, including by by Memoir, Bulletin or Handbook number; title of the publication; author; date; or general subject (anthropology, biology, geology, history, and paleontology). You can also click on any of the thumbnail images, taken from several of the Museum publications, to get a full view of that image, along with information about it.

Mastodon Tusk May Be Largest Ever Uncovered in NYS


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Research under way at the New York State Museum indicates that a huge mastodon tusk, recently excavated by Museum scientists in Orange County, may be the largest tusk ever found in New York State. The nearly complete but fragmented tusk, measuring more than nine feet long, was one of two excavated this past summer in the Black Dirt area of Orange County at the confluence of Tunkamoose Creek and the Wallkill River, on the property of Lester Lain of Westtown. Museum scientists believe that the other less complete tusk, about 5-6 feet long, came from the same mastodon, which has been named the Tunkamoose mastodon.

Glen Keeton of Mount Hope, N.Y. and Chris Connallon of Hampton, N.J. came across the tusks in November 2008 as they were canoeing down the Wallkill River. Keeton contacted the Orange County chapter of the New York State Archeological Association, which then contacted the State Museum. Weather conditions delayed the excavation until this past
summer.

Since then, Dr. Robert Feranec, the Museum’s curator of vertebrate paleontology, has been researching other mastodon excavations in New York State. Feranec believes that the Warren Mastodon tusk, which is 8 feet, 8 inches long, is the longest one uncovered to date. It was discovered in New York State in the 1800s and is on exhibit at the
American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The tusk of the Cohoes Mastodon, on display at the State Museum, is about 4-5 feet long.

Based on the age of similar fossils, Feranec suspects that the tusks are about 13,000 years old. However, carbon dating results to determine the exact age, will not be available until later this year. In the meantime, the tusks have been taken apart to be cleaned and conserved for their long-term survival. It is hoped that eventually the tusks can be made available for scientific research and exhibits at the State
Museum and at a museum in the area where the tusks were found.

Abundant mastodon fossils have been found in Orange County, especially in the rich Black Dirt area which Keeton calls “a gold mine for these fossils.” Other fossils have also been found including those of giant beavers, stag moose, ground sloths, peccaries and reindeer. Several Museum scientists will be involved in an integrative research
project in the Black Dirt area where they will investigate the ancient environment in which the mastodon lived, as well as how that environment changed over the last 13,000 years.

“From my perspective, this is a significant find,” said Feranec. “These fossils will tell us more about the ancient history of New York. We hope to be able to reconstruct the environment in which the mastodon lived, as well as to try to understand why they went extinct.”

In 2007, Feranec oversaw the relocation of the Cohoes Mastodon from the State Museum lobby window to its new location in the Museum’s Exhibition Hall, where temperature and humidity levels are more stable and more conducive to the skeleton’s long-term preservation. The iconic Museum treasure is now the centerpiece of an expanded exhibition.

Discovered in 1866 near Cohoes Falls, the Mastodon once stood about 8 ½ feet tall, was about 15 feet long, and weighed between 8-10,000 pounds. Its tusk weighs 50 pounds.

Photo: During the excavation process in Orange County, Dr. Robert Feranec, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the New York State Museum, poses next to part of the tusk of a mastodon. (Photo courtesy of NYS Museum)

Presentation On The Poesten Kill Thursday


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John Warren (yours truly) has written the first history of the Poestenkill ­which flows through the center of Rensselaer County and enters the Hudson River at Troy, will offer a book talk and signing this Thursday (October 22nd, 6:30 to­ 8 pm) at the Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy (57 Second Street, Troy). The event is free and open to the public. Copies of The Poesten Kill will be available for purchase at the event. The Poestenkill has been home to American Indians who hunted, gathered, fished and farmed along its shores, frontier Dutch farmers and traders, colonial tradesmen, merchants, millers, and lumbermen, and nineteenth century iron, steel, textile, and paper workers.

Finger Lakes Museum Site Submission Process Closed


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The Board of Trustees of the Finger Lakes Cultural & Natural History Museum have officially closed the site submission process. Nineteen potential building sites were proposed by seven Finger Lakes Region counties and the City of Geneva before the deadline of July 15th.

Counties that submitted proposals include Cayuga, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates. The City of Geneva is partnering with Seneca County on a site that straddles the Ontario/Seneca county line at the north end of Seneca Lake.

The deadline, which had been originally set for June 15th, was extended by the board for 30 days to give some counties more time to complete title searches. The sites are now being toured and evaluated by the project’s Site Selection Committee.

A question arose concerning a 20th site being added to the list when a landowner inquired about submitting a parcel in Ontario County. The board considered the inquiry but determined that the deadline should be upheld in fairness to the counties that worked hard to make submissions on time, according to a press release issued last week. The landowner is not being identified.

The search for a building site has ramped up the level of excitement for the initiative to develop a cultural and natural history museum to showcase the 9,000 square-mile Finger Lakes Region.

Guided Hikes of Hudson River School Locations


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Cedar Grove, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site has announced a series of guided hikes to the nearby places that inspired Thomas Cole and fellow artists of the Hudson River School. On the hikes you will see the views that appear in some of the most beloved landcape paintings of the 19th-century and hear stories that bring their history to life. The hikes range from easy walks to moderately vigorous climbs. All hikers will receive a copy of the Hudson River School Art Trail Guide, a new 48-page book with full-color illustrations of the paintings that were inspired by the sites along the trail. The book includes an introduction by Kevin Avery, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it is published by the Thomas Cole Historic Site. The book will be available for sale in our visitor center starting in mid-June.

Each hike is limited to twelve people and they depart from the Thomas Cole Historic Site at 9am. Hikes designated as “Easy” are approximately two hours in length. Those designated as “Moderate” are closer to four hours. Each of the guided hikes also includes a guided tour of the Thomas Cole Historic Site at the end of the hike. The total price per person: $15, or $10 for members.

Here is a schedule of the hikes:

June 6: Sunset Rock and the Catskill Mountain House (Moderate)

July 18: Kaaterskill Falls and the Catskill Mountain House (Moderate)

August 1: The Catskill Mountain House and North-South Lake (Easy)

September 5: Kaaterskill Falls and the Catskill Mountain House (Moderate)

October 3: Sunset Rock and the Catskill Mountain House (Moderate)