Tag Archives: Natural History

Adirondack Wild Center Museum Launches ‘Wings’ Group


By on

0 Comments

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


By on

0 Comments

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


By on

0 Comments

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


By on

0 Comments

“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


By on

0 Comments

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


By on

0 Comments

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


By on

0 Comments

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


By on

0 Comments

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.

Looking for things to do in NY? Check out Citypath


US Fish Commission Annual Reports Available Online


By on

2 Comments

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


By on

0 Comments

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


By on

0 Comments

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


By on

0 Comments

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


By on

0 Comments

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


By on

0 Comments

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


By on

1 Comment

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)

Ethnobotany and Medicinal Plants in New Amsterdam


By on

0 Comments

Dr. Joel W. Grossman, the archaeologist who directed the excavation of the early-17th century shoreline block of the Dutch West India Company at Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan, will discuss “Dutch Ethnobotany and Medicinal Plants in 17th Century New Amsterdam” on Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 12:00 noon in the Arthur and
Janet Ross Lecture Hall, New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

The dig exposed the deeply-buried remains of the colony’s first warehouse, the artifact-filled cisterns of its earliest inhabitants, and a well-preserved record of changing colonial plants. Grossman’s lavishly illustrated talk will explore the intriguing transatlantic links between the Leiden Hortus, or botanical garden, of the University of Leiden, East and West India Company doctors, institutionalized plant collecting and Native American informants in 17th Century New Amsterdam.

Grossman’s talk is presented as part of the New York Botanical Garden’s Quadricentennial Celebration: The Glory of Dutch Bulbs: A Legacy of 400 Years: May 1-June 7, 2009. Discover indoor and outdoor displays that feature large swaths of bright flowering bulbs and companion plants inspired by the great tulip and lily gardens of Holland. See Nybg.org/dutch_bulbs for other offerings on June 6th, and all the events being offered as part of the Glory of Dutch Bulbs program. For directions please call: (718) 817-8779; for general info: (718) 817-8770.

The Mannahatta Project Uncovers NYC in 1609


By on

0 Comments

A new web site (now in Beta) sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society shows viewers what New York City looked like before it was a city. After nearly a decade of research the The Mannahatta Project uncovers online the original ecology of Manhattan circa 1609. According to the site:

“That’s right, the center of one of the world’s largest and most built-up cities was once a natural landscape of hills, valleys, forests, fields, freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, beaches, springs, ponds and streams, supporting a rich and abundant community of wildlife and sustaining people for perhaps 5000 years before Europeans arrived on the scene in 1609. It turns out that the concrete jungle of New York City was once a vast deciduous forest, home to bears, wolves, songbirds, and salamanders, with clear, clean waters jumping with fish. In fact, with over 55 different ecological communities, Mannahatta’s biodiversity per acre rivaled that of national parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Great Smoky Mountains!”

The goal of the Mannahatta Project is no less than “to re-start the natural history of New York City.” The site includes a virtual Mannahatta map that allows you to see Mannahatta from any location, block-by-block species information, lessons on the science and technology used to create the site, hundreds of layers of digital data, place-based lesson plans for elementary and high school students that meet New York State standards, an online discussion page, and event listing.

Recent updates to Mannahatta include the ability click on a city block to find out what type of plants and animals called it home, whether the Lenape people lived or worked there, and what kind of landscape features appeared on that block. You can also use the slider bar to fade from Mannahatta to modern day to see how the island has changed in the last 400 years.

Last week a related multimedia exhibit “Mannahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City” also opened at the Museum of the City of New York.

NYC: Douglas Brinkley on Roosevelt, ‘Wilderness Warrior’


By on

1 Comment

In his new book, The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Douglas Brinkley (Professor of History and Baker Institute Fellow, Rice University) looks at the pioneering environmental policies of President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid bird-watcher and naturalist with Adirondack ties at the American Museum of Natural History’s Linder Theater in New York City tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28, 6:30 pm. Admission will be $15 ($13.50 Members, students, senior citizens).

Roosevelt was a pioneer of the conservation movement and was involved with the American Museum of Natural History from childhood. As a matter of fact, the original charter creating the Museum was signed in his family home in 1869, and the Museum has a permanent hall in tribute to Theodore Roosevelt and the contributions he made to city, state, and nation throughout his life. A book signing will follow this program.

Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History and Baker Institute Fellow, Rice University, is the author of several books, including The Unfinished Presidency, The Boys of Pointe du Hoc, and The Great Deluge (which won him the 2007 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award); he is also a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and an in-house historian for CBS News. He has earned several honorary doctorates for his contributions to American letters and was once called the “the best of the new generation of American historians” by the late historian Stephen E. Ambrose.

For questions regarding this event, please contact Antonia Santangelo at 212-769-5310 or asantangelo@amnh.org.

‘Wild, Unsettled Country’ At The Adirondack Museum


By on

0 Comments

The Adirondack Museum has announced a new exhibit, A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks, that will look at the early efforts to convey the Adirondacks visually to the wider world. The exhibit will open on May 22, 2009 – meaning that year-round Adirondack Park residents should be able to catch the exhibit for free the last week of May.

The first Europeans to see the Adirondack landscape of northern New York State came to explore, to document important military operations and fortifications, or to create maps and scientifically accurate images of the terrain, flora, and fauna.
These early illustrations filled practical needs rather than aesthetic ones.

The exhibition will showcase approximately forty paintings from the museum’s exceptional art collection, including works by Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett, William Havell, John Henry Dolph and James David Smillie.

Also featured are fifty of the engravings and lithographs of Adirondack landscape paintings that brought these images to a wider audience and provided many Americans with their first glimpse of the “howling wilds” that were the Adirondack Mountains.

While tourists were flocking to Saratoga Springs, N.Y. in the 1830s, few ventured north into the “lofty chain of granite” visible from Lake George. One guidebook described the mysterious forms as “a wild repulsive aspect.” Little was known of these yet-unnamed mountains.

In 1836, the New York State legislature authorized a survey of the state’s natural resources. Artist Charles Cromwell Ingham was asked to join geologists Ebenezer Emmons and William C. Redfield during one of the first exploratory surveys. During the trip, he painted The Great Adirondack Pass, “on the spot.” The original painting will be shown in the exhibition.

The exhibit will also include photographs-stereo views and albumen prints-sold as tourist souvenirs and to armchair travelers. William James Stillman took the earliest photos in the exhibition in 1859. These rare images are the first photographic landscape studies taken in the Adirondacks. Photos by Seneca Ray Stoddard will also be displayed.

Significant historic maps will illustrate the growth of knowledge about the Adirondack region. In 1818, it was still a mysterious “wild, barren tract…covered with almost impenetrable Bogs, Marshes & Ponds, and the uplands with Rocks and evergreens.” By 1870, the Adirondacks had become a tourist destination with clearly defined travel routes, hotels, beaches, and camps.

“A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’” will be on exhibit in the Lynn H. Boillot Art Galleries. The space includes the Adirondack Museum Gallery Study Center – a resource for learning more about American art. In addition to a library of reference books, a touch screen computer allows visitors to access images from the museum’s extensive fine art collection.

The Gallery Study Center will include a media space as part of the special exhibit. The documentary film “Champlain: The Lake Between” will be shown continuously. The film, part of the Lake Champlain Voyages of Discovery project, has aired on Vermont Public Television in recent months.

“A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’” is not just for adults. Family-friendly elements include Looking at Art With Children – a guide for parents as they investigate the arts with youngsters; the Grand Tour Guide – a colorful and engaging map that encourages exploration of the Adirondack sites shown in the paintings; and ten different Wild About! guidebooks that urge kids to be “wild” about maps, prints, history, and more.

Photo caption: View of Caldwell, Lake George, by William Tolman Carlton, 1844. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.

Teddy Roosevelt and The Adirondack Forest Preserve


By on

1 Comment

This post has been cross-posted to Adirondack Almanack, the blog of Adirondack culture, history, and politics.

In the heart of the Adirondacks is the Town of Newcomb, population about 500. The town was developed as a lumbering and mining community – today tourism and forest and wood products are the dominate way locals make a living. As a result the Essex County town is one of the Adirondacks’ poorer communities ($32,639 median income in 2000).

The folks in Newcomb (and also in North Creek in Warren County) often promote their communities’ connection to Theodore Roosevelt’s ascendancy to the presidency. Teddy’s nighttime trip from a camp in Newcomb to the rail station at North Creek as William McKinley lay dying from a bullet delivered by Leon Czolgosz‘s .32 caliber Iver-Johnson handgun is usually considered Roosevelt’s great tie to the Adirondack region. There is a annual celebration of Roosevelt this weekend, but more of that later.

Roosevelt was the first American president to find the long-term conservation of our natural resources and important goal. According to the great wiki “Roosevelt set aside more land for national parks and nature preserves than all of his predecessors combined, 194 million acres”:

Roosevelt created the first National Bird Preserve, (the beginning of the Wildlife Refuge system)… recognized the imminent extinction of the American Bison… urged Congress to establish the United States Forest Service (1905), to manage government forest lands, and he appointed Gifford Pinchot to head the service… In all, by 1909, the Roosevelt administration had created an unprecedented 42 million acres (170,000 km²) of national forests, 53 national wildlife refuges and 18 areas of “special interest”, including the Grand Canyon.

A longstanding question from Roosevelt’s time still creates raging debates in Newcomb – should the state keep buying land in Newcomb (and elsewhere) to add to the Forest Preserve while it continues to ban logging?

Here is a short history of the movement to log the Adirondack Forest Preserve prior to 1900:

1798 – New York State sells 4 million acres of the Macomb Patent for eight pence an acre. Political and corporate interests would control much of the Adirondacks for the next century. In 1855 for example, the state sold three entire townships to a railroad company for five cents an acre, even though the price had been set by law at 75 cents an acre.

In 1885, the Forest Preserve Act was passed establishing the New York State Forest Commission and declaring that “The lands now or hereafter constituting the forest preserve shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not sold, nor shall they be leased or taken by any corporation, public or private.”

With the establishment of the Forest Preserve came calls to log it. In 1890, the Commission argued that new Forest Preserve lands should be purchased with money from the sales of timber (softwoods over 12 inches in diameter). In 1892, the state legislature established the Adirondack Park within the Forest Preserve and stated it would be “forever reserved, maintained and cared for as a ground open for the free use of all the people for their health or pleasure, and as forest lands necessary to the preservation of the headwaters of the chief rivers and a future timber supply.”

The following year later the State Legislature approved the logging of Tamarack and Spruce 12 inches and up and any size Poplar. The New York Evening Post reported that fifteen bills were rushed to the New York Legislature “nearly all of which are directly to the advantage of the timber and land sharks.” The following year, the American Forestry Association, the New York State Forestry Association, the Adirondack Park Association, and the Genesee Forestry Association, held a “Forest Congress” in Albany which opposed the lumbering plan.

The move to log the Forest Preserve created a backlash from conservationists and that, along with a report form the State Comptroller outlining immense fraud, bribery, and illegal cutting, led to inclusion of a formal ban in the New York Constitution in 1894. “The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.” The American Forestry Association also opposed this plan.

In 1898, New York Governor Frank Black, pushed for a 40,000 acre experimental forestry station to be run by Cornell Forest School, which was established by the same law. Cornell University started the forestry program but closed its doors in 1903, it was headed by Bernhard Eduard Fernow.

In 1898 Teddy Roosevelt was elected Governor. Roosevelt believed that someday, forestry could be applied to the state’s Forest Preserve – he said so in his 1900 annual message: “We need to have our system of forestry gradually developed and conducted along scientific principles. When this has been done it will be possible to allow marketable lumber to be cut everywhere without damage to the forests.”

Roosevelt brought in Gifford Pinchot and the United States Division of Forestry who devised a plan to lumber Township 40 in the Totten and Crossfield Purchase. About 25 men were hired under forester Ralph Hosmer and local lumberer Eugene Bruce to survey the woods and lay out a plan to log the Forest Preserve. With the failure of the plan’s adoption came the virtual end to serious attempts to log the Adirondacks en masse.

The annual Newcomb Roosevelt celebration is this weekend (Sept. 5, 6, and 7)

Newcomb Visitor Interpretive Center Opening Celebration (Friday night, Sept. 5, at 6:30 p.m., and featuring Adirondack Folksinger-Songwriter Peggy Lynn)

Craft Fair (Saturday, Sept. 6, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 7, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Newcomb Central School)

Quilt Show (Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 6-7, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Newcomb Visitor Interpretive Center).

All Weekend Long: Wagon Rides to Camp Santanoni, Free Pony Rides, Wool Spinning, a Classic Car Exhibit, Historic Guided Tours of Newcomb and Village of Adirondac, the Ty Yandon 5K Memorial Foot Race, and the TR Naturalist Challenge.

Fireworks on Saturday evening, Sept. 6, at the Overlook (Musical Entertainment beforehand)

For more information, contact the Newcomb Chamber of Commerce at (518) 582-3211.