Thursday, June 28, 2012

EU-Moldova: Geographical Indications deal opens door to promote high quality food and agriculture

From  EU-Moldova: Geographical Indications deal opens door to promote high quality food and agriculture

The European Union and Moldova yesterday signed an agreement, aiming to protect their respective Geographical Indications (GIs), according to a press release from EU Delegation to Moldova.

The agreement will help to promote trade in quality agricultural products and foodstuffs between both parties, allowing Moldova to adapt its domestic legislation to the highest standards of intellectual property rights protection. Moldovan wines are among the products set to benefit, with Geographical Indications for two varieties.
At the same time, Moldova will ensure a high level of protection for more than 3,200 EU GIs for food products, wines and spirits already protected within the EU.
‘This agreement is a further step in strengthening our system of GIs around the world, but  also a way of bringing Moldova closer to the EU’, said EU Agriculture and Rural  Development Commissioner Dacian Cioloș.
The agreement aims at better informing consumers on the origin and quality of products and protecting them from being misled. It reflects the EU and Moldova's converging views on quality policy, consumer protection and intellectual property, while responding to EU Member States' efforts to protect Geographical Indications internationally.
The development of Geographical Indications is expected to contribute significantly to the diversification of wine production in the Republic of Moldova. The initial protection of 2 wine Geographical Indications originating from Moldova (Româneşti and Ciumai PDO wines) is expected to help the marketing of these products on the EU market.

It will also encourage the development of a GI protection system in Moldova, for example through its extension to other categories of products. It should also encourage new initiatives valorising the GIs system, bringing tourism to regions and supporting marketing strategies for new markets. (EU Neighbourhood Info)  


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nigeria: Geographical Mapping Will Address Disaster - VP

From  Nigeria: Geographical Mapping Will Address Disaster - VP

Ilorin — The Vice President, Arc. Muhammad Namadi Sambo, yesterday said the federal government would do everything possible to map its geographical landscape to address disaster management in the country.
For this purpose, the vice president said, the office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation has been positioned for the task.

Arc. Sambo, who was represented by the Surveyor-General of the Federation, Surv. Prof. Peter Nwilo, as guest of honour at the ongoing 47th Annual General Meeting of the Institution of Surveyors in Ilorin , Tuesday, with the theme, Surveying Climate Change and Disaster Management, called on state governments to also take up the challenge.

"This essentially is what maps and its attribute products enable us to do. The government of Nigeria will do everything possible to ensure that our geographical space is properly and comprehensively mapped".
The vice president said the theme of the meeting was apt and timely, added that it strikes the core of the challenge facing the world today.

He expressed the hope that the idea from the meeting would help to tackle global warming and environmental disasters in the world.

Also speaking, the President of the Institute, Yakubu Maikano, said Nigeria needs a National Mapping Policy that would sustain the production of maps in the country.

"The Federal Government must produce accurate maps throughout the length and breadth of the country".
"When government came up with the Land Reform Agenda, surveyors advised government to embark on the mapping of the entire country for the successful delivery of the land reform dividend, especially to Nigerians in the rural areas", he said.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Digging for treasures at Maya tomb, ruins

From Lake Norman (Charlotte Observer) News:   Digging for treasures at Maya tomb, ruins

A team of teenage archaeologists from Davidson Day School flew to the Central American country of Belize on June 22 to unearth artifacts at a tomb of Maya royals who ruled more than a thousand years ago.
Leading the group of 22 students is archaeologist Mat Saunders, 34, who has dug at the Cahal Pech Maya ruins site in western Belize since 2006. Saunders teaches anthropology, world religions, history and mythology at Davidson Day, a private college preparatory school.

His American Foreign Academic Research nonprofit is based at the school and raised at least $80,000 during the past year for student scholarships and preservation of the archaeological sites they discover.
Saunders also brings 20 of the world’s foremost experts on Maya archaeology and culture to Davidson Day each spring to share their latest research with the public at a Maya conference. He hosts a similar conference each year in Palm Coast, Fla., where he previously taught.

His trips to Belize have become so popular that Saunders added a second two-week session this summer, with some students planning to stay the entire four weeks, from June 22 to July 23.

In 2010, Saunders and his students found ancient jade beads, a staircase leading to a plaza and a circular building dating to about 500 B.C. Last summer, they discovered the Late Classic Period royal tomb with three kings in it.

They found what Saunders said were never-before-seen artifacts, including hieroglyphic inscriptions, artists’ tools and ornaments, a cache of jade jewelry and a carved, jaguar-tooth necklace.

“Other people have to look at it through glass,” rising 11th-grader George James, 16, of Huntersville said of the artifacts he and other students found. “We get to touch it. Gently.”

All of the artifacts will be on a museum tour beginning this fall out West, in Canada and possibly as far south as Washington, D.C., Saunders said at his home in Huntersville on June 20. Students and parents filed into their house throughout the afternoon for a pre-dig party, where the students received digging tools for the backpacks they’ll carry each day to the site.

Also on the dig are Davidson Day instructors Mike and Tiffani Thomas and noted archaeologists Marc Zender of Tulane University and Jaime Awe of the Belize Institute of Archaeology.

“It’s a full-scale archaeological project,” Saunders said – one that gives students hands-on learning.
George said he discovered an obsidian blade at the site last summer.

“We also found all sorts of pottery,” said rising 10th-grader Howard Strachan, 15, of Mooresville.
The pair is back in Belize again this summer, as are Sierra Thorson, 16, a rising senior from Davidson, and Jason Chinuntdet, 17, a rising senior from Mooresville. Sierra and Jason intend to make archaeology a career – Sierra wants to be a faunal archaeologist, one who studies ancient animal bones and skeletons.
When Sierra told a reporter of her career ambitions after she and other students gathered at their teacher’s home June 20, George interjected: “We already are archaeologists.”

“Just minus degrees,” Jason said.

“They definitely will have a leg up,” Saunders said of the experience the students gain in Belize.
When Jason went for a college interview at Northwestern University, a professor asked if he’d ever met the famous archaeologist Jaime Awe.

He’d even sat and chatted with him, Jason replied.

Read more here:

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Monument fudges geography

From the Columbus Dispatch:  Monument fudges geography

Frequent travelers know that not everything on the road is as advertised or expected.
I often joke that my biggest travel disappointment has been the tour of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn. — not because the tour is lacking information or fun but because at the end visitors to the site, located in a “dry” county, until recently were given lemonade instead of whiskey.

A similar disappointment was waiting for me when I made a trip to the center of the country, or so I thought.
The quaint little town of Belle Fourche, S.D., about 55 miles northwest of Rapid City, bills itself as the geographic center of the 50 United States.

The town is home to a neat, manicured park containing an impressive Center of the Nation monument surrounded by flags from every state. The monument is conveniently located behind the Chamber of Commerce headquarters and the local history museum.

The monument and park made for a lovely, easy stop on my 250-mile drive from Rapid City to Dickinson, N.D.
I gathered some travel information at the chamber office, explored a bit of local history at the museum and even posed for a self-portrait at the marble edifice marking the “center” of the country. But I felt oddly uncentered.

I soon discovered why.

A historic monument nearby noted that the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (an official-sounding organization if ever there was one) had determined that the precise center of the 50 states is at latitude 44 degrees, 58 minutes north, and longitude 103 degrees, 46 minutes west. But, according to my GPS, that was not where I was standing.

As I read the fine print on other signs in the park, I learned that Belle Fourche is more of a “ ceremonial” center — the closest town to the true geographical center of the United States, a point that actually lies about 20 miles northwest in the middle of the prairie.

To me, a geography and cartography nerd, the lack of geographical precision seemed deflating. I felt like a mountain climber who had to turn back 100 feet from the top, or a bowler who had rolled a 299. And, unfortunately, I didn’t have time that day to seek geographical perfection.

For the next few days, my failure nagged me, like a blackberry seed stuck in the precise center of a molar.
But this story has a happy ending. On my return to Rapid City several days later, I was driving along Rt. 85 when I spotted a tiny, hand-lettered sign: “Center of the U.S. — 8 mi.” The sign pointed west along a narrow dirt road striking off across the prairie.

Exactly 8 miles down that lonely road I arrived at a small rock cairn and another crude hand-lettered sign declaring the place to be “The True Center of the Nation.” I crawled through the barbed-wire fence behind the sign and hiked a short way across the prairie to a survey marker and the small American flag planted there.
Finally, I had reached the nation’s geographic omphalos. And except for a few hawks riding thermals, I was alone on the prairie.

There was no snack bar, no brochure rack, no historic marker. But in the distance, a few ruddy buttes rose up like strange, portentous beacons indicating potential new adventures — adventures that awaited in precisely every direction.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

8 Geographical Pivot Points

From Foreihn Policy magazine: 8 Geographical Pivot Points

In FP's July/August issue, Robert D. Kaplan writes that the present and future of Pakistan -- perpetually among the top countries on the Failed States Index -- "are still best understood through its geography." But the troubled Southeast Asian country, precariously situated between India and Central Asia, is not the only region whose prospects for growth and security are affected by natural resources and cartographic positioning. In an interview, Kaplan, chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor and author of the forthcoming book The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, pinpointed eight countries where vital challenges hinge on questions of geography. 

The key question: Will it connect India to East Asia through invigorated trade routes?
Rich in timber, hydropower, natural gas, diamonds, and even uranium, Myanmar has suffered from decades of economic stasis under repressive military rule. But if the country can continue to open up politically, as it has done over the past year, it could in turn fashion itself into a crucial throughway connecting China with the Bay of Bengal. At the moment, China relies heavily on the Strait of Malacca, a roundabout route farther south, to ship exports out from the South China Sea, while oil and natural gas from the Middle East reach China only after traveling across the Indian Ocean and through the strait. China and India are both developing offshore natural gas fields and building ports in the region; if these two economic superpowers are permitted to build pipelines across Myanmar, the newly resurgent country could unite the subcontinent with East Asia, allowing, Kaplan says, "a real Indo-Pacific region to take hold."

Will it become the next pivot state in Eastern Europe?
Squeezed between major European powers Germany and Russia, Poland has long been the "plaything of geography," as Kaplan puts it. The Baltic Sea and Carpathian Mountains make for natural borders in the north and south, but the country's eastern and western edges are relatively undifferentiated flatlands. As a result, Poland's borders have shifted back and forth and even disappeared altogether at various points throughout history. Now, Poland stands to assume the role of a major pivot state between Western and Eastern Europe, especially if Ukraine slips into the Russian orbit. Not only has Poland strengthened ties with Germany since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but if it can capitalize on possibly significant shale-gas deposits, it could become an energy producer in its own right -- potentially giving it more political leverage than ever, particularly in dealing with gas giant Russia.

Can it improve relations with the United States and develop its Orinoco oil fields?
Harnessing vast crude reserves primarily in the northwestern Maracaibo region, Venezuela is among the world's top oil producers, with about half of its oil exports going to the United States as of 2010, despite tension between the two countries. Although we tend to think of Venezuela as a South American country, "in reality, it's a Caribbean country," Kaplan explains, considering that most of its 29 million people are concentrated along the northern coast. As a result, Venezuela has few options but to ship its crude across the Caribbean Sea, up toward the Gulf of Mexico, and ultimately to the United States. Kaplan predicts U.S.-Venezuela relations will gradually improve once cancer-ridden President Hugo Chávez expires. In turn, Venezuela might be able to increase exports to the United States, and also might get U.S. help to tap into heavy crude deposits in the Orinoco oil sands, which require more advanced and expensive drilling techniques.

Will the "cradle of Western civilization" see its loyalties drift east?
Despite unending discussion of Greece's status in the European Union, Kaplan notes that the country's geography and identity are also tied closely with the East. Not only does Greece straddle Europe and the Middle East geographically, but because the largest religious group in the country is made up of East Orthodox Christians, it is also culturally close to Russia. Not to mention the fact that Athens is nearly as close to Moscow as it is to Brussels, the de facto capital of the EU. Although Greece is considered the birthplace of Western civilization, its legacy as a backwater of the Ottoman Empire means it has suffered for centuries from severe underdevelopment, while political parties until recently have been poorly organized and large numbers of Greek businesses are still family-owned. All this is to say that, heading forward, Western Europe "cannot take Greece for granted," Kaplan says. China, for instance, is upgrading the port of Pireaus near Athens, and if a regime change in Syria forces Russia to abandon its naval base there, the Russian navy could end up turning to Greece in the future.

Can it overcome the perfect storm of geographic pressures?
For the most part, Yemen's geography is working against it. Although it is about a third as large as Saudi Arabia, the country has only about 2 million fewer people, contributing to overpopulation and severe poverty. With a rapidly diminishing water table, Yemen is also internally divided by mountains, such that it has been near impossible to establish a point of central authority since ancient times. Poor governance in turn leaves Yemen vulnerable to the spillover of piracy in Somalia, which sits just across the Gulf of Aden. If political development in Yemen continues to falter, Kaplan warns, the country could end up more like Somalia -- an unquestionably failed state with a virtually nonfunctional government. "Since antiquity Yemen has often been defined by a multiplicity of political power centers within it," Kaplan says.

Can it keep from becoming a de facto colony of China?
For most of the 20th century, Mongolia was a satellite of the Soviet Union, but today it fears China, which has more than a billion people to Mongolia's 3 million. Despite its sparse population -- the country's landscape is "kind of like Mars with oxygen," Kaplan says -- Mongolia has abundant resources, including oil, coal, and grasslands. The crucial question is whether the country, which was ruled by the Chinese during the Qing dynasty, can now prevent China from exploiting its rich natural resources. To do so, Mongolia has encouraged investment from other countries, including Australia, South Korea, and the United States, but its neighbor to the south still looms large.

Can its oil wealth spread to the interior?
In many ways, Angola's geography makes sense, unlike that of many of its African neighbors. Thick forests in the north serve as a logical border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while the Kalahari Desert offers a natural frontier with Namibia and Botswana to the south. To the east, a gradually rising plateau abuts Zambia, and the South Atlantic Ocean is off to the west. Although the country has both the geographical makeup and the resources -- chiefly oil -- to be prosperous and self-contained, Angolan society is plagued by inequality. The capital, Luanda, which is perched on the oil-rich northwestern coast, is ranked the second-most expensive city in the world, but some 40 percent of the country's population is estimated to live below the poverty line. The pivotal question for Angola is whether the wealth from offshore oil deposits can trickle down into the country's inland Planalto region, which is well-watered and agriculturally rich but lacks sufficient infrastructure.

Can it host trade routes connecting China and India?
More than 160 million people -- greater than the population of Russia -- populate Bangladesh's sea-level, semi-aquatic landscape. While the northern part of the country is prone to drought due to China and India's damming of the Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers, the flatlands of southern Bangladesh are threatened by rising sea levels, which deplete soil with the addition of salt. In other words, as Kaplan puts it, the country is "squeezed by water problems from both directions." What's more, the country's rough terrain has hindered both internal economic development and trade. That could change if China, India, and Myanmar open trade routes through Bangladesh. "Geography has been a curse to Bangladesh, threatened as it is by both drought and rising sea levels," Kaplan says. "But geography could become a blessing in an era that might see routes and pipelines operating in many directions, organically connecting the Indian subcontinent with Tibet and China."


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Geography teacher championed public schools

From Brisbane Times:  Geography teacher championed public schools

When Christine Payne was active in the Western Metropolitan Social Sciences Teachers Association, she single-handedly developed the Department of Education's skeleton geography curriculum into a full program of topics to be covered and resources to be used - a mammoth task.

Payne was a dedicated teacher who believed that public schools with their strong values - a sense of fairness and inclusiveness - were best able to give a true education to all students.

She was passionate about geography and considered it would be wrong not to include it in the national curriculum as a compulsory subject. In 1999, when her student Sharon Goodwin topped the state in geography 3, she was delighted. Also of note was the very high average for all her students - band 5 and 6 was the norm.
Christine Margaret Long was born in Guildford on January 28, 1950, the second of 10 children to George Long and his wife, Bonnie (nee Fallon). She was a singular child who set herself goals and, with great effort and perseverance, set out to achieve them.

She shared her bedroom with three sisters and rarely had peace or privacy, so waited until her sisters fell asleep to put on the light to read. When her sisters complained about the light, she would get up at 2am and study for two hours in the backyard with a torch and a blanket around her.

Bonnie and several of the children were hard of hearing. When it was time to send Christine's older brother to Guildford Public School, Bonnie also sent four-year-old Christine to help him. Christine excelled not only academically but also in sport. She single-mindedly put thought and effort into everything she took on.
She went to Chester Hill High School and, after taking her HSC, she won both a teachers college scholarship and a Rotary scholarship. She went to Newcastle Teachers College for two years to become a high school geography and social sciences teacher then started teaching in 1970 at Northmead High School. At night she continued her tertiary studies for a BA at the University of Sydney.

During this time, in 1974, she met Ross Payne at a hockey social and they were married the following year.
In 1976 and 1977, Payne undertook a special education diploma at Nepean CAE so she could teach deaf students. With the diploma, she started teaching at North Rocks School for the Deaf but returned to teaching geography and social sciences at Grantham Sports High School and Girraween Selective High School.
When Payne became ill with cancer, she was as courageous and realistic as she had been all of her life. She faced it with quiet dignity and fortitude.

Christine Payne is survived by Ross, children Andrew and Johanna, grandson Toby and her extended family


Friday, June 8, 2012

Retired MSU prof, former student write geographic sociology book

From Mississippi State University: Retired MSU prof, former student write geographic sociology book 

STARKVILLE, Miss.--A Mississippi State emeritus professor of sociology and his final doctoral-degree advisee at the university are co-authors of a new book on geographical sociology.

"Geographical Sociology: Theoretical Foundations and Methodological Applications in the Sociology of Location" is the work of Jeremy R. Porter and Frank M. Howell. It is a recent release by Springer, one of the world's largest science publishers, and available through major booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Their book is the first to assemble the historical literature on the relationship between the methods of map-making and statistical analysis--and why location might matter in a particular social problem--into one volume.

Howell, an MSU doctoral graduate and now retired faculty member, helped establish courses on geographical informational systems while at the university. Porter, who graduated in 2008, now is a sociology faculty member at the City University of New York.

"The concept for this book was Jeremy's idea," Howell said. "He said I had always hounded students in the spatial analysis class to think theoretically when using GIS so that we weren't just trying to make 'pretty maps' without understanding what was producing the data."

As examples, Howell said issues facing communities, "such as where will MSU extend its bus system routes out in the Starkville area to what are the likely long-term development impacts of the new Saturn automobile plant near Tupelo, are likely to have spatial dimensions.

"It's no accident that the three major things in real estate are said to be location, location, and location," he observed. "We organize the existing theoretical reasons as to why this is the case."

Porter, who minored in mathematics and statistics, also completed the interdisciplinary GIS certification program before taking a post-doctoral fellowship at Rice University. At CUNY, he holds a joint appointment between its School of Business and Institute for Children's Studies, as well as being affiliated with the CUNY Graduate Center and its Institute for Demographic Research.

His research with Howell focuses on tying together numerous concepts and theories from the disciplines of sociology and economics, as well as how to implement them statistically.

"The explosion of methods to do spatial analysis in the social sciences has generated the capability to produce complex analyses of data about location," Porter said. "In reality, both disciplines had spatial theories about location in use almost a century ago that remained stagnant due to the requirement to produce maps by hand. These concepts and theories have lain almost dormant until recently due to this cumbersome lack of technology."

The authors explained how basic spatial concepts of containment, adjacency, proximity and others are illustrated using spatial data. Containment refers to the boundaries reducing social contact such as the lack of multi-lane highways, a mountain range, or a river without a nearby bridge. Adjacency refers to what is "near" a particular location.

These concepts help provide a better appreciation for the dramatic increase in suburban growth around large cities as middle-class Americans realized a desire for larger homes but with only a half-hour driving access to amenities of the central city.

Proximity is a similar concept, but refers to the absolute distance from one location to another.
"These concepts are the building blocks of most social theories of location, but are often not directly measured in research," Porter noted. "Our book tries to integrate them into the methods in which to use them by illustrating them with real data from our research."

Continuing their efforts, the authors now are working on a follow-up book, "Spatial Analysis of Social Data: Concepts, Data and Methods," under contract with Springer. This book is designed to help social scientists learn the correct and desired methods for analyzing and visualizing spatial data. Publication is anticipated in early 2013.
As an outgrowth of their work together, Porter said they additionally have launched as editors-in-chief a new multimedia journal titled Spatial Demography. Available at, it is a publication of PressForward at Virginia's George Mason University. Guangqing Chi, assistant professor of sociology at MSU, is a member of the editorial board. The first issue will feature peer-reviewed work using spatial methods in social demography, Howell added.
For more information about Mississippi State University, see

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Over 70 history, geography books marketed

From Iran News Agency:   Over 70 history, geography books marketed

During the period of May 19-23, a total of 73 history and geography books were marketed of which 67 were compilations and 6 were translations.
IBNA: According to the report, released by the Book House Institute, a total of 1558 books were released during the mentioned date of which 73 belonged to the field of history and geography of which 67 were compilations and 6 were translations.

Among the published history and geography books, 61 were first prints and 12 were reprints. 33 were released in Tehran while 40 works were printed in other provinces.

Averagely 2079 books were published in the field of history and geography and 249 pages were printed.

Some of the first prints included "The Griffin", "Noted dignitaries of Khansar" and "Secrets of the Pyramids".

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wildlife Photography Exhibition Opens June 8 at Canadian Museum of Nature

From Marketwire:  Wildlife Photography Exhibition Opens June 8 at Canadian Museum of Nature

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 6, 2012) - A praying mantis hanging from a curved blade of grass. A mother loon feeding her chick on a tranquil lake. A soaked grizzly bear scrambling up shoreline rocks. These unique moments are among those captured in the Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year exhibition that opens June 8, 2012 at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

The fourth edition of this popular annual show features 31 winning photographs from the 2011 Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year Contest, which was organized by Canadian Geographic in partnership with the museum and the Royal Canadian Mint. The photos will be on display until August 26, 2012.

"We are delighted to present with our partners these award-winning photographs from Canadians across the country," says Meg Beckel, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature. "This exhibition is the latest in a series of nature-themed art shows we are presenting that engage visitors to connect with, explore, and be inspired by the natural world."

This inspiration is evident in the range of colours, subjects and situations that caught the keen eye of the photographers. Winners, runners-up, and honourable mentions were selected from thousands of entries submitted to Canadian Geographic.

"Canadians have a deep and abiding connection with our natural world - the land and its wildlife inhabitants. The Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year contest attests to the artistry, talent and determination of the photographers who are keen to share their fascination with wildlife," said André Préfontaine, Executive Director of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. "As a result of the unique partnership of the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Royal Canadian Mint and Canadian Geographic, Canadians will have unprecedented access to this year's winning photos that are featured in the exhibition, on a collector coin and in Canadian Geographic magazine."

The grand prize winner, Robert Ganz of Montreal, caught an image of a praying mantis delicately hanging from a blade of grass that bowed under the insect's weight. For his efforts, the award winner will have his image reproduced on a special collector's coin created by the Mint.

"The Royal Canadian Mint is proud to celebrate both our nation's talent and natural beauty by reproducing a stunning Canadian wildlife photograph on one of our renowned collector coins," said Ian E. Bennett, President and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint. "The breathtaking moment captured by the lens of Robert Ganz can now live on for the enjoyment of coin collectors and nature lovers worldwide thanks to the crafting of a fine new silver collector from the Royal Canadian Mint."

Other winning photographers and images featured in the show are:

    * Karen Dillabough of Halifax, who won in the mammal category for her subtle shot of a fin whale about to break the water surface off the coast of Cape Breton Island.

    * George Whalen, of Cambridge, Ontario, who earned first place in the category of insects, reptiles and amphibians for capturing a dew-covered, red-legged grasshopper hanging onto a leaf on a crisp August morning.

    * Bill Maynard of Ottawa, winner of the bird category, who caught the yellow eyes and intense gaze of a Northern saw-whet owl during a trip to Amherst Island, near Kingston, Ontario.

    * Monica Urycki Evenden, who lives near Peterborough, Ontario, won in the category of people and pets by catching her grandson's hound dog in a rare moment of stillness, as his owner fished on a dock along the Otonabee River.

    * Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Franchomme of Gatineau, Quebec, who took top honours in the young photographers category for his close-up shot of a hummingbird hawkmoth collecting pollen on a flower.

The photographs for the 2011 Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year Exhibition can be viewed at

The Canadian Museum of Nature is located at 240 McLeod Street, Ottawa and is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. as well as Thursdays and Fridays until 8:00 p.m. Visit for more information or call 613-566-4700. Follow the Museum on Twitter (@museumofnature). Become a fan on Facebook.

The Canadian Museum of Nature is Canada's national museum of natural history and natural sciences. It promotes awareness of Canada's natural heritage through permanent and travelling exhibitions, public education programmes, active scientific research, a dynamic Web site, and the maintenance of a 10.5 million-specimen collection. 


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cleared of rodents, Rat Island gets renamed

From Anchorage Daily News: Cleared of rodents, Rat Island gets renamed

Rat Island, a windswept hunk of tundra in the Aleutians, has had no rats for two years. Now, fittingly, it has a new official name.

On May 10, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names changed the name to Hawadax Island, the designation that will henceforth appear on maps and government documents.

The effort to change the name was led by Karen Pletnikoff of the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association.

"Since the island is now rat-free," she told the board, "an appropriate Unangas/Unangan (Aleut) name should be restored to reflect both the true history of the island and celebrate the success of removing invasive species from essential habitat."

Pletnikoff demonstrated that the most attested Native name for the uninhabited island was Hawadax. A press release from the APIA says the word means "those two over there," describing two knolls that rise over the rest of the island.

The island got its European name -- followed in different languages by Russian, French and English cartographers -- from rodents that survived a shipwreck on its coast, supposedly in 1780. The rats thrived and multiplied on the previously predator-free island, devouring nesting birds, their eggs and chicks.

In 2008, The Nature Conservancy and Island Conservation, along with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, undertook an intense effort to wipe out the island's rats. Hundreds of pounds of poison was dropped from the air. The project cost at least $2.5 million.

In his book "Rat Island: Predators in Paradise and the World's Greatest Wildlife Rescue," award-winning author William Stolzenburg notes that the Alaska exterminators were using techniques that had been pioneered in New Zealand.

"It was a big collective effort," Stolzenburg said. "It took a lot of planning and a lot of money. But everything didn't go as planned."

His book chronicles hundreds of dead sea birds and bald eagles found when researchers returned to the island. Tissue samples uniformly showed that the birds -- called "non-target kills" -- had ingested the poison.

"Even some of the leaders of the project were surprised to see how many birds were inadvertently killed," Stolzenburg said. "But they got every single rat. So it was a victory, but also a wake-up call. A victory with lessons."

Since the last rat died, however, birds have rebounded on the island. A remote location and rocky cliffs make it an ideal sanctuary for puffins, auklets, murres and other birds. Storm petrels and giant song sparrows, two species that had vanished during the reign of the rats, are said to have returned.

"The significance was that this was the largest rat eradication effort in North American history," Stolzenburg said. "It now opens up the door for potentially eradicating rats on other islands in the area, particularly Kiska."

With more than 100 square miles, Kiska will present a much bigger challenge than did the 10 square miles of Hawadax Island, he said.

Stolzenburg said he hopes future exterminations will be performed as humanely as possible. In his research he discovered that rats have personalities and reactions like the human emotions of "joy, fear, anxiety, sorrow and empathy."

"It was a nasty choice they were left with," he said of the project managers. "Get rid of the rats or deal with the annual carnage of native birds. They did the right thing."

So did the Board on Geographic Names, said APIA President Dimitri Philemonof, who expressed his thanks to the board for their action and to Pletnikoff for spearheading the effort.

"The board is usually reluctant to change names that have been used on maps for a while," said Yost. The monthly meetings usually deal with naming previously unnamed geographical features or, more rarely, changing names that may be considered offensive at the present time.

The group of islands that includes Hawadax, Kiska and Amchitka, among others, will retain the collective name of the Rat Islands and the adjoining Rat Island Channel will also stay on the maps.