Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Drought Weakens Endangered Turtles Leaving Helmet Encrustations On Their Heads

The turtles of Elizabeth Lake have become dehydrated, emaciated, and stressed by the extended drought in California. The endangered turtle pictured here has a cement-like mineral coating resembling a helmet now on its head resulting from the accumulation and encrusting of alkaline and other minerals. The increased salinity of the water resulted from the drought which severely lowered the water level in the lake. 

Endangered turtle with a cement-like mineral coating on its head

The worst drought in the last 100 years has now compromised the lake’s ecosystem. Elizabeth Lake which is about twenty-three (23) feet deep when full and is now more than half dry, contains one of the largest populations of native pond turtles still in Southern California.

Lake Elizabeth
Lake Elizabeth's
compromised ecosystem

Biologists from the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science rescued nearly 30 Southwestern Pond Turtles and brought them to UCLA to begin rehabilitation. These turtles now reside in large, fresh water pools on the roof of the Botany building.

Brad Shaffer, director of the UCLA La Kretz Center, 
finds a turtle at Elizabeth Lake.

A similar plan for rehabilitation is taking place at the Turtle Conservancy in Ojai in collaboration with UCLA. It is believed that the turtles captured represent all of the important genetic diversity of the population which will be enough to restart this species in the event that all the other turtles do not survive.

Turtle Pens on top of the Botany Building

The intent is to release the turtles as soon as they are healthy back into Elizabeth Lake after the winter rains which hopefully will refill the lake and return its ecological system. 

Have you ever rescued a turtle?


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

And You Thought Finger Painting Was Only For Kids

Zaria Forman’s incredible landscapes, created through an advanced finger painting method, give the finished result the appearance of a photograph. Her inspiration stemmed from early childhood family travel through remote landscapes which her mother photographed.

Greenland #63
Soft Pastel on Paper (2013)

Two years of creating large-scale pastel drawings began in 2004. “These early works evoke both the turbulence and the tranquility found in the powerful forces of nature.” (

Untitled #37, Cloudscape Series
Charcoal and Chalk Pastel (2005)

If you watch the series, House Of Cards, keep your eyes open for Zaria’s paintings on the walls of the set. Ten of Zaria’s drawings were used in this Netflix TV series starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

Chasing the Light was an expedition Zaria led up the NW coast of Greenland in August 2012 to create art from the inspiration of the dramatic geography. Originally conceived by her mother, who did not live to make the journey, Zaria promised to carry out her final mission.

Greenland #52
Soft Pastel on Paper (2012)

Following the meltwater from the Arctic to the equator, Zaria spent September 2013 in the Maldives which is the lowest and flattest country in the world. Collecting material and inspiration from the polar melt causing the rising seas, her works here represents a nation which could be entirely underwater within this century.

Maldives #9
Soft Pastel on Paper (2014)

Which of Zaria's drawings is your favorite?

Zaria Forman
Zaria Forman was born in South Natick, Massachusetts, and grew up in Piermont, New York. Living now in Brooklyn, New York, where her main focus is on her art, she also teaches yoga and designs jewelry. Visit her on Facebook, Saatchi Art, and at her website to browse even more of her incredible drawings.



Visit Artsy to see more from Zaria Forman

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Meet Cuscus The Rarely Seen Marsupial

The cuscus is a marsupial which is native to the Northern forest of Australia, the island of Papua New Guinea and on other nearby islands. The 23 species of cuscus differ in size, color, and habitat. Length can be from 14 to 16 inches long, and they can weigh between 3.3 to 13 pounds. Their incredibly long tails are from 13 to 24 inches.

Only the male spotted cuscus has spots
Photo: From FactZoo

With a rounded head, small ears, and large round eyes, this arboreal (lives in treetops) animal has five strong opposable digits whose nails ensure stability and a strong grip on the tree branches. The cuscus’s nails are also used for grooming. The tail, which lacks hair at the top, is both long and prehensile which helps to facilitate movement throughout the trees functioning as another limb.

White Cuscus
Photo:  From The Featured Creature

Biologist Muse Opiang holds a Bosavi silky cuscus, a newly discovered marsupial from central Papua New Guinea, in early 2009.

Muse Opiang and Bosavi Silky Cuscus
Photo:  Kristofer Helgen

While originally considered to be a close relative to the monkey, the cuscus’s closest relative is actually the opossumA nocturnal animal, the cuscus sleeps during the day in dense vegetation and is very shy. Seeing one in the wild is a rare event.

Ground Cuscus
Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford, Oxforshire

Being a marsupial, the undeveloped babies crawl into the mother’s pouch after a couple of weeks to continue their development for six to seven months. While the female will usually give birth to two to three babies, usually only one baby survives.

Two-month old baby who ventured out of the pouch
Photo:  Twycross Zoo

While considered a newly discovered species, this shy, solitary animal is shown in a drawing of the spotted cuscus on a page from The Royal Natural History, Volume 3, edited by Richard Lydekker, dating 1894-1895.

Spotted Cuscus 1894-1895 Animal Print, Page 257
The Royal Natural History, Volume 3
Available on

The cuscus populations are declining due to deforestation and loss of their habitat. 

Would you like to see a spotted cuscus?


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Keep Warm And Charge Your Cell Phone All At The Same Time

New wool and nylon jackets from Tommy Hilfiger enhanced with 7-10 solar panels will both keep you warm and charge a battery to keep your cell phone or other mobile devices working. The battery fully charges beyond the capacity of most smartphones while being in the direct sunlight.

Women's Solar Panel Jacket
Photo:  Tommy Hilfiger via Business Insider

Weighing four (4) pounds, the jacket combines a weatherproof upper with plaid Abraham Moon wool. A removal bag allows the solar panels to be stored when not in use. 

Men's Solar Panel Jacket
Photo:  Tommy Hilfilger via Business Insider

While retailing for $599 with a 1-year limited warranty, 50% of the net proceeds will be donated to support the Fresh Air Fund.

Photo:  Tommy Hilfilger via Business Insider

The downside for fashion is that it appears that this jacket is available in only two colors, one for men and one for women. 

Photo:  Tommy Hilfilger via Business Insider

What mobile devices would you charge with this innovative new jacket?


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Remember The Vibrant Colors Of Fall

Autumn visits us between summer and winter. In the Northern Hemisphere, the season is from the September equinox to the December solstice; in the Southern Hemisphere it is from the March equinox to the June solstice ( The season is commonly referred to as fall in the United States due to the beautiful colored leaves which begin falling to ground as the weather begins to cool. 

Fall and its beautiful array of colors is a favorite time of year for many. Several of the amazing photographers on Facebook have shared incredible fall images from this year and years past. Enjoy these photos to help remember of one of the earth’s most colorful seasons as winter begins to approach.

Don Smith

Don Smith is a well-known stock photographer for Getty images. Don specializes in professional landscape photographer and offers landscape workshops throughout the Western United States.

The fall color of maples against the firs
Near Lost Lake in northern Oregon
Photo: Don Smith

Fallen Redwood and Maple Leaves
Aptos Creek, Nisene Marks State Park, Aptos, California
Photo: Don Smith

Chuck Jason

Chuck Jason became passionate about photography at the age of eight when his parents purchased his first Kodak brownie box camera. He is a self-taught fine art landscape photographer who shares his travels through his photographs.

Near Silverpoint Lodge outside Hermosa, Colorado
Photo:  Chuck Jason

near Cedar City, Utah
Photo:  Chuck Jason

Alistair Nichol

Alistair Nicol is a fine art photographer whose home base is Charleston, South Carolina. In addition to landscape and fine art photography, Alistair also does assignment, portrait and freelance work.

Patterns Of Fall
Photo:  Alistair Nicol

Boone Fork Creek, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Photo:  Alistair Nicol

Douglas Stratton

Douglas Stratton has a passion for culture, nature, and cityscapes which he captures in his fine art photography from his own abstract view. Douglas uses multiple levels of exposure for each photograph in order to create a dynamic range of light.

Yellow Aspen
Photo:  Douglas Stratton

Aspens on Fire
Maroon Bells, Colorado
Photo:  Douglas Stratton

Michael Frye

Michael Frye presents landscape and nature photography through several distinct styles he has developed. His use of light allows him to create the mood he wishes to present in each individual photograph.  

Aspens in Fog near Ridgway, Colorado
Photo:  Michael Frye

Zion Colors
Maple with a Gambel Oak
Photo:  Michael Frye

The chlorophyll in summer’s green leaves dominates and masks any other pigments which exist within each leaf. As the days become shorter and the temperature cools, chlorophyll begins to decrease allowing the yellow and orange pigments to become visible. Reds and purples are not present during the growing season of summer but begin to develop in the sap cells of the leaf as phosphates and other chemicals and nutrients move out of the leaf and into the stem. Brighter light during this time results in a more brilliant display of color. The millions of brown leaves which I am still working to clear from my yard are not colored by any pigment. Brown is the color of the cell walls of the leaf and is only visible when all the colored pigments are gone. (Wikipedia; USDA Forest Service)

Fall with all its gorgeous colors is my favorite time of year. What is your favorite time of year?

Visit these incredible photographers on their Websites, Facebook, and Instagram.


Michael Frye

Chuck Jason

Alistair Nichol

Don Smith

Douglas Stratton