Posts Tagged ‘Beauty’

A Universe unto Itself

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Living our daily lives we hardly notice the goings on in the natural world. I suppose in all fairness they probably do the same. A close observation of a flower will reveal to you that it is not only a place for an insect or hummingbird to find nectar, but it is also a home for a wide variety of insects looking like representatives from an alien world. The range in color in body shapes is as varied as their roles. There is everything from miniature predators like spiders waiting to ambush other species looking for nectar to herbivores taking advantage of the plant itself. In some cases there is even species looking to simply catch a ride on other species like some sort of a biological bus station.

Each zone in the natural world is like its own world with its own set of rules just like each continent on Earth has its own unique accent of plant life and fauna. These same rules apply both above and below the waterline where each habitat range provides a bounty of sustainability to its own fauna and plant life. During a recent dive into Lake Champlain I found that depth and lighting created a universe unto itself allowing specific species and survival techniques to flourish.  Just imagine that this particular lake is 120 miles long. However it varies in depth from very shallow to an amazing 400 ft depth.

The amount of sunlight varies greatly as well so the deeper you go the less sunlight makes it to the bottom. This means the greatest amounts of algae are in the areas that allow near constant bathing in sunlight.

Life in the Shallows” seems to be driven by the very sunlight it self. The abundance of light allows for blooms of algae that in turn is food for species including filter feeders like invasive Zebra Mussels whose razor sharp shells seem to cover the bottom until you go deep enough that they are starved for algae due to the eventual decrease in sunlight. Amazingly some species of birds and fish do actually feed on Zebra Mussels so although they are invasive, they are now another food source and also abundant.

In the coming years biologists will need to perform long term studies to understand the impact on the overall health of species like Yellow Perch that now include the Zebra Mussels on their dinner menu. The shallow zones of Lake Champlain are now synonymous with these prolific mussels but the well lit areas also have many other species carving out a niche in this shallow aquatic universe. It is hear that large predatory fish are taking advantage of those beams of light that makes their prey stand out in the brightly lit water. While exploring by scuba on water approx 8 to 15 ft I found they seemed to be patrolling parallel to the beach along the longer part of the lake and looked like some sort of aquatic bird of prey soaring like a Hawk waiting to flush out its prey as its eyes gazed with  deep intent at the world below.

With colors reminiscent of camouflaged soldiers trying to remain hidden the Log perch Darter fish blends perfectly against the grasses along the bottom. Their colors look like a beautiful design blending of jaguar and tiger patterns with a yellowish hue background against the black stripes. Like their namesake they seemed to “Dart” about within the small rounded rocks on the bottom quickly looking for food before once again finding a hiding place as the ominous shadows of the predator fish species like Smallmouth bass move with and eerie glide nearby.

With the lake having over 80 types of fish they come in may sizes. Some species in large freshwater lakes such as Lake Champlain can be enormous like Channel Catfish weighing well over 30 pounds to Sturgeon that can be 7 feet long and over 300 pounds! I did not see any during the recent series of diving expeditions however; I did come across a very large and exciting species to swim with which included the somewhat skittish Fresh Water Drum. I saw several of these very large fish in the shallows in water that was about 12 ft deep. They were very large and at least at a glance appeared to be well over 10 pounds. They added to the excitement of the exploration and gave an amazing sense of wonder to the shallows.

Like all things in nature, the most amazing things come when we actually pay attention to the fine details.

Seeing species taking advantage of “Life in the Shallows” introduced me to a beautiful world of amazement just beyond the beach and the glitter of the sun dancing on the waters surface. Understanding that each unique zone within such a massive watershed forms a universe unto itself means we can have a greater understanding their secret world.

Admiring the myriad of life in the shallow water zone is undoubtedly key to our own species appreciation of the health of the watershed and also the raw beauty that resides just beyond our site. I suppose that is what it’s really all about, taking the time to understanding our wild neighbors then gaining a better appreciation of them.

Mark Fraser




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The Social Media Revolution Solution

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

In the natural world, species that are considered “prey” often use a common tactic by joining forces with others and taking advantage of the “strength in numbers” benefit. This can both confuse and overwhelm the predator that is challenging them. In the human domain, that applies just as much, we “are” animals after all.

Watching the people in countries like Egypt and Libya rise up and struggle to bring about change in their homeland is literally about that same strength in numbers that applies to any species.

History itself will inevitably decide both the positive and or negative outcomes of this new and powerful social capability.

Those are stunning examples of people uniting their own voices to a common cause. In a world of instant communication and constant social media, broadcasting a viral “thought” is a new hi-tech approach to the phenomena of social change. The message is instantly capable of traveling like a living breathing organism working its way through the minds of the masses. Sometimes the sway of society’s popular opinion can turn on a dime sounding the bells of freedom and the end of oppression or in some other cases to strange directions that seem to fly in the face of reason.

Recently I watched major news reports of Charlie Sheen as they seemed to morph the stories from a drug riddled public meltdown into a Twitter superstar posting comments like #winning.

Suddenly the social media “Flock” sprung into action and millions connected to watch. Was this shift of millions to help better the world, save wildlife, help with poverty or end social oppression?….um…no.

Of course the money hungry marketers have no doubt stepped in and as long as the eyes of the masses are still watching Charlie’s party you’ll see lots of drinks, phones and untold products magically appear on tweet photos. Some stars are paid by the “tweet”, very lucrative deals because the commercial real estate on their Facebook and Twitter pages are enormous.

Odd, isn’t it? I actually find a healthy forest and clean river far more important and, well “valuable”.

Perhaps it’s our definition of the word “valuable” that has taken a serious turn into the Twilight Zone. According to my quick search on “Google” looking to define the term value, I see one of the top 3 definitions that seems to apply. “The quality (positive or negative) that renders something desirable or valuable; “the Shakespearean Shylock is of dubious value in the modern world”

I would say that there is overwhelming evidence that a beautiful healthy forest with wildlife brings a positive quality to life making our own lives on this Earth more desirable. Letting it die and harming it, brings upon a negative impact and so on.

So how is it that we do not seem to “value” the most important things yet we flock to the stories of the strangest and most bizarre behavior? Not that Charlie is all that bizarre, he actually reminds me of my late uncle both in looks and in character. After all it’s not like he suddenly shaved his hair off or anything.

No matter how you slice it there seems to be a huge void between “ethics” and “value” and that discrepancy, well makes me concerned for our future and the fate of all that wildlife that I keep blogging about. We teach ethical guidelines to our children and they will make the decisions of tomorrow. That means it is vitally important for our generation to provide a healthy moral compass to our children to invest in the future of the entire world. Is this really needed in our tech savvy society? Well, look at the influences of today’s online world. Any research on the most popular films seen on Youtube demonstrates the point as the most popular films tend to avoid any social or educational “value” albeit some are certainly fun to watch.

The people in Egypt and Libya from what I see on the news seem to value their
basic freedoms and their rights as a people. They look like they are standing up
for “We the People” hmmm, boy that sure sounds familiar.

What I find hard to understand is that many of us seem to be “bored” with
real-world issues like caring for the natural world (you know, just the health
of the planet that gives “us” life) and lately are fascinated by a wealthy mans public
meltdown. What exactly does that say about “us” as a society and our own moral

I think its time that we had our own “Social Media Revolution Solution” and
start to put “ethics” back in front of “value”.

Living on this Earth made us rich by birth; we just seem to have forgotten that.
There is no greater wealth then the smell of a healthy forest, the view of an
Eagle in flight and the admiration of a young Deer fawn in a meadow.

You see, we could “create” our own “Social Media Revolution Solution” by helping promote “good” in the world. Imagine what we could do if caring about the natural world could once again be seen as “valuable”.

That is, if we could just allow ourselves the joy of understanding that in the first place.

Then, perhaps we really would all be “#winning”.

Mark Fraser




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Terraform Earth

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

“Terra-forming” that’s a theory about taking a world like mars and making it Earth like. It’s a fascinating scientific endeavor into the possibility of making another planet or even a moon somehow become new habitat for our own species.  Now that’s an interesting subject when you think about it. During my life growing up in the 1970s with great TV series like “Space 1999” where humans actually lived on the Moon, albeit not a terra-formed one, but still they carved out a seemingly impossible niche none the less. I liked that show as a kid and I have often wondered about such things. Life on the surface of the Moon or Mars seems exciting at least at first glance, although I then have to ask myself, would I actually “want” to live in a place like that? Ok so then I went to get a drink of tap water, and the real world came crashing back to me. It’s all about “this” world, isn’t it?

I know there are a lot of Sci-fi folks out there that don’t want to hear this but Terra-forming theory is just that, a “theory”. It’s easy to debate the “what if’s” about the engineering and financial considerations involving warming a planet, introducing algae or microbes helping to create a new world so perhaps we can one day enjoy it however today here you are, hungry, thirsty and needing of shelter. All of which come from the planet your on right now, the Earth (no offense to the International Space Station team). Now I suppose one could say we are actually Terra-forming the Earth, just not intentionally and the current direction isn’t exactly been what one would call “creating a better world”.

No worries, there are some simple truths about our lives to keep the peace with the most die hard science types:

Fact: We are already floating in space… that’s pretty cool.

Fact: There is substantial evidence of life forms right here on Earth that are millions of years older then our own species (ask any cockroach, shark or horseshoe crab)

Fact: There is non human intelligent life on the planet. According to species like crow, apes, dolphins and elephants all intelligent life is non human by definition. Ahem…

Terra-form your own world in 6 easy steps? Sure we can…

Step 1: Protect Sea life

Filling the Oceans with so much plastic that it replaces plankton is a really, really bad idea. The so called “Garbage Patches” that exist around the planet are collection points due to current. Point being the entire sea is at risk from our bad habits and the current eventually takes the broken down pieces of plastic to the gyres like the Pacific Garbage patch. What can we do about something so massive? Lot’s, for example we “each” could say goodbye to plastic disposable shopping bags, bottled water and only shop for products that use an Earth friendly approach to their product material and eventual recycling. Of course all this is mute unless we use “sustainable fishing” in practice rather then theory

(It doesn’t hurt to try)

Step 2: Preserve wild places:

Like us wildlife needs a home. There is less wild places every second of every day around the world, help reverse that. Zoning laws meant to keep a community green actually increase “urban sprawl” substantially.  Is it me, or do you find it strange that we often drive past a dozen abandoned city buildings to get to the new development? Having eco-friendly practices in our lawn and yard care can help substantially as well. (Did you really think safe labels on pesticides meant they were actually safe?)

Step 3: Prevent acid rain

Many planets are acidic but does ours have to be? Dealing with that is a serious concern. Acid falls in the form if rain/snow which can corrode the soil and make the watersheds sterile bleaching away the possibility of fish. Solution; update the “Clean Air Act” to include better regulations and avoid corporate dollars from undermining the spirit of the law. Keeping sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in check will ensure our watersheds can support fish which are important considerations when making a planet habitable, especially our own.

Step 4: When politicians disregard climate scientists, “change the channel”

Yes contrary to the belief of some, political party affiliation does not also mean you have become a climatologist. Scientists around the world have never been as united as they are to say the Earth’s climate is dramatically changing and our behavior does impact it.

Let me try to sum this up with some basic math;

Steady Climate= Farms= Food


Unsteady Climate=? Farms =? Food

Step 5: Plant a tree

I don’t mean just send money  so someone else can plant a tree for you. I mean get a Pine Cone or Acorn of a native tree. Put the seed into a pot and raise it your self at home. When its time to plant your baby tree sapling, take your family with you. Find a place that is safe for the young tree by studying what it needs to survive. Look for a spot where it won’t be cut down by future development during its life cycle. Those steps alone will teach you more about conservation than you would expect. Teach your self and family about how that very tree exhales what we inhale and role you eyes at anyone who says it doesn’t count because they don’t have lungs and remind them that “we do”. Keep in mind that very tree could grow to outlive your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grand children and even far beyond them. It may be the longest lasting legacy of your entire life, really.

Step 6: Become the person you know you can be.

Do not expect someone else to fix the world for you because that simply won’t happen. You have to become the hero right where you live, for your family, for your community and for the planet that all of us share.

So I suppose all things considered there is a form of Terra-forming we can actually do today on a planet wide scale. Let’s call this a great experiment in the future of our own species. If we can make all 6 of the above steps come to life maybe we will actually be around in the future to see a community on the Moon or even Mars.

I believe we can succeed. Nature has the amazing ability to heal, and we have the amazing ability to rise to diversity. The future really is up to us.

Mark Fraser




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Native Wild Flowers a magic place

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

These days many of us are caught up in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives hardly noticing the goings on in a forest or swamp. Even within feet of our own homes wildlife continue to carve out a niche. At night while we sleep many species begin their moonlit search for food. Life in the wild can be tough especially these days where their habitats are so very fragmented between the ever growing developments of humankind.

I know many of us wonder “how could I help” sometimes thinking that the big picture is out of our hands. Some even think that there’s an agency or government group that will come by and save the day however that is not going to be the case. You see each of us individually contribute to the problem and therefore, we are each part of the “key” that will unlock the solution.  The fact is “you” do matter and “your” input is critically important.

What if we looked at our residential development in a brand new way where we consider our overall ecological impact? Is that so radical of a thought? The good news is that when you actually think about it, it’s really not very difficult at all.

We could look at each of our own yards as eco-friendly habitats where birds were safe from toxic poisons like lawn chemicals. We could inspire native plant species to thrive and therefore help insects as well.  These simple steps only make our yards much more beautiful and allot healthier then a chemical filled nearly sterile lawn. For example, imagine if every home created something as simple and beautiful as a native wildflower garden section right in the yard. This would allow pollinators like wild native bees and many other insects to find a source of food. That in turn creates food for birds and so on. Simple steps like this can make an enormous positive impact on a very large scale when you think of the big picture and make a great contribution to the health of wildlife species that live right in our own backyard. You see that is something “you” can personally work on taking care of your part, in the big picture.  If many of us did this throughout a community we can make a huge impact, this can grow to a national or even a global scale. That’s the power of working together as a collective. It’s a trick found in nature from ants and Bees as well as many species around the Earth. There is strength in numbers and it all starts with each one doing their part. That means both you and me right in our own backyard.

Choose not to use chemicals and research the impact they have on birds and other species that can eat poisoned insects and even unknowingly feed them to their young ones. You see your part in keeping the world green, clean and healthy literally depends on your choices and your ability to share those good choices. If you allow for a “green patch” of wild flowers and share that story with others you may actually inspire them to do the same.

Then the idea can grow wild, on its own, just like the flowers themselves. If you have children show them the magic of all the different species that live in your native wildflower garden and research the many species you may find there.

You may even find unexpected things like Eft Newt, Frogs and countless others species. There’s a magical world of wonder to be found even in small patches of native wild flowers and you can help protect wildlife with something that takes no more effort than to simply not mow it down.

It seems like a wonderful trade when you think about it!

Mark Fraser

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