Check Out these Amazing Bat Facts on National Bat Appreciation Day!

Sound Wave Bat - Urban Hermits

Hi all,

It has been brought to my attention that today, Sunday, April 17th is National Bat Appreciation Day. Bats are often depicted as creepy creatures who exist in a nocturnal world opposite to our own. However, they are fascinating and important parts of the ecosystems they inhabit. Unfortunately, they also face many challenges that threaten their populations. Don’t take it from me, though, check out these amazing bat facts from Bat Conservation International!

Perhaps, someday I’ll pay a visit to Bracken Cave.

Cheers!

 

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Mark Goes Places: Western Maryland!

Hi all,

The summer is coming to a close, but with the long Labor Day weekend, I wanted to make sure I got to experience the great outdoors one last time. Of course, Fall camping is my favorite and I still intend to get out for some of the cool autumn nights. This past weekend I headed down to the Maryland Panhandle, often referred to as “Western Maryland”. It is a pretty part of the country and very different from the the coastal plains and urban centers of Eastern Maryland. I stayed with some friends and family at New Germany State Park, which is adjacent to the serene Savage River State Forest. We did some good old fashioned car camping. The area provides lots of good hiking and some interesting history, as it was the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Also, in the 1950’s, there was a B-52 crash in the area. I took a photograph of the pilot’s grave located in the park (see below). The area was quite remote, tucked into an Appalachian mountain valley. No cell phone service, but I could fall asleep to the calls of Barred Owls. Here are some photos, enjoy!

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Setting up camp

Mountain wildflowers

Mountain wildflowers

Hello!

Hello!

Fording the creek

Fording the creek

Gravestone of fallen pilot

Gravestone of fallen pilot

Salamander friend

Salamander friend

Toad friend!

Toad friend!

Rolling hills

Rolling hills

Coffeeshop we stopped at on the way home in Frostburg,MD

Coffeeshop we stopped at on the way home in Frostburg, MD

All photos property of Mark Suchyta, Urban Hermits

Mark and Lauren Go Places: A Northern Michigan Adventure!

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A scene at Sleeping Bear Dunes, in the Northwest of Michigan’s Lower Pennisula.

Hi all,

While summer weather is here, it can still be difficult to get outside and enjoy it. Work and other obligations can be overbearing, but it can do a lot to take some time for yourself and your loved ones and go on an adventure. Even if you are limited in funds, there are pockets of greatness everywhere! Personally, I love hiking and camping. Its a great way to see beautiful places and experience the world on a budget. This summer has started off with a bang, as Lauren and I made our annual trip to one of our favorite locales: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We also made a brief excursion to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. While we have been to Sleeping Bear Dunes several times, we continue to go and be awed by the scenery and great wildlife sightings. Here are some of our favorite photographs!

Enjoy,

-Mark and Lauren

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Gulls in the sunset over Platte Point

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A firewood vending machine!

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Lauren looks into what seems to be infinity

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On the Good Harbor Bay trail

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A Sandhill Crane, Michigan’s largest bird!

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Can you spot our friend?

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A deer along the Platte River

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View from our campsite in Hiawatha National Forest

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An old ferry in the port of St. Ignace

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Happy Earth Day!

Just wanted to say happy Earth Day from all of us at Urban Hermits! Today is a good day to think about your lifestyle and how you can use it to contribute to a healthier planet. It also is a great day to get outside and enjoy nature or watch a good film. I am going to try and catch a screening of Green Fire, an Emmy award winning film about Aldo Leopold’s land ethic later this week.

Here is something for your amusement: Google’s earth day logos over the years.

Have a great day and continue tuning into Urban Hermits!

Close to Home – BP Spills Tar Sands into Lake Michigan

Urban Hermits - BP Oil Spill Lake Michigan

Just a few days ago, Urban Hermits wrote an article criticizing the fossil fuel industry. Well, unfortunately we have more content to write about on the topic. On Monday afternoon, it is estimated that the BP owned Whiting refinery in Indiana leaked between 630 to 1,638 gallons of crude oil into Lake Michigan (originally thought to be 500 gallons). The refinery, now being used to process tar sands from Alberta, had increased volume of crude oil production which supposedly caused a malfunction. The Great Lake is part of the world’s largest supplies of fresh water, the drinking water source for 7 million people just in the Chicago area. Ironically, the incident occurred less than two weeks after the U.S. lifted BP’s ban on bidding Gulf of Mexico oil leases since the massive Macondo disaster in 2010.

The EPA initially reported there appeared to be no negative effects on Lake Michigan. Furthermore, BP spokesman Scott Dean stated “I’ve had no reports of any wildlife impacted.”

Right.

Just recently the refinery, BP, and Koch Industries were sued by Chicago residents due to the mass storage of petroleum coke polluting the area and lake. Petroleum coke, or “petcoke” is the byproduct of tar sand oil. The Whiting refinery currently produces around 600,000 tons of petcoke per year. It now has the potential to produce 2.2 million tons per year with the recent $3.8 billion expansion. According to the Chicago Tribune, federal records show that the Whiting plant remains one of the largest sources of industrial pollution discharged into Lake Michigan.

It seems to be nothing but bad news for crude oil, from processing to transport. Two weeks ago, a damaged tar sands pipeline owned by Sunoco spilled 20,000 gallons of crude oil into Ohio’s Glen Oak Nature Preserve.

The Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has admitted that they don’t have the resources needed to enforce standards on pipelines. Thus, corporations are responsible for routes and safety monitoring. Well, I for one am totally comfortable trusting that a large corporation isn’t going to cut corners… (sarcasm). If you would like to see stats, Kiley Kroh from ThinkProgress states,

According to an analysis of PHMSA data, since 1986 there have been nearly 8,000 significant pipeline incidents, resulting in more than 500 deaths, more than 2,300 injuries, and nearly $7 billion in damage.

Safe tar sands? Safe pipelines anyone?

Sources:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/03/25/294454330/bp-says-oil-spill-in-lake-michigan-has-been-contained

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-bp-whiting-crude-oil-lake-michigan-spill-20140325,0,3069441.story

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/03/25/3418808/oil-leaks-lake-michigan/

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/03/25/3418592/pipeline-spill-ohio/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/25/refinery-operations-bp-whiting-idUSL1N0MM0RQ20140325

http://ecowatch.com/2014/03/19/pipeline-spills-crude-oil-ohio/

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2014/03/estimate_of_lake_michigan_oil.html

Visit to the Matthaei Botanical Gardens

I wanted to share some photos from my first visit to the Matthaei Botanical Gardens Conservatory this month. It was a warm escape from the bitter cold weather. The conservatory displays plants from three major biomes around the world: tropical, temperate, and arid. I learned about plants that I take for granted, (did you know that black pepper grows on a vine?), and found artistic inspiration from the natural patterns in plants. I also found inspiration from a unique sculptural planted kaleidoscope in the gardens. The incorporation of plant growth into the kaleidoscope ensures that you will only see that geometric image once and it will always be a fresh experience. Such as great reminder of how substantial moments are. This was a peaceful one for sure.

Arctic Vortex and Vegetarian Sushi

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Source: WeatherBell, National Weather Service

If you live just about anywhere in the Eastern US, you are likely confined to indoors as temperatures plunge below zero, in addition to lots of ice and snow on the roads. Here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we are enjoying wind chills of -40 F, colder than I ever remember. The spike in cold temps is caused by a low pressure system that is usually present far to the North, near the arctic. Instead, temperatures typical in Northern Manitoba are here in Southeastern Michigan and the Midwest. Brrr! Things are expected to begin improving later this week, but in the meantime, we have to keep ourselves sane indoors.

Below, Lauren keeps her peace by making vegetarian sushi. She used cucumbers, shiitake mushrooms seared in tamari and mirin, avocado, turnips, and chives stuffed in sushi rice and seaweed. How did you keep away from the cold? Comment and let us know!

Photo Jan 06, 6 32 42 PM

Photo Jan 06, 6 35 38 PM

Source: Detroit Free Press, 06 January 2014

How Well Do You Know The Globe? Try Geoguessr!

This is too cool! A friend of mine brought this to my attention. Geoguessr is a game you can play on the BBC’s website in which it drops you to a random location in Google street view and you have to note on a map where you believe you are. Play the game HERE! Let us know what your high score is!

ImageImage: Screenshot from Geoguessr, BBC Travel.

Become a Citizen Scientist!

Sound Wave Bat - Urban Hermits

So you happen to have some time on your hands, let’s say 5 minutes. Is your first move to pull up Facebook or play a game? What if you could play games that help scientists collect or manage data for various projects? Well, this is one of the great benefits of citizen science. For example, Bat Detective has accumulated thousands of bat sound recordings to aid in tracking populations effected by global change. However, without a availability of free ears, the project would be extremely set back by time constraints. This is where you come in. With even five minutes, you can sit down and test your brain to identify bat calls.

Below is some other projects of note:

Cell Slider hosts anonymous cancer slides that require analyzing. “This would accelerate research and free up scientists to tackle other research opportunities. Imagine the collective force of hundreds of thousands of people accelerating the race to discover personalized cancer treatments. If we stand united, cancer doesn’t stand a chance, ” say the creators.

Audubon Christmas Bird Count – Now free to participate – help track bird migratory patterns.

Dark Sky Meter  – Collect data on light pollution and night conditions by using a free app to record.

Project Feeder Watch – A winter project, collect data about what birds comes to your feeder.

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project – Help track monarch butterfly populations and nests (and I recommend you read this article by the New York Times.)

Want a great place to start your citizen science search? Try Sci Starter. Do you know of a project that we haven’t heard of? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Image: Lauren Korany, Urban Hermits, 02 December 2013;

Your Farmers Market!

As fall turns to Winter and farmers harvest the rest of their produce before fields turn fallow, it is a great time to stock up on some produce at your local farmers market! If you haven’t been to one yet, consider this a wonderful opportunity to support local growers and learn about what sort of agriculture is taking place near you. Whether you live in a large city or a small town, farmers markets are becoming increasingly present and popular. Growing up near Detroit, Michigan, I loved spending a Saturday at Eastern Market, the city’s legendary market district where farmers from all over Michigan and Ohio would arrive early in the morning to deliver city-dwellers fresh produce, small operation meats and dairy, and other craft items. During college in Ann Arbor, MI, I enjoyed the Ann Arbor Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. From fresh berries in the late spring, to christmas gifts and hot chocolate in the December, it was a great place to celebrate my community.

This past week, I had the pleasure of exploring the State College Downtown Farmers Market. This provides students and residents an opportunity to enjoy locally grown foods, largely from the nearby Amish farms. Above are two photos of some of the great purchases I made. I tried Tiger-Eye Beans for the first time, which I highly recommend, as well as a variety of hot peppers. Django was able to enjoy the haul (see below).

Django enjoying some salad!

If you haven’t enjoyed a farmers market, yet, or you are not sure where the nearest one is, check out this handy website that locates them for you! In the meantime, I have some cooking to do, cheers!