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Category: Blog

The Plight of the Greater Prairie Chicken

In the mid 1800s, the greater prairie chicken numbered in the millions on the tall-grass prairies of Illinois. Its distinctive hooting moan was the sound track for early spring mornings, and signified the elaborate rituals of reproduction were again in bloom. The male greater prairie chicken puts it all on the line to attract a mate. It performs a rapid stutter-step dance and puffs out the large orange air sacks on its neck to create a characteristic “booming” call. It raises two neck tufts straight up, spreads its tail feathers, and droops its wings as it rushes to and...

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Is Anything Tough Enough to Survive on Mars?

Researchers at the University of Arkansas recently took a step toward answering a question for the ages: Is there life on Mars? Answer: they can’t rule it out. Two recent publications suggest that life, in the form of ancient, simple organisms called methanogens, could survive the harsh conditions found near the surface of Mars, and deep in its soils. Using methanogens to test for survivability is particularly relevant because scientists have detected their byproduct, methane, in the Martian atmosphere. On Earth, methane is strongly associated with organic matter, though there are non-organic sources of the gas, including volcanic eruptions....

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How the Ozarks Formed

Recently my wife and daughter and I hiked to Big Bluff, a majestic roost 500 feet above the Buffalo River, which flows through the Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas. Accessible from the “Goat Trail” spur off the Center Point Trail, Big Bluff is situated between Steel Creek campground and Horseshoe Bend (or Hemmed-In Hollow, depending on which side of the river you’re on). It is, in my opinion, the jewel of the Ponca Wilderness Area and one of the most impressive overlooks in Arkansas. Along the trail there, just before you reach the best view of the river valley and...

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Tracking Bhutan’s Big, Iconic Fishes

Researchers Michael and Marlis Douglas, both professors in the Department of Biological Sciences, recently spent a month in Bhutan studying migratory patterns of large riverine fishes. Michael holds the 21st Century Chair in Global Change Biology and Marlis holds the Bruker Professorship in Life Sciences. Below they write about their work in this unique Himalayan environment.   In Bhutan, hydropower is an economic boon. Rivers that drain from the Himalayas to the plains of northern India are being dammed to generate power for the landlocked country. But dams alter flow, sediment and thermal regimes of rivers, and can also...

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Seeing the Saw-Whet

“The research is invigorating and an inspiring way to be involved in ornithology and bird conservation,” Pruitt said. “Plus, the saw-whet owl is clearly the cutest owl in the world.”

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