Category Archives: See It

The Discovery of Species

As tech-savvy human beings armed with our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps and other excellent technologies, it’s sometimes easy to forget that we’re not just curious explorers or chroniclers of the manufactured and natural worlds. We’re animals, too, and are part of the community of strange and exotic creatures that we investigate and dutifully record. In discovery of the world, we discover something integral to our own being. This year is already a fascinating foray into that very exploration, with several new species coming to light in some of the most inhospitable or least expected environments.

A Tiny Frog in Karnataka, India

This guy's chirp sounds like a cricket's.

Hey there, little fella. [Image: www.techtimes.com/]

The Laterite narrow-mouthed frog was recently discovered in the Indian state of Karnataka in a namesake laterite marsh area that occurs around rural and semi-urban human settlements. It likely remained undocumented because of its diminutive stature—it is roughly the size of a thumbnail. But its discovery in a developed area is instructive and a crisp reminder that, just because there’s an established human presence somewhere, doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to discover!

Creepy-Crawly in the Southern Oregon Coast Range, Oregon

[Image: www.phys.org]

What has eight legs, too many eyes, and probably wears a neon sign that blazes NOPE? Why, Cryptomaster behemoth, of course! [Image: www.phys.org/]

This spider was recently found in the woods of southwestern Oregon. It was named “behemoth” because its size outstrips nearly all of the other nearly 4,100 described Laniatores, and “Cryptomaster” because it’s good at remaining unseen. Thankfully the behemoth, like most spiders, is perhaps as disinterested in us as we are it and keeps itself hidden beneath decaying leaves and fallen trees of the old-growth forests in the Southern Oregon Coast Range.

Octopod says, “Aloha!” in Hawaiian Archipelago

Thanks, Okeanos!

Another previously unknown creature of the deep to grab our attention and make us think about ecosystems beyond our commutes? Thanks, Okeanos! [Image: www.itv.com/]

Researchers also made another many-legged discovery this year: a disarmingly cute octopod scientists are calling “Casper.” The indeterminately friendly octopus has un-muscled arms, with only a single row of the usual suction cups, and beady black eyes set adorably in its milky-white mantle. But Casper hasn’t been much described by researchers beyond its cursory appearance, as it revealed itself to NOAA scientists while Okeanos Explorer, the remotely operated underwater vehicle, explored the Hawaiian Archipelago. What we do know is that it dwells much deeper in the ocean than its known octopus cousins and that the wee cephalopod serves to keep our expectations in check.

I Don’t Think You’re Ready for this Jelly…Near the Mariana Trench

Cue Twilight Zone music.

In an environment called and characterized as the Midnight Zone, it helps to have glowing reproductive organs, which scientists suppose this jellyfish has in the golden orbs that are very likely its gonads. [Image: www.eutopia.buzz/]

The Mariana Trench is one of the last great terrestrial frontiers to thwart explorers and befuddle scientists, and it’s no wonder that it remains a consistent source of discovery and veritable fount of new species. What is a wonder are the extraterrestrial qualities of the creatures that thrive in that deep, dark pit beneath the ocean. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is in the midst of conducting a survey of the baseline formation and the areas around the trench that began April 20 and will extend to July 10. Already several new and exciting species have been encountered, but the jellyfish with a “jack-o-lantern meets the future of spaceship engineering” appearance has been a thus-far highlight of the exploration. With more than a month to go, we’d all do well to keep our eyes peeled for more live cam weirdness and intrigue!

Humans are one of the most adaptive and widespread species on the planet, thanks in large part to our combined intelligence and technology. This indispensable combo not only helps us persevere in all sorts of extreme conditions, but also allows us to engage with curiosity in our surroundings. As technologies improve, we are able to explore our world at deeper depths, in greater detail on microscopic and subatomic levels, across more of the electromagnetic spectrum, and sometimes—perhaps just to keep our collective ego in check—right in front of our faces.

*hop*

Or even on our faces! (Happy belated, David!) [Image: www.primogif.com/]

The moral of the story is, of course, that you can get out, explore, and maybe even find a new species in places you have been to before. Our Pocket Ranger® apps are a technology that is here to help. Whether your discovery is new to the scientific community or to you in your observations, it’s your duty as a human to investigate! And it’s always worth the adventure.

Three Beautiful Lighthouses to Visit this Year

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

Though in many cases lighthouses are no longer a necessity when it comes to travel by sea, they’re still fascinating landmarks and beacons to behold. Many have important histories and meanings, while others are significant simply because they’re beautiful sights to take in. While some coastal landscapes boast a high concentration of lighthouses, to me there are three that stand out as must-visit destinations in the warmer weather to come.

Punta Gorda Lighthouse, King Range National Conservation Area, California

From the beautiful lighthouses blog; view of Punta Gorda Lighthouse

Image: Katie Levy

Nestled above a sandy beach and below rolling hills and mountains, the tiny abandoned Punta Gorda Lighthouse serves as a landmark for Lost Coast Trail backpackers. It’s also a perfect day-hiking destination for those willing to walk three miles one-way in the sand on one of California’s most remote stretches of coastal trail and also willing to pay close attention to tide tables.

Punta Gorda was once dubbed “the Alcatraz of Lighthouses” because of its inaccessibility and those sent there to operate it. Originally consisting of three two-story dwellings, a signal house, a concrete light building with a curved iron stairway, and more, the lighthouse was abandoned in 1951 in favor of an off-shore beacon. Punta Gorda has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976, and both the inaccessibility and history make it well-worth the visit.

Friends and I paid a visit to Punta Gorda on a backpacking trip along the Lost Coast Trail, and our stop there made for some incredible memories. We climbed up what’s left of the lighthouse to hold court over the harbor seals basking in the sun on the beach, listened to the waves crash below, and saw miles of trail we’d covered already, along with what was to come. It’s a pretty special place.

Visit the BLM website for more information.

Bass Harbor Head Light, Acadia National Park, Maine

From the beautiful lighthouses blog; view of Bass Harbor

Image: Katie Levy

Standing tall above Bass Harbor’s rocky coastline within Acadia National Park, the Bass Harbor Head Light has served as a beacon for travelers since the late 1800s. Today it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, but remains active and serves as a private residence for a local Coast Guard member and his family.

On a trip to Acadia last summer, I had the lighthouse at the top of my must-visit landmarks list as a result of the number of stunning photos I’d seen. Unlike the remote Punta Gorda lighthouse, Acadia’s Bass Harbor Head Light is accessible via short concrete path from a small parking lot. A short walk takes visitors from the comforts of their vehicles to within inches of Maine’s rugged coastline. Friends and I stopped there after a long day of hiking, and despite not having to work too hard to get there, the Bass Harbor Head Light was a worthwhile visit.

Visit the National Park Service website for more information, and click here and here for some of my favorite hikes in Acadia.

Tibbets Point Lighthouse, Cape Vincent, New York

From the beautiful lighthouses blog; view of Tibbetts Point

Image: Katie Levy

I was lucky enough to spend many a summer during my formative years in the Thousand Islands region of New York. The Thousand Islands—a collection of close to 2,000 islands in the St. Lawrence River straddling the border between the United States and Canada—is also home to a number of big, beautiful lighthouses. My favorite? The lighthouse at Tibbetts Point in Cape Vincent, New York.

The Tibbetts Point Lighthouse was built in 1827, and in the 1990s, the lighthouse was formally acquired by the town from the Department of the Interior. I have fond memories of visiting the visitors center as a child, which was built in 1993. Over the past nearly two decades, the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse Society funded a series of renovations both inside and outside of the lighthouse.

The Tibbetts Point Lighthouse is particularly special because it marks the point where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River, and it’s one of the best places to watch the sun set in that part of the state, in my humble opinion!

Visit the town’s website for more information.

There are so many beautiful lighthouses to visit around the country and around the world! Have you been to any of these? What others would you say are must-visit lighthouses, and why?

Life After Chernobyl: Wildlife Thrives

30 years after the Chernobyl disaster, wildlife thrives in the radioactive zone.

The Chernobyl disaster was a wildly catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine. The accident occurred on Tuesday, April 26, 1986 and has since then been categorized as the worst nuclear disaster in history. It was also classified as a level seven, which is the maximum classification in the International Nuclear Event Scale.

chernobyl

The Chernobyl nuclear plant after the disaster. The catastrophe involved more than 500,000 workers, left 31 dead, cost approximately 18 billion rubles, and led to massive radioactive contamination that contributed to long-term effects, such as cancer. [Image: www.nytimes.com/]

The catastrophe was such that the city of Pripyat where the Chernobyl power plant was located was completely evacuated of all residents. It is now an abandoned city and is considered part of the 30-km Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation (also known as the “Chernobyl Exclusion Zone,” the “30 Kilometer Zone,” or “The Zone”).

Since then—with the exception of other structural collapses, contamination-limiting projects, and spontaneous fires in the vicinity—the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has been devoid of people. But 30 years after the disaster, in an area devoid of human occupancy, wildlife activity is seen to thrive.

bison herd in chernobyl

A bison herd near the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus. [Image: Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters]

While there may have been some immediate effects in wildlife, nature has since reclaimed the area. Moose, deer, European bison, hares, foxes, wild boars, and grey wolves are only a few of the animals that are thriving in the radioactive zone. Perhaps one of the greatest questions is: How are wildlife surviving in such a highly radioactive area?

chernobyl horse

The wild Przewalski’s horse (other common names include the Dzungarian horse, the Asian Wild horse, Mongolian wild horse, takhi, or the Przewalski’s wild horse) is an endangered species and extinct in the wild, but was introduced to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. After the introduction, the species rapidly thrived and grew to up to 200 individuals from only a dozen until they were reduced to 30–40 individuals as of 2011 due to poachers. [Image: Genya Savilov/AFP–Getty Images]

The answer may lie in different genetic makeups and some less contaminated areas of the seclusion zone. But the genetic effects are still evident in the Chernobyl animals. Many of the grey wolves, for instance, have cataracts in their eyes, and some birds have smaller brains. Though there are no other easily identifiable direct genetic consequences of just how much the radiation is affecting the animals in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in terms of genetic damage and injury, the animals are, for all intents and purposes, indeed thriving in a zone where humans have been removed.

With the exception of the occasional illegal hunting that occurs in the Exclusion Zone, wildlife’s numbers have been increasing impressively. The grey wolves’ numbers in Chernobyl are estimated to be more than that of the numbers present in Yosemite and are seven times bigger than the official Ukraine nature reserves.

Wildlife’s flourishing numbers are a testament to the damage that humans can do to them. Abandoned farms and hollowed-out hotels have given way to overgrown weeds and thick shrubs that are now prime for new animal homes. Because of this, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is now considered one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in Europe. It is an important reminder of the extent of human influence and just how much we can affect wildlife’s populations.

With that, we leave you a video of an ingenuous Chernobyl fox making a sandwich. Sure shows how much they’re flourishing!

An Ode to Nature

With the passing of Earth Day, we’ve become introspective, and our appreciation for this beautiful world around us has flourished. We look around and marvel at Mother Nature, and especially so as trees bloom and spring wraps us in its warm embrace. So here’s to you, Earth. This post’s for you and all that you do for us on our good days (and even the bad).

Mother Nature.

Mother Nature, you crazy beautiful. [Image: http://hdwallpaperbackgrounds.net/]

Thank you for supplying us with your far-reaching and entrancing beauty.

Some days when life feels difficult or a day just seems to drag on, the best medicine tends to be a trip outdoors. With the sun warming our faces, the rain patting us on the back, or the breeze gently encouraging us along, it’s easy to find some kind of calming reassurance outside.

Thank you for introducing us to plenty of fun creatures to look upon (but not touch!).

Bear mother and cubs.

Peek-a-boo. [Image: http://www.shanemcdermottphotography.com/]

The wildlife around us is astounding—look up, look down, look left, look right, and you’re sure to see something wriggling about. On top of all the glorious animals we come across in our travels, we also get to see plenty of breathtaking wildflowers and trees. Living, breathing, and with tops pointed up toward the sun, it’s easy to admire the magnificent flora covering our world.

Thank you for making it so easy to explore your seemingly endless acres.

Whether it’s by hiking to new heights, swimming to dark depths, camping out under the stars, climbing a mountain on two wheels, or scaling a rocky surface, there’s so many ways to explore in the great outdoors. If you see something that intrigues you, there’s probably a unique way that you can become acquainted with it.

Man swimming near underwater bench.

There’s much to discover out there. [Image: http://www.agapevoyage.com/]

With so much around us to take in, it feels like there’s really no reason to not spend every free moment outside! If you’re interested in helping to preserve this beautiful world of ours, look into volunteering opportunities in a state or national park near you. Then make sure you bring our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps with you to enhance your outdoor experience.

National Park Week Celebration

As previously mentioned in one of our posts titled “The National Park Centennial,” the National Park Service turned 100 years old this week! And in order to commemorate this momentous event, the NPS launched a National Park Week starting from April 16–24.

So what does the National Park Week entail?

Free Park Entrance

hiking in mt. rainier

A hiker absorbing the impressive views of the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park. [Image: www.nationalgeograpic.com/]

That’s right! National Park Week offers free admission through the week of April 16–24. The National Park Service typically offers a couple of free admission days throughout the calendar year, but this is the longest offering in celebration of the centennial. There are over 400 national parks, 127 of which normally charge an entrance fee. With this week not only is admission waived, commercial and transportation fees are also included in the package. Take note that reservation, camping tours, concessions, and other fees that may be collected by third parties are not included unless otherwise stated.

National Junior Ranger Day

junior ranger program

Junior Rangers proudly presenting their Junior Ranger patch and a Junior Ranger activity book. [Image: www.nps.gov/]

The National Junior Ranger Day will be held on April 16 for children, usually between the ages of 5–13 (though people of all ages are welcome to join). What’s the NPS Junior Ranger program, you ask? The Junior Ranger motto, “Explore, Learn, and Protect!” engages children all around the country to take an oath in protecting, learning, and sharing their knowledge and experience about parks and as acting rangers. Youth participants will have a chance to make lasting friendship with other youth rangers and obtain knowledge and interest, if not passion, for national parks. Upon completion of the program, youth rangers will receive an official Junior Ranger patch and certificate.

Earth Day and National Park Instameet

yosemite instameet

A great photo of exploring Yosemite in the winter by @m.gracecortez. [Image: https://www.instagram.com/m.gracecortez/]

Earth Day on April 22 and National Park Instameet on April 23 are two activities that would be great to combine together. After getting involved in activities for preservation and protection of national parks that would let you be in touch with nature, join the #Instameet event on the 23 to meet fellow national park enthusiast. Share your own personal snapshots on Instagram and other social media platforms via photos and videos using the hashtags #FindYourParkInstaMeet, #FindYourPark, #EncuentraTuParque, and #NPS100.

Park Rx Day

park rx

A group of friends hiking across the marshes of Auyuittuq National Park. [Image: www.flickr.com/ © Peter Morgan]

April 24, 2016 will be the first ever annual National Park Rx Day! The goal of Park Rx is to promote green spaces and public health in the park. It aims to not only increase the relevance of parks but to also improve people’s moods, increase physical activity, and combat obesity. This is a great way to get in touch with nature and also improve one’s physical and mental health.

National Park Week offers great experiences exploring the various national parks in the country. It’s a great opportunity to be involved in a community of enthusiasts eager to learn and share their knowledge about national parks and various endeavors by not only preserving these beauties but also to reducing their own stress in the process.

Want to get involved? Head on over to www.nps.gov for more information! And don’t forget to download the Pocket Ranger National Parks app available in the Apple Store and Google Play to have the information right within your fingertips. Have fun!

National Parks featured on the Big Screen

National parks have graced the big screen multiple times due to their stunning beauty. Rolling green hills, impressive ragged cliffs, and crystal blue waters have almost become a staple for each national park landmark. It doesn’t come as a surprise that so many of these parks have splashed their way onto the big screen and mesmerized so many of us with their magnificence. Here are just five movies that have featured some of our favorite parks.

Glacier National Park

glacier national park

Image: www.wallpaperhi.com/

Glacier National Park was featured in the 1994 epic film, “Forrest Gump.” It is an adaption of the novel written by the American novelist Winston Francis Groom, Jr. The park features a sweeping green vista and cerulean waters in approximately 1,500 square miles of Montana wildness area. The name is derived from its glacier-carved peaks and valleys, making it a stalwart icon for hiking trails and a plethora of other outdoor activities.

Yosemite National Park

yosemite national park

Image: www.popsugar.com/

This magnetic sci-fi 1989 film featured none other the well-celebrated Yosemite National Park. Featuring the 1,200 square miles of impressive scenery with high cliffs, valleys, waterfalls, an interactive ecosystem, and one of the earth’s oldest ravines, Yosemite National Park is sure to stun any viewer year round. It is open through all seasons and is accessible for people with disabilities, accommodates pets, and even offers internet access and cell service. It’s one of the most astounding parks for nature and wildlife lovers.

Death Valley National Park

death valley national park

Image: www.britannica.com/

Death Valley National Park’s expansive sand dunes are featured in the massively popular epic space opera, “Star Wars.” This franchise is another sci-fi feature that has amassed millions of followers worldwide. Starting out as a comic book publication, it later expanded into books, films, and a television series. Death Valley National Park’s sand dunes were then featured in the 2015 release of “Star Wars: Episode VII, The Force Awakens.” The sweeping, graceful ripples of the desert dunes are an impressive geographic feature, perfect for the big screen, photographers, and nature aficionados.

Gulf Islands National Seashore

gulf islands national seashore

Image: www.panoramio.com/

The heart-thumping movie “Jaws” where your main antagonist are not humans but a feral, gigantic great white shark terrorizing a small island community, was filmed at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The national seashore’s pristine white beaches and crystal clear blue waters proved to be the perfect setting for this film. Aside from this popular filming spot, the place also offers various recreation opportunities and preserves the natural and historic resources along the Gulf of Mexico and islands in Florida and Mississippi.

Pipe Spring National Park

pipe spring national monument

Image: www.cruisingat60.blogspot.com/

Pipe Spring National Monument is located in Arizona. Unlike the other national parks that are largely made up of natural geographic features, Pipe Spring is a national monument that offers a rich history of American Indian, early explorer, and Mormon pioneer history. This history made it perfect to be used in the 1992 film “The Last of the Mohicans,” which told the story of members of a Mohicans, a dying Native American tribe that got unwillingly involved the crossfires of the French and Indian War. Even before this film, however, Pipe Spring was already listed on the National Register of Historic Places since October 1966. Now, it is a beautifully preserved memory of a story of human life in the early days of settlement in the United States.

Regardless of the films they were featured in, each of the national parks have carved their way into each nature and wildlife lover’s adventure books because of their breathtaking beauty. If you wish to visit these national parks to recreate your favorite film scenes or even to simply gaze at them in wonder, you can visit nps.gov for more information. Then download our Pocket Ranger® National Parks Passport Guide app that’s available for in the Apple Store and Google Play Store, which is sure to help you in your national parks exploration. Happy exploring!

Try to Peep These Rare Flowers this Spring

As the old childhood rhyme goes, “April showers bring May flowers,” and luckily it’s almost time for those spring flowers to finally start blooming. Nothing makes spring feel sprung quite like a field of gorgeous wildflowers or budding tree branches. Ah, the pollen; ah, the allergies; ah, it’s spring at long last! As you’re sure to be gallivanting around the countryside now that the warm weather is here (we know we can’t be alone in this desire), keep an eye out for some of these rare flowers.

Ghost Orchid

Ghost orchids.

These “spooky” flowers kind of look like they’re dancing around, right? [Image: http://www.technicianonline.com/]

This spidery flower can be found in Cuba as well as in Florida, as it can only be cultivated in climates that support its growth. This is part of what makes the flower so hard to come by. You’ll be sure to recognize a ghost orchid from other flowers as it doesn’t produce any leaves and has a distinct soap-like smell. Ghost orchids only bloom for three weeks between April and August, so keep your eyes peeled if you happen to visit Cuba or Florida in those months!

Corpse Flower

Corpse flower.

Possibly the prettiest corpse you’ll see. [Image: http://www.wpr.org/]

Discovered in 1878 in Sumatra, this amazing flower can be found scattered around the United States, as it has been cultivated in various areas (most notably in the Huntington Botanical Garden in California). This unique flower gets its name from its startling smell, which many have described as the “scent of the dead.” Aside from being the stinkiest flower in the world, it’s also the largest, measuring up to six feet tall in blooming season. Corpse flowers tend to bloom once every 30 to 40 years, so mark your calendars way in the future so you don’t miss out on this marvel!

Jade Vine

Jade vine.

What a garden to walk through! [Image: http://www.excelsagardens.com/]

Native to tropical rainforests in the Philippines, this woody vine is sure to catch your attention if you happen to come across it. The vines that hang from the hooked flowers can grow up to three meters long! Unfortunately this gorgeous plant is an endangered species as its habitat and natural pollinators continue to get destroyed.

Koki’o

Koki'o.

Everything about this flower looks like it belongs in Hawaii. [Image: http://kulamanufarm.com/]

There’s a dramatic story behind this flower, but luckily it ends on a pretty positive note. This Hawaiian flower is incredibly rare and was discovered in 1860 when only three specimens could be found. It was nearly impossible to cultivate in other areas, and in 1950 the last seedling died and it was rendered extinct—that is, until a surviving flower was found in 1970. Which, unfortunately, met its end in a fire in 1978. But alas! As promised, this whirlwind of a tale does have a happy ending! One of the branches on the last remaining tree eaten up in the fire was saved, and it was grafted into 23 trees, all of which exist still today. These implanted seedlings can be seen in various spots of Hawaii—you’ll be sure to recognize them for their astonishing bright red flowers.

Whether you’re intentionally seeking out one of these beauties or you have the rare honor of stumbling across (and hopefully not on) one, you’re sure to be dazzled by their excellence. Make sure you bring our Pocket Ranger® apps with you to make your journeys more enjoyable and full of more of nature’s beauty.