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renae blum

Renae works for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and has written for NEBRASKAland Magazine and the Lincoln Journal Star.

A Conservation Dream Come True

A man-made prairie-chicken lek finds success. It was a calm March morning when Dan Leuenberger first heard it: the echoing calls of greater prairie-chickens. Climbing a hill on his Johnson County farm, he spotted a flock of about 20 birds gathered for mating season. Each spring, males congregate on leks, or display grounds, to perform mating rituals that have made the species an icon of the prairie. They stomp, leap, spin in circles, inflate orange air sacs on their neck …

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New Research on Eastern Redcedar

For decades, mechanical removal has been a key strategy to control eastern redcedar, an invasive species sweeping north across the Great Plains. But new research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln indicates that this method isn’t as successful as previously expected. Eastern redcedar moves aggressively, with the ability to convert open grasslands to woodland in as little as 40 years, and it’s happening on a large scale. Our current strategies aren’t keeping pace with the rate of invasion, said Dillon Fogarty, …

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A Weekend of Exploration

My experience of Becoming an Outdoors-Woman As part of the communications team at Nebraska Game and Parks, I have been aware of the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Weekend Workshop for a long time, a three-day event featuring a variety of outdoors skills workshops for women. Each year I received e-mails encouraging employees to attend, but always resisted. I’ll admit it: I am not an “outdoors woman.” My hobbies – reading, cooking fancy recipes, watching foreign films – are usually indoor ones. …

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Halt Eastern Redcedar Invasion

Opportunities coming to halt eastern redcedar invasion One of the greatest threats to Nebraska livestock production comes in an unassuming package. Eastern redcedar (juniperus virginiana), with its fragrant foliage and purplish “berries,” doesn’t look like a threat. But science has shown that once it takes over an area, rangeland productivity decreases by 75 percent, as the trees strip forage grasses of necessary sunlight and water. And once rangeland has been compromised by redcedar, restoring productivity isn’t cheap: cedar removal can …

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Citizen Science

Making their own discoveries. Jessica Gieseke is a bumble bee-catching machine. She picks her way through a clump of goldenrod buzzing with flies and soldier beetles and spots her target. In one swift, graceful movement, Gieseke slides a vial along a stem, tips a bumble bee inside and caps the vial. The vial joins 25 others in her cooler packed with ice cubes. The ice chills the bees, rendering them sleepy and nearly immobile – a perfect photography subject. One …

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A Stitch in Time

In the world of living history, the clothes make the man (and woman). The cannon smoke has mostly dispersed, visitors are trickling back to the parking lot, and Sarah Dack is taking a break. She portrays an officer’s wife at Fort Kearny State Historical Park’s living history events, and looks every inch the part. Dack is wearing a big-brimmed sunbonnet, leather ankle boots, a sky-blue skirt, and a muslin shirt with pearl buttons, a stand-up collar, and a gathered yoke. …

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Do-It-Yourself Dried Arrangements

Native flowers and plants aren’t just great gardening choices; they also make stunning dried arrangements that are both fun and easy to create. Mary Jane Frogge, a horticulture expert with Nebraska Extension, sat down with me to share the process. The following are her words, edited for length and clarity. – Renae Blum The Process It’s good to collect flowers when they’re at their peak of bloom, so you have nice color. With grasses, the main thing is to pick …

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Frozen Art

Snowflake Photography with Don Komarechka Don Komarechka is a connoisseur of snowflakes. Give him a random snowflake, and he’ll probably have a pretty good idea of how and why it likely formed, despite having no background in science. He can also tell you exactly how to take a macro photograph of that snowflake in dazzling detail, having photographed thousands. Komarechka, a self-taught professional photographer from Barrie, Ontario, has made a career out of photographing what he calls “the unseen world,” …

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Tag a Monarch

Help Uncover a Mystery By Renae Blum, NEBRASKAland Contributor It’s one of the miracles of nature: each fall, millions of insects weighing less than one gram fly to overwintering sites in Mexico from across the United States, some traveling several thousand miles. This is the monarch butterfly, and the details of how this migration occurs are still surrounded by questions. Since 1992, Chip Taylor and his team at the University of Kansas have endeavored to find answers via a monarch …

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The Eclipse through the eyes of citizen scientists

Photograph taken during the middle of the day during the eclipse at Verdon State Recreation Area (SRA) in Richardson County. Kurrus, Aug. 15, 2017. Copyright NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

One year ago, for just a couple of minutes, the sky darkened in the middle of the day. The air cooled, stars and planets appeared, and the sun seemed to transform before our eyes. The 2017 solar eclipse was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But as fascinating as it was, not everyone had their eyes trained on the skies the whole time. There was a question that needed answering: how would animals and plants react to the eclipse? Life Responds That was …

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