Episode 46: Riparian Habitat and Bird Ecology

Listen to Episode 46 HERE...

In this weeks episode we are so fortunate to have on two wonderful bird ecologists, Sean Mahoney and Peter Motyka out of Northern Arizona University. They recently helped publish a paper (along with researchers Nell Smith, Raemy Winton, Erik Lundgren, Bo Stevens and Matthew Johnson) on bird communities who utilize non-native Russian Olive riparian habitat that dominate the banks of the San Juan River through Utah.

Photo of mixed habitat along the San Juan River at
Big Sandy, near Lime Ridge/Comb Wash.

Join us as we discuss this interesting study, the future of riparian habitat in the southwest, the threats of false science, and also offer some great advice to folks who may want to become an ecologist one day.

And stick around for a special High Desert Jamboree with guest Cato Cook from Jakarta, Indonesia where you will hear all about life in this beautiful region, musical traditions, Javan Tiger biology, the captive bird trade, and much more.

Special guest Cato Cook (on right) and friends from a bird
survey crew in Indonesia. 

Links of Note:

Sean Mahoney (ResearchGate)

Peter Motyka (ResearchGate)

Species Mentioned:

Russian OliveElaeagnus angustifolia L.

Tamarisk/Salt Cedar, Tamarix L.

Northern Tamarisk Beetle, Diorhabda carinulata 

Southwestern Willow FlycatcherEmpidonax trailii extimus

Western Yellow-billed CuckooCoccyzus americanus occidentalis

Indonesia Links of Note:

Javan TigerPanthera tigris sondaica

Javan Tiger Center, Didik Raharyono (Facebook page)

Episode 45: Spring Foraging and Urban Composting

Listen to Episode 45 HERE...

Desert Rhubarb (photo by Ron Wolf)
Our resident Plateau forager, nutritionist and culinary artist Ashley Doyle once again takes us on a walk through the Plateau, foraging for a few of the hundreds of edible and medicinal plants that pop up in the springtime. And this spring has been plentiful in our region with a much needed heavy snowpack this winter and many rainstorms during the solstice transition period.

Ashley talks about the tasty and elusive morel mushroom, the spicy and plentiful wild mustard and the interesting plant known as desert rhubarb. Desert rhubarb is one of those plants where a portion of it is edible, a portion of it can be used topically, and a portion of it is dangerous.

Also Ashley takes a trip to interview an expert in urban composting, Ryan Gordon and they discuss everything from simple ways to set up your own composting area at your home, the do's and don'ts of composting, the dangers of many chemical based gardening products, and some great resources for urban composting too.

Also, Ryan is offering up his services to folks in northern Arizona, free of charge, so if you have ever wanted to start composting and want the great advice from expert, you can contact him at gordongardenconsulting@gmail.com anytime.

Ashley Doyle, Ryan Gordon and some healthy compost.
Links of Note:

Morel Mushroom (Identification Guide)

Wild Mustard - Sinapsus arvensis (NRCS Resource page)

Desert Rhubarb - Rumex hymenosepalus (The Foragers Path Resource page)

Jeff Lowenfels (Author's webpage, as mentioned by Ryan Gordon)

Probiotic Farmers Alliance (Facebook group page, as mentioned by Ryan Gordon)

Episode 44: Endangered and Threatened Species Conservation

Listen to Episode 44 HERE...

Tune in today for a special show all about a successful technique utilized for the conservation of endangered and threatened species known as captive breeding.

Narrow-headed Gartersnake, photo by George Andrejko.

From California Condors to the Kanab Ambersnail to the Narrow-headed Gartersnake, captive breeding is not only helping to increase these imperiled populations but also ensuring their genetic diversity.

The main enclosure at the Vivarium.
We also take a trip down to the Narrow-headed Gartersnake Vivarium, led by herpetologist Erika Nowak, that is a one of a kind captive breeding facility here in northern Arizona that is helping to rescue snakes out of wildfire areas, as well as helping to increase the population of this imperiled snake. I was so fortunate to sit down and interview three of the amazing student researchers involved with the Narrow-headed Gartersnake Vivarium captive breeding program, and get their unique perspectives on the important work they are doing, on their path to becoming a scientist and how snakes are so often misunderstood.

One of the great things with the Vivarium is that you can check out a livestream of one of the enclosures. 

And if you would like to help contribute to the efforts of the Gartersnake Research Project and the Vivarium, you can always donate to them right here (Just look for the 'Donate Today' button on the right.).

Also if you would like to join in the effort as a citizen scientists you can turn in your sightings of Narrow-headed Gartersnakes ( as well as any gartersnake) right here.

Links of Note:

Gartersnake Research Project

Narrow-headed Gartersnake (Identification Page)

California Condor (Information Page)

Kanab Ambersnail (Information Page)

Why are there missing episodes?

Warm Greetings friends, just wanted to make a quick post here to explain why there are some missing episodes in this ongoing saga of science radio right here.

I have gotten quite a few emails wondering where Episode 1, Episode 36 and now Episode 43 are, and am now willing to reveal the secret behind these lost episodes...and the secret is...I am not very good with this whole technology thing...sigh...

So the very first Episode was all about the origins of the show, and the Colorado Plateau in general, and then I had on my very first guest who was none other than the legendary Ed Kabotie, an
Ed Kabotie, Hopi/Tewa artist and musician.
extraordinary artist and musician (front-man of Tha Yoties) who spoke about his life growing up on the Plateau and on Hopi, about the importance of water and of community, about the Rumble on the Mountain event that year, and he did a spectacular rendition of his song The River live in the studio (I even had to sit on the ground holding a microphone to his guitar). Anyway, I was so excited to do my first live show, and to be talking with Ed, that I completely forgot to record it. So it was lost forever, into the airwaves and into space, and I began bringing a little placard into the studio with me after that that simply said 'Hit Record You Idiot!'. Ed and I finally did another episode together (Episode 34) and we have one planned for the fall titled 'The Alternative History of the Americas' so stay tuned for that one!

 And that little placard helped me have a great run...until Episode 36.

Members of one of the epic Grand Canyon Youth trips.
Episode 36 was all about the Colorado River and I was trying to take listeners on a journey from the headwaters of the Colorado River beginning at La Poudre Pass in the Southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado, at just under 2 miles above sea level, and eventually hitting the sea at the Gulf of California 1, 450 miles later. I encouraged listeners to get out a map and follow along and talked about places like Blackrocks where the river is nearly 100 feet deep, and the Kawuneeche Valley and Ruby Canyon and of course Cataract and the Grand Canyon. And the guest was none other than Tory Syracuse the Development and Communications Director for Grand Canyon Youth, a Flagstaff nonprofit that provides expeditions on the rivers of the Southwest to youth from all backgrounds. It was an amazing interview and very emotional as well, and even though I did hit record, the thumb-drive I was recording to failed and once again a beautiful episode was lost to all but those who tuned in live. But not to worry! Tory and I devised another show for the future where I will interview some of the kids who learned so much from the river and through the tireless efforts of Grand Canyon Youth.

Finally we get to the lost Episode 43...an episode devoted to bird watching on the Plateau. There was no guest this time around, just a fun journey on interesting bird species of the Plateau, riparian habitat and special place of note, as well as the joys and amazing benefits that one gets from bird watching. It was a simple show, a happy show, and a doomed show. I deleted the only file of the recording during a computer cleanup, and that show is lost forever.

Your humble host, Christopher Calvo (bottom left) with dear
friends from a Birding Club outing in FLagstaff, AZ.
So here is to that never happening again, and to another long run of no technical difficulties (I hope). Thanks so much for all the emails and for continuing to tune into this homemade science show, friends.

- Christopher Calvo

Plateau on the Radio: Episode 42 Extraction and Exploitation on the Plateau

Listen to Episode 42 HERE...

The footprints of many oil and gas drilling rigs surrounding the White River
in Utah, a tributary of the Green. Photo by Taylor McKinnon.

Journey with us today as we look to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Fantasy Canyon in Utah, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, Red Gap Ranch and areas near the Petrified Forest in Arizona, and learn about the harmful practices of gas, oil and mineral extraction.

Our wonderful guest today is Lisa Test of the effective grass-roots organization No Fracking AZ, who guides us through the definition of fracking, the lack of regulations, and the very real threats due to fracking happening right now within the Coconino Aquifer, one of the cleanest aquifers in the world, right here on the Plateau. Also find out what you can do to help with their important efforts here in our region. 

Lisa Test and friends from No Fracking AZ educating
officials at a meeting in Arizona. 

Links of Note:

No Fracking AZ - Website

No Fracking AZ - Facebook

Plateau on the Radio: Episode 41 Plants of the Plateau with Sara Souther

Listen to Episode 41 HERE...

This week we focus in on the many plants of our region, specifically endemic and culturally sensitive plants.

Wildflowers in northern Arizona - photo by Lawrence Busch

As we all know the Colorado Plateau region is truly a special place, but one of the things that defines our area being so special is that we have the most endemic plants of any region in the US. And for those that might not know, endemic means that those species are found here and nowhere else. Some would argue that this fact is due to the huge size of the Colorado Plateau, spreading across four states and many sovereign tribal nations, but it is actually due to the environmental complexity that we have ranging from the alpine tundra to the high deserts as well as all the important stresses that these plants face in often harsh conditions, leading to the evolution of many new and distinct species. Biologists and other researchers have documented more than 3,000 vascular plants here on the Plateau, and of those 3,000 plants, 10% of them are endemic, and that is a very big number.

Sara Souther (NAU)
Our guest this week is plant ecologist and conservation biologist Sara Souther (Landscape Conservation Initiative), a truly wonderful person who is helping to launch the Tribal Nations Botanical Research Collaborative, a region wide inventory of the ten culturally sensitive plants that are out there. And this effort is really great because it relies on Citizen Scientists just like you to report data as you recreate and explore the forests of northern Arizona. By utilizing the iNaturalist app and taking photos you can help foragers from the tribes, scientists, and land managers better understand the ecology of these species as well as provide information on areas where sustainable harvesting can take place.

Sara and I also discuss her roots as a forager in West Virginia, the plight of the American Ginseng plant, and the importance of exploring the relationship between the plants and the people who utilize wild food, medicinal and culturally sensitive plants, and what that relationship can say about these communities themselves.

Also the mystery of the recent Juniper tree die-off all around the Plateau region, specific threats to endemic plants of our area, and local music by Sap Dabblers, Tha' Yoties, Sihasin and more!

Further Information and Reading:

Sara Souther's ResearchGate (links to research papers by the guest)

iNaturalist - Tribal Nations Botanical Research Collaborative

Further Information on Species mentioned by Sara Souther and the Host:

American Ginseng

Coyote Tobacco

Emory Oak

Blue Grama

Jones Cycladenia 

Kachina Daisy

Utah Juniper

One-seed Juniper

Plateau on the Radio: Episode 40 The San Francisco Peaks

Listen To or Download Episode 40 HERE...

The San Francisco Peaks - Photograph by Kate Graham

Join us this week as we celebrate the unique beauty of the San Francisco Peaks, in northern Arizona.
Our guest is author and ecologist Gwendolyn Waring, who recently put out a wonderful book titled 'The Natural History of the San Francisco Peaks', and this book is a thorough one, from the formation of the Peaks through multiple eruptions over several million years, to the Pleistocene era and the glacial impacts on the mountain itself, to many of the plants and animals and fungi that made their way to this isolated mountain island and somehow managed to survive. It is beautifully written, mixing science with love, and is a book that anyone could pick up and truly enjoy no matter what.

Gwendolyn shares some experiences on the San Francisco Peaks, discusses the adaptation that many species have made to survive in this often inhospitable environment, talks about the future of the peaks with climate change and mind, and so much more. A truly remarkable person, whose science and life experience on the Plateau and beyond is vast indeed.

Quaking Aspen off the 151 on the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks.
Photograph by Kate Graham.
Also, a spotlight on the Quaking Aspen, the San Francisco Peaks Groundsel, and we share the voices of the Star School students and staff, an off the grid charter school in Northern Arizona, who created a film titled 'Dook'o'oosliid' all about their connection to the sacred San Francisco Peaks.

And for High Desert Jamboree we play some mountain music for you, and hear some memories of the Peaks by resident forager of This is the Colorado Plateau; Ashley Doyle, and local photographer Kate Graham.

The San Francisco Peaks as viewed from the high desert of the
volcanic field. Photograph by Frank Schively.
Further Information and Reading:

A Natural History of the Intermountain West by Gwendolyn Waring

Doo'ko'oosliid - Short Film by the middle school students of the Star School

Species mentioned by Gwendylon Waring and the host:

San Francisco Peaks Groundsel - Packera franciscana

Corkbark Fir - Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica

Limber PinePinus flexilis

Southwestern White Pine - Pinus strobiformis

Quaking AspenPopulus tremuloides

American Pipit

Clark's Nutcracker

American Three-toed Woodpecker

Mexican Spotted Owl

Red Squirrel

Plateau on the Radio: Episode 39 Plateau Foraging with Ashley Doyle

Listen to Episode 39 HERE...

Join guest host, nutritionist and forager Ashley Doyle for another episode all about delicious food and great ways to forage your own fridge during the cold months. Ashley discusses ways for us all to get geared-up for the upcoming Spring foraging season, choosing the best field guides for your region, and the properties of herbs when utilizing them for different medicines. Also a great interview with urban farmer Summer White about Roots Micro Farm here in Flagstaff, AZ, about being part of the community, and about growing micro-greens in your own home as a great way to get fresh greens during the winter. All that and more with music by hvnnibeat$ out of Flagstaff and Namaste Humble from Brooklyn, NY.

Roots Micro Farm, a beautiful example of an urban farm in Flagstaff, AZ

Plateau on the Radio - Episode 38 Plateau Films and the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival

Listen to Episode 38 HERE...

This week we are giving science a break and heading to the movies in honor of the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival, an epic event that has taken place in our region since 2003.

We explore some of the famous films that were shot around the canyons and buttes, rivers and towns of the Colorado Plateau, and also spotlight some of the future filmmakers of our region. Students at the Star School, an off the grid elementary/middle school in northern Arizona write, direct and produce their own short films on everything from alternative power to storytelling and traditional practices.

Our wonderful guests this week are Dr. John Tveten, the Executive Director of the Mountain Film Festival who also once hosted a couple of spectacular radio shows out of Hopi on KUYI, Amy Martin a documentary photographer who uses her camera's lens to increase awareness, understanding and compassion across physical and social barriers, and John 'Verm' Sherman a bouldering pioneer, creator of the bouldering V-scale, and a spectacular wildlife photographer who uses his photography to spread awareness on the plight of the endangered California Condor.

Photograph by Amy Martin, part of the Todos Dignos series.
Photograph by John Verm Sherman of  one of the
critically endangered California Condor .
Further Info:

Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival

Star School Student Film Projects

Amy Martin Photography

John 'Verm' Sherman Photography

Plateau on the Radio - Episode 37 Wildlife Issues and Killing Contests on the Plateau

Listen to Episode 37 HERE...

Coyote in the grasslands (photo by Greg Kramos, USFWS)
There is a terrible practice out there friends that we all need to know about...it is hard to look at, and difficult to stomach, but important to shine a spotlight on it so that we can try to change things.

They are called Wildlife Killing Contests, and chances are they are happening on public lands near you. Each year thousands of coyotes, foxes, bobcats, prairie dogs, crows, and even wolves are targeted in these horrific events where contestants win prizes and awards for killing the animals. These contests are largely un-monitored by state and federal wildlife agencies, and it is up to folks like you and advocates like our great guest Betsy Klein to put a stop to them.

Betsy, who is the founder of I AM WOLF NATION, and co-founder of Plan B to Save Wolves, educates us on what these killing contests are, the misinformation given for their existence, and shares with us how to best assist in the effort to ban wildlife killing contests in Arizona, and in your neck of the woods.

The end result of a horrific contest (photo courtesy of Southwest Environmental Center)
Also on the program, micro-trash and the impacts on wildlife, lead-poisoning among one of the most periled species on the Plateau; the California Condor, and something positive you can do to assist birds during the cold months courtesy of our resident forager extraordinaire Ashley Doyle.

Special thanks to Emily Renn of Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery for helping to set this episode up.

Further Information:

I AM WOLF NATION (A Call to Action Group)

Plan B to Save Wolves (Organization)

A Death of Ethics: Is Hunting Destroying Itself? (Article by Todd Wilkinson, mentioned in the interview)

Project Coyote (Organization)

Killing Games: Wildlife in the Crosshairs (movie trailer mentioned in the interview)

Sedona Wolf Week (Regional Event happening March 25th -30th, 2019)

Plateau on the Radio: Episode 35 Plateau Politics and the Government Shutdown

Listen to Episode 35 HERE...

As the longest government shutdown in history continues, we turn our attention to all the negative impacts that are taking place in the Plateau and beyond, and in the spirit of community radio we even try to bring you the other side of the coin and worked hard to bring you a comprehensive list of the positive impacts this government shutdown is having on people and places.

Signs in many National Parks this month urge visitors to please
take care of the place during this government shutdown.

We update you on the current state of National Parks around our region like Zion, Arches and the Grand Canyon, as well as incidents that have occurred in other National Parks around the country. And in our Notes from the Field segment we look at news from the government shutdown perspective on the impacts in regards to safety in our Public Lands, and important postponed fire management work around the West, as well as impacts that you might not have even suspected (for all you craft beer drinkers out there).

Trash cans overflowing in Yosemite National Park, CA
Also we hear from you dear listeners and your opinion on the government shutdown. All that and some good tunes to get us through the hard times. Tune in, and thank you so much for listening!

Plateau on the Radio Episode 34: Rumble on the Mountain

Listen to Episode 34 HERE...

We are happy to be back on the air after a nice winter hibernation, and on today's episode we will be highlighting one of the truly great community events that takes place annually here on the Colorado Plateau and that is the Rumble on the Mountain happening this Saturday January 19th in Flagstaff, AZ. This year is the fifth year of the Rumble and the topic they are highlighting is the ongoing legacy of Uranium Mining on the Colorado Plateau, a hugely important subject for the health of communities here on the Plateau, and a subject that does not get the spotlight it truly deserves.

'Rumble on the Mountain' by Ed Kabotie

We have some recordings from the very first Rumble on the Mountain that we will share with you, where the focus was on the utilization of reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks, an area held sacred by all the sovereign Nations of the Plateau. The recordings include the audio of a piece by Sarah Weatherby entitled 'How and How Not to Ski', a moving performance and speech by the chair of the Havasupai tribe Rex Tilousi, a call to action by Moran Henn, and a Call to Holiness by Vernon Masayesva, the former chair of the Hopi Tribal Council. Also music by Tha Yoties, and Ed Kabotie.

And in the second hour we play some tunes by past and current performers of the Rumble on the Mountain, including Innastate, Sage Bond, and Sihasin. We also get to hear from organizer Ed Kabotie himself with a phone interview where we discuss the origin and metamorphosis of the Rumble on the Mountain event, the connection between uranium, arsenic, water and how we treat one another, as well as an update on his travels of late to Washington DC and California where he brings his messages from the land and people of the Plateau to all who will listen.

Ed Kabotie at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Further Reading/Links:

Ed Kabotie - The Alternative History of America (performance at the Hopi Festival 2018 at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian)

Sarah Weatherby - How and How Not to Ski (presentation)

HaulNo (Facebook page of organization spotlighted at this years Rumble on the Mountain)

Rumble on the Mountain (Facebook page of the event)