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Jones Park offers nature tours

Jones Park offers nature tours

Jones Park volunteer Mary Jo Chapman answers questions about the park’s green ash tree, a species widely used to make baseball bats, furniture and woven baskets.

Jones Park offers nature tours

Varnett students learn about the bald cypress tree from Jones Park volunteer Mary Jo Chapman.

Jones Park offers nature tours

Students quietly observe a spider that made its home on a bald cypress tree at Jones Park.

Jones Park offers nature tours

Jacqueline Winzer and Ter’Ron Moye enjoy the scenery at Jesse H. Jones Park Nature Center in Precinct 4.

Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 2:00 pm

Updated: 9:25 am, Thu Oct 23, 2014.

Jones Park offers nature tours

Varnett first graders recently took a field trip to learn more about their current topic, nature, and visited Precinct 4’s Jesse H. Jones Park Nature Center to explore the park’s plentiful trees, plants and wildlife.

Jones Park volunteer Mary Jo Chapman led the tour and explained the different types of trees and leaves found at the park.

These tours highlight various features of the local environment, and groups of 10 or more are welcome at no cost Tuesdays and Thursdays with advance reservations by calling 281-446-8588.

Programs such as these are very important to students’ learning, according to Varnett first grade teacher Sherri Harris. It gives children the ability to gain hands-on experience from what they’ve learned in class.

With leadership from Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, Jesse H. Jones Park Nature Center is a Harris County Precinct 4 facility located at 20634 Kenswick Drive in Humble. All programs are free of charge and open to the public. Harris County Precinct 4 programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, sex, religion, national origin, or physical ability. For more information about the park or any of the activities and programs offered, call 281-446-8588 or visit the Jones Park website at


Wednesday, October 22, 2014 2:00 pm.

Updated: 9:25 am.

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The Nature Conservancy and supporters celebrate permanent protection of Warm Springs Mountain Preserve

WARM SPRINGS, Va., Oct. 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ – Through the generous contributions of a number of private donors, The Nature Conservancy has secured the protection of its Warm Springs Mountain Preserve, which connects thousands of acres of conservation lands throughout western Virginia. In a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Dan Ingalls Overlook today, the Conservancy acknowledged the individuals and corporations that helped the organization realize one of its largest land purchases in Virginia.

“We are grateful to everyone who has helped us protect Warm Springs Mountain Preserve, acknowledging that they understand what a special place this is,” said Michael Lipford, Virginia executive director for The Nature Conservancy. “In addition to conserving critical habitat in the heart of the Allegheny Highlands for perpetuity, we’re ensuring that generations to come will be able to connect with and share our passion for nature.”

The Conservancy purchased the 9,000-acre preserve in 2002 and has since been raising the necessary $6.7 million funds through individuals, foundations and corporations until paying it off completely this year. A number of private donors helped pay off the debt, including Dominion Resources and the Beirne Carter Foundation. Today’s ceremony included the unveiling of a new trailhead at the overlook. Dominion provided a grant to cover the costs of the new kiosk, trail surface, landscaping and stonework, and recruited volunteers to help build the new trailhead. The County of Bath Office of Tourism co-hosted the ribbon cutting with the Dominion Foundation and The Nature Conservancy.

“Without a doubt, the Warm Springs Mountain Preserve encompasses some of the most beautiful and pristine wilderness in Virginia,” said Hunter Applewhite, president of the Dominion Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of Dominion. “Our company is proud to have played a role in helping the Conservancy protect this area forever.”

Warm Springs Mountain Preserve, which shares a 13-mile border with the George Washington National Forest, is one of the largest and most biologically significant privately held forests in the Central Appalachians. It protects three rare plants, eight rare invertebrates and three rare natural communities, in addition to providing habitat for wide-ranging black bears, bobcats, migratory birds and other wildlife.

The preserve’s forests shelter cool headwater streams and springs that deliver clean drinking water to residents of Warm Springs and Fallings Springs valleys and provide an abundance of recreational opportunities. Hikers can enjoy the preserve’s three public hiking trails that connect to an extensive trail system through the George Washington National Forest and a stunning view from the Ingalls Overlook Trail across the Cowpasture River valley to the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

The Nature Conservancy works to protect our lands and waters in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, from the mountains and forests to the coasts, Chesapeake Bay, and Atlantic Ocean.  Throughout the region we connect people with nature.

The Dominion Foundation is dedicated to improving the physical, social and economic well-being of the communities served by Dominion companies, including Dominion Virginia Power. Dominion and the Foundation support nonprofit causes that meet basic human needs, protect the environment, support education and promote community vitality. For more information about Dominion, one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy, visit

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Nature-Starved Offices are Affecting the Health and Productivity of Employees

LONDON, October 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ –

Working in environments with natural elements lead to an 8% increase in productivity and 13% higher level of well-being says EMEA study 

The Human Spaces Report, commissioned by global modular flooring experts, Interface, and led by Organisational Psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper, has revealed EMEA employees who work in environments with natural elements (such as greenery and sunlight) report a 13% higher level of well-being and are 8% more productive overall.

The academic study of 3600 EMEA office workers found:

  • 42% have no natural light in their workspace
  • 55% don’t have access to any greenery
  • 7% have no window in their workspace
  • 15% of Spanish workers had no window and were the most stressed workforce
  • Germany and Denmark reported the least number of workers with no windows (2% and 3% respectively), and had the happiest workforces

Interaction with nature is becoming increasingly limited – 63% of office workers are now based in a town or city centre and spend on average 34 hours per week in the office. Yet, the research found workers have an inherent affinity to elements that reflect nature.


The top five natural elements on EMEA office workers’ wish-lists:

  1. Natural light
  2. Quiet working space
  3. A view of the sea
  4. Live indoor plants
  5. Bright colours

Commenting on the research findings, Professor Sir Cary Cooper said:   The work environment has always been recognised as essential to employee well-being and performance but often purely as a ‘hygiene factor’. The Human Spaces report clearly illustrates the connection between the impact of working environments and productivity. It’s no coincidence that the most modern employers now take a new view, designing environments to help people thrive, collaborate and be creative. Being connected to nature and the outside world, biophilic design, to give it its real name, is a big part of that.”

Commenting on office design, Mandy Leeming, Design and Development Manager (UK) at Interface, said: “When it comes to creating office spaces that positively impact health, performance and concentration, it’s about interpreting the nuances of nature that we subconsciously respond to, such as colours and textures. Ultimately improving the wellbeing, productivity and creativity of the workforce is key to the success of market leading organisations.”

For more information visit or @human_spaces

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Big Brands Embrace Corporate Sustainability

Big-brand companies are the backbone of a world retail economy that is mass-producing cheap consumer goods designed for rapid obsolescence and turnover. Maintaining high sales for these goods relies on shifting the environmental and social costs of production and consumption onto less powerful and distant regions, ecosystems, and future generations. Some so-called gains from eco-business, such as replacing products or processes, may also cast equally, if not more damaging, ecological shadows of consumption.28 The genius of Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton, was his pursuit of ever-lower costs and ever-higher sales. His goal was more warehouse-style stores and more control of low-end markets, aiming to increase long-term total profits rather than maximize short-term profit margins. In theory, this strategy doesn’t require more consumption worldwide, just more sales and market control for Walmart. Yet in practice it does tend to stimulate wasteful and excessive consumption, as options rise, as prices fall, and as more and more shoppers look, in Walmart’s words, to “save money” and “live better.”

Turning sustainability into eco-business, moreover, is altering the nature of environmentalism, increasing its power to accelerate some forms of change, but limiting what is on the table to question, challenge, and alter. Sustainability as an idea can be radical: not just calling for changes in the rules of the game (i.e., market dynamics), but also to the game itself (i.e., the global economy). It can, for instance, challenge individuals to reduce consumption. It can challenge businesses to stop certain practices, eliminate certain products, and produce more durable goods. And it can challenge public and private organizations to operate systems within ecological and social principles, and not just within economic ones. The big brands’ takeover of sustainability, however, is shifting the purpose and goal of sustainability governance toward the need to create business value as an outcome of pursuing sustainability. And the levers of change within resulting governance mechanisms are increasingly under the control of large private organizations. States and NGOs can advance some causes by stepping strategically on these levers. But eco-business on its own cannot—and never will—alter the underlying logic of accelerating consumerism and unequal globalization behind the increasing power of big brands.

For some, this is the full story, and it signals a future with even less hope. For them, big brands will never be part of any sustainability solution. For at least some of those working on trying to implement sustainability, however, the big brands’ takeover of sustainability is a still-unfolding tale that needs more actors to join for any hope of creating a more sustainable pathway forward.

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New Tracers Can Identify Frack Fluids In The Environment

Provided by Cheryl Dybas, NSF and Tim Lucas, Duke University

Scientists develop new geochemical tracers, tested at sites in West Virginia and Pennsylvania

Scientists have developed new geochemical tracers that can identify hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids that have been spilled or released into the environment.

The tracers have been field-tested at a spill site in West Virginia and downstream from an oil and gas brine wastewater treatment plant in Pennsylvania.

“By characterizing the isotopic and geochemical fingerprints of enriched boron and lithium in flowback water from hydraulic fracturing, we can now track the presence of ‘frack’ fluids in the environment and distinguish them from wastewater coming from other sources, including conventional oil and gas wells,” said Duke University geochemist Avner Vengosh, who co-led the research.

“This gives us new forensic tools to detect if frack fluids are escaping into our water supply and what risks, if any, they might pose.”

Using the tracers, scientists can determine where frack fluid contamination has–or hasn’t–been released to the environment and, ultimately, help identify ways to improve how shale gas wastewater is treated and disposed of.

The researchers published their findings October 20 in the journal Environmental Science Technology. Their study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is the first to report on the development of the boron and lithium tracers.

“With increasing exploitation of unconventional oil and gas reservoirs through the use of hydraulic fracturing, it’s important that we are able to assess the extent of hydraulic fracturing fluids entering the environment,” said Alex Isern, section head in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research.

“This work is critical as it demonstrates that geochemical fingerprinting provides a powerful tool to differentiate potential sources of contamination and therefore guide efforts to mitigate environmental impacts.”

Adds Nathaniel Warner of Dartmouth College, lead author of the paper, “This new technology can be combined with other methods to identify specific instances of accidental releases to surface waters in areas of unconventional drilling.

“It could benefit industry as well as federal and state agencies charged with monitoring water quality and protecting the environment.”

Hydraulic fracturing fluids–or frack fluids–typically contain mixes of water, proprietary chemicals and sand. Mixtures can vary from site to site.

Drillers inject large volumes of the fluids down gas wells at high pressure to crack open shale formations deep underground and allow natural gas trapped within the shale to flow out and be extracted.

After the shale has been fractured, the frac fluids flow back up the well to the surface along with the gas and highly saline brines from the shale formation.

Some people fear that toxic frack fluid chemicals in this flowback could contaminate nearby water supplies if they’re accidentally spilled or insufficiently treated before being disposed of.

“The flowback fluid that returns to the surface becomes a waste that needs to be managed,” Vengosh explained.

“Deep-well injection is the preferable disposal method, but injecting large volumes of wastewater into deep wells can cause earthquakes in sensitive areas and is not geologically available in some states.

“In Pennsylvania, much of the flowback is now recycled and reused, but a significant amount of it is still discharged into local streams or rivers.”

It’s possible to identify the presence of frack fluid in spilled or discharged flowback by tracing synthetic organic compounds that are added to the fluid before it’s injected down a well, Vengosh said, but the proprietary nature of these chemicals, combined with their instability in the environment, limits the usefulness of such tracers.

By contrast, the new boron and lithium tracers remain stable in the environment.

“The difference is that we are using tracers based on elements that occur naturally in shale formations,” Vengosh said.

When drillers inject frack fluids into a shale formation, they not only release hydrocarbon, but also boron and lithium that are attached to clay minerals in the formation.

As the fluids react and mix at depth, they become enriched in boron and lithium.

As they’re brought back to the surface, they have distinctive fingerprints that are different from other types of wastewater, including wastewater from a conventional gas or oil well, and from naturally occurring background water.

“This type of forensic research allows us to clearly identify possible sources of wastewater contamination,” Vengosh said.

Thomas Darrah of The Ohio State University, Robert Jackson of Duke and Stanford Universities and Romain Millot and Wolfram Kloppmann of the French Geological Survey also co-authored the paper, which was partly funded by the Park Foundation.

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Nature lover scoops the pool for photography competition

CAMIRA amateur photographer Glenys Passier was the big winner in this year’s Ipswich Enviroplan Photographic Competition, taking out the overall winner’s prize, two prize categories, a runners-up award and a special mention for four of her entries.

With more than 1100 entries received this year for the popular competition, the result was a coup for the keen photographer, whose love of nature comes through in her images.

Her winning entry titled Fairy Lamps captured a close-up view of a delicate fungi growing out of an old tree stump, creating its own magical landscape.

Living on a couple of acres in the leafy suburb of Camira, Ms Passier said her passion for photography started with capturing images of her pets and bird photography.

“I just take photos when the opportunity arises,” she said. “The camera is never too far from me and I just keep both eyes open.

“I don’t often get the opportunity to photograph fungi but I just noticed these tiny bumps coming up on an old chinese elm tree stump and the flowers were just so dainty and the colour was unreal.”

Matthew Watson was named overall student winner for Golden Wings.

Judged over eight categories, the competition also highlighted stunning work from students including Indooroopilly State High School student Matthew Watson who was named the overall student winner for his work titled Golden Wings.

Environment and Conservation Committee chairwoman Heather Morrow said the competition was getting bigger and better each year.

“From over 1100 entries, 69 have been presented with an award or an honourable mention, and all will be up for the People’s Choice award, decided by the public,” Cr Morrow said.

“Whether it’s natural landscapes, flora, fauna, or the Bremer River, entrants have captured the natural beauty of Ipswich in surprising and creative ways.”

Winners were announced this week following lengthy deliberations by photographers Grace Yu and Greg Harm.

Winning entries can be viewed at and at an exhibition at Riverlink Shopping Centre from tomorrow until November 6 where you can vote for your favourite entry for the People’s Choice award.

Grace Gardner won the Primary School category for Spring in Bloom.

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UConn’s Teale Lecture Series on Nature and the Environment to feature Author …

Author and Photographer Julie Campoli, of Terra Firma Urban Design, will give a talk entitled “The Importance of Being Urban: Density and the Green City” for the University of Connecticut’s Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series on Nature and the Environment. The talk will take place on Thursday, October 30, 4 pm at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, Konover Auditorium, at UConn. The lecture is free and open to the public.

For twenty-five years Julie Campoli practiced land planning and urban design in the state of Vermont, working with non-profits, municipalities and state agencies to steer growth into a more efficient and contextual pattern. Her firm, Terra Firma Urban Design specializes in street design and site planning for affordable housing, emphasizing the infilling of existing neighborhoods. More recently, she has focused on building flood resiliency in riverside downtowns. Her work includes creating photographs, maps, simulations, graphics and other tools to help people understand the relationship between design concepts and real places.

The Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series brings leading scholars and scientists to the University of Connecticut to present public lectures on nature and the environment. The lectures are open to the public and do not require registration. For additional information please call 860.486.4460 or visit

Copyright © 2014, Hartford Courant

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