Nature: The Problem of Light Pollution

October 22nd, 2014

Image courtesy International Dark-Sky Association Facebook Page

Image courtesy International Dark-Sky Association Facebook Page

This is Passport to Texas

Few of us experience dark skies anymore because of light pollution.

08—Most often we see that [light pollution] in the form of what we call skyglow…[something] that people who live in or near cities will be familiar with.

Skyglow is hazy reflected light hovering over cities at night, disrupting nature’s day/night cycle. John Barentine, with the International Dark Sky Association says light pollution isn’t exactly benign.

16—It turns out that there are hormonal pathways throughout the body that are governed by that [day/night] cycle, and when we start disrupting them by putting light in at unusual times of the day, we disrupt those pathways and that’s what we think leads to some of the [potential health] problems.

Blue light (in the spectrum), associated most with sunlight, is most disruptive to our internal clocks.

22—Blue light triggers this hormone that’s called melatonin; in the daytime when the sun comes up that relatively blue sunlight turns down the production of melatonin and tells us to wake up. And then at night, the result is that the production of melatonin goes up, and that’s the cue that tells us to go to sleep. It’s also regulating all these sub systems throughout the body.

We have a link to The American Medical Association’s view of light pollution at What’s being done to prevent light pollution. That’s tomorrow.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Nature: Dark Skies Over Texas

October 21st, 2014

Image courtesy International Dark-Sky Association Facebook Page

Image courtesy International Dark-Sky Association Facebook Page

This is Passport to Texas

Few of us have ever experienced a truly dark sky.

09—A dark sky is what humanity saw for basically its entire history up until the invention of electric light a little more than a century ago.

While we may feel safer outdoors at night because artificial light illuminates our way, over time, it may actually do more harm than good, says John Barentine, with the International Dark Sky Association.

30—We know that artificial light at night has a measurable impact on wildlife; we know that it has an impact on human health. Light governs the night and day cycles of all organisms, so when we put light into the environment when our bodies aren’t expecting it, there are inevitable results—some of which we are just beginning to learn – but turns out that it may be related (at least in humans) to incidents of some types of chronic disease.

Until the advent and widespread use of electric lighting, the sun, and to a lesser extent the moon, governed the cycle of day and night. That set a rhythm among living things we’ve been disrupting ever since.

And we’ll have more about that tomorrow.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Nature: Meteor Showers

October 20th, 2014

Night Sky

Night Sky

This is Passport to Texas

When small fragments of cosmic debris – created when a comet swings past the sun – enter the earth’s atmosphere at incredibly high rates of speed, they manifest as streaks of light in the night sky.

We generally name meteor showers for the constelations from which they seem to radiate. For example, the popular Perseid meteor shower, which peaks in mid-August, seems to come from the constellation Perseus – and thus its name. While arguably the most popular meteor event, the Perseid is only one of many that occurs year-round.

In fact, this week [October 21-22] the Orionids will peak; in a normal year you may see 20-25 meteors an hour; in a great year, as many as 50 an hour.

The Leonids, which peak November 15 & 16 come from the comet Temple-Tuttle; while the Leonids have provided stunning meteor storms as recently as 2001 expect only about 15 meteors an hour this year.

The Geminids, which peak the weekend of December 13 & 14, will offer the most impressive show of 2014. These meteors are often bright and intensely colored. What makes this event top notch is that meteors start showing up before 10 p.m. That means you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to see them.

Find a list of other meteor events at And follow us on twitter, we’re @passporttotexas.

That’s our show for today. .. Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

TPW TV: Lizards on the Move

October 17th, 2014

Horned Lizard

Horned Lizard

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The Muse Wildlife Management Area, 15 miles Northeast of Brownwood, received some new residents.

08—This is the site that we’ve chosen to evaluate the feasibility and the success of the translocation of wild caught Texas Horned Lizards.

Wildlife biologist, Devin Erxleben, is site manager.

05—These horned lizards were collected from roadsides on private properties, southwest of San Angelo.

Parks and Wildlife collaborates with landowners to reintroduce the lizards to areas where they once roamed, says Nathan Rains, a natural resource specialist from Cleburne.

09—We’ve had a lot of interest over the years in reintroducing lizards to properties, and we’d never really looked at the feasibility of even doing that: will they survive? Where do they go? What will happen? So, we’re trying to just see if it’s possible.

After evaluation, each animal gets a tag used for identification.

06—We then affix them with a VHF radio-transmitter to track them to get daily locations on each lizard.

The lizards remain in a predator-proof enclosure for 10 days to acclimate, before being released and tracked.

06—It’ll probably be several years before we really know what’s going to happen here. But, we’re very optimistic.

Learn more this week on the Texas Parks and Wildlife PBS TV series in a segment called Lizards on the Move. Check local listings.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Conservation: Monitoring Species for Change

October 16th, 2014

Herpetologist, Andy Gluesenkamp (with phone) and biologist Cullen Hanks monitoring species.

Herpetologist, Andy Gluesenkamp (with phone) and biologist Cullen Hanks monitoring species.

This is Passport to Texas

Texas wildlife has a stake in the climate change lottery.

06—Climate change is going to affect species that are found – and breed – in backyards here in Texas.

Cullen Hanks, with Texas Nature Tracker, says models predicting the impact of climate change on wildlife are not set in stone, and so we need baseline information on each species.

33—To be able to document change, we need to know where things are before they change. And, this highlights the need of documenting the distribution of species that we have today in Texas.

And, there aren’t enough biologists to do all of that. And so, what we do is we reach out to citizens.

That’s exactly right! Texas is a big state with a lot of species, and the community of naturalists and citizens interested in wildlife in Texas can play a huge part in documenting wildlife in Texas.

Monitor species you see in your neighborhood, and then share your observations online.

17—ebird, a citizen science platform, created by the Cornell laboratory of Ornithology is a great way to maintain your checklist of birds. In addition, iNaturalist is a really useful platform for documenting your wildlife sightings of any species — not just birds.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has various projects on iNaturalist. Just go to the Texas Nature Trackers page on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for details. The WSFR Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.