Reflections in Nature: Spider silk is extremely strong despite it’s very thin width | News, Sports, Jobs


Shown is a spider on a web. Spider silk is extremely thin, yet is also incredibly strong.

Have you been decorating for Halloween? Well, Mother Nature has been busy.

One morning when the dew was on the ground our daughter Holly looked out the window to see one of nature’s Halloween decorations, their lawn was covered with spider webs. Although the webs had been there all along, they were not visible until the morning dew highlighted them.

Later, the sun comes out and dries up the dew, and the spider webs appear to magically disappear.

No spooky Halloween decorations would be complete without cobwebs. Cobwebs often conjure up images of creaky old houses and dark attics where scary things might lurk. However, if you look around your own clean and well-lit house, chances are you will find a few cobwebs.

The mysterious tangles of sticky thread seem to appear out of nowhere, no matter how many times you use the duster on those upper corners. There’s not a spider in sight, so where do cobwebs come from? Could there be some supernatural involvement after all?

Our home, which was built in the early 1900s, seems to attract spiders. Mary Alice does not like spiders and if she sees one high on a wall or on the ceiling, I will hear her yell, “Bill, come get this spider.”

Through the years, Mary Alice had even offered a nickel to our children and grandchildren to find spiderwebs in our home. She very seldom goes into our basement due to the cobwebs that seem to develop overnight. Recently, she asked me what the difference is between a cobweb and a spiderweb.

Many people have a fear of spiders. This fear is often blamed on the Little Miss Muffet nursery rhyme.

“Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and why. There came a big spider. Who sat down beside her. And frightened Miss Muffet away.”

The fear of spiders, which is known as arachnophobia, is one of the most common phobias in the world and one of the oldest recorded. It is estimated that roughly one third of the entire world population has arachnophobia. More women than men seem to suffer from arachnophobia.

The origin of the word arachnophobia is Greek and is derived from the word arachne, which translates to spiders and phobos, meaning to dread or to fear.

Cobwebs are simply abandoned spider webs. There are two types of spiders. Web-building spiders that spin webs for catching prey, and wandering spiders that chase after their prey, rather than building webs. Over time this dust accumulation weakens the web and forces the spider to abandon the web and build a new one. This is why you never see a spider on a cobweb, even though the spider is responsible for its creation.

Our word cobweb comes from Old English coppeweave and originated sometime in the 14th century. Coppe comes from attercoppe, which means spider or literally venomous head. The word web also has its origins in Old English and means tapestry or something intricately woven.

The word spider goes back to the Old English word spinthron, which means spin. The word spin is a general Germanic word that goes back to the Indo-European base word spen or pen, meaning stretch.

Spiders have long been celebrated for spinning silk from their bodies. They belong to the class of animals known as Arachnid, from the Greek word arachne, meaning spider. It commemorates the name of Arachne, a Lydian Princess, who became so expert in the art of weaving that she dared to challenge Athena to a test of skill. Arachne’s work was flawless but that of Athena was perfect beyond attainment of mere mortals.

Arachne was so humiliated that she attempted to hang herself, but the noose was loosened to become a cobweb, and the maiden was changed into a spider and condemned to perpetual spinning.

Spider silk is one-hundredth the size of a human hair and one hundred times stronger than steel of the same size. Some of the threads will stretch one-half their length before breaking. While the thinnest lines are only one-millionth of an inch wide and invisible to the human eye, other lines are much heavier.

Glands in the abdomen of the spider produce fluids that harden in the air and form silk. The outlets from these glands are at the end of the abdomen and are called spinnerets. The spinning organs of the spider are fingerlike appendages that are tipped with many tiny spinning tubes and a few large ones called spigots. There are at least seven distinct kinds of spider glands known; thus, spiders have the capability of producing various types of silk. Compare the way spiders produce silk to the way silk is produced by insects, such as caterpillars, and you will find that insect silk comes from the mouth.

There are 240 species in the 21 groups of spiders in North America. This number changes constantly because new spiders are still being discovered.

I recently walked into a large spider web, and immediately began to jump about as if a swarm of hornets were after me. At the same time, I was wiping my head in an effort to remove the sticky spider web.

If Mary Alice had seen this, she would surely have said, “I thought you were not afraid of spiders.”

Bill Bower is a retired Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Officer. Read his blog and listen to his podcasts on the outdoors at

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The inside of a rat’s eye won the 2023 Nikon Small World photo contest


An eye full of cellular stars is a stunning example of the beauty that exists in nature’s smallest sizes.

A glimpse of the back of a rat’s eye, and the immune cells that keep it healthy, won first place in the 2023 Nikon Small World photomicrography competition. The image, composed of multiple snapshots captured with a confocal microscope, was taken by neuroscientist Hassanain Qambari of the Lions Eye Institute’s Centre for Ophthalmology and Visual Science in Perth, Australia.

The photo is artificially colored to showcase the eye’s optic nerve — the black spot in the center — and surrounding structures in the retina, a layer of cells within the eye that captures light. A protein that helps blood vessels contract is shown in red and cell nuclei are blue. In yellow are astrocytes, a kind of immune cell that helps control inflammation in the retina.

The image is part of research that aims to uncover how diabetic retinopathy — a disease where high blood sugar damages retinal blood vessels — can alter the function and structure of the retina, Qambari says. When people are diagnosed, the disease is typically already in a late stage and the retina has sustained irreversible damage. Some people can go blind.

By pinpointing any changes that happen early on, researchers may be able to develop a drug to reverse those changes before the disease advances and causes damage.

The inner workings of the rat eye is one of 86 photos recognized in this year’s competition, the winners of which were announced October 17. Here are a few of our other favorites.

Fixing muscle

An image of a myoblast seen at 63 times magnification divided in two.
Cells called myoblasts help build muscle. The myoblast in the center of this photo, shown at 63 times magnification, is dividing in two. A protein that provides structural support for cells and pulls genetic material apart during division is colored cyan. Another protein important for muscle contraction is orange. Cell nuclei are magenta.Vaibhav Deshmukh

Some of these cells are in fix-it mode.

The photo, snapped by molecular physiologist Vaibhav Deshmukh, showcases cells called myoblasts that build muscle. These myoblasts are from mice and can be grown indefinitely in lab dishes. With dyes and antibodies, Deshmukh, then studying heart myoblasts as a graduate student at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, marked different parts of the cells in blue, orange and magenta.

One cell, in the image’s center, is in metaphase, a stage of the cycle that divides a single cell into two. During metaphase, the nucleus dissolves, and DNA-carrying chromosomes line up in the center of the cell. In the next step of the cycle, the chromosomes will be pulled apart. The image shows “how a dividing cell changes its shape and navigates through a crowded space to complete the cell cycle,” Deshmukh says.

In the body, myoblasts kick into high gear when muscle is damaged. Muscle fibers can’t repair themselves after injuries like sprains and cuts. Instead, myoblasts fuse to the fibers to help muscle regenerate.

Plenty of pollen

An image of sunflower pollen clinging to the point of a needle.
Sunflower pollen clings to the point of an acupuncture needle, shown at 40 times its normal size.John-Oliver Dum

Allergy sufferers, beware — this photo may cause phantom itchiness or sneezing.

Educator John-Oliver Dunn of Bendorf, Germany, took more than 600 images to piece together a view of sunflower pollen on an acupuncture needle. Dunn wanted to showcase how small pollen is relative to a needle, first attempting to take photos with an insulin needle. But as acupuncture needles have a finer point, they hold the pollen better, Dunn says.

A sunflower is not actually a single flower. The brown center of just one is filled with hundreds of tiny flowers. The male flowers of this bunch are responsible for the pollen, sprouting long filaments covered in pollen for insects to pick up and take to other plants.

Mothy scales

A photo of Chinese moon moth wing scales seen at 20 times magnification in shades of pink, green, brown, and blue.
These Chinese moon moth (Actias ningpoana) wing scales, magnified 20 times, line the top of the insect’s left wing. Chinese moon moth wings are lined with magenta and black stripes. Most of the wing is white to pale green.Yuan Ji

Bright butterflies often steal the spotlight from duller-colored moths. But the scales on this Chinese moon moth (Actias ningpoana) are snatching it back. 

Photographer Yuan Ji snapped this photo of a dead moth in his studio at the World Expo Museum in Shanghai. Many photographs focus on moon moths’ flashiest features: spots that adorn their wings or long tentacle-like extensions. But Ji zoomed in on a different spot at the top border of the insect’s left wing.

Microscopic butterfly and moth scales give the insects their wing decor, which can sometimes help the organisms blend into their surroundings to hide from predators. For Ji, the scales resemble cars on a road.

A little axolotl

A photo of a 1-week-old yellow axolotl with brown spots seen on a black background.
This 1-week-old axolotl is adorably young. And that youthful look will stick around into adulthood, what’s known as neoteny. The axolotl has been magnified 25 times its normal size.Priscilla Vieto Bonilla and Brandon Antonio Segura Torres

Biologists Priscilla Vieto Bonilla and Brandon Antonio Segura Torres spent days shadowing one amphibian egg from zygote to hatch day.

What emerged was this small axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), shown at 1 week of age. Axolotls are salamanders native to just two lakes in Mexico, one of which no longer exists and another that has been reduced to mainly canals. The young creature will retain its youthful features throughout its life, a phenomenon called neoteny, Vieto Bonilla says.

It’s unclear why the animals look forever young, but it may be because their native lakes never dried up, at least not before Spanish colonizers started draining lakes near present-day Mexico City to control flooding in the 1600s. Other amphibians that live in areas with transient streams or lakes mature from water-living young into adults capable of thriving on land or in water. But year-round access to lakes may have helped axolotls hold onto larvae-esque features, such as gills, that allow them to stay in water full time.

The pair of photographers, both undergraduates at the Universidad Nacional del Comahue in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, were delighted to watch a new life develop. “While studying the theory in the classroom is one thing,” Vieto Bonilla says, “observing the zygote dividing in real time was an entirely different experience.”


Google Wallet lets you disable animations, rolling out Photo passes


For those who don’t like the whimsical Pay animation that appears after using Google Wallet, a new setting can disable it. 

“Success animations” is a new on/off toggle at the bottom of Google Wallet settings: “See fun animations after you complete a payment or use a pass.” Seasonal in nature, they appear above your card, but can now be disabled so that just the checkmark and “G Pay” logo appears. 

First previewed in June and announced again last month, Google Wallet’s new ability to add a “Photo” pass by snapping the barcode or QR code is starting to appear for some users. Once available on your device, the “Add to Wallet” FAB will show a sixth option: 

  • Payment card
  • Transit pass
  • Loyalty
  • Gift card
  • ID Card
  • Photo: Create a pass using a photo with a barcode or QR code

Our Max Weinbach encountered this on a Pixel 8 Pro, but it’s otherwise still not yet widely rolled out. 

Meanwhile, the “Google Wallet” app that appears in the Play Store switched to a versioning system that takes after Google Play services last month. It’s now 23.38.x instead of 2.203.x. This application provides a homescreen icon, but the underlying payment and card list functionality works without it and can be accessed from the “Wallet” Quick Settings Tile. 

In other miscellaneous updates, the redesign that makes the Wallet UI more compact looks to only be widely rolled out on the Pixel 8, 8 Pro, and Fold, with the latter device recently adding support for the ID Card option.

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Where What and How to Hang Vertical Art Prints


There are subjects in nature that often beg to be captured vertically. Towering waterfalls, trees, forests and slot canyons are a few of my favorites that immediately come to mind. As a photographer, it is critical to choose the orientation that presents your work in its best light. When decorating your home, it is equally important. If you have a space that you just can’t seem to fill and would like my help, I frequently work with homeowners and designers to enhance all kinds of unique space with original photography art. I enjoy speaking with current and future collectors to help bring our natural world inside their homes. Until then, let’s dive into some rules of thumb when displaying vertical artwork in your home.

Autumn Branches

Branches like arteries stretch in every direction providing the nutrients of life to the leaves of this Aspen tree in Ridgway, Colorado. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Where to Hang Vertical Photography Art Prints

Look, it happens to everyone at some point or another. You have a horizontal piece of art that you absolutely love but aren’t sure where to display it. After agonizing over it for weeks, it ends up hanging awkwardly at the end of a long hallway, leaving you with that feeling like a stranger peeking through the bathroom stall door in a public restroom. What? This has never happened to you? You need to get out more.

Ok, maybe hanging vertical art isn’t as serious as your stalker from the local coffeeshop peering into your porcelain palace, but it is a challenge that many find difficult to navigate. Maybe you’ve sought out some inspiration and tried to find out how others make their vertical prints work – at your local art gallery, while out shopping at West Elm or over at your friend’s house… you know the one with the annoying dog that likes your leg a bit too much. Don’t worry, if you’re still not sure where or how to hang your vertical photography art prints, you’ve come to the right place.

There’s an art to displaying your art artfully. If you can forgive or indulge the wordplay, this article will uncover some of the best ways to make use of vertical photography art prints in your home and provide some ideas for you to try out in your space.

Ebb & Flow

Waves rush against the weathered pillars of an old pier in La Jolla, California. The warmth of the sun flows in through the structure like windows in a drowned room, leading to the golden peach hues of a Pacific sunset beyond. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

Make The Most of Your Accent Walls

Accent walls can be the bane of the interior designer’s existence. And no two accent walls are identical, which can further complicate the matter. But these spaces are prime real estate for vertical photography or fine art prints. Abstract photography, even when originally presented in a horizontal format by the artist, can often be rotated and displayed vertically as well.

Regarding the nature of accent walls – vertical artwork can be a real game-changer. It offers a unique opportunity to infuse your personality and creativity into your living space. You might begin by evaluating the rest of the room’s aesthetic. Your choice of art or photography should harmonize with the existing decor, so consider the mood you want to convey and how you might achieve that look.

Scale and placement are crucial. A large, dramatic piece can dominate the room and become a focal point, while smaller works may be better suited to intimate spaces. In most cases, the artwork should hang at eye level for comfortable viewing, and it should also be well-lit to accentuate the overall appearance.


The bleached skeleton of a leafless tree weathers the cold chill of a desert valley in Zion National Park. The rosy sandstone, vibrant even in the depths of winter, bleeds through the spider’s web of bare branches. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Corridors, Hallways & Traditional Spaces

Oftentimes, these liminal spaces get overlooked when it comes to design or wall decorations. Adding a vertical photo or frame or two can really liven these spaces up in ways that horizontal displays cannot.

You can even arrange multiple vertical pieces to create a visual journey and guide the viewer’s eye through an interior space. The size and scale of the photos or artwork should match the space’s dimensions to complement instead of overwhelm.

These transitional spaces are a great opportunity to showcase something special that expresses your unique style, whether you gravitate toward the modern, traditional, or an eclectic style all your own.

You can also craft a gallery-like ambiance with a thoughtful mixture of vertical photographs, paintings, and other decorative pieces. Doing so is a great, low-effort way to transform these spaces into decorative delights.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Spells of whitewater race through the secluded arcade of a slot canyon towards the beckoning sunlit glow beyond in Kanarra Creek, Utah. Bands of pastel sandstone follow the water’s course, walking in the footsteps of their maker. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Above or Beside A Fireplace

Ah, the fireplace. The hearth. The heart of the home. On or above a fireplace’s mantlepiece is another great location for a striking vertical photograph. The juxtaposition of artistry and the cozy ambiance of a crackling fire can create a tranquil atmosphere that draws family and guests together.

If there’s no space above or on top of the fireplace, you can achieve similar success by flanking both sides of the masonry with vertical pieces. This creates a soothing, symmetrical appearance that can provide cohesion and continuity in an interior space.

Aside from the firelight, lighting fixtures are integral to enhancing the allure of hanging artwork or photographs. Because homes are so nuanced and varied in terms of layout and design styles, it really boils down to how well you know your space and making the most of the resources at your disposal.

Dreams Of Lucidity

The blazing crown of a gnarled Japanese maple stands stark against the emerald tapestry of the surrounding vegetation. Suspended above the ringing waters of a reflecting pool, the diffused rays of the sun give the tree a numinous glow. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

Themed Rooms

A themed room is a carefully curated interior space that follows a specific concept, style, or motif, often inspired by a particular era, cultural themes, hobbies, or personal interests. These rooms are generally meticulously pieced together to create an immersive experience for viewers or occupants.

As such, vertical photography or fine art can be a powerful tool that reinforces and enhances the chosen theme. For example, in a vintage-themed room, vertical photographs from a bygone era can transport viewers back in time and immerse them in an old-world atmosphere. In a nature-themed room, you might hang vertical photography of towering trees or natural monoliths to evoke the beauty of the natural world.

It’s also true that vertical art can make better use of available wall space while allowing for a more detailed, immersive depiction of the chosen theme. Regardless of your ideal theme or style – vertical pieces can elevate the ambiance of your space and contribute to a more engaging, memorable experience.

The Ancients

Wild Rhododendrons stretch their branches across the fog filled forest of giant redwood trees in Damnation Creek, California. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Your Favorite Armchair

Who doesn’t have a favorite armchair at home? If you don’t have one yet, go out and get one so you can hang some vertical art or photography next to it and look very stately and dignified sitting in your chair beside your decorations.

If you’ve got two armchairs next to each other or facing each other, hanging vertical art or photography between them can help create a sense of balance and natural flow through the interior space as well. Making vertical paintings and/or photography work is all about matching the energy of an existing space, or accentuating that energy and letting it flow uninhibitedly.

Even if you don’t have a favorite armchair and you’re hesitant to splurge, hanging vertical work near seating arrangements of any sort is a great way to add depth to your living space without adding more furniture or clutter to shelves.

The Larch King

A majestic larch tree, cloaked in gold, rising from the stone like a king with its soldiers spread at its feet in the North Cascades of Washington State. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

The Side Table

That under-utilized side table in the foyer? The side table in the upstairs main bedroom? Hang a vertical piece next to it! Even if the framing doesn’t exactly match the color or style of the table, you can still showcase something beautiful and spice up a lackluster wall.

Nightstands or end tables are also fantastic pieces to pair with your vertically oriented photography or artwork. Try to stick to smaller or medium-sized pieces so that you can still see the details if there’s a table lamp or something obscuring the view. Larger pieces can be beautiful when hung properly, but they can also easily overwhelm in a cozy, intimate setting.

Made In Oregon

The huge monolith of Haystack Rock juts from the surf along Oregon’s coast at Cannon Beach. A garden all of its own, the basalt tower stands testament to a lost coastline of volcanic basalt now resting beneath the waves. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Nevermind… Just Do Whatever You Want To Do

Now, don’t start trying to hang stuff from the ceiling rafters just because you can. You should still be thoughtful and intentional about curating the wall art and photography in your space, but you also have the freedom to do as you please in your own home.

Vertical pieces can be particularly effective in highlighting tall ceilings, making large open spaces feel more inviting, and accentuating certain architectural or design features. Even smaller, more slender vertical pieces can add charm to corners or accent walls where it can be difficult to get creative.

Ultimately, you get to decide how and where to hang your vertically-oriented wall art and photography. Doing so is a wonderful way to express your individuality and creativity – it offers an opportunity to tell your story, evoke emotions, and create a lasting impression on viewers. Now go get vertical!

Good Vibrations

Blooms of blue lupine ornament the rock garden of a high alpine meadow in the foothills of Mount Rainier National Park. Mimicking the shadowy hues of the foreboding crags, the fragrant flowers thrive in the slumbering peace of the ancient volcano. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.


Five Of The Best Ecotourism Trips For Nature Lovers


As interest grows in ecotourism and responsible travel, these travel spots deliver wildlife, bioluminescence, nature education, and unparalleled beauty.

Tired of tourists, long lines, smoggy cities, and commercialized entertainment? While those options have a place in our vacation plans, more and more travelers are moving away from tourist-heavy destinations in favor of quieter, nature-loving adventures.

According to a report by Grandview Research, growth in ecotourism comes from a desire for immersive travel and outdoor activities that do not adversely affect the environment, instead educating on how to interact with and preserve it. Whether by land or sea, ecotourism and sustainable travel are on the rise, and why not? It’s not just responsible — it’s fun!

Here are my picks for five trips across the nation that bring you closer to nature while protecting the environment.

Bioluminescent Nighttime Kayak Tour in St. Augustine, Florida

Seeing nighttime sea life is usually a treat reserved only for scuba divers, but in select spots around the world, bioluminescent organisms glow close to the surface. In the Maldives, they wash in with the waves, leaving a trail of sparkling gems in their wake. But you don’t have to go nearly that far for these rare sightings. In St. Augustine, Florida, make your way to Guana Lake, where Geotrippin Kayak Adventures will hook you up with everything you need to watch the nighttime waters come alive.

Hop in a kayak and join a small group paddling out into the lake and through estuaries where the river meets the sea. As the sun sets and the sky darkens, dip your small fishing net into the water and watch as the swirl lights up with comb jellies and dinoflagellates. You can even capture them in a cup and study them up close, then release them back into the water.

By day, kayak the Matanzas River Basin, where you will see everything from dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles to wading birds and oysters. The expert guides at Geotrippin will educate you on the history of this ecosystem, the science behind it, and the flora and fauna that make it special. Owner Bed Brandao is all about protecting the environment and letting it work its magic, so tours are engaging and interactive.

The bioluminescent nighttime kayak tour is appropriate for all levels, even first-time kayakers, but there are only 12 spots open each night, so make your reservations early!

Foraging Lessons in Estes Park, Colorado

Self-sustainability has become all the rage in recent years, but many people don’t know how to get started. While most are comfortable with a small backyard garden, they have no idea what wild plants are safe to pick, let alone consume.

Here’s a way to turn your vacation into an opportunity to learn the history and science behind foraging from experts in the field. Through Rocky Mountain Conservancy Field Institute, you can have an educational adventure, or, as they call it, “a classroom without walls.”

Meet up with a foraging expert who will take you to jaw-droppingly gorgeous Lily Lake. Reflecting the mountain range that includes the fourteeners of Longs Peak, the lake is a must-see no matter the season. Your guide will introduce you to the native plants identified by the Utes, the indigenous people who passed down much of their knowledge.

You’ll identify yarrow and learn that you can chew it, make a poultice, and use it to calm mosquito bites and bee stings. Suffering in the high elevation of the Rockies? Your guide will point out mountain gum weed, which you can suck on to open your bronchial passages. Or pick some wild raspberry leaves and make natural tea back in your hotel room.

Be sure to check the calendar for seasonal courses and your choice from a wide range of topics, including wildflowers, mammals, birds, cultural history, outdoor skills, photography, painting and writing.

Jet Boat Through Hell’s Canyon in Lewiston, Idaho

The only way to explore North America’s deepest river gorge (yes, deeper than the Grand Canyon) is by boat, as roads will only take you so far. And if you’re going to spend a half to a full day on the water, you might as well do it in a really fun jet boat.

Book a ride with Snake River Adventures and skim over the rapids as you take in the glorious scenery of three states: Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. The Snake River winds its way along a 1,036-mile stretch through volcanic mountains and lava tubes that run vertically along rock edges. Shiny black rocks covered in a manganese patina sparkle among hackberry and mahogany trees.

Your ride will stop at the waterside visitors center that serves as the entrance to Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. It’s the best place for a picnic, the river running through the canyon as your soundtrack. You’ll see fishermen catching giant white sturgeon, bass, rainbow trout, and Chinook salmon, but the wildlife is about to become a whole lot wilder.

From this point on, you will go where no roads can take you. You’ll see bald eagles, bighorn sheep, cougars, mountain lions, beer, osprey nests, and even petroglyphs. Better yet, cell phone service is nil, so you can truly relax into the moment.

Head South for the Year of Alabama Birding

Alabama has named 2023 the Year of Alabama Birding and is dedicated to educating visitors on what makes it one of the best birding states in the country.

Birding hotspots (to the tune of 280 updated sites), festivals, and eight birding trails highlight the state’s more than 430 species of birds. A stroll down one of the pathways can elicit everything from bald eagles and whooping cranes to swallow-tailed kites and painted buntings.

Alabama’s many forests, lakes, and waterways make it one of the major stop-off points for migrating birds. For best viewing, check their website for seasonal and hotspot tips. Depending on your preference, you can target the coast, Piedmont Plateau, Piney Woods, Wiregrass, or West Alabama, or road trip through them all.

Immerse Yourself in Marine Life in Loreto, Baja California Sur

Rodolfo Palacios with Sail Loreto is an invaluable resource when it comes to learning about the local ecosystem. Offering small boat sailing cruises, courses, and charters, he and his team will help you get familiar with Loreto and all it has to offer.

Start by sailing among the five islands of Bahía de Loreto National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site known for its marine diversity, especially marine mammals. The Gulf of California, nicknamed the Sea of Cortez, teems with life – 43 species of marine mammals and 900 species of fish, 77 of which are found only here in these waters.

Depending on the time of year, you’ll see dolphins, whales, and sea lions. Snorkel or dive with five of the seven marine turtle species, then come up for air and watch as blue-footed boobies alight on white rock outcroppings.

A four-hour sail around the islands is just $65, and snorkeling is just $70, a bargain when you consider all you’ll see in this one body of water. Knowing that you’re getting an education and protecting the environment makes this deal all the sweeter.


Mountain State Forest Festival Photo Show winners announced | News, Sports, Jobs


Submitted photo
Photographer Alan Tucker of Buckhannon is congratulated by Maids of Honor Sophia Shoemaker and Miriam Fath, and Queen Silvia Anna Ruf.

ELKINS — Arbovale resident Dale Kinnison captured the Best in Show Award at the annual Mountain State Forest Photography Show, held during festival week at the Elkins/Randolph County YMCA.

A total of 75 photos were submitted for the contest. Tyler Belt of Elkins was honored with the People’s Choice Award. Paisley Tabor earned Best in Show for the Youth Division.

“Everything went great and we had a really good show this year,” Mountain State Forest Festival Assistant Director Tracy Gooden told The Inter-Mountain. “There were a lot of great photos and we had a lot of entries submitted, so it was a really good turnout.”

Queen Silvia Anna Ruf and her Maids of Honor, Miriam Fath and Sophia Shoemaker, selected their top photos. Awards were also handed out in six other categories, including Nature, Animals, Places, People, Black & White and Youth.

In the Nature category, first place went to June Proctor of Beverly. Elkins’ Sherry Gibson was second and Beverly’s David Proctor finished in third place.

Wendy Parks, who hails from Fairmont, swept the top two spots in the Animals category. Philippi’s Hailee Poling followed Parks in third place.

Morgantown’s Dietra Savage took top honors in the Places category, and was followed by Buckhannon’s Alan Tucker and David Proctor.

The People category had just one submission with Parks placing first.

Tucker was the overall winner in the Black & White category and Gibson placed second, followed by Elkins’ Stephanie Smith.

Tabor also placed first overall in the Youth category, and Clarksburg’s Rain Hoalcraft was second. Tabor rounded out the top finishers in the Youth division with third place.

Ruf’s top choice in the contest was a photo from Proctor, while Tucker’s photo was Maid of Honor Sophie Shoemaker’s choice. Maid of Honor Miriam Fath chose a photo from Norton’s Cheryl Gottschall.

Photos submitted to the contest can be picked up at the location they were dropped off at this week.

“We had a great week for the Festival this year, we really did,” Gooden said. “All the events we had turned out really well and everything was well received. It was a really good week.”

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How Belize became a poster child for ‘debt-for-nature’ swaps


View of the Laughing Bird Caye National Park in the outskirts of Placencia village, in Stann Creek District, Belize
View of the Laughing Bird Caye National Park in the outskirts of Placencia village, in Stann Creek District, Belize.
Photo: Pedro PARDO / AFP/File
Source: AFP

When Covid hit Belize, its economy nosedived: closed borders meant fisheries and farmers had no export markets, and tourism centered on the tiny Central American nation’s warm waters and wonders of biodiversity came to a halt.

“We lost approximately 14 percent of GDP,” Prime Minister John Antonio Briceno told AFP in an interview. Nearly a third of the workforce of the country’s 400,000 people were unemployed and there wasn’t enough money “to keep the lights on,” let alone maintain onerous debt repayments.

Then came a lifeline: environmental nonprofit The Nature Conservancy (TNC) offered to lend Belize money to pay off creditors if it promised to put part of the savings into marine protection.

So-called “debt-for-nature-swaps” are being hailed as an innovative financial tool for preserving ecosystems from climate change and overexploitation, even as critics warn their generosity is overstated and they are far from a cure-all.

Finalized in November 2021, a year after Briceno took office, the deal involved TNC buying back a $553 million “superbond” which held the government’s entire commercial debt, negotiating a discount of 45 percent.

This was converted into a $364 million loan “blue bonds” in a sale arranged by Credit Suisse, unlocking $180 million for marine conservation over 20 years.

“For us, it was a win-win, it gave us a breather,” said Briceno. Notably, the buyback reduced the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio by more than 10 percent.

Old idea, bigger scale

Prime Minister of Belize Juan Antonio "Johnny" Briceno meets with reporters during the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) High-Level Event "Nature and People: Ambition to Action" in New York
Prime Minister of Belize Juan Antonio “Johnny” Briceno meets with reporters during the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) High-Level Event “Nature and People: Ambition to Action” in New York.
Photo: Zak BENNETT / AFP/File
Source: AFP

Belize’s coastline is home to the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, providing significant habitat for threatened species including manatees, turtles and crocodiles.

But warming oceans from climate change, excessive fishing, and coastal development all pose major challenges.

Under the terms of the deal, Belize agreed to expand protection to 30 percent of its territorial waters, and spend $4.2 million annually on marine conservation.

Since then, TNC signed similar agreements with Barbados and Gabon. Ecuador negotiated the biggest swap of all in May, reducing its debt obligations by about $1.1 billion to benefit the Galapagos Islands under an arrangement overseen by Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project.

Slav Gatchev, managing director of sustainable debt at TNC, told AFP that although the first debt-for-nature swaps happened in the 1980s, now they operate at a far larger scale.

“A third of the outstanding commercial debt to lower and middle income countries is in some form of distress,” he said, meaning environmental ministry budgets are stretched and it’s hard for governments to invest in nature.

He sees an opportunity to refinance up to $1 trillion of the commercial and bilateral debt, in turn generating $250 billion for climate and nature.

Paper parks?

Andre Standing, a researcher for groups including the Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements, told AFP the Belize deal was only possible because the country was about to default and it was therefore better for creditors to accept a lump sum — rather than the altruistic act it was portrayed as by some.

Moreover, he added, such deals do nothing to address the debt crisis plaguing developing countries.

“That’s true, but it’s not intended to,” Esteban Brenes, who leads conservation finance for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which is also looking to organize new debt swaps, told AFP.

“We’re going to take a piece of the debt and use some proceeds for something better, but by no means are we going to solve the big problem,” he said.

Another concern has been that countries might agree to lofty commitments to secure concessions but then fall to “paper park syndrome” where protections exist only in theory.

But Gatchev said the commitments are legally binding and governments could incur fees for breaking them.

“Our reputation as the world’s largest conservation organization is on the line here, and we have no incentive to sugarcoat lack of compliance,” he stressed.

Briceno, for his part, said the high-profile deal had increased environmental consciousness among his people, who were now quick to report illegal mangrove dredging, for instance.

The debt restructure was “a very good start,” he continued, but his country needed far more assistance from the Global North.

“Developed countries destroyed their environment to be able to have development: high-rises, big vehicles, nice fancy homes,” said Briceno.

“Now we want the same and you’re telling us ‘we can’t afford you to destroy what we have destroyed’ — then pay us.”

Source: AFP


Outgoing Izabella is a nature lover


Izzy is an inquisitive, outgoing, and outspoken girl in search of her forever family. She loves to explore the outdoors and nature, which include various community activities, gardening, and collecting small insects for her “bug sanctuary.” She always willing to try new things and new foods. Izzy also enjoys arts and crafts and going to the library. Her biggest strength is her ability to advocate and speak up for herself.

Izzy attends a local public school and receives support through an IEP. She participates in many extracurricular activities which include gymnastics, cheerleading, and the Girl Scouts. Izzy is currently placed in a residential program and has made positive connections with peers in and outside of school.

Izzy would thrive with a caring and committed family of any constellation with a female parental figure with or without other children in the home. Interested families need to have experience in trauma informed care and therapeutic parenting. Interested families should also willing to accept and have access to the support of therapeutic services. They must be dedicated to providing ethnic role models and appropriate information about her culture which includes discussing racism. It is important to Izzy that her maintain contact and visits with her younger brother who is also in foster care.

To learn more about adoption from foster care visit . Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) can give you guidance and information on the adoption process. Reach out today to find out all the ways you can help children and teens in foster care.


Gisele Bundchen enjoys her single life and strips down for a daring photo shoot


Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen’s divorce was one of the celebrity stories of 2022, however the Brazilian model is now looking to move on with her own life without him.

This has coincided with a stunning return to the modelling scene, with the 43-year-old going tastefully topless in a photoshoot.

The shoot, for Frame’s 2023 winter denim line, sees Gisele without a shirt on, modelling a pair of jeans.

Despite her advancing years, the model’s figure was nothing short of breathtaking, using her hands to cover her breasts.

She has been announced as the face of the Frame line of winter denim, and one of the pictures also showed her lying down topless, making full use of the pose to highlight the nature of the denim jeans.

What else is going on in Gisele’s career?

Having returned to modelling after the breakup of her marriage, Gisele also appeared in a Victoria’s Secret campaign in August, in which she was pictured alongside Naomi Campbell, Candice Swanepoel, Adriana Lima and Emily Ratajkowski.

Gisele Bundchen shows Tom Brady what he’s missing with sexy Carnival dance

Some have argued that this return to the modelling world has coincided with the financial pressures that came with Gisele and Brady being embroiled in the FTX collapse and subsequent scandal.

Reports suggest the pair lost almost $30 million from their combined wealth, which whilst less problematic for Brady, would certainly have an impact on a newly-single Bundchen.

Despite that, Bundchen has kept a positive outlook on things in the months since her split with Brady, making clear she is using nature as a way to reach inner-peace.

“Nature is my best wellness treatment,” Bundchen told People Magazine.

“Just feeling the sun, taking a dip in the ocean, running on the sand and feeling the grass on my feet.

“Just being in nature just gives you energy, it just makes you feel good.”


The open-source Furbinator 3000 could be the nature photographer’s best friend!


An industrious Ring owner has used AI to train the outdoor camera to identify badgers and foxes visiting his garden. Having set up the tech, James Milward used it to trigger a high-frequency deterrent for the animals – but photographers might have other uses for the code he shared.

Milward’s project essentially uses code he assembled to monitor a Ring camera’s feed, decide whether visitors are foxes and badges, and – if they are – turn on an ultrasonic fox and badger repellant he bought from Amazon. This is where, it occurs to us, a nature photography enthusiast might be more interested in connecting an alert in their home – or sending an alert to their phone, or even to a wireless shutter release.

• Too much hassle? Try one of the best trail cameras!

To be fair, this is a bit of an enthusiast’s project, as Milward himself explains on Medium. It was, however, an educational challenge he had been looking for as an excuse to learn the secrets of machine learning.

He realized that a camera, like one of the best Ring cameras (which boast infrared night vision), would provide the ideal feed for him. Moreover, although Ring doesn’t offer an official API, its sheer popularity has brought solutions. Ring enthusiasts have not only assembled an unofficial one, but also a library that can stream video via the open RTSP standard (yes, the same one that most livestreaming uses).

Simulated image of image identification system

Milward was keen to train the cameras to identify foxes and badgers, because each mammal needed a different frequency of sound to deter it. He reasoned that the camera could identify the culprit in his backyard so that the correct deterrent could be activated.

Using a Raspberry Pi 4 he could run a tool called TensorFlow Lite – but first he needed to download video clips from his Ring cameras, screen capture them, and put them into his Google Drive. From there they were fed into a labeling tool (LabelImg) in which he manually told the computer which were foxes or badgers. This was essential, as using off-the-shelf models left the computer spotting sinks, cars, umbrellas, or bears!

At this point, a model is built using Google Colab, which Milward said cost him under $2 worth of ‘Compute Units’ (and 2.5 hours of remote processing from 240 images).

This was just the beginning of many refinements to the project, which included more time spent refining the model and the addition of features to ignore objects that weren’t moving. Oh, and the name “Furbinator 3000”? That was ChatGPT’s suggestion!

What we like, though, is the idea that a Ring camera is just a beginning; if it’s possible to use AI training to adapt a camera and protect a lawn, it’s equally possible to do it for your own purposes. There are certainly some foxes at the bottom of my garden, but they do look good on camera. Do I protect the lawn, or the hope of that perfect animal portrait?

If you’re keen to keep an eye on your property, check out the best outdoor security cameras. If you’re more interested in getting a great shot of the animal visitors, take a look at the best cameras for wildlife photography.