Grand Manan sand at sunset

The Life of Sand

Sand is the consummate shapeshifter, marking time as it sifts through an hourglass, forming ephemeral wave patterns on a beach, squeezing between one’s toes or even morphing into the concrete of our buildings. Yet few realize sand’s fascinating story. What is sand, and where does it form?

Red pencil urchin Heterocentrotus mamillatus in Hawaii

An Urchin in Hand

An Urchin in Hand Red pencil urchin (Heterocentrotus mamillatus) in Hawaii Sea urchin skeletons are frequent finds along the Maine coast. With luck, the shell-like skeleton is entire but denuded of the animal’s tube feet and protective spines, revealing orderly but mysterious patterns of tiny knobs and holes. Alive, a sea urchin is equally enigmatic. …

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Stream foam and fall leaves

FOAM-Oh!

FOAM-Oh! 1 Stream foam collecting around fall leaves Foam isn’t just stuff that comes out of shaving cream cans, keeps your take-out coffee hot, or floats in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.2 It is a ubiquitous natural phenomenon that is fascinating and can affect rainfall; has caused seabird die-offs; and influences global climate. Don’t sell …

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Mouse in woods

Mice-capades

Mice-capades Mice1 live in a gray zone between the heroic and charismatic mini-fauna that star in Disney movies, children’s stories, and cartoons2 and the reviled, disease-infested rodents that a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry is dedicated to eliminating. It’s no wonder that mice seem nervous all the time. As we shall see, however, despite their tiny physical stature, …

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Lepidoderma tigrinum on moss

Jewels from Slime

Slime molds are diamonds in the rough, and the closer you look, the more they shine. You may have encountered them as amorphous blobs on a lawn or a walk in the woods. They are on leaves, in the soil of Antarctica, and in deserts, to name a few habitats.

Fantastic Feathers

Birds have perfected the fine-tuned ability to fly over millions of years. In fact, some geese have been observed flying over Mount Everest. Their enviable ability to fly relies upon several factors, the first and foremost being the engineering marvels called feathers.

Wolf spider eye eyeshine

Night Eyes

Picture ancestral humans huddled around a fire, peering beyond the edge of the firelight into a nighttime world dotted with the golden eyes of other animals. Welcome to the gleaming world of eyeshine, where wildlife, or perhaps your dog caught in the beam of a flashlight on the last walk before bed, stares at you with glowing eyes.

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