Shirley Hao's Blog Posts

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

Shirley Hao's blog

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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

Learn more about Earthjustice.

Shirley Hao undertakes sous chef duties as Senior Web Producer for Earthjustice's website, serving up interactive online features, large and small, on Earthjustice's litigation and campaign work. Shirley also writes the unEARTHED column Monday Reads, profiling quirky stories and how Earthjustice's work can unexpectedly intersect with everyday news. The column has engaged topics from bear vs. zucchini (and our litigation to protect the grizzly and polar varieties) to giggling penguins (and a look at how that species and others are faring in our warming world). She's an enthusiastic appreciator of the four 'C's (community supported agriculture, comics, cats and canines) and is fond of practicing the under-appreciated art of sleeping in.

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12 February 2010, 6:38 PM
A petrel primer: three tantalizing tidbits
Hawaiian petrel. Photo: Josh Adams / USGS.

“And over this desolate face of nature a stern silence reigned, scarcely broken by the flapping of the wings of petrels and puffins.”      —20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Jules Verne

The mysterious, rarely seen Hawaiian petrel are true seafarers, living nearly all of their lives over the open ocean. Earthjustice is working in the Aloha State on behalf of these endangered birds. Once plentiful throughout the islands, they are colliding—literally—with human development, killed when they fly into power lines.

For the non-birdwatchers among us, these birds may seem to be a nondescript bird species—but they aren’t ‘just another bird.’ Today, Monday Reads presents not one, but three interesting tidbits to better acquaint you with the Hawaiian petrel.

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08 February 2010, 3:00 AM
Getting to know pika, while we still can
Go, little pika! Go! We're cheering for you. Photo: / CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s been a tough few days for the American Pika, who were shut out of the endangered species list, no thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These alpine rabbit cousins (don’t let those mousey ears fool you) are adapted to live in cold climates and can overheat at even a mild 78°F. Rising temperatures have pushed pikas farther and farther up their mountainous habitat—and if things don’t change, soon there will be nowhere else for them to go but extinct.

Pika aren’t just any small fuzzball. The character and antics of this scrappy flower-gathering herbivore have endeared them to scientists, hikers, and Monday Reads writers alike.

For the most part, pikas are hard working little bunnies. (Slacker pika do exist; more on that later.) Although they weigh only a third of a pound, they must collect more than 60 pounds of vegetation to survive the winter. Pikas don’t hibernate, instead hunkering down by their “haypiles” and munching on the stores through the snowy months. How come the food doesn’t spoil, you ask? The venerable David Attenborough brings us these teeny mammals in action, and tells us why:

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01 February 2010, 5:04 PM
Of right whales and dogs
Fargo the detection dog meets a right whale calf up close and personal. Photo: New England Aquarium.

Collectively, detection dogs have had a long and illustrious career. Although drug sniffing and bomb detection dogs often get top billing, canines are also proudly finding counterfeit DVDs, bed bugs, and cell phones.

And now we can add right whales to the list.

(Well, right whale scat, at least. Although occasionally, a curious right whale may show up along the way.)

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22 January 2010, 6:11 PM
One hundred years of national park goodness
Beargrass, a lily native to Glacier National Park, blooms along the Iceberg Lake trail in Montana. Photo: NPS.

Happy Birthday, Glacier National Park!

Okay, so we’re a few months early…but when you’re coming up on one hundred, you clearly deserve a more grandiose and extended celebration.

The birthday star is one half of the dynamic duo making up Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. North of Glacier National Park lies its companion, Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. Together, these parks represent a corridor of nearly unparalleled pristine wilderness, where almost all of the historical flora and fauna still exist.

In honor of Glacier’s centennial, Glacier Park Magazine editor Chris Peterson set about to photograph the park for a hundred consecutive days. The results are nothing short of thrilling. Chris’s images and insightful commentary bring alive the beauty, diversity, and wonder of this amazing place.

A sampling of Chris’s work:

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19 January 2010, 5:48 PM
Ligers, tigons, prizzly bears! Oh my! Also: False killer whales
A second generation wholphin. Photo: Mark Interrante.

Monday Reads was on hiatus yesterday in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth day.

Animal hybrids are generally not unheard of in the natural world, but they are almost always guaranteed to come with awesome names. Ligers? Zorses? Beefalo? The Toast of Botswana? (Okay, that last one is cheating a bit.)

Interspecific hybrids have also brought us the wholphin, who may sound like a Dr. Seuss-ian fantasy but is just another wonderfully named hybrid. See diagram below:

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11 January 2010, 7:04 PM
A quick primer on the Pacific fisher, and a photo mystery
Porcupines, beware. Photo: John Jacobson, Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

Question: What animal combines perseverance and tenacity with pro-wrestling moves to dine on porcupines?

Answer: Read on…

Last Thursday, we heard from Earthjustice’s California regional office on their success in protecting the rare Pacific fisher. Monday Reads was wondering, just what might be a Pacific fisher? Though its name may conjure up images of kingfishers and the like, this fisher doesn’t fish: it’s a close relative of the otter and the mink.

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04 January 2010, 4:53 PM
A lunar treat on New Year's Eve.
The New Year's Eve blue moon. Photo: Sayyid Azim/AP.

If you looked to the night sky on New Year’s Eve, you may have wondered if the new decade was being ushered in with a full moon. Indeed, your eyes did not deceive you—and not only was the moon full, but it was blue, a feat worthy of the oft-used phrase "once in a blue moon."

For much of the world, the final night of 2009 featured a “blue moon,” the second full moon of a calendar month. Interestingly, this definition of “blue moon” most likely came about as the result of an editorial mishap, when in the 1940s, Sky & Telescope magazine mistakenly gave an incorrect explanation in an attempt to clarify exactly what “blue moon” means. Though the magazine issued a correction, the definition stuck and became part of popular culture. (This may have been partly due to the fact that the correction came a mere 50 years later.)

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21 December 2009, 5:47 PM
Northern white rhinos, running out of time, return home
Four rare rhinos return to Africa. Photo: NowPublic.

As many of us brave planes, trains and automobiles to travel home for the holidays, this weekend, a group of four African northern white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) were also (ancestrally) homeward bound—though under a more somber air than befits the holiday season.

In a last bid effort to save their subspecies, Najin, Fatu, Suni, and Sudan (two female and two male rhinos) left their home in Prague’s Dvur Kralove Zoo and flew to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a wildlife preserve in Kenya. The four rhinos represent fully half the population of their subspecies—only eight northern white rhinos are believed to exist (all are in captivity)—and these travelers are the only ones capable of breeding.

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14 December 2009, 5:11 PM
A tale of octopus and coconut shells
Octopus merrily scampering along with coconut shell. Photo: BBC.

While Copenhagen and climate change are crowding the headlines at the moment, Monday Reads is breaking ranks to bring you news of a lighter—but we hope just as interesting—variety. Tool-use was once thought to be the exclusive realm of humans, but one by one other species have been added to the club—and now we welcome the octopi.

Researchers from Australia’s Museum Victoria observed the veined octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) digging up coconut shells from the ocean floor, specifically to use as a protective cover. Not wanting to be left empty suckered when they needed to hide and there was not a shell to be found, the octopus jauntily scamper around with oversized shells in tow. See for yourself (fast forward to 0:50 for the goods; stay until 2:05 to experience the sensation of being enveloped by an octopus):

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07 December 2009, 6:12 AM
The curious effect of climate change on wild boars.
I can run at speeds of 30 mph. Beware. Photo: GerardM.

Last week, unEARTHED reported on a recent study detailing the impact of global warming on endangered species. We’ve also heard of starving polar bears eating each other due to thinning ice, and pika freezing to death as melting snow drifts become too thin to insulate them in the winter. However, swinging the other way in this warming world are wild boars. Spiegel Online tells the tale of a small nation of more than two million wild boars, who are at present traipsing across the German countryside in growing ranks; they increased three-fold last year alone. But is that a good thing?

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