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Otters at Paradise

22 Apr

Every year, spring thaw means river otter time in Western Massachusetts.  Just as the ice on ponds and lakes starts to melt, I keep an eye out for these playful aquatic mammals to pop out onto the ice and munch on fish and crayfish.

otter on ice  otter face

This year, nature lovers at Smith were treated to an especially good view of a pair of rivers otters on Paradise Pond for about a week running.  I took these pictures and videos over the course of about 3 days as the otter (or otters — I’m not sure if I was looking at the same one all the time, and I never got to see both at once) ate fish after fish.

Now it’s time to look for otter pups!

-James Lowenthal is a professor of astronomy, co-director of the environmental concentration: climate change, and a CEEDS Faculty Fellow.

Bring on the Bikes!

28 Aug

Smithies have been bicycling for over 100 years, with good reason: it’s fun, convenient, and usually the quickest way door-to-door for trips under two or three miles.

Smith bikes1Photo: Smith College Archives*

Now we know another reason to bike: it’s the most energy-efficient mode of transportation ever invented.  The automobile is the least efficient: driving cars produces some 1/4 of US greenhouse gas emissions, and 2/3 of all US trips one mile or less are currently made by car, so bicycles will play an increasingly important role in combatting climate change.  As an Environmental Fellow of Smith’s Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability and Director of our new Environmental Concentration on Climate Change, I invite you to visit CEEDS to pick up a regional bike trail map and a “Go By Bike” safety info brochure, and to ride your bike!

SMith bikes2Photo: Smith College Archives*

You can read more in this column I wrote for the Amherst Bulletin and Daily Hampshire Gazette.

-James Lowenthal, Professor, Astronomy

*Used with permission of the Smith College Archives from the Athletics Subject Collection–Bicycles, 1920s–Box 1348.