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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Coal: The Biodiversity Fuel

Posted by Richard Conniff on May 23, 2013

Paradise for a strange new world.

Paradise for a strange new world.

Before we get started, a warning. What you’re about to read is going to sound at first like something cooked up by the same folks who gave us the oxymoronic (and otherwise moronic) advertising slogan “Clean Coal.” It will sound like a fantasy story even a Fox News anchor would not dare announce: “Coal—The Biodiversity Fuel.”

In a paper being published in the journal Biological Conservation, researchers in the Czech Republic, who have been studying bees and wasps, report that some of that country’s endangered species, including four insects that had been presumed regionally extinct, have turned up instead thriving in the fly ash heaps at coal-fired power plants.

Fly ash, as the paper helpfully explains, is what’s left over after a power plant burns coal, and it’s composed of “glass-like particles of mineral residua which are carried out of the boiler in the flow of exhaust gases,” plus bottom ash, boiler slag, and “flue gas desulphurization materials.” To be clear, the “fly” in “fly ash” is not a reference to insects; rather, it has to do with the fact that the substance is so light and fine that it flies up during combustion.

The study found 227 species of bees and wasps, including 35 that were endangered or critically endangered, living at two power plant sites. Some of these insects are important pollinators, and others may be valuable as predators and parasitoids for controlling agricultural pests.

To  read the rest of this story click here.


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