Category Archives: Biology

Appalachian Plants and PASA

At PASA conference in State College.  Great presentation by Eric Burkhardt of Shaver’s Creek Environmental center about the biology, economics, and possibilities for wild-harvested Appalachian plants.  Lots of plants are harvested will-nilly and with no good oversight or sustainable practices.  For example, golden seal (Hydrastis Canadensis), is used widely as an alternative medicine.  But the people who collect don’t really know when to collect it to maximize the beneficial chemicals.  At the same time, its best use seems to be as a topical antibiotic, but manufacturers don’t sell it that way, necessarily.

Ginseng is a wild, wild market where super-high prices driven by Asian markets lead to rampant theft and a massive over-harvesting in Appalachia.


In a twisted irony, many of the thiefs (who might be able to get $1,000 worth of ginseng in an hour of digging) looking for this root that can improve overall well-being (its an adaptogen) are themselves driven by their won twisted opiate addictions.  And, even when someone is using forest to cultivate wild ginseng catches these malicious though tortured souls, local authorities don’t prosecute it because it’s just a weed or they don’t know what ginseng looks like.  Imagine if a thief took a bushel of apples or a pasture-raised chicken and there were no charges even once you caught them!

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Filed under Biology, Food, Uncategorized

Colony Collapse Disorder in bees comes close to home

I was reading the New Yorker last week about Bees and CCD (colony collapse disorder):  a very nice article by Elizabeth Kolbert (she even gets into the act and becomes an amateur apiarist).   She has problems with bears trying to eat her honey. Guess Winnie the Pooh has a kernel of truth.   As it turnsout, the beekeeper who first “reported” this problem lives here in Lewisburg: Richard Hackenberg.

What’s more, some of my biology colleagues are studying this problem too.  I know Beth Capaldi!  I play Frisbee with her.

Small world?  Not technically here.  Just a coincidence.  The thing about the bees and CCD is really worrisome to me.  I asked my students last Spring if they had heard of it and less than 25% had.   Add high oil prices, collapsing housing starts,bubble popping in mortgage markets, and global instability around Bush’s lame duck foreign policy and you have a recipe for one hell of a recession.  I sometimes wonder if the technocratic managing of the economy has gotten so good as to keep the bottom from falling out like it did in 1929…

Now they may be in for a real test.

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Filed under Biology, Political Economy, Small World