Nature

Echo Bluff State Park is officially open.

Gov. Jay Nixon cut the ribbon Saturday on Missouri's newest park, which is being promoted as a hub from which visitors can explore the state's Ozark region.

In this encore presentation of Central Standard: A KU professor, who studies how lizards branch into various species, has come to some pretty big conclusions on what defines a species.

Guest:

Many people dismiss Kansas as flyover country: squares and rectangles in a vast farmland quilt. A Lawrence author begs to differ; he spent years exploring the undiscovered wilderness in the state. He shares the last wild spots that still exist around Kansas ... and in the KC suburbs.

Guest:

Robert Clark / Feathers: Displays of Brilliant Plumage, Chronicle Books, 2016

Kansas native Robert Clark has grown up to be a National Geographic photographer whose most recent book depicts beautiful feathers from all over the world. How a Kansas youth spent feather-collecting and a job photographing athletes for a Hays, Kansas newspaper helped his career take off.

Guest:

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

If you just want to see the video, scroll down

I'm not afraid to admit that I'm scared of heights. Standing 50 feet off the ground on a lightly swaying tree platform at the new Go Ape Zip Line and Treetop Adventure in Kansas City's Swope Park didn't inspire a whole lot of confidence in my heart — at first. 

But the two safety cables attached to my harness (which are strong enough to support an SUV with five people in it) ease my instinctual concern. 

A KU professor, who studies how lizards branch into various species, has come to some pretty big conclusions on what defines a species.

Guest:

Courtesy Photo / Rhianna Weilert

We love grass in the United States. In fact, we've planted nearly 40 million acres of turf — along highways, in parks and in our home lawns. 

Turf grass isn't inherently bad, but the problem, according to the Kansas City Native Plant Initiative, is that there is too much of it.

“It has virtually no value to native species of wildlife that live here,” volunteer project coordinator Kathy Gates told Steve Kraske on KCUR's Up to Date

Another downside? It’s expensive to maintain.

This city was founded on a geological anomaly called a rock ledge. Surrouded by cliffs and gorges, no less.  Back then, what we now call downtown Kansas City was dense wilderness. A geology professor explains.

Guest:

  • Richard J. Gentile, professor emeritus of geology, The University of Kansas

Kansas City-native Sara Dykman just completed a 3,500 mile, 13-state adventure that took her and her crew from Glacier National Park, to a series of creeks and rivers, to the Missouri River and eventually to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico — all by canoe.

Known for their annual migration to and from Mexico, monarch butterflies are declining in number as their habitat decreases. Learn what the University of Missouri is doing to support these long-distance flyers in the Show-Me State.

Guests:

Austin McKahan / The Kansas City Zoo

Nikita the polar bear is leaving Kansas City. His next project? To procreate on behalf of his entire species. We bid a fond farewell to this 1200-pound celebrity covered in fur. 

Guest:

  • Randy Wisthoff, executive director and CEO, The Kansas City Zoo
Cody Newill

Everybody knows that Santa Claus is used to some cold weather — how else would he tolerate the sub-zero climate of the North Pole?

But old Saint Nick took things a step further over the weekend by taking a dip with the Kansas City Zoo's penguins.

Kelsey Smith

This story was rebroadcast as part of our best-of 2015 series. It was originally reported in August 2015.

Squirrels can be found just about anywhere in the Kansas City area, from the densest parts of the urban core, to rural prairie or forest settings.

They typically are a grayish color, brown or an orangey red, but recent black squirrels sightings in one Northland neighborhood have residents curious about the origins of their new dark furry neighbors.

Wikimedia Commons

The Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Animal Health is warning Kansas residents about an uptick in rabies infections this year.

As of July 1, there have been 69 positive cases of rabies in the state, 13 of which have been in domestic animals. In 2014, there were 69 cases for the entire year. 

Kansas Animal Health Commissioner Bill Brown says that the increase is part of a natural cycle. He says rabies cases typically surge every few years, and this year's hot temperatures and wet weather could be spurring more animal activity — and more chances for infection.

Alyson Raletz / KCUR

Cara Smith didn't move to Parkville, Missouri, for the Missouri River.

But that's why she stayed.

Seventeen

Jun 22, 2015

That's how many years it's been since the last time this summer's brood of cicadas came out of the ground. Why do they spend so long underground? What do they do down there? And should you consider eating them? Bonus sounds: Will Smith's Gettin' Jiggy Wit It and live cicadas in-studio.

Guest:

  • Mary McCoy, entomologist and professor emeritus in Washburn University's biology department
Martin Cathrae / Flickr-CC

During the summer months in Kansas City, it's common for the sweet scent of fresh-cut grass to waft through the muggy air.

And while that smell might be pleasing to some of us humans, two University of Missouri researchers say the newly shorn grass blades are none too pleased about it.

Cody Newill / KCUR

More than 700 volunteers showed up at Lakeside Nature Center Saturday morning to help clean up the Blue River. 

The volunteers divided up into more than 20 groups to clean up different sections of the river. One of the teams stationed at the Coal Mine Pond just off I-435 had their work cut out for them: on top of the usual trash, a 16-foot boat sat underneath the water.

Group leader Jim Armer has been involved in river cleanups for about 10 years. In that time, he's seen just about everything there is to see at the bottom of a riverbed.

It’s that time of year when we’ll start to see more and more mammals scurrying about around the city. Mammals like foxes, squirrels and, yes, maybe even some coyotes.

In the past 15 years, coyote populations in Midwestern urban and suburban areas have been increasing -- including in the Kansas City area.

“A  lot of folks don’t realize that we have them around the state, they don’t realize that they’re inside the cities. So when they see one they get all concerned,” says Andy Friesen, a wildlife damage biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife.

February 2 will see the 129th celebration of Groundhog Day. On this Up To Date, guest host Stephen Steigman takes a peek at the life of the marmot, the animal we all know as a groundhog, with an expert who has been studying the animal for more than 40 years.

Guest:

Preserving Outdoor Assets

Dec 15, 2014
Urban Trail Co. / www.facebook.com/earnyourdirt

The winter cold inspires folks to spend more time indoors, but there's still a lot going on outside. On this edition of Up to Date, Steve Kraske talks with an urban forester about protecting trees during the winter. Then, we discuss one organization's partnership with Kansas City, Mo. to build and use trails in area parks which leads us to explore the city's process in joining with outside organizations.  Plus, a look at how business landscaping can protect birds of prey. 

Guests:

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Lakeside Nature Center in Kansas City, Mo., is a place where people can get an up-close look at wild animals and plants that surround the area. It’s also one of the largest animal rehabilitation centers in Missouri.

Wild animals are brought in when they lose their habitat, are injured or abandoned. Humans are animal’s biggest threat, but the center is a place where humans are trying to help them out.

KCUR's Gina Kaufmann

You know how sometimes you stumble across a word you've never heard before in your entire life, and then suddenly, the word is everywhere? That happened to me with the pawpaw.

I was born and raised in Missouri, so discovering in my thirties that a random fruit with a made-up-sounding name is considered my state's own banana? That came as a shock (though, to be fair, it's also known as the Indiana banana and the West Virginia banana). 

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Even though Kansas City is a landlocked city, there are a lot of great fishing spots, including the Missouri River and a large amount of area lakes, ponds and small rivers. The Missouri Department of Conservation and Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, even stock Kansas City area park lakes with fish throughout the year to promote close-to-home fishing. 

Here’s some information to help aspiring urban anglers get started.

Missouri Department of Conservation

Crappies, blue gills, blue bass and catfish. If that menu sounds tasty to you, then you are in luck, because that's what you stand to catch if you go fishing in and around Kansas City.

Brooke Novak / Flickr-CC

There's one topic that keeps on giving year after year: allergies. From seasonal, to year-round, gluten to peanuts, allergies affect over 65 million people in the United States alone.

In the first segment of Thursday's Up to Date, Steve Kraske discusses all things mold, pollen, and food protein with Dr. Jay Portnoy​, who heads the allergy and asthma department at Children's Mercy Hospital.

Guest:

Catherine L. Sherman and Monarch Watch

Insect ecologist Chip Taylor is a friend to both the monarch butterfly and the honeybee. He's been tracking monarchs and restoring their habitats since 1992. And he's worked with bees in French Guiana, Venezuela and Mexico.

changr / Flickr - CC

It's starting to actually feel like fall. Daylight is slipping away sooner, mornings are brisk and nights are chilly. As the temperature starts to cool, leaves start to slowly change to those beautiful warm colors of yellow, orange and red and will soon fall to the ground. Critters scamper about preparing for who knows what kind of winter. From bird migrations, strange insects, frog populations and more, autumn is certainly making her place in Kansas City. 

Building bridges, swinging an axe and living in a yurt are all part of normal life for a trail worker at Glacier National Park.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

The American Crow is a smart and wary social bird with all black feathers, black talons and a black beak. Every once in a while during the winter, you can see thousands of these crows gathering in certain spots around parts of Kansas City.  Over the past 50 years, crows have been congregating more and more in urban environments – and if you’ve been in the middle of a dive-bombing murder, you know they create quite the disturbance.

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