Fri, 01/19/2018 - 6:42am

NC Science Now Reporter's blog

Training Cadaver Dogs

It turns out that students in the forensic sciences aren’t alone using Western Carolina University’s Forensic Osteology Research Station. The outdoor human decomposition research facility is also used to train cadaver dogs and their handlers.

That may sound unusual at first, because it would seem that a search dog simply follows its nose to do its job. But it turns out a search dog needs to be taught what it is searching for and human remains contain a wide variety of volatile compounds that the canine nose can detect.

Watershed Woes

What’s a watershed anyway?

Watersheds come in many shapes and sizes. That’s because Mother Nature doesn’t recognize city, county, state or national boundaries. It’s the geography and the contours of the land that determine where the water drains.

And that’s the key to understanding the concept of a watershed. A watershed is an area of land where all of the water that is above ground and even below ground drains into the same place.

Putting The Blue in Blue Ridge Mountains

What makes the Blue Ridge Mountains blue?

Before we even talk about the color, let’s first talk about the name, the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Technically, the Blue Ridge Mountains are a segment of the Appalachian Mountains. The Blue Ridge runs about 615 miles, from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, through parts of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina to Mount Oglethorpe, Georgia. 

Hard Truth About Impervious Surfaces

Here’s a little science observation for you.

Look out the window the next time it rains. Spend a few minutes looking at the streets and the parking lots. Watch all the water flowing into the storm drain.

Now look at the grass. You’ll have a tough time spotting any water flowing out of there. Now you can understand the challenges facing scientists as they study the health of tidal creeks in North Carolina. The amount of stormwater runoff has a tremendous effect on water quality. 

Enjoy the Ride

I don’t remember when I learned to ride (or should I say drive) a bicycle. Let’s just say it has been quite a few years since I survived those shaky training wheels and learned the art of balancing and pedaling at the same time.

For my entire life, the two-wheeled vehicle of choice has always been a traditional upright bicycle, in which the body weight rests on the hands, feet, and the sitting bones. Okay, let’s not worry about being politically correct. The body weight rests on the hands, feet, and butt.

Nutty Nuggets

Before I say anything about the importance of acorns in the forest, it’s important to start with the fact that the world’s biggest acorn is in Moore Square Park in downtown Raleigh. It’s fitting to find it there. After all, Raleigh calls itself “The City of Oaks.” And if it were real, there's no doubt this nut would produce a giant oak. The big nut is 10 feet tall and weighs about 1,250 lbs.