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This post was edited by Cicci at 2012-4-10 11:05|
Spearhunting Cozumel, Mexico
On the surface, the island of Cozumel—a 30-minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula—is a peaceful tropical paradise. But off the island’s shore, it is under siege from the beautiful, exotic lionfish, which is encroaching on the world’s second-largest coral reef.
Invulnerable to virtually all predators due to poisonous spines that cover its body, the lionfish has spread from the North Atlantic—where it was accidentally introduced by the aquarium trade in the 1980s—to the Caribbean and across the Gulf of Mexico. When it reached the Cozumel reefs in 2009, its voracious appetite for more than 50 fish species made it a threat to the local ecosystem.
Scuba instructor Gabriel Santana Perez is one of many local divers fighting the invasion. He leads awestruck tourists around the reefs, most of the time as a conventional tour guide—navigating narrow swim-throughs in the coral and spotting sharks, eels, rays, and other exciting sea life. But he is always on the hunt for lionfish.
When he spies a group of the interlopers lurking under the coral, the dive master darts toward them, readying the spear he carries on every dive. He impales the fish one after another, snips off their poisonous spines, and feeds them to other fish, including groupers that circle suspiciously before swallowing their meal whole.
Visitors can sign up to accompany Santana Perez at Del Mar Aquatics or take spear-hunting classes at several local dive shops. For those who prefer to keep a safe distance from the fray, some area restaurants cook up and serve the lionfish.
Marine Safari Catalina Island, California
Visitors here, an hour out to sea from Los Angeles, can decide just how close they want to get to the rich marine life thriving in the area’s kelp forests and coral reefs. Glass-bottomed boat tours provide a glimpse down into a marine conservation area called Lover’s Cove. To get an even closer look, clamber into a semisubmersible vessel and view the ocean from a few feet below the surface, or strap on an undersea helmet (complete with speakers and an air-supply hose) and stroll on the seafloor with a biologist guide.
Warm Springs Reservation, Oregon
A wild run of spring chinook salmon make their annual 300-mile journey from the Pacific Ocean to the Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery in central Oregon, arriving each spring and summer. Visitors can walk the grounds, watch salmon climb the fish ladders, and tour the facilities. Nearby, guided tours in inflatable kayaks travel the last leg of the salmon’s route along the river.
Side Trip US Space and Rocket Center Huntsville, Alabama
You’re never too old for space camp, and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center knows it. Adults can register for a weekend filled with model rocket building, spaceflight history classes, and, upon special request, underwater astronaut training. Students also pilot a flight simulator and climb into the camp’s centrifuge to experience the 3g force astro nauts feel during launch. For a less intense NASA experience, the center also features an extensive collection of rocketry, including the Apollo 16 capsule and a full-size replica of the Apollo 11 Saturn V, the largest rocket ever launched.
DIG IN AND GET DIRTYAdventures for the hands-on type
Trinity test explosion, 1945; Los Alamos National Laboratories
Atomic Artifacts Bayo Canyon, New Mexico
Three miles east of Los Alamos, this canyon lies between two volcanic mesas. There, the U.S. military perfected the implosion mechanism used in the Fat Man bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945.
These days, a hiker passing through the canyon might not notice anything unusual, other than a few posted signs instructing visitors not to collect firewood in the area. Closer inspection of the ground will reveal bits of “interesting-looking metal,” says Carl Willis, a nuclear engineer at Qynergy Corporation in Albuquerque. These bits include sockets for photomultiplier tubes from the radiation detectors, and coaxial cables used for signals and timing purposes. The detritus is fair game for anyone who wants to take home a piece of the Manhattan Project (Native American artifacts at the site are strictly off-limits, however). Most of the items aren’t radioactive, Willis says, “but there is hot stuff for people who get down on their knees with a Geiger counter and sort through all that rubble.”
Several other hot spots dot the surrounding mesas and valleys. A two-hour drive south from Los Alamos lands visitors at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque. For those willing to venture even farther, Willis says, there is a remarkable site just south of town, a half mile west of the government-run Sandia National Lab, where in 1957 a bomber accidentally dropped a mammoth Mark-17 hydrogen bomb. “There’s a huge swath of debris, and anyone can go out there and look for stuff,” Willis says. Ever-so-slightly radioactive bits of white plastic, chunks of lead, and green-painted pieces of the bomb’s casing are among the most common finds.
Cooking with Science
Brooklyn, New York, and other cities
Spanish chef Ferran Adrià made complex chemistry a star in the kitchen when he started molecular gastronomy, a culinary movement that uses sophisticated science to create imaginative dishes, such as foams made from solids like mushrooms and “spheres” of liquid that hold their shape. Cooking classes inspired by his ideas are now cropping up in major cities.
Some 350 million years ago, Michigan lay under a shallow ocean in which coral, trilobites, and other marine life thrived. Today fossilized coral makes its way into Lake Michigan from Little Traverse Bay, near the northern tip of the state’s Lower Peninsula, where the ancient rock layer is exposed. Polished and smoothed by eons of roiling water and sand, these fossils—called Petoskey stones—are strewn along Lake Michigan’s shore. Collectors will have the most luck spotting the stones after summer windstorms, which reveal the long-buried
treasures littering the shore.
All across the United States
The American Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ FrogWatch program enlists amphibian fans from coast to coast to track local frog and toad species by identifying the animals’ mating calls. To distinguish the ribbits and croaks,
volunteers take a short training course at one of 43 participating nature organizations across the country. Then they check in at
designated posts at least twice a
week during the breeding season to listen for the amphibians’ calls. Researchers use the data they submit to develop conservation strategies for the animals.