Guest Post: Can the Common Loon Represent Canada?

As Canadians vote for a national bird, biology instructor Camilla Fecteau weighs in on why the common loon is a frontrunner for the title.

Canadian Geographic, a non-profit publication birthed from The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, is hosting a public vote to select Canada’s national bird. Motivated by the country’s other national emblems, such as the maple leaf, Canadian Geographic is taking a stand to declare a national bird with the help of the Canadian community by 2017; voting will be open until the end of 2015.

The publication is calling upon Canadians to vote for the bird that most represents the vast land, notable winters, and the countless diversities of the country, “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth,” embodying the nation’s motto.

Since the polls opened, a leader has emerged: the common loon. The loon, with its iconic call, evokes nostalgia and warm memories of Canada. Camilla Fecteau, lab instructor and coordinator for the Biology Department at Saint Joseph’s College, has a background in ornithology, the study of birds, and has spent time studying common loons.

With a background in ornithology, lab instructor Camilla Fecteau says the common loon is an ideal choice to be Canada's national bird. (Photo by Stefanie Martel '15)

Biology lab instructor Camilla Fecteau says the common loon is a ideal candidate for Canada’s national bird. (Photo by Stefanie Martel ’15)

Fecteau says the common loon is a top runner for Canada’s national bird because “They remind us of the wilderness. Their call elicits a sense of peaceful relaxation that comes with putting down hectic daily activities and taking time to be one with nature. Their haunting wail can be heard for miles across a calm lake, and it reminds us that we’re not the only species trying to make it on this earth.”

Canada is the breeding place for four out of the five global loon species, indicating its suitability for the success of these environmentally sensitive birds.

“Loons can be considered an indicator species,” says Fecteau. “Their presence tells us something very important about the places where they live. In order for loons to successfully nest and reproduce, they need clean bodies of water that are not overly developed, overfished, or overridden with recreational activities.”

Canada has generous amounts of untainted and undeveloped land, which makes almost the entire country a breeding ground for loons. “No other country can claim more habitat for this species,” she says. “It seems very appropriate that they would choose such a beautiful and wild bird as their representative.”

For more, visit the National Bird Project’s website.

About the author: Stefanie Martel ’15 is an editorial intern in Saint Joseph’s College’s Marketing & Communications Office. She is double-majoring in English and writing & publishing, and is earning a minor in communications.

New ways of creating plastics

Hi everyone! As a part of the sustainability scholars and eco-reps, I’m always trying to find a way to make my life a little Greener. I came across this article which I thought was interesting, and definitely to keep an ear open for in the near future. Hope you enjoy!

So What is Climate Change?

By now, most of us have read and heard that 2014 was the warmest year on record and it seems now, that climate change has become one of the most talked about topics of the new year.

But, what exactly is climate change? And how many people out there truly understand the concept of climate change and it’s ability to change out planet? While browsing my Facebook recently, one of my fellow eco-fighters shared this fantastic link featuring my favorite childhood scientist, Bill Nye the Science Guy. I feel that this video accurately (and simply!), explains climate change to a general audience, and that it could help others to understand the importance and need for awareness of climate change. Share with friends and family, and spread the word about climate change and its effects on our planet!


Climate Change and Recycling!

I saw this a few weeks ago and thought that this is something that I would like to share for other people to see.  It is a post by the website Buzzfeed about how Earth is changing due to climate change.  It uses gifs, which are short animations.  I think it is a pretty cool way to show information, albeit a not so happy topic.

Another cool thing I want to share is this “recycle-to-ride” program that runs in some subways systems in Beijing, China.  Customers insert bottles into a machine and are credited money to their ticket account. After inserting enough bottles, a person can take a free ride on the subway! How great is that? I think that I would love to see something like this here in America.  Not only would it encourage people to recycle, but it would also take lots and lots of littered bottles off of the streets.


-Nhu Vo

The Tiny House Movement

In recent years, a new movement has swept across the U.S. in a large, but tiny way. Focus on living sustainably has slowly moved from a focus on topics limited to recycling and renewable energy sources (although still important!), to a larger focus on how much space and resources the individual human uses over the course of their life. In other words, people are becoming more concerned with their total eco-footprint and not just the small facets of it.

In light of this new found realization, American’s have begun to downsize their eco-footprints, not just in how much energy they use or how many plastic bottles they spare, but in the size of their homes as well.

So, what exactly are tiny houses and the benefits of owning one?

Tiny houses typically range from 100 square feet to 600 square feet and reside on some sort of mobile platform, usually a trailer that can be hauled by a truck. They do not however, have a laundry list of typical features that number much more than that. Tiny houses are completely customizable in regards to their amenities and interior designs. Most feature some sort of compostable-plumbing system, solar panels, and a loft bedroom.

These tiny homes do not just provide their owners with creative freedom, but they also allow homeowners to indulge in an environmentally friends way of living that provides them with such things as financial independence. The typical tiny home is much cheaper to build and own than the average American home. So much cheaper in fact,that most require no mortgage in order to pay them off. This financial independence allows owners to experience much more monetary freedom, which results in personal decisions to limit how much they work and how they spend the extra money that isn’t being put towards monthly energy, heating and utility bills. The mere SIZE of tiny houses also provides a certain element of physical freedom. Most tiny house owners chose to build their homes on large mobile trailers, which helps them to avoid housing taxes but, also allows them to move easily and freely to where ever their hearts desire.

The “Tiny House Movement” has gained much momentum thanks to companies such as The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, who not only promote awareness for the environmental benefits of a tiny house, but also make building and owning a tiny house extremely easy by providing pre-made plans, building instructions, and guidance from experienced builders.

Tiny houses may very well be the houses of the future, but only if humans as a population begin to realize how much “living space” is actually necessary for living a healthy, fulfilling and sustainable life.

For more info on what it is like living in a tiny home, visit these helpful and informational blogs and websites!