Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Initially charged by Congress with the "classification of the public lands," the USGS began topographic and geologic mapping in 1879. Most of the early USGS mapping activities took place in the vast, largely uninhabited Western United States.

Extreme challenges awaited these mapping pioneers. Travel was arduous and costly. Many locations could be reached only by mule pack train. Furthermore, surveying and mapping instruments were crude by today's standards. Most maps were made using a classic mapping technique called planetable surveying.

Planetable surveying took great skill and, depending on the mapping site, equal daring. Carrying a planetable—essentially a portable drawing board on a tripod with a sighting device--the topographer would climb to the area's best vantage point and carefully plot on the map those features that could be seen and measured in the field. Planetable surveying remained the dominant USGS mapping technique until the 1940's, when it gave way to the airplane and the age of photogrammetry.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

High-speed links vital for the Scottish economy

A report to be considered by the SEStran board this week recommends that SEStran play a leading role in a new campaign to lobby for high speed rail services.

The Scottish Association for Public Transport (SAPT) has approached SEStran to work in partnership with other Regional Transport Partnerships (RTPs), Scottish business, cross-party political interests and other bodies, to press for action on the issue.

SEStran is already strongly involved with the Channel Tunnel Initiative (CTI) Group, which was originally set up to promote expansion of the Channel Tunnel services beyond London, and has adopted promotion of the concept of a UK-wide high speed rail network.

SEStran Chair, Cllr Russell Imrie said:

“The development of high speed rail links with London, other parts of Scotland and the UK would have many advantages for the SEStran region, which is why we have already set aside part of our 2008-9 budget to fund research in this area

“High speed rail offers a viable alternative to air travel for business travellers and others planning long distance travel within the UK. It could also play a role in reducing car dependency, by providing an alterative to driving for many long distance commuters”.

“SEStran has a track record of championing high-speed rail as one of the range of options that should be actioned to create a sustainable transportation system that will meet the needs of everyone living in SE Scotland. We will continue to play a leading role in campaigning for action on this issue”

Saturday, January 17, 2009

BLACK LOCUST IS A FAST growing, medium size tree which has been widely planted for windbreaks, soil erosion control, soil stabilization and fence posts. Although it will grow on depleted soils, it grows best on good soils. On poor soils, it is severely attacked by locust borers which frequently kill the tree by tunneling. It sprouts prolifically from root runners and can become a nuisance.

This tree, like redbud, is a legume, hence the fruit is a flat pod 3 to 4 inches long, remaining on the tree though winter. The black, bony seed inside the pod is eaten by squirrels.The leaf is compound, having from 7 to 19 entire leaflets which are alternate, light green above and pale green underneath.Branches are armed with a pair of short, sharp spines located at the base of each petiole. Mature bark resembles black, twisted rope.

Locust flowers form pendant clusters of honey-sweet white blossoms, spreading a fragrance of heavy perfume in late spring. Because of the sweet flower scent, some people confuse this with its relative, the honey locust. Honey locust gets its name from the honey-like pulp of its large pods, often 12 to 18 inches long. It is easily recognized by long, wicked thorns located on the trunk and branches.

Insulator pins and fence posts have been made from black locust because of its resistance to rot. In olden days the wood was used for fuel and cross ties.The grub or larvae of the black locust borer tunnels through the central part of the stem, hollowing and weakening it. A strong wind can finish the job of breaking the main stem.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Teamwork Keeps Milk Safe

Got safe milk? ARS food safety researchers and their colleagues in northeastern and mid-Atlantic states have teamed up to make sure the answer is always "Yes!"The collaboration with veterinarians, university researchers and others who belong to the Regional Dairy Quality Management Alliance will, among other results, lead to a new set of "best management practices." Dairy producers in 10 states can use those guidelines to minimize the risk of diseases caused by microbes in dairy cows and dairy products.

ARS scientists in Beltsville, Md., and Athens, Ga.—and their co-investigators—are analyzing dairy manure samples, bird droppings and water, for instance, from test farms in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont to check for such pathogens as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and Campylobacter.An example: Samples from one farm showed that although 45 percent of the cows tested positive for Salmonella, milk from the animals was free of detectable levels of the microbe