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The National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America is a handy-sized, easy-to-use tool for backyard birding.
Interspersed with the species accounts are pages of information on observing and attracting birds, various behaviors, and other interesting points about backyard birds.
If you are a highly attuned backyard birder already we recommend you get the National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America as a gift for a friend, neighbor, or family member to spark their interest in birds!
A bobcat slinks through the snow in Yellowstone, which protects many species in its role as wildlife sanctuary. The center of Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring steams at 199° Fahrenheit (93° Celsius), too hot for the multicolored bacteria clustering on the cooler perimeter. Originally native to the area, gray wolves in Yellowstone were killed off as part of "predator control" practices, and by the 1970s no wolves were known to be living in the park. Nomadic grazers, bison roam Yellowstone National Park's grassy plateaus in summer and spend winter near warm thermal pools or in the northern section of the park. America’s first national park, Yellowstone is home to wildlife from bears to bison and geological stunners such as hot springs and geysers.
The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River drop a stunning 308 feet (94 meters) to the canyon floor below—twice as far as Niagara Falls.
Yellowstone National Park's mile-long (1.6-kilometer-long) Upper Geyser Basin contains the world's greatest concentration of hot springs and geysers.
Elk are the most abundant large mammals in Yellowstone National Park, numbering some 30,000 in the summer. Check out these eight locations across the country that are perfect for a trip with your family.
Ranchers herd cattle across the shortgrass prairie of Montana on their way to winter pasturelands.
Amber grasses wave their dark-colored seed heads on Montana's Front Range with the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in the background. Spider lilies grow among sedges and rushes in the coastal prairie land of Texas' Brazos Bend State Park.
A storm rolls in over New Mexico grasslands with the Sangre de Cristo Mountain in the distance. The National Geographic Society aims to be an international leader for global conservation and environmental sustainability.
The moon is our close cosmic neighbor, and humans have been exploring its surface ever since they first developed telescopes.The first lunar exploration vehicles of the 1950s were primitive pioneers. Of the hundreds of awe-inspiring space photos we liked in 2015, here are our picks for the 15 best of the year.
Volunteers risk their lives to vaccinate children in Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria.
No one is going to confuse this with a 50cm Google Map, but it was this image and millions more like it that revolutionized Earth Sciences, including for our purposes, cartography. A civilian terrestrial remote-sensing satellite was proposed in 1965 by William Pecora, director of the USGS. Earth Resources Technology Satellite (or ERTS in bureaucratic acronym-speak; the program was renamed Landsat in 1976).
Cartographers began to see the Landsat images not as a means to correct previous maps but as maps in and of themselves.
30,000 images taken during Spring, Summer or Fall between 1972–75 and finally selected some 700 images. From 1892 to 1954, more than 12 million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island in New York Harbor.
Now an increasing number of people are turning to a new source of historical information for answers about their family history—their DNA. While the testing companies promise to unlock the secrets of your ancestry, researchers warn the science can be problematic. The two most common tests examine the paternally inherited Y chromosome (Y-DNA), which is passed down from father to son, and the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is passed down from mother to child, both male and female.
Deborah Bolnick, assistant professor of anthropology, studies human DNA samples in Patterson Lab.
Genetic ancestry tests examine the sequence of molecules, called nucleotides, in a person’s DNA.
However, Bolnick finds the tests tend to ignore the fact that many DNA sequences are found in many different human populations. The documentary showed that genetic ancestry tests can have a profound impact on how the test-taker perceives his or her racial identity.
The New York Times recently reported the story of adopted twins who took DNA tests as part of their college application process.
Though many questions remain about how we should interpret the clues revealed in our DNA, scientists are rushing to expand the global database of genetic samples.

On expedition in Chad, National Geographic explorer-in-residence and Texas Ex Spencer Wells explains The Genographic Project to local village leaders.
One of the most ambitious collection efforts to date is The Genographic Project, started by National Geographic in 2005 and led by geneticist and Texas Ex, Dr.
From the snow-covered Tibetan highlands to the burning windstorms of the Sahara desert, Wells traverses the globe collecting samples from indigenous groups in the world’s most remote locations. For about $100, The Genographic Project will test your DNA and reveal a few aspects of your deep ancestry, the ancient migratory paths of one of your lineages. Wells echoes Bolnick’s caution about the role of genetic ancestry tests in a society that still relies on racial categorization for diversity measurements. We regularly get numerous species of warblers that pass through, most of which are not included. The text includes information on identification, range, food, and nesting along with beautifully illustrated artwork and large range map.
There are also three pages describing citizen science which includes information on Project Feeder Watch, the Great Backyard Bird Count, and eBird. Not only is this super cool looking (includes head shots of the birds that we wish were bigger!) but it makes for a quick comparison of birds of different families but of similar colors. Not the largest or the most regular of the park's geysers, Old Faithful erupts more frequently, with each blast expelling between 3,700 to 8,400 gallons (14,000 to 32,000 liters) of boiling water.
But dead center is no dead zone: Billions of organisms called thermophiles flourish in the scalding water.
The Great Fountain Geyser, pictured here, erupts every 9 to 15 hours, shooting water up to 220 feet (67 meters) high. The Yellowstone begins south of the park, traveling more than 600 miles (965 kilometers) before it empties into the Missouri River in North Dakota. In the entire park, which spreads out over parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, there are more than 10,000 hydrothermal features—half of all such features in the world. Paleontological evidence shows that the animals have been living on Yellowstone land for at least a thousand years.
The preserve, maintained by the Nature Conservancy, is the largest preserved portion of what was once 140 million acres (362.5 million hectares) of grassland in the American Midwest. The island nation has problems with locusts, insects that can destroy crops and grasslands quickly. The savannas of the Serengeti stretch over Tanzania and Kenya, and support hundreds of species of plants and animals. Because North American grasslands have such fertile soil, most of the natural landscape has been converted to farmland.
Almost all life in the savanna depends on the grass; carnivores lurk in it to stalk the herbivores feeding on the grass. Contrasting seasons of rain and drought characterize the savanna climate, typically with more dry months than wet. Trees are sparse on grasslands due to seasonal floods and droughts, heavy grazing, and fires. All the land between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River from Texas to Saskatchewan used to be a giant expanse of prairie. The world's grasslands ecosystems all have common characteristics, yet each boasts unique plants and animal species. This land was once Native American territory, inhabited by Lakota, Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow, and other Plains Indian nations. When individuals pledge to use less water in their own lives, our partners carry out restoration work in the Colorado River Basin. But aerospace technology developed so rapidly that only about a decade separated the first flyby forays and Neil Armstrong's history-making steps on the moon's surface.In January 1959 a small Soviet sphere bristling with antennas, dubbed Luna 1, flew by the moon at a distance of some 3,725 miles (5,995 kilometers). They left behind a huge repository of records that for many years has been the first stop for Americans researching their genealogy.
More than two dozen companies offer genetic tests that claim to link people to high-profile ancestors, such as Genghis Khan or the Irish warlord Niall of the Nine Hostages. Deborah Bolnick, assistant professor of anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin, studies the tests and is following the budding trend closely. With one swab of the cheek, participants mail in a sample of their saliva to a genetic lab for testing. For example, certain DNA sequences may be most common in Native Americans, but they also are found in Asians. Due to the transatlantic slave trade, many African Americans cannot easily trace their ancestry through surname research and other traditional means.
Winfrey’s results suggested her most likely match was from the Kpelles tribe in Liberia. However, an individual’s racial identity does not always match his or her genetic ancestry, warns Bolnick.

No federally recognized Native American nation relies on DNA testing when determining tribal enrollment. They always had thought of themselves as white, but the tests suggested a small percentage of African and Native American ancestry, which they hoped could be useful in obtaining scholarships and financial aid. As of April, the project has collected 22,000 samples from roughly 100 indigenous groups across five continents.
The Genographic Project, a global, five-year research initiative, will trace the migratory history of the human species, which originated in Africa.
Both Bolnick and Wells believe it’s because of our history as a nation of immigrants.
There are about 2,500 American bison, which were once hunted to a few hundred animals, roaming the preserve.
Though Luna 1 did not impact the moon's surface, as was likely intended, its suite of scientific equipment revealed for the first time that the moon had no magnetic field. More than 100 million Americans are directly related to immigrants who passed through the island. If you’re thinking about adding DNA testing to your repertoire of genealogy research tools this summer, proceed with caution. She questions the tests’ validity and reliability, and worries many people may be unaware of the underlying scientific assumptions on which the tests are based.
An individual’s DNA sequence is compared to a database of samples to identify others with similar DNA sequences.
As a result, some tests may incorrectly inform someone they have Native American ancestry when their ancestors actually lived in Asia. Instead, membership usually requires documenting ancestral ties to a specific tribal member and providing evidence of community involvement. Diversity is not about checking a box simply because a genetic test said that you’re two percent Pacific Islander. The project uses participants’ DNA to map and trace migration patterns of humans who lived thousands of years ago.
An additional 200,000 people, mostly from North America, have submitted samples for testing. You won’t receive a breakdown of your genetic background by ethnicity or race or geographic origin.
The craft also returned evidence of space phenomena, such as the steady flow of ionized plasma now known as solar wind.First LandingLater in 1959 Luna 2 became the first spacecraft to land on the moon's surface when it impacted near the Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus craters. The five-year, $50 million effort aims to collect 100,000 DNA samples from around the world.
The project has even caught the attention of Bono, lead singer for Irish rock group U2, who had his DNA tested for Vanity Fair’s Africa issue out this July.
A third Luna mission subsequently captured the first, blurry, images of the far side of the moon.In 1962 NASA placed its first spacecraft on the moon—Ranger 4. The Ranger missions were kamikaze missions; the spacecraft were engineered to streak straight toward the moon and capture as many images as possible before crashing onto its surface. Unfortunately Ranger 4 was unable to return any scientific data before slamming into the far side of the moon.Two years later, however, Ranger 7 streaked toward the moon with cameras blazing and captured more than 4,000 photos in the 17 minutes before it smashed onto the surface. Images from all the Ranger missions, particularly Ranger 9, showed that the moon's surface was rough. They spotlighted the challenges of finding a smooth landing site on its surface.In 1966 the Soviet spacecraft Luna 9 overcame the moon's topographic hurdles and became the first vehicle to soft-land safely on the surface. The small craft was stocked with scientific and communications equipment and photographed a ground level lunar panorama.
Luna 10 launched later that year and became the first spacecraft to successfully orbit the moon.The Surveyor space probes (1966-68) were the first NASA craft to perform controlled landings on the moon's surface. Surveyor carried cameras to explore the moon's surface terrain, as well as soil samplers that analyzed the nature of lunar rock and dirt.In 1966 and 1967 NASA launched lunar orbiters that were designed to circle the moon and chart its surface in preparation for future manned landings. The Clementine mission succeeded in mapping the moon's surface in wavelengths other than visible light, from ultraviolet to infrared.Later, the Lunar Prospector (1999) orbited the moon in search of possible evidence of ice at the lunar poles.
The mission's end was spectacular—The craft was intentionally crashed into the moon in the hopes of raising a plume that could yield evidence of water ice, but none was observed.Today India, China, and Japan all have lunar exploration projects in development. The United States' own plan is perhaps the most ambitious—to return humans to the moon by 2020 and eventually use the moon as a staging point for human flight to Mars and beyond.

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