Wildlife & Habitat

Acorns and Lyme disease


In New York's Hudson Valley, it's hard to go outside without stepping on an acorn. Oaks have 'boom and bust' acorn production cycles. In lean years, trees produce a handful of nuts. In boom years, acorns seem to rain down from the sky. 


Autumn’s bounty-the feast before the famine

Here in the Hudson Valley, nature’s harvest has been abundant. Nuts and fruits will help wildlife fuel their southern migrations or stock their winter larders. Not every year produces such a bounty; this season’s bumper crop of wild foods will impact local plants and animals for years to come.

Great Ape Conservation

Lecture Video

Arcus Foundation Primatologist Annette Lanjouw discusses the challenges of conserving apes, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos.

Tech advances provide window into wildlife


Since the evolution of our earliest ancestors, people have looked to clues – such as footprints in the mud or rubs on trees – to gain insight into wildlife behavior.

Missing monarchs


We have talked about monarch butterflies before. The orange and black butterflies are often used in school lessons about insect ecology. Monarch caterpillars forage exclusively on milkweed; in the process they acquire foul-tasting chemicals that ward off predators. In late summer, monarchs living in the Eastern U.S. migrate to overwintering grounds in Mexico.

Hudson River’s underwater vegetation still recovering from hurricanes

Water celery has been noticeably absent for the past several years. In summer 2012, it became apparent that something was amiss. The plant was not found in spots where it previously had been prolific.

Invasive species add to monarch butterfly’s woes

Most readers are familiar with monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). The striking orange and black species has historically been widespread throughout North America.

A species’ worth depends on our resourcefulness

What good are clams? I work with a lot of obscure animals, such as bivalve mollusks (clams and their relatives), and one of the most common questions I get is, "What good are they?"

The Return of Predators to Urban America

Lecture Video

Dr. Roland Kays, a zoologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences discusses how coyotes, fishers, and other predators are adapting to urban and suburban life.


Why did the frog cross the road?


Here in the Northeast, after a long winter signs of spring have finally arrived. Many of us are tuned into budding plants and migratory birds. It's also a great time to take a hike and observe the awakening of amphibian life.

The case for messy woodlands


Does your property contain a patch of forest? When managing your woodland, resist the urge to keep things tidy. Dead and dying trees are a healthy part of forest ecosystems.

Use wild opossums to rid your property of ticks

Opossums are North America's only native marsupials. An opossum vaguely resembles a cross between a housecat and a giant rat, and while they're tolerated as a relative newcomer to Maine's wilderness — migrating into the state within the last half century or so — they're not especially cherished.

‘Messy’ woods serve critical purpose in forest management

Visitors to the Cary Institute's Millbrook campus will admire our diverse woodlands, but may wonder why there are so many standing and fallen dead trees left scattered, sometimes in prominent places. Some might even say that our forests are messy.

Toads: Warty, toxic, and resilient


This spring, amphibians displayed their singing skills in the flooded lowlands at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies' Millbrook, NY campus. Eastern American toads were major contributors to the evening chorus, which was at times deafening.

It’s not glamorous, nor easy, being a toad

This spring, April showers made favorable conditions for amphibians to display their singing skills in the flooded lowland fields at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Eastern American toads (Anaxyrus americanus) were major contributors to the evening chorus, which was at times deafening.

In Search of Lost Frogs

Lecture Video

Award-winning photographer Robin Moore chronicled the search for frog, toad, and salamander species not seen in over a decade. In a visually stunning presentation, he shares the science behind what frogs disappearing around the globe means for our planet.

The value of woodland pools


Woodland pools are small, seasonal wetlands. In the Northeast, they are typically covered with ice and snow in the winter. In the heat of summer they dry up. And in the spring and late fall they contain standing water. Now is a great time for exploring the diversity of life in woodland pools.


Tough times for amphibians


Around the world, millions of frogs, toads, and salamanders are dying from two emerging diseases. The first plague appeared in the 1990s, and is so deadly to amphibians that it is causing what has been described as the most spectacular loss of vertebrate biodiversity due to disease in recorded history.

Peeper keeper

For nearly 20 years, Gary Lovett has kept a journal with notes about a variety of natural events taking place in his backyard in southeastern New York, including the date that spring peepers begin peeping in his vernal pool each year.


Coyotes calling


In New York State, if you hear howling at night, it's not a wolf. And it's not your imagination. When New York's wolves were killed off in the 19th century, it left an ecological vacuum that coyotes were happy to fill.


Give opossums a break

Serving as inadvertent innkeepers for opossums may turn out to be good for your health. Scientists at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, have learned that opossums act like little vacuum cleaners when it comes to ticks, including those that can spread debilitating Lyme disease to humans and other animals.

Opossums: Where Lyme disease goes to die

Say hello to the opossum, the American marsupial with a pointy nose and prehensile tail that dines on ticks like a vacuum dines on dust.

Coyotes likely to show up in your neighborhood

Breeding wolves were killed off in New York back in the 1890s. But hearing nighttime howling today should not be blamed on our imaginations. Another predator, the eastern coyote (Canis latrans), abounds in our area and provides a similar hair-raising effect when we hear it calling.


Opossums - killers of ticks

At night, when you catch sight of an opossum in your car headlights, you are allowed to think, "That is one ugly little animal."


Veeries very quiet when owls are about

Cary visiting scientist Ken Schmidt and his research team have been studying the ecology and behavior of birds on the Cary Institute grounds since 1998.

How green is your grass?


Most of us are familiar with the stereotype of the peace-loving, tree-hugging hippy with a penchant for marijuana. So just how green is grass grown in sunny California? The answer might surprise you.

Wild bees, unsung heroes


For more than a decade, pollinator populations have been declining. Causes are varied, from loss of habitat and pesticide exposure to the spread of parasitic mites

Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know

Lecture Video

Leading fisheries scientist and marine biologist Ray Hilborn shares his controversial insights about the future of our fisheries.


It's almost time for spring peepers

One of the first signs of spring in the Northeast is the unmistakable calling of the spring peeper. The peeper is a small frog, weighing only a few grams, but its mating call is louder than many songbirds weighing 10 times as much.

Why should we care about one endangered fish?


The humpback chub is a rather homely fish that lives only in the Colorado River. It is federally listed as protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Forest reveals climate change's surprising damage

Long-term research on the impacts of climate change can give us insight on how certain environments will respond to warming temperatures. Poughkeepsie Journal reports on Cary research.


Have deer gotten a false rap for Lyme disease?


It's commonly believed that Lyme disease risk is tied to the presence of deer ticks and white-tailed deer. But this simply isn't correct.

Why you should brake for opossums


The next time you see a opossum playing dead on the road, try your best to avoid hitting it. Because it turns out that opossums are allies in the fight against Lyme disease.

Fox and coyote and ticks - oh, my!

Understanding the relationship between red foxes and coyotes may be another key in understanding the ecology of Lyme disease.


Where did all the acorns go?


For many years, oaks in the Northeast were prolific acorn producers. The 2010 crop was record-breaking—many will recall getting hit with acorn rain or slipping on acorns underfoot. Last fall, however, acorns were scarce.


Eavesdropping on your neighbors? Even the birds do it


Most of us use the sounds around our homes to take measure of our neighborhood—it's all part of the information we process about our surroundings.

pearly mussel

Why should we care about freshwater mussels?


There were once three hundred species of mussels in the United States. They supplied food to Native Americans and people harvested them for pearls and for mother-of-pearl to make buttons. Now, hardly anyone eats freshwater mussels and buttons are mostly made of plastic.


Yellowstone Wildlife: Charting New Paths Forward

Lecture Video

Mike Clark, Executive Director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, talks about some of Yellowstone’s most iconic wildlife, and discusses how climate change, shrinking habitat, and politics are shaping its future.

fraser's penguins

Fraser's Penguins: A Journey to the Future in Antarctica

Lecture Video

Journalist and travel writer Fen Montaigne chronicles how climate change is threatening Adélie penguins.


Team to study how songbirds choose their nesting sites

During the spring and summer, Dr. Ken Schmidt, an avian behavioral ecologist from Texas Tech University, investigates bird life on the Cary Institute's 2,000-acre campus.

Bringing Nature Home

Lecture Video

Drawing from his bestselling book, Bringing Nature Home, Douglas Tallamy discusses how using native plants in the home landscape can help protect and preserve North American wildlife.

Environmental Impacts on the Antarctic Ecosystem

Lecture Video

Drawing on several of his journeys, Schlesinger’s lecture explores how climate change and pollution threaten this remote region, which supports penguins, seals, and fragile marine-based ecosystems.

Endangered Species Act changes must be reversed

In the face of our rising human population, a lack of protected areas for native species and for pristine ecosystems would result in the loss of many North American plants and animals. 

Tough times for polar bears

Polar bears are the largest terrestrial predators on Earth, outweighing lions, tigers, and all other bears. They have to be big to catch their major prey - seals and small whales

The Army Corps of Engineers vs. muskrat engineers: Nature declared winner

Muskrats have caused levee collapses in the past and will likely do so in the future.

Puffins' habits change habitat

In 1890, there were about 250,000 pairs of Atlantic puffins breeding on Grassholm, a 22-acre island a few miles off the southwest coast of Wales in the United Kingdom. By 1940, there were only 25 breeding pairs

The mussel in the rainforest

This past summer, we unexpectedly found a very rare freshwater mussel in one of the small tributaries of the Housatonic River basin – a species that hadn’t been seen in the region since 1843.

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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