Audubon: An Abundance of American Robins

Stuck inside her Brooklyn apartment in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, artist Mayuko Fujino had one connection to the outside world: a single window that looked out on a neighbor’s yard. It was March, then April, and Fujino thought it was about time to see an American Robin. She spotted sparrows, pigeons, cardinals—but none of the robins that usually appear in spring.

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Bulletin: Battle over geothermal project pits tiny toad against renewable energy

Dixie Meadows is a smudge of vibrant green in an otherwise muted pink and tan landscape. To travel there from Fallon, Nevada, the nearest city, one must first drive 40 miles east on US Route 50, a stretch of highway known as the “loneliest road in America,” and then another 40 miles north on a gravel road into Dixie Valley, a low-lying plain between the Stillwater Range and the Clan Alpine Mountains. Desert shrubs extend as far as the eye can see, until a shimmer of water appears on the horizon—the first sign of a desert oasis. Fed by a series of over 100 seeps and springs, these 760 lush acres at the foot of the Stillwater mountains encompass the entire global range of the endangered Dixie Valley toad. They are also a “surface expression,” as geologists put it, of an as-yet untapped geothermal energy source.

Wearing a straw cowboy hat and using a wooden staff as a walking stick, Patrick Donnelly leads the way into Dixie Meadows’ shoulder-high reeds, where we hope to find the smallest of the western toads. As the Great Basin director of the Center for Biological Diversity, Donnelly campaigned to get the Dixie Valley toad listed as endangered, which the Fish and Wildlife Service did in April on an emergency basis for only the second time in the past 20 years. Donnelly has also worked tirelessly to halt the progress of the largest threat to the Dixie Valley toad and the green oasis it calls home: the Dixie Meadows Geothermal Project. Donnelly is concerned that if the geothermal project proceeds as planned, it will disturb or even dry up the series of hot springs that have created this verdant oasis.

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The geothermal moonshot

Many experts believe the future of geothermal energy lies in enhanced geothermal systems, which lack some of the natural characteristics needed to produce electricity from the Earth’s heat but may be used as geothermal energy sources with the right human interventions. Proper development of enhanced systems would drastically expand the potential for geothermal energy’s role in the US energy system.

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Bulletin: Casino gambles on geothermal—and wins big

Using geothermal fluid in heating and cooling systems can help big institutions, like universities, city governments, and even upscale resorts save money and reduce their carbon footprint. The geothermal system at the Peppermill Reno Resort paid for itself in three years, two years faster than expected.

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Audubon: The Western Tanager of Tomorrow

This oil on panel painting of a Western Tanager crossing a rocky desert expanse began as a little bit of clay. Artist George Boorujy created this piece as part of series in which he puts himself in the position of future humans and imagines rituals they might enact in a climate-devastated world. He sculpts objects that could be part of these rites of survival and passage, then paints them into apocalyptic landscapes.

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