Intimate Portraits of Bees

Researchers take advantage of photography technology developed by the U.S. Army to capture beautiful portraits of bees native to North America.

Photography by Sam Droege, USGS

As a tribute to National Parks Week, here’s a #TBT from Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah. In this short, we see Dan Perkins (USGS) standing on his horse “Cap” on top of Owachomo Bridge. We’re assuming, of course, that the horse didn’t get spooked suddenly. Thanks Dan for your bravery. Circa 1925.

Credit: Lee, W.T., USGS


Today the Department of Awesome Macro Photography is taking a look at more astonishing photos of bees, arachnids and other insects taken by American scientist Sam Droege, head of the US Geological Survey’s Bee Inventory and Monitoring program (previously featured here).

Droege spends much of his time capturing North American bees, as well as other insects that interact with them, and taking incredibly detailed close-up photos of them in a specially designed mini studio. In addition to making their vast USGS BIML photo library available on Flickr, Droege and his team have also created a guide to creating your own insect specimen photo lab.

Head over to the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Flickr account to view many more of Sam Droege’s incredible macro photos.

[via Weezbo]

Twitter Abuzz with #Shutdown’s Effects on Science

The federal government has been through federal shutdowns before — there have been 17 of them since the 1970’s in fact — but the world and technology are very different from where they were during the last shutdown, which happened over 16 days in 1995-1996. Communication over the Internet then took place via email and rudimentary chat rooms and forums, but today, we have Facebook, Vine and Twitter, which can help illuminate the scope of a government shutdown.

The current shutdown is having particular effects for the sciences, with portions of the CDC and FDA being shut down, as well as all of the country’s national parks and the Smithsonian museums and zoo. All but 600-odd NASA employees are being furloughed, which could affect future missions, and the U.S. Geological Survey won’t be able to monitor water quality or ecosystem restoration.

On the morning of the shutdown (Oct. 1), a flurry of tweets came from various science-related government agencies, noting that the accounts would be inactive until the budget issues were resolved and the agencies once again had funding. Here is a sampling of the messages sent out:


@NASA: Sorry, but we won’t be tweeting/responding to replies during the government shutdown. Be back as soon as possible.

@NASA: Due to the gov’t shutdown, all public NASA activities/events are cancelled or postponed until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

@USFWSHQ: Due to a lapse of government funding, this account will not be active until further notice.

Environmental Protection Agency

@EPA: The federal government is currently shut down.

U.S.D.A. Forest Service

@forestservice: Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this channel will not be updated until the federal government reopens.

U.S. Geological Survey

@USGS: As a result of the lapse in appropriation, we will not be actively using this account until further notice.

National Park Service

@NatlParkService: Because of the federal gov’t shutdown this National Park Service Twitter feed is inactive. We’ll start tweeting again when we get back

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

@CDCgov: We’re sorry, but we will not be tweeting or responding to @ replies during the government shutdown. We’ll be back as soon as possible!

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

@NOAA: We will not be Tweeting or responding to @ replies during the #governmentshutdown. Pls see for more info. Thank you.

National Science Foundation

@NSF: Due to the government shutdown, we will not be tweeting or responding to any replies. We will return as soon as possible.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

@whitehouseostp: Due to the lapse in appropriations, this @whitehouseostp twitter account will be inactive until further notice. We regret any inconvenience.

Smithsonian National Zoo

@NationalZoo: Thank you very much for supporting the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. We’ll miss you, and see you after the #shutdown ends!

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

@airandspace: During the federal government #shutdown, we will not be updating social media. Please visit

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

@NMNH: We do not plan on updating social media other than to inform you of the operating status of the museums #shutdown

Here’s your cute moment for the day: A baby desert tortoise hatches from its egg. Found north and west of the Colorado River in the Mojave Desert in California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah, the desert tortoise is one of most elusive inhabitants of the desert, spending up to 95 percent of its life underground. With domed shell and elephant-like legs, it is easily distinguishable from its turtle cousins. Photo by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)​ scientist K. Kristina Drake.


Intimate Portraits of Bees and other insects from the USGS bee inventory and monitoring lab.

Photography by Sam Droege via National Geographic. These pictures were taken using technology developed for the US Army, so that soldiers could identify insects and determine if they were disease-carrying. 

Droege will dry and prepare a dead bee specimen, which can be smaller than a half a grain of rice, for photographing. A macro lens is equipped with a slider to take several pictures in a row with different focuses. Then, the images are combined to one image in which all parts are in-focus, and dust and the stand are photoshopped out. The detail is enhanced but the colors are not–that color is real.

See more at Droege’s flickr.

Drilling will commence summer 2012 in the Chuckchi Sea, where Alaska and Russia meet. Environmental groups fume. Shell pleased. Rare species at risk.

Here is a round up:

  • Approves former President Bush’s stalled plans to drill in Arctic
  • Earth Justice sues
  • Native Alaskans are pissed: “We have a right to life, to physical integrity, to security, and the right to enjoy the benefits of our culture. For this, we will fight, and this is why we have gone to court today. Our culture can never be bought or repaired with money. It is priceless,” Caroline Cannon, president of the Native Village of Point Hope, said in a press release.
  • Shell Oil is pleased
  • Crude prices drop
  • Pew Center blasts Obama for politics over science stance, issues white paper
  • University of Texas receives $5.6 million grant to study “safe oil extraction” without disturbing wildlife/ecosystems
  • Home to thousands of rare species including bowhead, beluga, narwhals, and grey whales; ice, bearded, ribbon, and spotted seals; polar bears; puffins, auklets, sea ducks, and penguins; and cod, sharks, and eels.
  • NASA reports sea-ice 2nd lowest levels ever recorded in the Chuckchi/Arctic
  • National Snow & Ice Data Center: 40% lower than average ice extent - a loss the size of California, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington states combined

Large earthquake strikes Nepal

The city of Kathmandu has a population of about a million people, with more in surrounding area. Today at 11:26 UTC (late afternoon local time) a large earthquake, currently with an estimated magnitude of 7.8, struck that region.

Kathmandu sits in a valley in the Himalayan Mountain Range, the range created by the collision of India into the Eurasian Continent. The entire front of the range is filled with faults, both normal faults and thrust faults, created as the mountains have been pushed upward.

The region has a long history of earthquakes, including disastrous quakes, including events of this size. We’ll have more on this quake later but a first note.

Based on the location of the quake, intensity of the shaking, known construction methods in the area, depth to the quake, and direction of the fault rupture, the USGS has released an early estimate of the Mercalli magnitude of the quake – a scale that measures the impact of the quake on people in the area. As of right now the worst impacts are expected to register a VIII on that scale – involving heavy damage to local infrastructure and possible casualties between 1,000 and 100,000. Early reports have yet to reach the heart of the area and so all we know right now is that we should expect significant devastation.

This area is clearly going to need immediate assistance after this event, so if you have a particular aid organization that you support, this might be the time to look into their needs.


Image credits and info: USGS

California sea otter numbers are up, according to the latest population survey conducted by researchers, including those from the Aquarium. The reasons: more pups — and the addition of San Nicolas Island otters to the count. Since the 1980s, scientists have calculated populations for the southern sea otter, a threatened species in California. For 2013, USGS lists the population as 2,941. To be considered for removal from threatened status, it would need to exceed 3,090 for three consecutive years.There’s more to be done!  

Learn more.