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Backyard gardeners can help save biodiversity

We’ve all been reading about crisis after crisis: climate change, loss of biodiversity, extinctions. The news is alarming—and saddening. It’s also daunting.

I’ve previously written about endangered species and the importance of biodiversity (short for biological diversity), and about what we as individuals can do about climate change. The more I read and think about our current crises, the more I realize that gardeners already do so much regarding these issues. We just need to be more intentional about what we do—and share it!

Here is a list of ways that we can contribute to biodiversity:

• Plant for the birds: provide cover, water, and seed plants, like coneflowers.

• Add a butterfly garden. Plant local milkweeds for monarchs.

• Plant for other pollinators, too. Beebalm (Monarda spp) is just one of the species that is very attractive to pollinators. And remember to provide water!

• Provide hiding places for critters. Plant shrubs, add rocks, leave snags, or add a log or two in an area away from your house. (Rabbitbrush is aptly named: it provides great cover for cottontails and jackrabbits.)

• Remove invasives and plant more natives. The benefits are clear: native plants mean more native critters.

• Don’t use pesticides or herbicides.

• Collect your seed, for planting or sharing.

And for vegetable gardeners, plant heirlooms. Mother Earth News posts a number of reasons to plant them:

• They taste better. Many heirloom vegetables have been saved for decades and even centuries because they taste good.

• Heirloom vegetables are likely to be more nutritious than newer varieties.

• Heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated, which means you can save your own seed to replant from year to year.

• Heirlooms are less uniform, which means they often don’t ripen all at once.

• Heirloom open-pollinated vegetables are almost always less expensive than hybrids.

When you plant heirlooms, you are also contributing to genetic diversity. Monocultures (cultivation of just one species of plant or tree in an area) are almost always more susceptible to disease or adverse environmental conditions (think Ireland potato famine.) Genetic diversity serves as a way for populations to adapt to changing environments. The same plants from different locations have different genes; with more variation, it is more likely that some individuals in a population will possess the ability to adapt to environmental changes, like global warming or long-term drought.

At the Arboretum, we are involved in several different seed-collecting programs to preserve genetic diversity and benefit the landscape. We collect local milkweed seed and grow native milkweed plants; we then harvest the seed and share it with the federal and state agencies. The local genotypes are better suited to grow here and obviously benefit the western monarch butterfly. We also participate in a program called Seeds of Success (SOS), a national native seed collection program, led by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in partnership with a variety of federal agencies and non-federal organizations. SOS’s mission is to collect wildland native seed for research, development, germplasm conservation, and ecosystem restoration. Our research department is currently collecting varieties of buckwheat, muhly grass, yellow suncups, and white bursage that occur in Arizona.

If we all continue to do our part, we can help alleviate the biodiversity crisis: a biodiverse garden can help to heal our planet and preserve it for future generations.

Daily Almanac

Saturday, January 12

Pivot Art Project: 2-4 p.m. Museum Of Northern Arizona, 3101 N Fort Valley Rd. Flagstaff. Curator of MNA's Pivot Skateboard Deck Art Exhibit, Duane Koyawena will lead a unique art project with kids. Wear clothes to get messy in and prepare to bring home a one-of-a-kind work of art. Kristan Hutchison,, 928-774-5211.$12: Adults; $8: Youth (11-17); Free for children 9 and under and MNA members.

10 x 10 Exhibition Opening: 6-8 p.m. Coconino Center For The Arts, 2300 N Fort Valley Rd, Flagstaff. The first chance to purchase new, affordable works of art in the exhibition will be at the Members Preview reception Saturday. This show features the work of 100 artists who have created new, original work and have donated each for sale to support the Coconino Center for the Arts., 928-779-2300. 

An Evening with Pure Land Author Annette McGivney: 5-6 p.m. Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, 1520 S Riordan Ranch St, Flagstaff. Join Bookmans for an evening with Annette McGivney, author of Pure Land. This event will include a short reading from the book and a Q&A followed by an opportunity to have your copy of Pure Land signed by the author. Caity Evans,, 928-774-0005. 

Fix It Clinic: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Joe C Montoya Community and Senior Center, 245 N. Thorpe Rd., Flagstaff. Do you have a household item in need of repair? Don't trash it, fix it for FREE! Bring your small household appliances, clothing, electronics, jewelry, bicycles and more and a volunteer repair coach will try to help you fix it. What can I bring to be fixed? Toys, jewelry, clothing, bicycles, electronics, furniture, small appliances, electrical items, knick-knacks, etc. We will also have a book recycling machine! Can I volunteer to fix things? If you are good at soldering, electronics repair, electrical repair, sewing, woodworking or general tinkering and you'd like to volunteer at the Fix-it Clinic contact Maggie Twomey at 928-213-2144 or

Climate Discussion on SW Impacts featuring NOAA's Darren McCollum: 3-5 p.m. City Of Flagstaff, 300 W Aspen Ave, Flagstaff. Hear Darren McCollum of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as he gives an educational and informational presentation on the climate driven impacts of the southwestern United States. 928-213-2351. 

Fratelli Pizza National Blood Donor Month Blood Drive: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Fratelli Pizza Party Room, 2120 N. 4th St., Flagstaff. January is National Blood Donor Month! Please start a New Years resolution of donating blood regularly. All donors will receive a voucher for a free one-day admission ticket to the Waste Management Phoenix Open. In addition, donors will receive a voucher for a Pizza Slice and Soda, compliments of Fratelli Pizza Flagstaff! Carina Fors,, 928-607-0152.

Flagstaff Beginnings City Tours: 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Enjoy Flagstaff / City RV Parking Lot, 116 W. Phoenix Ave, Flagstaff. Discover the story of Flagstaff's Beginnings on a fun and informational 2-hour driving tour. Our journey will take us across millions of years of time, where we uncover the foundation of the place we now call home. Great for locals and visitors! Our tours start in the City of Flagstaff RV Parking Lot located at 116 W. Phoenix Ave., across the street from Fratelli Pizza. We will then take a drive through some of Flagstaff's lesser known areas and landmarks while presenting a fun and informative history of the Flagstaff area. Join us if you are interested in geology, volcanoes, early cultures, the railroad, early industries and so much more! Melissa Yates,, 928-853-4484. $60.00.

Met Live Opera: 'Adriana Lecouvreur': 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. State Rt. 89A, Ste. A3, Sedona. The Sedona International Film Festival is proud to present the next Met Live Opera presentation of Francesco Cilea's "Adriana Lecouvreur" on Saturday, Jan. 12. There will be two shows that day at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre: 11 a.m. (live simulcast) and 4 p.m. (encore). Plan to come early as John Steinbrunner will lead a pre-opera talk one hour before each production (10 a.m. for the morning show and 3 p.m. for the encore). Patrick Schweiss,, 928-282-1177.$25 general admission; $22 film festival members; $15 students.

Sunday, January 13

PineStories Reads: 4-6 p.m. Firecreek Coffee Company, 22 Historic Rte 66, Flagstaff. PineStories Reads is a whole new way to tell your story. Many of the same rules apply; the story must be non-fiction and the storyteller must figure into it somehow. The storyteller is allowed 12 minutes max to tell their tale. The big difference is that the story may be read rather than told from memory. There is no theme for this PineStories Reads event.We will have six storyteller slots (possibly one or two more if time allows). Suggested donation $3. Dina Barnese,, 928-380-2292.

Special Tour - Beyond the Split Rail: 2-3:30 p.m. Riordan Mansion, 409 West Riordan Road, Flagstaff. Historically, Flagstaff has been home to a diverse population of people. We often only hear the stories of the wealthy and usually white citizens. This tour takes a look at who else made Flagstaff their home in the early 1900s. The Great Migration out of the south lead many African American families to head west in search of less rigid social codes and Jim Crow Laws. The Mexican Revolution causes many Mexican families to head north in search of safe living conditions and better jobs. Chinese immigrants came from overseas in search of the American Dream. Indigenous people lived nearby on the Reservations. Women in town were fighting for suffrage. Take a tour that focuses on the history of underrepresented individuals who made Flagstaff their home. Call for reservations - space is limited. 928-779-4395.$15.00 - AHS Members are $13.

Geology Hike at Red Rock State Park: 1-2:30 p.m. Red Rock State Park, 4050 Red Rock Loop Rd, Sedona. Red Rock State Park is located at the base of the Mogollon Rim, the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The escarpment is over 200 miles long and ranges in height from 2,000 to 3,000 feet. Over millions of years of erosion the rim has receded over four miles leaving behind the picturesque features of Sedona. Our monthly-guided geology hike will be held at 1:00 PM. Join our knowledgeable volunteers as they venture out on our trails and discuss how Sedona transformed into what we see today. This interpretive experience is for both the beginner and experienced hiker, lasting between 1½-2 hours with an elevation gain of 250 feet. Please bring water and wear suitable footwear. Hike is included with park entrance fees. $7.00 ages 14+; $4.00 ages 7-13; free for ages 6 and under. Park hours are 8 am to 5 pm. If you have any questions, please call 928-282-6907. Jared Hemsoth,, 928-282-6907. Price - Park entrance fees$7 for adults (14+) $4 for youth (7-13).

Free Workshop - How to Love Your Enemy: 12:30-2 p.m. Federated Community Church, 400 W Aspen, Flagstaff. You'll learn concrete tools to translate judgments & bridge differences with others based on Compassionate (Nonviolent) Communication while having fun! David R. McCain,, 619-218-7554.

How to Transform Your Life: 11 a.m.-12 p.m. International Kadampa Retreat Center Grand Canyon, 6701 E Mountain Ranch Road, Williams. Each and every one us has the capacity to tap into an endless supply of inner peace and happiness. Learn key meditations for training the mind in order to achieve this. By taking these methods to heart we can learn to choose happiness, create peaceful relationships with others and live a meaningful life. International Kadampa Retreat Center Grand Canyon,, (928) 637-6232.$10.

Flagstaff Beginnings City Tours: 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Enjoy Flagstaff / City RV Parking Lot, 116 W. Phoenix Ave, Flagstaff. Discover the story of Flagstaff's Beginnings on a fun and informational 2-hour driving tour. Our journey will take us across millions of years of time, where we uncover the foundation of the place we now call home. Great for locals and visitors! Our tours start in the City of Flagstaff RV Parking Lot located at 116 W. Phoenix Ave., across the street from Fratelli Pizza. We will then take a drive through some of Flagstaff's lesser known areas and landmarks while presenting a fun and informative history of the Flagstaff area. Join us if you are interested in geology, volcanoes, early cultures, the railroad, early industries and so much more! Melissa Yates,, 928-853-4484. $60.00.

Latest gadgets want greater peek into lives

LAS VEGAS — The latest gadgets want even greater access to your lives.

This week's CES tech show in Las Vegas was a showcase for cameras that can livestream the living room and a gizmo that tracks the heartbeat of an unborn child.

These features can be useful — or at least fun — but they all open the door for companies and people working for them to peek into your private lives. Just this week, The Intercept reported that Ring, a security-camera company owned by Amazon, gave employees access to some customer video footage.

You'll have to weigh whether the gadgets are useful enough to give up some privacy. First, you have to trust that companies making these devices are protecting your information and aren't doing more than what they say they're doing with data. Even if a company has your privacy in mind, things can go wrong: Hackers can break in and access sensitive data. Or an ex might retain access to a video feed long after a breakup.

"It's not like all these technologies are inherently bad," says Franziska Roesner, a University of Washington professor who researches computer security and privacy.

But she said the industry is still trying to figure out the right balance between providing useful services and protecting people's privacy in the process.


As with other security cameras, Ring's can be mounted outside the front door or inside the home to give you a peek, through an app, of who's there. But the Intercept said the Amazon-owned company was also allowing some high-level engineers in the U.S. to view customers' video feeds, while others in the Ukraine office could view and download any customer video file.

In a statement, Ring said some Amazon employees have access to videos that are publicly shared through the company's Neighbors app, which aims to create a network of security cameras in an area. Ring also says employees get additional video from users who consent to such sharing.

At CES, Ring announced an internet-connected video doorbell that fits into peepholes for apartment dwellers or college students who can't install one next to their doors. Though it doesn't appear Ring uses facial recognition yet, patent records show that Amazon recently filed an application for a facial-recognition system involving home security cameras.


It's one thing to put cameras in our own homes, but wants us to also put them in other people's houses.

Alarm's Wellcam is for caretakers to watch from afar and is mostly designed to check in on aging relatives. Someone who lives elsewhere can use a smartphone to "peek in" anytime, says Steve Chazin, vice president of products.

The notion of placing a camera in someone else's living room might feel icky.

Wellcam says video isn't recorded until someone activates it from a phone and video is deleted as soon as the stream stops. Chazin says such cameras are "becoming more acceptable because loved ones want to know that the ones they care about are safe."

Just be sure you trust whom you're giving access to. You can't turn off the camera, unless you unplug it or cover it up with something.


Some gadgets, meanwhile, are gathering intimate information.

Yo Sperm sells an iPhone attachment that tests and tracks sperm quality. To protect privacy, the company recommends that users turn their phones to airplane mode when using the test. The company says data stays on the phone, within the app, though there's a button for sharing details with a doctor.

Owlet, meanwhile, plans to sell a wearable device that sits over a pregnant belly and tracks the heartbeat. The company's privacy policy says personal data gets collected. And you can choose to share heartbeat information with researchers studying stillbirths.

Though such data can be useful, Forrester analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo warns that these devices aren't regulated or governed by U.S. privacy law. She warns that companies could potentially sell data to insurance companies who could find, for instance, that someone was drinking caffeine during a pregnancy — potentially raising health risks and hence premiums.