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February 2003

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The Western Naturalist
Ward Cameron Enterprises' Online Newsletter
February 2003 - (Volume 2 - Issue 2)

In this issue:

In the News
Rocky Mountain Nature Forecast
Wildlife Safari
Marketing Magic - Words Sell - Pictures Don't
Special Promotion


Welcome to The Western Naturalist, Ward Cameron Enterprises'  online newsletter. This newsletter is brought to you by, the Field Guide for the Next Millennium. It is intended to keep you up to date This newsletter is in addition to the Rocky Mountain Nature Forecast for which you are already subscribed. Each issue has a unique promotion that we encourage you to take advantage of. We welcome all feedback and suggestions. While the Nature Forecast will come to you monthly, this enlarged publication will be sent on a quarterly basis with occasional updates in between.

In the News
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Founder Signs Up for Three More Years with TransRockies

In 2002, founder Ward Cameron completed an epic adventure. After spending a large portion of two years alone in the western wilderness, he put the finishing touches on the routing for the TransRockies Challenge. This epic mountain bike race has been called the toughest mountain bike race in North America by Mountain Bike magazine.

Nature Forecast

February is one of those in between months. The cold months of December and January are a memory, but the warmth of spring is still several months away. Many of the large mammals will be running low on their fat reserves by now and are more likely to fall victim to predators. In this issue of the Nature Forecast though we're going to look at a few of the strategies and challenges that small animals deal with in winter.

Gall Moths

During the winter, we often see the dried remains of summer wildflowers standing like lone sentinels above the frozen surface. One of these flowers, the goldenrod is the host to several fascinating insects which spend a large part of their life buried within the tissues of this common plant.

A small moth with the attractive name of Gnorimoschema gallaesolidaginus and no simple common name seems to be attracted to this flower. A literal translation of the name breaks down Gnorimoschema into "known to form" and gallaesolidaginus into "galls belonging to goldenrods". So if we put it together it means "known to form galls belonging to goldenrods". This is a classic case of a scientific name telling us more about a species than most common names. This "gall moth" as we'll call it here is one of very few moths that produce galls. What is a gall? It's simply a thickening of the plants tissues caused by an irritation from the insect. Look for an elliptical swelling on the stem of the goldenrod. A round swell is the sign of the spotted-winged fly, another insect with a similar affinity to goldenrod.

In fall, an adult gall moth lays her eggs near the base of the goldenrod. The eggs overwinter in this stage. In spring, the insect hatches, the larvae find a new flower and crawl upwards to the new buds where they burrow in. The plant begins to swell and produce excess tissue to surround this tiny irritant until an elliptical bulge (known as a gall) forms in the stem. The plants reaction is ideal for the little parasite who spends his early months feeding contentedly within this fleshy bulge. Late in July it chews a tiny entrance whole to allow it easy exit when it is time to emerge as an adult moth. It seals this whole with some silk and plant matter before forming a tiny cocoon. In early autumn it emerges as an adult, mates and lays the eggs necessary for the next year’s generation.

Although this may sound like an ideal life for a tiny insect, protected from predators by a large gall, it isn't a perfect defense. Even gall moths aren't safe from danger. There are numerous predators able to take advantage of the insects lack of mobility within the gall. Ichneumon wasps have a very long ovipositor and they are able to insert this “egg depositor” through the gall and lay an egg directly on the larval moth. Upon hatching, the larval wasp slowly eats its unwitting host – a parasite upon a parasite. Another wasp species lays its eggs on the moths eggs. The moth larva lives normally until it makes its cocoon and then dies. The wasp hatches, develops, and forms its own cocoon within the dead moth larva – and you thought the movie "Alien" was gruesome. Sometimes real life can be stranger than fiction.

If you find an old stem with a gall on it, open it up. Although the moths don't overwinter in them, some of their parasites do. You may also find the hollow skin case they cast off just before emerging. In addition, a number of other insects and spiders reuse the old galls as homes.

In Winter - Size Does Matter

Last month, we looked at how the lack of snow this winter would cause hardships for mice. One of the key challenges that small animals face in winter is the loss of heat. To illustrate this challenge, I want to introduce you to the surface to volume ratio, because this has a strong bearing on how readily an animal loses heat. Simply stated, if we take the surface area of an animal and divide that by the same animals volume, we get the surface to volume ratio. For simplicity, we'll use two blocks as an example. One block is 1cm x 1cm x1cm in size, while the other is 2cm x 2cm x 2cm. The area of the first block (Length x Width x Number of Sides) is 6cm² and its volume (Length x Width x Height) is 1cm³. The surface to volume ratio will be 6 to 1 or 6:1. The larger block, on the other hand has a surface area of 24cm² and a volume of 8cm³. Divide 24/8 and the surface to volume ratio is 3:1.

What does all this mean? The surface to volume ratio provides a measure of how easily an object (or an animal) will lose heat. The higher the ratio, the faster the heat loss. Volume can be likened to the capacity of a furnace. The larger the volume, the more capacity an animal has to produce heat. In this example, with a surface to volume ratio of 6:1, the smaller block has double the capacity for losing heat than the larger block with its 3:1 ratio. What's even worse, its volume is 1/8 that of the larger block, meaning it has only 1/8 of the capacity to produce heat!.

If we replace blocks with animals of equivalent size and volume, the small animal loses heat at twice the rate, but can only produce 1/8 as much as the larger animal. It doesn't take a mathematical genius to realize that a mouse or vole is going to produce very little heat, but lose a great deal. A moose, on the other hand, has an immense furnace capacity (volume), but at the same time loses heat very slowly. No wonder small animals seek refuge underneath the snowpack. They have developed such strategies to help them escape the cold.

Join Us On A Wildlife Safari

Join an expert naturalist in an exploration of the secret world of wildlife. In addition to searching for wildlife, our presentation shows you trees that have been climbed by bears (leaving permanent scars), active nests of eagles and ospreys, and fields frequented by elk and wolves. Our portable museum combines field observation with fossils, artifacts, guide books, and telescopes to provide a truly unique learning experience.

The magic of this workshop is its compelling mix of possibility mixed with tangible experiences. Expert guides take you behind the scenes, highlghting current trends in research. Through the work of researchers and biologists, we are finding better ways to coexist with the local wildlife?

This is no ordinary tour! While we cannot guarantee you'll see wildlife, you WILL see more than just fabulous views. This tour can be customized to meet your needs. Why not combine a half-day wildlife safari with a guided nature hike? Ward Cameron Enterprises is dedicated to bringing the wildlife to you. Learn more at

Marketing Magic ― Words Sell - Not Pictures

I am very fortunate. The success of has provided new opportunities for me to work with other companies to help improve their online presence. Sometimes, they proudly type in their web address and display a flashy site with beautiful photographs and animated introductions produced with Macromedia Flash. I know then that I need to focus our energy on bringing their website back to basics. Never forget, words sell, pictures don't!

Far too many web developers feel the need to impress their customers with bandwidth hogging Flash introductions (always with a text link that is labeled "Skip Intro"), beautiful photographs and bouncing animated graphics. After impatiently waiting for these massive sites to load, I'm often amazed by how little time was spent on crafting the words to accompany all of the pizzazz.

In my opinion, Flash introductions have no place as an introductory home page.  Most web users are still on slow dialup connections and the Flash intros simply take too long to load. You should never force your visitors to experience any online multimedia content. If you need to put a "Skip Intro" link on your page, then skip adding it to the website. If you must use Flash, then give them the option of viewing it. Open your site with a normal web page and provide the option to watch an animated presentation. In this way, you are providing an extra service to your broadband customers rather than angering your dial-up clients, many of who will not push the "Skip Intro" button. Instead, they will click the back button, return to the search engine listing that led them to you, and head to the next site on the list.

Graphics need to support the text message, not the other way around. I want to be very clear about this. Nobody will buy your product because you have a nice photograph. They will buy your product or service because you have crafted a compelling story that provides an irresistible offer and also helps them to understand why YOU are the perfect company to provide it. Spend the vast majority of your web development time crafting your words. Don't add graphics until you have created a great story, and then evaluate every single image against your message. If it doesn't support it, then get rid of the image.

If you really want to learn some of the secrets to turning YOUR website into a site that actually turns browsers into customers, then check out the following link. It will change your entire way of looking at your website. The book is called Make Your Site Sell and is the best selling book for creating websites that generate bottom line profits. Check it out at:


Discover New Ways To Take Your Message To A Much Wider Audience

Ward Cameron is the author of three books on western Canada and the cybernaturalist behind Let him show you new and innovative ways to take your interpretive message and bring it to a wider audience. By thinking big and getting creative, you can find new markets and outlets for your interpretive messages. Ward will give you ingenious ways to have your message explode through park boundaries (or museum walls) to visit your message on the world. After all, it’s all about sharing the stories. Book your presentation today at

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