A look at the natural world around us.

For many families, ham is part of a holiday tradition.  The nation’s largest producer – Smithfield – is based in Virginia, and this state is home to more than a quarter of a million pigs.  This story is the first in a five-part series looking at the impact of a growing industry on the environment, on the animals and on public health.


Most owls are nocturnal and we're lucky to see them. We usually hear them.
That's the great horned owl with a "Who! Who!" we associate with owls. But these are the other owls in Virginia.

(owl sounds)

That was the Barn, Eastern Screech, and Barred Owl.  According to Sabrina Garvin, Executive Director of Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center, those four raptors are not only majestic but vital:

Lyme Disease in Winter: If You Can See Mud...

Mar 3, 2016

One of the nice things about winter? You can go for a walk in the woods and not be besieged by insects.  But not all bugs are dormant during the cold months.  As soon as the ground temperature gets above freezing, the tick that carries Lyme disease becomes active.  If you can see mud, there could be hungry deer ticks out looking for lunch. 

Anne Zajac is professor of parasitology at Virginia Tech.  Her specialty is studying earthworms, but a couple of strange discoveries soon had her doing a ground breaking scientific field study about a different species.

Creative Commons, Flickr user Will Fisher

Virginia’s coal economy has endured boom and bust cycles for generations.   But this time may be different. Competition from cheaper fuels and climate concerns are creating a downward spiral for the industry. What some see as a ‘war on coal’ others see as a timely transition to new energy sources, but everyone is wondering what that future will look like.

Determining the Fate of the Cownose Ray

Feb 19, 2016

Oyster restoration efforts around the Chesapeake Bay come with a variety of concerns including one that returns every spring with the annual migration of the cownose ray. A new Florida State University report published by Nature is using new data to refute claims that cownose rays are responsible for the collapse of the oyster industry.