Saturday, March 30, 2013

De-salting the World’s Water from Topsfield, MA

Pat Burke, center, with IDA colleagues.
By Tala Strauss
Gordon College News Service
March 28, 2013
(This story appeared April 17, 2013, in the print and online editions of the Salem News.)

Topsfield, MA, may be famous for its popular agricultural fair, but what many don’t know is that for almost half a century, it has also been home to a global organization addressing international water scarcity issues. The International Desalination Association (IDA) is the global hub of information on desalination, a process of “de-salting” water to make it usable.

For people living in a part of the world like Topsfield where water is readily accessible, topics like “desalination” might not come up often in everyday conversations. But 300 million people worldwide rely on desalination for their daily water needs, and that number is increasing as population growth, pollution, leaks, and climate change compromises available fresh water supplies in many places across the globe, according to IDA. So why Topsfield?

“Many people do ask, ” said Secretary General Patricia Burke, who has been with the organization since before it was the International Desalination Association. “It’s because this is where I am.”

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, IDA’s offices have been in Topsfield since their beginning. Burke worked out of her home in Topsfield before IDA found offices, and IDA’s seven team members now are all from the area. But their work takes them all over the world.

This year’s IDA World Congress, for instance, will take place in Tianjin, China, where over a thousand experts in the desalination industry will gather for six days in October to exchange knowledge and experience. And during April and May alone, IDA lists desalination-related events in Spain, United Arab Emirates, Western Australia, and Canada.

“Desalination is part of the water strategy for the 21st century, and it has become essential in many places,” said Ann Seamonds, public relations spokesperson for IDA. Currently, there are 16,000 desalination plants across the world. The market for desalination is primarily municipal and industrial users, but includes power stations, agriculture, and the military.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hiking in the Moonlight

By Stephanie Francis
Gordon College News Service
February 28, 2013
(This article appeared March 7, 2013, in the Boston Globe, Gloucester site.)

Ipswich, MA—Scott Santino, 36, remembers how loud it was last March when he led a group of hikers through the wetlands.
“The peepers were so loud you could barely hear anything else,” said Santino. “But we were lucky enough to hear a faint hoot from an owl in the background.”

Santino works for Mass Audubon’s Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary as a Sanctuary Naturalist. Last year the sanctuary hosted a Full Moon Hike once a month. The next two-hour hike, “Vernal Pools Under the Full Worm Moon” will take place, Wednesday, March 27 at 6:30 pm and is located in the Sanctuary. Cost is $14 for members and $16 for those who aren’t.

Santino started the program after being inspired by similar events at other sanctuaries he’s come into contact with. The name of each hike is the Native American name for each month’s full moon. Santino says that he tries to incorporate a theme with each hike. A few of the participants have been “regulars” so Santino tries to make sure that each walk includes a variety of new elements.

“We get both male and female hikers,” said Santino. “A lot of people are from Essex, and we even get a couple of people from the metro Boston area.”

The one thing that all of Santino’s participants have in common, though, is that they are active adults interested in the natural terrain of the region. And that’s just as he likes it; when he started working full time for Mass Audubon in 2001, one of his first responsibilities was to bring in an adult audience.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Art for the Dead: Gravestone Rubbers visit Danvers

By Alanah Percy
Gordon College News Service
February 26, 2013
(This story appeared February 27, 2013, in the Boston Globe, Your Town homepage and Danvers site.)

Danvers, MA—Brenda Sullivan, 43, always cherished the time she spent in the cemetery. When she was a child, her mom would take her on frequent visits to the family burial ground to practice gravestone rubbings, impressions of a headstone made on paper using a pencil or a piece of charcoal.

“They’re peaceful quiet places that are safe and full of history,” said Sullivan. “They are just as much for the living as they are for the dead.”

Those visits stayed with Sullivan and after leaving a job with an international shoe manufacturer, she connected with two other gravestone enthusiasts, Melissa Anderson, 43, and Maggie White, 34. The three began traveling to cemeteries around Massachusetts, across the United States, and occasionally overseas, and coined the name, “Gravestone Girls.” Soon, they began making three-dimensional gravestone rubbings, and selling their work through small art shows, friends and families.

“Nothing says Happy Birthday or Merry Christmas like a gravestone,” said Sullivan.

The business has now expanded to include everything from private commission projects, tomb stone replications, locating family stones and public programming at local libraries. On Wednesday, March 6 at 7 p.m., the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers will host the Gravestone Girls for a 90-minute virtual tour of Danvers cemeteries. The tour will include images from colonial burial grounds through those of the 21st century and is free to the public.

“We are very excited to hear their perspective,” said Donna Maturi, head of reference services at the library. “We contracted them to do research in the area because it has a rich colonial history.”

Of course, to some the art of gravestone rubbing might seem gruesome or grim.

Your Tree Warden Needs You

Pictured above: Sean McCrea, 37, Mark Leblanc, 49, Bob Mello, 38, doing a tree removal
on Martinack Avenue in Peabody. 
Picture by Tala Strauss.

By Tala Strauss 

Gordon College News Service 

February 28, 2013
(This story appeared March 6, 2013, in the print and online editions of the Salem News, and March 11, 2013, in the Boston Globe, Peabody site.)

Peabody, MA— 
Brian Grant, 38, has always loved parks and trees. But as Peabody’s new tree warden—who is essentially the “guardian” of trees in Peabody (although he still needs to get his arborist license)—Grant sees trees with new eyes.

“I used to just drive down the street and just keep going. Now I’m looking at every tree I pass,” Grant said. “It’s good and it’s a curse, I guess.”

With many of Peabody’s older trees sometimes reaching 60 feet, Grant said, the risk of a falling tree doing significant damage makes tree removal a priority for the Department of Recreation, Parks & Forestry. Tree wardens like Grant are responsible for overseeing the planting, pruning, and removal of trees. In fact, since 1890 all cities and towns in Massachusetts have been required by law to have a tree warden, and the Massachusetts Tree Wardens & Foresters Association (MTWFA) is the oldest tree organization in the U.S., having worked for “the protection and preservation of trees” since 1913. But right now, things aren’t looking so good for trees in the Commonwealth.

This past year, for instance, Grant’s department was unable to plant any new trees because the money originally budgeted for planting had to be redirected to cleanup after Hurricane Sandy. Director Jennifer Davis said that even the year before that the department did not plant new trees.

Davis hopes this year will be different and said the department plans to spend $15,000 on planting trees. A tree costs $250-$300. Assuming the money is used only to purchase trees, there would be approximately 50 new trees in Peabody in the coming months.

“We are overdue to leave a zero carbon footprint,” said Sean McCrea, 37, a member of Grant’s three-man crew. “The rate of tree removal to tree replacement in Peabody is too frightening.”