Building the Buzz

On a brisk October morning, Dr. Bill Bookwalter dons a billowy, white beekeeping suit complete with veil and hikes up a hill behind his Fox Chapel home to harvest honey. Most days, you’ll find him in surgical scrubs, but during his downtime, Bookwalter, a neurosurgeon, practices apiculture: he maintains colonies of bees. While the honey …

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The Old Ways May Be Best

Marino floro plucks a perfectly shaped fig from a tree in his Sewickley yard, opens the door to his chicken coop, and offers the fruit to a chamois-colored hen, which clucks with enthusiasm. Three chickens inhabit this paradise of a mini-farm, where trees yield four different kinds of figs, as well as peaches, plums, apricots, …

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The Beauty of Commitment

Bob Coward, dog-eared scorebook in hand, hurries through the turnstile at PNC Park for what will be his 2,600th-and-something Pittsburgh Pirates home game. A compact man who once worked as a prison guard at Western Penitentiary (now SCI Pittsburgh) on the city’s North Side, Coward darts through the thickening crowd, greeting ushers and vendors as …

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Warning Signs

On the first warm day of May, Jim Chestney cuts through thickets of black huckleberry and laurel and ponders his impending climb to a timber rattlesnake den on a central Pennsylvania mountain. It’s a toss-up as to which poses the greater threat—the venomous pit viper Crotalus horridus or its unforgiving habitat. Chestney can attest to …

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You’re in ‘Steelie Country’

When summer gives way to early fall and warm days yield to cool nights, an annual obsession begins to surface on Lake Erie streams. Steelhead and those enamored of the silvery salmonid (Oncorhynchus mykiss) migrate en masse to dozens of tributaries in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. Anglers wade knee-deep into the chilly, slate-blue water …

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Bring Back the Paddlefish

A century ago, as work neared completion on the region’s locks and dams and Pittsburgh was producing half of the nation’s steel, paddlefish disappeared from the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers. A cousin to sturgeon and equally coveted for its roe, this curious-looking creature with the spatula-like snout used to thrive here—ranging great distances and …

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Facing Extinction

Wildlife biologists Greg Turner and DeeAnn Reeder slip into the sort of coveralls you would expect to see on an infectious disease ward and enter the cold, musty confines of an old Fayette County mine. With headlamps lighting their rubble-strewn path, they venture deep into a labyrinth of rooms long abandoned except by bats. Here, …

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The Wild Side

In his Westmoreland County office, Scott Tomlinson displays a photo of four men with camouflage-painted faces and a pile of dead deer in their blue pickup truck. As a state wildlife conservation officer, Tomlinson has apprehended dozens of poachers over the years, and the image has come to symbolize the bravado he has encountered again …

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