January 14, 2014

TGR takes you behind the scenes of the first ever US Freeskiing Team     Photo: Courtesy of TGR

Freeskiing Prepares for Olympic Debut

TGR looks behind the scenes at U.S. freeski athletes training for Sochi.

For the first time in history, the Winter Olympics will feature freeskiing as an event. For a sport where the X Games and Dew Tour were considered the ultimate venues, Sochi will now play host to a grateful generation of high-flying winter athletes who will compete in the men's and women's ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle events.

"A lot of people in other sports, they dream of going to the Olympics. We never had that dream. It's blowing my mind every day,” said Tom Wallisch, the X Games Gold Medalist in slopestyle. 

This past weekend, David Wise and Maddie Bowman were the leading athletes to lock down a spot on the first ever U.S. Freeskiing team. Both Wise and Bowman secured their spots by winning the halfpipe event at the U.S. Grand Prix in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Other spots will be determined at the sport’s now second-most important event, the X Games, which kick off later this month. The U.S. Freeskiing team selection will be based off the athletes’ top two finishes in competition. Bobby Brown and Keri Herman currently hold the top spots in slopestyle leading up to the competition.

Video: TGR teamed up with the U.S. Freeskiing Team during a private training camp last spring at Mammoth Mountain in California to film the segment.

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    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Biologist Guilty of Feeding Wild Orcas

Violated Marine Mammal Protection Act

Marine biologist Nancy Black was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act—feeding orca whales in the wild—the AP reports.

Black, whose work has appeared on PBS, National Geographic, and Animal Planet, initially faced a maximum fine of $100,000 and one year in prison, but was sentenced to three years of probation, $12,500 in fines, and 300 hours of community service.

In her plea agreement she admitted to offering chunks of gray whale blubber to the orcas in order to draw them closer to the boat for filming. Feeding wild orcas has the potential to disrupt the behavioral patterns of the whales and erodes their wariness of humans, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila said.

The judge also ordered Black to remain 100 yards away from the whales—a punishment that might interfere with the researcher’s popular whale-watching business.  

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Thanks to a new app for Google Glass, you can now race zombies in virtual reality.     Photo: BoJay/Flickr

Race Zombies with Google Glass

New fitness app

You’d likely run faster if killer zombies were chasing you.

Thanks to a new fitness app for Google Glass, the high-tech head display that projects this virtual reality on your surroundings, this will soon be a viable training technique. Race Yourself, which is undergoing testing and will be released this spring, lets you compete against yourself, your friends, celebrities, and yes, even zombies.

If running seems too tame, you can pull on a virtual wing suit and go skydiving. Naturally, Race Yourself will keep track of all your training logs and metrics, such as heart rate.

“We reward hard work with exciting content to help you push yourself to new levels,” the app’s website reads.  

Race Yourself is available for preorder.

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One of Trinidad and Tobago's resident animals, the armadillo.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tempers Flare Over Trinidad Hunting Ban

Two-year ban was enacted in October

Since October 1, hunting has been illegal on the island country of Trinidad and Tobago. After 140,000 of the nation's wild animals, some endangered, were hunted and killed during a three-year period, Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Ganga Singh enacted a two-year ban on hunting. Violations were met with fines of up to $100,000 and the possibility of jail time.

But now the nations hunters are beginning to fight back and vow that they will get the ban overturned. A high court ruling will be handed down in February that could overturn the law and send the hunters back into the wild.

Proponents of the practice argue that hunting with dogs is a time-honored tradition that builds community bonds and is a source of income for thousands. The meat of the lappe, a large rodent, sells for $19 a pound. 

Hunters also insist that the ban has allowed poachers and timber thieves to penetrate deeper into the wild. "I tell you, the poachers can hunt day and night now, and the marijuana farmers are setting up trap guns wherever they want," says 86-year-old Shackeer Mohammed, head of a local hunting association, told the Associated Press. "But the sports hunters, we're the ones made into outlaws."

Sing still insists that the ban is allowing for a long-overdue survey of the country's wildlife and that officers have been "vigorously patrolling the forests." Nonetheless hunters are determined to fight the ban and have vowed to make the government pay during national elections next year.

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Marijuana farms could be harming California salmon populations.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Pot Farms Harm Salmon Populations

California plantations sap water, spill harmful chemicals

Fishermen and biologists along California's North Coast agree that regional marijuana farms are severely harming local salmon populations, according to an NPR report.

Scott Bauer, a fisheries biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, says that in the summer growers use up to six gallons of water per day per plant—for as many as 30,000 plants.

Additionally, pot farms spill pesticides, fertilizers, and other substances into local rivers and streams. Debris can block salmon migration routes, and fertilizers often cause floating carpets of algae to grow. When the algae decays, it leeches oxygen from the water, suffocating fish in the process.

However, regional pot advocates say marijuana's prohibition makes them easy scapegoats.

"The truth is, if you flush a toilet in the hills, you're a part of the problem," says Kristin Nevedal, a founding chairperson of the Emerald Growers Association. Marijuana proponents also cite California's record-low precipitation in 2013 as part of the problem.

If the North Coast's marijuana debacle sounds like a buzzkill, consider taking a trip to Telluride, Colorado's new pot paradise.

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A dramatization of an underwater encounter between a giant squid and sperm whale at the American Museum of Natural History.     Photo: Ryan Somma/Flickr

360-pound Squid Caught in Japan

Fishing boat nets a 26-foot giant.

Fishermen on a Japanese boat inadvertently snagged something a lot larger than their usual amberjack fish: a giant squid, still alive.

The male squid was approximately 26 feet long and weighed 360 pounds. The creature was initially snagged 229 feet below the surface, off the coast of Niigata.

"We were about 30 minutes into our day when this large, reddish-brown thing came swimming up from the depths," fisherman Shingenori Goto told Reuters. "I was surprised—there's no other word for it. We all started shouting 'giant squid, giant squid' all at once."

The animal, which died shortly after capture, was taken to a government research institute in Niigata for further study.

Back in 2005, Japanese scientists first observed and photographed a giant squid in the wild.


Video: Japanese Fisherman Net Giant Squid

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