Happy Sunday! So I’m trying something new. From now on I will start posting multiple short topics on recent articles I have read, organizations or artists that I follow, or other science or sciart related topics. I figure variety is the spice of life. Let me know what you think!
Fungus Among Us-A recent article in the New York Times discusses the art of wild mushroom hunting and the bioluminescence that some mushroom species emit.
Bambi Likes Ribs-From Popular Science, a deer was spotted munching on a human carcass by forensic scientist on a body farm. Note-Do NOT Google “body farm images” if you spook easily.
The Crowd and the Cloud-A new show premiers on PBS about citizen science and the use of mobile technology to help collect data on a variety of topics.
Courtney Mattison-An amazing ceramic artist who creates intricate coral reef ecosystems out of clay to help highlight their importance and their fragile state due to human-induced threats.
Spring is here and some wildlife are emerging from hibernation. They should be waking up on the sunny side of the den after a long winters rest but that is not necessarily true. Hibernation takes a toll on their body and it takes a great deal of energy to wake up and join the land of the conscious. The New York Time’s Science section has a wonderful article about what goes on in this time of waking for a few different animals: Waking From Hibernation, the Hard Work of Spring Begins (by Steph Yin).
Happy Spring everyone!
About the Illustration: Acrylic gouache and India ink. I am currently smitten with acrylic gouache. The opacity of gouache but waterproof like acrylic paint. When I read the article and saw the picture of the sleeping black bear and her cub this image came to me. I considered putting pjs on both of them but I decided the sleeping masks were enough.
Six years after the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant, wildlife has taken over the the twelve mile exclusion zone around the plant. Most notably packs of wild boars have settled in to their new homes. Unfortunately for residents who are slowly planning their return to the area, these boars are highly radioactive (300x higher than the safety standards) and no longer intimidated by humans. Major hunts and special incinerators is the current answer to this situation but will it be enough? Will residents ever go back?
Note: A lovely article about the wildlife of Chernobyl. It is embedded in the article linked above but I wanted to highlight it in case you missed it.
About This Illustration: Watercolor on Yupo Paper.
In some regions of the United States it felt more like April or May during the month of February (and now March). Yay! Flip flops and shorts! What could be so bad about that? For some plants and animals an early spring (or really a pattern of earlier springs due to climate change) can cause ecological mismatches. Flowers may bloom before the arrival of pollinators. Certain insects that are a key part of the diet of a migrating bird species might emerge before the arrival of those migrating birds. Different species follow different environmental queues and in a changing climate different species adapt at a different pace. So those seasonal phenomena (migration, breeding, etc…) can be out of whack due to a shift in temperature.
The study of those seasonal phenomena within the context of climate is called phenology. The USA National Phenology Network or NPN (under the United States Geological Survey) focuses entirely on this subject through monitoring and research via scientists and citizen scientists around the country. You can become an NPN citizen scientist by joining Natures Notebook. Sign up and begin recording your observations today and your data will be used by scientists and land managers to better understand and manage for the biological implications of climate change. Sit in your backyard with a notebook and a pencil, an easy way to contribute to science.
About the Illustration: Lilacs and Swallowtails-acrylic paint and rice paper. The lilac is a host plant for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
Recently the NPN created maps of the United States that illustrate the arrival of spring across the country based on temperature data from NOAA and extended spring indices-observations of the leafing out and blooming of lilacs and honeysuckles across the country are used as an indicator of leafing out of other plant species. Why lilacs and honeysuckles? Because they are both common flowering plants found across the country.
A bright note from the conservation world in 2016! Wild tiger populations are on a rise for the first time in a century, an estimated 3,890 now roam the earth-up from 3,200 in 2010. India houses most of the world’s wild tigers. The country has taken tiger conservation seriously. Russia, Nepal, and Bhutan are also seeing conservation successes.
Although this is encouraging these numbers do not indicate habitat quality (i.e. habitat fragmentation) or the status of subspecies. Populations in some countries are not well accounted for at this time and in places like Indonesia habitat destruction for the palm oil industry are negatively impacting tiger populations. Poaching for the black market (mostly for Chinese traditional medicines) and habitat destruction and fragmentation are the major causes in the decline of wild tiger populations in recent years. They are still a concern but coordinated conservation efforts and enforcement are helping tigers make a come back after a path towards extinction.
The Common Swift (Apus apus) can remain in the air for up to 10 months straight. Scientists tracked birds from (or to) their breeding grounds by attaching data loggers to record their route and flight activity during their annual migration. Some of the birds made short landings but remained in the air most of the time but some birds didn’t touch down once in the entire ten months. Talk about jet lag.
Meet the Pangolin, a scaly mammal that eats insects and hangs out in trees or burrows in the ground. It’s keratin-based scales are meant for protection from predators, a unique adaptation for a mammal. There are eight species of pangolin found in Asia and Africa. Unfortunately this unique critter has the dubious title of “most trafficked mammal” due to rampant poaching for it’s meat. During the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), delegates voted to ban all trade of all extant species of pangolin.
About The Illustration: Watercolor ink and micron pens. Originally I had him playing the piano but I removed the piano and now he looks a bit awkward. Oh well.
For those of you with little ones or have little ones in your life in some way-consider picking up a copy of “Roly Poly Pangolin” by Anna Dewdney. She’s the author of the Llama Llama books. A portion of each sale goes to pangolin conservation in Vietnam.