Ecology

Shorts & Flip Flops in March

Lilacs

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.

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright

tiger-tiger-burning-bright

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.

For More Information:

http://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/for-the-first-time-in-100-years-tiger-numbers-are-growing

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/tiger-populations-increasing/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160410-tiger-numbers-rise-wwf-conservation-double-population/

About the Illustration: Watercolor ink on bristol paper. This illustration can be purchased through my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ScienceStories

 

Sciart Books for the Holidays

fullsizeoutput_12d7

Now on to sciart books…

Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky, a lovely illustrated book on some remarkable women in science. I knew many of these intelligent ladies but there were a few new ones. Excellent for that budding scientist on your holiday shopping list.

Thunder and Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future by Lauren Redniss, Illustrations of weather and climate change. Far ranging in topics covered and meticulous writing.

She also wrote, Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout 

The Where, The Why, & The How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science by By Jenny Volvovski, Julia Rothman, and Matt Lamothe

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

The Thrilling Adventure of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua

I Am Not A Plastic Bag by Achel Hope Allison,

World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky and Frank Stockton

Climate Changed: A Personal Journey through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni

Other Lists and Sources:

Science and Scientist Graphic Novels, Ann Arbor District Library 

Top 15 Graphic Novels for the Science Classroom 

A Mighty Girl Science and Technology Book List

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

This is not an exhaustive list but if it peaks your interest you can check out my Sciart Book Pinterest Board for more sciart book goodness!

 

Sciart for the Holidays

As we begin the holiday season and begin our holiday shopping, consider giving a little sciart/ science goodness to your loved ones. I will be highlighting different purveyors of sciart/ science products in the next couple of days. Today I will begin with sciart. Above is some offerings from my Etsy shop, ScienceStories. I offer cards and prints from my Etsy shop. Some illustrations come directly from my blog posts and others are inspired by science and nature. I only ship within the United States (I hope to expand next year) but I offer free shipping! Please purchase by early December in order to receive your purchase by Christmas.  https://www.etsy.com/shop/ScienceStories

In addition to my Etsy shop is my RedBubble shop where I offer many of my illustrations on RedBubble products (as seen above). RedBubble ships pretty much everywhere and they offer high quality products. 100% satisfaction guaranteed or you can return your purchase for a refund. Shop soon as purchases need to be made by early December in order to receive them in time for Christmas! http://www.redbubble.com/people/sciofill

Some Other SciArt Folks (not an exhaustive list):

LoveBacteriaArt-https://www.etsy.com/shop/LoveBacteriaArt

ImmySmithArt-https://www.etsy.com/shop/ImmySmithArt

Artologica-https://www.etsy.com/shop/artologica

ArtofCarimNahaboo-https://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtofCarimNahaboo

sandraculliton-https://www.etsy.com/shop/sandraculliton

Kelzuki-https://www.etsy.com/shop/kelzuki

Cartoon Neuron-http://www.redbubble.com/people/immy

Minouette-https://www.etsy.com/shop/minouette

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

This is not an exhaustive list but if it peaks your interest check out my Sciart Pinterest Board for more sciart goodness!

 

My Illustration for Lateral Magazine

rainbowfish-2

My recent illustration for Lateral Magazine, an Australian Science magazine. It accompanies an article about the Running River Rainbowfish, threatened species, and conservation action. http://www.lateralmag.com/articles/issue-16/watered-down

Two Heads Aren’t Always Better Than One

fullsizeoutput_1147

Reports of two-headed sharks have increased through the years. Is it due to overfishing which reduces the size of the gene pool and allows for more of these genetic mutations to occur (think inbreeding)? Or is it just easier to report these observations (through scientific papers and social media)? It is a difficult topic to research since most of these sharks never survive. But it is a critical question that needs to be answered. Is it overfishing? Increased reporting? Pollution? Or something else entirely. Global shark populations are not doing well as it is, genetic mutations could be an additional silent threat.

And the Nobel Goes to…

img_6159

At the beginning of October Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his research into the genetic underpinnings of autophagy. Autophagy is the process by which cellular material is destroyed and reused. His work is crucial to understanding the molecular mechanisms behind cancer and other diseases. Mutations in autophagy genes have been linked to illness in humans.

About the Illustration: My illustration is an abstract version of autophagy where autphagosomes (an organelle-a specialized subunit of a cell that serves a specific purpose in the functioning of a cell) consume damaged organelles or other cellular contents and then fuses with lysosomes (another type of organelle) to degrade the cellular materials to be repurposed within the cell. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Other Nobel Prizes in the Science went to:

Nobel Prize in Physics-David Thouless, Duncan Haldane, and Michael Kosterlitz for  explaining strange phenomena in unusual phases (or states) of matter.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry-Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa for their development of molecular machines that are a thousand times thinner than a hair strand. Yes, you read correctly.

img_5592

So a starfish, now what does a starfish have to do with the Nobel Prize? In the 1960’s Dr. Robert Paine observed the impact of removing the ochre starfish (Pisaster ochraceus) from a small area of the Washington coast. Without the starfish present the diverse community devolved into a species-poor area. Based on his observations Dr. Paine formulated the theory of “Keystone Species“.  This is a species that has a large impact on an ecosystem and when it disappears that ecosystem essentially falls apart. A major theory that helped shape ecology, keystone species have been identified in a variety of ecosystems. Both terrestrial and aquatic.

After the Nobel Prizes in Science were announced an opinion piece came out in the New York Times about updating the Nobel Prize. The author, Gabriel Popkin, discusses the role of Dr. Paine in furthering the field of ecology and how the diversity of scientific disciplines has grown since Alfred Nobel created the Nobel Prize through his will. He writes about possibly expanding the Nobel Prize to include other fields such as ecology, climatology, geology, etc… So? So what? Consider that the Nobel Prize brings money and prestige and consider how that could be used in fields where there is little of either. Consider that funding for science in the United States is diminishing. Also consider that the ochre starfish is dying out due to sea star wasting disease. What does that mean for the ecosystem that it supports? What does it mean for us?  Had Dr. Paine studied the role of the ochre starfish  in coastal ecosystems in the current funding climate he may not have been able to come up with his monumental findings. There is still much to learn and discover but with shrinking funding some research will loose it’s seat at the table.