June 19th-25th 2017 is designated as Pollinator Week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior! So go out and hug your local pollinator…or maybe just plant some native wildflowers. And lay off those pesticides.
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.
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.
The “Strawberry Squid” or Histioteuthis heteropsis is a deep-sea squid that is known for it’s resemblance to a strawberry and it’s mismatched eyes. It is also affectionately called the cock-eyed squid by it’s squid friends and a few marine biologists. Particularly after it’s had too many strawberry daiquiris 😉 Sorry, I couldn’t help myself…
In the past, studying and observing organisms that inhabit the deeper parts of the ocean was challenging. But with the advent of remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and and other related technology, researchers can get to know some of the odd fellows that populate the deep, deep sea. If you are curious about what MBARI finds at the bottom of the ocean, check out their YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/MBARIvideo. Another favorite is NOAA’s Ocean Exploration and Research YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/oceanexplorergov. And you thought YouTube was only good for watching cat videos.
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.