Science Communication

Fungus Among Us & Other Things

fullsizeoutput_15a7

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.

Minute Earth-Short animated YouTube videos on a variety of scientific topics such as “Why Some Molecules Have Evil Twins“.

About the Illustration: Acrylic painting of mushrooms at night (with some glow in the dark ferns).

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.

Going, Going, Gone

img_7247

The remaining portion of the Antarctic ice shelf called ” Larsen C” is showing signs of disintegration and may be no more by the end of the decade. This is deeply concerning since ice shelves help hold glaciers in place. Without that support the pace of glacial movement out to the ocean increases and therefore increases the pace of sea level rise. This particular ice shelf supports three glaciers named Leppard, Flask and Starbuck (anyone recognize the Moby Dick connection?). In 2002 a portion of Larsen C collapsed, it looks like what remains of the  10,000 year old ice shelf will soon be gone. The ice shelf Larsen B collapsed in 2002 which led to the increased flow of supporting glaciers. But Larsen C is 10 times the size of Larsen B and the fourth biggest ice shelf in Antarctica. What this could mean for coastal areas around the world is unknown.

Scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently made this discovery through the use of data from NASA’s Operation IceBridge (a six-year airborne survey of the Earth’s polar ice, the largest of it’s kind).

Interested in what’s going on in the Antarctic? Other aspects of climate change? Consider subscribing to Climate Central: http://www.climatecentral.org “An independent organization of leading scientists and journalists researching and reporting the facts about our changing climate and its impact on the public.” Facts still matter.

About the Illustration: Micron pen on vellum paper.

Washed Ashore

This past weekend we visited the Denver Zoo and among the animals were 15 different sculptures of marine life made solely from plastic trash found on beaches. A lot of plastic water bottles.

The sculptures were made by the Sciart non-profit The Washed Ashore Project who’s mission is to raise awareness about marine trash and conservation through art. Their exhibits travel around the country so check out this link to find an exhibit near you: http://washedashore.org/exhibit-locations/.

It is worth a visit. Their work is both heartbreaking and beautiful.

I See A Bad Moon Rising

fullsizeoutput_1296

Earlier this week we saw a “Super Moon“. What is a super moon? Once a month there is a full moon, where the earth is between the moon and the sun. Once a month there is a new moon, where the moon is between the earth and the sun. Every month the moon also reaches the closest point to the earth during it’s orbital rotation. That point is called the perigee. So a super moon is a full moon or new moon that coincides with perigee. This occurs a few times a year. However the most recent super moon is the closest the moon has been to the earth since 1948. The next time that will happen is in 2034. Mark it on your calendar.

The opposite of perigee is apogee where the moon is the furthest away from the earth during it’s orbital rotation.

The term “super moon” actually came from *astrology, not **astronomy. It was absorbed into astronomy because perigee full moon or perigee new moon is just not that sexy. It’s true, astronomers are trying to bring sexy back 😉

*Astrology is the the divination of the supposed influences of the stars and planets on us humans (from Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

**Astronomy is the scientific study of the universe-planets, stars, etc (from Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

About This Illustration: Acrylic and watercolor ink on canvas paper. I hope to offer this illustration as an art print but we will see how the metallic paint looks after scanning.