When I was a little kid, the things that scared me were a little silly – the slime monster from Ghostwriter, caterpillars, or a sinkhole developing underneath my bed that would swallow me while I slept. While I’ve gotten over these mostly ridiculous fears, being an adult doesn’t mean I am now fearless. Instead, the things that I consider “scary” have shifted. Now, the things that scare me are all too real – things like climate change and mass extinction.Read more
Silver carp are a notorious invasive fish that are spreading throughout the Mississippi River Basin. Despite their rapid-fire range expansion, silver carp have yet to make it to the Great Lakes. A recent study explores the possibility that polluted Chicago-area waters may be preventing the spread of silver carp into Lake Michigan and beyond.Read more
Excerpt: A recent study has revealed that 3 billion birds have disappeared since 1970 in North America. Restoring habitat can help reverse this loss, and technology in listening for birds can be a vital tool to see if this approach to restoring bird habitat is working.Read more
The core of ecology is devoted to studying the interactions among species and their environment. But why are some species present and others absent in an environment? Think of a region of forest that has been converted to an agricultural field. The species that were thriving in the forest now have become absent because they are not tolerant of the new environmental conditions imposed upon them in the agricultural field.
Only a subset of all species in a region can tolerate the ecological conditions of a given site (the site-specific species pool). Of those, not all are realized in the local species pool. These absent species form what is called the dark diversity of a community. Authors Lewis et al. (2017) believe that the dark diversity concept can be used to complement and further develop conservation prioritization and management decisionRead more
Many people become fearful at the mention of “bear country.” But is the risk of being hurt by a bear, or even seeing a bear, on your trip really that high? The answer is no: many campers and hikers don’t even know they have passed close to a bear during their time outdoors because bears largely try to avoid humans. When bears do come close to people, it is usually due to conflicts over food and space. Humans often retaliate against bears in these situations, which can ultimately threaten the survival of bear populations. In an effort to save these bears, a team of scientists came up with a program to mitigate human-bear conflicts and create spaces where both humans and bears can coexist.Read more
Blueberries and other crops are being impacted in the Pacific northwest by a new invasive species. Pesticide use to combat this problem may impact nearby aquatic life. Researchers studied agriculture areas with and without woody vegetation along stream banks to understand if they could play a role in keeping pesticides out of streams. Sites with woody vegetation reduced 96% of pesticide measured in the stream on average compared to sites without. Increasing woody vegetation next to streams could help farmers fight off invasive species while still protecting water quality.Read more
What do you say to a plant when it sneezes?
A recent study from Virginia Tech explains how water resistant plants spread harmful diseases by releasing bursts of spore-filled water droplets.Read more
When days become shorter and the temperature outside begins to drop, our home interiors become warm, welcoming refuges from the rain and snow outside. We see the trees enter dormancy as they drop their leaves, and wildlife become busy preparing for winter: Many birds migrate, some mammals prepare to hibernate, but where do the smooth and scaly things go? The frogs? The snakes? The turtles? And without a fur coat and thick layer of blubber, it makes one wonder how they survive in prolonged freezing temperatures. As it turns out, behavioral and physiological adaptations – such as brumation and supercooling – allow many amphibians and reptiles to withstand some of our planet’s most extreme winter conditions.Read more
In honor of World Algae Day which is celebrated on October 12th, we cover a recent study on charismatic kelp forest in the Pacific Northwest. A study led by Cathy Pfister at the University of Chicago shows that kelp forests can change water conditions by locally decreasing pH which can benefit organisms with shells. Furthermore, kelp forests increase the diversity of microbes, which may have previously overlooked consequences for nutrient cycling.Read more
How long of a time period needs to be studied before conclusions about human activity, population, and rising temperatures’ effect on animal extinction can be drawn? A recent paper focusing on three thousand years of historical animal population data shows that these things have led to significantly lower number of animals throughout recorded history – and the trend is still continuing.Read more