Combine Crickets and Lockdowns and get an Unlikely Experiment

In the spring of 2020, we all dealt with lockdowns in a different way. In urban parks, animals were suddenly exposed to a world without humans, and this disrupted ongoing urban ecology experiments. But resourceful ecologists used the sudden silence near businesses and the uptick of outdoor recreation to understand how shifting human behaviors change timing and duration of chirping urban crickets.

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If trees could hear, is human noise a threat?

Sources of noise, like gas well compressors, are known to affect many animals negatively. But could the noise be impacting plant communities? Researchers sought an answer by comparing pinyon and juniper seedling growth near quiet or noisy gas well pads in the woodlands of New Mexico. Throughout the twelve-year study, noise harmed tree communities. Trees struggled to recover even several years after the noise was removed. Now is the time to listen to the trees because the trees are tired of listening to us.

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A Day in the Life of a Parasite: Using Parasites to Describe Fish Movement

When you think of parasites, your first thoughts probably aren’t “helpful” or “useful.” However, parasites aren’t just something we try to get rid of; they can be studied and used in all kinds of applications, including conservation. Check out this article to learn more about how scientists are using parasites to track species movements around the world.

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Sperm Whales Learned to Avoid Nineteenth-Century Whalers

Nineteenth-century whalers questioned why sperm whales were getting drastically more challenging to capture. At the time, whalers of the North Pacific Ocean kept detailed logbooks about sperm whale sightings and harpoon strikes. These logbooks could help provide answers to the problem whalers faced in the 1800s and to the sperm whale populations struggling to recover today. Sperm whales that have encountered whalers might communicate to other sperm whales how to avoid the dangerous whalers. This information transfer between whales could help them adapt to rapidly changing environments.

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Phoning the Queen with Fanning and Pheromones

Like a game of telephone, bees pass pheromones to each other by sticking their butts in the air and frantically fanning their wings. This individual behavior helps the entire group aggregate around the queen. A recent study used video recording and machine learning to understand how these pheromones are passed from bee to bee and understand collective behavior in honey bees.

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Increasing Temperatures and Decreasing Insect Populations

Without insects, we wouldn’t have all of the edible plants that we rely on as important parts of our diets and entire ecosystems would be in trouble. Despite their importance, insects face many threats, including climate change. Through a literature review, a group of scientists found that increasing temperatures due to climate change and the resulting ecosystem changes are a leading cause of insect population declines globally. Some species have disappeared completely. However, different species respond to climate change differently. Monitoring and understanding their responses can help us prevent their loss.

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Can Human Infrastructure Improve Biodiversity?

Electrical towers are dotted across landscapes around the world, bringing power to people in cities and the country. But can these towers be used to help wildlife? In a new study, researchers in Sevilla, Spain modified the base of these towers to attract wildlife. They found that not only do these man-made structures attract wildlife, but they can also act as wildlife corridors — providing safe passage for critters as they move across human-modified landscapes.

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The “Heartbreaking” Effect of Algal Blooms – Heart disease and the Southern Sea Otter

Our favorite hand-holding marine mammals, sea otters, are threatened by environmental toxins. Chemicals produced by algae blooms move up the food chain and cause a multitude of diseases in top predators. A new study documented how algae blooms cause heart disease in sea otters, what this means for our own seafood consumption, and proposes solutions to our pollution.

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Puzzling Mice – City mice are better problem solvers

What’s your strategy for completing a jigsaw puzzle? Puzzles and games require problem solving and strategy. Animals also need to problem-solve to overcome challenges in their environment, but it’s not all fun and games for them. Human disturbance and constant change in cities can make for really challenging conditions for city animals, such as mice. City and county striped field mice will have to prove their problem-solving wit by sliding, lifting, carrying, and digging their way through eight obstacles.

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