Posts tagged ‘ecology’

The food-chain effects of invasive species

Link: The food-chain effects of invasive species

A study tried to determine the effect that losing apex bird species in a large-scale environment would have, and to do so turned its eyes on Guam.

There, brown snakes were introduced by trade years ago. On the small island, insectivorous birds were the apex predators until the snakes were introduced, and have been almost entirely wiped them out. 

The study found that during the wet season, Guam’s spider web density was almost 40 times as high as nearby islands with healthy bird populations. During the dry season, that number dropped to 2.3 times as high. 

Another example of how dangerous a relatively benign non-native species may be to an environment, and the top-down effects they can have on the food chain.

Help map seafloors and sealife in this dynamic project

Link: Help map seafloors and sealife in this dynamic project

Help scientists identify seafloor types and living species in this engaging, citizen dependent project. The hope is to identify species, map populations, and get a better idea of the makeup of the northeastern continental shelf of the U.S. 

Despite just being released, over 200,000 images have been mapped and possibly even a new species. How reliable those mappings are remains to be seen, but with such a great amount of input the results should even out.

A fantastic project that really takes advantage of the huge citizen workforce that is available on the web. I’m looking forward to see what results Seafloor Explorer can give us, and whether any similar projects pop up.

Following the common life cycle of many military technologies, drones are now being put to a more peaceful use: ecology. A growing movement is the utilization of drones and thermal-imaging to do everything from tracking illegal whaling ships, counting and protecting animal populations, and providing high-res photos of endangered habitats.

The Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology is compiling a different kind of sperm bank, one that can hopefully be used to save our coral reefs.

While coral can produce asexually, sexual reproduction is necessary for the corals’ genetic diversity to maintain a sustainable level. That’s why Dr. Mary Hagedorn is constantly adding to her stock of coral embryonic cells and sperm in her one-of-a-kind collection.

At the rate coral reefs are being destroyed or bleached, they will be well on their way to complete destruction by 2050. Hopefully, with the help of Dr. Hagedorn’s work, we can delay or even avoid the incident completely.


Image of 3-D, synthetic DNA-like crystals created by UCLA chemists Yaghi, Deng and colleagues.

Credit: CNSI, UCLA–Department of Energy Institute of Genomics and Proteomics

Source: A method to capture carbon dioxide

Vandals smash duck-billed dinosaur fossil to pieces in Alberta.

Link: Vandals smash duck-billed dinosaur fossil to pieces in Alberta.

Similarly, a construction crew destroyed nearly 20,000 leatherback sea turtle eggs this week in Trinidad. Both the bones and the eggs, the past and future of our earth, are priceless in their own ways. Lack of care or outright ignorance is bad for everybody.

A small refugee town in Pakistan is demonstrating the power of solar energy in changing lives. A few dozen families, many of them led by single mothers, are experiencing a revolution in not just green energy, but social acceptance and prosperity.

Each small house has four solar panels powering it, allowing for basic electrical amenities such as ceiling fans. The panels cost about $1500 each, and were paid for by a joint Chinese/German company. Many of the appliances were previously impossible for the families, many of whom had never known about solar energy. Most of the single mothers are able to own the houses outright, a usually rare occurrence that has fostered a more equal attitude toward women in the town.

Outside of the home, panels also power irrigation systems, water pumps, and city streetlights. This, combined with the strict attitudes of the residents, has resulted in greater production and virtually no crime.

As we work toward creating alternative energies that allow us to power large-scale grids, we need to be mindful of the effect that even small amounts of electricity can have on the impoverished of the world. If this small Pakistani village is any sort of example, it’s clear that electricity is more than just a luxury but a force that can change the world. 

Panamanian shipping lanes to be reduced for whales

Link: Panamanian shipping lanes to be reduced for whales

Panama has decided, with effects hopefully beginning next year, to consolidate shipping lanes into and out of the Panama Canal in order to drastically reduce the number of intrusions and deaths in whale habitats. The Cape of Panama is a whale breeding location and is becomingly an increasingly popular destination for eco-tourism. 

Dr. Guzman from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute says:

“So [under the new scheme] they’ll have their vessels, they’ll be apart from the heavy traffic lanes – more important still is we’re increasing the buffer of protection between the mainland and the shipping lanes in a region where we have five different protected areas including World Heritage Sites.”


Stereoscopy of slime mold by Ron Oldfield

Slime molds are incredible. They are super efficient movers, and can exist as either unicellular or multicellular depending on the environment to which they are exposed. Also, they’re kinda pretty as far as molds go.


The Maldives has used the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil to announce that all 1,192 of its islands will become a marine reserve by 2017.

AFP quotes the President Mohamed Waheed as saying: “I would like to announce today Maldives will become the first country to become a marine reserve.”

“It will become the single largest marine reserve in the world. This policy will allow only sustainable and eco-friendly fishing. It will exclude deep-sea, purse-seining and other destructive techniques,” he said.

We had the opportunity to grow in this beautiful world and now that we have the power to preserve or destroy it, we need to do everything we can to protect these pristine ecosystems. Morally, scientifically, aesthetically; we can all benefit from saving our earth. This is another great step toward that. For the Americans, you can help by saving California’s parks, for one thing among many!