Amanda Apicella – Current Event

October 26, 2016

This Article by National Geographic describes the recent discovery of the cause behind the mysterious changing of colors in Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker’s feathers, as well as demonstrates the ripple effects of invasive species.

In the last few decades, ornithologists noted that some yellow-shafted northern flickers had their yellow feathers turned red. At first they thought it was due to interbreeding with the red-shafted northern flicker in the west yet the oddly red birds were found in areas extremely distant from them. Apparently new research has discovered that it actually had to do with their diets (as red, orange, and yellow pigments in bird feathers tend to be attributed to) and due to the importance of coloration in signaling it could have massive impacts on populations (including in finding mates).

One of the first clues to finding the truth was based on a study of the changes in cedar waxwing’s coloration that occurred in the 1960s. The yellow tips of some of the cedar waxwing’s feathers were turning orange and due to lack of red-feathered relatives they looked into the diet. Apparently it was due to the birds eating invasive honeysuckle berries (imported by horticulturalists in the late 1800s for landscaping, bird habitat and food then spread rapidly to become an invasive species) which appealed to their voracious appetite in regards to berries.

In their study regarding the northern flickers, they analyzed the chemicals in the pigments of both the red feathers and honeysuckle berries and confirmed that the red hue did in fact come from honeysuckle berries. This issue may lead to problems for the northern flicker’s ability to find mates and it is unknown how many other bird species are experiencing similar problems as well.

Current Issues: Max Kerns

October 5, 2016

Mongabay: World’s watersheds lost 6 percent of their forests in 14 years

( : August 31st, 2016)

 This article highlights the devastating effect that deforestation has on the some 230 watersheds worldwide. Using satellite imagery, World Resources Institute (WRI), tracks the deforestation of these watershed that shows tree cover loss from 6-14% with some cases showing loss of upwards of 22% over the last 15 years. Some of the most extreme cases are highlighted in Indonesia and Malaysia, due to heavy agriculture for oil palm and wood fiber. This has dire ramifications for local species and communities that rely on the tree cover that helps with a multitude of benefits from preventing erosion to the filtering of groundwater. Deforestation of the watersheds has also been linked to massive landslides, flooding, pollution, and fire specifically on these islands. Though the article also points out that deforestation has been going on much longer than the last 15 years, these same effects can be seen elsewhere still, in places like the watershed of Krishna, India.

Pacia Purcell: Current Environmental Event

October 4, 2016

Embry-Riddle Research on Space Plasma Hurricanes Could Lead to New Sources of Energy

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

In space the solar wind originating from the sun creates space hurricanes at the boundary of earth’s magnetic field. These hurricanes can transport solar wind plasmas into the magnetosphere. This process transfers the kinetic energy from the solar wind into the heat energy of magnetospheric ions. If they could utilize this mechanism effectively in plasmas created in a laboratory, they could create energy from water. Further research would need to be done to figure out just how much energy this process would be able to transfer.

Notes 9/28: Emily

September 28, 2016

Nature Notes:

“‘This desire stemmed from the belief that man’s essential nature resided in his emotions (‘I feel therefore I am’)  rather than his reason (‘I think therefore I am’)…'” This really represents a struggle of values, emotions versus thought that is around even today and has been for awhile.

“None wanted to trade permanently the benefits of modern life for the charms of existence in rude nature. Most sought only a temporary antidote. ‘Cataracts and mountains are good occasional society’, Wordsworth conceded, ‘but they will not do for constant companions.'” You can often call out the “posers” who call for a return to nature but won’t sleep outside all night.

“human domination over nature ‘did not rest upon columns of steel and shafts of timber but rather upon the soul’s aptitude to use nature in exploits of self-discovery and to contemplate the essential, spiritual harmony exhibited by the created universe.'” This is super interesting, the idea that nature’s true value is it’s assistance is self-discovery and knowledge.

“Besides, these middle-class initiatives often displayed more concern with the detrimental effects that enjoyment of cruelty would have on the moral status of the lower orders and their behavior towards other humans than sincere interest in the well-being of the animal victims. Whereas the ancient Roman elite trusted that gory spectacles would exhaust plebeian emotional urges, rendering the populace more tractable, the British Victorian establishment believed that sadistic amusements exacerbated people’s natural bestiality.”

“Each interest group takes from evolutionary theory and ecological study what best serves its needs.”

We worked on defining ‘Wilderness’ and ‘Nature’. Now I want to define ‘Conservation’, ‘Environmentalism’, and ‘Ecology”.

ecologist=’social healer’, not heal nature but to be healed by it

There seems to be three ways of finding actual value in Nature: Aesthetic value, Spiritual value, or Materialistic value.

Also seems to be two separate moral reasonings for environmentalist concern: concern for the physical earth and concern for humans. For example, the excuse that natural parks should be around for future generations is not true concern for the earth itself but concern of humanity. This is another reason why access to what is preserved is as important as the actual act of preservation.

The idea that the environmental struggle is the the struggle against capitalism is interesting. “In short, who owns the means of production is not such a trivial issue.” I have often felt this way when judging what I could do to really help the environmentalism cause. Effects in industry are far more than the effects of the individual but I personally can’t control industry. So it does feel like the struggle to decide how resources are used with an upper class.

I noticed that often “recreation” was named as one of the main enjoyments/uses of nature.

Coates has a fantastic conclusion at the end of ‘the future of nature’!

Environmental Stuff Notes:

A conversation today brought up a good point about the sustainable practice of buying local foods. What defines local? Within the city? Within the county? Within the state?  Within so many miles such as 150 miles? Is it reasonable to only buy food within the county which has very limiting options or availability? Buying from southern Ohio might be reasonable but this hardly seems as local. What about buying regionally? This still lessens the travel of the food and still ensures variety, quality, and availability.

Grass food crops facing climate change challenge

September 28, 2016

An Article by the BBC discusses a study that has highlighted the risk posed by projected climate change on the grass family (Poaceae) and in turn the  world’s ability to grow enough food. The speed at which the climate is predicted to shift by 2070 would occur too quickly for species of grass to adapt to the new conditions. These grass species include wheat, corn, rice, and sorghum (which provide almost half the calories consumed by humans) which could mean disaster for humans as well. Also, natural grasslands cover about 1/4th of the planet’s land area that contain a lot of biodiversity and would be lost should climate change have strong negative impacts on grasses.

The study used a representative sample of 236 grass species and estimated rates of change for their climatic niches (the temperature and precipitation conditions where a species occurs)  and compared them to the projected rates of climate change.

Pacia Purcell: Current Environmental News

September 27, 2016

Fate of turtles, tortoises affected more by habitat than temperature


Many species of turtles and tortoises are classified as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered due to being traded, collected for food or medicine, and habitat degradation. However, a study was done to see if long-term climate changes also had an effect on these species. The study compared current warming patterns to how turtle and tortoise ancestors reacted to climate warming in the past using fossil records. It was found that in the past species were able to adapt to climate warming however, in these cases warming spanned over a longer time period. Species today are susceptible to changes in climate and rainfall patterns, as sex is dependent on the temperature of eggs in developmental stages. The effect of climate change on these species will be determined not by warming itself, but by how fast the warming occurs.

Current Issues: Max Kerns

September 21, 2016

Article: Climate Impacts: Melting Glaciers, Shifting Biomes and Dying Trees in US National Parks

I found this article very interesting. Mainly in the way that it was written. The article is discussing many of the issues that global climate change is effecting and stating that national parks are excellent sources to track this. What I found most interesting was that the article continuously states “Human Global Climate Change” though never really offers any direct correlation to this claim other than to state the obvious conditions. Furthermore, it goes on to say that national parks are pretty much doomed and will only be a remembrance due to biome shifting.  I am not saying that there is not any merit to the dialogue as I think it is important. However, I personally believe the message could have been stated in a better sense, allowing the reader to grapple with the ideas it was referring to, instead of plainly saying this is fact based on, I said so.