The Battle Against Extinction

by David Torrejon



Endangered species are animals or plants that are at risk of extinction. Endangered species for the most part have a small population, The current rate of extinction is much higher than the normal rate. Currently, 25% of all mammals, 33% of amphibians, 13% of all birds and nearly 70% of plants are endangered (1).

Endangered species are threatened by numerous factors including habitat loss, global warming and pollution. Habitat loss impacts species because since the human population continues to grow and grow dramatically, humans need more land and resources. Therefore, many humans call for deforestation to clear land for human settlement. Every year, 18 million hectares of tropical forests are cut down for agricultural purposes for humans (2). While humans are expanding their territory, the animals and plants are losing theirs. Another factor that poses danger to species is pollution. Pollution such as oil spills, acid rain and pesticides can harm not only ecosystems but more importantly species. Pollution can cause mutations and fertility issue between species. Thus reducing the population of species. Global warming, which is the increase in average temperature in the Earth’s atmosphere, is altering life on Earth negatively. A major cause of global warming is carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and there are two main processes that contribute to global warming, deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. This increase in carbon dioxide results in ocean acidity, loss of sea ice, and droughts. These extreme weather conditions are threatening the survival of species. You could find more about how global warming poses a threat to our society in my other post, Global Warming: The Importance of Going Green.

DavidP3F2Figure 2: This shows the number of extinct species over time. Source:

The chart, “Number of Extinct Species Over Time,” has years on the X-axis and number of extinct species on the Y-axis. Each different hue of blue indicates a different animal class such as fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles, mammals and vertebrates. The general trend of this graph is that as the number of years increase, the number of extinct species increase as well. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, there were only 60 extinct species from 1700-1800. But from 1900-2010, there were 396 extinct species because of human activities. This number of extinct species could potentially surpass the 396 extinct species within the next century. There is currently 5,698 endangered species on Earth, all of which could potentially be extinct in a matter of years.

Figure 2: This map shows which countries are responsible for the number of extinct species. Source:


The map of the world, “Where species went extinct,” shows which countries are responsible for the number of extinct species. The different hues represent the number of extinct species within a country. For example, there are 259 extinct species just in the United States. This chart is meant to demonstrate that extinct species became extinct because of human activities all over the world.

It is imperative to prevent the extinction of species because all species are part of a biosphere. The Earth’s biosphere contains countless amounts of ecosystems. The extinction of a species in an ecosystem will affect and impact other species in the ecosystem. It could potentially set off a chain reaction in the ecosystem’s food chain. This is particularly true if a keystone species is extinct. Keystone species are species that playing a critical role in maintaining the structure of an ecological community, affecting many other organisms in an ecosystem and helping to determine the types and numbers of various other species in the community. The extinction of a keystone species would negatively transform the ecosystem. Everyone must take necessary steps to protect species from becoming endangered or extinct. People can recycle to help prevent the deforestation in the rainforests. One ton of recycled paper could save 17 trees. People can also help out by reducing the amount of energy used. This not only saves people money but helps out the environment as well. Just like what Loretta Lynch, the former US Attorney General, once said “ We all have a responsibility to protect endangered species, both for their sake and for the sake of our own future generations.”


  1. Endangered species. (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2016, from
  2. Bradford, B. A. (2015). Deforestation: Facts, Causes & Effects. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from


Asteroid Mining: Effectiveness and Probability

By Ronnie Ovando

Asteroid mining sounds like a notion many people want, but don’t believe will be implemented ever in the near future. After all, anything space travel related sounds like something that costs too much time, labor, and money. However, many people are ambitious and are reaching for the stars (pun intended). Companies such as Planetary Resources state that they have all the resources for this aspiring notion. The question is, are they right?

From my perspective, my biggest concern would be if the ideal conditions for mining are met. Think about it like buying groceries on a budget. The best situation would be if the store was within  walking distance as to save money on gas, and if that particular store gave the best groceries at the lowest prices. Of course, those circumstances are rare and should not be expected nor should be the determining factor. Instead, situations that mimic the ideal conditions should be the deal-breaker in whether one decides to go to that grocery store, or in this case, use asteroids for mining.


“Which are the biggest asteroids?” Graph made from data stored here. Note: LD stances for Lunar Distance (the average Earth-Moon distance)

Assuming that the ideal situation for asteroid mining includes factors such as the size of asteroid and being a voyagable distance to the asteroid, I made two graphs to investigate the size and distance of asteroids in order to find the best candidates for mining. The graphs labeled “Size (meters) v. Next Close Approach Distance (LD)” above and below contain data from the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU for short) Minor Planet Center Website. All the asteroids graphed in the first graph are the Union’s top 20 biggest asteroids. Their sizes range from 5000-46,000 meters. However, none of them made it on to the top 20 list of most travelable asteroids, as shown in the lower graph, despite a handful of them sharing similar distances. I can only assume other elements than distance have an influence on what is considered to be “easy to travel to.”


“Which asteroids are the easiest to travel to?” Graph made from data stored here. Note: LD stances for Lunar Distance (the average Earth-Moon distance)

So this begs the question: is asteroid mining even worth it? One company of the name Planetary Resources says yes. Their CEO, Chris Lewicki, said in an interview for Bloomberg that “The solar system is really an abundance of resources that has enough to power humanity to the end of the sun with a population many thousand times our existing planet.”  Their  website has evolved into a great resource for asteroid mining itself. I was able to find an article that was able to provide information on the concerns I had earlier. Turns out they were the same concerns the company had! Lewicki himself said that the asteroids they target are “Near-Earth.” One of the asteroids of the IAU’s most travelable, 2008 HU4, is one the company is currently interested in.

Distance and size are not the only aspects taken into account. Factors such as change in energy (Delta/△ V), spin rate, and type are used in determining which asteroids are qualified. Size tends to give the most trouble, as the article puts it “Most near-Earth asteroids are much smaller, making the ones large enough a bit harder to come by.” However, the resources gained from asteroid mining could potentially overshadow all the cons. Many asteroids have water in some of form, either as ice or in clay. Appropriate enough, since rocket fuel, you guessed it, is made out of water. Asteroids could act like space versions of the gas stations on Earth.

It’s impossible when talking about asteroids to ignore the different elements found on them and not found on Earth. Platinum is one great example. This element is not found in the earth’s crust, but rather near the core. It is thanks to volcanoes and and asteroid-earth impacts that platinum could be in human hands. Planetary Resources argues that because of the rarity of this metal, economic success could occur if it was mined. Similar to when Andrew Carnegie mass produced steel during the 1800’s, prices for platinum will drop dramatically, making it available for companies to use more and move forward with technology.

Different people informed on this topic will inevitably have different opinions. Some will prioritize short term over long term economics. Others simply care more about the resources such as water and rare metals. Others are preoccupied with the fact that the best asteroids are much farther away. There will be people who question this, and there will be people who work at Planetary Resources. Whatever side you’re on, it’s important to note that space will always be waiting, ready for when we start to travel it.

Does Global Warming Affect Tropical Storms?

by Jennifer Moore

Each year, several tropical storms form over the Pacific ocean. A tropical storm is basically a super bad thunderstorm over the ocean. While most tend to be harmless to humanity, some can swell into much larger hurricanes and devastate cities on the coasts. But recently scientists have begun to wonder if tropical storms are linked to global warming. Could it be that the factors explained in this post by David Torrejon are heating up the planet and inevitably causing these types of storms to worsen?
Now, how could this be? Well, a tropical storm forms in spiral-like pattern. Warm, moist air gets sucked up and pushes cooler air down towards the water. In turn, the cooler air chases the warm air back up and pushes it down to the water again. This game of cat and mouse continues on and on until you have a tropical storm. A major factor of this cycle is the warmer air resting atop the ocean’s surface. Recently however, the average temperature of the planet itself has slowly been rising over the last couple of decades. This rise in temperature is well known as Global Warming. Some scientists think that because of this rise in temperature, tropical storms and possible hurricanes will be more and more frequent.


This is a graph of the average global temperature versus the amount of tropical storms in the central pacific region. The Y-axis on the left represents the average number of Tropical Storms in the central pacific related to the X-axis, which is the past 20 years.(Blue line)  The Y-axis on the right is the average global temperature in degrees Celcius over the past 20 years (Red Line) .

In the graph above, I combined Global temperature from and Tropical Storm numbers from to compare the relationship between temperature and total storms in the central pacific region. As you can see, average global temperature has risen sizeably over the past 20 years. Here’s the funny part, if you look closely, you’ll see that up until 2014, the number of tropical storms had been decreasing even though the average global temperature had been increasing. The interesting thing though, is that in 2015, the global temperature had spiked to 0.87 degrees Celsius, and there were 15 tropical storms in the central pacific that year.

Some scientists speculate that the spike in temperature is directly related to the spike in tropical storms. Since these storm form when hot air mixes with cool air, it seems reasonable to think that these could be related. I think that the rise in these storms does have to do with the rise in temperature, and that if the temperature continues to rise, these storms will become more and more violent. What do you think?




Habitable Exoplanets


by Maddie Meagher

The idea of finding a planet like Earth is a very exciting one to me and many others. However there are many factors that go into just making a planet suitable for life, factors such as location, temperature, water, atmosphere, and many others. Today I’m looking at some factors that play role in finding habitable exoplanets, or Earth 2.0 candidates as I like to call them. The main one I’m talking about today is the habitable zone. The habitable zone is the area around a star that a planet can have liquid water. The habitable zone is different for every solar system and is dependent on the parent star. Too close to the parent star and expect to have your oceans be boiled off. Too far and your planet would a giant ball of ice. The data I’m using for this little project comes from a site called the Habitable Zone. The site’s main purpose is to catalog planets in habitable zones and planetary equilibrium temperatures as well as many other various traits of planets.




These are the boundaries for the habitable zone for our own solar system. The two estimated ranges for habitable zone models in our solar system are the Conservative model from 0.95-1.4AU and the  Optimistic model from .85-1.7AU (Note an AU is the average Earth-Sun distance).




What I wanted to compare was how the location of an exoplanet can affect the planet’s average temperature. To get my data for locations of exoplanets I looked at the optimistic model for the habitable zone. The optimistic habitable zone extends the inner/outer boundaries of a solar system by using the “Recent Venus”(closer to parent star) and “Early Mars”(farther from parent star) criteria. The more optimistic estimate refers to assuming the planet has the right atmosphere to help keep in cooler than it should be at the inner edge, and warmer than it should be at the outer edge. The picture above shows our own solar system’s habitable zone with the optimistic habitable zone being in dark green. For temperature I looked at periastron equilibrium temperatures or Teqb in the database I used. The periastron temperature is the average temperature of a planet when it is at it’s closest point to it’s parent star . It’s also important that a planet is well mixed. What that means that it has an atmosphere that can trap heat well enough and have the heat spread evenly across the planet’s surface. For context, our home planet Earth spends 100% of its time in the habitable zone, and is well mixed, with an average temperature of 290K.


Using the data from the Habitable Zone I made a graph comparing percentage of time spent in the THZO (the optimistic habitable zone,on the x axis) and the Teqb (average periastron temperatures in kelvins on the y axis). And for reference the blue dot represents where our own home planet Earth would sit on this plot. The results I found is that the more time a planet spent in the optimistic habitable zone (THZO) the more temperatures tended to be below at 500 kelvin, they also tend to fall into the 200-300 kelvin range which is habitable (300 kelvins being a nice warm 80.33 degrees Fahrenheit). This is especially true for those planets who spent 100% of their time the Optimistic habitable zone. Though I noticed three big outliers on the graph. One  is a planet at 1457.4 kelvin (HD 20782 b) and the other at 1547.9 kelvin (HD 80606 b). Both these measurements are above 1400 kelvins or 2060.33 degrees Fahrenheit! However these two planets only spent very little time in the optimistic habitable zone as well as having some rather eccentric orbits (which I show below). The last outlier (HD 43197 b) spent more than 75% of its time in the habitable zone however temperature managed to reach 735.4 kelvins. The one thing all these planets have in common is that during their orbits they travel dangerously close to their parent star. This may contribute to the high periastron temperatures these planets.


Caption for three pictures above: All three of the exoplanets above for part of their orbit travel dangerously close to their parent star which is most likely the cause of the high spikes in their temperatures seen on the graph above. HD 20782 b doesn’t even spend all of it’s orbit too close to parent star or in the habitable zone. HD 20782 b spends a part of it’s orbit on the outer edge of the planets habitable zone where I would expect it temperature to drop.

Sources used:

Endangered Species

by Kristian Marinez

 lemur Mouse lemur contemplating its existence.

Who global warming affects.

When most people think of endangered mammals threatened by global warming they think of polar bears on melting glaciers. That’s not the most serious case. Most endangered mammals are actually tropical animals in warm climates. Instead of a polar bear being endangered from global warming it can most likely be a mouse lemur in Madagascar. I am interested in the endangerment of mammals simply because they are breathtaking creatures. They think and feel just like us humans do and it’s a shame that a whole lot of them are endangered. It’s interesting to find out the reason for their endangerment instead of just knowing that they’re endangered.


Where mammals are endangered and how many are endangered.

The data to support the reasons for mammals endangerment come from the World Bank and informs us with how many mammals are endangered and in which regions endangered mammals can be found. The graph below shows the highest numbers of endangered mammal species (organized from greatest to least) and their region. The  two regions with the most endangered mammal species are East Asia & the Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa. These regions have a staggering 891 endangered mammals each. The third highest region, Latin America & Central Asia, has 640 endangered mammals. The fourth highest region with the amount of endangered mammals is Europe & Central Asia, with 307 endangered mammals. The three regions with the least amount of endangered mammals have less than 300 mammals each. South Asia has 249 mammals, Arab world has 217 mammals, and Middle East & North Africa have 203 mammals.



How global warming affects endangered mammals.

From this data, there is a noticeable pattern of a high number of mammals endangered in hot/tropical regions, like Mexico, Madagascar, and Asia, as compared to cooler regions like the Middle East & North Africa. We notice this trend because an increase in temperature (like that caused by global warming) by even a small amount can affect mammals in tropical climates since they are less resilient to heat change. This is because these species are accustomed to living in a certain temperature range, and once this range is surpassed, these animals have a hard time living. For example, global warming cause mouse lemurs to shift habitats and find a different way to obtain food than before.



Light Pollution

by Maritza Hernandez

The Globe at Night is a worldwide citizen science campaign to raise public awareness on the impact of light pollution on energy consumption, wildlife, and human health. Globe at Night asks citizen scientists to measure the night sky brightness from their location and add their data to a map on the website.

Light pollution is being caused by us humans because we use to much light. We can’t see the stars because we use too much light to light up buildings, sidewalks, and other things , and by using too much light we are not letting other people or animals see the night sky. Wildlife is being affected by this too because if birds cannot see the stars then they can fly into the buildings and other birds may get confused about when the season is changing. Humans are being affected by this too, light affects when we sleep and artificial light can mess that up. Some of the effects of light pollution include increased risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more.

I love seeing the sky with the stars it’s just relaxing,  many people love to just lay back and watch the stars. But if one group is really being affected by light pollution, it is astronomers. If they can’t see the stars then what’s point of being an astronomer! The study of stars is something that I love to learn about so I hope this post makes you care about light pollution.

Globe at Night has been gathering data for the past 9 years from 115 countries. In Globe at Night, citizen scientists look at the sky to see which stars they can see. Then the citizen would send their the data to the Globe at Night team. I found the data for the year 2015 on The Globe at Night website and I downloaded it. Then I sorted the data to display the countries that had the most contributions to the project, and finally I plotted the top 15 countries that participated. The graph that you’re about to see shows that people do care about light pollution effects. For an example, people in Croatia provided the most light pollution data to Globe at Night (nearly 2400 entries). The more people know about this, the faster we can cut down on casualties of birds, on how much energy we use, and the disruption of our sleeping habits.


This chart shows you the top 15 countries that participated in Globe at Night in 2015.

Sources Used:

“Human Health.” International Dark-Sky Association. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Light Pollution Taking Toll on Wildlife, Eco-Groups Say.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society. Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Light Pollution Wastes Energy and Money.” International Dark-Sky Association. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Globe at Night – Maps and Results.” Globe at Night – Maps and Results. Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <>.

Global Warming: The Importance of Going Green

by David Torrejon




Global warming is an issue that poses an urgent threat to society. Global warming is the gradual increase in temperature on the Earth’s surface. The Earth has suffered irreversible damage at the hands of global warming. The Earth’s average temperature has increased 0.4 to 0.8 Celsius over the course of 50 years. A major cause of global warming is carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and there are two main processes that contribute to increased carbon dioxide, deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. Deforestation is the process of cutting down trees in order to clear the land. Since trees use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, this helps create a good balance of gases in the atmosphere so if more forests are cut down, there will be fewer trees to complete this function. Burning fossil fuels impacts global warming because whenever people are burning fossil fuels, they are releasing carbon dioxide into the air. The carbon dioxide goes into the Earth’s atmosphere, which could potentially disturb the natural balance of carbon. The carbon dioxide trap the heat and cause the temperature to get hotter.

Fossil fuels are concentrated organic compound that was formed from the remains of plants and animals millions of years ago. The burning of fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal and natural gas, originates from multiple sources. Most commonly, fossil fuels are used to fuel and provide our everyday transportation, to generate electricity to power house and to provide heat. This graph, which I made from public data from NASA on 2011 carbon dioxide emission, has countries on the X- axis and has carbon dioxide emission in millions of metric tons on the Y-axis. Based on this graph, it can revealed which nations are responsible for the high quality of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. China, which ranked number one according to carbon dioxide emission, released 8715.34 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. The United States came in second place with 5490.63 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.


Figure 1: This graph provides information about the amount of carbon dioxide each country releases into the Earth’s atmosphere

The rapidly and drastic increasing of carbon dioxide will have a profound impact on the Earth. This graph, which I made from UCS (Union of Concerned Scientists) on Global Temperature, the year is the X-axis while the temperature anomaly is on the Y-axis. The temperature anomaly means a difference from an average. A positive anomaly indicates that the temperature was warmer than what it should be ,while a negative anomaly indicates that the temperature was cooler than it was supposed to be. The trend for the graph is that as the years have increased the temperature anomaly have increased positively.


Figure 2: This graphs provides you the difference temperature relative to the average each year

You may ask yourself, why should I care? Well the truth is that economical, environmental and health consequences will only continue to develop if the trend continues. For example, there will be a rise in sea level since the ice is melting at a rapid pace. Global warming will only continue the internal migration of animals. Animals in the North and South Poles will move even further north and further south. Diseases tend to thrive in warm temperatures and have been limited to the subtropical and tropical areas. However, with rise of global temperature, diseases will soon be able to blossom anywhere. Plants and animals will die because of exposure to diseases. Although the damage to the Earth’s atmosphere is irreparable, the carbon emission must go down otherwise life on Earth will only get worse. Our society needs to stop taking this planet for granted. Our society needs to have our political leaders work together to preserve the Earth, after all there is only one planet suitable for human life.

1.”Each Country’s Share of CO2 Emissions.” Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
2. “Vital Signs: Global Temperature.” Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.