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.

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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.

 

Sources:

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150226-what-hope-is-there-for-madagascars-threatened-lemurs

http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/03/global-warmings.html

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.MAM.THRD.NO

http://a-z-animals.com/animals/grey-mouse-lemur/pictures/4167/

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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.

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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. <http://darksky.org/light-pollution/human-health/>.

“Light Pollution Taking Toll on Wildlife, Eco-Groups Say.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society. Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/04/0417_030417_tvlightpollution.html>.

“Light Pollution Wastes Energy and Money.” International Dark-Sky Association. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <http://darksky.org/light-pollution/energy-waste/>.

“Globe at Night – Maps and Results.” Globe at Night – Maps and Results. Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <http://www.globeatnight.org/maps.php>.

Global Warming: The Importance of Going Green

by David Torrejon

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                                                                              credit: http://www.storypick.com/save-the-earth/

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Bibliography:
1.”Each Country’s Share of CO2 Emissions.” Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/science/each-countrys-share-of-co2.html#.Vwg0FBMrKT8
2. “Vital Signs: Global Temperature.” Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
http://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/

Jungle Rhythms!

 by Ronnie Ovando (a 2016 Adler Astro-Journalist)

When stepping through the Zooniverse citizen science project “Jungle Rhythms,” it feels as if one is playing a Nancy Drew or Sherlock video game. The project contains a bunch of old documents relating to tree life cycles between the 1930’s – 1950’s. The goal is to be able to interpret the hand written documents that have lost their color due to old age. The documents are designed to be like calendars, to be labeled according to what happened that particular year to the tree. The video game-like challenge comes from having to be detail-oriented in order to understand and catch the little markings with the documents.

The African rainforest is said to “store up to 66 Pg (Picograms) of carbon,” according to the project’s home page. Scientists at Jungle Rhythms are concerned for how this will affect or effect climate change, and how exactly weather conditions can alter the forest. For example, droughts can severely affect structure and function. By using the documents and knowledge of the rainforest’s weather history, the participants can possibly figure out how trees react to weather.

How did the Jungle Rhythms scientists collect this documented history of tree cycles? Between 1937 and 1958, researchers at Yangambi research station studied over 2000 trees. They all recorded data that dealt with life cycles (also known as phenology) such as fruit development, leaf growing, etc. The data was organized in calendar-like tables, which have sections that are separated into years. The original copies were made digital in order to translate without ruining the hand written documents.

Transcribing the documents seems like a job only for scientists, but the skills needed for this task are common. The home page states “The human eye and brain is finely tuned to finding patterns and picking up these slight nuances in shading.” Essentially, our brains are wired to do this! In order be a successful citizen scientist, one also must have a good base in knowledge of the trees in the African rainforest in order to understand the context of the data.

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“A Summary Table” – Jungle Rhythms

 

The picture above is an example of how the documents look and are organized. It’s almost calendar-like, expect with listing years instead of just months. Each section listed is divided by 6 months, and at the far left are the names of the trees being recorded. Within those sections, data is represented by lines, crosses, or other types of marks. Very few words are used.

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“Tombe Writing – Jungle Rhythms”

Here’s a good example of writing within one of the tables. The writing above reads “Tombe,” which according to Google Translate, means “falls” in French. It can be concluded then that the tree fell sometimes this year. The time when is hard to interpret. For me, I assume that the fact that no month is emphasized in the picture, that the scientists did not know the exact month the tree fell, but concluded that it fell between March – August.

For people who are interested in both science and history, this Zooniverse project does a great job and attending to those two fields. Jungle Rhythms is hoping to discover new data concerning African trees, and the interpretation of the documents.

Can Our Drinking Water be Cancerous?

by Latifah Wright

We are surrounded by multiple external factors that can cause or contribute the development of cancer, from smoking to human genes. But what about our water? We usually trust our water to be safe. But if it something was added to it, and someone wasn’t aware of it drank the water, over time it could cause the same results as all the cancer causing factors.

 In an Illinois suburb, a woman by the name of Tricia Krause was unconvinced that her three children had develop critical health problems due to deja vu. She was sure that their health problems, that prolong for more than 20 years, was due to contamination in the water or the soil. 

   

Caption/Description: The image above is a map of Crestwood (highlighted in yellow) in the state of Illinois.

The family were from Crestwood, Illinois, a small area near the outskirts of Chicago with a population of 11,000. Within Crestwood, many residents, like Krause’s children, dealt with a variety of health problems, from whooping cough to leukemia to brain tumors. Krause was the only woman who sought to solve the mystery. Her investigation brought her to Springfield, Illinois, pouring over documents at the state’s environmental protection agency (EPA) office. She discovered that 30% of the residents’ water was being taken from a well.

 The investigation didn’t stop there. Tricia Krause held several town meetings and created her own epidemiological map. Epidemiological is the study (or the science of the study) of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. She investigated every possible contributing factor and eventually joined by Tim Janecyk, another innocent resident looking for answers.

 Together they found out that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), EPA, and the mayor (at the time) had known about the use of the well, since 1986. Through constant efforts to get in touch with the EPA to point out that the village was secretly using the contaminated well to obtain drinking water for the residents, they were defeated by the lack of callbacks from any of the EPA staff or Illinois Attorney General’s office.

 Tricia Krause and Tim Janecyk continue to bring attention to this issue by contacting the Governor of Illinois, the President of United States, and the media. They were finally helped by Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune in getting the case reported. The story was title and published as “Poison in the Well,” on April 19, 2009. Residents became outraged and fearful. The allegations made by the article were denied by the (former) Mayor Chester Stranczek, who claimed that the residents were being supply by Lake Michigan. That their “drinking water is 100 percent safe.”

 Little did the people know that the well that they were getting their drinking water from contained, vinyl chloride, PCE, and other dry-cleaning solvents. The vinyl chloride was added to the well for cleaning, which, according to the U.S. EPA, no levels of chloride is safe. PCE and other dry-cleaning solvents were found in the well, because of a nearby dry-cleaning company, Cal-Sag Channel, 300 ft from the Crestwood’s well.

 These chemicals caused a high rate of lung, kidney and gastrointestinal cancers; with liver cancer higher in men, kidney cancer high in both men and women and gastrointestinal cancer higher in men.

But why did the mayor and the officials continue to use the well, even after knowing it was of no use? The well enabled the village to gain the lowest water rates in the Southland area, paying $2 per 1,000 gal. The mayor and officials saved $380,000 a year on the water bill, compared to the $102,000 they were paying to pump 51 million gallons of water into the village.

In the end two of the water department officials, a former water department supervisor and former certified water operator, were arrested and brought to justice. The mayor, on the other hand, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and was found incompetent to testify about the pollution charges. The mess they’ve made will probably linger for a great time, but at least residents there are able to take further steps towards recovery. Would something like this happen again? If so, what precautions would officials take to ensure safety to the public, instead of avoidance? In this case, the water only caused cancer with environmental tampering, and because people chose to ignore the problem.

The Brain and Stress: What it does and why

by London Westley

At some point in our lives, we’ve all encountered stress. It can be either when you’re trying to get to, or are at your job, trying to perform a complex task, in an intense or tense moment, or having suffered some kind of trauma. Your mind is a haze of thoughts and you can’t think properly. You start to stutter words. Then, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, your hands start to shake, and adrenaline, a hormone from the adrenal gland right above your kidneys, kicks in. Yet, somehow, your brain continues to perform its basic functions, like taking in oxygen, or allowing you to perform movements. How does your mind keep itself from collapsing under pressure? What conscious and unconscious acts does it do in order to keep you going? And how does it handle trauma, both physical and psychological?

To begin with, stress is regulated by three components: the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland, each working in tandem with the other. When the brain senses stress, the brain stem alerts the adrenal glands to send out sugar into your bloodstream, giving you that hyperactive feeling when stress kicks in. Additionally, your hypothalamus sends signals to your pituitary gland, telling it to release a hormone called cortisol in order to keep up the high amounts of sugar in your body, prolonging your stress time. Although the injection of these hormones into our bodies helps us overcome whatever causes our stress, there are, in fact, long term negative effects to prolonged periods of stress.

When the concept of stress hurting your brain is brought up, it’s usually about how stress raises your blood pressure and damages your short term memory. However, the effects go much deeper than that. When you enter a state of stress, the pituitary gland releases cortisol, a hormone used to maintain the high levels of sugar released into your bloodstream, keeping you in heightened, stressed state. This function, which is done to make sure you have the energy needed to overcome the source of your stress, can, if continuously released, damage the hippocampus, a portion of your brain’s limbic system, which controls spatial awareness and long term memory.

The stress-brain loop

Reference: “Is stress affecting your memory and cognition?” (womentowomen.com)

Also affected by stress are the fluctuations in brain waves. Essentially, there are four kinds of brain waves your mind produces: Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Theta. Beta and Delta waves are connected to feelings such as anxiety and unease and physical aspects like blood pressure. During long periods of stress, your brain stays within the beta and delta waves, when it should be between delta, theta, and alpha. If you stay beta and delta for significant periods of time, this leads to your body producing things like metabolic syndrome and hyperglycemia (excessive blood sugar), high blood pressure, gains in weight, and ultimately, diabetes.

Anatomical changes are not only the byproducts of short term stress, but also long term. When put in prolonged periods of stress, the hippocampus begins to change at a cellular level, which in turn, affects short term memory, learning capabilities, attention span, and perception, as well as the regulation of cortisol in your brain. Uncontrolled levels of cortisol eventually lead to a condition called glucocorticoids, which causes poor sleep habits, inadequate nutrition, and severe emotional distress.

In conclusion, the human brain handles stress by managing the levels of stress you’re in. The hormones it produces are intended to keep you in a state where you can successfully escape or resolve the source of your stress. However, spend too long a time in this state and the brain loses its ability to control your stress levels, leading to many physical and psychological ailments.