Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cannibalistic Shrimp Parasites

Researchers from several universities found a new parasite, Pleistophora mulleri, a tiny parasite found in the shrimp species, Gammarus duebeni celticus. This species regularly commits cannibalism, so it isn't like this is a new habit brought about by the presence of the parasite, but rather that when the shrimp are infected, they were twice as likely to consume other shrimp as they would normally, and most of the shrimp consumed were juveniles. One rather interesting detail about this, as well, is that these infected animals were noted to have a much quicker rate of eating, than usual. 

These parasites are described to be smaller than a human red blood cell, however tons of them build up within the muscles of the shrimp and amount to a being which requires a huge increase in available energy to take from the host. Researchers believe that it is this increased need for energy which brings about the increased amounts of cannibalism, and that the reason those eaten are primarily juveniles is because the younger shrimps are easier to catch, and once a shrimp accumulates such an extreme parasite load, as some of these have, they have to resort to catching easier acquired prey. It was, also, observed that if an uninfected adult comes across an infected juvenile, they are much less likely to eat them, presumably because they know that they will likely get infected themselves from doing this. However, if a shrimp is already infected, they seem to lose this hesitation when it comes to eating other infected animals. Below is a picture of the species of shrimp which is the host of P. mulleri, it is a species of freshwater shrimp found in northern Ireland.


I found this article pretty interesting, and definitely one which, if we had talked about parasites in class (and if we still had classes) I would definitely have chosen as a topic to present on.
Also, courtesy of ABC news when they published an article about this, "These Terrifying Parasites Turn Shrimp Into Zombies That Eat Their Young." This is a rather inaccurate representation of what is going on here, but entertaining for a headline nonetheless. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Agricultural Sustainability and Extreme Population Growth

Food production will need to be altered significantly to be able to sustain yields that can feed a quickly growing world population.  Tillman, 2002, a Nature review article on agricultural sustainability, states that by 2050 the world population will increase by 50% and grain production will double.
Projected population growth 

Sustainable agriculture aims for both high, maintainable yields and minimal environmental impact.  Combining these two factors is difficult, as things that make plants grow aren't always good for the environment.  For example, plants need nitrogen fertilizer to grow well; however, plants do not absorb all of the nitrogen in fertilizers and the rest is loaded into waterways, eventually perturbing marine ecosystems.  

Tillman, 2002 also discusses the sustainability aspect of meat production (or lack thereof).  The following illustrations probably need no further explanation.  





How Bodies Deal With Increased Weight

I came across this BBC documentary from 2012 in which researchers asked a group of relatively skinny volunteers to eat 5000 calories every day for 4 weeks. The researchers performed various health check ups and tests on the subjects every week to make sure that they were still relatively healthy.
This was a pretty neat documentary and, I think it is a pretty good introduction to epigenetics, and now I can't hear about the topic without being reminded of this. At the end of the experiment, the scientists go through and perform a final examination of how much weight each person gained, as well as look further into the distribution of fat on the person's body and possible explanations behind it. 

Why are thin people not fat?

I was reminded of this documentary after hearing Jaclyn's presentation in class, last week.


Drought History in Tree Rings

Tree rings can be used to study drought history of particular regions.  The lighter parts of a tree's rings correspond to its growing seasons each year, and multiple close-together dark lines signify a drought period.  Giant sequoias can live to be over 3,000 years old, so cross sections of their trunks can show centuries of drought history.  Hughes, 1992 shows the findings of a research team that studied giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and produced a climate history of the years 101 BC to 1988 AD.  The past century has had a low drought frequency so far.  It would be interesting to see how the current drought in California would look compared to other droughts recorded by these trees.
Tree rings from a giant sequoia

Ocean Iron Fertilization

Ocean iron fertilization has been presented as a method for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Adding iron sulfates to the ocean causes phytoplankton blooms, and these phytoplankton create a carbon sink by consuming CO2 and sinking to the bottom of the ocean.  One of the largest-scale trials of ocean iron fertilization was the Southern Ocean Iron Experiment of 2002.  This study estimates that one atom of iron could remove 10,000 to 100,000 atoms of carbon from the atmosphere.  However, ecologists are hesitant to adopt iron fertilization as a large-scale solution to high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere because effects of this added iron on marine ecosystems remain largely unknown.

Politics and Endangered Species


Hey Guys!
I read an article on vice that I thought was pretty sad about how dozens of species have gone extinct while the government decides whether or not to give them protected under the endangered species act. Here are some examples:


the Amak Song Sparrow

the Breckenridge Slender Salamander

the Fresno Kangaroo Rat

the Tacoma Pocket Gopher

the Florida Rainbow Snake



According to the article; 10 species weren't named endangered until after they were found extinct, 42 that went extinct while being considered, and 32 species that went extinct without ever being considered to be listed as endangered. 
If there's ample scientific that a species is dying, the law says that measures must be made to protect it. Unfortunately, granting species protection can often be politically controversial primarily because it can halt or slow real estate development and industrial operations. Concerned businesses, and therefore politicians as well, often protest potential listings that they fear will infringe on their economic growth. 

Using Bucky Balls as Explosives

Bucky balls. Those little metallic balls that are pretty fun to play with for about five minutes and are apparently a hazard to small children.

This posting - somewhat unfortunately - isn't a guide on how to use these little desk trinkets as a means to an explosive end. However, scientists are trying to do exactly that - albeit on a much smaller scale.

Scientists at USC are attempting to use the high amounts of energy stored within the carbon-carbon bonds of the "bucky bombs" as an explosive way to kill cancer cells. It's a rather impressive reaction too - in a controlled reaction, scientists disintegrated a single bucky ball, which in turn raised the surrounding temperature by "thousands of degrees."

Read more on it here  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

An interesting article about newly discovered fossil species.

The Carnufex carolinensis ("Carolina Butcher")
This species was likely a top predator, and in an interesting feature not seen in many other top predators, likely walked on two legs. This animal lived in what is now North Carolina and is an ancestor of crocodiles. An interesting article to read for some quick information
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150319080348.htm

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ancient Sea Creature Helps Scientists Understand Early Arthropod Evolution

The Aegirocassis benmoulae is a newly discovered ancient sea creature that is helping scientists understand the evolution of arthropods. The fossil record shows that this animal had a surprising two set of dorsal flaps per trunk segment, opposing the previous viewpoint that early arthropods contain one dorsal flap per limb segment. Researchers believe the upper flap was equivalent to the upper limb branch of the modern day arthropods, while the lower flap was utilized for swimming. Watch the awesome video above on the discovery of the Aegirocassis benmoulae if you're interested.

Amazon's Ability to Uptake Carbon is Decreasing

Nature just published a paper describing that the Amazon appears to be losing its efficiency in carbon uptake. Once a massive "carbon sink" that helped stopped the rate of climate change, the Amazon's trees are now living shorter lives, dying sooner than expected, and taking up less carbon that ever before. The scientists blame an excess of carbon, unusually high temperatures, and a 2005 drought for this occurrence. Co-author Oliver Phillips from the University of Leeds call for drastic cuts in emissions in order to stabilize the gradually increasing change in climate. Head over to ScienceDaily to see the full story.

Evolution of Hearing from the Carboniferous to the Triassic Period

Scientists at the Unviersity of Southern Denmark studied modern day lungfish and salamanders, which are capable of hearing, despite lacking an outer or tympanic middle ear. The goal of the study was to understand how hearing evolved as vertebrates moved from an aquatic to terrestrial environment. If you are like me, and forgot your high school biology, remember that the ear is made up of three overarching parts. The outer ear directs sound waves into the auditory canal. The middle ear receives these sound waves, and the tympanic membrane picks up  variations in pressure. These pressure oscillations are then sent to the inner ear, which converts fluid movements into nerve signals for the brain. Having this tympanic membrane can improve the efficiency of hearing by up to 1000 times. However, this tympanic middle ear developed in the Triassic period, about 100 million years after the move of aquatic animals to a terrestrial habitat. It had always been assumed that these Early Carboniferous vertebrates were deaf. The researchers at the University of Southern Denmark played sound at varying frequencies and intensities, and proceed to measure auditory nerve signals and neural signals in the brainstem of lungfish and salamanders. The researchers showed that even these vertebrates that lack the outer and middle ear and capable of detecting airborne sounds through the vibrations induced by sound waves. They showed that this adaptation to aerial hearing came after the transition from aquatic to terrestrial lifestyles. Scientists now believe the adaptation to hearing came as a gradual process over the first 100 million years on land.



Here's the paper if you want to take a look!

Supplements for the Mind

This definitely sounds like the heading to some pseudoscience article on how eating "organic, non-GMO lawn clippings will unlock the other 90% of your brain." Well, it kinda is. At least, this post is to touch upon a field of supplements that have been used by people to increase their mental skills / brain capacity / etc.

As I mentioned in a prior post, we talked a lot about supplements in our CCS course. We touched a lot upon how some supplements may not contain exactly what they say they do, and/or how some supplements aren't really well researched / have significant evidence that they work.

This led me earlier in the year to look more into a particular group of supplements called nootropics - supplements that basically help your brain out in some way or another. As a college student, there's a lot of interest in something that will help me memorize all these organic chemistry mechanisms or something that will help keep me awake to memorize all these organic chemistry mechanisms (I definitely don't have my ochem final tomorrow).

I just wanted to report back on how ridiculous some of this stuff is.

There are a lot of communities and forums based around nootropics and the like. Most of them are full of babbling idiots talking about how "some study showed an increase in (mental capacity) in mice using (substance) and thus it must work," while others are going on about how "they definitely felt smarter after using said (substance)." There's just so much wrong with all of this. 

A lot of the supplements are pretty sketchy too - several supplements are "not authorized by the FDA, but their import for personal use is allowed. However, the sale of (supplement) is prohibited." It's all a pretty big mess, and I'm not quite sure if the possibility of being able to memorize a few more mechanisms outweighs the possibility of having the DEA meet me with the local police force when I go to pick up the mail.
Purchases of a lot of these nootropics are run through websites that are particularly sketchy themselves; more reliable vendors such as Amazon have pulled their listings of nootropic supplements had some of their listings banned by the FDA .


In the end, a lot of these supplements seem relatively risky; you may get a positive effect from them, but the side-effects/long-term symptoms are unknown (since most of the nootropics are fairly new substances).

However, there have been more "reliable" supplements and/or "stacks" - supplements that work well together. One particular example is caffeine and l-theanine, both of which are substances found in tea. L-theanine, simply put, has a calming effect while caffeine, which we are all familiar with, has a stimulant-like effect. The two together supposedly create a sense of alert-ness without the "jitters" of caffeine.

Lethal Supplements

Throughout our CCS course, we've talked a lot about supplements. Generally, this talk has been about how many supplements don't actually include what they say they do (your ginkgo could just be lawn shavings), or even if the supplements have been proven to be effective for its intended usage.

The supplement I'm here to talk about today is not some supplement that "might" cure your Alzheimer's, or "might" help your back pain - in fact, the supplement I want to talk about is one of the most well researched drugs in the world with effects that are rather well-documented and relatively well understood. You probably have taken it sometime in your life - chances are that you have either been exposed to it or taken it at least once or twice a week. I'm currently on some of it right this moment.

The drug I'm talking about is caffeine. Yes, that stuff in your coffee and/or tea. 


All of us know the benefits of a hot cup pot  gallon of coffee during finals week. However, many college students (and some athletes) want the effects of coffee without some of the unwanted side effects that come along with drinking several cups of coffee.

That's where things like pills come into play. Caffeine pills are a relatively cost-effective alternative to drinking a few cups of coffee; one 200 mg pill is equivalent to the caffeine in around 2 strong cups of coffee and comes in with a price tag of around 10 cents. That's a lot more appealing for many people than the $10 spent on one mochafrappadopiofrenchitalianonionsccino.

That's great and all, but some people want to take it a step further and have more precise control over their caffeine intake (rather than being stuck to 200mg pills). That's where anhydrous caffeine, aka powdered caffeine, comes in. The benefits of anhydrous caffeine is that you have more control over your caffeine intake, and the cost goes down quite a bit. Let's say you're a fiend and you ingest 3x200 mg pills a day (that's kind of a lot). $23 dollars worth of anhydrous caffeine will fuel your addiction for roughly 2.5 years - that is, each 200mg supplement will come out to roughly 0.7 cents.

Wow, cool! Cheap drugs! Yay!

So here's the catch. A relatively small amount of caffeine can kill you. 

By a relatively small amount, I mean that if you took a normal spoon, got about half-a-spoon's worth of caffeine on it, then proceeded to eat that, then you're probably going to start feeling the overdose within ten minutes. The world is going to spin out of control, and you're probably going to start vomiting very shortly after that. It's actually a very terrible way to die, and unfortunately there's relatively a lot of people dying from it. 

Oh, numbers. Because science. The exact amount of caffeine needed to kill you differs - some cases have involved around 5 grams of caffeine, while others speculate that it's around 10 grams. Here's a link on that. 

You have probably all been in chem lab, and measured stuff out on the scales. Let's refresh your memory: 200mg of caffeine is roughly enough to fit as a little pyramid on a dime. You could probably fit 400mg on a dime without any issues. This is a terrible way to demonstrate mass, but you get the point.

As a result, a lot of companies such as Amazon.com are removing anhydrous caffeine from their website due to all the legal issues and whatnot. I thought the latter was relatively interesting as it's one of the only examples in which supplements have been pulled from a market (albeit for legal-safety in this scenario).

There was a lot of negative feedback towards anhydrous caffeine sellers because of the lack of "safety warnings" and whatnot on the packaging. Many others argue that "you should have had an idea of what you were getting into" when purchasing anhydrous caffeine, although that statement is a bit ignorant to the fact that not everyone is aware of the dangers, despite there being numerous warnings on anhydrous caffeine packages and websites. 

There's a large community of people that use anhydrous caffeine and are a bit bugged by the inconvenience of Amazon and other websites pulling anhydrous caffeine because "it's not difficult to measure out." You can get a $10 milligram scale that can accurately measure out 200mg of caffeine.



tl;dr People are dying because they are overdosing on powdered caffeine. Websites such as Amazon.com have been removing listings for this supplement due to legal concerns. There's also a lot of uproar because of the lack of "safety notices" on the caffeine packages. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Unusual Animal Mating Habits

Stumbled across this album in which an artist personified some of the more unusual mating habits found in nature across many different species of animals. I found it to be rather informative and pretty well done. My favorite habit depicted in here is that of the Ruff, which is a bird found in the marshlands of northern Eurasia. This bird in particular is interesting as there are three different "types of males" which all mate with females, yet each one takes a slightly different approach.

Ruff female RWD.jpg
Here is a picture of one of the females, of which there is only one form.
Hope you enjoy.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I found this article on foreign genes in our genome from science daily and thought it might be an enjoyable read
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150312123319.htm

Friday, March 13, 2015

A follow up to my presentation. We think about evolution happening slowly over long periods of time, but (relatively) large changes can happen over small periods of time as well with a strong selection pressure. Over the past 100 years, humans selectively breeding for certain traits have caused morphological changes to dog breeds.
Many of these changes would not have persisted without human selection because they have large fitness costs such as frequent overheating and a variety of diseases.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

RNA World Hypothesis

As I talked about in class, research from The Scripps Research Institute shows that a cross-chiral ribozyme was developed in Joyce Laboratory in a test tube mimicking natural evolution, which might be key in origination of life. In the article, they describe that RNA has a propensity to attach to other RNA so scientist needed an enzyme that would prevent the RNA from binding to other RNA–making the mirror image of the RNA strand. In the experiment, the scientist put 83 nucleotides on the ribozyme, which successfully made a left handed RNA strand from the original right handed RNA. Currently, the scientists are trying to create a ribozyme that does not need any nucleotides for replication. If this happens, then the RNA world hypothesis can be proved.

I read the article on Science Daily originally, but here is the more detailed version of the article on Nature.
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v515/n7527/full/nature13900.html
I was clearly enthralled by whale evolution so just thought I'd share some pictures on what these ancient whales might have looked like
Ambulocetus

Basilosaurus skeleton

Indohyus (the cute deer thing that started it all)


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/07/130718-viruses-pandoraviruses-science-biology-evolution/

This article was published in National Geographic almost two years ago. It's pretty interesting because it talks about why scientist were never able to discover pandoraviruses before as well as why the characteristics that pandoraviruses have could be evidence of the existence of a fourth domain of life. It's not too long so if you have time to read it, I definitely recommend it!

Early Arthropod Evolution?

An article published today shows a paper that discusses a newly found fossil that would have looked something like this reconstruction when alive.
 Aegirocassis benmoulae  had modified legs, filters for feeding, and gills. These traits provide evidence for early arthropod evolution. This fossil has been dated to be over 480 million years old, and was found in Morocco. It's interesting how many new 'game changing' fossils are being found and how each of them adds something new to understanding evolution.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150312083651.htm

Can we control evolution?

Evolution occurs over time due to changes in environment. But what if we could find the gene that is affected by the change in the environment, allowing find a way to prevent that change from occurring? This is exactly what McGill researchers are researching. The McGill team found that by methylating the gene that controls growth of ants (called Egfr), they were able to create ants of different sizes. This could maybe be applicable towards humans as well so that we can prevent natural selection from eliminating any phenotypes over time.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150311081258.htm

Cure for prevention of Alzheimer's disease?

There is a drug that is used for treating epilepsy that is showing signs of improving memory, which slows the risk of dementia due to Alzheimer's disease. A study was done on 84 subjects who were randomly given the drug in various quantities and a placebo. There were signs of improved memory in the subjects with a small dosage of the drug. Now the scientists are currently working on finding out if the drug can be used to permanently slow or stop Alzheimer's disease.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150311124200.htm

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Phyllotaxis

I found an article on phyllotaxis (the arrangement of flowers and leaves around a plant stem) that seemed really interesting. As mentioned in class, leaves grow in a Fibonacci sequence around a stem so as to maximize access to sunlight. The most common angle between leaves is the golden angle (137.5 degrees). The paper went into the geometry of phyllotaxis, plant stem cells, mechanisms of phyllotaxis and phyllotaxic transitions.

Here is the paper for those who want to read more:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1360138507000581

UV patterns of bees' vision

chttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=%22How+bees+discriminate+a+pattern+of+two+colors+from+its+mirror+image%22.+Plos+One+Journal

I came across this paper the other day that was written more than 25 years ago about how bees are able to discriminate between two different colors and how being able to see UV patterns is essential for their survival. It's a pretty old paper (published in 1989) but it's very interesting. I definitely recommend you taking a look at it if you have time.

Vice News- Greenland is Melting

I saw this little documentary on Greenland a couple weeks ago and thought I'd share it with you guys.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Yq-sfWSWLg




On another note, I heard that Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials have been ordered not to use the terms Global warming, or climate change in official communications, emails, or reports (as an unwritten policy) and I'm trying to figure out if this is a hoax or not, because it sounds kind of ridiculous to me. Does anybody know more?

Santa Barbara Natural History Museum

Hey guys!
I found this cool exhibit that some of you might be interested in at the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum that opens in just three days (March 14)

http://www.sbnature.org/exhibitions/905.html


New strain of HIV detected- much more dangerous

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/02/16/scientists-find-new-aggressive-strain-hiv-in-cuba/



I was browsing different news websites on the internet and I came across this new headline of a new strain of HIV in Cuba. Apparently this new strain is no much more powerful that it can develop very rapidly to AIDS before the person infected can even realize it (usually HIV can take more than a decade to develop to AIDS). Researchers think that this new strain of HIV is due to being infected by many different strains that combine together to form a "lethal combination". Check out his article if you have time time it's pretty interesting and mostly, pretty scary.

When did Humans Start Wearing Clothes?

            P. humanus capitus       Phthirus pubis        Pediculus humanus corporis
                 (Head louse)              (Pubic louse)                      (Body louse)

This is an interesting question because clothes aren’t found in the fossil record but are an important accessory that helped humans expand their range out of Africa. Two groups of scientists have been clever at trying to look at when humans started wearing clothing by examining the evolution of clothing (body) lice which evolved from head lice.  The human louse, Pediculus humanus, has two distinct subspecies. P. humanus capitis are head lice which live in hair on the head while P. humanus corporis are body lice which feed on the human body but live in clothing. (The human pubic louse, Phthirus pubis, originated from gorilla lice and is another interesting story in itself!)  Using a molecular clock analysis from mitochondrial and nuclear DNA segments, a German group came up with 72,000  ± 42,000 years ago for the origin of body lice and an American group estimated it at 83,000 to 170,000 years ago.  These dates suggest that clothing originated in Africa during the Middle to Late Pleistocene which correlates with the spread of humans out of Africa.


Overview:

German study Kittler et al.

American study Toups et al.

Info. on all three groups of human lice

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Recently, I watched a very intriguing Vsauce video on Human Extinction. I thought it would relate very well to what we have been discussing in class regarding big mass extinction events. The video raises an interesting question - will human extinction be anthorpogenic (result of human action) or caused by a big catastrophic event? The Global Catastrophic Risks Survey conducted by Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute predicts that the risk of extinction before the year 2100 is 19%. At a first glance, that may not seem too big. However, that is almost 1/5 of a chance that the human race may die out by the next century.
The Doomsday argument theorizes that human extinction soon is probable. It is based off the concept that everyone has a birth number and that birth number is a random sampling of everyone born. This doesn't take into account big threats to the human race or how humans can overcome those threats. The biggest point this argument brings home is that human extinction soon is probable. The Fermi Paradox raises an interesting question - if intelligent beings are capable of living for billions of years, then where are they? We have not yet discovered intelligent life. This could mean that extinction level threat events are too common for intelligent life to catch up.
The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEM) has a rather dark approach to all of this information, that we, as a human race, should all just die out. They believe that humans are a negative influence on Earth and always will be. In fact, they go so far as to say we have a moral obligation to stop reproducing and fade away. Despite all of this negative information in favor of the future of the human race, we still stand a good chance of surviving. I have linked the video for more information.


Humans: cause of the next mass extinction?

There's no argument that humans are the most powerful species on the planet. We may not be the best in strength, speed, or claws, but our brains have allowed our species to be the most prosperous. However, are humans good for other species? Evidence shows that we are detrimental to many of other species. Over the last 500 years, our species has caused the extinction of 322 species that we know of (there are still species that we don't know exist). It's alarming that humanity has made that much of an impact, and we still continue to do so. Though there are already innovations made to protect the environment, the journey to create a sustainable community is far from over.

Click to view article






The Voodoo Lily stinks but is also thermogenic

The Voodoo Lily is known for its odor that smells like decaying meat, however, another interesting characteristic is its ability to exert heat.

Hannah Skubatz et. Al. observed the heat production properties of the Voodoo Lily (Sauromatum guttatum), infamous for its test. The temperatures of the flower can reach to 32 degrees Celsius. To study this effect, scientists used infrared tools and dissection to observe the changes in heat in certain parts of the flower. Using infrared tools, they discovered that only the male parts of the flower gave off heat, but not the female parts. 

Click here to view article





What makes a dog a dog? What makes a wolf a wolf?

Humanity has had large impacts on the way animals have developed during its existence on the planet and still continue to do so. One way humans have took the reigns of the development of animals is domestication. The classic representation of the domesticated animal is the canine, "man's best friend". But what makes the "domestic". Scientists compared the activities of puppies from both dogs and their wild relatives, grey wolves, while being raised by humans. Results revealed an already present "capacity" for human interactions. This supports an hypothesis that while dogs were continuing to be domesticated and bred, certain genes that allow for increased conformity to humans.


Click here for article

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dolphins and Magnets

Dolphins are sensitive to magnetic fields and can swim differently when in close proximity to magnets. Some marine organisms use this sensitivity to magnetic field to help orient themselves much like sea turtles do. Researchers studied the stranding sites and migration routes. Researchers also exposed 6 dolphins to a highly magnetic barrel and a control barrel in order to get additional evidence to support their claim.

Click here for the article

Here is something to think about especially because everyone is stressed during Dead Week:

Stress, Students, and Science!!!

Students do not get enough sleep on average and this lack of sleep can effect short term concentration and mood. This can alter the results of finals. So get some sleep people, especially during this week!!!!!!

Click here for the article

University of Alabama. "Sleepy college students stressed by jobs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 August 2014. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Are the phrases “U.S. legislators” and “acknowledgement of scientific fact” forever incompatible?


          This week it was revealed that since 2011, when current Florida governor Rick Scott took office, all climate officials in the State Department of Environmental Protection were ordered to never use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in official communications. Florida is recognized as the most vulnerable region of the country to the harrowing effects of climate change. Rising sea levels with other meteorological factors have wiped out highways, various studies predict many coastal communities in Florida to be underwater by the end of the century, and Florida’s coral reefs stand a grim chance of survival and health in the coming centuries.
South Florida’s vulnerable coral reefs hold a dim future considering current political inaction. What governor Scott doesn’t understand is that his failure to take action will hurt his political standing in the long run, because coral reefs in Florida are key to the state’s economic prosperity. The vast majority of marine species that are critical to Florida’s fisheries depend on healthy reefs, and the reefs attract thousands of tourists every year. The harm that increasing climate change exerts on coral reefs is widespread: warmer waters trigger coral bleaching, increasing ocean acidification vastly slows coral growth, rising sea levels are “drowning” reefs to levels with insufficient sunlight, and bigger storms caused by global warming threaten vulnerable reefs. The interesting biology question to ask here is–Could adaptation save coral reefs? There is a lot of scientific debate over this, but the general consensus is that coral reefs are able to adapt when the drastic climate change is spread over millennia, but that it is uncertain how corals can respond to such rapid change (Professor Gretchen Hofmann here has done some really interesting work with this question, but with sea urchins instead). It’s important to note the ecological implications here; decreasing coral reef health will trigger a cascade of harm and destruction across many marine ecosystems.
            If the increasing amount of scientific research projecting future damage from climate change is to have any impact, this depressing incompetency in our nation’s capital must be overcome. A 2007 Science article (linked below) provides insight into likely futures for reefs across the world. The most important message from these projections is that under current CO2 emission trends, what will remain of coral reefs across the world will be no more than a “crumbling framework” of one of the most extremely biodiverse and beautiful ecosystems in the world. I can’t help but wonder, are the phrases “U.S. legislators” and “acknowledgement of scientific fact” forever incompatible?

See the article about banning the term “climate change” in Florida government discourse here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/08/florida-global-warming_n_6826824.html

See here a depressing video of scientists from universities all across Florida failing to convince governor Scott of the harmful effects of increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HH4pXNtMYnk 

For a very informative scientific report from 2008 about the current vulnerability of coral reefs in Florida, go here: http://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/8767_corals-and-climate-change.pdf

See the aforementioned 2007 Science paper about the future of coral reefs here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/318/5857/1737