Tigers are probably my favorite animal. They are incredibly majestic, solitary predators with distinguishing orange and black stripes. However it seems that tigers are functionally extinct in Cambodia, a region that has historically been home to thousands of the big cats. The indochinese tiger no longer has a breeding population in the country, and activists are hard at work to reintroduce the species into the wild. They plan to first introduce stricter laws against poaching and habitat loss, as well as making sure the tigers have plenty of prey animals before reintroducing captive species to the area. Cambodia is one of 13 countries in the world that indochinese tigers inhabit, and the world population of the species is dwindling at just over 2,100. It is tragic that these majestic animals have been subjects of poaching and habitat destruction to reduce their numbers so much. Hopefully through the work of local governments and environmental groups the indochinese tiger may again roam free in Cambodia.
Dutch designer Dave Hakkens has designed a way to scale down large factory plastic recycling plants, making them small and user friendly enough to one day have a place in the home. So about 92% of America’s plastic ends up in landfills, and Hakkens’ design may be the future of the popularization of recycling. Hakkens’ used his machine to turn recycled plastics into bins and lampshades. The future of such a design goes even farther, as 3D printing becomes more and more widespread. Imagine a machine in your home that you could throw away plastic, and then reuse that plastic to create 3D printed items. While a long way off from the market, Hakkens’ design suggests a future for plastics that does not involve a landfill.
During our energy presentations in class, the one on tidal energy really interested me. I’d never heard of generating electricity from tidal currents, but it seemed to have a lot of benefits, namely a predictable and steady source of clean energy that can’t be seen from shore. I live on Long Island, and while one of the major drawbacks of tidal energy was that it can’t be used in many places, I wanted to know if it could be used where I live. I can think of several bay areas and straights that seem like they would be good candidates. For example the first of the three ferries I take to get to school passes over the Peconic River, a stretch of water where the tides can shift dramatically and where the current is always strong.
On researching the use of tidal energy on Long Island, I learned that in 2012, the first ever license for a tidal project in the US was given to the RITE project, to set up a generator in the East River of New York City. The project utilizes the Kinetic Hydropower System (KHPS) in generating electricity. Invisible from shore the turbine doesn’t require any sort of dam to operate. The turbine rotates in the current, and can rotate around 170 degrees when the tide changes. It seems like although it is not viable in many areas, tidal energy has many benefits and should be developed further.
The number one way to combat climate change is by education. In order for us as a society, to fight global warming, we must all have knowledge about how it affects environmental systems around the world, and how each individual can do their part to stop contributing to the problem. Finding a way to educate people about a topic is difficult, people don’t read as much as they used to, so they’re not getting that information from a book or newspaper. However, the article I read mentioned how there is a new way to educate people about climate change, games. A scientist, Stephanie Pfirman, and professor, Joey Lee, both decided to find out if people retained more information about climate change if the information was conveyed to them through a video game. In this experiment, they made one group of people read an article while they made the other group play the video game. The video game included players having to make their own marine food chain involving organisms from algae and phytoplankton to seals and polar bears. Players also interact with “carbon pollution, renewable energy, and energy efficiency” effect cards, that would influence the ecosystem depending on which card they drew. The results from the activity were that those who played the game gained the same or more knowledge about climate change, as those who read the article. It was easier for the gamers to understand the complex environmental systems because of the interactive learning experience. This research into learning could be an asset when it comes to teaching us about our environment because it will open the door for an engaging and interactive lesson that more people will want to participate in.
The last few weeks all that I have able to think about was seeds, because of our seed project. That is why when I came across an article titled “First Flower Seeds From Dinosaur Era Discovered” I rubbed my hands together, like Birdman, knowing I had the next topic for my blog post. My initial thoughts before reading the article were, “How did they find minuscule prehistoric seeds,” and “Why is this significant?”
The article talked about how seeds from an early Cretaceous period flowers were discovered, the seeds date back to 110 to 120 million years ago, in the time of the dinosaurs. The article also mentioned how the seeds were in surprisingly good shape. The cell structures in some seed coats were still intact, and scientist were able to see the seed embryos, where food is stored and a new plant is created.These seeds were extremely small, the biggest seed being only 2.5 millimeters in diameter. The plants are the great ancestors of many plants that we see today. In order to not damage the fossils while they were deciphering them, scientists used a synchrotron radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM), which created a 3-dimensional image of the seeds that they were able to manipulate. This discovery is shedding light onto early life cycles, and how plant species survived during the Cretaceous period.
Happy holiday season, everyone! Seemed like a good time to freshen up the blog image. Many thanks to NASA astronaut Scott Kelly who took this amazing photo of the Nile River at night from the international space station on Sept. 22, 2015. According to NASA, Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) wrote, “Day 179. The #Nile at night is a beautiful sight for these sore eyes. Good night from@space_station! #YearInSpace.”
Fall is in the air this week!
I keep waiting for the leaves to change…. seems like they should have started by now, doesn’t it? I’ve been watching for the reds and oranges during my morning drive but nothing is starting to turn yet. Is it just too early? If you’re wondering the same thing, there is actually a website devoted to New England’s fall display called Yankee Foliage. Even better, they have a foliage map which estimates the peak color times for 2015. You should check it out!
So where do we get all of the colors? It’s actually pretty amazing. Basically the colors are there all year but they’re hiding beneath the green. Chlorophyll (which reflects green wavelengths of light) is needed to make carbohydrates. The huge amount of chlorophyll keeps the leaves looking green from the moment they bud until the moment the plant decides to “cut its losses” before the winter freeze. Trees create a little wall at the stem of each leaf to stop water from entering, which reduces water loss through the leaves but also prevents the production of carbohydrates. No photosynthesis means chlorophyll isn’t needed. The cellular organelles that make it shut down production, and presto – no more green! What’s left is all of the other molecules the leaves made to prevent UV radiation damage or to make photosynthesis more effective, things like acanthocyanins and xanthophylls. They reflect different wavelengths of light so we see them as reds, oranges, purples, and yellows.
Think of it as a tree’s last hurrah before the winter sets in. 🙂