The weather is warming and the thaw of spring has begun. Take a walk near any pond, wetland, or swamp just after the ice has melted on a spring day and you will hear some amazing chatter. From chirps, to croaks and peeps and trills, a chorus of nature is on display. Sometimes it's a wall of sound that can be deafening. What makes such a sound? It's actually dozens and dozens of frogs named Spring Peepers. Known as a chorus frog, their chirps mark the beginning of spring in the eastern US and Canada. Spring Peepers are rarely seen but always heard in the early part of spring. The males are actually the ones making all the noise, to get the attention of females in the area. Their high-pitched call is often mistaken for crickets, which are only heard in the summer or early fall. After mating, the female will lay it's eggs on plants in the water. Spring Peepers and other frogs are quite important to any healthy ecosystem. They feast on pretty much any insect, like beetles, ants, flies, and spiders. And they are a staple food for many animals like snakes, skunks, larger frogs, birds, fish, raccoons, and much more. Even as tadpoles, they are a very important food sources. Now this predation may sound bad for this little frog, but a female can lay as many as 1,000 eggs!
Not only do frogs as well as toads have an important role in food webs, but they are also an indicator of the health of the surrounding environment. Frogs and other amphibians have thin skin in which they absorb water and even breathe. This incredible adaptation leaves them very susceptible to contaminants in their environment. They are much like the "canary the coal mine," warning humans of chemicals in our environment that could harm us. If there is a decrease in a frog population, it's very important for scientists to figure out the cause.
You don't have to be an expert in herpetology to help your local frog population. Through FrogWatch USA, a citizen science program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, non-scientists can contribute to scientific research and learn about their community wetlands. Volunteers collect data on the calls of frogs and toads during evenings from February through August. Then they enter it into an online database that is combined with data from thousands of other FrogWatch USA volunteers from around the US. The information is analyzed and used to develop environmental protection and amphibian conservation strategies. Read more about FrogWatch USA here.
This past weekend we turned our clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time (DST). The good news: we get an extra hour of sunlight! The bad news: we lost an hour of sleep. Daylight Saving Time is the practice of setting the clocks forward one hour from standard time during the summer months, and back again in the fall, in order to make better use of natural daylight. This week on How Do You Science? we will be exploring the fact and fiction of Daylight Savings Time.
The ability to tell time originated hundreds of years ago with the nomadic prehistoric man. By observing the stars, moon phases and the changes in season they came up with a very primitive method of measuring time. The earliest time measurement devices before clocks and watches were the sundial, hourglass and water clock (1500-1300 B.C.). Progressing from mechanical, to pendulum, to the styles seen on wrists, watches have had a long journey.
Having created ways of telling time, the world marched steadily on. However, for those living near the poles it became noticeable that there was less light in the evening. It was believed that the lack of light meant people were no longer being productive. Enter Daylight Savings Time.
DST has been a part of life in the United States since World War I. Many of us have heard that DST was developed because of farming, thinking that more daylight means more time in the field for farmers. As it turns out, famers are actually against DST. The lost hour of morning light meant farmers had to rush to get their crops to market. Dairy farmers were particularly flummoxed: Cows adjust to schedule shifts rather poorly.
DST, in this or any other country, was never adopted to benefit farmers. Then, how did farmers end up being the mythical source of DST? It is suggested that because they were such vocal opponents, they became associated with the image of daylight saving and it got inverted on them. It was just bad luck.
Today, less than 40% of the countries in the world use DST. Some countries use it to make better use of the natural daylight in the evenings. The difference in light is most noticeable in the areas close to the Poles (furthest away from the Earth's Equator). Some studies show that DST could lead to fewer road accidents and injuries by supplying more daylight during the hours more people use the roads.
DST is also used to reduce the amount of energy needed for artificial lighting during the evening hours. However, many studies disagree about DST's energy savings and while some studies show a positive outcome, others do not.
For more information on DST, check out this website.
Weather prediction is a complicated science! It takes a lot of skill, technology, and background knowledge to make and deliver weather predictions. Thankfully, Chief Meteorologist Eric Fisher was kind enough to tell us all about how he sciences! You may recognize him from WBZ-TV, the CBS Affiliate in Boston!
Name: Eric Fisher
Job/ title: Chief Meteorologist, WBZ-TV
Education level: College – Bachelor’s of Science in Atmospheric Science
Contact email/ professional website: firstname.lastname@example.org and www.cbsboston.com/weather
1. What do you do for work and how does it use science or STEM principles?
My job at CBS Boston is an operational meteorologist, meaning a forecaster, who just so happens to present forecasts on television! My entire day is rooted in science, from analyzing computer models and satellite images to explaining probabilities and conclusions (forecasts). The biggest part of my day is dedicated to the forecast. I search through all the available information to figure out what the atmosphere is doing, and then decide what we think it’s going to do in the future.
2. What level of schooling or training does someone need to get this job?
It’s best to go through at least four years of college studying meteorology before taking on this kind of job. Plus, it helps to take as many science and math classes as possible in high school before you even get to the college level. In my high school I took almost every science class they had available – chemistry, botany, oceanography, physics, lab science, astronomy, and geology. All are useful when talking about the weather and our environment. Then in college it’s a whole boatload of physics and calculus, as well as earth science.
The TV part comes with a lot of practice and time. Many meteorologists are shy scientists at first, and then have to learn how to communicate their forecasts and be entertaining at the same time. It’s tough and most of us stink when we first start out!
3. What is the most unique/enjoyable part of your job?
The best part of a job in meteorology is that every day there’s something different to talk about. I always find that even on a calm day in New England, there’s something fascinating going on somewhere else. Whether it’s unusual weather in other parts of the world, or a new scientific study, there’s always something to talk about. So it’s tough to have a ‘boring’ day at work.
4. How did you become interested in doing the job you have?
I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work in weather. Whenever there was a big storm I was the one who would want to be outside in it or watching all the warnings/radar images scrolling across the TV screen on the Weather Channel. Then I had to figure out what kind of a job in meteorology would be best, and decided TV was the right path. It’s one of the only meteorology careers where you can really share your passion and enthusiasm for what’s happening with a broad audience. Many other jobs in forecasting take place in offices with little interaction between you and the public. So it’s nice to ‘geek out’ about things I find interesting.
5. What advice would you give someone hoping to find a job in your profession?
You better love it! It can be a tough path to take. The classes are hard in college, and then the pay is often terrible when you get a job. You have to really work hard and enjoy what you do to make a living. But with enough passion, it works out.
6. If someone wanted to learn more about the type of work you do, where can they learn more?
Just tune in and check it out for yourself, or send an email to your local meteorologist. I’m sure you’ll find they’ll be eager to chat.
For more information on Eric and his background, visit http://boston.cbslocal.com/personality/eric-fisher/
How We Science is moderated and edited by the staff of the Natural Resources Trust of Easton.