Ever wonder how some creatures, like barnacles, mussels and seaweed, manage to survive in the tough tidal ecosystems? You see them, attached to rocks, docks and other incredible places not just surviving but flourishing in some of the most extreme places. Let’s talk a closer look at these cool creatures, and just how they manage to grow in some of the most unlikely places.
These animals are marine crustaceans that become permanently attached to a substrate. Barnacles secrete a naturally occurring cement that creates a limestone shell around themselves. Colonies of barnacles can be found on wharves, boats, pilings and rocky shores.
Although small, barnacles are a really cool animal. During high tides, the barnacles will open their “trap doors” and extend a feathery leg that sweeps the water for microscopic plankton, their favorite food. When the tides recede, the barnacle will close that trap door and retain water inside it’s shell, keeping it moist until the next high tide.
Here's a great article on barnacle glue!
Check out that beard! Blue mussels are a type of mollusk that grow byssal threads, commonly known as a “beard”, that allow the animal to attach themselves to tidal substrate. The beard if made of protein and come from a gland located in the mussel’s foot. The musseles can use their byssal threads like climbing ropes, extending, attaching, and pulling themselves forward in succession, allowing the be rather mobile. Once the mussels reach adulthood, they will often choose one place to call home.
Want to learn more? There is a great big world of marine science to explore! Check out this website for some tips on getting ready for a marine science career.
Does working at a desk all day seem unappealing? Ever think that working in a field of science meant being stuck in a lab or office all day? That is definitely not the case! If you are interested in a STEM career that will bring you out of the office, consider the careers below:
Marine Animal Rescuer
A Marine Animal Rescuer helps to rescue and rehabilitate injured, sick, or stranded marine life like seals, turtles, dolphins, manatees, sea birds, and other marine life. Rescue jobs can be found at various colleges, universities, animal protection and advocacy groups, and aquariums. Marine Animal Rescuers work near beaches, estuaries, and on boats at sea. They also work directly with animals at rehab facilities. Many in the field have a degree in Biology or specifically Marine Biology and begin by volunteering at a rescue group.
For more info, go to marinemammalcenter.org and seaworldcares.com
Environmental Engineering is a branch of engineering that concentrates on reducing pollution in the environment and remediating any existing contamination. Environmental Engineers plan and implement projects that address issues like energy preservation, waste control, and improving the quality of the environment. They are also responsible for producing studies on the environmental impact of proposed construction projects. Environmental Engineers do work in offices when planning projects, but they can work on site to conduct inspections and impact studies.
For more info, go to environmentalscience.org
Horticulture is a branch of agriculture that deals with the cultivation and propagation of plant life. Horticulturists are involved in the management and cultivation of gardens and land. They conduct research in areas such as crop production, genetic engineering, and pest and disease resistance. Their work involves plants like fruits, berries, nuts, vegetables, flowers, trees, as well as soil management. They also work to design parks and focus on preserving natural resources. Horticulturists work in industries like education, government, and agriculture.
For more info, go to American Society for Horticulture.
A Park Ranger is responsible for protecting and supervising private, state, and national parks. They patrol park grounds and make sure that visitors are abiding by park rules such as fire safety and that the natural environment is being preserved. They can teach about wildlife and conservation to all different age groups, from kids to adults.
For more info, go to: ParkRanger.edu
An Equine Nutritionist specializes in the health, diet, and feeding behaviors of horses. Many in the field have master's degree or are large animal veterinarians that have specialized in equine nutrition and disease. An Equine Nutritionist will examine a horse's health and body condition to build a diet and meal schedule based on the horses needs and overall health goals.
For more info, go to: theequinest.com.
This week, we were able to sit down and interview Katelyn Szura, who has her B.S. in Wildlife and Conservation and is currently working towards her Masters of Environmental Science at the University of Rhode Island! Katelyn has worked with both the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Read on to learn more about the amazing field of conservation biology and how Katelyn got started!
Could you please tell us your name, title, and educational background?
Katelyn Szura, MS Environmental Science Graduate Student, University of Rhode Island. I have a Bachelors of Science degree in Wildlife and Conservation Biology.
What do you do for work and how does it relate to STEM Principles?
I am currently a graduate student working towards earning a Master of Science degree in Biological and Environmental Science. I have previously worked as a research assistant at both the Environmental Protection Agency and US Fish and Wildlife Service. My passion is in studying all things relating to salt marsh ecology. The projects I work on are heavily science based and use research projects to answer questions about salt marsh systems. Within marsh systems, I study processes in relation to greenhouse gas emissions, how crabs affect marsh landscapes, what effects nutrient additions have on marsh ecosystem processes, and ways to restore these valuable habitats. A few of my favorite projects to date have been conducting bird surveys at sites all over Rhode Island, traveling to sites all along Long Island, NY to study the health of these marshes, and helping with a project to restore marsh grasses and elevation.
What is the most unique/enjoyable part of your job?
The most unique part of my job is that it is a nice mix of lab and field work and that I'm always learning something new and exciting. A lot of my field work is in the summer and the majority of that time is spent collecting data in various marshes. It can be long days, but nothing beats spending a summer day near the ocean and investigating the wildlife that I find. A few of my projects have even involved spending time handling and counting birds, crabs, and fish. I've always loved birds, but I learned to appreciate them even more when I got to handle many different species when carefully catching them in mist nets for measurements for a fall migration project. What's nice about field days is that they're always fun and no two days are the same. Some days I even get to go boating or kayaking! I really enjoy lab work too as a way to mix my days up and it's exciting to use samples from the field in the lab to help answer questions about different field sites. What I really enjoy the most, though, is that every day I get to work with a system that I absolutely love learning about and that my work contributes to helping protect and restore marshes.
How did you become interested in the job you have?
I became interested in the job I have after taking my mom's advice as an undergraduate student in college to initially take any courses that interested me to find out what career I wanted to pursue. I soon found myself taking classes about birds, plants, and conservation. I was learning to identify all types of wildlife and ways to conserve them and their habitats. I particularly fell in love with research when I went to a lecture and a scientist presented her work in which she helped study boat traffic in order to reduce collisions with whales during migration. Since that day, I was hooked! I wanted to make a difference too. Through my first post-graduate job I found out how much I loved marshes through my work which took me traveling to sites all throughout Rhode Island. I spent many a sunrise in those marshes and I gained an immense appreciation for their beauty and importance.
What advice would you give someone hoping to find a job in your profession?
My advice would be to gain as much hands on field experience as early and as often as you can, even if it's just volunteering on different projects. It's a great way to gain knowledge about a wide variety of topics within the field and also a fun way to meet people and learn from others in the same profession. I learned so much through volunteer projects and whether it was removing invasive plant species or helping to tag horseshoe crabs so their movements could be tracked. I left each volunteer opportunity with a new appreciation for that particular project. These experiences also helped me to discover which research interested me the most. In addition, when applying for jobs my experience, and variety of experience, with field work was something that helped my resume stand apart.
If someone wanted to learn more about the type of work you do, where can they learn more?
I think a great resource would be to browse the University of Rhode Island's College of the Environment and Life Sciences home page. It has a lot of information about different professors and projects going on at the university. It could be a great way to learn about possible graduate projects or just a way to learn more about different types of biological and ecological research in general.
If you would like to send Katelyn an email about her job or if you have any questions for her, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hear about wildfires every year. A wildfire (also known as a forest fire, vegetation fire, grass fire, peat fire, bushfire (in Australia), or hill fire) is an uncontrolled fire often occurring in wildland areas, but which can also consume houses or agricultural resources. Wildfires often begin unnoticed, but they spread quickly igniting brush, trees and homes.
Heat waves, droughts, and cyclical climate changes such as El Niño can also have a dramatic effect on the risk of wildfires. Common causes of wildfires include lightning, human carelessness, arson, volcano eruption, and pyroclastic cloud from active volcano, although, more than four out of every five wildfires are caused by people.
There is a special type of person who works to contain and put out these fires: Wildland Firefighters. While it may seem that putting out fires is simple, there’s actually a whole branch of science designed to put out fires as effectively as possible: Fire Science. It all sounds pretty cool to me! Let’s dig a little deeper:
Fire science is a program that prepares individuals to perform the duties of fire fighters. It includes instruction in fire-fighting equipment operation and maintenance, principles of fire science and combustible substances, methods of controlling different types of fires, hazardous material handling and control, fire rescue procedures, public relations and applicable laws and regulations. Degrees that can be earned include Masters, Bachelors, Associates as well as a Certificate.
Sounds pretty cool, right? So if this is what you’re interested in, here are some tips to get you started on this career path:
Prospective wildland firefighters should focus in two areas: physical and educational. On the physical side, fitness is key. Firefighters are held to rigorous fitness standards both during the hiring process — when they’ll be required to pass extensive strength and endurance tests — and throughout their careers. Cardio training like hiking and running — while carrying weight, if possible — will be especially useful, as it imitates wildfire working conditions. As much of the job occurs in the wilderness, basic outdoorsman and survival skills may also be of use.
Specific educational requirements are set by each agency. Applicants who wish to set themselves apart can enroll in fire science and emergency medical technician courses at local vocational schools and community colleges. Most of these programs will be entirely classroom based, but some may allow students to gain hands-on training in the field.
In addition to physical and educational requirements, all applicants must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent degree. Aspiring wildland firefighters may find that fire departments or other potential employers prefer to hire people with previous firefighting experience. Therefore, part of the early training may be working as a volunteer firefighter to get a foot in the door.
Another way to gain education and experience early is via a degree in fire science. Many fire science programs at both the associate and bachelor’s degree levels incorporate wildland firefighting into their curricula.
Being a firefighter is a well respected career and one that will keep you on your toes! And who knew so much science was involved?
The EPA has made "Food Recovery" the theme for this year's Earth Day. Food recovery is the reduction of wasted food and its associated environmental impacts over the entire life cycle, starting with extraction of natural resources and manufacturing, sales and consumption and ending with decisions on recycling or final disposal.
Wasted food is a growing problem in our modern society. The amount of food Americans throw away each year is incredible. In 2013 alone, more than 37 million tons of food waste was generated, with only five percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting. EPA estimates that more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash, constituting 21 percent of discarded municipal solid waste. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that Americans wasted over one third of the vegetables and fruit bought in 2010.
While this may seem like a problem that is too large to handle, taking simple steps in your everyday life can make a difference in reducing this issue. Reducing wasted food is a triple win; it's good for the environment, for communities, and for the economy.
To help battle food waste, the EPA has created a guide: The Food Recovery Hierarchy. This guide prioritizes actions we can take to prevent and divert wasted food. Each tier of the Food Recovery Hierarchy focuses on different management strategies for your wasted food. The top levels of the hierarchy are the best ways to prevent and divert wasted food because they create the most benefits for the environment, society and the economy.
Want more information? Check out the EPA's website. By working together, we can start to reverse the negative impacts and leave the Earth a cleaner place for future generations.
Recently, How Do You Science sat down with a Marine Mammal Biologist working in the Gulf of Maine! Evan is a graduate student working with Allied Whale, a small marine mammal research group based out of the College of the Atlantic. In his interview he shares sea stories, marine mammal encounters and some thoughtful advice to those thinking about Marine Mammal Biology as a career.
Could you please tell us your name, job title, and a fun/nerdy fact about yourself?
My name is Evan Henerberry and I am Assistant Stranding Coordinator for Allied Whale as well as a graduate student researching Humpback Whales. As Assistant Stranding Coordinator I help run the stranding response program. My graduate thesis concerns the impacts of climate change on Humpback Whale breeding grounds. I also have high-fived a seal, not once but twice! Call it a benefit of volunteering for an aquarium.
Cool! How did you get interested in that subject and could you tell us a little about how you got where you are today?
The New England Aquarium (NEAQ) sparked my interest in marine biology at a young age. When I was older I had the opportunity to volunteer as a visitor educator - someone who gives presentations and answers guests questions about exhibits. Organizations like the NEAQ provide a lot of programs for people looking to get involved in science.
I continued to pursue this interest by attending the University of New England. After college, I got an internship with Allied Whale and later, Whale and Dolphin Conservation. Education has always been a major part of my life (my parents are both teachers and most of my career has been focused on educating others). I want to continue their legacy by combining research and education in my professional career. I have worked at several environmental education institutes from the Florida Keys to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. My environmental education work culminated when I returned to the New England Aquarium to work as an instructor in their summer camp.
Take us through an average day - how do you science?
Stranding response doesn’t exactly have a typical day. A lot of my time is spent around the office, organizing equipment and helping with reports. I need to make sure that all of this is in place because, once the phone rings, my job becomes a lot more hectic. Going into the field is always an interesting experience. The most exciting thing about my job, and science in general, is that anything can happen, and often does.
Allied Whale responds to a large area of the Maine coast. If an animal is reported anywhere in our response region we go out to inspect it. If a marine mammal is not in good condition, and there is space in a rehabilitation facility in the region, we may transport the animal. This can involve a long road trip to bring the animal to a properly equipped facility. Typically, we only choose to bring an animal to rehab center if there are signs that it has had a “human interaction”, such as entanglement in fishing gear.
Sometimes when we respond, the animal is dead. While this is sad to see, dead animals provide us with an unique learning opportunity. Allied Whale can perform a dissection or necropsy to help us understand why the animal might have died. These necropsies are powerful teaching tools and a chance for people outside Allied Whale to “get their hands dirty” scientifically speaking.
What is some advice you have for people interested in pursuing your line of work?
Volunteering is the best way to get involved with Marine Biology. While the work is never particularly glamorous, volunteering equips you with the skills you’ll need to succeed. It is also a great way to find out if you are really interested in the field. Science, and marine mammal science in particular, is not for everyone and it’s better to find that out early before you put in a lot of time and effort. Networking is a powerful tool as well. If you make a good impression, a letter of reference can carry a lot more weight than a GPA or a resume.
Anything else you’d like to say about yourself?
To be honest, I’m not really all that special. I’ve gotten where I am by working hard and having a good attitude. Before I got accepted to be an intern at Allied Whale I applied and was rejected 4 times. If you really have a passion for something don’t give up on it, with time you will find a way to make it work.
Final question: can our readers contact you?
Feel free to email me at email@example.com, I’m always happy to answer questions!
Thank you so much for your time, Evan! It's been a pleasure getting to know about the amazing world of Marine Mammal Biology. Looking for more information? Check out these websites:
Jobs, Internships and Volunteer Opportunities at the NEAQ
NMFS: Pursuing a Career in Marine Mammal Science
The Society for Marine Mammalogy
New England is waking up and spring is here. The signs are evident: birds are chirping, perennials are blooming, and all of our allergies are swinging into gear which means … the gardeners and landscapers are preparing for their busy season! Workers in these ‘green’ positions have many things in common: they like the feel of dirt on their hands and sunshine on their backs as they work in the great outdoors, and couldn’t begin to imagine being tied to a desk all day. Does this sound like you? Read on to learn about this field.
Professional gardeners work in private and public landscapes to create, design, maintain and manage gardens. They are often employed by botanical gardens, parks, landscaping firms, garden centers, estates and private residences, and some will go into private business as a gardener for several clients. Professional gardeners are responsible for all aspects of plant care for annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs. Working outdoors in all types of weather conditions is often required, as well as physically strenuous labor.
Having an interest in the outdoors and nature is a great place to start when considering a career as a gardener. Having a “Green Thumb” can help, a term given to those that have a natural ability to grow plants. But there is much more to gardening; jobs in horticulture involve science, math, English and art. Nursery and landscape careers require a strong academic foundation of literacy, chemistry, biology, mathematical and analytical skills, not to mention creativity, problem solving, coordination, and most importantly, passion! These skills can often be gained through a 2- or 4-year college degree.
To gain work experience, it is helpful to acquire an internship with a professional gardener. Experience can also be gained through volunteer involvement with community gardening clubs. These offer opportunities for networking through work parties, special events, community service projects and community education.
Professional gardeners with work experience and certifications can advance their career by moving up in their company from an assistant position to a managerial position. They may become the head of the department for local parks, or the director of a botanical garden. Those who pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in horticulture can open their own business as a gardener or detail gardener providing consultation and design services to residential clients, and overseeing garden laborers. You can earn a great living as a nursery and landscape industry professional! Wages may vary by region, but depending on which career path you choose, you could make more than $100,000 a year and even open your own business.
If you are interested in this skilled trade, many opportunities exist throughout the country with positions available in every state. Working in the nursery and landscape industry can give you tangible results and immediate satisfaction and offers the perfect opportunity to see something that you've created everyday.
Become a Professional Gardener
How Do I Become A Gardener?
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.