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.
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.
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.
Humans science constantly. Everyday transactions and interactions- from pumping gas to boiling water to having a simple conversation- involve science on some level. We embrace science as an active presence in our lives from the minute we wake up in the morning to the second we fall asleep at night. This week, however, we are going to take a step into the animal kingdom to take a closer look at how a feathered member of the animal kingdom uses science every day!
They eat bones. They bathe in mud. They dye their feathers bright red and orange. They are Bearded Vultures. And they science. The Bearded Vulture, also known as the Ossifrage (which means “bone breaker”) is no bird brain when it comes to getting a tasty meal!
While most vulture species typically scavenge for dead animals to feed on (also known as carrion), bearded vultures feast almost exclusively on bones. Bones are often overlooked by other birds and animals, so they are a bountiful, highly nutritious source of food. Bearded Vultures, which are native to parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia, are the only bird species to specialize in eating them! More specifically, the whole bones of animals like sheep and goats.
How does a vulture go about eating the bones of a sheep or goat? They smash the bones into bits, of course! Bearded vultures have developed the ability to ride thermal columns of air high into the sky over the rocky cliffs they call home while carrying large pieces of bone. When they are high enough, the vultures release the bone and let it plummet back towards earth. Upon impact, the bone shatters into smaller, easier-to-eat pieces. Yummy!
Check out the incredible video below to see a bearded vulture in action:
How cool is that!? Did you see all of the science happening? Let’s break it down:
For more information (including more pictures and videos) on the incredible Bearded Vulture, visit www.arkive.org!
Imagine you are out on a walk at a local nature preserve. As you walk, you are struck by the beauty and variety of the plants you see and the birds you hear. You wish you could learn more about the nature around you, but aren’t sure of where to start. An invaluable resource in exploring and learning about the natural world around us is a field guide. Not sure what a field guide is, exactly? Let me explain.
A field guide is a book that helps its reader identify biotic (alive!) and abiotic (non-living!) objects in nature. Field guides can be general to an area like the National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England, or more subject specific like the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Massachusetts. The field guide you choose should be based on your learning goals. So if you want to learn more about trees, choose a field guide that identifies plants. If you wanted to learn more about mushrooms, you would choose a fungi field guide.
Once you have selected your field guide, you need to be able to use it. Start by reading it at home. Most field guides will have an introduction or overview and a “How to Use This Book” section. It may sound like a lot of reading, but the best part about field guides is that the written sections are short and to the point (and there are always pictures).
Once you feel confident in your field guide know-how, you can head outside and start using it!
There are two main ways to use a field guide. The first is to identify a species in nature by comparing the real life object to the picture in the book. The second is to look up a species you already know in the index, find the corresponding page and read the information that is provided.
Whichever method you choose you are sure to learn more about the natural world around you, and truly impress your family and friends in the future.
Welcome to How We Science, a blog sponsored and maintained by the Natural Resources Trust of Easton and dedicated to sharing the wonders of science and STEM-related careers in ways you may not even know existed. Each week we will be bringing you great information about pursuing careers in science and other STEM fields, resources for learning more about science and STEM professions, and interviews with real people who are scientists in the real world. We hope to educate, inspire, and excite all of our readers!
We also want to hear from you! Are you a student scientist with a special interest that you want to make into your career? Do you work in a really cool STEM job and want to tell others about it? Do you have a science job that no one else knows exists? We want to know more! At How We Science we are looking for real life stories, short videos, science-related book and website reviews, and more that tell people about how you use and enjoy science in our work and home life.
Contact us by email with your post ideas and questions. We look forward to sharing our excitement about science with you!
On January 4, 2016 join us for the launch of the NRT's new online science education initiative, How Do You Science?, and blog, How We Science. These two resources are dedicated to educating and inspiring aspiring scientists everywhere! Whether you are an amateur naturalist with an interest in the environment or you are looking for ways to turn your interest in working with metals into a career, How We Science will have resources that can help you discover more about the opportunities available in science and STEM-related fields.
So we hope you join us on January 4th for our new blog launch, then explore our new website How Do You Science? to learn more!
How We Science is moderated and edited by the staff of the Natural Resources Trust of Easton.