Tag Archives: ecology

Africa’s poison ‘apple’ provides common ground for saving elephants, raising livestock

While African wildlife often run afoul of ranchers and pastoralists securing food and water resources for their animals, the interests of fauna and farmer might finally be unified by the “Sodom apple,” a toxic invasive plant that has overrun vast swaths of East African savanna and pastureland.

Should the ominous reference to the smitten biblical city be unclear, the Sodom apple, or Solanum campylacanthum, is a wicked plant. Not a true apple, this relative of the eggplant smothers native grasses with its thorny stalks, while its striking yellow fruit provides a deadly temptation to sheep and cattle. (more…)

Read More

‘Life as Research Scientist’: Lauren Cruz, Wildlife Ecologist

Wildlife biologist Lauren Cruz is dedicated to the conservation of coastal ecosystems. She is a recent graduate from the University of Delaware and currently having a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation, Agricultural and Natural Resources and a minor in Entomology. Miss Cruz plans to pursue a M.S. in Marine Science. She attended the Brown University Environmental Leadership Lab on the Big Island of Hawai’i and participated in several projects in different wildlife fields while at the University of Delaware. During her summers, she worked at the Sedge Island Natural Resource Education Center where she lead kayak tours and taught visiting groups about the marsh ecosystem and its inhabitants.

As part of our series on ‘life as research scientist’ we approached Miss Cruz with our questions, and here we have the answers about her research and others:

Q. Let us start with your research topic. What is your research area? Will you please tell us a bit more on this? What did you find?

Lauren Cruz:  I am currently working with The Leatherback Trust which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of leatherbacks and other sea turtle species. My team monitors the nesting ecology of leatherback, black and olive ridley sea turtles in Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas (Leatherback National Marine Park) in Playa Grande, Costa Rica. Paying special attention to leatherbacks, we are adding to 20 years of continuous sea turtle data on this beach. Many biologists have conducted research on this beach and have filled many gaps in our understanding of leatherback ecology. Some examples include finding the incubation temperature at which sex is determined for leatherbacks, placing transmitters on leatherbacks to see where they migrate to after egg laying as well as monitoring the temperatures and possible effects climate change can have on turtle nesting. The leatherback population has dropped by about 98% since the start of the project.  (more…)

Read More

Temperature and ecology: In Chile, rival barnacles keep competition cool

A lot of research shows that temperature can strongly influence species interactions and sometimes shape the appearance and functioning of biological communities. That’s why a newly published finding that changes in temperature did not alter the competitive balance of power between two rival species of Chilean barnacles is an ecological surprise.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Here are two facts that make the lowly barnacle important: They are popular models for ecology research, and they are very sensitive to temperature. Given that, the authors of a new study about a bellwether community of two barnacle species in Chile figured they might see clear effects on competition between these two species if they experimentally changed temperature. In the context of climate change, such an experiment could yield profound new insights into the biological future of a major coastline that is prized for its ecological, aesthetic, and economic values. (more…)

Read More

Seasonal awareness a traditional way of life

A celebration of the traditional connections between human lives, the seasons and the natural world form the basis of a new book by University of Exeter academic, Professor Nick Groom.

The book, calledThe Seasons: An Elegy for the Passing of the Year’, is an urgent plea for English rural traditions not to be forgotten, and investigates not only how society is becoming cut off from the rhythms of the natural world, but also the ways in which the annual cycle has been celebrated for centuries. (more…)

Read More

‘Life as Research Scientist’: Jo Varner, Biologist

Jo Varner, University of Utah biology doctoral student, is currently conducting research on how small mammals like Pikas are coping with Earth’s warming climate. Her study is concentrated on Pikas in the Columbia River Gorge area in the U.S, which is an unusual habitat for this species. Recently we had the opportunity to talk to Miss Varner about her research, why it is important and how life as a research scientist is. Here is what we learned from Miss Jo Varner:

Q. Let us start with your research topic. What is your research area? Will you please tell us a bit more on this? What did you find?

Jo Varner: Glad to talk with you! Broadly, I am interested in how climate change is impacting animals, particularly in sensitive environments like the high mountains. Specifically, I am working with American pikas, which are a small mammal closely related to rabbits. Pikas are typically restricted to high elevation mountains in western North America. They appear to be very sensitive to climate change in parts of their range, but in other parts they seem to be less vulnerable. (more…)

Read More

Symbiotic Fungi Inhabiting Plant Roots Have Major Impact on Atmospheric Carbon

AUSTIN, Texas — Microscopic fungi that live in plants’ roots play a major role in the storage and release of carbon from the soil into the atmosphere, according to a University of Texas at Austin researcher and his colleagues at Boston University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The role of these fungi is currently unaccounted for in global climate models.

Some types of symbiotic fungi can lead to 70 percent more carbon stored in the soil. (more…)

Read More

Big is not bad: Scientists call for preservation of large carnivores

The world is losing its large carnivores, their ranges are collapsing and many species are at risk of extinction.

“Promoting tolerance and coexistence with large carnivores is a crucial societal challenge that will ultimately determine the fate of Earth’s largest carnivores and all that depends upon them, including humans,” write the co-authors of a review article, in the Jan. 10 issue of Science, about the largest carnivore species on Earth. (more…)

Read More