Next Monday, August 21st, a total eclipse will traverse across the US in a spectacle not seen during in my lifetime. The last total eclipse in the US was on February 26, 1979 (right, top) but the last time totality took a similar path crossing the nation from the Pacific to the Atlantic was June 8, 1918 (right, below). So this is a pretty special event!
We won't be able to see totality in Texas (68.44% in College Station), but that's not going to stop us from having an Eclipse Party! If you're planning on viewing the eclipse, be safe and view with the proper protective equipment.
And, yes, that is the same Ted Turner that owns all the bison!
My mission statement, of sorts, is I am a professional student saving the planet one carnivore at a time and a scientific review published today in Science (Volume 343) does a pretty good job of explaining why. Carnivores are really cool but the importance of keeping these species’ populations healthy is more important than because they’re badass.
Most of the members of the order Carnivora are at the top of the food chain in their ecosystem making them an integral part of the health and well-being of that ecosystem. And, since carnivores exist in almost every habitat on Earth, declines in these species can be seriously detrimental to the condition of our plant. Carnivores play an important role in regulating ecosystem function. Other species, both flora and fauna, rely on carnivores hunting, scavenging, leaving prey remains, etc. whether directly or indirectly. A decline in carnivores has some fairly unexpected effects including changes in biodiversity, disease, and even stream morphology.
Natural ecosystem balance has ebb and flow, but in recent ecological history the ebb is beating out the flow in regards to many carnivore populations. Factors such as human-animal conflict, habitat loss and depletion of prey due to over hunting are changing our planet’s carnivore populations and declines are causing declines in other essential species and increases in destructive ones. This review focused on seven of the 31 large mammalian species of Carnivora (above) which have documented trophic cascades (meaning the predator is responsible for the alteration traits of their prey within a food web – ie the Circle of Life) reporting on the effects each carnivore has on its individual ecosystem. Their conclusions, humans cannot replace carnivores in their role of preserving ecosystem balance and conservation efforts need to be made to prevent further loss or even extinction of such important biodiversity and ecosystem function maintenance species.
Some scientists were already skeptical about adding iron to the oceans due to the unknown impact the process could have on the ocean and the thought that it may only decrease carbon-dioxide levels temporarily. In 2007, another chemist at WHOI said, “While there is still no agreement on the efficiency of [carbon-dioxide] reduction or its environmental impacts, some scientists are willing to consider further experiments to address these remaining uncertainties, given that future policies and carbon-offset markets may emerge with or without a sound scientific basis,” and this recent study did just that.
Now I am going to stand on my soap box. I think we as humans have a responsibility to interfere when we are deliberately hurting the environment but it can be prevented (such as poaching, overfishing, deforestation, etc.); however, sometimes I think we need to just let nature do its thing. The earth has an ebb and flow of heating and cooling, productivity and sterility, a series of highs and lows trying to create a balance. For some reason humans think we can affect the balance for our benefit but what says by pumping the oceans full of iron to reduce something bad we don’t actually end up producing something worse when nature tries to compensate for our actions. Humans don’t think in an earthly timescale, they think in a humanly timescale. The productivity boom after the ice age was produced over hundreds of years. I’m sure the people who want to pump the oceans with iron aren’t thinking of that kind of a timeline. They are thinking they will see results they’ll see immediately, which there may be A result immediately but THE result may not be for another hundred or thousand years. The statement by the WHOI chemist saying “future policies and carbon-offset markets may emerge with or without a sound scientific basis” is a perfect example of how politics are manipulating people who want to do good for the planet into doing things that may not be. If only we could just keep politics out of it.
So excited I've finally added this to my DVD library!
Look what got delivered today! If you haven't seen (or heard of) The Last Lions, come on over and we'll watch it. This is one of the best documentaries, wildlife or non, I have ever seen. It has the film quality of Planet Earth but follows a story rather simply documenting behavior. It's a real life Lion King - and it doesn't hurt that it's narrated by Scar (Jeremy Irons).
Most people are exposed to "true" wildlife through channels such as Animal Planet. But, in our reality show driven society, the programming on these stations is no longer focused on education but rather, entertainment. You are not going to learn anything of value about wildlife from Finding Bigfoot or Hillbilly Hand Fishing. (I don't even watch Animal Planet anymore their programming is so worthless). Disney Nature has done a pretty good job trying to get people interested in nature not "nature" having come out with a few wildlife films, which are wonderful but definitely geared towards a certain demographic. African Cats, which followed the lives of a family of lions and a family of cheetahs was absolutely adorable, however, it is for a rated G audience and life in the wild is not rated G.
I had the opportunity to go to the premiere of The Last Lions at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego on February 9, 2011. The premier included a Q&A with the filmmakers Dereck & Beverly Joubert. What makes this film unlike any other wildlife program is that this husband and wife team took the time for the lions to habituate to their presence allowing for a virtually, truly wild portrayal of a lion's life. They lived amongst these lions for years basically becoming one with the bush so we can have a glimpse into the lion's world. They also made a point not to anthropomorphize while writing the script. In other words, they didn't give the lions human emotions, leaving the interpretation up to the viewer. There is no holding back in this movie. It is very real and you will feel all the emotions that go along with that.
"In fact, we have now found over one hundred of [this type of hellish planet], rending them so common that the question really emerges, which ones are the weirdos, them or us?"
~Prof Geoff Marcy, astronomer, University of California Berkley
How the Universe Works, "Planets from Hell", Science Channel, First Aired July 25, 2012
Viewing the Partial Eclipse 20 May 2012
A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to view a partial solar eclipse but, on June 5th, the even more elusive Transit of Venus , another type of eclipse which occurs when Venus passes directly between the Sun and Earth, will be gracing us with its presence. The earth, moon and sun align approximately every 18 years, 10 days, and 8 hours according to Babylonian astronomers who watched eclipses over a 2500 year period, however, seeing some type of solar eclipse is far more common. We experience a partial, annular, hybrid or total eclipse about every 2 years or so (read more about it here). The Transit of Venus is much rarer. Watch this video to find out why we aren’t going to see another Transit of Venus until 2117 even though we saw one in 2004.
Missed the Partial Eclipse and the Transit of Venus? It’s okay. Below is the list of predicted eclipses for 2009-2015. You still have one more chance to see an eclipse this year if you're in Australia or South America.
I am a biologist and my life is crap!