By: Katherine Millican
The tropical storm named Hurricane Ida worked its way across the eastern United States since first making landfall in Louisiana on August 30th. Not only has this storm taken the lives of at least 80 people and caused millions of dollars worth of damage, it has also caused wildlife to head for the hills-literally. In the event of flooding, animals such as black bears, alligators, venomous and non venomous snakes, wild hogs, and deer will trek to higher ground to survive. Unfortunately, this higher ground is already occupied by our cities, homes, and highways, pushing these animals into the paths of unsuspecting residents and drivers. This is not only dangerous for the humans, but also for the animals who were unwillingly pushed out of their natural habitats. This will also mean that these animals will have a hard time finding the elements essential for their survival: food, fresh water, and shelter. The places they do look to find these things will most likely be occupied by people, many of whom have the unfortunate misconception that these animals are inherently dangerous. That is not to say that they AREN’T dangerous--by all means avoid crossing paths with free roaming bears and alligators whenever possible-- however, most of the time these animals are just acting out of fear for their own safety or for protection of their young. In any case, close contact with wild animals is unpredictable and should be avoided. And speaking of young, Hurricane Ida has come at the perfect time of year when black bear cubs are about 6-8 months old, as the birthing season for black bears is usually from January to early spring. The impact of the flooding and the forced interaction with humans could be extremely dangerous for the cubs, and as a result, detrimental to future black bear populations. The flood waters also bring fish, turtles, and other marine animals along in their currents, and often leave them out to dry when they recede. Although these areas can appear extremely morbid, they do come with a silver lining. The organic matter will be scavenged and provide important nutrients for animals in the ecosystem. Surviving fish and small aquatic animals can flourish in the waters with uncharacteristically low predator concentrations and rejuvenate the ecosystem in a relatively short period of time. The environment is pretty resilient, but if climate change continues to worsen, it will no longer be such a simple fix. All in all, the damage caused by Hurricane Ida and the effects it has on wildlife will be felt for many years to come.
Why we should care? The preservation of biodiversity will have lasting effects on the future of the planet as a whole. Even removing just one species from an ecosystem can have a butterfly effect on all the rest.
I found this article interesting because it discusses fish kills as after effects of hurricanes and what it means for the ecosystem. Fish kills are groups of deceased fish that were left stranded when flood waters recede. They can also be caused by large amounts of decomposing matter in the weeks after a storm being washed into the water system, depleting the oxygen levels and “suffocating” the fish. Although sad, the author also mentions that the fish carcass provide food for scavengers in the area like birds, racoons, and alligators, and the long term effects of these kills are a replenished ecosystem, due to low concentrations of aquatic predators and more available resources come spring. I liked learning about this because it is nice to know that these kind of ecosystems work in a cycle, where the deaths of one organism can provide nutrients for others leading to a replenished system.
Science in Action.
Dr. Francis Masse is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at Northumbria University in Newcastle England.
Dr. Francis Masse has done research about political ecology and geology, and focuses on the interactions between humans and wildlife with a focus on wildlife crime and poaching. In 2016, Dr. Masse did a research study in Mozambique Africa on wildlife displacement and how it was affecting the residents and their livestock. In this case, it wasn’t natural causes such as flooding that was displacing the wildlife, it was the creation of a park that wildlife were being moved to that contained communities of people. This research is relevant to my topic because it focuses on human-wildlife interaction and the outcomes and potential dangers for both the people living there and for the animals themselves. In both this case and in the case of Hurricane Ida, it is unfortunate that in an effort to survive, the animals end up in potentially more dangerous situations that come from interacting with humans.
By: Loren Solomon
Summary. Around noon Sunday, August 29th Hurricane Ida made landfall as an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane near Port Fourchon, Louisiana. At landfall it sustained winds measured to 150 mph, making Ida one of the worst storms to hit Louisiana. According to the New York Times on September 8, 2021, Ida caused long term damage to many cities, states, and neighboring areas, spanning from Louisiana, to the Gulf Coast, hitting neighboring countries such as Jamaica, Venezuela, Cuba, Columbia, and Cayman Islands, before moving north and effecting the east coast of the United states and Atlantic Canada. The storm caused catastrophic flooding and other damages, making it the sixth costliest tropical cyclone on record, with roughly $50.1 billion (USD) in damages. Aside from economic damage, it also caused heavy environmental damage, as the storm destroyed a fertilizer plant, which belched highly toxic anhydrous ammonia into the air, creating pollution. It also damaged two gas pipelines that leaked isobutane and propylene, flammable chemicals that are hazardous to human health. Furthermore, plastic plant Plaquemine, operated by Shintech, a subsidiary of the Japanese industrial giant Shin-Etsu lost power in the storm’s aftermath, and is emitting ethylene dichloride, yet another toxic substance, polluting those in Louisiana who were of those hit by the worst of the storm. Shell also reported that its refinery and chemical complex in Norco had released an unknown amount of hydrogen as the company shut down the plant ahead of the hurricane’s arrival, for it to later become flooded while emitting black smoke and flares. Other companies and plants have also stepped forward announcing news of chemical and oil leaks, as results of Hurricane Ida.
Why we should care? We should care about the pollution brought on by natural disasters such as Hurricane Ida, as they directly affect climate change and the environment as a whole. Warmer oceans provide the energy to intensify these types of storms.
I found this particular article fascinating, as it was updated to have information from when the storm first hit, as well as after the fact, to provide the best evidence and information regarding pollution caused by Hurricane Ida. Additionally, the article contains a plethora of examples in which Ida has damaged the environment, leaving cities in ruin of flooding and the physical damages that come with a severe storm, while also highlighting the very hazardous effects that come from pollution run off due to oil leaks and chemical spills etc… Furthermore, I chose this source as the article was well constructed and encouraged others to put forth change.
Science in Action.
Dr. Gavin A. Schmidt is a Climatologist at NASA, as well as a Climate modeler and Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.
Dr. Gavin A. Schmidt is certified in many areas of environmental science, more specifically in the study of climate. Climate is affected by many different variables, including tiny, uncontrollable shifts in our oceans to the massive amounts of greenhouse gases humans are adding to the atmosphere. As the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Dr. Gavin A. Schmidt develops detailed climate models that illustrate the effects of each of these factors. In doing so, he studies the past, present and future climate, as well as the many impacts and drivers of climate change, including solar irradiance, atmospheric chemistry, aerosols, and greenhouse gases.
By: Mikaela Owen
Summary. Hurricane Ida has been named the 7th most costly hurricane in the US since 2000, and it is living up to that billion dollar number. The tremendous amounts of water caused incredible damage to people's homes, schools, and public places alike creating a mass amount of unsalvageable waste. Just days after the hurricane hit Louisiana, the rains continued across the East at a record rate of 3 inches in New York in just an hour. When a surplus of water is coming down in areas not acclimated for this type of weather, it overflows the small rivers and streams causing detrimental flooding damage and flash floods. In fact, one of the largest causes of death from Hurricane Ida was due to cars becoming swept away or stranded in overflooded roads. Another high death toll was due to basement apartments in the city flooding with water at such an alarming rate; the residents did not have time to escape. While states like Louisiana can plan for storms like Ida due to their history of tropical hurricanes, Ida has brought a new threshold of danger we were not expecting. While the levees did their job for the most part, many are still left without power and may be for another month. Indeed, as of September 13th, roughly 100,000 people in Louisiana remain without power. Unfortunately, as we can expect, higher impact storms like Ida are largely due to the ongoing climate crisis. Now more than ever do we need to take action in improving our infrastructure and stepping up to find solutions to reduce our climate impact. If we do not take certain measures now, storms like Ida can become more frequent, and the damage can be much more severe.
Why we should care? This topic is something we all should care about as hurricanes have large impacts on all different aspects. Everything is connected, and tropical storms may only get worse if we don't change our ways.
This article provides a detailed outline on multiple effects of the flooding caused by Hurricane Ida. One being how overcrowded cities like New York and illegal housing are a continuous issue poverty stricken citizens face. I cannot fathom being in a hurricane-like situation and waking up to the cries of my neighbors who I cannot help, or potentially living in a dangerous apartment like theirs. I also think this article does a good job at showing multiple government leaders recognizing climate change and it's impacts that we face today. With the governors of New York and New Jersey and President Biden making comments on how extreme storms like this could become a new normal given the effects of climate change, I hope it's a wake up call to those in that area and anywhere for that matter to start making changes for the better. An interesting effect of Ida that the article also brings to light is the tornadoes that hit in Maryland and New Jersey. Landing quickly and leaving much damage, these too provided mass devastation to citizens in those states along with flooded streets and homes.
Science in Action.
Dr. Owen Kelley is a Hurricane Research Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Dr. Owen Kelley is fluent in multiple of NASA's software programs and uses his skills to conduct research on tropical cyclones and their functioning systems. By using different technologies such as Global Precipitation Measurement or (GPM), Kelley uses NASA's data to show precipitation impacts on various areas as well as lightening detection, steering currents, and infrared observations of storms. This data helps citizens and scientists to get a better picture of the impact tropical storms have on certain areas, and how we can better prepare for future storms. In correlation to Hurricane Ida, data like this can show how much precipitation happened and where, and what areas of the southeast coast were hit with the most impact.
By: Lindsey Hazelton
Summary. Right from the initial sight of Hurricane Ida, it was destined to be powerful. This is because the water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico were hotter than usual, leaving the air hotter and moister as well. Hurricane Ida had perfect conditions to form, using the warm water as its foundation. This presents climate change in action. According to Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist, people are going to have to get used to these kinds of storms as the Earth continues to warm up. In the United Nation’s last climate report, it is stated that fossil fuels as well as many other human activities are what have led to more powerful hurricanes. On top of this, the Gulf of Mexico has spots where the water is three to five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The hurricane traveled over these warmer parts which allowed it to grow bigger and bigger. As the hurricane traveled further inland, the surface temperature of the sea became hotter which also led to an increase in its size. Hurricane Idea was said to make landfall on Sunday, August 29th. On the Thursday before, Hurricane Idea was not yet named and was also only considered a tropical depression. It was upgraded to a hurricane due to the winds reaching up to 75MPH. It kept gaining power and by Saturday night was considered a category 2 hurricane. The winds had reached up to 105MPH. The storm made landfall the next day, which was predicted, bringing winds that reached up to 150MPH and seven feet of storm surge. Due to climate change, there is more of a difference between the amount of heat in the ocean and amount of moisture the atmosphere can hold. This contributes to quicker energy transfer and evaporation. This allows storms to develop quicker and makes them even more fierce. Not only that, but the amount of water that hurricanes bring will increase as climate change gets worse. The air is able to hold seven percent more moisture for each degree Celsius that it heats up. That is very dangerous in terms of the amount of precipitation hurricanes can potentially cause. With increased rainfall, flooding is more likely which is another big concern. The rising sea levels from global warming are also of concern, because with these higher levels, more water gets pushed onshore by wind during these storms. Louisiana, where Hurricane Ida made landfall, has areas where the water is 24 inches higher than it was in 1950. This hurricane is just one example of what is to come for the development and formation of other storms in the future. According to Kerry Emanuel, Ida is a step into the door of what can happen when a hurricane reaches its “full potential.”
Why we should care? The devastation that hurricanes have caused in the past will only get worse in the future with rising temperatures due to climate change. Something must be done before the wreckage is too detrimental.
I found this article interesting because it displays just how damaging climate change is and will continue to be in the future if something is not done. We see climate change in many aspects of life and around the Earth, but I personally did not realize the effect it would have on the brutality of a hurricane. It struck me that with the increasing temperatures, these powerful hurricanes will become a norm. It is important to be aware that human activity is one thing that is contributing to rising temperatures so something can be changed. I also found it interesting that hurricanes gain so much power from warmer water and air. I only had basic knowledge about how hurricanes form, so this was eye-opening to read.
Science in Action.
Dr. Kerry Emanuel is an Atmospheric Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Kerry Emanuel studies tropical meteorology and climate, specializing in hurricane physics. His research is focused on these things as well as how clouds, cumulus convection, water vapor and upper-ocean mixing determine climate. Another specialization of his is tropical cyclones and moist convection in the atmosphere. This connects to Hurricane Ida’s formation and development because part of his research is geared towards how climate is connected to hurricanes. With one of his focuses being on hurricane physics, that has to do with the formation and development of them, which is exactly what this blog post discusses. His research is vital to learning more about what climate change will do to the strength of hurricanes in the future. Based on the article I read, he knows these powerful hurricanes will become more frequent. However, it is not certain how bad they’ll really get.
By: Tara Flaherty
Summary. Scientist Raffael Ernst discovered the 'zombie frog' while doing field research for his PhD in the Amazon forest. This newly discovered species of frog lives most of its life underground and the male of its species is only known to call out during or directly after heavy rainfall. While out during a rainstorm Ernst heard a peculiar croak, one of an amphibian, but not one he had heard before. Following the sound of the cry Ernst and his fellow researchers dug in the mud until they found the source of the sound. The animal found only spanned about 1.5 inches and was orange and speckled in color. One would think that because of the species name that the zombie frog would have unusual physical features or extremely odd behavior but the zombie frog isn't drastically different than any normal species of frog. The species was instead given the name 'zombie frog' because of the appearance of the researchers after digging in the mud for hours. Little is actually known about the species itself, besides its nocturnal tendencies and physical features. Sadly Ernst believes that the zombie frog is nearing extinction. Amphibians are great indicators of environmental problems because of how sensitive they are to their surroundings, because of this up to seventy percent of amphibians are threatened with extinction. The amazon rainforest is struggling with this because of how much humans are abusing the wildlife. Industrial interests are tearing the forest up for resources including poaching, timber extraction, mining, and much more. Amphibians are dying because of decreased water quality, disease, habitat destruction and more in not only the Amazon but around the world because of humans ecological footprint.
Why we should care? Although this article isn't about a drastic issue that is affecting the entire world it is still an important topic in the fact that it reveals how little of the world is understood even by the most experienced scientists.
I found this article interesting because of how unique the species discussed is. I think as a whole frogs are a very fascinating species and this new species of frog does not disappoint. The name 'zombie frog' grabs your attention right away and it's interesting to find out that scientists didn't name them after the way they act or look but instead named them that because of how they, the scientists, looked after searching in the mud for the frogs. The frogs behave unlike many of their kind in the way that they live most of their lives underground and the males of their species only call out during or right after heavy rainfall. Making them a very difficult species to find.
Science in Action.
Dr. Raffael Ernst is a Herpetologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute.
Dr. Raffael Ernst has over 100 publications of his own discoveries that span from discussion of certain endangered frog species to the Atlantic forest hotspot. Although Ernst is originally from Germany he travels the globe for his research. I think this is valuable because his published works are all from hands on experience and things that he has seen with his own eyes. As mentioned in my summary above he was the scientist who discovered the 'zombie frog'. The discovery of new species is valuable to the science community because it gives us another glimpse of all the life that our Earth can sustain.
By: Ximena Mazariegos
Summary. Ice worms are quite mysterious considering how only about a half-dozen researchers have studied these worms. Ice worms are found in the Northwest Glaciers and grow to be only about an inch long. High-altitude glaciers are not considered hotspots for living creatures, they are usually barren of life. That is why finding these ice worms living in the glaciers was astonishing, but despite the fact the ice worms live in the glaciers, they can actually die if the temperature goes below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). Since not much research has been done on these ice worms, we have no idea how they reproduce or what role they play in the ecosystem. According to Scott Hotaling, a researcher at Washington State University, winter might be the season where they can increase their energy stores on account of the fact that they are larger than when they first emerge in early spring. We do not know exactly what their diet consists of, but we think they survive off snow algae and bacteria. Researchers also hypothesize that they survive winter by burrowing under the snow. As I stated before, researchers still do not know how ice worms reproduce but seeing how they find smaller worms during the summer they assume the ice worms hatch somewhere before that. During the summer, the worms surface to the top when the sun is less intense, but we still do not know why they surface. We do know that they can withstand extremely elevated levels of ultraviolet light according to researcher Hotaling. There are still many unanswered questions about ice worms, they have gone unnoticed for far too long, but more research is being done to find out more about these creatures and what role they play in their ecosystem.
Why we should care? There are so many things we do not know about these ice worms. We don't know what role they play in the ecosystem, we basically know nothing of them. Digging deeper could lead us to finding more biodiversity that we are unaware of.
I found this particular article interesting because it talked about the return of the mysterious ice worms. I had no idea they existed, so I was intrigued from their word usage "return". This article stood out too because it mentioned something about biodiversity which we learned about in class. It goes over the hypotheses of how the ice worms reproduce, what they eat, and how they survive. It also stood out that the article talked about how ice worms could withstand high levels of ultraviolet light. I felt like this article included the most information than the others I had looked at.
Science in Action.
Dr. Scott Hotaling is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Washington State University.
Scott Hotaling’s research centers around the understanding of organisms living in cold places and how they have adapted to it, but it also focuses on the future of these organisms considering how climate change is affecting them or is going to affect them. I believe this research is relevant to my blog because ice worms are organisms that live in a cold climate and can and will be affected by climate change. Climate change is already melting glaciers, and this is the type of research Hotaling focuses on. He is already working on finding out more about these ice worms since they are a complete mystery to us right now.
By: Kamaya Hayes
Summary. Studies have shown that the most prominent reason of habitat loss is climate change. Due to that, there has been a 40% decline in polar bears at the Southern Beaufort Sea. Nearly all of the 19 sub populations of polar bears from the Beaufort sea to the Siberian Arctic, would face being wiped out because of the loss of sea ice. With more sea ice melting each year the bears are forced onto land, away from their food supply. Ice melting can lead to prolonged fast and reduced nursing of cubs by mother. Also, the mothers not being able to eat properly can cause them to be underweight. Being underweight leads to less cubs being born and the ones that are born are much smaller than usual. Some of the polar bears remain on the ice year round, but most areas are melting in the spring and summer, which forces them ashore as well. As the regions warm, ice in the summer has declined by about 13 percent per decade, compared to 1981-2010 averages. In 2010, 120 million acres of northern Alaska was declared as critical habitat for polar bears under the Endangered Species Act. Temperature in the Arctic is rising at least twice a week and sea ice coverage is diminishing by nearly four percent per decade. Polar bears could become nearly extinct by the end of the century due to shrinking of ice, if global warming continues. So as you can tell the polar bears are at a very vulnerable state.
Why we should care? I think you should care about this topic because animals homes are being destroyed. You should take into consideration as if it were your family losing their home. Also, climate change and global warming are effecting us everyday as well.
I found this topic interesting because i love animals. I think we should treat them with the same respect as we do each other. Animals have families just like us humans and the fact that we played a part in the decline is unsettling. So we should do everything we can to make matters better for them. There isn’t just one type of polar bear, there are several different bears that live numerous parts of the world and there all at a decline. So think its time we all try and figure out a solution to help the beautiful creatures.
Science in Action.
Dr. Andrew Derocher is a Professor of Biology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
Dr. Andrew Derocher studies the Artic, polar bears, carnivores, ecology, behavior, and climate change. His current research interest are conservation, ecology, and management of large mammals (mainly polar bears). He currently asses the effects of climate change and toxic chemicals on polar bears. He believes his research is to improve ones understanding of large carnivores with specific reference to how they are affected by human activities. For over 38 years his focus has been on polar bears, but he is still invested in his other studies. His research is revenant to my topic because that’s what my summary is about. It’s about climate change and how it caused loss of polar bear habitat.
By: Sobhie Nazal
Summary. The environment is very crucial and needs to be tended to in ways of which benefits the future of animals starting with their present lifestyles. According to the article "Birds of Prey Face Global Decline From Habitat Loss and Poisons", current habitats of birds of prey are not being guarded responsibly or considerably, causing a decline of habitats for these helpless animals and a scarcity of population. The slowly diminishing habitats are the reasons these species can not stand a chance and their numbers continuously decrease. Although pesticides on animals are a great cause for toxins entering these species bodies causing them harm, they are not the only reason these birds are poisoned. The greatest killers accountable for the this cruelty results in the negligent actions made by humans. Some species of these birds like raptors, usually feed upon rodents and dead animals and rely on their food to survive. However, toxins like lead are habitually exposed in the foods they eat due to gun residue and ammunition from the firearms of hunters. Anti-inflammatory drugs injected into animals these species feed upon is another reasoning for the possessing destruction in regards to these birds. Drugs like these used on the animals the birds prey upon were an extensive reflection of the loss of 95% of vultures after devouring carcasses with the intent to eat in order to survive. This falls into the recklessness of humans being careless to the population or habitats of these now endangered animals. Habitats have been destructed by humans who made actions based off of inconsiderate decisions to knock down hundreds of trees and call for a reckoning upon these critical animals facing extinction due to shrunken habitats. Species that fall victim enormously to tree cutting and tree burning relate to many birds like, Harpy eagles with most of their population resulting in a 54% decline and a 47% depletion of Owls. These primary birds that take on the identity of critical predators of ecosystems are no longer serving their initial purpose as mentioned by bird scientist Gerardo Ceballos. What people fail to realize is that when an animal is at the verge of extinction it is a threat to us all. This begins to affect ecosystems, life cycles, and the world all together as a whole. It should be of deep deliberation and focus to aim at a better life, better future, and better restorative approach as a society to help aid these birds of prey that deserve to live fierce and not become scarce.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because it effects both the lives of animals and disrupts the life cycle.
This article was positively content heavy and filled with information. What struck my interests the most about this article was the statistics given. The direct numbers of losses and percentages of birds of prey that have continued to decrease over time due to their habitats, really struck my interests and curiosity. This article is really interesting because it uses a few pictures to engage and entertain their community of readers showing a sense of imagery that helps us identify birds of prey. This article was also very pleasing because many very well known scientists and researchers were a part of this article and input their own personal findings or opinions in coordination with their prior investigations to help make a better clarification or understanding on statistical findings, making it more of an eyeopener to readers like myself. Nowadays many people overlook the problems animals are facing becoming nearly extinct and their homes being destroyed, and I think people need to come to a realization to try and protect the homes of animals to ensure a healthy longevity of life for birds of prey.
Science in Action.
Dr. Gerardo Ceballos is a Full Time Senior Researcher and Scientist at the UNAM Institute of Ecology.
Gerardo Ceballos is a very acclaimed bird scientist known to many people and researches topics with high relevance to the environment and the way we live and how it affects certain individuals or species. Gerardo studies issues of ecology and conversation and connects his findings to help humans utilize more efficient sustainability in the world. His research is a very essential key component to our environment and also has a great relevance to my blog topic. Gerardo and his experiments help bring awareness to endangered species which directly coordinates with my blog topic on birds of prey and the scarcity of these birds along with their habitats.
By: Emma Cockerill
Summary. Brood X debuted in North America with a mighty chorus earlier this summer. Trillions of Cicadas emerging across North America after 17 years underground did not disappoint. Blanketing the North East, Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West regions, the unmistakable sound of male Cicadas battling for attention filled the air. Cicadas are unmistakably loud, their song can reach 100 decibels, almost as loud as an ambulance siren. Brood X is particularly important as it is the largest of all Cicada broods. Broods are groups of Cicada which emerge either annually or periodically depending on the species. Periodical broods are groups of Cicadas which share the same years of emergence after a period of time. There are 15 periodicals which emerge on either a 17-year or 13-year cycle. During their time a couple of feet underground, nymph Cicadas develop and feed on sap from tree roots. On the year of emergence when the soil temperature hits about 64⁰F, after soaking rain, Cicada’s tunnel to the surface to mature and grow wings. It is a survival strategy of Cicadas to emerge in such large groups for predator protection. The purpose is to overwhelm the potential predators with a great number in the hopes that enough will survive to reproduce. Broods are numbered by Roman numerals corresponding to the emergence year since records began in the late 1800’s. Given each Broods scarce visibility over such long periods of time, research during the scheduled year of emergence is critical. Ecologists have been anticipating the arrival of Brood X in 2021, a unique opportunity to take advantage of technologies not in existence 17 years ago. Cicadas are harmless and native to North America and have been tracked and cataloged by scientists and citizens alike for over a hundred years. Not until recently, however, does every person have a smart phone with a camera and GPS. Citizen science was of great importance this year, with every willing person able to take a picture and upload the location of Brood X to community maps. Two mapping programs were created in preparation for Brood X’s arrival earlier this year. Cicada Safari and iNaturalist both launched free apps for citizens to participate, yielding results never possible 17 years ago. Tracking Brood X and comparing to historical maps can give us clues to how urbanization and climate change has affected the biodiversity and habitability of the land.
Why we should care? Cicadas are an indication of environmental health and provides essential ecosystem services. As humans ravage the landscape, it is more important than ever to preserve the Cicadas for our own benefit.
Howard Russell is interviewed in this article by Michigan Radio in April, before the emergence of Brood X began. Russell is an Entomologist at Michigan State University. He explains the historical Brood X distribution specific to Michigan and why it is so important to preserve our mature trees. Cicadas need mature trees for their roots as a food source when burrowed underground. Deforestation in the Mid-West has limited habitats available for many broods. Russell also revealed that past cycles of Brood X in Michigan have been sighted in Washtenaw, Lenawee, Genesee, Oakland and Livingston Counties. He explained that undisturbed preserves such as Cherry Hill Nature Preserve near Ann Arbor provides the perfect accommodation for the insects to live.
Science in Action.
Dr. Gene Kritsky is the Dean of Behavior and Natural Sciences Mount Saint Joseph University, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Dr. Kritsky is an entomologist who has published numerous books and journals on insects and evolution. This year, he published a book on Brood X, ‘Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition’. He has studied Cicada brood history over many centuries. His previous research in Ohio discovered that the distribution of 17-year periodical Cicadas match the geographic regions created by the ice ages. Kritsky and his colleagues developed the app, Cicada Safari, to track sightings during the Brood X emergence. He explains the importance of tracking Brood X as the distribution is an indication of how their survival is faring. Periodical broods are fairly resistant to climate change but Kritsky insists habitat loss is the main threat to Brood X due to deforestation.
By: Mark Kaminski
Summary. According to the EPA, Lake Superior contains over 2,900 cubic miles of fresh water. Containing 10% of the earth's fresh water, Lake Superior is the largest lake, by surface area, in the world. This lake was once thought to be "immune" to harmful blue-green algal blooms, but the last decade has shown otherwise. A protective characteristic of lake superior is its clean cold waters, since blue-green algae normally thrive in warm, nutrient dense waters. A fundamental shift in the waters of Lake Superior has recently allowed this algal to form. Since 2012, several algal blooms have been reported, with the largest bloom occurring in 2012 and 2018. The blue-green algal forms vast clusters of cyanobacteria that survive on nutrient run off and sunlight. The blooms have been described as a chalk-green color and can produce toxins that have been linked to the deaths of livestock and pets. Climate change can be linked to the rising water temperatures and the increase in nutrient run off. Region wide warming has caused a sufficient decrease on the Lake's ice cover during the winter and warmer surface waters during the summer. In fact, a joint study headed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration reported that Lake Superior is warming at the fastest rate. In addition, surface water temperatures have increased 5 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 30 years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Climate change has also caused an increase in precipitation intensity by 40%, in the region. With larger, more violent storms there has been an uptick in erosion, ultimately leading to more phosphorous running off into the lake. This phosphorous is thus one of the main food sources for the algal. These blooms can lead to widespread problems in human infrastructure, in addition to, devastating damage to ecosystems. Blocking sunlight, degrading water quality, and depleting dissolved oxygen levels can choke out the local aquatic ecosystems causing ripples down the food chain. This in turn can hurt the major fishing industries and drive away tourist due to the unsettling smell and color. The blooms can also damage anything that may be consuming water from the lake. For example, in 2014 a bloom in Lake Erie forced the city of Toledo to shut off water intake from the lake because the city could not properly treat the water. Overall, the blooms found in Superior have not yet reached disaster levels, but it is feared that the lake is at a tipping point. In December 2020, The International Joint Commission between the United States and Canada stated that blooms in Lake Superior are expected to worsen, and a joint effort is needed to maintain adequate water quality of the Great Lakes.
Why we should care? This topic is important because toxic algal blooms are now found in one of the worlds largest lakes. In a single decade algal blooms went from being impossible to a yearly occurrence in Lake Superior.
I found this article interesting because it is dated back in 2015, just three years after the first algal bloom was reported in Lake Superior. It also reiterated the fact that Lake Superior was warming at the fastest pace out of all the great lakes. The article focuses more on the other Great Lakes, but it does a great job outlining some of the devastation that these algal blooms can and have caused. The article also mentions that these algal blooms could cause “dead zones” which would result in more methane being released into the atmosphere, leading to more climate change. One of the most chilling things mentioned in the article is the very last sentence where Donald Uzarski, of Central Michigan University is quoted saying “…small change in water temperature produces a domino effect…”, this domino effect that just six years later we are experiencing.
Science in Action.
Holly Wellward Kelly is a Senior Research Technician and Aquatic Ecologist at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Holly Wellward Kelly is an Aquatic Ecologist who has studied everything from costal wetlands to the impact of pharmaceuticals on aquatic ecosystems. Currently she is working on monitoring the phytoplankton communities in the Great Lakes and working with aquatic invasive species. This is relevant to the Algal blooms on Lake Superior because these blooms impact aquatic ecosystems and degrade the water quality. This research is also relevant because these algal blooms are not occuring because of one factor but a verity of reasons. Kelly also has a unique perspective on this topic because Duluth Minnesota is located right on Lake Superior.
By: Patrick Carlson
Summary. Since the 1880's Sugar island has been a must visit attraction for locals from Canada and Michigan. The sweet maple trees on the island gave it the name "Sugar Island". It became such a tourist spot that pavilions, docks, and even a small amusement park were put on the island. As Great Lakes Now describes, "Grosse Ile residents often refer to the years that followed as the golden era of Sugar Island". Unfortunately the following decades the island was practically abandoned due to failed residential attempts until 2011 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased it to be part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. Sugar island marks an important spot for bird migrations and a huge spawning/nursery for many fish species. In the 1980's Sugar Island was designated as an area of concern regarding the high pollution rates of the Detroit river. Since the 1930's the island has shrunk by about 20% due to rising water levels, and frequencies of storms. The solution took many years but finally came to fruition in 2018. A series of small islands were to be put around the island to create a barrier for fish nurseries and to prevent large waves to erode the island as drastically as before. It also includes adding a rocky reef farther offshore to attract native fish. This project adds about 20 acres of wetlands and natural habitats for native species of fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians while also reducing the damage done by climate change.
Why we should care? Sugar Island is a prime example of an ecosystem that can be restored through the effort of many. It acts as a natural home for both common and endangered species, a purifier of nearby water, and a barrier against incoming floods/storm surges that erode our shores.
The News Herald explained a very interesting piece of data that was honestly quite shocking. In the last 200 years, since European settlers had arrived, almost 97% of the Detroit rivers coastal wetlands have been destroyed. Because a change this drastic occurred, both the United States and Canada were forced to create an international agreement in which areas around the Great Lakes were designated as areas of very high concern. This cooperation will allow multiple organizations and agencies to work towards a common goal of delisting some of the very important coastal areas and island; sugar Island being one of the most notable.
Science in Action.
Dr. Rani-Henrik Andersson is a Senior University Lecturer in North American Studies at the University of Helsinki.
Rani-Henrik Andersson is one of the most interesting researchers on the Sugar Island topic in recent years. His research is focused more on the development of Sugar Island since its inhabitance by Finnish immigrants in the early 1900's. Knowing what the land's uses for development can help us understand the composition of the soils, types of flora and fauna introduced by the cultivation of the land. By knowing more about the history of the Island, it may aid in future restoration and protection of an extremely important ecological ecosystem directly involved with the entire great lakes system as a whole.
By: Tommy Maloney
Summary. In April of 2021 while conducting research on sturgeon the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was able to reel in a 240-pound female sturgeon from the lower Detroit River. The fish measuring in at 6 feet 10 inches long and weighing 240 pounds was estimated to be approximately 100 years old. Sturgeon being a dying species, this is a very stunning specimen to be recorded especially given the location it was caught. News of the giant being caught by Grosse Ile quickly spread around the community. The lower Detroit River is a very heavily fished area by local sportsmen so news of a sturgeon of these dimensions shocked a lot of people. After a five minutes and multiple failed attempts the group of three was able to land the fish. They estimated the fish to have been born in the early 1920’s but believe it could be even older than that. Commercial fisheries severely overfished these sturgeon because of their great taste and the taste of their eggs, also known as caviar. And if it was not the overfishing that killed one of these fish the destruction of their habitat did. Damming their natural habitats creates difficulties breeding for these fish because they require a strong current to be able to reproduce. On top of those two, water pollution has made living conditions for these fish much worse. A fish with a population so great it was seen as a nuisance now relies on us to help rebuild and clean up what they call home in hopes we can bring back their population to a safe and healthy number.
Why we should care? As an avid fisherman I believe preserving and restoring these waters is extremely important giving it is connected with the largest source of fresh water in the world to help preserve it for future generations.
As an avid fisherman in southeast Michigan, hearing of news like this really shocked me. Not only are sturgeon very rare to catch in general, to see one of this size is eye opening. Its reassuring to know that the Detroit River is still healthy enough to be home to such an astonishing specimen. I believe that it is very important to preserve our great lakes and freshwater. In the past there has been a lot of damage done to them by big companies and negligent people. There is a lot to do to restore these waters, but nothing is impossible. These waterways have been very important in producing and exporting goods and conducting trade, but more importantly we are surrounded by the worlds largest source of fresh water in the world, and we need to do everything possible to preserve it for future generations.
Science in Action.
Dr. Kim Scribner is a Professor in the Michigan State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Kim Scribner is a professor at Michigan State University in their department of fisheries and wildlife. He has recently received a grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. His studies focus on restoring the population of lake sturgeon in Michigan. This is relevant to the topic of my blog because my blog talked about the surprising specimen caught in an area that has been severely affected by habitat damage and overfishing and pollution. Scribner’s work is focused on restoring the population of sturgeon, like the one caught in the Detroit River, and bring them back to a healthy habitat where their population can thrive.
By: Briana Carlton
Summary. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a changing climate is likely to increase the frequency of flooding events in the state of Michigan. And while Midwest rainfall has increased 5-10 percent over the last 50 years, rainfall during the four wettest days of the year has increased roughly 35% in the state alone. Recent flooding in the city of Detroit is also consistent with a trend in increasing precipitation as a result of a warming atmosphere and the risk of flooding will remain high due to runoff from impervious surfaces largely characteristic of urban environments. As a result, more money is being allocated to find “green” ways to prevent basements, streets, and freeways in Detroit from flooding during heavy storms. These climate resilient investments include detention ponds, bioswales, rain gardens and permeable pavement. The most current example of this is the construction of a 95-million-gallon storm system in Rouge Park by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to slow combined sewage overflows resulting from extreme weather events. The Great Lakes Water Authority has also invested $750 million in water system improvements over the next five years and the Michigan Department of Transportation is working with the city of Detroit on a plan for freeway and stormwater diversion.
Throughout history, water contamination resulting in diarrheal/gastrointestinal illnesses have been positively associated with overcrowding, poor hygiene, and inadequate sanitation practices. Yet despite the modern water systems in use today – and where regulations and guidelines are enforced to ensure the protection of public health -- an increase in gastrointestinal disease outbreaks paint a very different picture as concerns grow over disease transmission through contaminated recreation and drinking water resulting from aging utilities. A well-designed and properly maintained collection system allows drinking water, storm and wastewater flows to be directed to a treatment facility to receive routine disinfection before discharge. Deferred infrastructure maintenance over time has provided several otherwise avoidable pathways of contamination of the water supply including leaking pipes releasing untreated or partially treated sewage into urban waterways, cracks in septic system tanks that permeate into the groundwater, hydraulic overload due to undersized systems in highly populated communities, and extreme weather -events that turn combined sewer systems (CSSs) into combined sewer overflows (CSOs) – exceeding treatment capabilities prior to discharge directly into surface waters.
Why we should care? Improving Michigan’s primitive infrastructure systems remains a key element in controlling and minimizing the occurrence of waterborne diseases that result in illness and disease.
Precaution has always had quite an intimate relationship with public health, and governments – even everyday citizens are increasingly presented with the challenge of balancing economic interests with environmental justice and protection of human health. Economics aside, the five Great Lakes are an unparalleled freshwater resource providing drinking water to the millions of people surrounding its basins. Improving Michigan’s antiquated infrastructure systems remains the most important component in controlling and minimizing the occurrence of waterborne diseases that result in illness and ensuring safe drinking and recreation water is within reach for the millions of people that depend on it.
Science in Action.
Dr. Janice Beecher is Professor of Public Policy in the Department of Political Science and Director of the Institute of Public Utilities at Michigan State University.
Dr. Janice Beecher brings more than 30 years of applied research experience to her position as Director of the Institute of Public Utilities at Michigan State University. Dr. Beecher serves on the U.S. EPA's Environmental Finance Advisory Board and has served as an appointed advisor for infrastructure and water policy in our own state of Michigan. Having read the 21st century Michigan infrastructure commission report myself, it is my opinion that Dr. Beecher plays a critical role by providing management plans for water infrastructure that enables consistent, dependable assessment, maintenance, and reliability of the water quality and infrastructure.
By: Batoul Hassan
Summary: In early September, Flat rock’s residence evacuated their home in a hurry because Ford accidentally released 1,400 gallons of benzene gasoline into the city’s sanitary sewer system. At first, Ford assumed there was a small gas leak in one of the pipes, which they quickly shut down, but it somehow became a massive gas leak resulting in Flat Rock going into a state of emergency. Ford takes full responsibility for the gas leak, resulting in the company apologizing numerous times, shutting down production for a week, and renting out hundreds of hotel rooms with gift cards and free meals to the evacuated residents. There were also family events hosted by Ford to try and soothe the disturbance they created to the residence in Flat Rock. The Ford company also pledged $1 million to residences that were affected by the gas spill. While Ford is working earnestly to fix this situation by shutting down production for a week, using firefighting foam to suppress the benzene vapors, etc., Flat Rock Officials are knocking on residence doors to recommend evacuating their homes. The officials believe that the vapors will not put the residents in imminent danger, but it would be best if they evacuate the area. There has not been any notice on when the residences of Flat Rock can go back to their home and their daily routine, while the Ford company does not understand how the gas spill grew to that size. Until then, the Ford company is working tirelessly to understand how this leak happened and to make sure this type of situation never happens again.
Why we should care? As a resident living in the same county as Flat Rock, we need to be aware that the gas leak is not over yet, and the benzene vapors coming from the sewer lines are extremely flammable and dangerous.
This article was fascinating to me because the Ford company quickly acknowledged that it was their mistake that created a gigantic gas leak and the company was more than willing to help the evacuated residences of Flat Rock. The company even rented out hotel rooms so the residents could be comfortable while this gas leak is occurring in their area. Not only were free rooms given out, but Ford also gave out free meal cards and gift cards to make the residents of Flat Rock more comfortable with their situation. I also find it interesting that Ford does not know why this gas leak occurred, but they are still working tirelessly to figure out why the gas spill happened and how never to let this type of situation happen again. Flat Rock is also part of my county, and I enjoy knowing what's happening in Michigan, even if I do not live in that area.
Science in Action.
Dr. Stefan Schwietzke is an international senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund who studies local and global emissions inventories, methane emissions, and atmospheric measurements.
Dr. Schwietzke travels around the world to look at countries' methane emissions and characterize their emissions from local to global areas. As of right now, he is working with the United Nations Environment Programme and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to identify emissions of methane and how to minimize the emissions. Dr. Schwietzke would be extremely helpful with Flat Rock’s gas leak crisis because benzene and methane are extremely similar gases, both being organic compounds, but their chemical structures are different. Dr. Schwietzke will be able to see how much emissions are in the air locally because of the gas leak and discover the environmental issues that have occurred because of the leak. Since Dr. Schwietzke has worked in multiple corporations related to biofuels, he will also be able to help Ford with understanding how the gas leak happened and dealing with the aftermath of the gas spill.