Sunday, November 16, 2014

Looking out of a window

This weekend I had the pleasure of driving to Winchester, Virginia with my family to attend my cousin's wedding. However, another pleasure I received on this trip that wasn't just with my family was today, on the drive back to Kentucky, noticing so many things I had learned this semester in this course. To start, my 92-year-old grandmother started to notice and comment on the mountains she was seeing outside of her car window (either the Blue Ridge Mountains or Allegheny Mountains, I don't which). She kept telling me to notice their beauty and their different mountaintops, some of which were flatter or pointer than others. She then rhetorically asked the golden question, "I wonder how these mountains were formed...?" BINGO! I came right to her rescue and began to explain to her as best I could about Continental Collision and told her that that was one way to suspect their formations. (I also repeated this explanation twice; once later on during the car ride when she started to re-notice the mountains' beauty and asked the same question of their formation since her cute little 92-year-old-self forgot she asked the first time). But after she asked these questions and I had the chance to explain to her some of the things I have learned, I began to think as I was driving what else I noticed around me that I've learned about in class. For instance, and I could be wrong, but on a remote and winding turnpike in West Virginia, I swear I saw a grey owl midst a forest full of leafless trees due to their falling because of the season change and I felt so lucky to have had (hopefully) seen that owl. Another thing I noticed, and my mom did as well, was pollution. When we were crossing through Ashland, Kentucky, my mom pointed out the crazy amount of pollution we were about to pass, and sure enough when I looked out my window, I saw what seemed to be pollution central in factory form. I tried to take a picture for this very post but seeing as it was raining and we were going ~75 mph, the picture didn't turn out well. I remember seeing large and long, towering pipes with fire and smoke coming out of them and shooting into the air. There were large noises I heard even when driving on the highway. And to top it all off, the entire factory seemed to be immersed in a bubble of smoke. It was disgusting. But I think the trip home overall was incredibly interesting when I found that the things I am learning this semester in this course can so easily be viewed by just looking out of the window.

Friday, November 14, 2014

So I'm really torn between the whole ecological safety debate. I recognize and acknowledge that we, as humans, are threatening our own selves by disturbing and destroying so many ecosystems in nature for our own selfish interests. I think we need to stop or at least greatly reduce infiltrating forests and imposing on nature or else, like in Easter Island, we will meet our demise. However, I don't see that happening. Unfortunately, because we have been imposing and destroying these ecosystems for so long, it has become a habit that isn't even looked twice over. We need firewood, so we go chop down trees. We need to keep our gardens weed-free so that they look pretty, so we spray many of our healthy plants with pesticides. We need to keep frizz out of our hair, so we use hair spray with harmful chemicals to tend to that desire. We need more suburban homes, so we take away other homes of other organisms to fulfill our desires without thinking twice. It IS scary and it IS a real threat but we, as a society, have become so spoiled and so attached to materialistic things that the harsh reality of perhaps not using hair spray one day and letting our hair go au naturale just once at the risk of releasing more harmful chemicals is unfathomable to us. I'm scared for what will become of this, but at the same time, I really don't think there's much that just one person can do or is willing to do on the widespread level. I wonder if one day, a new author will write about our demise in an article because of our over-materialistic and selfish society like McAnany and Diamond did.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thursday's lab

I was so happy and thoroughly enjoyed our lab on Thursday with the tour of the special collections section in our library. Having discussed some of the big naturalist names in class and read some of their excerpts and readings, it was so cool seeing some of their original work kept in the same condition since their creation. I enjoyed learning about the different weird stories of history such as the one with the old encyclopedia made for King Henry VII but also another adaptation of the reading of the encounter between Rafinesque and Audubon. It was really cool how the naturalists and people in general of this time used paper. The different styles and sizes of paper were neat to learn about but also the 4-size paper system with a decreasing size of drawing after each previous one. Another thing I noticed during our tour was the, what looked like, clay life-size replicas of birds in case that looked very similar to the drawing styles of Audubon. I learned many new things thanks to Thursday's lab, however, one thing in particular that the special collections section in our library helped do was further spark my interest into Transylvania's history. I looked up our history in the special collections and archives section of the library's website and one book that was highly suggested as the best read in that category was Transylvania, Tutor to the West by John D. Wright. I plan on exploring this book and finding even more about our famous and interesting history, all thanks to Thursday's lab.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bird Lab

I know I've mentioned this a lot but I still can't believe how much this class has opened my eyes and helped me appreciate and find interests in nature in a way that has never happened before. I was fascinated by and loved researching the two birds I chose to present on in lab yesterday. I thought it was so cool how the Summer Tanager, a small bird I might add, feeds on bees and wasps by taking them down mid-flight and banging them against trees and branches to help kill them, and then rubs the bee or wasp against the tree to remove its stinger. How cool is that?! I was able to find a video clip of part of this process in the link below.

Also, the Great Black-Backed Gull seems so high and mighty as it is the largest gull in the world and seems to have no problem harassing and picking fights and feeding on other large birds. Gutsy, if you ask me. Here is a clip of a Great Black-Backed Goal attacking a large Gosling.

Before this semester, this assignment would have been so boring to me but thanks to this class I find it so cool and unique that each bird, of the millions of them, has their own unique and defining characteristics. I thoroughly enjoyed everyone's presentations on their birds in the lab yesterday.

Friday, October 17, 2014


PSA: Never look up "pregnant spiders" on Google images unless you want to fear for your life

So something I think is really cool is how organisms so small can have the most abundance on our planet than any other type of organism. I found some cool facts about insects that I would like to share:
          -Tropical stick insect is the largest measuring 13"
          -The Goliath beetle weighs 1/4 of a pound and is 5 inches long
          -The largest insect on record had a wing span of over 2.5 feet

One of the neatest things I think I've learned is today in talking about mussels. I think they are fascinating altogether. The book was right about their reproduction process being unusual and complex. From being eyeless, to having shells, and a simple organ nervous system... but especially their projection of glochidia onto fish and the whole process of the fish mistaking the mussels for other fish. I think it's so cool that the mussels have adapted to the reproductive method so that some of their ligaments look like fish when they don't even know what the fish should like it just happens to be that way. WHAT IF PEOPLE WERE LIKE THAT.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Superorganism

So this whole "superorganism" concept is totally cool. I knew ants, bees, and wasps and the like lived in and were part of a colony but I never truly considered the structure of the colony. I did not know there was not a "King" ant, bee, wasp, etc. I find it interesting because it is one of the rare non-patriarchal systems in the world. I wonder what makes the queen bee the queen bee? I think it is neat that the queen bee emits a pharamone making it impossible for there to be any other queen bees. I'm sure it's the whole concept of the superorganism, but I wonder how the worker bees know that she is the queen bee and even more interestingly, how the worker bees know immediately that the rest of their lives will be in servitude and protecting the queen. Where do they learn that structure? Why aren't there other species that have the superorganism construct?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Drawing the Line in Nature Conservation

Forgive me because I know it was a repeated question, but really, where does one draw the line in the conservation of nature? In working and attending the camp (previously mentioned in another post) I go to in Eastern Kentucky that is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, I've come to care a little more about the conservation of nature. But also, what Teddy said in class on Monday is stuck in my head; we should let nature run its natural course. So where do I draw my line when I am neither on one side nor the other. Is carving your name or painting signs on a tree the same sort of threat as another organism's alien invasion on a tree? I dabble on the natural course side though in that I, personally, don't know much more than what I have learned in this class on what is actually good for a tree (or anything in nature for that matter, but for this blog's sake, tree) other than common sense. I believe that unless an organism, species, community, population, ecosystem, etc. is in serious fatal harm, we should not interfere. That's the whole thing about nature being natural, it is not natural if humans interfere. So, I suppose I am on the let-nature-run-its-natural-course side but with the additive to only obstruct the natural course when there is a serious threat.