ecosystems

3

A salty situation.

Zooplankton may be the smallest species in the freshwater food chain, but they play a big role in preserving our lakes, streams and wetlands. That’s one of the reasons why IBM  joined forces with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and The FUND for Lake George to create the Jefferson Project at Lake George to understand and protect freshwater ecosystems. Recently they studied the effects road salt has on a species of zooplankton. Road salt usage has increased 50-fold since 1940, and bodies of freshwater are increasing in salinity because of it. Using IBM technology, the researchers monitored zooplankton in varying levels of salinity and found that the organisms were capable of evolving a higher tolerance to the salt. This is good news for the ecosystem since the loss of plankton could have cascading effects throughout the food chain. See, small can be mighty too.


Explore the study’s results  →

Some facts about capitalism:

  • Artificial scarcity drives profits up
  • It is not profitable for everyone to live comfortably
  • The system demands unceasing growth and resource extraction for its own survival, in turn putting the survival of humanity and ecosystems in peril
  • The growth that arises from capital accumulation makes a select few obscenely wealthy, while most of the world lives in poverty 
  • It can be transcended
I used to think the top global environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought with 30 years of good science we could address those problems, but I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy - and to deal with these we need a spiritual and cultural transformation and we scientists don’t know how to do that.
—  Gus Speth

People seriously underestimate the impact the media has on notions of pet ownership and what people can handle in animals.

Books, movies, TV, and internet videos from Youtube, Instagram, and The Dodo often show animals in their best moments, or even acting because they’ve been trained to do certain tasks (or are animated as humanlike characters). The fact is that the vast majority of people, even those who already have pets, have a very low or nonexistent level of animal literacy; what they take away from that kind of media oftens turns into “I want that animal as a pet.” 

People who watched Finding Nemo created an explosion of demand for clownfish and blue tangs; Harry Potter, owls; 101 Dalmatians for dalmatians, etc etc etc. When the decision to get a pet modeled after the cute, photo-ready animals seen on a screen is made, there is zero consideration as to whether or not their needs can be met and if people can actually handle them. 

Media featuring animals inevitably creates a boom of abandonment and huge environmental impact precisely because people who were in over their heads and acted purely on a whim got their dose of reality, and it’s incredibly heartbreaking to have to see the news detailing such cases. These are just some examples: 

  1. Yearly reminders have to be passed around telling people not to buy rabbits on Easter unless they’re committed to actually taking care of them  
  2. Thousands of dalmatians were abandoned when families discovered that they are very energy intensive, broody work dogs that are not suited to families with small children, unlike the cuddly Perdita and Pongo
  3. Similarly, huskies and malamutes were surrendered to shelters when people realised they are not loyal Westeros direwolves
  4. Entire ecosystems in Europe and southern Asia lost valuable apex predators when people began poaching them to sell to fans who wanted their own Hedwigs and Errols, and again abandoning them en masse when they discovered owls are highly aggressive, loud, messy, and nocturnal
  5. Japan imported thousands of North American raccoons after the release of the Disney movie Rascal, people let them loose in the wild, and Japan now has a problem trying to figure out what to do with their enormous pest population that has no natural predator in place to control their numbers
  6. Pacific Reefs suffered greatly when people demanded to have clownfish and blue tangs as pets, especially considering they were caught by being stunned with sodium cyanide, which, additionally, severely damages coral as well. NatGeo estimates that up to 90% of tropical fish imported by the US are caught by way of cyanide fishing; this often ends up for naught as these fish are often flushed down the toilet or released to the wild in other ways, which is also why the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico are under threat by voracious invasive species like lionfish   

The gist is that the media perpetuates this cycle of people reading about or seeing animal characters, demand is created, people impulse buy those animals, and then leave them for shelters to care for or release them to the wild when they get a rude awakening and find they’re actually unable to deal with those animals. 

This isn’t even counting other animals like “mini” pigs, chihuahuas, snakes, foxes, etc etc etc. And we can’t exactly blame this on over enthusiastic children when it’s adults who have the purchasing power to buy a pet, and who choose to do zero research, and who choose to indulge said children or even themselves when that I Want the TV Animal as a Pet urge comes on. 

Ignoring what is essentially weaponised cuteness used for online likes is hard, especially when faced with such palatable stuff like that gif of the owl riding the tablet stylus, or the plethora of cat videos. But it costs very little effort to not only educate yourself on the needs of animals and to also not encourage a rapacious pet trade industry, but to communicate that to others so that, hopefully, we won’t have to see things like Peter Dinklage and Jo Rowling having to make statements to the news because of this problem. 


–Mod Nick

3

Small finds, big discoveries

Story by Greg Liggett, Geologist (Paleontology), Montana/Dakotas State Office. Photos by Ray Rogers, Macallister College; and Greg Wilson, Burke Museum of Natural History.

One of the primary goals of paleontology is to learn about past environments and ecosystems. Documenting how past ecosystems changed, and the responses of the plants and animals to those changes, can help us predict what will happen in the future. So, it is not all about the past.

Keep reading

blackbearmagic’s Crystal Hunting Guide

Introduction

Scientific Fact: Witches love crystals almost as much as they love jars. 
Consumerism Fact: In many metaphysical shops, nice-looking crystals can be had for relatively cheap.
Ethical Fact: Many of those crystals are as cheap as they are because they are mined with no consideration for the damage done to the environment or the welfare of the humans collecting them.

So what’s a good, honest, ethically-minded witch to do, especially if he/she/they don’t have the money to afford crystals that were mined sustainably and responsibly, or the time to research which sellers obtain their wares from ethical mines?

Find their own.

I’ve been crystal hunting all my life, but only within the last year have I started doing it seriously. I’ve walked away from a creeking expedition with slabs of smoky quartz the size of my palm or calcite hunks bigger than my fist, and I personally think creek-crystal energy is much more vibrant and easy to work with; by comparison, the crystal points I’ve bought from metaphysical shops feel… inert, lifeless.

So let’s get straight into it!

What You’ll Need

  • a good-sized creek or stream with lots of gravel spits along its length
  • offerings to the spirit of the creek, if appropriate to your personal practice
  • bug spray, sunscreen, snacks, water, and anything else you’d normally bring on a hike
  • your trusty adventurer’s Bag of Holding
  • your sweet self

Now let’s talk details.

When I say “gravel spits”, this is what I’m referring to:

These tumbles of stone are going to be where you’ll find your treasures, and the size of the stones themselves actually tells you what size of crystal you might find: When the conditions are right (ie, during a flood), the water flowing through that portion of the creek is capable of lifting and moving rocks of the size you see there now. 

In my experience, the crystal specimens you’ll find are typically half or one-third the size of the average rock on the spit. They’re usually larger than the smallest rocks, but much smaller than the largest rocks. Not always, though–I have found specimens larger. (See the introduction.)

Regarding offerings, if that’s part of your path, you’ll want to make sure it’s nothing that will harm the local wildlife or damage the ecosystem in any way. My personal go-to is water, ideally water from a bottle I haven’t drunk from yet.

In the same vein as offerings, I’ve had great success in making a sort of bargain with the spirit of the place: That in return for treasures, I will pick up and remove any litter I find in the area. It is, of course, always a good idea to remove any litter you see when you’re out in nature, but it doesn’t hurt to point out to the spirit of the place that it’s something you’re doing for it. Bring along a trash bag to help collect it.

Lastly, with regards to your bag, I would advise something with two shoulder straps. Rocks are heavy.

What You’ll Do

Once you’ve hiked to your creek and found a gravel spit with lots of good-sized rocks, it’s time to start looking. There’s two main approaches I’ve found that work well, and I tend to use both. 

The first is a broad sweep. This one works best if you’ve got good lighting on the rocks. All you do is stand in one spot and sway side to side slightly while looking over the gravel, looking for anything that glints, shines, or otherwise catches the light shining on it. If you see something, investigate it. Repeat.

The second is the more detailed search. Get down on the ground–whether that means kneeling, crouching, laying on your belly, I don’t care–and go over each rock one by one. Use your eyes and use your hands. I imagine this method is probably going to be unpleasant for a lot of you, but honestly, it’s like crack to me.

Once you’ve combed over the current gravel spit as thoroughly as you please, pack up and move on to the next. Continue for as long as you like, or until you feel it’s time to go. Just remember that as far out as you go is how far you’ll have to walk back!

Advice and Warnings

Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. If you godsforbid go missing, they’ll be able to give the police an idea of where to start searching for your poor, lost ass.

Keep a charged cell phone with you at all times. 

If you see something or someone iffy, do your best avoid it. Sometimes there are creepy people in the woods, and sometimes they do creepy things. Don’t get involved.

Make sure you’re not trespassing on private property. All of the creeks I hike on are on public land. If you’re in a state park or other protected environmental area, don’t go off the trail–you could cause damage to a fragile ecosystem.

Following the creek is a good way to get out and back without losing your way.  Don’t stray too far from it if you’re in unfamiliar territory.

The best times of year to go hunting–assuming Northern Hemisphere, a temperate climate and deciduous forests around the creek–are the spring and summer. In the autumn, you’ll have to clear fallen leaves off of the gravel before you can look, and winter is too cold. 

The best time of day is the morning, when the sun angle is lower and is more likely to glint off of shiny rocks.

You’ll have your best luck the day after heavy rain. Rain will swell the stream and shift the stones around, and could uncover new treasures! 

Inspect anything that looks even remotely worthwhile. You’ll find a lot of duds, sure, but that will help train your brain to tune out what you don’t care about finding.

“What Can I Find?”

Exactly what sort of minerals and crystals you’ll find is highly variable. All minerals are not equally distributed across the planet, because many of them require very different conditions to form and the crust composition varies slightly from place to place. However, there are some stones that are pretty common all over the Earth, so no matter where you go hunting, you’re likely to find them.

Of course, for more specific identifications, please consult the internet, a book on mineralogy, or your local rockhounding club. 

Quartz

The chemical formula of quartz is SiO2, or silicon dioxide. Silicon and oxygen are, by mass, the two most abundant elements in Earth’s crust; around 90% of it is composed of silicate minerals like quartz. Ever find a pretty, sparkly, mostly-clear rock on the ground? It was probably quartz. 

Quartz comes in a mind-boggling array of colors, from smoky quartz so dark it’s practically opaque to purple-and-orange ametrine to the brilliant clear of a Herkimer diamond (yup, not actually diamonds) but all of these varieties are still quartz. In my region of North America, clear and smoky quartz seem to be the most plentiful. 

Calcite

Calcite is calcium carbonate, CaCO3. Like quartz, it is made of some of the Earth’s most abundant crustal elements (in this case, calcium and oxygen) and comes in a stunning array of colors. In my creeks, I’ve found calcite in yellow, orange, white, and even blue and red.

The biggest giveaway for rough calcite is its texture. If you pick up a rock and it feels like someone rubbed wax all over it, you’ve probably got yourself a calcite specimen.

Feldspar

Feldspar is one of the most abundant minerals in the crust, alongside quartz. It’s also a silicate, and it frequently finds its way into other minerals, such as granite. 

What sets feldspar apart from the other two minerals I’ve mentioned here is its fracture habit: It naturally fractures along cleavage planes which intersect at 90-degree angles. It doesn’t shatter–it shears. If you find a rock with a smooth face that looks like a polished stone countertop, it’s probably feldspar.

“But Bear, I Want Crystal Points!”

Oh. Yeah.

You can find those too. 

Every one of those pictures is of quartz points that I have found in my area. (In fact, they’re actually all from the same crystal-hunting hike, and represent only about a third of the specimens I found that day!) As you can see, they aren’t all perfect–and I have plenty of others that are, like, three facets and no point–but they’re all beautiful, and some of them really sing, if you know what I mean. 

Conclusion

Finding your own crystals can be pretty simple, when you get down to it. It can be a lot of fun to get down and dirty, and is a great way to get yourself out in nature for a while. And, of course, you can rest assured that your crystals were gathered in a sustainable, respectful, ethical manner–assuming you took care of yourself and the environment while finding them!

Best of luck! –Bear

You know a lot of people don’t know this but…

A new chapter in the wild began today for 26 eastern indigo snakes reared at the Zoo in the latest milestone in a conservation partnership to restore a native species to its original range. In a collaboration between Zoo Atlanta, the Central Florida Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation and Auburn University, the snakes were released into the Conecuh National Forest near Andalusia, Alabama, on July 14, 2017.

Previously to the beginning of a reintroduction effort, the eastern indigo snake had not been sighted in the wild in Alabama in around 50 years. The snakes are a keystone species of the longleaf pine-wiregrass and sandhills ecosystem, and their reintroduction carries significant positive ecological benefits for the national forest.

Zoos are known for their conservation work on other continents around the world, but conservation begins in our own backyards. This is a notable example of a project that continues to have a direct impact on re-establishing an iconic species in its native range.

Our Zoo has reared more than 80 eastern indigo snakes for the reintroduction program, which is a cooperation among stakeholders throughout the Southeast. Additional project partners include the Alabama Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and The Nature Conservancy.

The newest group of reintroduced snakes had been reared here since 2015. As they had been designated for release into the wild, the young snakes received care and feeding in behind-the-scenes facilities where they had limited interactions with humans. In this environment, the snakes were able to grow to a size capable of avoiding many of the predators that feed on juvenile snakes.

Prior to their release, the snakes received passive integrated responder tags (PIT) for identification. Preliminary results from tracking efforts have shown that previous groups of reintroduced snakes are surviving, thriving, and reproducing.

To date, more than 100 eastern indigo snakes have been released into Conecuh National Forest, a majority of which have been reared at the Zoo. The goal of the project is to release 300 snakes over a 10-year period at an average of 30 snakes a year.

The largest nonvenomous snake species in North America and a native of southern Georgia, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi, the eastern indigo snake has declined across its historic range with the destruction of its ecosystem. This decline is also observed in Georgia’s state reptile, the gopher tortoise, which creates burrows that are often used by eastern indigo snakes and other species.

Eastern indigo snakes play an additional valuable role in their environment by keeping other snake populations in check, as they are known to eat venomous species, including copperheads. These snakes are not constrictors; instead, they overpower their prey using the crushing force of their jaws.

To learn more things people dont realize about zoos here ~>

Zoos Queues
Australian Mammals that you didn’t know existed

You hear a lot about Kangaroos and Koalas and such, so I thought I’d post some animals that are unknown to lots of people, even some Aussies don’t realise we have them. Sadly most of these are on the endagered species list.

Also some fun facts added so you can have an idea of how awesome they are.

Quolls

Considered Australia’s ‘native cat’ these guys are carnivorous marsupials and have the ability to bite through bone. 4 species; Eastern Quoll, Spotted-Tailed Quoll (or Tiger Quoll), Western Quoll (or chuditch) and Northern Quoll. ranging in size from 25cm to 75 cm long.

Kultarr

Cute little insect eaters, again a marsupial. Can move at speeds of around 13km/hr. Only about 10cm long.

Bettongs

Marsupial. Of which there are 5 species (and at least another 2 extinct); Eastern Bettong, Boodie, Woylie, Northern Bettong and Rufous Rat-Kangaroo (or Rufous Bettong). They seem to get along well with wombats, where I work they enter the wombat exhibits of a night to share their food.

Bilby

Marsupial. There was once 2 species of Bilby, sadly the Lesser Bilby became extinct in the 1950s and the Greater Bilby is greatly endangered. In the same family as Bandicoots. Omnivores with backwards facing pouches (as they dig a lot this stops dirt getting in their pouch) Australian’s know these guys through the story of the Easter Bilby. Rabbits are considered a major reason for their decrease in numbers as they eat all the food and out-breed the Bilbies.

Numbat

Marsupial. Aka the banded anteater or Walpurti. Mainly eats termites. Emblem of Western Australia. Up to 45cm long. One of the few marsupials that are diurnal (active of a day). Eats up to 20,000 termites each day. Estimated population of less than 1000.

Grey-Headed Flying Fox

Aka Fruit Bat. Placental mammal. Called a flying fox because they have a fox-like face and can fly.
Babies are called pups. Megabat. Wingspan of about 1m. May travel 50kms in one night for food. Eats pollen, nectar, sap and fruit. Long distance seed distributors and plant pollenators. Each colony plants around 30,000 trees a night. Without these guys we don’t have any of our lovely bush and ecosystem that we all rely on. Have very good eyesight and no echolocation.

Greater Stick-Nest Rat

Placental mammal. Up to 26cm long. Don’t have a ratty face. Were extinct on the mainland but through breeding programs have been re-introduced. Herbivores. Chew branches to length and weave them together to make a nest which can be up to 1m high and 1.5m wide.

Other unknown Australian Mammals you can look up:
Antechinus
Pygmy Possum
Feathertail Glider (smallest glider in the world)
Southern Ningaui
Greater Glider
Potoroos
Pademelons
Eastern False Pipistrelle

Sadly lots of these could go extinct within the next 20 years, and people haven’t even had the chance to really get to appreciate them yet.
**PS the Koala is also in danger of becoming extinct in the wild in the next 20years**

bbc.com
The zoo that wants to release wild elephants in Denmark
Thousands of years ago, elephants and lions roamed the plains and forests of Europe and North America. If some conservationists have their way, they will again
By Josh Gabbatiss

Rewilding is one strategy for accomplishing ecological and conservational goals. Pleistocene rewilding takes things one step further–by proposing the reintroduction of megafauna to continents where they have been extinct for thousands of years. There have been many arguments both for and against the proposals… In any case, it’s certainly interesting to read about.

-Mod Terra

6

“You know what I say? I say one down, a couple hundred thousand to go. I don’t mean to get on my high horse, but I’m telling you, I do not like the deer. I’m sick of it; they’re taking over. They’re like rats. They’re destroying the ecosystem. I see a dead deer on the side of the road and I think, "That’s a start.”

Get Out
directed by Jordan Peele

Science: Nature is a delicate balance, where all creatures serve an important role in the ecosystem. Even traditionally “icky” animals are vital towards sustaining the lives of their neighbors.

Tumblr: Okay, but what about this animal I personally dislike?

8

female awesome meme: (2/10) supporting female characters
Dr. Ellie Sattler (Jurassic Park) — “Well, the question is, how can you know anything about an extinct ecosystem? And therefore, how could you ever assume that you can control it? I mean, you have plants in this building that are poisonous, you picked them because they look good, but these are aggressive living things that have no idea what century they’re in, and they’ll defend themselves, violently if necessary.”

In my experience there are two kinds of vegans: the ones who for various personal or health reasons have elected to live a vegan lifestyle but understand that it’s not for everyone, and the lunatics who want to fuck up the entire ecosystem and starve carnivorous animals and ignore the fact that the human race has spent literally THOUSANDS of years domesticating animals for consumption purposes and many of these animals could not survive on their own and would grossly overpopulate if we did not use them for such purposes and there are many species who CANNOT LIVE on a diet without meat.