Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Habitat Loss of Kentucky

In the state of Kentucky, there has been a major increase of habitat loss. There are three different kinds of habitat loss: habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, and habitat degradation. Habitat destruction is more often thought of as a bulldozer taking down trees and destroying an entire habitat to make room for other things. Habitat fragmentation is the process of which man made structures obstruct a natural habitat. An example of this would be a highway dividing a forest or a dam blocking the flow of a river affecting breeding and migration patterns of fish. Habitat degradation is when a ecosystem is disrupted by either abiotic or biotic factors. An abiotic factor that can degrade an environment is pollution. Pollution can come from all forms, such as oil spills and the introduction of heavy metals. Mercury is an example of a heavy metal that was introduced from mining, which, due to bio magnification, goes from one organism to the next, like fish eating bigger fish; a common problem when fishing for tuna. An example of a biotic factor that can degrade an environment is an invasive species like animals and plants. In Kentucky, Kudzu is a plant that completely covers other existing plants to compete for as much sun as possible. Since Kudzu covers other plants the host dies and the Kudzu continues to expand throughout the ecosystem. This species is a common problem in southeastern Kentucky.

The most common form of habitat loss in Kentucky, however, is habitat destruction, and the reason being is for more land for agricultural purposes. The agricultural state of Kentucky's people are always looking for more land for agricultural purposes. A stat that would prove this is the loss of Native habitats of Tallgrass Prairies. Tallgrass Prairies formerly covered around 2.3 million acres of land in Kentucky, and today they have dwindled down all the way to only a few thousand acres of the entire state! The reason that these habitats declined so rapidly is because of local farmers looking for more land for their own agricultural purposes. The rapid increase of agricultural lands, and urban sprawl, have vastly taken over many of Kentucky's natural habitats, and because of this we have lost many native species as well, that would have helped to maintain these habitats, but because the habitats are gone, the species no longer have a purpose, and cannot survive regardless without their natural habitat.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Thoughts

Recently, we have begun learning about mammals in class. There a lot of different species of mammals. But one thing that particularly surprised me was the amount of bat species that there were, being over 1,000 that exist, making up more than 25% of all species of mammals. That's crazy! When you take all the species of mammals and lay them out on a flat surface in a line, more than a fourth of the distance of that line, is JUST different species of bats (over 25%!!).
One particular bat that stood out to me was the vampire bat, especially because its late October and almost Halloween. I have learned that vampire bats are extremely scary organisms. The only thing that they consume is blood. They can attack people, cows, etc., and the way they do it is numb the area, so they can do their business unnoticed, making themselves even more scary.
Vampire bats are the start to the legend of vampires. If the vampires were real, vampire bats would be even more scary than they already are. No one would be comfortable with them being around or existing. Everyone would be freaking out about it just as though they are about Ebola right now. People would be attempting to end the lives of these vampire bats, and put them into extinction. These vampire bats seem very harmless however. I am unsure if they hurt humans when they suck their blood, but I know for a fact that when they bite into cows, they do no harm. They just create a puncture wound and numb the area so they can feed peacefully.
Here's a thought for Halloween: Harmless Vampires that just walk around and bite people for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and fourth meal!
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Does Diversity Come With Size?

Does a greater diversity come with a greater size? Well, I think that would depend on what is being talked about when it comes to size.

Say that you are talking about a particular area. Obviously, areas differ in size. Everyone knows that. The greater the area is in size, the more ground it covers. The more covered ground, the more ecosystems within the area, meaning the greater ecosystem diversity that the area may have. So in the case of landmass, a greater diversity would come with a greater size.

Say that you are talking about a community within an ecosystem. A larger community would mean more populations within that community, meaning a higher chance of a greater population diversity. The more populations that there are, the higher the chance of a greater population diversity, however this is not always true. In a rainforest for instance, there is a greater population diversity than in the same amount of area in Alaska, for example.

Say that you are talking about species diversity. When our class did the bee assignment outside, we looked at two different flowerbeds of bees. In the larger area, there was a lower species diversity than in the smaller population of bees, showing larger size does not always mean larger diversity.

Larger size usually proves larger diversity in most cases, at least you would think so, but that is not always the case. Basically, the argument can go either way, but that is science. If you can argue and defend your clarification and support with evidence, it stands until proven otherwise.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

'Tis the Season

This past Saturday, on the 11th of October, I went to Holiday World with a couple friends. Due to the amusement park being in the fall season, with Halloween coming up on the 31st of October, Holiday World had a corn maze attraction. While walking through this corn maze, I began to think of it as an ecosystem. In this particular corn maze, the only life within was a couple of different species of insects and the corn, obviously. However, this got me thinking. In a farmland, that grows corn, such as ANY FARM in Indiana for example, what other wildlife could exist there? I also thought about the humans in the maze as a primary species for that ecosystem. The Homo Sapiens of the corn maze if you will. We were all attempting to work together, much like a species in an ecosystem, except for the fact that we were trying to get out. I guess that means that by the time we all got out, the ecosystem had undergone extirpation of the Homo Sapien species. Our temporary niches could almost be seen as trying to escape. Maybe deforestation was occurring in corn maze, and we had to uproot our ecosystem and move it somewhere else. This class has really made me conscious of things like this.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bee Keeping

About a week ago, during a lab session within my biology and human concerns course at Transylvania University, we learned about the fairly new environmental problems involving pollinators, such as bees, gnats, and other insects. The problem is pesticides. Pesticides being sprayed onto flowers and other pollinated plants are causing a severe decrease in the numbers of pollinators that there are in local environments or ecosystems. Numbers are down nationally. This problem is called Colony Collapse Disorder, which I found out with further research. Colony Collapse Disorder can be defined just as how it sounds, a severe decrease in the number of pollinators year to year, almost as if adult bees (just as an example of a pollinator), up and leave their hives voluntarily, never coming back. Since this disorder was first discovered, commercial beekeepers have reported a decrease of 29%-36% of colonies in the US, France, etc.

Although bats and other pollinators are experiencing rapid decline too, bees are the biggest concern world wide. Bees are predicted to be responsible for pollination of 70% of all plants that we eat as food. So, without bees basically, 70% of our plant food sources, would no longer be eligible for food. Our choices of edible plants would dwindle very quickly. Another problem with this decline in bees, aside from food, is money. Bees are a major contributor to the economy. Weird to think about right? Think about it anyway! Without bees, 70% of edible plants would not be edible, therefore they would not be grown on a farm, they would not become produce at a grocery store, and they would not be sold to people across the world for food. Bees' economic contribution is said to be valued at about 19 million dollars, in the US alone! So, basically without bees, our country would be even further in debt!

Not only everything I said above, but also a life without bees would be extremely different and weird. Being a 19 year old kid, or person of any age for that matter since bees have always been around, I have not lived a day on this earth that bees did not exist along beside me. Thinking about a day where bees were up and gone, is bee-yond crazy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ecosystem Awareness

After my previous blog post about whether or not humans were considered a part of the ecosystems they live in, my biology professor commented the following: "Nice thoughts, Jordan! To expand a bit - Is it important for Homo sapiens to know that they are a part of the ecosystem, given the immense influence they can exert?" Therefore, the said comment has inspired this week's post.

Homo Sapiens are in fact a species, meaning that they are in fact a part of the ecosystems that they are involved in and live in, technically. However, as I said last week, different people have varying opinions on the matter. As I said last week, some people would believe whole-heartedly that we are apart of the ecosystems that we live within, while others never even consider that we are apart of an ecosystem, and some may not even know what the word means.

Adding on to that, I do believe that it is important for us as homo sapiens to know that we are a part of an ecosystem. There are so many things that we can do to our ecosystem to benefit the people of the future, or to even help benefit for our time period on earth.  However, I do not know many things that can be done to positively influence our ecosystems, which may be what is wrong with our society today. There are more things that we can do to negatively influence our environment/ecosystems, such as the things that I mentioned in the previous blog:  polluting the environment, deforestation to build cities, extracting resources, displacing, or introducing new animals into, or from an area.

If all humans knew that they were a part of ecosystems, than steps could be taken into the right direction to prevent us from ruining the ecosystems around us, or even steps in the right direction to better the ecosystems that we live in. I believe that with ecosystem awareness, the world wouldn't be as bad as it has become, and it would be better off than it is currently today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Do Humans Fit In?

Last week, I released a post about what makes an ecosystem an ecosystem. My professor at Transylvania University, Dr. Adkins, commented on that post, saying "Another question you have to ask yourself - are humans a part of these ecosystems, or do we exist outside and separate from them? Mull it over, I'm interested to read your response!", which inspired me to make the following post (the response).

So, do humans exist inside these ecosystems, or are they in a separate world, in the same location. In my (un)professional opinion, the answer can sway both ways. Technically, humans are a part of the ecosystem they live in and around, due to the fact that they influence the environment around them in multiple ways, such as pollution, deforestation to build cities, extracting resources, displacing, or introducing new animals into, or from an area. Obviously, there are many more influences that humans put on the environment other than the ones that I have listed, I only listed a few. Humans, as I said above, technically are involved with the environment around them, therefore they should be considered a part of it. They live within it, they thrive in it, and they utilize it.

However, I could also see the point being made that humans are not a part of the ecosystem they live within. Because honestly, and unfortunately, humans do not always think about the environment or ecosystem that surrounds them in their everyday lives. Meaning that to some humans, the thought doesn't even cross their mind, so why would they consider themselves as a part of the environment or ecosystem that surrounds them.

Now that I have compared the two answers, my opinion sways more towards my first answer I gave: that humans are technically considered a part of the ecosystem that surrounds them.