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Photo of the week: Green Lynx Spider – Peucetia viridans

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Today’s photo of the week is of the Green Lynx Spider, Peucetia viridans.  I’m not much of one for spiders, but I found this one rather interesting.  It has vibrant colors of green and yellow, and has huge fangs. Its legs are transparent, spotted, and thorny.  I have never seen a spider quite like this before and actually found it beautifully accented to its environment.  To my surprise they can be found in Fullerton, CA, in your everyday home gardens. 

spider4

These particular photos were taken by Jacob Hastings Lloyd Davies.
He was able to capture the detail, which you can see more clearly below.

Photos by Jacob Hastings Lloyd Davies

The First Tweet From Space

September 20, 2009 Leave a comment

The first words man spoke on the moon were  by Neil Armstrong: “That’s one big step for mankind.”

May 12th, 2009, the first tweet from space was from  NASA Astronaut Michael J. Massimino, or @Astro_Mike, and it read “From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!”

Of course  this tweet came to my attention upon watching SNL, when they were doing their news story skit, and they pointed out that man has come a long way from “That’s one big step for mankind” to “Launch was awesome!”.  What awe-inspiring words.

Massimino now has over 235,000 followers on Twitter, and is the best publicity NASA has gotten in a long time.

What’s next? The first facebook status from space? Or did I miss that one too? How about the first tweet within a volcano?  How many people that can recite this tweet, actually know why he was in space to begin with?  Socety is so easily amused and awe-stricken. 

The First Tweet From Space

The First Tweet From Space

What’s your carbon footprint?

August 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Do you ever wonder what impact your daily life and habits have on the carbonfootprintenvironment?  On this planet?  On the following site, you can figure out not only your own carbon footprint, but your whole household’s as well, and how to improve it.

What is a carbon footprint?
It relates to the amount of greenhouse gases that we burn daily in our everyday living, and measures the impact this has on the environment, and how it affects climate change.

Go to the website. Click on the calculator button, put in all your info., I would do it for your whole household, which includes all vehicles at your home, then you can go back and remove everyone else’s and just do your car.  You’ll get what I’m talking about once you go to the webpage.  It basically tells you how much carbon dioxide you personally emit a year, in tonnes (tons). It’s really quite interesting.  I believe the national average is in the low 20’s, but it will compare your output to the nation’s average in the end. It also tells you what you can do to reduce your levels.  If you find that your carbon footprint is higher than the national average, you’ll have a bigger knack to try and figure out how to get it below the average.  So go check it out, and start figuring out how you can reduce your Carbon Footprint!

http://www.carbonfootprint.com/

The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

August 23, 2009 15 comments

So perhaps you have heard of the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, perhaps you have not.  It is something I have been more recently educated on, and in doing so felt it important to share my new found knowledge.

Plastic Ocean

Plastic Ocean

So what is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Eastern Garbage Patch or Pacific Trash Vortex?  It is a gyre of litter (trash) in the central North Pacific Ocean.  Still not following?  In layman’s terms, it is a big pile of trash floating in the middle of our ocean.  A very big pile of trash.  Big in the sense that it is twice the size of Texas.  It contains over 100 million tons in floating garbage and growing.

So how did all this trash come together? 

The Pacific Gyre / currents

The Pacific Gyre / currents

This “patch” was created by the Pacific currents carrying garbage from North America, Asia, and the islands (the whole Pacific rim), and then concentrating it into a continent swirl of garbage; a vortex.  The majority of the source of this trash comes from land – dropped into the streets, into drains, into sewers, and leading out to the ocean.  About 80% is from land, and 20% from ships at sea.  It takes about 5 years for trash to reach the gyre from the west coast of North America, and less than a year from the coast of Asia.

About 80% of this junk is plastic.  Plastic is 100% non- biodegradable.  But, in water, and with sunlight beaming down on it, plastic is broken down into bits, and solids become chips and those chips become dust eventually. 

Plastic Beach

Plastic Beach

Plastic bags shred, and also will eventually become plastic dust.  On islands of the Pacific, coming from all over the Pacific rim, plastic, swirl into a vortex that eventually brings them to these shores, creating sand dunes made of plastic.   The more the plastic breaks down, the more of a threat it becomes, because it starts to affect even the smallest organisms on a molecular level, thus invading the entire food web in the ocean.  There is 6 times as much plastic in the gyre than there is plankton.  Plankton is this area’s most abundant food source.

Dead Laysan Albatross skeleton containing plastic fragments

Dead Laysan Albatross skeleton containing plastic fragments

Animals mistake all this waste as food and die from either plastic poisoning or blockage of their digestive system.  Sea turtles may think that floating plastic bags are jellyfish, rope may become entangled in the tentacles of jellyfish.  Albatross (seagulls) mistake waste for food all the time. Often they are found dead a shore, and their skeletons show nothing but a pile of plastic within.  Chicks get fed with waste that the parents fly back to the nest too, killing the chicks as well.

All this plastic absorbs, transports, and releases hydrophobic pollutants (PCB, DDE, DDT).  This harms the ocean’s foodchain and can thus affect us as well, causing diesease, infertility, etc. 

Sea turtle stuck in net found in the Pacific Gyre

Sea turtle stuck in net found in the Pacific Gyre

So how can this problem be fixed?  Well it would require more money than any nation is probably willing to spend on the clean-up project.  The best thing we, or anybody can do, is the obvious we have been taught for years:
-Reduce your plastic waste
-Reuse
-Recycle
-Do not litter
-Participate in beach clean ups, riverbed/runoff clean ups, drainage clean ups, etc.

10 Things You May Not Know About Kelp

August 22, 2009 2 comments

tallforestkelp1) California Giant Kelp can grow over 100-150 feet in length (that’s as tall as a 10 story building!) and as fast as a foot or two a day.

2) Kelp is one of the only sea plants of commercial use to man.

3) It is harvested and processed, and found in over hundreds of products. One local San Diego company produces more than 300 products from kelp!

4) Kelp is used in products such as fertilizer, gunpowder, beauty products, toothpaste, ice cream, and alot more. Look for the words alginate, alginin, and algin on your products to see if kelp was used in the making of them.

5) Kelp contains algin which is used to thicken things, make them creamy, and give them texture. It also keeps liquids from separating. ie: You will find it in creamy Italian dressing.

6) It is even used to maintain the foamy head in beer

7) Contains algenic acid which has been birch02successfully used to rid man’s system of radioactive particles.

8 ) Besides your tall lenghthy kelp you are probably used to seeing wash up on the shore of the California coast, kelp takes other forms. You may also find a more cabbage looking type kelp, and then in California you will also find what is called “popcorn” or “bubble” kelp.

9) Kelp is home to a vast range of creatures. Some of these being sea stars, crabs, sea horses, sharks, eels, barracuda, giant sea bass, sea otters, etc.

10) In the 1980’s a severe storm destroyed many kelp beds. So, today harvestingkelpprotective laws keep kelp forests from being overharvested, limiting harvesters to take kelp only from the top 4 feet of the ocean. Harvesting kelp for commercial use is a multimillion dollar business.

Shark Week’s the Hype

August 7, 2009 2 comments
    
        
Every year, whether a Discovery Channel watcher or not, most everybody
Shark Week 2009

Shark Week 2009

prepares for the hotest week on the Discovery Channel all year long:  Shark Week.  The popularity of this program grows each year.  In 2006, there was an estimated 20 million viewers.  In 2008, an estimated 29 million, being an 8% increase from 2007.  This year an estimated over 30 million is to be expected. 

Shark Week has ran for 22 years.

This year Shark Week brings you “chills and thrills”, showing you some of the deadliest sharks, why they attack, and some of the most memorable shark attacks in history.

The line up is as follows:

SundayAugust 2, 2009: Blood in the Water
This two hour premiere features the true story behind the movie Jaws.  Apparently a 9 foot long shark started attacking swimmers just off of New Jersey beaches.  The shark’s ancestors had been swimming these shores for centuries so when they appeared in 1916, the busy beaches became a feeding opportunity for them.  This was the first multiple shark attack in American history.

The shark uses its tail to speed up and catch prey

The shark uses its tail to speed up and catch prey


Monday August 3, 2009:
1) Deadly Waters

Survivorman’s Les Stroud is on a mission to find the deadliest waters around the world, test them, and determine why they are among the deadliest waters on Earth.
2) Day of the Shark 2
A great white breaks through a 300-lb shark cage and traps the divers inside.  Another shark attacks a former Navy Seal in Florida.  And a bull shark invades a spear-fishing trip in the Bahamas.

Tuesday August 4, 2009: Sharkbite Summer
The summer of 2001 deemed to be quite the bloody summer with fears that the sharks were taking back  America’s shores.  There are various interviews with survivors, victims, surgeons, and family members, are visits of the sites of attacks.  One man on his anniversary vacation, barely made it back to shore after a shark attack, leaving him bloody and almost dying on the sand.
Attacks in Summer of 2001

Attacks in Summer of 2001


Wednesday August 5, 2009: Great White Appetite

Consuming about 17% of its body weight

Consuming about 17% of its body weight

The great white, patroling  over 50-percent of the globe’s inhabited coastlines, is one of the most feared predators in the world.  Little is known about these beasts other than its incredible appetite which is even a mystery.  Watch as Charles witnesses a great white eats over 300 lbs of tuna within minutes, and escape from a great white chomping at the boat he’s sitting in.


Thursday August 6, 2009: Shark After Dark

More aggressive & active after dark
More aggressive & active after dark

With infrared thermography cameras and night vision technology, a team of divers travel to study sharks, who are most active and aggressive in the dark, in some of their dangerous after-dark hunting grounds.  See some amazing footage of how well this technology works, and how dense in population some of the seal grounds are. As they follow outward bound groups of seals, it is not long before you see a shark leaping out of the water catching one in its powerful jaws.

 
Shark Fun Facts:

-Sharks see in color, and are extremely sensitive to changes in contrast. So be careful if you’re swimming with an uneven tan!
-Sharks do not need to be constantly swimming to breathe.  They will not drown this way.
-There are three ways for a shark to give birth: live birth, hatching from an egg, or an egg and live birth combination.

-In the US you are more likely to die from the following than you are from a shark attack:     
greatwhite2>falling down the stairs
>from a fatal farming machine accident
>from a hornet, wasp, or bee sting
>drowning in a bathtub of water
>several times more likely being struck by lightening

 

-Sharks can’t grind to a halt or swim backwards.
-The smallest shark, the Dwarf Shark, averages 4 inches long.
-Whale sharks are believed to be capable of living up to 150 years.

Rows of teeth
Rows of teeth

-A shark may grow and use over 20,000 teeth in its lifetime.  They never run out of teeth
-Their skin is made of denticles (teeth-like skin) instead of scales.

Save the Grunion!..The What?

June 24, 2006 Leave a comment

Save the Grunion!..The What?

            Every year millions of people visit the beaches of California.  Environmental concerns motivate people to clean beaches and create programs for beach clean up days.  Off the beach and into the water other issues concerning the growing kelp depletion and the chain effect it has on its ecosystem is another hot topic.  But a more not hidden, but not popular issue is the events of the grunion season.  Every year for a span over the beginning of spring to the end of summer, these creatures wash ashore to spawn.  This leaves them vulnerable to dangers, including being beached, being trampled on, and most dangerously, being poached.  To protect grunions and a perhaps downfall of their ecosystem, state and federal laws should be created to ensure the safety of this species, and longer closed seasons should be implemented.

            First off, what exactly is a grunion?  A grunion is a marine fish found specifically to the southern Californian coast and the northern coast of Baja California.  They are sleek silvery fish that grow about three to six inches, if not more.  What is special about these creatures is that they immerse completely out of water to spawn.  The female burrow into the sand and lays their eggs.  They only come out at high tide and usually late at night, around 10pm-12:30am, and between the months of March through September.  At times there are thousands upon thousands of grunion dancing about the beach, and at few times there are only tens to hundreds.  During incubation, the eggs remain in the sand for about two weeks and hatch only at full and new moons.

            So what about the dangers?  Washing themselves ashore, grunions are susceptible to beaching themselves.  Often they get caught behind debris or kelp, stranding them on shore.  They end up not being able to spawn or die from being out of water too long.  Although they can not be monitored every minute of their run, steps can be taken to help decrease the number of stranded fish.  For example, during these grunion runs, Pepperdine University Marine Biologists have put together a program to monitor the behavior of the creatures.  Volunteers go out on certain nights, for two nights in a row, and monitor the behavior of the fish, and how many are found on certain nights at certain beaches.  During the programs, tens to hundreds of volunteers watch the beaches, and when any grunion seem to have been washed ashore, or caught behind debris or kelp, the volunteers simply toss the fish back into the ocean.  Hundreds of fish are saved from a simple effort.  As long as people continue the effort, a small step to conserve a species can be possible.

            Another problem is that during spawning when there are thousands upon thousands of grunion on the beach, it is easy to trample on a few.  But with precaution this can easily be avoided.  But the bigger problem is that after the eggs are laid, only a few inches from the surface of the sand, pressure from passer-byers or vehicles, can crush these eggs.  Lifeguard vehicles patrolling the beach could run over the areas where the grunions have spawned.  Imagine the pressure from a truck running over a patch of eggs; they are crushed like a banana ran over by the vehicle.  A simple five minute patrol over a mile or two stretch of beach can destroy thousands upon thousands of grunion larvae, slowly depleting the species.  Measures that may seem to work would be talking to local lifeguard officials and warning them about the grunion season and to be cautious of where they tread.  Grunions come on shore through high tide; you can tell high tides from the kelp lines.  The tide does not reach beyond these lines of kelp, which means beyond these lines there are no grunion eggs.  Advising lifeguard vehicles to only drive past these kelp lines would help protect the grunions while still being able to patrol the beach. 

            Beach grooming is another devastating example of eggs being destroyed.  Beach grooming involves combing the sand, with a large operating machine that look likes a tractor.  If you thought the pressure from the lifeguard vehicle was bad, imagine this machine that is easily two or three times heavier.  If the lifeguard truck did not get all the eggs, this heavy equipment will sure finish the job.  The same solution should be enforced for these machines as lifeguard vehicles.  Signs should be posted on the beach to keep runners or just visitors to the beach to be careful as well. 

Of course lifeguards and, more likely, city officials might have objections.  The city might complain that without beach combing the sand won’t look presentable enough for its summer visitors.  These are the months when the beach is more crowded, and city officials would not want to lose tourists or the profit that can be made by the myriad of visitors.  Many would be deterred from walking or jogging the shoreline, and frankly that would not go over too well.  People want their vacation time, and not have to worry about watching where they step.  This is a problem that is no doubt huge and unavoidable no matter what.  The best that can be done is to make the public aware, whether by announcement or by the use of signs right on those kelp lines, to warn the beach goers right before they cross it.

            Lastly, the biggest problem, and the hardest to maintain, is poaching.  Poachers find this season a valuable opportunity to gather up the vulnerable fish as they gather to spawn.  Knowledgeable about this season, poachers come ready with buckets and gather grunion fish by the handfuls.  There are measures already taken place by local grunion programs.  People such as the Pepperdine University grunion staff and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, warn local officials and lifeguard officials of the poaching problem.  Right now there are only fines to pay if caught poaching.  Through the last three years, the grunion population has inflated its way back up to where it once was and more.  Closed season of April and May have been created, during which these two months no poaching is allowed whatsoever even with licenses.  In order to get the grunion population to flourish even more, and to keep them out of danger, a longer closed season should be enforced, and heavier laws should be laid down.  Heavier fines, or perhaps small prison terms for those caught disobeying the law for their own greed.  Patrols should be created, whether through volunteering or through actual law officials, to look out for and report a poaching problem during the closed seasons.

            The depletion of a species, even one you may have never heard of, can have a huge impact on the environment which it lives in.  In one event, a large number of krill up by the Alaskan coast were wiped out, hurting its ecosystem.  Marine life started to fall for a short time, and marine animals were found in areas where they would not normally be, all because they were looking for food.  Similar to the krill by the Alaskan coast, grunion could equally damage the ecosystem around the southern California coast and the northern coast of the Baja of California. 

            Awareness of these problems as well as implementing the solutions to them, may take time, but steps do need to no doubt be taken.  With help from the government awareness could be more possible; and making suggestions into laws could really lay down the line to saving this species.  Volunteers are also a great way to help protect this species.  Researchers such as Dr. Karen Martin, and Melissa Studer, have started studies on grunion fish, and have created a grunion greeting volunteer program to monitor the behavior and spawning numbers of grunion.  Through a volunteer program, “Grunion Greeter,” volunteers have sheets which they fill out, and they report the area they were in, the time, and the number of grunions they saw.  Through this researchers have been able to more closely study and monitor this behavior of the grunion.  More people are becoming aware of the problem through this, as volunteers pass their knowledge on to the next person, and so on.  More motivation has been created, and with motivation like this, a push toward solutions such as government action and public awareness is very possible.  Although it may not seem at all interesting when you think about grunions, but when you actually see them in motion, it is a spectacular moment.  Fish dancing about the shoreline, gleaming in the moonlight, somehow captivates every seer.  When there are thousands on the beach, it is an unbelievable experience. Nights when you only see a few are disappointing nights compared to this, and boring to monitor.  If actions are not taken, more nights like that may become more and more frequent, and instead of counting from tens to thousands, we may end up counting from zero to tens of grunion fish.  And as time passes we may find ourselves counting less of other species, as every downfall of a species has a chain effect on its ecosystem.  Volunteering is free and easy, and voicing the problem is a challenge that can be overcome.  So do not wait for the total extinction of a species, take action today.  Protect the ocean which we love so much, and protect our grunion friends that are a part of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited List

Pepperdine University.  “What is a grunion?”  Grunion.org  May 2006.  Date accessed: 14 May

  1. < http://arachnid.pepperdine.edu/grunion/whatis.htm>.