Asian tiger mosquito thrives in New York
Jul26

Asian tiger mosquito thrives in New York

The aggressive, day-biting Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, has spread with global trade from its native home in the tropics and subtropics of Southeast Asia. First observed in Houston, Texas, in 1987, it rapidly spread through the interstate system in the the United States. Its range is pushing northward into New York and Pennsylvania. Does Ae. albopictus crowd out other mosquito species? Katz surveyed the mosquito species present at sites in southern New York State and will report on her results at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America this August. PS 2-24 -The community assemblage of tree-hole mosquitoes in southern New York State Monday, August 8, 2016, ESA Exhibit Hall, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center Marly B. Katz, Fordham University, New York City, NY Browse more presentations about mosquito ecology at the 2016 Annual...

Read More
Wiring food webs at Lake George
Nov12

Wiring food webs at Lake George

A collaborative project at Lake George, NY, merges sensory, experimental, and natural history data to develop a better model for environmental monitoring and prediction in lake ecosystems around the world. Guest post by Matt Schuler, a 2013 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award winner currently working as postdoctoral researcher in Rick Relyea’s lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. The clear waters of Lake George offer an unobstructed view of the claw-like Ponar Grab Sampler as it reaches the sandy lake bottom, 15 feet below our boat. Kelsey Sudol, an undergraduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) pulls sharply upward on the rope attached to the grab sampler, triggering a spring-loaded mechanism. The trap clamps shut around the soil and invertebrates that live in and on the soil, and she draws them to the surface. After we have separated mollusks, arthropods, and insect larvae from the soil with a sieve, this will be one of 30 samples taken from around the lake each month. We will use the data from these samples to understand how invertebrate biomass, diversity, and composition change across space and time. Our invertebrate surveys are part of a food web study that is measuring the complex interactions of the organisms living in Lake George, from the smallest plankton to the largest lake trout. However, measuring and modeling the food web of the 44-square-mile lake is only one component of the Jefferson Project at Lake George. The Jefferson Project is a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort between RPI, IBM, and the FUND for Lake George. Researchers in ecology, engineering, computer science, and the arts and humanities – among other fields – are working together to build a better understanding of lake ecosystems around the world. The project combines new technologies, including an Internet of Things (IOT) computational platform, with observational and experimental data, in developing a new model for environmental monitoring and prediction. The IOT computer platform captures and analyzes abiotic data from a series of “smart” sensors located in and around the lake. The sensor data are combined with food web data and experimental data to form a comprehensive picture of how Lake George functions as a complex ecosystem. This new model can be emulated around the world, helping to redefine how we monitor ecosystems, understand the impact of human activities, and provide insight for the protection of freshwater resources. These lofty goals would not be possible without 35 years of water quality and chemistry monitoring data collected by researchers at Rensselaer’s Darrin Freshwater Institute, with support from The FUND for Lake George. Those data indicate that the water quality of Lake George is changing – with noticeable increases in salt, algae,...

Read More

9/11 dust study, gypsy-moth caterpillar killer, and hummingbird courtship

Studying the 9/11 WTC dust: Coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) recently published a blog highlighting the agency’s study of the environmental and potential health risks of the massive dust cloud that swept across New York City as a result of the collapse of the World Trade Center. The dust was particularly dense, coating outdoor surfaces in a layer of powdered material up to three inches thick. It also penetrated doors, windows and ventilation systems, contaminating apartments and office buildings alike.  The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Public Health Service requested that USGS examine the dust to identify components that might pose a human health threat to the thousands who inhaled it that day and subsequent days USGS found that the dust contained higher amounts of lead, zinc, antimony, copper, and other elements of building materials than found in natural soils. The team also found the less dangerous variety of asbestos–chrysotile asbestos–in most samples at higher levels than what is found in urban particulate matter. The materials found were deemed dangerous enough to indicate a potential health threat and USGS scientists consequently advised that clean-up be conducted with appropriate respiratory protection and dust control measures. USGS scientists also found that dust indoors was highlight caustic and could be chemically reactive with moisture, including eyes, nose, and lungs.  However, rain and other elements helped neutralize the alkalinity of dust outside. Clever caterpillar killer: Scientists have recently discovered how a virus manipulates an invasive species of caterpillar. The gypsy moth caterpillar larvae is renowned for damaging roughly a million acres of forest in the U.S. each year. However, the baculovirus has infiltrated the caterpillars, taking advantage of their insatiable appetites. The virus has become so effective that the U.S. Department of Agriculture sprays it on trees to help control gypsy moth outbreaks. According to the study’s lead author, Kelli Hoover, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University, the virus works by altering the gypsy moth caterpillar’s behavior. Once infected with the virus, the caterpillars climb to elevated positions and die. Subsequently, the body cavity of the caterpillar is converted into millions of virus particles as well as an enzyme that causes the caterpillar’s exoskeleton to disintegrate. The “liquefied” caterpillar then “rains” onto the leaves below, which other caterpillars eat, further spreading the virus. The researchers claim that knowing precisely how baculovirus overwhelms the gypsy moth could help scientists develop more potent strains of the virus and determine when in the moth’s life cycle it is most vulnerable to infection. Read more at: “How a clear virus kills a hungry...

Read More
Brown faces, urban places and green spaces: achieving diversity in environmental fields
Mar30

Brown faces, urban places and green spaces: achieving diversity in environmental fields

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s 2009 Programme for the International Student Assessment results showed the United States ranking 19th in math and 14th in science out of 31 countries. Following this news, President Obama announced a $250 million proposal to increase funding for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. As he stated in his budget message, “In a generation, we’ve fallen from first place to ninth place in the proportion of our young people with college degrees. We lag behind other nations in the quality of our math and science education.” The following post, contributed by Kellen Marshall-Gillespie, graduate student at University of Illinois-Chicago and recent recipient of ESA’s 2011 Graduate Student Policy Award, tells how diversity in environmental fields shows promise for the future of science. The student diversity was astounding, beautiful brown faces with shining eyes sat attentive and hanging on every word of the career panelists. This was the scene at last year’s Green College and Careers Fair organized by the Ecological Society of America and The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program. The goal was to diversify environmental and ecological careers by reaching out to underserved communities: The hope is to change the face and fields of environmental careers by providing opportunities to those who traditionally lack access. The career fair was hosted at The New School in New York City—over 100 high school students (from 9 schools around the New York-New Jersey area) were treated to a highly professional career fair, including structured school-to-college workshops. The event was made possible with support from the Toyota USA Foundation. Students received information about environmental and natural resource careers and topics such as research ethics, laboratory work tips, resume guidelines, reference letters and tips on being successful in college. Other sessions included exhibitor presentations, a financial aid workshop, mock job interviews and a career panel. The career panelists—Victor Medina, Kellen Marshall-Gillespie, Charlee Glenn and Ann-Marie Alcantara— were young professionals and alumni of both the LEAF and ESA’s Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) program. They addressed more than just traditional college talk—they got to the heart of being minorities in fields where they are underrepresented. Glenn, a panelist and SEEDS alumna, shared her story of how ecology became an interest, which subsequently developed into her current position as Diversity Programs Assistant for ESA’s SEEDS program. Medina, a LEAF alumnus, discussed how he uses his educational and personal success to influence others within his community to do better—not only for themselves but for the environment as well. Alcantara, also a LEAF alumna, talked about her goals of being...

Read More

The Appalachian Trail in five minutes

Stretching approximately 2,181 miles (3,510 km), and reaching elevations higher than 6,000 feet, the Appalachian Scenic National Trail is a wilderness hiking trail that begins in Georgia, spans fourteen total states, and ends in Maine. An extension—the International Appalachian Trail—continues through Canada until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. It is managed by the United States National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and is maintained by more than 30 trail clubs. Since the trail traverses various forests along the Appalachian Mountain Range, the landscape, temperature, plants and animal life vary drastically. As described on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website: “Today, the Appalachians hold one of the world’s richest assemblages of temperate zone species. In fact, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail may contain the greatest biodiversity of any unit of the National Park Service. The Southern Appalachians, never transformed by glaciers, are home to terminally slow organisms including snails, vernal herbaceous plants and salamanders. Rivers drain to the south in the Southern Appalachians, which allowed some species to escape Ice Age extermination, and today the region has a legendary richness of fish, mussel and crayfish species. Farther north along the Trail corridor it is possible to find rare bird species including Bicknell’s Thrush. The Appalachian Trail’s protected corridor anchors the nation’s Eastern Forest block, which is vital to the nation not only ecologically but also socio-economically. Those forests in turn serve to protect the watersheds that service a significant percentage of the population of the United States.” More than 10,000 hikers have reported completing the entire Appalachian Trail in the U.S., walking approximately five million steps. One such hiker is Kevin Gallagher from Richmond, Virginia, who hiked the trail and documented his progress. The nearly five minute video (below) entitled “Green Tunnel” shows a timelapse of his journey. As explained on his website: “Each day of the six month trek, Kevin took photographs of a single quintessential section of the trail. Twenty four successive steps down the trail were captured each day. At the end of the journey he had over 4,000 slides which were then strung together to offer a condensed view of what an accelerated hike along the Appalachian mountain range would look like.” Green Tunnel from Kevin Gallagher on Vimeo. Take the Appalachian Trail quiz or read state-by-state details on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website. Also, see photos in each state: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Photo Credits: rskoon (Georgia), carobe (Virginia), jasonB42882 (Pennsylvania), georgia.kral...

Read More

Ecology in videos and podcasts

Oysters proposed for cleaning up New York’s rivers, mall music has a bigger impact than boosting sales, cephalopods advance research in neuroscience and robotics, how gut bacteria might be shaping brain development and behavior and E.O. Wilson discusses a life of research on ants. Here are the remaining links from January. Oyster-tecture: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a study today showing heavy contamination in the Gowanus Canal in New York City. In the above TED video, landscape architect Kate Orff discusses plans to reestablish oysters to the Canal as a way to filter pollution and create habitats for other species. “One oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day,” said Orff, “…and they become the bedrock of any harbor ecosystem.” Read more at “Reviving New York’s rivers — with oysters!” Lowering music emissions: Stanford University journalism students put a new spin on the term noise pollution: They calculated just how much energy is used to play background music in malls in the U.S. As explained in the Scientific American podcast 60-Second Earth, “[the students] crunched the numbers on how much energy it takes to play all that pop and came up with a figure of 1.18 gigawatt-hours. Given the present energy mix that means Mantovani adds more than 3,000 metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year.” Read more and listen at “Another Reason to Hate Shopping Sound Tracks.” Cephalopod brains: In a lengthy BoingBoing video, science journalist Maggie Koerth-Baker explains the cephalopod—such as octopuses and squid—brain and how it is used for communication, object detection and predator avoidance. “The secret to the octopus’ success: its brain,” she said in the video. “This incredibly weird structure, from our biased vertebrate mammalian perspective…is the result of an evolutionary process hundreds of millions of years removed from our own, creating an organ that looks on the surface nothing like what we’ve come to expect an honest brain to be.” Koerth-Baker applies these brain functionalities to neuroscience and robotics. Read more at “everybody loves cephalopods.” E.O. Wilson on ants and life: In an Encyclopedia of Life podcast, E.O. Wilson, now 81, discusses his lifelong study of ants—including the red imported fire ant that he discovered at the age of 13 in Alabama—and what drives him to continue his research. “I think my life proves, if you are truly a dedicated naturalist, if you’ve known the joys of exploring  biodiversity, and you’ve become fairly familiar with ecosystems that feel like home to you when you step into them…that it is a source of lifelong pleasure, adventure, challenge and excitement,” he said in the podcast.  Read more and listen...

Read More

Going (all 400 miles) green

The topic of this year’s Ecological Society of America annual meeting is global warming. So it is fitting that Jason Aloisio, graduate student in biology at Fordham University, and Anthony Gizzi, graduate student in Pharmacology at Thomas Jefferson University are going green—all the way to the meeting, that is. Here is their story.

Read More