Posts Tagged science

STEM Tuesday– Extinction– Writing Tips & Resources

                                                                                                                                                                         

Extinct. Over. Done with. Gone.

There won’t be a whole lot of writing tips and resources in this STEM Tuesday post. I apologize in advance. It is mostly about a bleak outlook brightened by the hope we can use STEM to solve some of our extinction threats.

I recently read a depressing snippet from BirdLife International about the decline in bird species worldwide. 49% of bird species are in decline worldwide. In their last report, released in 2018, that decline was 40% so we’ve gone backward in just four years. It’s a problem everywhere, including a 29% decline in North America and 19% in Europe since 1970, and attributed to losing grasslands and forests to farm use. BirdLife International’s extinction bird species count was reported at 187 species lost since 1500 with the majority of those living on islands.

Being a huge fan of birds, this news hit hard.

Many scientists believe we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction event, the Holocene Extinction. Since 1900, the extinction rates have been over a thousand times greater than the background extinction rate and the rates have spiked over the last few decades. 

Authors of the study: Jacopo Dal Corso, Massimo Bernardi, Yadong Sun, Haijun Song, Leyla J. Seyfullah, Nereo Preto, Piero Gianolla, Alastair Ruffell, Evelyn Kustatscher, Guido Roghi, Agostino Merico, Sönke Hohn, Alexander R. Schmidt, Andrea Marzoli, Robert J. Newton, Paul B. Wignall, Michael J. Benton, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

In their 2019 global diversity assessment report, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES) estimated that 1 million of the 8 million species on the planet are threatened. 1 of every 8 species is in trouble!

World Wildlife Federation (WWF) Germany suggested in 2021 that over the next decade, 1 million species could be lost as part of the largest mass extinction since the dinosaurs. 

The culprit?

Human activity.

So if human activity is the culprit, it should be easy to change, right?

Wrong!

It’s hard to get people to even realize the problem let alone make changes to their lifestyle. Change is hard. 

Change is also slow. 

Climate change and subsequent extinction events are slow and often measured on a geological time scale. It’s hard for many people to wrap their heads around something they can’t see happening here and now. Even recovery from a catastrophic extinction event takes a whole lot of time. Estimates from a 2019 University of Texas study clock the time of major extinction event recovery at 10 million years due to what they called an “evolutionary speed limit”. 

Change is slow.

With extinction, it takes time to destroy and it takes time to rebuild. The best path is to avoid going past the point of no return on the cascade toward an extinction event altogether. Some of those one million species traveling down the extinction road don’t have time. They are already in dire straits. They need action.

If you study this month’s STEM Tuesday extinction book list, you will see several cases where a species returned from the brink of extinction with the help of human intervention and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There’s hope for the future of endangered species flowing through those stories. 

But more needs to be done. Steps must be taken to slow down the descent into full-blown Holocene extinction. The next 50 years are vital toward turning the tide and saving as many of those million species on shaky ground as possible. 

Let’s do this, people!

Every positive change is a win in the long run.

The endangered black-bellied tern. Kandukuru Nagarjun from Bangalore, India, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal-opportunity sports enthusiast, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training-related topics at  www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at  www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101, are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64 and on Instagram at @mikehays64.

 


The O.O.L.F Files

This month’s version of the O.O.L.F.(Out of Left Field) Files explores some of the positive and negative news on extinction.

The Extinction of birds

Reproducing coral in the lab for reef restoration

Evolution imposes ‘speed limit’ on recovery after mass extinctions

PBS’s The Green Planet

The Cornell Ornithology Lab

 


STEM Tuesday– Extinction– In the Classroom


Extinction is a tough theme. I struggled with my emotions a bit as I read through books from this month’s list. All the books I read balanced the threat of extinction with hope for staving it off. This included providing actions individuals can take to make a difference to species threatened with extinction. More on that below. First, here are the books I read. All were exceptionally well done and worth the read.

Tree reaching into the sky.

Champion, The Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree
by Sally M Walker

I married a guy who loves trees, so it’s no surprise that this book caught my eye. Plants and trees often seem forgotten when discussions of endangered or extinct species arise. This book covers the importance of the American Chestnut in American history and culture and how it was almost wiped out. Then it looks at the different ways scientists are trying to save this tree from extinction.

 

A lone giraffe walking across a desert with blue sky and shadowy mountains in the background.

Giraffe Extinction: Using Science & Tech To Save the Gentle Giants
by Tanya Anderson

My sister loves giraffes, so of course I had to read this book. I learned so much about giraffes that I didn’t know! This book also includes great descriptions about things like the IUCN Red List and taxonomy.

 

 

Yellow bird with mouth open.

Large, fuzzy beeWhere Have All the Birds Gone? And Where Have All the Bees Gone?
by Rebecca E. Hirsch

I love birding and am a Scouts BSA Bird Study merit badge counselor. I’ve also been rewilding my yard, repopulating it with native plants. Some of my favorite visitors are the different types of bumblebees that visit our native wildflowers. Given that, this duo of books from Rebecca Hirsch were must-reads for me. They gave me a greater understanding of what’s driving bird and bumblebee species to the edge of extinction, along with things I can do to help bring them back from that edge (some of which I was already doing, like planting native plants).

 

Learn Some Terminology

When you learn about threatened and endangered species, you hear lots of new terms related to them. And that’s in addition to the levels used in the IUCN Red List. Now would be a great time to find out what the following terms mean and how they relate to extinction.

Terms to explore: extant, extirpated, extinct, invasive, naturalized.

(Hopefully I didn’t forget any big ones.)

Explore Your Local Area

Endangered and threatened species classification is done on many levels. Explore what species are threatened or endangered in your neck of the woods. Have each student pick one to explore further.

What is its natural habitat? Why is the species threatened? How many are still in existence in the wild? What is being done to protect the species?

Have students educate each other about what they’ve found. Then have them pool their information in the following activity.

[If you’re having trouble finding this information, start with your local parks, Fish & Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, or conservation organizations.
Some New Jersey resources are:
NJ Fish & Wildlife (Department of Environmental Protection) – https://dep.nj.gov/njfw/wildlife;
Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey – http://www.conservewildlifenj.org;
the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service NJ Field Office – https://www.fws.gov/office/new-jersey-ecological-services/species.]

Graph It Out!

If you read about multiple species, you’ll notice repetition among the things that are driving them towards extinction. It’s not just one thing, either. Usually, there are multiple factors working together to drive species to die out.

Have each student research a different threatened or endangered species (or even one that has gone extinct). Find out what factors are/were negatively impacting the species.

Combine all the collected information into a graph or chart to show the most common factors driving species to extinction. Is it habitat loss, fragmentation, pesticide use, or something else?

What would be the best way to illustrate this? A bar graph? A pie chart? Something else?

Take Action

Once you’ve learned about lots of species needing help in your area, you’ll probably be a little depressed and/or scared. The best thing to do is to take some action that will make a difference to those threatened species. Look for ideas in the books on the booklist or in the other resources you’ve accessed.

A few ideas include:
Stop pesticide use on lawns and fields. This could include lobbying your local school board or town/county/city council.
Create a native plant garden or pocket meadow. (If you search the internet, you will find lots of resources to help.) There are lots of local Native Plant Society chapters that could help with this.
Participate in a Community Science program to help collect data on species – see the June 2022 post to help with this.

Bonus Read

I recently read a fabulous photo essay about seabeach amaranth, a plant species that made an amazing reappearance on the New Jersey coastline. Check it out here: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/8ef3760b8f46470b91847762f10437af

Woman with short hair and sunglasses, sitting on the ground cutting long brown reeds.

Janet sometimes helps out with conservation projects – here she’s helping cut reeds to stock an insect hotel.

Janet Slingerland is the author of over 20 books for young readers. In her spare time, you can often find her out in her yard, creating habitat for plants and animals. Learn more about Janet and her books at janetsbooks.com.

Be a Citizen Scientist and help NASA GLOBE Measure Trees!!

NASA GLOBE Tree Challenge logo

Calling all teachers, parents, homeschoolers– here is a way to help the environment!

 

Have you ever looked up at a tree and wondered just exactly how tall it really is?  How did it grow that high? And does the height of the tree really affect the environment? YES!

 

Tree height can help scientists determine not how healthy the environment is but also let them know how much carbon is being pulled out of the atmosphere.

 

Sounds, cool, doesn’t it?

 

NASA GLOBE  (Global Learning and Observations to benefit the Environment)
is a program that encompasses many different parts of the environment. , NASA looks for help from the public
to gather data across the Earth and then compares it with data that it gathers from satellites in space.

 

There is a GLOBE Clouds program where you can identify clouds  Clouds

 

    and a podcast for that
Cloud Watching podcast image

 

and also a GLOBE TREES program  

 

NASA GLOBE Trees needs  YOU! 

 

Join the NASA GLOBE Trees Challenge 2022: “Trees in a Changing Climate” from 11 October through 11 November

NASA GLOBE Trees Challenge 2022

 

From the NASA GLOBE website:

Help us estimate the number of trees that make up your area and contribute to tree and climate science by sharing your observations of trees.

 

How to participate:

  1. Download the GLOBE Observer app and register an account.
  2. Estimate heights of trees around you using the Trees tool.* (Remember to always be safe and follow local guidelines when observing.)
  3. Optionally, use a tape measure to add data about tree circumference to your observations.
  4. Comment in the field notes about any changes you know have occurred in the area you took the tree heights, and if the trees appear healthy, unhealthy, or dead.

 

 

To learn more about the program and hear from Brian Campbell, NASA Senior Earth Science Outreach Specialist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight  Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, USA, take a listen to the podcast below. Brian is also the Trees Around the GLOBE Student Research Campaign Lead and the Trees Science Lead for the NASA GLOBE Observer citizen science program. Brian works with local to international students, educators, citizen scientists, and researchers in over 100 countries.

 

To hear the podcast, just click on the image:

 

Once you upload your tree data you can see if NASA has captured a picture of your tree from their satellite in space! You can compare the information from both sources and see how accurate the satellite data is.

The challenge runs from October 11th to November 11th, 2022. So get your apps ready and go out and MEASURE SOME TREES!!

 

This is a great challenge for teachers, classrooms, kids, families, parents, and grandparents. Let’s get TONS of data for NASA GLOBE. Then we can help figure out how healthy our planet really is.

Trees