Wildlife and the Observer Effect

Wildlife and the Observer Effect

By observing something, you change it. It’s a phenomenon that occurs in all areas of science. We don’t know what’s inside a tree until we cut it down. We can’t observe tiny organisms without disturbing them and putting them under a microscope. We can’t see into the abyss without shining a light into it. Many wild animals are very sensitive to the presence of humans and change their behavior when they know we’re around. So how much do we really know about the lives of tortoises, rhinos, bumblebees, clams, and all the rest?

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Forests: Young and Old

Forests: Young and Old

I’ve touched on the topic of succession in a few of my posts.  Here I will delve a little deeper into the mechanics of an aging plant community. When I began to learn more about forests and trees, I wondered: how it is that an “old” forest has not only bigger and taller trees, but different kinds of trees? Why does a hemlock like to grow in old forests, and a birch like to grow in young ones? 

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Controversial Castor, or, the Re-Introduction of Beavers

Controversial Castor, or, the Re-Introduction of Beavers

The beaver is a great example of a controversial species re-introduction. The two species of rodent, Castor canadensis and Castor fiber, were aggressively hunted for their fur and glands, leading to many local extinctions, but not complete extinction. It has made a great comeback in some places like New Hampshire, and is just now starting to show up in England, bringing about mixed feelings in both cases. 

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The Passenger Pigeon: a modern-day phoenix in the making?

The Passenger Pigeon: a modern-day phoenix in the making?

Like the mythical phoenix, passenger pigeons might soon rise up from the ashes and flourish across the North American sky if a group of scientists are successful in cloning the bird.

I’m not sure if there is any bird with a more awe-inspiring and with a more tragic story than the passenger pigeon. This is a species that went from being the most abundant bird on the planet in the 1800’s to completely extinct in 1914. It’s a little bit mysterious how it all happened, but the extinction was likely due to a combination of over-hunting (for food and recreation) and habitat loss. Some people were so surprised by the decline of the pigeons that they speculated that they had all flown into the Bermuda triangle (I guess we can’t prove it didn’t happen).

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Species Recently Discovered

Species Recently Discovered

I've always been interested in learning about different species across the globe, especially the strange, rare, or newly discovered. New species are interesting to me because they show us that life is profoundly diverse, and our knowledge of it only skims the surface. Each new discovery tells us more about how species are related and how they came to be. We know so much, but we haven’t noticed entire species under our noses, and some of them are quite large.

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