Friday, December 12, 2014

Bog Gardens Create Unique Biodiversity

The naturally occurring bogs in the southeastern United States are the 2nd most bio-diverse habitats in nature, falling short only to rain forests. What makes bogs different than swamps, ponds, marshes, and other wetlands is that bogs are wet meadows or depressions with a layer of peat moss as part of the bottom layer.

Cedar Bog in Ohio
Bog gardeners are picking up popularity (along with peat moss and sand) in an attempt to add a pick-up of vibrant, diverse lifeforms in their landscapes. Certain insects are only attracted to the unique plants specific to bogs and nowhere else which causes a different variety of birds to come to bogs. Carnivorous plants also favor bogs, and children love carnivorous plants. Less that 10% of the pitcher plant bogs that once occurred in the Southeast are still remaining. Wildlife that wouldn't normally appear in dried places appear in bogs: dragonflies, turtles, and tadpoles. 

Other people don't intend to build a bog garden but end up with one when they're running water through the ground and need a natural filter. Plants use the waste broken down in a bog as fertilizer, this results in water that is more clear along with healthy fish and vigorous plants. 

Soil for a new bog consists of 80 percent peat moss and 20 percent sand. Good spots should have a sun exposure. Bogs should be at least one foot deep so plant roots can develop. Place a plastic pond liner on the bottom and punch holes in it for water drainage. A balance must be maintained between over-watering and letting the bog dry out else the water becomes stagnant and mosquitoes will breed in it.

by Kyle H.


DNA Barcoding Helps Researchers Understand Marine Mammal Stranding

DNA barcoding is a taxonomic method that uses a short genetic marker in an organism's DNA to identify it as belonging to a particular species.

Before the advent of DNA barcoding researchers had to rely solely on these morphological measurements (size, shape, and/or color of specific body parts) to identify a species. Degraded specimens could not be identified. It was not until 2003 that Paul Hebert proposed DNA barcoding as a way to identify animals without using measurements.

The concept of DNA barcoding is similar to how barcodes are used in a store. Unidentifiable by the untrained eye, barcodes tell the cashier what the product is. This is similar to DNA barcoding except the store is the entire world and the amount of barcoded animals, plants, and fungi contained within the world are over 200,000.

However, with any information repository, obtaining the information itself is only a small part of the story. What makes this information useful is how people are able to use it and apply it in the world.

Researchers in France are monitoring biodiversity by using DNA barcoding to identify deceased stranded marine mammals which are too decomposed or rare to be identified by conventional means such as morphological measurements (see below). The majority of stranded mammals these researchers look at are still composed enough to be identified, but DNA barcoding comes into play for the 17% that cannot be identified. They hope that with the data they are gathering can help prevent additional marine mammals from dying because of becoming stranded.

by Kyle H.


Report Invasive Species on Your Smartphone

The biggest threat to any region's biodiversity is invasive species from other areas taking over. In order to make eradication of an invasive species financially possible for government run organizations, early detection is a necessity. Thanks to the EDDMapS West app it can be easily accomplished on any Android or Apple mobile device with cellular or wifi.

Any non-native species that cause damage to biodiversity are considered to be invasive. Also known as intrusive species, they are introduced accidentally in packing material, as crop contaminants, in shipping containers, or in cargo holds of ships. Many invasive plants have actually been brought here deliberately. Examples of deliberate introduction of intrusive species include non-native pets becoming wildlife such as people who brought raccoons into Scotland. Up to 98% of agricultural plants are non-native, although they are not considered invasive when contained in a farm.

Users with the EDDMaps West app (screenshot above) installed on their phone can report invasive plants and insects such as the red imported fire ant.

EDDMaps is a system which allows land owners/managers, universities, recreationalists, agency personnel, and concerned citizens to take photos of invasive species and report them to their state's relevant government agency. The report submitted from the user includes location information taken from the device's GPS and does not require any technical or GIS experience to use. In Oregon the information is processed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. After receiving the report, the state agency verifies that the information is legitimate. 

by Kyle H.

Information from:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Palm Oil

Palm Oil is in many things we consume daily. It is an ingredient in our soaps and shampoos. It removes dirt and oils as well as moisturize our hands and hair. Palm oil is used in our pizzas to make the dough malleable. Palm oil is also in our chocolates and ice creams. It adds sheen and a creamy texture, respectively. Because of it’s sweet taste and solid structure at room temperature, it is also an ingredient in cosmetics such as lipsticks. As well as a solid contributor to biofuel.
Though palm oil is in most of our everyday items, ( ) palm oil production is a leading contributor of deforestation. Deforestation is culmination of many actions. Deforestation occurs when farmers cut trees down for agricultural needs. Such as plant production or grazing fields for their livestock. Deforestation also occurs when trees are cut down for wood production. The results of deforestation are; lack of nutrients in soil (moist soil originally shaded by trees becomes dry from exposure to the sun), dramatic fluctuations in temperature (tree canopies keep the areas below them cool during the day and also trap in heat during the night), a significant loss of water vapor in the atmosphere (which can lead to deserts) and specific to Malaysia the extinction of orangutans. (
These all seem like they are incredibly detrimental to the environment. However, think about this, in 1957 the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) gave out 10 acres of land (with a 20 year payback plan) to the impoverished people of Malaysia with the hopes that they (Felda) could eradicate poverty if people used those 10 acres to produce palm oil or rubber. Two years later the worlds rubber stock falls, people were then encouraged to plant oil palms. In 2008, eighty-four percent of Felda’s landbank was Oil palm production. Currently Malaysia contributes 39 percent of world palm oil production and 44 percent of world palm oil exports. (
This brings me to my final point and a thought for you to think about. If we choose to stop using products with palm oil in them we stop the need for deforestation. Which is good for the environment. However, sixteen percent of Malaysians are farmers (rice, banana, and rubber, among other crops). And twenty-four percent of their land is dedicated to agriculture. If we stop consuming palm oil products we eliminate what Felda set out to do, which was to end poverty. Aside from stopping use of palm oil and ending jobs, is there another way to stop it’s deforestation and keep those farmers employed?

Authored by Brian Dodson


In Vitro Meat

In vitro meat is animal meat created without the farming techniques practiced currently by industrialized animal farms. No pens, no dirt, no disease. The idea is to create a meat product that will benefit both animals and the growing human population. While also greatly reducing the greenhouse gases and water consumption currently generated by modern meat farms. However, the question on most minds is, ‘How does it taste?’
Not terrible. In a quote from two of the persons (one a culinary author and the other a nutritional scientist) invited to taste the first in-vitro burger, it “almost” tasted like a conventional burger. Hanni Rutzler, a nutritional scientist said “It’s close to meat, but it’s not as juicy” and added “I would have said if it was disgusting.”(Lab-grown beef…)
This is meat generated in a petri dish, cultured meat is what is meant by the term in vitro meat. In order to reach it’s final product the in vitro meat starts as stem cells from the meat it is intended to mimic. Currently, scientists are trying to find ways to grow the meat with an edible scaffold, made of chitosan or collagen, from non-animal sources. The scaffold will “simulate the stretching that muscle cells undergo as a living creature moves around it is highly desirable to develop a scaffold that could periodically shift its form thus “exercising” the cells.’ ( This, along with a Bioreactor environment (which fluctuates both temperature and ph levels) would generate fat tissue thus resulting in a more familiar taste.
Taste aside, the benefits of lab grown meat are overwhelmingly positive.
“An independent study found that lab-grown beef uses 45% less energy than the average global representative figure for farming cattle. It also produces 96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires 99% less land.”
-World’s first lab grown burger is eaten in London
A more commercially accessible in vitro meat is still in production. So we won’t be seeing any lab meat in the grocery store as of yet, but with all the benefits  lab grown meat can provide the world, we could hopefully end the current commercial animal farms.

Authored by Brian Dodson

Cane Toads

Recently I came across a documentary called, CANE TOADS: THE CONQUEST.  The Cane Toad, a native species to Central & South America, eliminated the pest problem occurring within the burgeoning Central American and Hawaiian sugar cane farmers in the late 1930’s. At this time Australia, trying to take advantage of a natural resource, was too vying for a sugar cane export. But before they could make real profits they had to remove a major pest, cane beetles. Cane beetle larvae burrow under the roots of the sugar cane and, because of the beetles natural tendency to eat the sugar cane’s roots, render the plant useless, the beetle had to be eliminated. Naturally, of course. (Cane Toad: The Conquest)
Hawaiian sugar cane farmers introduced the cane toads, a native species to Central and South America, to eliminate scarab beetles Hawaii's scarab beetle problem. Cane toads appeared to be a reputable natural solution for Hawaiian farmers so, Australian scientists thought they could do the same in Queensland. Australian scientists were looking for a biological alternative to pesticide. Because a pesticide would eradicate several thousand species of helpful insects, among other native animals of Queensland, Australia, scientists moved forward with their decision to introduce cane toads.(
The cane toad did not stay long in the sugar cane fields. There was not enough to eat. The grub they were suppose to eliminate was buried underground, out of reach from the cane toads. As well as large gaps between canes made the toads easy targets or the many hundreds of predatory birds in Australia. The cane toad moved on from the cane fields and, since it’s introduction in 1935, began it’s journey into the northern part of Australia. Given the cane toads ability to mate and lay eggs (nearly 25,000) at a multitude of environmental conditions, the toad has overwhelmed the native population of reptiles (and other native species which reproduce at dramatically slower rates). Of which the reptiles numbers have seen a significant decline. In 1935 the cane toads were 2011 the cane toad population was estimated at over 2 billion. (
Of course, times have changed and our scientists do not introduce new species to environments because of the unknown and possible detrimental effects on the set environment. As of now scientists are introducing genetically modified plants to our environment. One strategy for pest control, being experimented with now is   
“Blocking digestive enzymes: some plants defend themselves by producing active agents that block the digestive enzymes used by their predators. Such defense proteins effectively starve herbivorous insects.”
To me, it is helpful to know GMO’s can be used to eliminate pests before they  become a problem to our food supply.

Authored by Brian Dodson
Cane Toad: The Conquest (Documentary)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Climate change

Author: Woo-Lim Ko

Global warming! We hear about it all the time and it's becoming a big issue around the world. What exactly is global warming and what can we do about it? Global warming means that the carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants are gathering in the atmosphere like a blanket, they trap the sun's heat and causes the planet to warm up (NRDC). Climate change has consequences to our health, some of these consequences can be the significant increases in the risk of illness and death related to extreme heat waves. Some diseases that are transmitted by water, food, and insects are likely to increase. Also, certain groups like children, the elderly, and the poor are most vulnerable to a range of climate related health effects. So as you can see, climate change is very important and there are changes we must provoke in order to reduce the effects of global warming.

Some solutions to this can be to lessen the pollution or use green energy. There have been a lot of different ways that people have tried to reduce the cause of pollution, one of the biggest being energy cars. The government even offers tax benefits for those who purchase these vehicles as a way to promote the use of these environmentally friendly cars. You too can help by purchasing these cars!

Plants that Remove Air Pollutants

As a result of reduced (or nonexistant as is the case in many people's living quarters) plant biodiversity some people are breathing in nasty pollutants that can cause an array of diseases. Fortunately, there are plants which can remove these harmful chemicals from the air.

At the top is an image of the Gerbera Daisy which reduces levels of benzene (a dry cleaning solvent that has been linked to anemia and may reduce the functionality of your immune system). It is recommended to put this plant near where you hang freshly dry-cleaned threads.

The Janet Craig shrub reduces levels of TCE (trichloroethylene) in the air. This chemical has been linked to kidney and liver cancers as well as lymphoma. Although it is uncommon-place for this chemical to be in the air it is in many paints and can escape into the air if you shower with TCE-tained water. Of course, if you're bathing in TCE water that might be a bigger concern than breathing in the resulting steam.

Golden Pothos Epipremnum aureum is a plant which has been shown to take ozone (a respiratory irritant in auto exhaust) out of the air. Ozone is a chemical which damages biodiversity and makes trees more susceptible to diseases as well as causing issues for animals including humans.

by Kyle H.

Information from:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What about the bees?

Author: Woo-Lim Ko

If there's anything that we know about bee's, it's that they can be pretty frightening little creatures. Anytime one happens to linger into your car or your home, the first instinct might be to kill it. I know that if it were my choice, I'd definitely be okay without having anymore bee's around to potentially hurt me, but after learning about bee's and how important they are to our environment- I have a different outlook on them.

How important are bee's exactly? If we didn't have bee's, this is what it would look like

(Photo credit io9)

Bee's are extremely important to our lives, because we need them in order to produce the fruits and vegetables that we consume. Honeybee's migrate to different regions of the country to pollinate an estimated $40 billion worth of the nation's agricultural produce each year (Globalresearch). This means that more than 130 fruits and vegetables that make up a nutritious diet are cross pollinated by honeybees. The problem is that since bee's can be rather problematic in the daily lives of citizens, we try to get rid of them without thinking of the consequences. According to global research, a study last year found 35 pesticides and funicides in the pollen collected from bees that were used to pollinate food crops in five U.S states. These bees that were in contact with pollen contaminated with fungicides ended up three times more likely to get infected by a parasite closely associated to Colony Collapse Disorder. This is causing bees to die quickly and there are concerns with bee extinction.

It can be a rather tricky problem, like when there are too many bee's flying around your backyard or causing problems for your home, our initial reaction is to just get rid of them. However, we have to think about the importance of bees and how getting rid of them can be dire for our environment. 

Referenced from

Peru's Potato Park

Chloe Jones

Peru's Potato Park

Potato Park is a large agricultural area in the Southern Andes of Peru dedicated to “safe guarding native crops.” ( It is made up of six communities of 6,000+ farmers who use traditional Quechuan agricultural methods combined with more modern science to create a secure food source: potatoes. Park might sound misleading—it is a large cooperative farming community.

OK, to be honest, I haven’t thought much about potatoes. I haven’t really thought about potatoes at all. I grow potatoes in my garden and will spend hours digging for the yellow golden spuds, but still the extent of my THINKING about potatoes only goes so far as to ask myself, baked potatoes or potato soup? Potato salad maybe? Until recently I read the article “Peru’s Indigenous Preserve Biodiversity in Andes Potato Park.”

This article explores how Potato Park maintains genetic diversity among potato strains. It states, “by cultivating a variety of potatoes in small plots, farmers mitigate crop diseases that attack large plantations, thereby securing survival of varieties that re more resistant to disease or bad weather.” ( also cross-pollinate different strains of potatoes to find or create more resistant ones. These methods made me think about the relationship between western farming practices and the loss of genetic biodiversity. While large western agricultural companies, for example Monsanto, rely upon monoculture pesticides to “protect” their crops, there is considerable loss of genetic diversity that leaves crops more vulnerable to pests, disease and climate change. (“Peru Potato Guardians” and The park’s more organic processes to counter climate change protect the crop’s genetic diversity.

Not only does Potato Park protect potatoes (that’s a mouthful!) but it also protects the history, tradition and culture of that area. In a previous blog post I wrote about how the loss of biodiversity affects the loss of world languages and culture. Potato Park is an amazing example of a non-western, non-globalized community that is protecting their history as well as creating food security in the face of even more extreme future climate changes. Reading about the Potato Park made me think about the importance of smaller, local gardening projects in the protection of genetic biodiversity. Large, industrial companies that strive to streamline agriculture also harm and change crop’s genetic biodiversity. Small farms and gardens are both more agriculturally sustainable as well as do less damage to habitat diversity and genetic biodiversity.

Language Loss

Chloe Jones

Loss of Languages Correlated to Loss of Biodiversity

I recently had a pretty self-centered realization. I was thinking about my blog post, reading about current happenings in the online world of biodiversity news, looking for something “interesting” that I wanted to write about. Then I realized that what I care about when it comes to biodiversity is…us. People. I care about how it affects us. I care about how harming biodiversity harms cultural diversity and history. While I strive to communicate the importance of biodiversity to my peers, I realized it is the interconnectedness of the outside world and the worlds we create that is interesting to me.

Then an article by John Vidal caught my eye: “Why We are Losing a World of Languages.” ( I am kind of a language nerd and immediately was wondering about the link between biodiversity and language loss. Vidal writes about a recent study that shows a direct link between disappearing habitats and loss of languages. As the world becomes less natural, that is to say more technologically advanced, more “developed,” more urbanized, biodiversity declines as well as language diversity.

A Penn State article ( states that areas in the world with the most biodiversity are also the most linguistically diverse regions on the planet. Tropical forests compared to tundra or deserts have substantially more linguistic diversity. Vidal uses the example of New Guinea, which is the most linguistically diverse place in the world as well as a highly biologically diverse island.

So why does language loss matter?  From the Penn State article: “The languages we speak define how we think and understand the world.” I had an old language professor tell me that she was a different person when she spoke different languages, that each language she spoke was a different lover. I think a lot of people have that feeling. Languages are not just words, but represent entire cultures, lifestyles, traditions and history. So as massive urbanization and globalization increase, we are losing entire cultures that live alongside biodiversity. 40% of the world speaks at least one of eight languages: Mandarin, Spanish, English, Hindi, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian and Japanese. Of 7,000 languages in the world, half have less than 10,000 speakers. This is the type of biodiversity loss that I understand and that feels really real to me. The disappearance of people’s history, culture is directly related to the loss of biodiversity. Vidal quotes a report in his article—“we are “eroding the differences between one part of the world and another.” Food for thought…

3D Printing and Ecology: Pt 3 - Open Source Ecology Project

3D Printing and Ecology: Pt 3 - Open Source Ecology Project
The sustainability of 3D print manufacturing, demonstrated in the Open Source Ecology Project, founded by Dr. Marcin Jakubowski, is validated in the project and its attempt to create a sustainable economy. The development of the project needed various machines that would aid in the construction and self-sufficiency. The project’s concept was to produce the essential machines via 3D print, in order to have a minimal carbon footprint in constructing and supporting the village. With the aid of “rapid prototyping” Jakubowski is able to produce builds in a third of the time.
            The modular sets used in construction are developed using lifesize LEGO bricks. In 2012, Global Village Construction Set was able to produce machines in one day of production utilizing the Compressed Earth Brick Press. By 2013, OES was able to develop the Microhouse, a livable and viable habitat, using various equipment created by the Global Village Construction Set such as the brick press and soil pulverizer. By 2014, OES is developing a model of manufacturing that will incorporate education and production that reaches a global distributable market.
            In addition to building machines via print, the set includes machines that produce other machines autonomously. It is the goal of Open Source Ecology to be able to have machines that construct others minimizing the needs of conventional mass manufacturing. Furthermore the design of self fabrication introduces low maintenance. With success, the project will be a core for producing, fabricating and constructing paving a road for new civilization.
            For further information about Open Source Ecology Project visit
Adam Morales