Monday, April 29, 2013

Final Model

In finally coming to terms with my project; here's the plan.

Although I still am waiting for data (which probably won't come), I have completed my model and paper assuming that what I predict will be true. This means I assumed that distance to tree plantings has a large influence on oyster bed populations. At this point, I feel pretty good about my paper. It's written in its entirety, and just needs some final tweaking before I call it quits. About ten pages long, it goes in depth with background on the Chesapeake Bay, specifics with Dinamica, and avenues of future research on this subject.

The bad thing is I'm not sure if I follow all of the guidelines. The sections outlined by Prof G on her Storify site don't completely match up with what I wrote. I read the guidelines originally, thought for a long time about what I wanted to write, then came back and wrote each of the sections. I sometimes find that thinking about something without looking at it or pushing it is often when I find my best ideas. That way, all I have left to do is just finding the time to sit down and physically write out my ideas coherently. Anyway, looking back at what should be in each section and rereading what I wrote; the two things don't exactly match up. Thus, that will be this evenings activity: reorganizing and rewriting parts of my paper, essentially editing. With that said, I do feel as though the assignment is somewhat loose, and that I satisfy all of the requirements. Hopefully all of this effort is worth it!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

That final model

My final project took a 180 degree turn. I have completely changed topics: from jellyfish population movements and climate change to analyzing the effects of riparian tree plantings on oyster bed populations within the Chesapeake Bay.

I could find little to no free data on jellyfish populations which was the deciding factor. Now I'm hopefully working with data from the Maryland iMap website. I say hopefully because the data isn't for certain yet. While I can easily view the data and maps in ArcCatalog; I can't get the files converted over into ArcMap or a shapefile to be used in Dinamica EGO. I sent an email to the head lady in charge, Erin Silva, who has all of the datasets. Unfortunately, she's out of the office until Monday, April 29th, so I won't hear back from her until then. Assuming she gives me the data without any problems, I will be processing the data in my model on Monday or Tuesday.

In the meantime, I will formulate my model in Dinamica and write the backbone of my final paper. That way, the last thing I will have to do with the data is just input the maps in the model and run the model. I should be able to take snap shots and include these in my paper and will type in specifics to the results/discussion/conclusion sections. I'm hoping that this leads to a full, final project.

Fingers crossed that it all works out!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Not a jelly

Jellyfish seem like pretty simple creatures, and they are, relatively. In my zoology class in high school, I remember learning about them not long after sea sponges, which are the most basic organisms. Specifically, I wanted to focus this post on the Portuguese Man-of-war. I thought that it was a jellyfish, but brief research shows that it isn't actually a jellyfish, it's a siphonophore, which means that it's a colonial organism - it's composed of individuals called zooids. The zooids are highly specialized, and dependent on each other.

The name, man-of-war, comes from the fact that the creature floats on the surface of the ocean because a large portion of it is filled with air, so it looks like a ship. It has no means of propulsion, so it's moved by tides and winds and just floats along the surface. The man of war can deflate its pneumatophore in order to briefly submerge underwater if need be. The long stinging tentacles are darkly colored blue and purple and are used to sting and kill small fish and shrimp. Detached tentacles and dead specimens washed up on beaches can sting just as painfully as the live organisms and can remain potent for hours or days after separation from the other parts. The stings are painful and very unpleasant; I have firsthand experience.

This is interesting; the blanket octopus carries around broken man of war tentacles for defense and offense. That would be a cool avenue of research. I wondered what ate the man of war, and apparently it's a regular part of the loggerhead turtle diet. There's a sea slug and a snail that both also consume the Portuguese man of war.

All of this information was courtesy of Wikipedia: Portuegese Man of War.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Uranium mining or invasives?

For another one of my classes, Ecological Risk Assessment, I had to read a 40 page scientific paper on an ecological risk assessment looking to quantify the risks posed to a watershed in the Northern section of Australia. There were two different types of risk, the ones posed by mining just upriver of the site, and the ones posed by the landscape. The mining operation was an example of point source pollution, whereas the diffuse landscape effects were an example of non point source contamination.

The risk due to mining was quantified by looking at the Uranium, Manganese, and two other chemicals frequently found dispersing from mines that greatly affect the environment and water quality. The overall risk from this chemical contamination was summed up and compared to the risk from the landscape.

The landscape was composed of the damage from feral pigs, fire, invasive species, and the effect of water rising due to climate change. Invasive species, specifically para grass, was shown to pose the greatest risk to the watershed as a whole, followed by fire and feral pigs. The water rising due to climate change did not seem to be a particularly effective aspect to measure and predict for a few reasons: climate change modelling is not overly accurate looking 100 years into the future, and in this situation, the rest of the landscape was assumed to stay the same, with only the water quantity and salinity increasing over time. These reasons were explained in the paper.

In brief, the conclusions of the study were that the diffuse landscape level damage posed a greater risk to the watershed than uranium mining did. Wait... really? Yes, according to this ERA paper. The paper aroused many unanswered questions about the mine. Was it privately owned or government owned? When does management change hands and how will that change the effects of the mining operation? When will the mine close? Why were only those four chemicals analyzed, yet the larger landscape effects of the land and the longer term effects of the mine were not included?

My discussion section picked apart the article chosen by the professor, to some extent with his blessing. Not surprisingly, I turned out to be one of the few (if not the only one) who read the entirety of the 40 pages.  I contributed a decent amount to the discussion, and as a follow up of sorts decided to make my blog post about the paper. A couple hours or so of my time were devoted to reading and thinking about this paper, so I figured I might as well continue down that road and make this about it too.

I am not sure if this link to the paper will work or not, but here it is: Bayliss et al 2012

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Class Stress

Class registration for Fall 2013 opens next week. I'm looking forward to my first 12 credit semester at UVM. I'm taking two freshman level classes and two graduate level classes. My course list currently seems to be: Food and World Population (CDAE 002), Biological Invasions (PBIO 295), Intro to Jazz History (MU 005), and Wildlife Behavior (WFB 275). Each class satisfies a requirement for me - the first class satisfies a CALS Core requirement, the second one fits for my plant biology minor, the third class works for a D1, and the last fulfills the last credits for my concentration. All of my classes will be done before noon, with one class on Fridays. This would leave a large amount of time for an internship, a job, or both. Hopefully whatever I end up doing or working on this summer will continue into the fall semester and provide a paid job post graduation. I'm meeting with my adviser on Friday to discuss my courses, and make sure that I'm set to graduate. I need to send an email to the professor of my Biological Invasions to get permissions to take the class. I'm pretty excited about my schedule; all of my classes seem interesting and I'm looking forward to living downtown next year with my friends.

Friday, March 29, 2013


I was just scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, before starting on this blog post. I just had a realization; that Facebook is similar to the pieces, processes and patterns in ecosystems and the environment. Individual people or pages for organizations and such are the pieces. The processes are methods with which we can interact with each other - a poke, wall post, private message, or group message - and the patterns are the continuous ways in which we interact with the same people. For example, if there's one friend that you always post comments on their wall versus someone else where you share memes in private messages.

In addition to that rather basic connection between the two systems, I was considering how interesting it is when you look at someone you're friends with or accept the friend request of someone, and then examine the mutual friends you two have. It's crazy when you find someone who knows the same people as you do, but you didn't know that they knew each other. It gets weird when it's a mixed bag of people that you both know because then you get to wondering how the other people met, how they know each other and how well, etc. Maybe this makes me sound a little bit creepy, but I think it's a natural reaction to have; I'm just curious. I like understanding how and why things work or go together, and that's especially true with people.

All of these ideas can be linked back to ecology though. I think we don't fully understand the processes or pieces or even have note of the species in an ecosystem. They have so many interactions that we probably have no idea about at all, which complicates restoration, or even basic understanding of our role and effect on the environment. So crazy, but still so true.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jellyfish or syrup?

The two project ideas that I threw out when we discussed possibilities in class were jellyfish and maple tree movement.

Both of these ideas are only in the formulation phase; I haven't solidified anything. For jellyfish, I would need data on current jellyfish locations and the habitats that jellyfish would need - perhaps certain water depths, presence of jellyfish prey, and water temperature. These limits would be set on the initial map, which hopefully would be a time step map from like 1980 to 2000, which could then be used to progress jellyfish progress into the future according to climate change. I predict that climate change will have a large impact on aquatic organisms in general, as temperature of water is a determining factor for survival. In terms of jellyfish, I think the temperature of the water will decide how far and to what extent they spread. Jellyfish succeed in warmer temperatures, and invasive and nuisance species like the Portuguese Man of War (shown below) will extend their range to waters further north.

Picture source:

The second idea was to examine the movement of maple tree species further north, again an effect of climate change. In order to produce maple syrup, maple trees need freezing nights and warm days in order for the sap to flow and be collected. The problem with this idea is that Vermont is seeing fewer of these days compared to the past; the land and climate further north will be more suitable for harvest and production of maple syrup. Thus, I was curious to explore the economic effects of this shift in maple syrup production as climate change occurs.