Our Dying Oceans.

@Mission Blue

After hearing a lecture in class regarding fisheries, I remembered seeing a documentary that could be interesting on Netflix. It seems that Netflix is full of great documentaries those days. Anyways, I decided to watch this documentary called Mission Blue. It was a documentary following Dr. Sylvia Alice Earle who is the world’s foremost oceanographer as she is today. She has aged but she is still going strong in her mission to save the ocean from diminishing due to overfishing, pollution, and other threats. In her own words, Dr. Earle said that “if we fail to take care of the ocean, nothing else matters.”

This was a moving documentary and visually beautiful. It discusses some of her past as she grew up in the oceans off the coasts of Florida. She has seen the destruction all over the ocean especially Gulf of Mexico in all of its stages due to humans taking over the land and modernizing it. For example, all the chemicals farmers use seeps into the Mississippi River which spills out into the ocean causing dead zones. Dr. Earle has seen the ocean in all its thriving and abundance days. As the oceans are dying, so is she.

She approaches all of the issues destroying our oceans and the life beneath the surface. The fact that she was there for most of the advancements in marine biology history including being the first person to reach one thousand feet in a manmade submerging suit. I have learned a few interesting facts that I never knew since I am not exposed to oceanic issues that are plaguing our oceans. I learned that sharks are harvested just for their fins and  then thrown back into the ocean. Just the fins and imagine what that shark is experiencing during this then thrown back into the ocean to drown since they can not swim. Imagine a human thought process through all this if a human actually suffered this fate. I also leaned that corals in the world are down fifty percent compared to roughly fifty years ago. Fish oils actually comes from the plants that fish eat, not the fish themselves.

I enjoyed this documentary very much because it took me back to my youth where I had an interest in marine biology and its oceans. I can not imagine how Sylvia felt seeing those corals die first hand. She has seen corals and the ocean in its majestic days and to go back there to swim amongst what is now dead must be depressing. Dr. Earle has started a project called Hope Spots which aims to make sections of oceans protected just like our National Parks. It has been a great success so far. I would like to thank her for everything she has done. I can only hope to help the ocean in some way one day.

The Evil GMO Empire

   

     We had a special guest who stopped by our Biodiversity class who owned her own organic popcorn business. One of the biggest question I had from her presentation regarded GMO’s and what they were. My curiosity led me to a documentary I found on Netflix called GMO OMG. The title alone pulled me in. I thought it was a clever title. First, I want to say that most documentaries might be biased or skewed but with your own research further into this matter will absolve whatever is the truth. Anyways, it follows the director, Jeremy Seifert on his journey to learn exactly what GMO is and what it entails. His interest in this matter seams from having his own children and what goes into their bodies as well as how much of the population is clueless when it comes to GMOs.

GMO stands for genetically modified organisms which has seeped into nearly everything we eat today. We are eating GMOs on a daily basis unaware of its potential results down the road. That is a scary thing. World Health Organization’s definition of GMO are organisms in which the DNA has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. There are two types of GMOs, pesticide producers and herbicide resisters. An example of a pesticide producer is Monsanto’s own BT corn that kills insects on its own. This was shocking to me. I can not even start to imagine a corn being able to release toxins to kill insects and yet we eat it. It is legally labeled as a pesticide on paper!!!! There was an uprising against Monsanto in Haiti where they value nature more than anything has opened up the issue of GMOs and altered seeds to the mainstream. It was brought to attention that Monsanto values money over the quality of food we eat.

There was a segment during the documentary which was unnerving. It showed all the popular food store chains and fast food chains that served products with GMO in them. It was to show that GMOs are everywhere. We have been infected with very contagious modified foods under our noses. Even those labeled all natural have GMOs in them. It is safe to assume that ninety percent of our crops are GMO crops! That is crazy in its own right. But it does not end there. It also gets inside the meat and dairy we eat since we feed them GMO based feed. It is hard for the good farmers who want organic crops because the GMOs are capable of contaminating other crops through pollination or winds carrying GMO pollens from other farms. If your crop somehow got contaminated with GMO DNA, you are automatically illegally growing GMOs and Monsanto is known for brutally suing farmers while forcing them to buy GMO seeds.

All this started because of the war against insects and weeds which caused them to evolve to overcome the increasing pesticides we were using on the crops. So in turn we are creating even more powerful pesticides on the food we eat. We do not need to be using deadlier or toxic pesticides/herbicides. However there are thirty years of organic farming date that proves that organic seeds yields the same amount of food as GMOs. You see, GMOs were marketed to be self sustaining and yield more food per plant while fixing the starving issues around the world when in reality we do not need it.

A few weeks ago, we discussed the CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder, of bees in the documentary we watched, The Vanishing of the Bees. This is a result of GMOs and the companies behind it through their use of pesticides and herbicides within the plant itself. Many countries such as Norway and Poland have since banned GMOs and several states in the Untied States have successfully lobbied to have all food products with GMOs properly labeled so the public can make the decision themselves to either eat GMO based food or not. At least we are heading into the right direction.

@Ray Seidler

@Ray Seidler

Oh Myakka!

Before this point I had never visited Myakka State park. I always heard people talking about it and saying how there was so much stuff to do there. So when the class had to go on a trip there I was pretty excited, and man I wasn’t disappointed in the least! The park was beautiful, and there were animals almost at every glance. The friends that I rode with were pretty excited as well, especially since one of them was so pumped to see an alligator! We ended up driving a little bit off course, but low and behold we were able to see not one, but three alligators! Tyler was beyond excited and I’m not gonna lie those things were massive. It amazes me that an animal of that size and caliber lives in such a symbiotic environment.

The park had so much more to offer besides animals. It had wonderful trails for hiking, biking, and sight seeing. I’m really glad that the whole class got to walk a forest trail together! It was nice to see what other people were looking at for a change. It helps people talk and get to know each other, which I think is awesome. Throughout the rest of the trip we were able to see deer, wild hogs, and many different types of birds. We also got to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in a long time. The was that sun lit up the sky gave the whole land a shades of orange, pink, and red. To me that was the most fulfilling part of the entire trip. The reason I say this is because I enjoy seeing something so beautiful with friends, it creates a special moment that you will can cherish. I loved this trip so much I plan to go back myself and to see all of the things that I missed! I’m pretty sure that it will be an amazing adventure!

IMG_2541

IMG_2550

Photos:Muriel Holloway

Out in the Wild

Going to Myakka State Park was an invigorating experience amongst the stress-ridden end of semester finals and projects. The weather was so cool that you could wear a zipper hoody and shorts comfortably. I met up with the rest of my classmates from biodiversity then we all drove off to our first spot caravan style. At the first spot we saw several adult alligators on the bank basking in the sun. It was a pretty cool sight since it was out in the wild instead of behind a fence at a zoo. Next, we drove up to the second spot which was a trail leading to a canopy. On the trail, I noticed a tree/plant full of small white petals. It looked like a tree that has been snowed on. The weird thing is that there was only two of those plants along the entire trail we travelled on. I did not get a chance to photograph it. It did not occur to me that it was a rare sight until after we had exited the trail. There was a canopy with a neat view overlooking the park. As you climbed the canopy, you could feel it swaying as you got to the top.

After we exited the trail, we headed up to the bird walk. On the way there, I saw a group of four deers foraging a few feet from the road. They did not seem to be fazed by the caravan. Arriving at the bird walk, I noticed that it was a pier built over a very wet and open swamp. It was around six in the evening and there was no bird action to be seen. However we were met by several swarms of itty bits of flying insects that seemed to hover in one spot. I thought it was hilarious watching others cup their noses and mouths. I was raised in Florida and am used to it. A neat treat came in the form of two huge black shadows creeping amongst the tall grasses in the distance. The wild boars were so far that I could only make out their black shapes and the fact it was a moving. I was hoping to see one up close but they tend to be evasive. The bird walk was the last spot of the night and the sun was setting. It was a perfect photo op and I hope you enjoy the picture I took as well.

@Brian Armstrong

@Brian Armstrong

Myakka State Park Trip

Our class trip to Myakka State Park was my first, but definitely not my last. I’ve always wanted to go there, but time constraints from a heavy schedule always got in the way. It was nice to be able to wind down, enjoy nature and get some fresh air. When we first arrived and went into the visitors center, I got to learn a bit about the local birds that I see so often but never really learned the names of. Some of these reside in my apartment complex’s pond, and I see on a daily basis. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, I always found it interesting to have such large birds wandering around, often not even afraid of people. The most we had in PA were buzzards and hawks, none of which you could get up close to. IMG_1915

Climbing to the top of Myakka’s tower was a great experience as well, and you got to see what it might be like from a birds eye view, from just over 75 feet in the air. From there, you could see just how massive the state park really was, and even in the surrounding area you could see the merging of different environments – from swamps to meadows to heavily forested land. Being there for only a few hours, we only got a taste of what resides there. The sun was just beginning to set, and the view was breathtaking.

IMG_1919

IMG_1927

We saw numerous deer, bird life and alligators. Had we not been within a time constraint, I’m sure we would have seen much more. The forests themselves were much different than what I was used to. I never imagined that they would be so sparse in the undergrowth, enough so that someone could easily walk off the path. Back in Pennsylvania, my house was surrounded by forests and fields. The forests there were always very dense – you had to be very delicate when you travelled through them, or the thornbushes and jutting branches would fight back.

Although we didn’t get as much time in the park as I would have liked, I know for sure that I’ll be going back to explore the rest. Hopefully sometime over winter break I can grab my bike and head over for a day to check out all of the trails and sightseeing spots. I look forward to it!

IMG_1929

-Catrina Miccicke

Trip to Myakka

I am glad that I was able to be a student in this class.

We get to learn a lot of interesting things in class. I enjoyed that we were able to explore Myakka all together. I’ve never been there and it was my first time. The scenery was beautiful. The lighting of the sunset made everything beautiful in Myakka. Good thing that I get to see some gators. Last time I saw one was couple years ago. My favorite part has to be the Canopy and getting to the top. You can see everything up there and the birds flying. Sadly, we didn’t get to see many animals and up close but i’m lucky that I was part of the group.

I enjoyed being in this class and this had to be one of the best way yo end the semester.

Thank you!

2011-05-29_myakka_canopy_walk

Reference:

http://aroundsarasota.com/Myakka-River-State-Park/2011-05-29_myakka_canopy_walk

Myakka

IMG_5706

I’ve been to Myakka before, once with family and once with friends. We kayaked in the crocodile filled lake, we hiked around, we climbed to the top of the canopy. On my second trip I even saw some snakes fighting over a dead fish. Each time I’ve gone, I have gotten a little bit more out of the trip, and this time was no exception. I’d never gotten to experience Myakka at sunset, and this was a truly beautiful experience. We traveled like a caravan down a thin, paved road, surrounded by Floridian nature, pink and orange light streaming in through a line of trees. It was a sight that I had never seen before, made possible only by the flatness that is Florida.

IMG_5724

We drove all the way to the end, a parking area circle, and walked out on this manmade wooden structure suspended over the water. The air was thick with tiny flies, and all around us for miles was wetland, and then trees, and some pigs way out “over there”. The sky was pink and you could see for miles. If you looked at the clouds the right way, you could almost tell how far away they were.

The drive back on Fruitville was a change, too. It was a small, two-lane road. I felt like I could have been anywhere at that time. It was a healthy change of scenery from the standard Ringling fare and even to get out of Sarasota was very refreshing. I felt like I returned with a better state of mind.

Myakka

I have been to Myakka quite a few times but I never get tired of it. I’m glad we were able to explore a small part of it for class. I usually go in the morning and havent been there in the evening for quite some time, so it was a nice change of scenery.  I love the lighting at sunset, it really compliments Florida’s natural beauty.  It was also exciting to see the gators up on the bank, especially listening to the students who haven’t seen them before.  It’s easy to forget that the things we are used to can be really exciting for others and I love seeing people getting excited about nature and wildlife.  This was a great way to end the semester!

Here are a couple photos I took:IMG_4309 copy

Gators trying to warm themselves in the sun on a chilly evening.

IMG_4320Gorgeous sunset, taken from the bird walk. Didn’t see many birds, but did see some wild pigs on the other bank.

IMG_4321

Sunset flight. 

– Jay

The Bee Problem

As anyone who has seen “Bee Movie” will know, bees’ importance in nature can not be understated. It is tragic for one that CCS exists, but also that the problem has not yet been solved. We all know that bees are one of the most important pollinators, so why is that they are still dying?

Colony Collapse Syndrome’s origins confused scientists and beekeepers for a long time, but are now connecting them to the pesticides and fungicides being used on the crops.  It isn’t clear, though, which chemicals or combination of chemicals is the cause, and they aren’t likely to ban a product without substantial proof that something is quantifiably causing the destruction of bees, especially if that product is currently supporting America’s food production. This is the main case the pesticide industry is making to protect itself, but I doubt that it will hold for long as the problem goes on.

However, as the bee population rate of loss increases, the situation becomes more and more worrying. They aren’t at any dangerously low levels now, but they very well could be. I wish I was more aware of what was going on in the science part of this national problem, but I may never be as informed as I wish I was. I will stay informed, though, and read about how the bees are doing every so often.

For example, nationwide this past winter only 23.2% of beehives collapsed. This may seem like a lot, but it’s the lowest since a peak of 35% in 2007-08. However, this fact kind of hides some devastating losses, like Ohio’s 50-80% loss of beehives, and Pennsylvania’s 50%. The good news is, though, that people are working on it, and they are very smart people. And there are very determined beekeepers who do a good job at recovering from the winter losses. I have confidence that the bee problem will be fixed.

Still a Mystery

In the documentary, “Vanishing of the Bees” they talked about the huge decreasing of bees in several countries including Taiwan. As an international student who had lived in Taiwan for most of my time, I did a further research on it.

Since April of 2007, millions of bees were reported to be ‘disappeared’ for unknown reasons. Just like around the world, crops that grow from the help from the bees wroth $50 billion NT (US $1.7 billion) of money in Taiwan, but with the bees disappearing, large percentage of crops would be destroyed. Yang En-cheng, an entomology professor at National Taiwan University said that “[he] bees in Taiwan are starting to come under pressure from pesticide, and specifically neonicotinoid overuse, but the government officials are arguing that there are no direct evidence supporting the contention.”

The number of bee hives and the production of honeys has been risen by several percentage in 2011 and right now, the disappearance of the bees aren’t a huge issue in Taiwan. However it seems like they haven’t really found a reason why bees disappeared so suddenly back then and people, especially beekeepers and farmers strongly fears that the situation might get worse.

However, there is one possibility why the bees has either vanished or died and that is climate change. Since 2007 till now, climate change in Taiwan has been very clear. There were forming more typhoons than usual, earthquakes, and the weathers each seasons were beginning to change a bit each year.

Climate change is only possibility and the a clear reason is still unknown. People are still searching for the reason why the bees had suddenly vanished in Taiwan. Many other countries seem to still have the same issue. I just hope there to be a reason that we can fix since no bees basically can mean ‘danger’ in human nature as well.