I Don’t Think You’re Ready, For This Jelly

In Sweden, jellyfish populations overwhelmed and clogged a nuclear power plant’s pipes. These pipes turned out to be extremely important as they cool the plant’s turbines, and the nuclear power plant had to shut down. A year before, the same thing happened in California. In less extreme cases, yet still costly, large amounts of jellyfish have clogged fishing nets and damaged fishing gear. All of these jellyfish problems have raised eyebrows, and when scientists looked into jellyfish populations, they found that jellyfish are blooming more often, earlier, more intensely, and staying longer.

Around the world, jellyfish populations are booming. While this may not seem like such a big deal, it is yet another sign of climate change and environmental degradation, one that is costing various industries millions of dollars. In addition, the jellyfish feed on plankton, crustaceans, small fish, and fish eggs, which are all food resources of which larger mammals such as whales rely on. Jellyfish are thriving in places the don’t usually thrive, and this is seen as a sign that oceans around the world are stressed or unhealthy.

Map of population trends of native and invasive species of jellyfish

***Jellyfish population trends. Red indicates an increase with a high degree of certainty, while orange indicates an increase with a low degree of certainty. Blue indicates a decrease. Green represents a stable or variable population. Grey indicates no data.***

In areas where jellyfish populations have boomed causing nuclear power plants to shutdown, scientists have found that the species is causing the damage is the common moon jellyfish. This species of jellyfish thrives in areas of the ocean that have been “overfished or have bad conditions.” Bad conditions refers to anything from toxic chemicals, fertilizers, and too much trash in the oceans. Overfishing leaves lots of open space for the jellyfish to thrive, and when the fish are gone, jellyfish have the chance to dominate the ecosystem. It seems as though we have another case where humans have exploited the environment and caused detrimental effects.

What You Can Do To Help

One of the biggest problems with the booming jellyfish populations is that no monitoring exists to track the jellyfish populations. Data gained from the monitoring is needed for scientists to figure out how to address the issue. Luckily, a website and apps for iPhones and Androids have been created where the public is able to report where jellyfish are blooming. The scientists will use this data to figure out where jellyfish are, how often the blooms are occurring, and for how long. Without the help of the public, this research would be too expensive. With more research occurring, scientists will be able to find and implement ways to curb the jellyfish explosion. If you see jellyfish, report it!

Photo Cred: cbc.ca

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

Advertisements

Encountering Racism Abroad

In Ethiopia the most dominant skin colour is black. Therefore, when I traveled there, naturally my white skin stuck out and I was an easy target for a variety of things.

1. Everyone stared at me
-No matter where I was going or what I was doing my skin was different, and that made me funny/interesting/something new to look at. The picture above shows a market that I was trying to take a picture of, while instead, a couple of friends stopped to stare me down.

2. White skin means I must have money for everyone
-Absolutely every single time I walked out of the hotel I was at some point approached by a stranger and asked to give money for a special cause. Examples of special causes include money for university books, money for food, water, food, or money for practically anything else you can think of.

3. Other white tourists are instantly your best friend
-As you walk down the street other white tourists will smile, nod or wave at you even though you have never met them before. They are also quick to come over and talk about anything that might be on their mind.

4. White means you can be taken advantage of
-I was mugged 4 times in 2 weeks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (luckily I was never harmed probably due to the fact that locals, in general, are fairly nice people and as I was told countless times by locals, stealing is okay, hurting someone is not). In addition, prices seemed to be triple what any local would pay which led to an exceedingly annoying amount of haggling.

Encountering racism abroad is also not just specific to Ethiopia, or Africa even. I was well prepared for these sorts of activities as countless travel guides all describe different racist events that can occur when you choose to travel. People of Asian descent travelling to Asia from North America and being treated differently than white Westerners, African American woman travelling alone through Europe being believed to be prostitutes, African Americans travelling to Africa and still being considered as ‘white’, and once I even traveled with my French teacher to Paris and he wasn’t considered french there because he was from Quebec.

Side Note: This is not always a bad thing as my friend from the Philippines is able to use her Asian looks to fake being foreign and consequently skip airport lines in American airports because the attendant doesn’t want to deal with someone who doesn’t speak English.

Now none of these things, to me at least, were ever that bad. I mean I don’t mind being stared at, talking down prices is not that harmful and I managed to foil all mugging attempts, they were more just annoying. But seeing as there are different levels of harm that are being caused (being thought of as a prostitute does not sound fun), I can see how this can escalate into a problem quickly.

The best advice I can give while travelling is to not fret over these small issues, but rather to be prepared enough to be able to handle it if the situation arises and otherwise, enjoy your travels!

I would just like to make sure that everyone knows that I am never trying to sound racist and if this post comes off as racist in any way please let me know so I can fix it.

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

Santa’s Revenge

Santa's Revenge

Santa’s Revenge is the theory that persistent weather patterns in mid-latitude areas, such as this extraordinarily long, harsh, record breaking snowy, and freezing winter that we are experiencing in Southern Ontario, is a result of climate change warming the Arctic.

The picture above shows me on February 26th, in downtown Toronto beside Lake Ontario braving the -16 degrees Celsius weather mixed with extreme winds to make it feel like negative 1 billion (an exaggeration due to annoyance). In fact, it was so cold that the Great Lakes were more frozen than any other time in the past 35 years (92.2 percent ice coverage).

An article has now been published which gives new evidence to suggest that the link between the Arctic getting warmer, and the mid-latitudes experiencing persistent weather. This theory has been debated time and time again, but the fact is that it has extreme implications for severe weather occurrences, food security, and water use in the northern hemisphere that would have large economic impacts.

Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

-“It’s starting to get harder to say that something isn’t happening”

-“Events like the extended cold spell… are very consistent with the kind of pattern we expect to see related to the Arctic warming so fast.”

-“Potential to drastically affect international food supplies and prices”

-“We produce the bulk of our crops at that mid-latitude area”

Climate change is extremely worrisome. With 7 billion people in the world we cannot afford to experience food security issues as many people will be left without access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. An increase in severe weather occurrences will cause more damages, more serious social disruption and more loss of human life. The economic impacts of climate change will leave many economies around the world in disarray as they try to cope with its negative effects.

“The real question is whether we can adapt and change faster than the climate.”

Photo Cred: Flavia Craciun

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

Apex Predators

One species of animal can greatly influence an entire ecosystem. This cascading effect that can occur can even change the geography of an area, showing the extent of influence an animal can hold in an ecosystem.

A video has recently gone viral which shows how the introduction of wolves into an ecosystem actually changed a river’s path. This video is entitled How Wolves Change Rivers. In this video a man describes how wolves were introduced into Yellowstone National Park in the United States, and, through this reintroduction of a species into an ecosystem, how the wolves led to an increase in vegetation, and the eventual change in course of a river. Although many people are aware that wolves kill other animals, most are unaware that they can give life. Yellowstone Park was overpopulated with deer and these deer had grazed all of the vegetation, leaving bare flat lands. In this case study the wolves ate the dear in the park, which led to less deer, and made the remaining deer avoid the wolf populated areas. These avoided areas then experienced a rapid increase in vegetation growth, creating forests in places which once only held grass. Due to the increase in trees there was an increase in beavers because, well, beavers like trees. These beavers are ecosystem engineers and they in turn built dams which provided shelter for countless other species. The wolves also killed coyotes and this meant that there was an increase in mice, rabbits, hawks, weasels, foxes, badgers, ravens, and bald eagles. Now not only was there a massive increase in species throughout the park, but the river running through the park experienced less erosion, the channels narrowed, and pools formed due to the increase in vegetation and the stabilization of the river banks that this vegetation provided. The river itself changed. This process is known as a tropic cascade.

The concerning issue about this case study is the fact that wolves are only one apex predator in the world: lions in Africa, tigers in Asia. Sharks, bears, and wild dogs are example of species at the top of their particular food chains, stabilizing the ecosystem and species they live and prey on, and influencing the health of plants and animals all the way to the bottom of the tropic ladder.

The truly disturbing part is that a majority of these apex predators are facing a decline in population numbers, potentially endangering the ecosystems where they reside.

This calls for change. It’s time for us, as humans, to change our overall perception of predators. We cannot condone the mass culling of sharks as has recently been approved in Western Australia. Stop the poaching of Tigers in Asia. No more habitat destruction in Sub Saharan Africa that decimates lion populations.

Human/wildlife conflict is going to occur as population growth happens around the world. Humans need to change and start living with wildlife if we want to protect the beautiful, useful, and essential ecosystems around the world.

FYI: The picture is of a river that runs through my cottage a.k.a. The Farm, in Elphin, Ontario

Photo Cred: Anton Holland

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

That’s a-moray!

There are over 200 species of moray eels around the world and for the first time ever a species of moray, the Black Ribbon Moray, has been bred! This is a great step forward in protecting and improving biological diversity throughout our marine ecosystems.

Biodiversity is more and more recognized as essential to human life, but many species are jeopardized by urbanization, habitat destruction, climate change, overexploitation of the world’s fisheries and marine ecosystems, and other human activities. The diversity of life on earth is essential for preserving the basic planetary life support systems humans require every day.  Ecosystem services, or the resources nature provides, like drinking water, crop pollination, nutrient cycling and climate regulation, all rely on biodiversity. Biodiversity is also crucial for sustainable development as all the resources and ecosystem services which nature provides contribute directly to human well-being in multiple ways. As development occurs, biodiversity needs to be monitored and protected as many economic sectors depend on biodiversity, particularly poor and vulnerable people are more severely impacted from a loss of biodiversity and biodiversity can provide solutions to societal challenges. The fact that the world’s poor rely on biological resources for up to 90% of their needs such as food, fuel, medicine, shelter, and transportation illustrates how important biodiversity if for development.

The picture displayed for this post was taken on my scuba diving trip in the Turks and Caicos islands. The diversity of animals I was able to see on my diving trips, including this beautiful fish, will no longer be there if development does not account for loss of biodiversity. The first time breeding of moray eels is a great way for humans to combat the loss of biodiversity occurring around the world and throughout marine environments. Governments around the world need to build on this initiative and integrate biodiversity considerations into their policies and strategies.

H2NO

While volunteering in Ethiopia I stayed in the capital city Addis Ababa. Addis is at an altitude of 2400 meters above sea level, which typically can cause a person to feel tired, sleepless and out of breath as you try to acclimatize to the elevation.  I was staying at Cheshire Services for the week which is surrounded by mountains making for a ton of walking. The combination of acclimatization and physical activity made me very thirsty. The only problem? The water is not safe to drink.

As you can see, I ended up drinking A LOT of bottled water during my one week stay. In this particular case I was forced to drink bottled water, which I am normally highly against. I agree that the market for bottled water in Ethiopia and countries with unsafe water should exist, but I am opposed to this market in Canada, as you should be as well.

Here are some not so fun facts that have dissuaded me from drinking bottled water in Canada.

  • It takes 3L of water to produce 1L of bottled water
  • Tap water is tested at least once a week whereas bottled water is only tested around 3 times a year
  • To meet North America’s water bottle ‘needs’ more than 17 million barrels of oil a year are used (that can fuel 1.3 million cars for a year!)
  • Bottled water=garbage: 1.5 million tons of plastic are created from bottled water each year; or that is to say 75% of bottles end up in a dump
  • In the U.S. it would cost $0.49 per year to consume the recommended 8 glasses of water a day from the tap, whereas it would cost around $1,400 to consume the same amount in bottled water
  • The big name companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCO and Nestlé have all faced legal cases regarding their water quality

Almost all Canadians have free access to water that comes from taps through our homes, jobs, and recreation facilities. Bottled water costs more, pollutes more, and exploits more, yet many people, including my roommates, insist on only drinking bottled water. Corporations have for a long time been linked to many issues regarding bottled water. An example of this is seen through Coca-Cola’s H2NO campaign. This upselling campaign aimed to dissuade consumers from drinking tap water, but instead point them towards Coke’s more profitable options including soft drinks, juice, or even bottled water. As a result people were sold previously free water, and sold unhealthy options.

I would like you all to join me in saying H2NO to bottled water.

Comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!