Farming

Welcome back to my blog everybody! Today’s topic is about conventional farming versus organic farming.

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Conventional farming refers to a method of farming with the use of chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers, while organic farming use natural pesticides.  Organic farming focuses more on soil regeneration, water conservation and animal welfare.

In the previous posts, we learned that even the slightest change in an ecosystem can interrupt both aquatic and terrestrial organisms. For instance, conventional farming causes soil erosion and land degradation.  As the sediment  from soil erosion gets to the ocean, habitats for many marine organisms are effected.  The erosion decreases in the amount of available sunlight which many limit the production of the algae.  Without less algae, there is less food source for marine organisms since algae is a primary producer.   Soil degradation also damage fish by irritating or scouring their gills and degrade fish habitats as gravel containing buried eggs becomes filled with fine particles.

http://www.soilerosion.net/doc/off-site.html  Off-site effect of soil erosion!

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ocean-dead-zones/ Dead zones in the oceans caused by soil erosions.

Till next time!

Zebra Mussels

Hello readers! Welcome back to my blog.  It is officially one more month till summer. hooray! The topic for today’s post is invasive species.

Basically, invasive spices are species of plants, animals, fungus or bacterium that are not native to an area. When new species get introduced into different ecosystems, they will effects the economy and the environment negatively. However, not all introduced species are harmful.

Invasive species are a major destruction to our environment because they can change habitats and alter ecosystem function, out grow or replace native species and damage human activities.  They can also cause disease, act as predators, parasites and competitors to native species.  Invasive species are cabable of causing extinctions of native organisms.

There are several pathways invasive species can be brought into new environments due to human interventions.  Some of them are shipping vessels, recreational and commercial boating,release of bait, trading and unauthorized introductions.  Once an invasive spices is established, it is extremely have to be remove.

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In 1988, zebra mussels or Dreissena polymorpha were found in Lake St. Clair in Ontario in the Great Lakes.  As the water channels are all connected in the area, the species spread rapidly to the rest of the waterways. Many people introduce zebra mussels unknowingly through live wells, bilge water, bait buckets and fishery gears.  Zebra mussels also attach themselves to boat hulls as boats move from one lake to another.

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A current meter covered in zebra mussels

Zebra mussels can clog water intake pipes, foul beaches and kill native clams, disrupting the whole ecosystem.  The government spends hundreds of millions dollars to repair damages caused from zebra mussels.  Their feeding causes an increase in water clarity which increased light penetration and an overgrowth of vegetation and toxic algal bloom.

check out the link below for more details on stopping zebra mussels’ invasion.
>//>http://www.noaa.gov/features/earthobs_0508/zebra.html

 

 

THE BAMFIELD MARINE STATION!

A few weeks ago I had a privilege to visit the remarkable Bamfield  Marine Science Centre (BMSC).

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The research facility is own Universities of Alberta, British Columbia, Calgary, Simon Fraser, and Victoria.  Even though Bamfield in not far from Victoria, getting there was not easy.  We took the buss to Port Alberni where we stopped to change into a smaller one.  It was about an hour ride on a rough logging road where there were a lot of potholes and large stone. It took us a bout 4.5 hours to get to Bamfield.

The view from the station and its surroundings was amazing.  We were surrounded by majestic green forest and rippling blue ocean.  The air was also  different, fresh and salty.  One of my favorite part is to wake up in the morning and just hear the rustling of leaves and lapping of the wave.

The weather was fairly nice for most of the time we were there, except one day..when we have to go out on a boat…it was raining and windy.  The ocean was rough.  I am not a boat person and knew how things would turn out if I did not take Gravols.  Despite the sleepiness I had from the pills , I really did enjoy the boat ride.  We went out to the ocean to study the oceanography.  One part of the ‘lab’ was to drag organisms into the tank on the boat and look at them.  I saw a lot of sea stars, chitons, worm and sea cucumber.  After we observed them for a little bit, it was time to release them back into the sea.  I held/touched the sea cucumber for the fist time!!!With my bare hands too! I have to admit, it was nerve wrecking.

>>>Humans use sea cucumbers for food and medication
>>> Cachexia or wasting syndrome in sea stars


We also saw some colonies of the California sea lionsUnknown

On our way to the station, I managed to fall asleep.  We also took some samples of the ocean to be used in the next activity.

In that session we looked at marine zooplankton and phytoplankton under the microscope.  It was not easy to identify what kind they were.photo 1

 

One of my favourite lab was the seaweed lab where got to identify spices of seaweeds.   Seaweeds are composed of blades, floats, stripes and holdfasts.  seaweedstruct

  • Blade – tough and leathery flattened structure that withstand  wave actio.
  • Holdfast – attaches the seaweed firmly to the substrate.
  • Float – hollow or gass-filled structure that keeps the seaweed buoyant.
  • Strip – tough and flexible stem-like structure that keeps the seaweed elevated above the surface

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Codium_fragileAn example of seaweed that can be found near BMSC is the Codium fragile or Dead man’s fingers.  The Codium fragile is a dark green and firm algae.  It appears as a fuzzy path of tabular fingers.  It grew in the low intertidal zone and subtidal on high-energy beaches.

Marine Microbes

Hello to my fellow readers 🙂

After we’ve been doing chemistry for a bit, we have now switched back to biology! We are currently learning about microorganisms, like viruses and bacteria.

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Viruses and bacteria are the most abundant biological organisms in the ocean.  Each millilitre of ocean water contains several million microbes particles.  Because viruses can cause viral infections, they have a major impact on marine organisms and on ocean ecology.

Most viruses in marine environment are bacteriophages, but some also infect eukaryotic phytoplankton, invertebrates, and vertebrate.


>>>more information on bacteriophages! watch the video above ^^

The white spot syndrome virus (WSSR) is an example of marine virus.   WSSV is a large, enveloped, rod-shaped to elliptical virus that has double-stranded DNA. It causes the white spot syndrome disease (WSS) which  is a viral infection of penaeid shrimp.   The disease is highly lethal and contagious, therefore, it is able to kill shrimps very quickly. The white spot syndrome infection has wipe out many shrimp farms throughout the word.  Treatments are not available for the disease. However disinfectants are widely use to prevent an outbreak in ship farms and hatcheries.

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This marine virus also has the potential to infect some other marine organisms and freshwater crustaceans such as crab and crayfish.

White spots on the shell of infected shrimp appear as large, dome-shaped spots under scanning electron microscope; bigger spots measure to be 0.3 to 3mm in diameter.  Smaller white spots are about 0.02 to 0.1 mm in diameter appear as linked spheres.

How can the disease be spread to another area?
– Using infected shrimps as baits or foods for another organisms
– Infected shrimps migrate from one place to the other, introducing the virus to their new habitats
– People carry the virus from infected areas to clean environments on their boots and personal equipments or by moving contaminated equipments (traps, boats, etc.)

If the population of infected organisms decease dramatically, food chains in the environments may be affected as well.

Did you know that human’s diseases can also infect marine mammals?!?
>>>Check out this article for more information

See ya next time!

 

The Worst Radiotivity Accident

Hello my lovely readers, long time no see ehh?  I hoped your Christmas vacation/ break was as delightful as mine.  I am back with one of the a major topic in ocean chemistry!

!Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster!

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The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

On March 11, 2011 the largest volume of radiation was accidentally released in to the ocean.  The Tōhoku earthquake or a 9.0 magnitude earthquake 80 miles off the Northeast Coast of Japan triggered a series of tsunamis that struck many villages along the coast.  The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power  plant was one of the destructions form the tsunamis.   The plant was located 150 miles north of Tokyo.

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>>The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant uses water as a coolant to decrease the temperature produced from the reactor cores. These reactors are fuelled by both uranium and plutonium.  As these isotopes are so larges, they are unstable.  Fissions can occur easily they  received an extra neutrons. Those atoms then released at least two more neutrons, which will released more neutrons as they go on.  This chain reaction of splitting atoms produced energy as heat.  This is why it is critical for a nuclear  reactor to have the right amount of coolant.

japan_earthquake_map_Sendai_Fukushima_nuclear_power_plantSince 40 feet or higher waves disabled the power plant’s emergency systems,  the emergency crews had to use seawater to cool down the reactors.  There was no power to keep the coolant flowing after the shut down. The energy from radioactive decay in the reactor cores produced tremendous amount of heat that the reactors started to melt down.  The Cooling seawater started leaking back into the Pacific.  Radioactive isotopes were  released into the air and were absurd by the ocean.  The disaster introduced, Iodine-131, Cesium-137 , Cesuium-134, TelluriumUranium and Strontium to the are surrounding the power plant.

Need some more clarification on what happened at the plant? WATCH THE VIDEO

~//~How do chemists measure the amount of radioactivity in the ocean form the disaster? >>>click the link below!
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/08/1261158/-Measuring-Fukushima-Radioactivity-in-the-Ocean-Why-does-it-take-so-long

~//~Check out the link below on debunking of informations on Fukushima disaster from medias
http://deepseanews.com/2013/11/true-facts-about-ocean-radiation-and-the-fukushima-disaster/

The Famous Van City Aquarium

Stanley_Park_AquariumOnce again my marine science class was on another field trip.  We spent our day at the Vancouver Aquarium.  I seen all kinds of animals from cetaceans to reptiles.

Even African Penguins were there.  Yes AFRICAN penguins.  They some how amazed me.  Here is the thing, I always thought penguins are only found in the South Pole, not in Africa.

penguinThe African Penguins or Spheniscus demersus is the only well known species of penguin to live along the southern coasts of Africa. They are found in colonies on islands and on the costal mainland from Namibia to South Africa.  Theses creatures are also called “black-footed” penguin (due to their feet) and “jackass” penguin (due to their donkey-like call).

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Look at the picture above.  What are the pink patches above their eyes?
Those are actually their bare skins that turn pink when get hot.  This is one of the way for them to cool off. African Penguins must be able to cope with both cooling down on land and keeping warm in water as they live in sub-tropical climates.

Not only unique animals that the aquarium have, they also have really good facilities like marine mammal rescue.  This is one of their programs that I am interested in.

This video got me wondered about the program.

Marine Mammal Rescue centre at Vancouver Aquarium is the only organization in Canada that exclusively treats marine animals.   The team is simply on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to rescue the aquatic organisms found in distress in British Columbia.  The facility provide housing and care for ill, injured and abandoned marine mammals until they are ready to be put back into their natural habitats.  After rehabilitation, the rescue centre works with Fisheries and Ocean Canada (a government agency), which make the final decision on weather the animals can be release into local waters.

They have both indoor and out door space for the patients to recover.  Indoor space include food preparation areas, a laboratory, a pharmacy, an examination room and a recovery area.  Out door facilities consist of varieties of holding tubs and pools to suit different sizes and species of marine animals.  New arrival or sick animals are kept separated from the healthy ones.  Marine mammals arriving at the aquarium may be infected by bacteria, virus or parasites. Therefore, they are placed in quarantine for at least 14 days.

If you had a chance to visit Van City, I recommended the aquarium to be one of your attractions stop.
Cheers!

Seasonality

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About two months ago my marine science class went for a tour behind our school.  It has been a week since we revisited the sites after summer has passed.  There were some dramatic changes near the lake and in the forest.  Seems like the water level has rises.  The surroundings are more moist, yet the trees are drying out.  Their leaves have start to fall. 1460267_10200543886789072_1907520082_n
In the forest, the sun is lower in the sky causes shade area to shifted.   The good old Douglas-fern tree looks like it is thirst for water. There are also maple leaves all over the forest.  Vegetation of mushrooms also increases.

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During autumn or winter, there are less sunlight and water for plants to use in photosynthesis.  After they had shut down their food-making factories, they will use the energy that they have stored in summer.  Tress need to ‘sweat’ constantly in order to survive through cold weather. Loosing their leaves decrease the amount of space for them to ‘sweat.’

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the specialized cells are stained red and mark the boundary between the branch (left) and leaf stalk

Therefore, hormones in tress trigger the process of abscission where their leaves are being cut-off by specialized cells.  The green chlorophyll start to disappear as the pigments are broken down for nutrients.   This is one of the reason why the colour yellow, orange, red and gold start to show.  When the leaves has been shed at the end of abscission progress, a protective layer of cells grows over the exposed area.

Shedding may also help wit their pollination when spring comes.  With leaves getting in the way, wind-blow pollen can travel longer distance and reach more tress.

Evolution of Nervous System

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A marine flatworm

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a type of flatworm

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a fluke

About 13,000 species of flatwormstapeworms and flukes have nerves cells that located at anterior end of there bodies. Organisms in phylum Platyhelminthes were the first to have true nervous system.

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Even though they have developed heads, they do not have real brains.  Two ganglia that run along ventral side of their are masses of nerve cells bodies.

The development of nervous system in those worms allow animals that evolved afterward to  take advantages of their surroundings.  Organisms can react with their environments.  This lead to adaptations to changes in their habitats or ecosystems.  Nerve cells from all parts of their bodies send signals to the brains and back to the parts. Organisms are able to function more with the development. Their organs have to work together to reproduce required response.

For an example, nervous system allow animals to feel plain and uses their muscles to run away.  They breathe faster as their brains need more oxygen. Infilepicker-uVI2i3Te2A8n7578IRlQ_predator_chase copy  a flight or fight situation, their brains will shut down digestive system to send more blood to the muscles and internal organs.  Sensors tell their brains to cool off the bodies when they are over heating  as they run.

Without nervous system, the animals would be dead.  Their bodies would not function the way they should. Being motionless will not help them in any way.  Preys would not be able to run from predators, they will not be able to move or even to  take in oxygen.

The Aquarium Tour and the Kayak Trip

It was last week when my marine science class went to the Shaw Discovery Ocean Centre, our local aquarium to take a good look on what we have been learning.  We also  went on a kayak trip in Brentwood Bay to observe the organisms in our ecosystem, well pretty much to ‘examine’ our environments.

tumblr_mr62ceUEtg1s4bdezo1_500It felt nice to be at the aquarium.  When I was a little girl, I had always enjoyed visiting the aquarium at a university back in Thailand.  I went there so often that my parents made a joke that all creatures there remember me.  Now that I am older, marine organisms became more interesting and beautiful.

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original colour

Seeing a Giant Pacific Octopus changing its colour from redish-brown to partually white was so cool.  click here! to see what I saw 🙂 It knows how to open a lid of plastic container.

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after it turned white

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what a beautiful sea pen!

One of my favorite marine invertebrate must be the sea pens.  They are one of the organisms that decorate the ocean flow when they glow in the dark.

I had a chance to touch starfishes and sea anemones for the first time. The green sea anemones tentacles are surprisingly sticky as their tentacles are fairly small.  Green_Sea_Anemone_by_dgillies

I would love to go back to the aquarium again!

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jellies!

Last marine science feild trip started off pretty scary.  It was the first time I have kayaked.  All of my classmate wanted to go on the single-person kayak, that made me even more alarming. However, one of them was kind enough to go on the double with me.  I used to thought that being in a kayak must be uncomfortable , I was wrong.  Controlling the rudder was not easy.  We hit the same dock for about 3 times.  Despite the difficulties, the whole trip was delightful.  I saw LOTS of white jellies along the big rocks  or shores where the water was shallow.  We were lucky enough to witness a seal swimming around.  On our way back, my kayak was the last to get back….well well.  Everyone was so support and encouraging.  What a lovely bunch of people! haha:D

Adaptations in Marine System

Oceans can be very difficult to live in.  It is important to marine organisms to adapt to changes in their environments.  They have to deal with salinity, water movement and many more problems.

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Salinity or the level of salt in seawater various through out the world.  Saltiness of oceans can level from 3% to 4%, or it can increase to40%.  Living things in oceans are adapt to maintain the amount of salt in their bodies at a constant level to keep their metabolisms working properly.  All kind of fish or sea creatures must learn how to regulate salt that they intake in order to survive.  for example, fish eliminate the salt through their gills, seabirds eliminate the salt via the nasal or sneeze out by the birds.  Even though a lot of them take great care to maintain the proper balance of water and salt within their bodies, many marines organisms are still affected by changes in the level of salinity.

Some said level salinity affects the whole ecosystem.

Movement of water come in forms of waves, tides and currents.   Waves caused by wind acting on the surface of the sea can be very destructive; however, they also cleanse organisms and help to increase oxygen availability.

Ocean_Tides some organisms are able to resist drying out during low tide that caused from forces of the moon and the sun interacting.

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Currents can move food resources and nutrients from the coastline farther out into the ocean.  The species in the area might migrate to somewhere else. Different characteristics in the population may help some individuals win the competition to survive and reproduce. They also rely on currents to transport their eggs and larvae.

Many marine invertebrates and plants have the ability to cling on to rocks or other substrates so they are not washed away.

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