Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Biodiesel is a substitute for diesel fuels which is used in trucks mostly in the United States. Usually soybean is used in the U.S. Vegetable oil and other natural oils are used to make biodiesel (used cooking oil). No petroleum is necessary but it can be mixed so that you have a blended biodiesel. It is available in all 50 states. It is better for your engine and makes the exhaust smell like french fries.

1) Better for the engine, environment, and human health.
2) New source of income for rural farmers-helps rural economies.
3) Simpler to make than ethanol and can be done right on a soybean farm.
4) Reduce smog, ozone reduction, acid rain, cancer, and asthma.
5) Burns 75% cleaner than normal diesel, reduce carbon monoxide, eliminates sulphur dioxide emissions. Reduction in greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.

1) Sustainability issues with growing soybean. Increase of soybean deforestation or environmental changes may occur.
2) The efficiency in making biodiesel is not very good even though it is better than making diesel itself.
3) There are limits on production from land use, water availability, and competition of food crops.
4) Major technological advance would have to occur to completely replace diesel as the leading current source as compared to biodiesel.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mitochondrial Eve

Mitochondrial Eve is the maternal ancestor of all living humans. Mitochondria are the tiny organelles inside of human cells that contain their own genome. Each person's mitochondrial genome is inherited from his or her own mother making mitochondrial lineages maternal. The is one type of DNA within a humans body along with chromosomal DNA. Every human's mitochondrial DNA can then be traced back to one source so all humans would then be related. It is important to emphasize that there was not only one woman living at that time. This woman has been estimated to have lived 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. Many other women are believed to have lived during this time. It is not known why there is only one mitochondrial DNA strand of humans today.

With all humans being related genetically, why then do we have a diversity of looks ago people such as skin color, hair color, eye, color, face shape, etc? We would attribute human differences to evolution. Just like the evolution we can study in species, humans have adapted to different environments over time. The mutations that occur in DNA through reproduction affect the next generation of species. We have natural selection, genetic drifts, bottleneck effects, and the founder effect from geographic isolation that plays into these changes. Overtime, the traits humans carry have been mutations that have survived over time as well as adaptations to our new environments.


Burgess Shale

The Burgess Shale is one of the earliest fossil beds with imprints of soft-parts located in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia. It is made up of black shale. The importance of this area of land is great for scientists because it gives evidence of earlier species and how they evolved to the organisms we have today. Over 60,000 unique fossils have been found with arthropods being the most predominate. Worms, crinoids, sea cucumbers, chordates, and others with no shell. It is difficult to preserve soft-bodied organisms so the importance of the Burgess Shale is great. There seems to be an explosion of species all at once which would go against the slow evolution of species that Darwin had concluded. The phyla of species we have today almost all can be traced to the sudden emergence of species during the Cambrian period. Thus this gives evidence to refute the theory of all animals be connected to one another and gradually forming a variety of species from one organism over time. Some even find this as evidence for a supernatural being having created and placed fully formed organisms on the Earth.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dog Parks: Advantages and Disadvantages

Dog parks can be a real assest or a detriment to a community. Communities may want to look over the advantages and disadvantages in deciding to develop a dog park.

  • Dog Social Interaction- Dogs can interact socially with other dogs in an environment where they may not normally spend time with other dogs. Also, dogs can interact with people that they may not normally interact with giving them better socialiablity with other dogs and as well as people.
  • People Social Interaction- People can meet and interact with other people. A common interest of dogs can bring people together and create friendships.
  • Dog Mental and Physcial Activity- Off-leash exercise allows the dogs to get enough physical activity in especially for hyperactive dogs. Physical exercise can lessen prevalence of destructive behaviors in dogs and stimulating mental activity.
  • People Education- Owners can observe other dog interactions as well as learn from more experienced owners in order to adopt and/or stop particular aspects of owning and training a dog.
  • Positive Environment- A positive environment is created through a common interest of those in the park. Other interests are not allowed in the park thus, things like skateboards and bikes are not a distraction for the dogs or owners.
  • People may be exposed to agressive dogs, hazards created by dogs, lawsuits from dog fights, and potential parasites.
  • Dogs may be exposed to agressive dogs, parasites and diseases, injury, and dangerous small-large dog interactions.
  • Abuse of park from individuals in the community that do not understand the concept of a dog park such as not cleaning up after their dog, leaving dog unattended, allowing their dog to engage in inappropriate behavior.
  • Potential noise issues as well as potential liability issues.
Weighing these advantages and disadvantages are necessary to the decision process for a community possibly putting in a dog park.


Amphioxus (sometimes called Lancelets): These little guys are found burrowed under the sand in shallow areas of the tropical and temperate seas. In Asia, they are harvested as food for humans as well as animals. These fish-like vertebrates are very important because they give us more information on the origin of vertebrates. They grow between 5-7 centimeters long with a semi-translucent body and have no paired fins or limbs. A poor tail fin is present but swimming is not one of their strengths.

Some common findings within Amphioxus and vertebrates are a hollow nerve cord and blocked muscles. Some differences in Amphioxus are the dorsal nerve cord is not protected by bone but rather a notochord which is a tightly packed cylindar of cells that makes a tough rod. They do not have a true brain, eyes, or contain any complex sense organs like true vertebrates.

Amphioxus have cirri, the thin tentacle-looking strands coming from their mouth, that act as sensory device and filter the water passing into their bodies. They also do not have any respiratory system, a circulatory system is present but does not contain a heart or even any blood cells.

The differences in structure of the body for these vertebrates give clues to how vertebrates came about at first. It also give us an understanding of what type of systems within the body were necessary for early vertebrates and how they changed over time to the vertebrates we have today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hitchiti Experimental Forest

Wild Ginger
We found some wild ginger while walking on our trail at Hitchiti Experimental Forest. Asarum, is also known as wild ginger. Asarum has kidney-shaped leaves and bear brownish or red flowers. It is called wild ginger because it smells and tastes similar to ginger root even though they really are not related. The plant can be used as a spice but it is a diuretic, causing an increase in urination. Wild ginger grows in moist, shaded areas and is sometimes grown in shaded gardens because its leaves are an attractive ground covering.

Hitchiti Experimental Forest is located in Jones County, Georgia and is used as a research facility for the USDA in studying the southern Piedmont region. They study anything from the effects of fire and deforestation all the way to insects and diseases located in the forest. The goal is to understand more effectively how to conserve and utilize the natural resource of the forest.



Megafloods have the power to create interestingly unique features within the landscape. The unique landscape of the Scablands that varies across the land in Washington was created from the effects of a megaflood. But what would cause a megaflood?

It was determined that glaciers leftover from the Ice Age may have traveled down from the Canadian region and created massive dams by being jammed in between two mountains. Over time these dams would be weathered and pressure would begin to build up. Supercooled water can cause the glacier to break apart and give way to the built up pressure. Glaciers have cracks within the ice. As water moves through the glacier cracks friction is cause against the ice from moving through tiny spaces and be sucked through causing the ice to heat up and even larger cracks to form. The ice begins to breakdown and the glacial dam gives way. All the built up water behind the glacial dam travels at fast speeds over long distances. These large or megafloods would travel out to the Pacific ocean very quickly thus creating the landscap of the Scablands in just a day, even a matter of hours.