There is an immense amount of water in aquifers below the earth's surface. In fact, there is a over a thousand times more water in the ground than is in all the world's rivers and lakes. Groundwater is found underground in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock. It is stored in and moves slowly through geologic formations of soil, sand and rocks called aquifers.
Here are four articles regarding groundwater and the Chesapeake Bay:
Also see Groundwater Foundation and USGS for more inforamtion
Shuttered Natural History Museums Fight for Survival
But creative scientists vow recovery and move research and public programs online
By Elizabeth Pennisi
A few months ago, retirement was the furthest thing from David Thomas’s mind. “Then the world went upside down,” recalls the archaeologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In March, the coronavirus pandemic forced the museum to close its doors. No more school groups thronging the interactive exhibits, no more corporate dinners or lines of international tourists waiting to pay $23 a head to marvel at fossils. The museum’s income plummeted 60%.
Leaders first asked for early retirements. By early May, they had sliced the staff of 1100 by 20% and furloughed an additional 250 staff members. Many full-time employees now work 3 days a week, mostly from home. Thomas opted to retire early, along with four of the other 38 curators. “It was the right thing to do,” he says.
Around the world, natural history museums are shuttered and reeling. Last week, the California Academy of Sciences announced it was furloughing or laying off 40% of its staff. “We will recover, but there is no doubt that we will be in some ways a different institution,” says Peter Roopnarine, a paleontologist there.
Museums’ reliance on revenue from ticket sales and events makes them among the first scientific institutions to feel the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I worry about the long-term health of all natural history museums and the collections that are in our sacred trust,” says Shannon Hackett, an ornithologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. “It will be very challenging for some museums to reopen at all,” adds Scott Cooper, who runs Drexel University’s Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.
But the crisis is also spurring museums to adopt or expand practices that, though they may not restore lost revenue, are keeping the public engaged and research ticking along: an online biodiversity contest, public discussions on Zoom, a web- cam streaming captive corals. Curators are also expanding and refining digital collections that are accessible to both the public and homebound researchers.
“We are seeing more changes in the museum industry at this moment than we could push people to make previously,” says Julie Stein, director of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington, Seattle, whose own institution has been devastated. The Burke Museum had opened a new build- ing in October 2019 and was “headed for record-breaking revenue,” Stein says—until the entire campus shut down on 6 March.
Some museums, including the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., have dodged financial cliffs thanks to government support. The Natural History Museum, London, stayed afloat with emergency support from the U.K. government, but furloughed half its staff until the end of June. Similarly, the Field Museum has thus far avoided layoffs thanks to a cash re- serve and the federal paycheck protection program, says President and CEO Richard Lariviere. But 30% of the museum’s income comes from tickets and related activities, and $17 million is already lost. Given that cases of COVID-19 have yet to peak in Illinois, Lariviere doubts the museum will open this summer, and worries he will be forced to make layoffs.
Some university museums managed to avoid layoffs now, but may pay a price later if university budgets shrink. Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology will likely not reopen as quickly as stand-alone museums, says Di- rector Jane Pickering. As they worry about the future, re- searchers are also distraught because they can’t pursue their current research. Travel restrictions have brought fieldwork to a screeching halt—and with it, the addition of more specimens to collections. The American Museum of Natural His- tory alone has canceled 100 expeditions. And researchers can’t get into buildings to analyze existing collections. “We have been cut off from our collections, facilities, and colleagues,” says Anjali Goswami, a paleobiologist at the Natural History Museum, London.
One trend accelerated by the crisis could help: efforts to digitize natural history collections. At Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, staff working from home have been busy enhancing the millions of records in the museum-wide database, for example adding latitude and longitude coordinates to specimens thus far identified only by location names. “There’s a tremendous amount of data locked into collections,” says Kirk Johnson, director of the National Museum of Natural History, where detailed digital images of pressed plants in the herbarium allow researchers to scrutinize them from afar. “We are now shining the light on the dark data of museums.”
Rebecca Albright, a coral biologist at the California Academy of Sciences, is study- ing the mysteries of coral spawning; only one other research team has been able to get the corals to reproduce in a lab setting. Recently, Albright identified just the right conditions, including water temperature and lighting that re-create changing day length and the cycling of the Moon, to prompt spawning. When she learned that she couldn’t be in the museum at the key time, she and her colleagues set up an infrared webcam. “We never set up a camera before because we didn’t need to,” she says.
The live-streaming camera allowed them to catch spawning in the act on 22 April, Earth Day—and made a big splash on the web. “If we had missed this, we would have had to wait a whole year,” Albright says. The corals now have 1.6 million followers.
Other scientists have refocused their research on the pandemic itself. Roopnarine previously studied how nature recovered from mass extinctions. Now, he is re- purposing his computer models of eco- system recovery to evaluate how various employment schemes may get economies back on track as lockdowns ease. “Our work has never been more relevant than it is now,” he says.
Many see the pandemic as an opportunity for change. “I’m doing more public programs than ever—in virtual formats,” says Sabrina Sholts, a biological anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History.
To engage the public in research, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences in April enlisted thousands of citizen scientists in a global biodiversity effort called the City Nature Challenge. Participants gathered thousands of images of birds, insects, and other wildlife in more than 250 cities to help researchers study urban ecosystems.
The pandemic itself is inspiring new directions. Leonard Krishtalka, director of the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, wants museums to expand their focus to include microbes and viruses.
At the National Museum of Natural History, Sholts was already thinking along those lines when she pulled together a temporary exhibit inspired by the 2014 Ebola epidemic. “Outbreak,” which explores how pathogens spread between animals and people, opened 2 years ago. After COVID-19 erupted, the exhibit was replicated online, with a digital version in half a dozen languages; a DIY kit has already been adapted in 41 countries and 30 U.S. states and territories.
“We are in the process of reinventing what natural history museums are for,” Johnson says, speaking by phone to a reporter as he walked past the darkened halls of the Outbreak exhibit. “Museums can play a much more impactful role than they have in the past 50 years.”
Science. June 5, 2020
Keeping tabs on neighborhood wildlife may hook you on all the action
By Julian Avery
Washington Post, May 25, 2020
Watching wildlife outside your window can boost your mental well-being, and it’s something lots of people have been doing a lot more of lately.
Maybe you’ve been wondering if you’re seeing one persistent gray squirrel or a rotating cast of furry characters. Maybe you’ve been thinking about which birds are passing through for the season and which are townies who stick around all year.
As a wildlife ecologist, I’ve learned to pay attention to patterns that show me what the animals outside my window are up to, and I usually know which individuals are my regulars.
Whether you’re spying on animals in a city, town or rural area, with a little background knowledge, you too can keep tabs on the private lives of your neighborhood critters.
Seasonal shifts change the players
For many species, winter is a time when individuals compete less with one another and gather in large groups.
For example, eastern cottontail rabbits congregate around areas with plenty of food and places to escape to. Birds form large mixed-species flocks, which help them better find food and avoid being hunted. They even form temporary allegiances as they forage together, following specific individuals who help determine where the flock goes.
As the season changes to spring, migratory species start arriving. A steady parade of individuals moves through the neighborhood. As animals transition to their breeding season, plumage and appearances may change as they work to attract mates. For many species, defense of a piece of land becomes an overriding concern.
During the summer months, adult animal numbers stabilize, and the drive to establish a territory means you’re likely to have the same individuals active outside your windows for the majority of summer.
A territory is a chunk of habitat. Its size will vary depending on the amount of food and breeding resources it holds. A territory with few trees, for example, may need to be bigger to hold enough forage for the animal that owns the turf. Territory sizes for different species can range from the size of a large kitchen table (common lizards like green anoles and skinks) to an area greater than 120 football fields (a raptor such as the Cooper’s hawk). The cool thing is that animal home ranges are governed by their own needs and often do not follow the lines of human fences and alleyways.
I like to think of animal territories as quilts that drape over your neighborhood. For some species, like anoles, the squares in that quilt will have many small and intricate pieces, and you could fit many quilt pieces within each individual human property boundary. Some of those pieces will even overlap other patches.
Small songbirds will have quilt patches that span several human properties, though they may use specific parts more than others. Larger species will have quilt patches that cover entire neighborhoods with one territory.
If you’ve become familiar with the animals in your neighborhood, chances are you’ll see some of the same individuals again year after year. Eastern cottontails are likely to live up to three years in the wild, and they stay in the same general territory throughout their lives. Even the young have a tendency to stay close to their birth place.
Researchers have recaptured gray squirrels year after year in their original territories. On average, these critters survive about six years and can live longer than 20.
Birds also have long lives and will often stay in the same territory year after year. However, when eggs don’t hatch or young die in the nest, some birds may choose a new territory the following year. This means there can be high turnover in your local bird network if the local habitat is unpredictable or full of urban predators.
Birds that don’t migrate and stay in residence year-round, like chickadees, often have a tendency to stay in the same area, which means you’ll be seeing the same individual birds outside your window across seasons.
Some species will have territories that don’t overlap much at all. For others, the overlap can be extensive. This means that generally during the breeding season, you could be watching many gray squirrels visiting outside your window. There may also be a couple of male cottontails, but probably a single female because they tend to not overlap with other females.
Maybe you’ll spy the same pair of cardinals along with a reliable pair of chickadees. If you’re watching closely like I was the other day, you may get lucky and catch another male cardinal from the territory next door trying to flirt with your female, at least until her mate realizes what’s about to happen. That is a clue to the invisible lines birds have drawn between their own domains.
When it comes to smaller animals, like lizards and insects, all bets are off for how many unique individuals are present outside your window. But you can expect more of everything as the number of native plants increases.
Tips for watching
If you’re interested in trying to keep track of particular wildlife friends through the window, try to watch for identifying marks. In my research, I attach colored bands to bird legs or mark the scales of turtles and snakes so we can figure out how many exist in an area. Many animals have enough individual variation that you can keep track of them using their natural unique marks and scars. Squirrels can have torn ears or injured tails, lizards can have unique scars or healed injuries, and birds can have subtle differences in color or pattern.
Also try paying attention to the maximum number you see at any one point. Where do they go after eating or basking? You may get lucky and spy a nest or resting place. See if you can spot other individuals coming from different directions and territories.
At my house, we had a nest of rabbit kits born under our deck. I thought there was only one surviving newborn because we never saw more than one offspring. Two weeks later, there were three babies foraging simultaneously in the yard, and it became clear that they’d previously been taking turns coming out of hiding.
If you start watching closely, I think you’ll find so much drama happening in your neighborhood that you may get hooked on the action.
Julian Avery is assistant research professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Pennsylvania State University. This article was originally published on theconversation.com.
Have a blog or blog idea?
Let us know (click)
VA Native Plant Society - click
Brenda Clement Jones - click
John Muir Laws' Blog - click
Megan's Nature Nook - click
VMN since 2018