News and Views
June 3, 2021 - On the horrors of the Residential School System in Canada
This past week the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops announced that it had found the remains of approximately 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. While Canadians of all stripes have expressed their shock and horror over these findings, First Nations over and over are quoted as being saddened but not at all surprised. They have known for 100 years that children went to these schools and never returned. They have tried to tell us, they have tried to get us to care, and we have not been listening. These atrocities are well-documented in the Truth and Reconciliation Report, published over six years ago. As Canadians we have done a terrible job holding our leaders accountable and responsible for what happened to 150,000 Indigenous and Inuit children. It is so crystal clear to me (Michelle) that there was a systematic and calculated effort to erase Indigenous peoples from this land. Their land was stolen and their children were forcibly removed from their families. So many of us have benefitted, directly, or indirectly, from this stolen land. I certainly have. I live and work on stolen land. It's difficult to know how to proceed from here. For many people, it's just business as usual. But how can that be? How can we continue to dance on the graves of these children, both literally and figuratively? I don't have answers but maybe a first step is just to spend time reading the Truth and Reconciliation Report, to listen to, and believe, the stories of the Residential School Survivors, and to honour and celebrate the lives of all of the children who never returned home. Maybe also write to your Member of Parliament, and your Member of Legislative Assembly, and voice your concern about the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples by government, church, and scientists too. -mt
March 11, 2021 - Warming water decreases the availability of healthy fats, but animals may not need as much fat in their diet as temperature warms. (Tseng lab paper - Functional Ecology 2021)
Due to ongoing climate change, oceans and lakes are warming at rapid rates. Algae form the base of the food chain in these aquatic ecosystems, and they are a key source of healthful fats for animals like zooplankton, insects, and fish. Several recent studies predicted that climate warming will decrease the availability of the healthy fats produced by algae, leading to overall declines in productivity in aquatic ecosystems. We used a simple aquatic community to test the prediction that when warmed, algae make fewer of certain types of fats, and that this decrease in nutrients leads to reductions in zooplankton population sizes and in insect growth rates. We grew Scenedesmus algae at 12, 20, or 28˚C, and fed these cultures to Daphnia zooplankton, which were also reared at each temperature. We then fed Daphnia to the phantom midge (Chaoborus), a voracious predator of zooplankton. We found that some types of algal fats decreased in quantity with warming, while others did not (see above image). On average, algae cultured at 12˚C sustained higher Daphnia population sizes than did algae grown 20 or 28˚C. However, this effect of algal growing temperature diminished as Daphnia growing temperature increased. For example, when Daphnia were reared at 28˚C, there was no longer an effect of algal food type on Daphnia population size. Growth rates of the phantom midge were not strongly affected by food type. Our results demonstrate that the adverse effects of low-fat diets were tempered in warmer zooplankton environments. These data suggest that the consequences of reduced quantities of certain algal fats may not be as severe as currently predicted. We recommend further investigations into how temperature effects the nutritional requirements of aquatic organisms.
Nov 3, 2020
MOTHS: AN UNLIKELY POLLINATOR HERO BRINGS HOPE AMONG DECLINING GLOBAL INSECT POPULATION TRENDS - BY JIHYUN KIM
When thinking about pollinators, moths are not usually the first insects to come to mind. But a new study shows that they may be valuable in ways we never expected before.
Recently, there has been a lot of attention and concern over the global decline of pollinator species such as bees. Every week seems to bring the spotlight on to another wild insect population in trouble. Amid all this negative news, a new study suggests that insect populations might not be doing as bad as they seem.
Although there has been well documented local, smaller-scale population declines in some insect species in many continents around the world, there is little evidence of this decline as a global trend. These studies lack robust, long-term continuous data to support their claims, and one often contradicts another.
Moths are a very diverse group of insect herbivores. They are important pollinators as well as critical links in many food webs, as prey for animals such as birds and bats.
In Great Britian, moths were the subject for the The Rothamsted Light Trap Network, a nightly monitoring survey. This network provides continuous nightly samples from fixed moth-traps at 34 samples sites in various habitats, with traps running for at least 30 years. To determine changes in the moth populations, the researchers measured the weight of biomass for the moths collected at each site from 1967-2017. Surprisingly, unlike many other reports claiming a decline in insect biomass, this study found that the overall weight of all the moths collected at each site experienced variation between the years but had a total net gain from the late 1960’s to 2017. However, this pattern would not have been seen without the long-term dataset available for this study.
There is a need for good, long-term data for other insect populations to see if there has been continuous declines or if maybe, the declines are part of larger cyclic patterns or perhaps just an unusual climatic or ecosystem event. Due to the sort life spans and relatively fast reproduction of insects, an annual draught or heavy rainfall can have significant impacts on entire populations of a species. With the lack of continuous long-term data, we may be unable to differentiate between these changes to long-term global trends in insect populations and biomass.
Although this study shows hope that the global populations of insects may not be declining at scales which we previously thought, it also shows that we need to put effort into providing better monitoring of insects to be able to accurately know what is actually happening around the world. As interested citizens, we can contribute to the collection of insect data through citizen science. This can be as simple as taking pictures of the insects we see and uploading them to databases such as iNaturalist.
However, for many of us wanting to preserve biodiversity, it can begin simply by appreciating the valuable benefits we receive from pollinators and supporting causes and habits that do the same. Even more, we can help insect populations by providing native plant gardens and habitats for insects to enjoy and maybe some new pollinators will become garden visitors.
Tags: Insect, population declines, moths,
Macgregor, C.J., Williams, J.H., Bell, J.R. et al. Moth biomass increases and decreases over 50 years in Britain. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 1645–1649 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-019-1028-6
JUNE 2, 2020
UNLEASH YOUR INNER SCIENTIST, IT'S COOL TO COLLECT DATA - BY MARKUS THORMEYER, June 2, 2020
Have you ever wanted to contribute to the exciting developments in science but felt underqualified?
Well, you easily can through citizen science!
Citizen science is scientific research conducted by 'amateur scientists' or through public participation.
It is not a new concept, having been practiced throughout history with the largest presence in the biological and environmental science fields. Recently, it stepped into the spotlight due to needs for large-scale information collection, and increased public access to technology, information, and the internet.
An analysis done by EJ. Theobald et al in 2014 proved just how much of a force citizen science can be. They analyzed 388 science projects which involved citizen science and found them to be much larger and last much longer than government funded projects. On top of that, the efforts done by the amateur scientists were valued at 667million USD at the minimum. The data collected by amateur scientists were also on par with professionally collected scientific data.
Data collection is very important for biodiversity research, especially at larger scales. For example, projects looking at biodiversity at continental scales over long periods of time can allow scientists to understand what processes are currently happening in nature. The more public participation scientists get, the better!
Citizen science doesn't just benefit scientists though, it can inspire young aspiring scientists to become professional scientists by giving them a taste of the work! Also, participation in citizen science projects educates participants on the topic they are researching.
Participating in citizen science can be as easy as taking a picture of an insect and uploading it to an online database such as iNaturalist. If you ever have some free time and want to get out and see the world through a scientific lens, look up some citizen science projects to participate in near you!
Below are some links to citizen science opportunities to help you kick-start your amateur science career.
Canada Citizen Science:
Canadian Citizen Science Portal
US Citizen Science:
US Citizen Science
Larger citizen science platforms:
Help From Home
Biodiversity online databases:
Bumble Bee Watch
Measuring local noise:
TAGS: Citizen Science, Biodiversity
Paper: Theobald et al, 2014. Global change and local solutions: tapping the unrealized potential of citizen science for biodiversity research. Biological Conservation. 181: 236-244. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2014.10.021