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Lionfish: Stunningly Beautiful? Yes! Devastatingly Invasive? It Depends.

What is ecologically correct, even helpful, to eat from the Atlantic Ocean – but not from the Pacific Ocean?

What in a well-made ceviche is rather firm and tastes like a cross between lobster and shrimp? What melts in your mouth, while the “butteriness” balances well with the lime juice”?   And from the grill, what is a lot like grouper?

The answer is lionfish from the Atlantic Ocean and other areas where the introduced lionfish is destroying native marine life.

According to NOAA research, the very invasive lionfish found in the Atlantic Ocean prey upon numerous species of fish and crustaceans, such as juvenile spiny lobster, wrasses, parrotfish, blennies, and other ecologically important species.   The Atlantic Ocean has very limited predators for lionfish, which inflict extremely painful venom from their spines.

Lionfish might have been introduced into Florida’s waters in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew capsized many transport boats and broke beach-side aquariums. It’s estimated that  Americans alone import thousands of the stunning lionfish every year for their aquariums, and some later release the fish in no-native waters.

Reproducing year round, lionfish have no natural enemies and an extremely high reproductive rate of 2 million eggs a year from one female.  Unsurprisingly they’ve taken over rapidly (NOAA).

A recent Oregon State University study found that in just five weeks, introduced lionfish reduced the native reef fishes by about 80 percent. The aggressive feeding of lionfish also reduces the numbers of herbivorous fishes that keep seaweeds and macro-algae from overgrowing corals.  Lionfish are also taking over snapper and grouper habitats; they hamper stock rebuilding efforts and coral reef conservation measures. Voracious eaters, lionfish grow to a foot or more long, and their stomachs can expand up to 30 times their normal size!

Because native species in the Atlantic and other waters where the lionfish have been introduced do not recognize a lionfish as a predator, the local fish don’t flee.   Lionfish can eat prey over half the size of their own body as long as it will fit into their mouths, and they eat almost anything.

The sharp spines of the lionfish contain a powerful venom: a single prick from a lionfish spine can cause days of swelling, discomfort and even paralysis. Pacific Ocean native fish know the danger, and stay away from lionfish (Smithsonian).

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Red lionfish near Komoda in Indonesia.  Here in the Pacific Ocean, the lionfish is in balance with its marine environment because native fish know to flee when they see a lionfish.  Image from<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pterois#/media/File:Red_lionfish_near_Gilli_Banta_Island.JPG  

In the Western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and in the Gulf of Mexico, however, where lionfish are not native and have very few predators,  environmentalists are fighting the lionfish invasion with traps, nets and spears, lionfish catching contests, recipes and cooking contests, including Bermuda’s  Eat ‘Em to Beat ‘Em , campaign. Honduras divers are trying to train sharks to eat lionfish (National Geographic).

Atlantic Ocean lionfish are now being listed as the “ultimate in guilt-free eating – delicious, nutritious and eco-conscious. “  Chefs do need to know how to cut out the poisonous spines and prepare the lionfish correctly so as not to pass on the toxins to their guests. And the fishermen need to know how to catch them without being stung.

The next time you are in Florida, you might find lionfish on the menu. It’s not cheap: in Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas, the August Moon Restaurant and Café has been serving lionfish since 2007. Alexandra Maillis Lynch, the owner and chef, serves lionfish tempura once every two months, whenever she can convince fishermen to supply it to her. She offers fifteen to twenty dollars a pound for the exotic specialty, nearly twice as much as she pays for the more common grouper (Smithsonian).

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Lionfish – from the Atlantic Ocean

According to Southern Living magazine article “Eat the Enemy and Enjoy Lionfish this Summer,”  “For chefs, the lionfish’s canvas-like versatility is a key strength. It’s difficult to imagine a preparation—from beer-battered, to sashimi, to vegetable-packed kebabs—that wouldn’t work.”

The story of the Atlantic Ocean lionfish is a good reminder to all of us that introducing alien species into any habitat can quickly lead to catastrophe, both for wildlife and for us.

Hunting-Lionfish

That headline isn’t completely true for all the Western Atlantic, but the lionfish are wiping out native populations of marine life.  Enhttps://lionfish.co/why-are-lionfish-a-problem/ter a caption

Remember, our Pacific Ocean lionfish are part of the diversity of our waters – and they should NOT be eaten.

But consuming the Atlantic Ocean lionfish means you are helping the native fish and the commercial fishermen!

Aloha, Renée

Information from: < https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/invasion-of-the-lionfish-131647135/> and information and photo from: <http://www.habitat.noaa.gov/pdf/best_management_practices/fact_sheets/Lionfish%20Factsheet.pdf>

Banner from: http://www.groupersandwich.com/news/2015/07/lionfish-now-available/

 

 

 

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“The Scary Truth about Childbirth”

If you are a mom, hope to be a mom, or love a mom, the information in “The Scary Truth about Childbirth” in the January/February 2017 issue of Mother Jones magazine is important.   Those who know problems can happen can take steps to avoid the worst.

Childbirth can be fatal.  At 37, my healthy mother died in labor  – in a hospital –  in the United States.  I was 9, my sister 7; we had our new brother – but no mom.  My mom’s doctor told my dad that she had hemorrhaged to death – “a very rare occurrence.”

Even today, maternal mortality in the U.S. is disgustingly high.  A 2016 article in Time notes“A  2015 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out that the U.S. has a higher maternal mortality rate than Iran, Libya and Turkey. The WHO determined that half of the U.S. deaths were preventable [my emphasis.  No one in that hospital, for instance,  was paying attention to my mom as she bled to death] .  . .

The United Nations set a goal to reduce the global maternal mortality rate by 75% between 1990 and 2015, and while most nations succeeded in lowering that number, the U.S. has experienced an uptick in recent years. A report published in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that from 2000 to 2014, the maternal mortality rate for 48 states and Washington, D.C. increased 27% from close to 19 deaths per 100,000 live births to close to 24 deaths per 100,000 live births. In Texas, the rate doubled between 2010 to 2012.”  [A likely reason for that upswing in deaths is that Texas has closed almost all its Planned Parenthood clinics – which give birth control, family planning information, treat medical issues, and do legal abortions; leaving few or no low-cost medical alternatives for the poor in Texas].

From: http://time.com/4508369/why-u-s-women-still-die-during-childbirth/

Even if the mom and child make it through the birth, “The Scary Truth About Childbirth”  highlights problems and injuries that happen during labor but are often not recognized.

Almost no one talks about the possibilities of incontinence or prolapse or severe pain or . . . (and this includes most doctors – who don’t check for possible injuries).  A woman may not know until 20, 30, 40, 50  years later that she has a problem.

For one  woman I know who had two children, her pelvis bones were broken each time because of the intense pressure during childbirth. What was wrong with her doctor to let her go through two labors like that?  Obviously the doctor  didn’t know what to do, and my friend has had many issues as a result. 😞  Perhaps if she had known (or her doctor was more aware and competent), my friend  could have long ago taken steps to improve her situation – or at least not had to repeat the ordeal during the birth of her second child. 

I also know three  women who have had the surgery for incontinence.  This is a condition that most women won’t talk about, and maybe the fact that I know of these three  (none in my opinion “successful” operations) reflects that people are more likely to complain when something goes wrong than to tell that they have had a successful procedure for an embarrassing condition.  It must work for some, but of those examples I know, one woman has had the operation three times (at a current cost of $28,000 each time, so you better be rich enough to have good medical insurance)! The second says she will never be able to have intercourse again because of the misplacement of the mesh insert, and the third, a Maui woman who was touted as having a “successful” operation and had been an avid hiker says that she will never again be able to hike Haleakala, our Maui volcano, a long and a bit challenging adventure.

Please read and share “The Scary Truth About Childbirth” by Kiera Butler, a well-researched and disturbing Mother Jones article – with your friends, your doctor, with every woman you know.  If you are  mom, find a doctor who takes these problems seriously.  If your gynecologist doesn’t check for these rather common issues, your future quality of life may very well be impacted.  Also do Pilates and yoga that will strengthen your pelvic floor. 

Be aware.  What you don’t know can hurt you.

Please read:  “The Scary Truth About Childbirth”

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/childbirth-injuries-prolapse-cesarean-section-natural-childbirth/

In a related posting several years ago, I shared the Atlantic Monthly article, “How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?”

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/07/how-long-can-you-wait-to-have-a-baby/309374/

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“How Long Can a Woman Wait to Have a Baby?” – image from The Atlantic Monthly

That article focuses on the faulty information that fertility rates drop dramatically after a woman is 35.  That idea, says the author, is based partially on a study of French women from the years 1670 through 1830 —  before electric lights, antibiotics, or fertility treatments.

Both articles have information we should know.   Be healthy; be informed; take good care of yourself.

And my friend Chris sent me the link to “After Texas Stopped Funding . . .” – an LA Times article:  http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-planned-parenthood-texas-births-20160203-story.html

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If you can’t afford birth control, you probably can’t afford a child.  If you don’t want to use birth control, don’t use it.  If you are against abortion, don’t have one.  Let others decide what’s best for themselves.  Pregnancy has serious consequences.

Wishing you and all you love health and happiness.  Aloha, Renée

Our World

 Our Pale Blue Dot

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

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Seen from about 6 billion kilometers, Earth appears as a tiny dot (the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right) within the darkness of deep space. From Voyager 1 spacecraft.  Photo taken Feb. 14, 1990.

On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

To view other images taken by NASA expeditions, visit NASA’s Planetary Photojournal web site at photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov
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Our sun. Image taken January 20, 2017 by NASA

“Carl Sagan (1934-1996) is perhaps best known for his award-winning PBS series Cosmos, in which he inspired a sense of wonder and excitement about his favorite subjects: the origins of life and the search for intelligent life in the universe.
sagan_uc

Carl Sagan 1934-1996 Credit and Copyright: 1994 by Michael Okoniewski & https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap961226.html

In addition to holding a 25-year professorship at Cornell University, Sagan was the author of numerous scientific papers, popular articles, and books . . .; he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1978.  In the 1950s Sagan began serving as a consultant and adviser to NASA.  . . .
‘Reflections on a Mote of Dust’ is an excerpt from a commencement address that Sagan delivered on May 11, 1996″ (106).
From: McQuade, Seeing and Writing 2, 2003.
Let us “preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Aloha, Renée

Barry’s Gleanings: Planets, Planets . . .

“Science-fiction writers have been dreaming up alien planets for decades . . . [S]cience had to wait until 1992 for proof that such planets did exist .. . Thanks to a combination of ground-based telescopes and planet-hunting satellites, particularly one called Kepler, which was launched in 2009, more than 3,500 such worlds are known.

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Image from: https://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/december/nasa-s-kepler-reborn-makes-first-exoplanet-find-of-new-mission

Unlike their depiction in fiction, reasonably few are much like Earth . .. And almost all are far, far away . . . .

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By April 2016, Kepler was about 100 million miles from Earth.

Image  from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kepler_(spacecraft)

From 2017, though, that will change.  In December a successor to Kepler, called TESS (for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), will be launched into orbit.  It is designed to survey the entire sky, looking for the sorts of exoplanets that are of most interest to humans – ones that are small (like Earth), rocky (like Earth), and relatively close by . . . . The new satellite should spot about 3,000 planets.

In August 2016, scientists announced the discovery of an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, which, at 4.25 light-years away, is the closest star to the Sun.

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Proxima-Centauri star – our closest star

Yuri Milner, a Russian billionaire and physicist . . . is already working with Stephen Hawking, a British theoretical physicist, on plans for a tiny, laser-propelled probe that could cover the distance in about 20 years”  (139).

From “Planets, planets everywhere” by Tim Cross in The Economist: The World in 2017. 

Our fiction and our scientific facts are changing  — and all most interesting.

Aloha, Barry (and Renée)

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