This week’s blog was written by Sam P., an Ursids alumni. Sam attended the Wildlife Leadership Academy because he dreams of becoming a game warden. Sam loves to be outdoors and love all things in it. He is an Eagle Scout as well, with which he really enjoys camping, biking, hiking, and absolutely loves kayaking. In school Sam is active in Envirothon, the golf team, rifle team, and tennis team. He is also involved in marching band and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Through WLA, Sam has learned countless new leadership skills to get the public interested in the outdoors and he looks forward to doing so as long as he is able.
Who doesn’t love fall? The season of pumpkin spice, beautiful leaves, and the colder days. Yep though some may disagree in the colder days, but it really is an enjoyable time to be outside. Personally, I love the autumn leaves. During this time there is nothing more stunning than taking a drive along a mountain and seeing nature’s painting before your very eyes.
Did you know that the colors you see in the fall were in the leaves the entire time? Chlorophyll is what gives leaves their green color, it helps break down sunlight and mostly absorbs green light, hence the green color. But when the later months arrive, the days grow shorter, therefore less sunlight for this pigment in the leaves to absorb. With this action taking place chlorophyll production slows down and stops until all of it is destroyed. This is when it gets cool, with the green pigment gone the other pigments that are in the leaves are unmasked and show off their vibrant colors. Another unique aspect of this beautiful, mysterious, and amazing world of ours. So next time you look at those vibrant leaves in the fall, try and wrap your head around all that makes those leaves change color. Amazing!
The photos used in this blog belong to the author.
This week’s blog was written by Paloma M., a Brookies alumni. Paloma is a reporter who specializes in environmental and climate studies. She loves informing those around her about the latest news about our planet, with an emphasis on politics and media. She attended Wildlife Leadership Academy to get out into the world and learn more about the environment she was reporting on.
Paloma collaborated with Leo U., a Brookies alumni to provide the photos for her blog. Leo is an aspiring artist and photographer with a passion for evolutionary biology and herpetology. They love informing those around them about the natural world, especially topics that are obscure or overlooked. Leo attended the Wildlife Leadership academy to learn more about native species and conservation.
Tropical storms and hurricanes have always been a part of the United States with Florida constantly on the edge of one of these horrible natural disasters, it’s nearly always in the news. However, the most devastating headline hit recently: Hurricane Ian. The hurricane is one of the biggest storms to have hit Central Florida, well, ever. The storm broke all forms of records, mainly devastating the frequently named Fort Myers where the storm initially made landfall. It also caused a large storm surge which impacted the Florida coast, the Gold Keys, and Southwest Florida. It caused an approximate $64 million worth of damage to the US as a whole, with a confirmed death toll of at least 119 people. This storm brings into the limelight a question that is frequently asked after most major natural disasters these days: how is climate change involved in any of this?
In terms of hurricanes, Climate change makes the whole game more dangerous to play. Yale Climate Connections states that climate change causes “stronger wind speeds, more rain, and worsened storm surge”. The same article states that rain during hurricanes has increased more than 20% (although the actual percentage ranges from 19-36% based on location), with some scientists even stating that there has been “a six-fold increase in the probability of an event of that magnitude since just the late 20th century”. For each degree Celsius that the world warms, which at the moment is about 1.8 degrees Celsius, the amount of rain these storms produce increases by about 7%, causing an estimated 14-20% increase before the end of the century. HiFLOR, or advanced scientific climate modeling, shows a 29% increase in category 3-5 hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin and a 20% increase globally. Another study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated that all around the world we’ll be seeing an increase in bigger storms, showing a 9-23% increase in storms by the end of the 21st century in the Atlantic Basin alone. In a 2018 study by the NOAA, it was shown that storm speed has decreased by about 10%, causing more rain and more damage since they’re sticking around for longer.
What does all of this science tell us? It tells us that Hurricane Ian was more like a preview of coming attractions if something doesn’t change soon. For years, experts have been warning us of what was waiting if we don’t change and now we’re finally starting to see some of the damage they prophesied. However, there is still hope. On the political landscape, The Build Back Better Bill proposed by President Biden promises some of the greatest governmental help we’ve seen for climate change yet, giving tax credits for using more environmentally sustainable materials, helping build more renewable energy in the US, and bringing more taxpayer money to organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency and the NOAA. Socially, the push is already being felt, with many big companies such as Amazon, Google, and Apple pledging to lower their carbon footprint and use more environmentally friendly packaging with the average consumer becoming more environmentally aware. In the end, Hurricane Ian brings the long debated issue of climate change back into the spotlight once again, promising much more change as more lives are increasingly affected by large-scale natural disasters all over the world.
The photos used in this blog belong to Leo U., a Brookies alumni.
This week’s blog was written by Liam B., a Gobblers and Bass alumni. Liam is a junior in high school who has attended the Wildlife Leadership Academy as both a student and an assistant team leader over the past two summers. He has participated in WLA mainly due to to his interest in wildlife overall, and notably ornithology. He plans to attend college and afterwards pursue a career with the game commission.
Fall is upon us, and as such, many people wandering the wooded areas of Pennsylvania begin to take notice of one of the more well-known inhabitants of our state. Their long, grey bushy tail, stark white underbelly, and overall inquisitive nature make the Eastern Grey Squirrel one of the most easily recognizable rodents in the eastern United States. However, they are often regarded as a nuisance or pest. This is not without cause, as their curiosity often lands them in trouble. Regardless, they also perform many important functions in their natural habitat that can’t be ignored.
The Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinesis) is a very prolific rodent, inhabiting much of eastern North America, from Quebec to the tip of Florida, they are surprisingly adaptable. This has allowed them to expand their range into other countries where they have been introduced, including Europe and Africa. They are omnivores, consuming a wide variety of berries, seeds, mushrooms, insects, and occasionally smaller vertebrates. Despite being rodents, they are not as aggressively fecund, having smaller litters of 1-4 once or twice a year, but they can have as many as eight kits in a litter. They are crepuscular, often seen around the beginning or end of the day. Contrary to popular belief, they do not hibernate, unlike some of their relatives. This means that they need to have food ready for winter; they are notorious for their caches, holes in the ground, where they store nuts and seeds. This notorious caching behavior is part of why they are important for the ecosystem. They don’t eat all of their stored food, this results in the “planting” of new trees to help the forest continue to grow. They are also an important prey species for a variety of animals. Notably, they are often caught by hawks, bobcats, foxes, and owls. They are also hosts to many small invertebrates, such as fleas and ticks. This causes issues when they come into contact with people and domestic animals.
Gray squirrels are not seen just in forests but also in woodland edges and even in more urbanized areas. This is unsurprising, due to their ability to modify their behavior and the abundance of food in these areas. However, their inquisitive nature tends to get them into trouble. Whoever came up with the idiom “curiosity killed the cat” had clearly never encountered squirrels before. They can cause extensive property damage due to their ability to easily chew through wood and plastic. They can breach roofs and cause damage to other wood furnishings outside and around the house. They have often gotten into electronics such as wires and chewed through them, resulting in power outages at the cost of the life of the squirrel. These can range from small-scale single-home outages to widespread, more costly power disruption. According to Unititl, an interstate electric utility company, around 8.5% of their outages have been caused by squirrels gaining access to their substations. However, much of the wrath that gray squirrels have received comes from the ornithological community, as they have a tendency to raid bird feeders, especially during the leaner times in fall and winter. These raids often drive off the birds. This results in the generation of a self-perpetuating cycle. Bird watchers set up new feeders with anti-squirrel countermeasures. The squirrels are thwarted for some time. Then, due to their surprisingly high intelligence, the squirrels figure out how to breach these defenses. This drives off the birds, and the cycle begins anew.
The gray squirrel’s flexibility also has caused issues outside of their non-native ranges. Particularly in Europe, but also in South Africa, where they had been introduced by Cecil John Rhoades onto his estate in Cape Town. In Europe, specifically, the UK and Ireland where they have few predators, they began to aggressively outcompete the native red squirrel population. Various campaigns have been launched to exterminate the gray squirrels, however, due to their much higher fitness, and the introduction of a foreign virus into the red squirrel population, the gray squirrels still maintain their foothold. So, the fate of the red squirrels remains uncertain.
The Eastern Gray squirrel is an interesting species. They have an important role in their natural habitats both as propagators of the forest and as food sources for larger animals. However, many of their interactions with humans tend to go poorly. As such, they have been made out to be small furry miscreants. Despite this, they are an important part of their native ecosystems, and as such, deserve to be treated with some amount of respect.
The photos used in this blog were sourced from the internet. They can be found here and here.
This week’s blog was written by Grace H., a Bucktails alumni. Grace is interested in studying mathematics and international diplomacy. Attending the Wildlife Leadership Academy was an experience that allowed her to develop an understanding of ecology from an environmental lens.
Enjoying forms or recreation that are not at the expense of nature is an important factor of prioritizing the environment. State Parks are areas of land protected by the state due to their natural importance and are a wonderful way for the general public to enjoy nature that humanity has not interfered with. These parks serve the importance of preserving natural resources and.protecting wildlife by allowing organisms to strive in their intended ecosystems. 124 State Parks are dispersed throughout Pennsylvania presenting a location for everyone in the state to enjoy.
Moraine State Park is located in Western PA and is mainly used for recreation in nature around Lake Arthur. People can partake in swimming, boating, hiking, and frisbee golf. Families can enjoy watching wildlife while picnicking or simply sitting in nature. There are countless trails for hiking and a beautiful 7 mile bike trail near the shore of the lake surrounded by shading trees and greenery. Cabins and group tents in the park allow people with a passion for the outdoors to stay overnight. Moraine State park is a beautiful place and allows recreation to occur without damaging the environment.
The photo used in this blog belongs to the author.
Our student of the month for January is Grace Harlan, a Bucktail alumni. Grace comes from what some may describe as a “less traditional” wildlife background – she is interested in studying mathematics and international diplomacy! However, in her own words, “attending the Wild Leadership Academy was an experience that allowed her to develop an understanding of ecology from an environmental lens.”
Grace is an outstanding example of leadership as a Conservation Ambassador in her community, participating in conservation stewardship education through music, assisting with educational programs at several local organizations, and furthering her own conservation education through trainings. Grace shares her knowledge and learning as one of our Monthly Blog Correspondents, where she writes about topics such as Nature Journaling and different ways to communicate with nature. Click on each topic to read her blogs!
Grace is pursuing educational opportunities, such as applying to the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Global and International Studies, that will continue to help her soar as a leader in her community. She is an active volunteer in her community, a scholar athlete, and a shining example of everything we look for in our Conservation Ambassadors. We look forward to watching Grace flourish in all her endeavors!