Tag Archives: climate change

Stress & Survival: Birds Hanging in the Balance

As university students, we spend plenty of time trying to manage our stress levels when dealing with a plethora of assignments, projects, and exams. Stress has proven to affect the academic performance of students, but did you know that it may be the key to survival for birds in ever changing climactic conditions?

Biologist Roslyn Dakin and a team of researchers recently published a study with one goal in mind – to determine how stress affects the survival of baby tree swallows.

Tree Swallow | By Peter Wilton (Tree Swallow Uploaded by Magnus Manske) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 In order to manipulate the stress levels of the swallows, Dakin implanted corticosterone pellets into their bloodstream. Corticosterone, a stress hormone, has been shown to impact how often a mother would feed their offspring. Therefore, experimenting with its levels should affect survival.

So what exactly did Dakin find? Their results were seriously disturbed by exceptionally cold and wet weather, the ramifications of which are discussed in the podcast below:

The study revealed some extremely complex relationships between stress, weather, parental investment, and ultimately, survival. An increase in corticosterone did not necessarily lead to an decrease in mortality, as predicted. In fact, the offspring of mothers with higher corticosterone levels showed an increased risk of failure. In inclement weather, however, all individuals had a high likelihood of mortality.

One fascinating finding involved the relationship between the male and female parents. As expected, with  high female feeding rates, the offspring were more likely to survive. However, high male feeding rates combined with corticosterone-implanted females resulted in a higher risk of failure compared to females without the implants. Why is this the case? Wouldn’t more care from a parent allow for better survival? Several hypotheses were proposed. Highly invested males may be more sensitive to changes in their partner. As well, the female may be more likely to abandon their offspring if they feel that the male could care for the offspring on their own.

Field site at the Queen’s University Biological Station, Ontario | Credit: Adam Lendvai

More questions were raised than answered in the study, and unfortunately swallow populations continue to dwindle in Ontario, where the experiment took place. Clearly, any solution proposed will have a variety of factors at play. Nonetheless, we valiantly attempted to tackle the issue of declining bird populations in unpredictable weather – check out our video below for more!

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Tim Cheung, Peggy Hung, Kamyar Kazemiashtiani, & Josephina Kim

How to Stop Global Warming

Global warming is one of the biggest problems that human beings have ever experienced. This problem has numerous negative impacts on our health and economy . Therefore, it seems necessary for us to find ways to tackle this problem.

First of all, we should know the clear definition of global warming.

According to “Annex II Glossary” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Global warming is a phenomenon that is caused by increas in Earth’s average surface temperature because of the effect of greenhouse gases such as CO2, which prevents heat to escape from the Earth.

Because global warming has so many catastrophic results on environment, it is important to identify the reasons for it and realize how to combat this phenomenon . The first reason is because of the greenhouse gases effect ; absorbing heat by these gases from the surface and the emitting it back to the surface lead to warming the the surface and lower atmosphere . Furthermore, scientists believe changes in solar radiation and variations in Earth’s orbit are other reasons.
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       Global Warming
       Credit : National Geographic

Scientists have realized some practical ways to combat this unsolved issue.

Reducing tropical deforestation can have a significant effect in lowering emissions that are the causes of global warming. Because CO2 is the most important greenhouse gas, stopping deforestation and planting trees can have a major effect on reducing the global warming. This is due to the fact that plants take carbon dioxide in and then release oxygen to their environment. Therefore, planting new trees could be a positive approach.

                                Credit : Wikipedia

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          Deforestation and Global Warming
           Credit : VOA News

Another solution to global warming is reducing the waste that we produce. Disposal of waste can produce combination of several greenhouse gases that are the main reasons for climate change. For example, methane that is one of the most important greenhouse gases which is produced when organic matters decompose in landfills. Recycling items such as plastic, paper and glass can significantly reduces the amount of emissions .

                     Wastes and Dirty River
                     Credit : Wikipedia

Our personal cars are considered to be the most significant source of the greenhouse gases that are in troposphere. For example, emissions from cars and trucks in The United States of America account for 20% of all emissions. So, we can contribute to reduce greenhouse gases in some ways including: travelling by public transportation and driving smart .

                 Credit : Wikipedia

Since consumption of fossil fuels is the reason for releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to atmosphere, it seems necessary to find other ways to generate energy. Renewable energies such as solar power, wind and geothermal heat are the most striking examples of clean and sustainable alternative energies. With using these energies, we can combat global warming by the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

                               Wind Power
                              Credit : Pixaby

By using mentioned solutions and the modern technologies that we have, we can reduce the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

Kamyar Kazemiashtiani