VIEW IN SEARCHABLE TABLE

Below, you will find a table of all the current Data Nuggets available. Click on the Title to open a page displaying the Data Nugget, teacher guide, student activities, grading rubric, and associated resources. The table can be sorted using the arrows located next to each column header. It can also be searched by content area using the search bar, located to the top right of the table.

 TitleKeywordsSummaryContent LevelStudy Location
DSC_0060Won’t you be my urchin?coral reef, herbivory, marine, sea urchin, water, animals, competitionCorals are the most important reef animals since they build the reef for all of the other animals to live in. But corals only like to live in certain places. In particular they hate living near algae because the algae and coral compete for the space they both need to grow. Perhaps if there are more vegetarians, like urchins, eating algae on the reef then corals would have less competition and more space to grow.1Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Texas
DSC_0060Coral bleaching and climate changeclimate change, coral reef, marine, mutualism, temperature, animals, algae, adaptation, evolutionCorals are animals that build coral reefs. They look brown and green because they have small plants, called algae, that live inside them. The coral animal and the algae work together to produce food so that corals can grow big. When the water gets too warm, sometimes the coral and algae can no longer work together. The algae leave and the corals turn white, called coral bleaching. Scientists want to study coral bleaching so they can protect corals and the reefs that provide a home for so many different species.1Florida Keys
pcare2Raising Nemo: Parental care in the clown anemonefishadaptation, animals, behavior, coral reef, ecology, fish, marine, mating, tradeoffOffspring in many animal species rely on parental care; the more time and energy parents invest in their young, the more likely it is that their offspring will survive. However, parental care is costly for the parents. The more time spent on care, the less time they have to find food or care for themselves. In the clown anemonefish, the amount of food available may impact parental care behaviors. When there is food freely available in the environment, are parents able to spend more time caring for their young?3Boston University
City parks: wildlife islands in a sea of cementanimals, biodiversity, ecology, urban, island biogeography, parksIt's tempting to think that wild places are only somewhere "out there", far away from humans and cities. However, as more and more people move into cities, they are quickly becoming the main place where many people experience nature and interact with wildlife. A camera-trapping project in the Cleveland Metroparks reveals a vast urban wilderness that is home to countless wild creatures living among us.3Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio
Deadly windowsanimals, behavior, birds, environmental, urbanGlass makes for a great windowpane because you can see right through it. However, this makes windows very dangerous for birds. Many birds die from window collisions in urban areas. In North America window collisions kill up to 1 billion birds every year! Perhaps local urban birds are able to learn the locations of windows and avoid collisions. By comparing window collisions by local birds to those of migrant birds that are just passing through, we can determine if local birds have learned to deal with this challenge.2Virginia Zoological Park
DSC_0060Bye bye birdie? Part Ianimals, biodiversity, birds, climate change, succession, disturbance, ecologyAvian ecologists at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest have been monitoring bird populations for over 40 years. The data collected during this time is one of the longest bird studies ever conducted! What can we learn from this long-term data set? Are bird populations remaining stable over time?2Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire
DSC_0060Bye bye birdie? Part IIanimals, biodiversity, birds, climate change, succession, disturbance, ecologyHubbard Brook was heavily logged and disturbed in the early 1900s. When logging ended in 1915, trees began to grow back. The forest then went through secondary succession, which refers to the naturally occurring changes in forest structure that happen as a forest ages after it has been cut or otherwise disturbed. Can these changes in habitat availability, due to succession, explain why the number of birds are declining at Hubbard Brook? Are all bird species responding succession in the same way?3Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire
 junglefoulFeral chickens fly the coopadaptation, animals, behavior, birds, ecology, evolution, invasive species, matingSometimes domesticated animals escape captivity and interbreed with closely related wild relatives. Their hybrid offspring have some traits from the wild parent, and some from the domestic parent. Traits that help hybrids survive and reproduce will be favored by natural selection. On the island of Kauai, domestic chickens escaped and recently interbred with wild Red Junglefowl to produce a hybrid population. Over time, will the hybrids on Kauai evolve to be more like chickens, or more like Red Junglefowl?3Kauai, HI
DSC_0060Sexy smellsadaptation, animal behavior, animals, birds, matingAnimals collect information about each other and the rest of the world using multiple senses, including sight, sound, and smell. They use this information to decide what to eat, where to live, and who to pick as a mate. Many male birds have brightly colored feathers and ornaments that are attractive to females. Visual signals like these ornaments have been studied a lot in birds, but birds may be able to determine the quality of a potential mate using other senses as well, such as their smell!2Mountain Lake Biological Station, Virginia
chickadee2Finding Mr. Rightadaptation, animals, behavior, biodiversity, birds, evolution, genes, mating, local adaptationMountain chickadees are small birds that live in the mountains. To deal with living in a harsh environment during the winter, mountain chickadees store large amounts of food throughout the forest. Compared to populations at lower elevations, birds from higher elevations are smarter and have better spatial memory, helping them better find stored food. Smarter females from high elevations may be contributing to local adaptation by preferring to breed with males from their own population.4University of Nevada Reno & Sagehen Experimental Forest
DSC_0060A tail of two scorpionsanimal behavior, animals, predationSpecies rely on a variety of methods to defend against predators, including camouflage, speedy escape, or retreating to the safety of a shelter. Other animals, such as scorpions, have painful venomous stings. Scientists wanted to know whether the pain of a scorpion sting was enough to deter predators, like the grasshopper mouse.2Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona & Michigan State University
Why are butterfly wings colorful?adaptation, animals, insects, models, predationBig wings allow butterflies to fly everywhere with ease. But you may wonder, why are the wings of some species so brightly colored? The red postman butterfly lives in rainforests in Mexico, Central America, and South America. The color pattern on its wing is usually a mix of red, yellow, and black. These bright colors may warn birds and other predators that they would not make a tasty meal. Another potential reason for butterflies to have bright colors and dramatic patterns is to attract mates.3La Selva Tropical Biological Station, Sarapiquí, Costa Rica
To bee or not to bee aggressiveanimals, behavior, genes, insects, tradeoffHoney bees turn nectar from flowers into honey, and honey serves as an energy-rich food source for the colony. Honey also makes hives a target for break ins by animals that want to steal it. Bees need to aggressively defend their honey when the hive is threatened. They also need to ensure that they do not waste energy on unnecessary aggressive behaviors when the threat level is low. One way bees might match their aggressiveness to the threat level in the environment is learning from adults when they are young.3University of Kentucky
DSC_0060CSI: Crime Solving Insectsanimals, insects, parasitismYou might think maggots (blow fly larvae) are gross, but without their help in decomposition we would all trip over dead bodies every time we went outside! Forensic entomologists also use these amazing insects to help solve crimes. Blow flies oviposit on dead bodies, and the age of the maggots that hatch helps scientists determine how long ago a body died. Scientists noticed parasitic wasps were also present at some bodies. Might these wasps delay blow fly oviposition and interfere with scientists' estimates of time of death?3Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Michigan & Valparaiso University, Indiana
DSC_0060Shooting the poopadaptation, animal behavior, animals, insects, predationCaterpillars are a great source of food for many species. The silver-spotted skipper caterpillar has a variety of defense strategies against predators, including building leaf shelters for protection. This caterpillar was also discovered to “shoot its poop”, sometimes launching it over 1.5m! Might this very strange behavior serve as some sort of defense against predators?2Georgetown University, Washington DC
DSC_0060How the cricket lost its song, Part Iadaptation, animal behavior, animals, evolution, mating, parasitismPacific field crickets live on several Hawaiian Islands, including Kauai. Male field crickets make a loud, long-distance song to help females find them, and then switch to a quiet courtship song once a female comes in close. One summer scientists noticed that the crickets on the island were unusually quiet. Back in the lab they saw males that had lost their specialized wing structures used to produce song! Why did these males lose their wing structures?3Kauai Agricultural Research Center - Kapaa, HI
DSC_0060How the cricket lost its song, Part IIadaptation, animal behavior, animals, evolution, mating, parasitismWIthout their song, how are flatwing crickets able to attract females? In some other animals species, males use an alternative to singing, called satellite behavior. Satellite males hang out near a singing male and attempt to mate with females who have been attracted by the song. Perhaps the satellite behavior gives flatwing males the opportunity to mate with females who were attracted to the few singing males left on Kauai. 3Kauai Agricultural Research Center - Kapaa, HI
dungbeetleBeetle battlesadaptation, animals, behavior, competition, evolution, insects, matingMale animals spend a lot of time and energy trying to attract females. They may fight with other males or court females directly. Is there one trait that is both good for fighting males and attracting females? In the horned dung beetle, males have to fight with other males for space in underground tunnels where females mate and lay their eggs. Males also attract females by tapping on their backs. Males that are stronger may potentially be better at both defending tunnels and at attracting females by tapping.2Perth, Australia
DSC_0060Do insects prefer local or foreign foods?herbivory, invasive species, plants, insects, enemy release, ecologyInsects that feed on plants, called herbivores, can have big effects on how plants grow. A plant with leaves eaten by herbivores will likely do worse than a plant that is not eaten. Herbivores may even determine how well an exotic plant does in its new habitat and whether it becomes invasive. Understanding what makes a species become invasive could help control invasions already underway, and prevent new ones in the future.2Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Do invasive species escape their enemies?herbivory, invasive species, plants, insects, enemy release, ecologyInvasive species have been introduced by humans to a new area and negatively impact places they invade. Many things change for an invasive species when it is moved from one area to another. For example, a plant that is moved across oceans may not bring its enemies along for the ride. Now that the plant is in a new area with nothing to eat or infect it, the plant could potentially do very well and become invasive.2Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Invasion Meltdown: will climate change make invasions even worse?climate change, ecology, invasive species, plants, temperatureHumans are changing the earth in many ways, including adding greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change, and introducing species around the globe, which can lead to invasive species. Scientists wanted to know, could climate change actually help invasive species? Because invasive species have already survived transport from one habitat to another, they may be species that are better able to handle change, such as temperature changes.3Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Springing forwardclimate change, phenology, plants, temperatureWhat does climate change mean for flowering plants that rely on temperature cues to determine when it is time to flower? Scientists who study phenology, or the timing if life-history events in plants and animals, predict that with warming temperatures, plants will produce their flowers earlier and earlier each year.1 & 3Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
kgrayson1When a species can’t stand the heatanimals, climate change, disturbance, ecology, environmental, mating, temperatureTuatara are a unique species of reptile found only in New Zealand. In this species, the temperature of the nest during egg development determines the sex of offspring. Warm nests lead to more males, and cool nests lead to more females. With warming temperatures due to climate change, scientists expect the sex ratio to become more and more unbalanced over time, with males making up more of the population. This could leave tuatara populations with too few females to sustain their numbers.3North Brother Island, New Zealand
DSC_0060What do trees know about rain?climate change, dendrochronology, ecology, plants, precipitation, temperature, waterThe typical climate of arid northwest Australia consists of long drought periods with a few very wet years sprinkled in. Scientists predict that climate change will cause these cycles to become more extreme – droughts will become longer and periods of rain will become wetter. When variability is the norm, how can scientists tell if the climate is changing and droughts and rain events today are more intense than what we've seen in the past? The answer to this challenge comes from trees! 3Pilbara region, northwest Australia
DSC_0060The Arctic is melting – so what?climate change, marine, models, temperature, water, weatherThink of the North Pole as one big ice cube – a vast sheet of ice, only a few meters thick, floating over the Arctic Ocean. With global warming, more sea ice is melting than ever before. If more ice melts in the summer than is formed in the winter, the Arctic Ocean will become ice-free. Scientists ran a climate model to determine whether this loss of sea ice could affect extreme weather in the northern hemisphere.4Arctic Ocean, North Pole
DSC_0060Growing energy: comparing biofuel crop biomassagriculture, biofuels, climate change, fertilization, plantsCorn is one of the best crops for producing biomass for fossil fuels, however it is an annual and needs very fertile soil. To grow corn, farmers add a lot of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to their fields. Other crops, like switchgrass, prairie, poplar trees, and Miscanthus grass are perennials and require fewer fertilizers and pesticides to grow. If perennials can produce high levels of biomass with low inputs, perhaps they could produce more biomass than corn under certain low nutrient conditions.3GLBRC, Kellogg Biological Station & University Wisconsin-Madison
DSC_0060Fertilizing biofuels may cause release of greenhouse gassesbiofuels, climate change, fertilization, greenhouse gasses, nitrogen, plantsOne way to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we release into the atmosphere could be to grow our fuel instead of drilling for it. Unlike fossil fuels that can only release CO2, biofuels remove CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow and photosynthesize, potentially balancing the CO2 released when they are burned for fuel. However, the plants we grow for biofuels don’t necessarily absorb all greenhouse gas that is released during the process of growing them on farms and converting them into fuels.3GLBRC, Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060The ground has gas!climate change, temperature, greenhouse gasses, nitrogen, plantsNitrous oxide and carbon dioxide are responsible for much of the warming of the global average temperature that is causing climate change. Sometimes soils give off, or emit, these greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere, adding to climate change. Currently scientists figuring out what causes differences in how much of each type of greenhouse gas soils emit.3GLBRC, Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Cheaters in nature – when is a mutualism not a mutualism?evolution, legume, plants, mutualism, parasitism, rhizobia, nitrogen, fertilizationMutualisms are a special type of relationship in nature where two species work together and both benefit. This cooperation should lead to each partner species doing better when the other is around – without their mutualist partner, the species will have a harder time acquiring resources. But what happens when one partner cheats and takes more than it gives?4Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Fair traders or freeloaders?evolution, legume, plants, mutualism, rhizobia, nitrogen, fertilizationOne example of a mutualism is the relationship between a type of bacteria, rhizobia, and plants like peas, beans, soybeans, and clover. Rhizobia live in bumps on the plant roots, where they trade their nitrogen for sugar from the plants. Rhizobia turn nitrogen from the air into a form that plants can use. Under some conditions, this mutualism could break down, for example, if one of the traded resources is very abundant in the environment.3Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Does a partner in crime make it easier to invade?evolution, legume, plants, mutualism, rhizobia, invasive speciesInvasive plants are species that have been transported by humans from one location to another, and grow and spread quickly compared to other plants. Mutualisms can affect what happens when a plant species is moved somewhere it hasn’t been before. For invasive legumes with rhizobia mutualists, there is a chance that the rhizobia will not be transported with it and the plant will have to form new relationships with rhizobia in the new location.3Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
tad-toe-detachment-phelsuma_mediumSticky situations: big and small animals with sticky feetadaptation, animals, chemistry, physics, scale, surface areaSticky, or adhesive, toe pads have evolved in many different kinds of animals, including insects, arachnids, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. The heavier the animal, the more adhesion they will need to stick and support their mass. For tiny species like mites and flies, tiny toes can do the job. Each fly toe only has to be able to support a small amount of weight. But when looking at larger animals like geckos, their increased weight means they need much larger toe pads to support them.4BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action
DSC_0060Lizards, iguanas, and snakes! Oh my! animals, biodiversity, disturbance restoration, urbanPeople have dramatically changed the natural riparian habitat found along rivers and streams. In many urban areas today, these riparian habitats are being rehabilitated with the hope of bringing back native species, such as reptiles. Reptiles, including snakes and lizards, are extremely important to monitor as they play important roles in ecosystems. Are rehabilitation efforts in Phoenix successful at restoring reptile diversity and abundance?3Salt River, Phoenix, Arizona
DSC_0060Is chocolate for the birds?agriculture, animals, birds, biodiversity, ecology, plants, rainforestHumans invented agriculture 9,000 years ago, and today it covers 40% of Earth’s land surface. To grow our crops, native plants are often removed, causing the loss of animals that relied on these native plants for habitat. However, sometimes animals can use crop species for food and shelter. For example, the cacao tree may provide habitat for bird species in the rainforests of Costa Rica. Will the abundance and types of birds differ in cacao plantations, compared to native rainforests?2Limón Province, Costa Rica
DSC_0060Urbanization and estuary eutrophicationalgae, eutrophication, fertilization, marine, nitrogen, phosphorus, wetland, urbanEstuaries are very productive habitats found where freshwater rivers meet the ocean. They are important natural filters for water and protect the coast during storms. A high diversity of plants, fish, shellfish and birds call estuaries home. Estuaries are threatened by eutrophication, or the process by which an ecosystem becomes more productive when excess nutrients are added to the system. Parts of the Plum Island Estuary in MA may be more at risk from eutrophication due to their proximity to urban areas.4Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Green Crabs: Invaders in the Great Marshanimals, invasive species, substrate, wetland, erosionThe introduction of invasive species, such as the European Green Crab, poses a great threat to marshes. Digging behaviors of the Green Crab disturb sediments on the marsh floor and may have lead to the destruction of native eelgrass populations, which are sensitive to disturbance. Scientists aimed to identify locations where crab numbers are low and eelgrass can be restored.2Essex Bay, Massachusetts
DSC_0060The mystery of Plum Island Marshfertilization, fish, marine, mollusk, water, wetlandSalt marshes are among the most productive coastal ecosystems, and support a diversity of plants and animals. Algae and marsh plants feed many invertebrates, like snails and crabs, which are then eaten by larger fish and birds. In Plum Island, scientists have been fertilizing and studying salt marsh creeks to see how added nutrients affect the system. They noticed that fish populations seemed to be crashing in the fertilized creeks, while the mudflats were covered in mudsnails. Could there be a link?3Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Does sea level rise harm saltmarsh sparrows?animals, birds, sea level rise, climate change, disturbance, ecology, wetlandFor the last 100 years, sea levels around the globe have increased dramatically. Salt marshes grow right at sea level and are therefore very sensitive to sea level rise. Saltmarsh sparrows rely completely on salt marshes for feeding and nesting, and therefore their numbers are expected to decline as sea levels rise and they lose nesting sites. Will this threatened bird species decline over time as sea levels rise?3Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Keeping up with the sea levelclimate change, disturbance, ecology, sea level rise, plants, substrate, wetlandSalt marshes are very important habitats for many species and protect the coast from erosion. Unfortunately, rising sea levels due to climate change are threatening these important ecosystems. As sea levels rise, the elevation of the marsh soil must rise as well so the plants have ground high enough to keep them above sea level. Basically, it is like a race between the marsh floor and sea level to see who can stay on top! 3Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Is your salt marsh in the zone?climate change, ecology, plants, sea level rise, substrate, wetlandBeginning in the 1980s, scientist James began measuring the growth of marsh grasses. He discovered that their growth was higher in some years and lower in others and that there was a long-term trend of growth going up over time. Marsh grasses grow around mean sea level, or the average elevation between high and low tides. Are the grasses responding to mean sea level changing year-to-year, and increasing as our oceans warm and water levels rise due to climate change?3Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Marvelous mudecology, environmental, fertilization, mud, phosphorus, substrate, water, wetlandBecause mud is wet most of the time, it tends to have different properties than soil. Dead organic matter (partially decomposed plants) is an important part of mud and tends to build up in wetlands because it is decomposed more slowly under water where microbes do not have all the oxygen they need to break it down quickly. The amounts of organic matter may determine the levels of phosphorus and other nutrients held in wetland muds.2Fort Custer Recreation Area, Michigan
Marsh makeoverbiodiversity, disturbance, ecology, greenhouse gasses, mud, plants, restoration, wetlandThe muddy soils in salt marshes store a lot of carbon, compared to terrestrial dry soils. This is because they are low in oxygen needed for decomposition. For this reason they play a key role in the carbon cycle and climate change. If humans disturb marshes, reducing plant diversity and biomass, are they also disturbing the marsh's ability to sequester carbon? If a marsh is restored, can the carbon holding capacity also be brought back to previous levels?3Oak Island and Neponset Marsh, Boston MA
DSC_0060Dangerously boldanimals, animal behavior, tradeoff, fish, predationThere are two main habitats that young bluegill sunfish can use to find food to eat – open water and cover. There is lots of food in the open water, but this habitat also has very few plants for bluegill to hide from predators, like the largemouth bass, so it’s not safe when bluegill are small! The cover habitat has less food, but it has lots of plants that make it hard for predators to see the bluegill. This sets up a situation where there are costs and benefits to using either habitat, called a tradeoff.1Pond Lab, Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Which guy should she choose?animal behavior, animals, fish, matingMating behavior is intriguing to study because in many animal species, males use a lot of energy to attract a female. Yet some males are able to attract zero females and other males attract many females. What accounts for this difference? What about the way a male looks, moves, or smells attracts the female? A female could benefit from identifying “high quality” males that would serve as a good father to her offspring or that would make offspring that are attractive to females in the next generation.2Michigan State University lab and British Columbia, Canada
DSC_0060Fish fightsanimal behavior, animals, fish, matingMale stickleback fish fight each other to gain territories along the bottom of the shallow areas of a lake. In these territories, males build a nest out of sand, aquatic plants, and glue they produce from their kidneys. Males then attract females to their territories with courtship dances. If a female likes a male, she will deposit her eggs in his nest. Then the male will care for those eggs and the offspring that hatch. Perhaps more aggressive males are better at defending their territory and nests.2Michigan State University lab and British Columbia, Canada
DSC_0060Salmon in hot wateradaptation, animals, climate change, evolution, fish, genes, temperatureSalmon are important members of freshwater and ocean food webs. Climate change threatens salmon by warming the waters of rivers where they reproduce. To maintain healthy populations, salmon rely on cold, freshwater habitats and may go extinct as temperatures rise. However, some salmon individuals have higher thermal tolerance and are able to survive when water temperatures rise. Scientists want to know whether there is a genetic basis for the variation observed in salmon’s thermal tolerance.4University of Washington Hatchery, Seattle, Washington
6298983_origAre you my species?adaptation, animals, behavior, biodiversity, competition, evolution, fish, matingHow do animals know who to choose as a mate and who is a member of their own species? One way is through communication. Animals collect information about each other and the rest of the world using multiple senses, including sight, sound, and smell. Darters are a group of over 200 colorful fish species that live in lakes and rivers across the US. The bright color patterns on males may signal to females during mating who is a member of the same species and who would make a good mate.3University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Why so blue? The determinants of color pattern in killifish, Part Iadaptation, animals, biodiversity, evolution, fish, genes, matingIn nature, animals can be found in a dazzling display of different colors and patterns. Even within one species there can be variation in color. For example, male bluefin killifish can have fins that are bright blue, red, or yellow. Becky, a scientist studying this species noticed an interesting pattern - males found in springs with crystal clear water have mostly red or yellow fins, while males found in swamps have bright blue fins. Becky wants to know, what is the driving mechanism behind this interesting pattern?4University of Illinois
Why so blue? The determinants of color pattern in killifish, Part IIadaptation, animals, biodiversity, evolution, fish, genes, matingTo take a closer look at her data, Becky added information on paternal fin color into her analysis.4University of Illinois
cricketsBon Appétit! Why do male crickets feed females during courtship?adaptation, animals, behavior, competition, insects, matingIn many species of insects and spiders, males provide females with gifts of food during courtship and mating. This is called nuptial feeding. These offerings are eaten by the female and can take many forms, including prey items the male captured, substances produced by the male, or parts from the male’s body. These gifts can cost the male a lot, so why do they give them? They may increase the male's chances of mating with a female, or they may help the female have more and healthier offspring.4Cornell University, New York
DSC_0060How to escape a predatoradaptation, animal behavior, animals, predation, physiologyStalk-eyed flies have their eyes at the tip of eyestalks on the sides of their heads. Males with longer eyestalks are better at attracting mates – females find them sexy! However, long eyestalks may come at a cost. Males with long eyestalks may not be able to move easily and quickly, and could be easy targets for predators. Males also use a variety of behaviors to defend themselves against predators. Are these behaviors enough to compensate for long eyestalks?4Washington State University and University of Colorado, Denver
DSC_0060The flight of the stalk-eyed flyphysics, moment of inertia, adaptation, animals, flight, physiologyMoment of inertia (I) is an object’s tendency to resist rotation – in other words how difficult it is to make something turn. Stalk-eyed flies have eyes located on the ends of long projections on the sides of their head, called eyestalks. Because moment of inertia goes up with the square of the distance from the axis, we might expect that as the length of the flies’ eyestalks goes up, the harder and harder it will be for the fly to maneuver during flight.4Tel-Aviv University, Israel and University of Colorado, Denver
flyfightHow do brain chemicals influence who wins a fight?animals, behavior, competition, insects, aggression, brain chemistry, physiologyAnimals compete for resources, including space, food, and mates. What are the factors that determine who wins in a fight? Within the same species, larger individuals tend to win fights. However, if two opponents are the same size, other factors can influence outcomes. Serotonin is a chemical compound found in the brains of all animals, including stalk-eyed flies. Even a small amount of this chemical can make a big impact on aggressive behavior, and perhaps the outcome of competition.2University of Colorado, Denver and University of South Dakota
DSC_0060Dangerous aquatic prey: can predators adapt to toxic algae?adaptation, algae, evolution, marine, predationPhytoplankton are microscopic algae that form the base of all aquatic food chains. Some phytoplankton produce toxins, and when these algae reach high population levels it is known as toxic algal blooms. Can predators feeding on toxic prey for many generations evolve resistance, by natural selection, to the toxic prey?4Maine and New Jersey
DSC_0060Finding a footholdanimals, ecology, marine, substrate, waterThe ground at the beach is made of rocks of many different sizes, called substrates. These can range from large boulders down to fine grains of sand, with many size variations in between. Just like there are different types of substrates, there are different types of organisms that can live there. How can we determine which types of organisms prefer which types of substrates?2Puget Sound, Washington
DSC_0060Invasive reeds in the salt marshdisturbance, invasive species, plants, wetlandPhragmites australis is an invasive reed that is taking over saltwater marshes of New England, outcompeting other plants that serve as food and homes for marsh animals. Once Phragmites has invaded, it is sometimes the only plant species left, called a monoculture. Phragmites does best where humans have disturbed a marsh, and scientists were curious why that might be. They thought that perhaps it was caused by changing salinity, or amount of salt in the water, after a marsh is disturbed.2Ipswich High School, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Can a salt marsh recover after restoration?disturbance, ecology, invasive species, plants, wetland, restorationBefore restoration began, it was clear the Saratoga Creek Salt Marsh was in trouble. The invasive plant, Phragmites australis, covered large areas of the marsh, crowding out native plants and animals. Human activity was thought to be the culprit – the building of storm drains allows extra freshwater to enter the marsh, potentially favoring Phragmites, which prefers low salinity. In 1999 a restoration took place to divert freshwater away from the marsh and reduce Phragmites numbers. Was it successful?3Saratoga Creek Salt Marsh, Rockport, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Make way for mummichogsanimals, biodiversity, disturbance, fish, restoration, wetlandMummichogs are small fish that live in tidal marshes all along the US Atlantic coast. Because they are so widespread and can be found in most streams, they are a valuable tool for scientists looking to compare the health of different marshes. The absence of mummichogs in a salt marsh is a sign that it is highly damaged. Students collected data on mummichog numbers before and after a marsh restoration. Did the restoration successfully bring back mummichogs to the marsh?4Gloucester, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Float down the Kalamazoo Riverriver, water, suspended solids, dam, reservoirThere is a lot more in river water than you might think! As the river flows, it picks up bits of dead plants, algae, and other living and non-living particles from the bottom of the river. These suspended solids are important for the river food web, but can be influenced by human activities, such as the construction of dams.2Kalamazoo River, Michigan
sweeden1Winter is coming! Can you handle the freeze?adaptation, ecology, evolution, genes, plants, local adaptationDepending on where they live, plant populations each face their own challenges. For example, in Arabidopsis thaliana there are some populations of this species growing in very cold habitats, and some populations growing in very warm habitats. The idea that populations of the same species have evolved as a result of certain aspects of their environment is called local adaptation.4Michigan State University
adam_microscopeGene expression in stem cellsgene expression, genes, stem cellsEvery cell in your body contains the same DNA. Genetically identical skin, brain, and muscle cells can look very different and perform very different functions by turning particular genes on and off. But once they differentiate, their role in the body is fixed. Unlike these cells, stem cells have the ability to turn into any other type of cell in the body. Can we uncover the genes expressed in stem cells that give them that ability?4Colorado State University