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Covid

classroom

The years of 2020, 2021 have been challenging for students, teachers, and parents.

How will it change in 2022?

Can you find two critical items missing from this picture?

How have schools changed since the beginning of the pandemic?

One thing that has allowed students to come back to the classroom are vaccines. They were created to help keep the virus from spreading further faster. The vaccine is not an immediate cure but rather, it prevents hospitalizations which can lead to death. First it was just the elderly getting the vaccine, then the middle ages, high school students and now children can get the vaccine. 

 
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Beehive

Beehive

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Bees are lucrative insects that add about $15 billion into the US food economy. The largest beekeeping honey harvest is in North Dakota whereas the largest need for pollinating plants is in the almond groves of California. They were imported from Europe in the seventeenth century but have a range from Myanmar to Africa. They continue to be imported from Europe as they have proved to be resourceful in United States crop culture and are in recent years have been dying off at a progressively rapid rate. As a whole, insects are dying off 8 times faster than all other animals. In the United States, the largest beekeeping facilities are found in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Not only are bees dying due to habitat loss because of development and lack of pollinator plants such as flowers in garden spaces, but also because of pesticides. More recently (1980s) honey bees have succumbed to one of their worst enemies, a parasite called the Varroa destructor mite. The mite transitioned from Asian honey bees to the European ones. This mite is responsible for sucking out hemolymph (bee blood) from adult and larval bees to feed her own mitey young thereby weakening the immune systems especially of newly hatched bees. In addition, they transmit viruses that can deform wings and can impact bee behavior impairing their orientation and their return to the hive. As such, the Varroa destructor mite is one of the main reason for honey bees dying off.

Some bee keepers have allowed mites and bees to coexist in hopes of breeding those bees that survive as they have a higher tendency to be mite resistant. Some scientists have artificially inseminated queen bees with mite resistant bees to improve the resistance of future colonies. The thing with the European honey bees is they are known to be docile and easy to work with. So scientists hope to continue a lineage of not only mite resistant bees, but also nice ones that have great hygiene and are capable of picking off the mites in their colonies themselves.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/the-last-best-place-in-north-america-to-keep-bees

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Coral Reef

Restoration

Coral reefs serve a critical role in ocean ecosystems directly or indirectly impacting all aquatic species. Corals are animals that root themselves to the ocean floor and grow some of the largest living structures on earth. They rely on a symbiotic partnership with algae called zooxanthellae that photosynthesizes and takes advantage of the coral waste products. In return, the coral has its own garbage collector and is able to feed off of the food the zooxanthellae produces.  

When corals are stressed, they release the algae causing them to turn white or “bleach.” The main cause for their decline is climate change. Increased water temperatures and carbon dioxide levels as well as sea level rise are the main contributing factors as a result of climate change. Fifty percent of coral reefs worldwide have been destroyed. In recent years, mass bleachings have impacted even the largest reef system – the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  Over a quarter of the reef system was lost in 2016 due to the warming temperatures and reef systems worldwide continue to disappear.

Scientists are helping bring corals back by creating coral nurseries. Hung on a tree structure made of PVC pipe, fragments of Staghorn coral grow remarkably well. Some organizations even focus on outplanting specific corals that have the genetic predisposition to sustaining warmer temperatures. There are various organizations that are helping “grow” corals and you can help by becoming a citizen scientist and scuba diving to help transplant corals back into the reefs. You can lower your carbon footprint, be less wasteful, use less chemicals in the home and on your lawn, use the right sunscreen (no oxybenzone please) and just be more aware of your impact.

Artwork by – M. Moure – student at TERRA Environmental Research Institute 2020

 

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Animal

Testing

The excessive and brutal use of animals for testing in today’s world are unnecessary. The experiments range from animals being forced to eat and inhale toxic substances to injecting them with hazardous chemicals, or rubbing such chemicals into their skin, just to be monitored and then killed.
One of the most commonly used animals is the Rhesus macaque - a monkey imported from Asia and is the most common primate tested.  More than 75,000 macaques were tested in the United States in 2016 alone. It’s not just the monkeys, many innocent animals are abused for research purposes that can be done with alternative methods and can be more effective.
Testing drugs is necessary for the health and survival of humans, but it can be done in a more responsible and impactful way by taking tissue cultures from humans instead of other animals. Human cultures come from human cells and what better way to test a drug that’s going to impact humans, than on a genetically identical specimen. The reason little has changed even though there is a push for alternative forms of testing is that companies have gotten comfortable executing research the way they always have. Change is necessary but it has to be demanded. Buy purchasing cruelty free products, you are making a difference – from makeup to shampoo,  you can go cruelty free. Buy products that do not test on animals. Do research.  Educate yourself.

Artwork by – I.G. – student at TERRA Environmental Research Institute 2020