A Blog for Current and Former Students of Mr. Baker
Friday, January 16, 2009
An Interlude for Ecology
I just wanted to quickly introduce myself and post links to a couple of articles that you all might be interested in. My name is Jonathan Richardson and I was a student in Mr. Baker's AP Biology class back in 1999-2000. We certainly didn't have a blog back then, so it's been interesting to see how this one has started and been used by Mr. Baker and you guys. Anyway, I'm currently a graduate student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences here in New Haven, Connecticut. My dissertation research deals mainly with the intersection of population ecology and evolution, both topics that you will cover soon enough (at which point I will probably be of more use to your class). Specifically, I study amphibian populations (spotted salamanders and wood frogs native to the eastern US and even into Alaska) and how landscape structure (as in intact forest habitat vs. habitats with barriers to these guys moving to other areas) can alter the long-term persistence of populations. Hopefully my own research will more interesting to you and germane to your studies once Mr. Baker starts to talk about ecology and evolution. In the meantime, I just wanted to introduce myself and I'll also attach links to 2 very interesting articles.
The first is from the Seattle Times in 2005, and discusses the reintroduction of wolves to the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. When wolves were hunted to extinction, their prey no longer needed to worry about being killed, so they (elk, in this article) consumed more of the vegetation, which in turn led to a dramatic shift in the tree species regenerating and forest ecology. The wolves were reintroduced in 1995, so now ecologists have a fantastic opportunity to see how things change when the top predator is returned to the ecosystem. One of my good friends is currently tranquilizing wolves from a helicopter as a student at the University of Wyoming as part of this project. Ecologists get to do some amazing things in amazing places!
The second article is from this week's New York Times Science Tuesday section (a great read every week!). It discusses a phenomenon called artificial selection. This is analogous to the natural selection Charles Darwin described, however the selective force here is introduced by humans (hence the term "artificial"). A quick example of this is fishing - if you only catch and keep the large fish and throw the small one back, you are "selecting against" big fish and selecting for small fish within the population (it sounds counterintuitive at first), and the size of fish within that population will decrease. Dog breeding is also an extreme form of artificial selection (from wolves originally?).
Anyway, take a look if you have some time. Hopefully they will get you excited for the evolution and ecology sections of Mr. Bakers class - definitely my favorite! Have a great weekend.