I re-post this every year in December because it always deserves another look!
Attention all Tolkien language geeks, my friend, Patrick Wynne, sings “A Elbereth Gilthoniel” (by J.R.R.Tolkien) to the tune of “O Tannenbaum.” Brilliant.
(if you have trouble viewing the video, refresh your browser)
A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
O Elbereth Starkindler, silivren penna míriel
white-glittering, slants down sparkling like jewels, o menel aglar elenath!
from the firmament the glory of the starry host! Na-chaered palan-díriel
Having gazed far away o galadhremmin ennorath,
from the tree-woven lands of Middle-earth, Fanuilos, le linnathon
to thee, Everwhite, I will sing, nef aear, sí nef aearon!
on this side of the Sea, here on this side of the Great Ocean!
Special thanks to Pat for letting me post this here!
We found this little guy on the Explore The Wild path at the NC Museum of Life and Science. Normally, you don’t see them on the path (and usually only early in the morning), but after a heavy rain, he apparently decided it was time for a walk.
Stay Curious out there! You never know what you will see when you look around!
We all love a good science fiction creature. Well, here’s one that really exists! The amazing bathynomus is an isopod that begs for stories to be written about it! I saw this specimen with Chris Mah at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Learn more at Chris’s amazing blog: The Echinoblog. You can also read about this creature from Kevin Zelnio’s article, which is like “Bathynomus 101″ – a great way to learn about these interesting deep sea creatures!
During low tide today I found a Striped Sun Star (Solaster stimpsoni) eating a sea cucumber (Tutka Bay, Alaska).
The second photo is the underside of the sunstar, and you can see its stomach which is protruding out from its mouth (because it was eating the sea cucumber that is in the third photo). After I took the photos, I returned it to finish its meal (while it was eating a sea cucumber this time, they also eat other sea stars).
Striped Sun Star (Solaster stimpsoni)
This is the underside, note the stomach protuding out the mouth.
This is the sea cucumber that the striped sun star was eating.
Close-up of that stomach protruding from the mouth on the underside of the striped sun star.
I took these photos on May 19, 2010, after a few days of very heavy rain. I was stunned by the intricate design and beauty. The spectacular mass of glistening, glutinous tendrils contrasted sharply in color with the cedar green on that damp morning. But I had no idea what I was looking at. So, I just tried to get some good shots to identify later.
Greg Dodge, the ranger at the NC Museum of Life and Science answered my email query quite quickly (wow, that’s pretty good alliteration for the letter q). He recognized my photo instantly as a Cedar-Apple Rust gall–a fungal disease. He confirmed my hunch that the recent deluge had coaxed the spectacular tendrils out of the gall that had been quietly developing in the branches of the cedar tree for the past year. Cornell University’s Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic has the best description of the life cycle of Cedar-Apple Rust, but I think I captured some fantastic photos of the telial horns.
A few days later I went back and looked for the Cedar-Apple Rust galls again. By now, the orange telial horns had mostly disappeared (dropping to the ground), and the gall which had been developing during the previous year in anticipation of its final spectacular spring show was clearly visible.
A while ago, we were at Bald Head Island, NC and spent some time on the beach. I enjoy walking on the beach and looking for interesting shells, etc. Something unusual caught my attention this time. A moist, brown/grey lump, roughly oval, covered with sand.
I kept walking. Then I saw another, and another. Most people ignored them, or thought they were probably some kind of animal feces. I’m just too curious, and besides, I didn’t think it was fecal material (there were no flies). So, I picked one up. It had more weight to it than I thought by just looking at it. I broke it apart and saw uniform texture and what appeared to be clay inside the sandy coating. I started to gather these “clay” blobs… much to some other visitors’ stupefaction.
While I was in Kachemak Bay, Alaska, this summer I observed what I had hoped I would not find: evidence of sea star wasting syndrome. I took photos of sea stars at Tutka Bay during an ultra low tide in May 2013 and again in September 2013. Once I was back in NC, I started to read about the mortality of millions of sea stars along the Pacific coastline of the US.
Sea stars along much of the North American Pacific coast are dying in great numbers from a mysterious wasting syndrome. As yet the cause of the syndrome is unidentified, and it’s not clear whether it’s a due to an environmental change, disease or something else. Similar die-offs have occurred before in the 1970s, 80s, and the 90s, but never before at this magnitude and over such a wide geographic area. seastarwasting.org (the UCSC research group working on this problem)
So, I when I went back to Tutka Bay in July 2014, I wanted to see if I would notice any difference in the hundreds of sea stars that I had observed and photographed in 2013. The short answer: yes.
Two things were very evident: many sea stars exhibited the lesions and decay of tissue that are symptomatic of sea star wasting and the population of the 5-armed Pisaster ochraceus was dramatically diminished.
Once I started studying the photos, I sent a few to the research team at UCSC to check my suspicions. They confirmed that the sea stars in the photos did indeed show indications of the disease, and that the location was the most Northern reported occurrence of the disease in the field. They asked me to submit some more photos and observations (info for how to submit data is here: http://www.eeb.ucsc.edu/pacificrockyintertidal/data-products/sea-star-wasting/observation-log.html#track-disease
I then looked back at my 2013 photos to do a comparison. I was surprised to see that as early as May 2013 I had photographed sea stars that were diseased.