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Thank you

Thank you to everybody who has followed this site! I loved getting comments and responses from people. Since the school year is over, I will not be posting anything on this page, but if you are interested in my work, please visit my main journalism/photojournalism blog. I have been working on it for almost a year and loved every story I’ve written and shot!

If you have any questions, comments or would simply like to get in touch with me, you can email me at sbutzer@elon.edu. I check my email many times a day.

Thank you!

Stephanie

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Alaska land is split between conservation and development, disputes continue

The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), a relatively isolated area above the Arctic Circle, has caused an uproar since it  received federal protection. The oil-rich 23.5 million acres contains many interests for both man and animal.

According to an Environmental Network News article, the reserve has 17.5 trillion feet of natural gas and the equivalent of 604 barrels of oil. 

Photo by Bureau of Land Management.

The NPR-A was divided almost in half with one section reserved for human development and the other set aside for the protection of wildlife. Photo by Bureau of Land Management.

At the end of 2012, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a new management plan for the next 10 to 15 years for the NPR-A.

“The plan sets aside approximately half of the BLM’s nearly 23 million acres,” the article reads. Conservationists, including Audubon, the Pew Charitable Trust’s Environment Group and the Wildlife Conservation Society, celebrated the victory. These groups all agreed this plan was an equal balance between people and wildlife and would, therefore, have positive effects.

The land is a large tract of undeveloped land where mountains, coastline and Alaska’s largest wetland meet. It also “hosts migratory birds from around the world, the United States’ largest caribou herd and North America’s biggest population of wolverines.”

Steve Zack, a Wilderness Conservation Society conservationist, said the BLM’s decision was not an “environmental ‘gotcha,'” but resulted from two factors: “A growing body of scientific evidence that documented how the NPR-A contained habitat of international distinction, and the discovery that the potential oil and gas reserve was significantly less than previously thought.”

The BLM put aside 11.8 million acres for lease sales and the potential construction of pipelines to helps with oil and gas transportation. This protects about 8.3 million acres from any developments. The protected areas also includes the previously-named Special Areas, such as Utukok Uplands (calving grounds for caribou) and Kasegaluk Lagoon (provides habitats for marine animals).

While the majority of native Alaskans are  happy with this decision, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski called it the “most restrictive management plan possible” and Kara Moriarty, the Alaska Oil and Gas Association’s executive director, warns that it will “adversely effect Alaska’s economy.”

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17-year cicadas make their grand entrance in May

Photo by Gerry Broome/Associated Press.

In May, the 17-year cicadas emerged from the ground to reproduce. Photo by Gerry Broome/Associated Press.

The cicadas are back.

With a habitat that ranges from North Carolina to Connecticut, these small insects have dug their way out of the ground to cover trees and click their legs together to create a sound that announces their presence for miles.

Periodical cicadas emerge from the dirt all at once by the millions. A New York Times article said the insects people are seeing this month were born in 1996 and are getting their first view of the world in 17 years. Annual cicadas, on the other hand, appear every summer.

The insects lay their eggs in trees and once the babies hatch, the nymphs crawl directly into the ground. After 17 years of sucking fluid from tree roots, they come out to reproduce. Soon after this, they die.

Periodical cicadas have the longest lifespan of all insects. Because millions emerge at the same time, their  numbers create a defense. Through years of evolution, they have lost almost all of their defenses – they even fly sluggishly.

Radiolab released a “Cicada Tracker” so people can see when and where they will emerge.

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Female vs. male spiders: Who eats who?

There are few animals that people cringe at more than black widows. The name itself instills fear in many. The spider is known for its deadly bite and cannibalistic nature when mating – the female almost always eats the male after he fertilizes her eggs.

Photo by

A new study reverses the common assumption that all female spiders eat male spiders, as is the case of the black widow. Photo from Springer’s journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 

These spiders usually stick out in people’s minds, but a new study proves that males eat females in many other spider species, according to Environmental News Network.

This study, conducted by Lenka Sentenska and Stano Pekar from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, shows that the cannibals took place soon after the first interaction (and before mating) between male and female spiders.

The study showed that most spiders are more cannibalistic in July because that is when they are the largest. The aggressive habitats of the spiders may be related to the size.

In the study, the large males preyed on the older females from the previous year. The size of the females did not matter; the age was the trigger.

The study was published in Springer’s Journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

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Invasive species of feral pig helps South American biodiversity

Species that are unnaturally introduced to a new environment are usually detrimental to the ecosystem’s biodiversity and health. But, for the Brazilian Pantanal in South American, a relatively new mammal has done just the opposite and aided the wildlife conservation and local culture of the area.

feral pigs usually destroy biodiversities, but in South America, they help the environment flourish. Photo from www.uniprot.org.

feral pigs usually destroy biodiversities, but in South America, they help the environment flourish. Photo from http://www.uniprot.org.

Two hundred years ago, feral pigs, also known as Sus scrofa, were introduced to the large freshwater wetlands of Brazilian Pantanal. The pigs were a huge threat in other environments around the world because of their rooting behavior and large appetites. This usually damaged the lifestyle of smaller mammals and plants.

People released the pigs into Brazilian Pantanal hoping the commercial bush meat hunting would stop and the hunters would turn their attention to the abundant pigs. The hunting of the native wildlife became so great an environmental problem, prohibitive legislation was passed in 1967 to ban hunting and pelt and skin trades.

Pantanal residents were allowed to hunt the feral pigs and found it easier and more rewarding than hunting other species. The pigs provided the hunters with an easy hunt, fresh meat and oil. The local hunting practices of these people continue to help keep the population on a steady level, according to an Environmental News Network article.

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New research on autism shows environmental factors have large impacts

New studies show that environmental exposures before and during pregnancy are contributing to the rising autism rates.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism rates rose to about one in every 100 babies. Researchers found that they cannot blame these affects solely on genetics.

In a 2011 survey by Stanford University, researchers found that genes accounted for 38 percent of autism risk while environmental factors were responsible for 62 percent. A separate study performed at the Harvard School of Public Health discovered what specific particles were triggering the increase of autism in children.

An EMagazine article, which covered all the mentioned studies, reads: “They found that a mother’s exposure to high levels of certain air pollutants—such as diesel particles—increased the risk of having a baby with autism by 30 percent to 50 percent. The strongest associations were seen with ozone and fine particulate matter.”

On the other hand, the article assures pregnant women iron supplementation reduces the risk for a child with autism.

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Loggerhead sea turtles get a second chance with federal protection

A federal commitment has been set to help protect loggerhead sea turtles’s critical nesting beaches and ocean habitats.

Photo from National Geographic.

The government will have fleshed out the federal commitment document to protect loggerhead sea turtles by the first day in July. Photo from National Geographic.

The document was filed May 2 in the United States Court between “conservation groups, Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana and Turtle Island Restoration Network and the U.S. government,” according to an Environmental Network News article.

By the first day of July, the government will have proposed the protection of these sea turtles and their breeding habitats and migratory habitats. These are all essential for the species’ population recovery.

Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida-based attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity said: “Protecting sea turtle nesting habitat will not only help sea turtles but everyone who enjoys clean and healthy beaches along the Gulf Coast. Everyone loves seeing sea turtles, and protecting critical habitat means good management for our shores and a safer future for these incredible animals.”

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