Since I’m taking an advanced GIS course this semester, I thought I would share this very interesting four-part video series on the “Geospatial Revolution“. GPS (Global Positioning System) is a group of approximately 30 satellites that orbit the Earth and make it possible for people with ground receivers to pinpoint their geographic location. Most of us have come to rely on this technology. I personally use it almost every day. GIS (Geographic Information System) is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data. GIS allows us to look at geospatial data displayed visually, such as on a map or a graph, so it can be analyzed and interpreted. The data can be captured and combined in new ways in order to understand relationships, patterns, and trends. GIS benefits and is used by organizations of all sizes and in almost every industry. Here is Episode One. Check back again for episodes 2-4.
Written By Lauren Steele
I have always loved walking alone in the rain, especially in unobtrusive out of the way places where the abundance of beauty is felt in the heart as much as it is seen with the eye. After changing my soggy clothes, I began trying to translate my feelings into words, which I would like to share with you now.
As I walk through the peaceful mist of
a midsummer morning
among the grasses, wildflowers, and weeds,
the calmness and inevitable cycling
of life and death,
ongoing regardless of my approval or grief,
surround me with the feeling of being
wrapped in the arms
of a maternal knowing,
inviting me to let go
of the incessant logic of
human progress and
Mother Earth’s message is an old one
that I have claimed to understand
throughout the peaks and valleys of
an unremarkable life.
But I seem to find the answers and then
lose them again and again,
from one human crisis
As evolved as I think I am,
Nature reminds me that
I am not.
My fleeting understanding is
but a glimpse of all there is
What I do know is
I am like a weed.
I grow where my seed falls,
in fertile soil or not.
I am a pioneer species,
looking for space to thrive
in quietly abandoned places which have been
stripped of their perceived value.
I am resilient.
Weeds don’t ask for much in the way of
fertilizer, attention or praise.
People seek to destroy them,
replacing them with others
more attractive or productive,
or so they think.
But weeds will always return to grow again.
Nature has created them with unwavering dedication
and focus on their purpose,
to protect the Earth
by restoring the vitality of the soil that
We need to survive.
I am happy
among the weeds, the smell of the soil, the wet of the rain.
This simplicity juxtaposed with
the complexity of modern society
leaves me overwhelmed with the desire to trade
one life for another.
My heart swells with
love and awe,
respect and appreciation for
the timeless beauty of weeds,
their jobs and their journey,
despite human judgment.
Oblivious to my own judgment,
successes and failures,
they call me
Written by Lauren Steele
The Gulf of Maine is a body of water that covers 36,000 square miles and borders on the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts as well as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada. The Gulf has deep basins, shallow banks, and powerful tides. The cold North Atlantic water mixed with the freshwater of 60 rivers that empty into it provide a nourishing environment for a huge number of marine and bird species – over 3,000. The coastal marshes provide nurseries for fish, crabs, shrimp, and shellfish to safely reproduce. An abundance of plankton and microbes anchor an important and diverse food web that includes animals as large as seals and whales. The waters of the Gulf provide sanctuary for more than 30 at risk species including the North American right whale.
This area has been a feeding ground for fish like cod for thousands of years. Cod fish had been an important food source and export product for centuries until they were recently almost overfished into extinction. It is thought that the fishing quotas for cod were set too high because the effects of climate change and warming waters were not considered. By the time people realized what was happening, it was too late. In 2015, the cod stock stood at only 4% of its optimum size. Now most of the people who live along the coasts and have relied on fishing for their livelihoods for generations have either had to switch to trapping lobsters or find another way to make a living. This has been devastating to fishing communities like Gloucester, MA. Interestingly, the lobsters have been increasing in numbers because there are fewer cod to eat them as babies.
The waters of the Gulf of Maine have been warming up as a result of global climate change more quickly than in 99% of the rest of the world. Scientists are studying what is happening to the ecosystems there, hoping to get an idea of what other areas will eventually experience in time. All the sea ice melting to the north is “freshening” the water, changing its chemical composition as well as its temperature. The salinity is being diluted by the influx of fresh water. Climate change has increased the number of storms which bring heavy rainfalls, and because of the high levels of atmospheric CO2, this is causing the water to become more acidic. Ocean water is a natural sink for CO2. The gas goes through a chemical change and becomes carbonic acid. CO2 + H2O turns into H2CO3. This is a necessary ingredient used to provide the calcium required by sea creatures who need it to build their own shells. But too much of this chemical starts to have a negative effect. The increasing acidity starts to dissolve the shells on clams, oysters, lobsters, etc. which eventually kills them.
At the bottom of the food web, phytoplankton and zooplankton have been adapting to warmer water by changing the timing, size, and composition of their seasonal blooms. This affects species of animals all the way to the top of the web. The timing is especially problematic since different animals are programmed to arrive in certain areas at certain times of year in order to take advantage of the feeding opportunities there. If they arrive too late, they could starve, not be able to reproduce, and die.
There are species of animals that are usually found farther south that are showing up in the Gulf in greater numbers. For example, there is an invasive, inedible species of crab called a “green crab” that has been dramatically increasing in numbers due to the warmer waters. They are gobbling up all of the softshell clams, oysters, and blue mussels and ruining the seagrass meadows with their aggressive digging, which are crucial habitat in estuaries. They also reproduce prolifically. There are other invasive species moving in as well. Their presence is disrupting the trophic hierarchy of ecosystems and having a negative impact all throughout the food chain right up to dolphins and whales.
Climate Change is slowing down the circulation of the ocean. The Gulf Stream is shifting northward due to the slowing down of the AMOC – Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. The AMOC carries warm surface water northward and cold water, which is deeper due to its increased density, southward. It is a crucial part of the Earth’s climate system. The current is driven by the differences in the temperature and salinity of the water. The warmer water eventually works its way up into the Gulf of Maine. The slowing of the AMOC has also been associated with the recent sea level rise, since warmer water expands to take up more space.
Many people just think of the ocean as a place to go sailing or to cool off after frolicking at the beach. But the ocean is actually helping to make the Earth a much more habitable place for us. The ocean plays a vital part in regulating the temperature on Earth. It is also the only source of all the fresh water that we will ever have to drink due to its leading role in the hydrologic cycle. Photosynthesizing phytoplankton in the ocean are responsible for producing 70% of the oxygen on Earth. Scientists believe that phytoplankton levels have decreased by 40% since 1950 due to the warming ocean temperatures. The ocean provides us with a large diversity of nutritious foods and medicine. We need to look beneath the sparkling waves and consider how much we depend on the ocean for our survival as a species. But the ocean is in trouble, largely as a result of thoughtless human activities. It needs our understanding, support, and protection now more than ever, to keep it alive and functioning optimally so it can keep us alive, too.
With love for the Earth,
Sources for this article include:
Welcome to the Steele Center!
We are a new non-profit corporation with lofty goals. Our mission is to provide educational opportunities to people, young and old, in order to help them to either connect or re-connect to nature and the Earth. Now more than ever there is a great need for people to understand how all of the functioning parts and ecosystems of our planet fit and work together to create one great whole. Every part is important. If one part suffers, it can have a profound affect on the whole Earth system.
Climate change won’t be just a serious challenge for all humans. It is already a serious challenge for plants and animals, birds, aquatic life, insects, and millions of microscopic living things that all rely on each other to survive. And we rely on them to survive. We are hoping to break down all of the information about what is happening and why, as well as making suggestions about ways that we all as individuals can make a difference.
It is also our hope that by promoting a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle, we can show people that they have the power to improve their quality of life, their health, and their happiness while also reducing the stress in their lives. Remember how I said that all of Earth’s parts need to function together? Well, WE are a huge important part, and we have an enormous affect on how other parts function. We believe that by simplifying our lives and re-integrating with the natural world, we can all take part in the healing of ourselves and save the planet at the same time.
With love for the Earth,