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The Environmental Trade-offs of Increased Antidepressant Use

       I came across an interesting sentiment the other day. In response to the generational expression  “kids have it so easy nowadays” someone replied “that’s the point”. The point of progressing is to make life easier for the next generation. While today’s kids don’t have to walk uphill both ways to get to school, they face their own unique obstacles with the constant pressures from social media and threat of school shootings. The 2021 State Of Mental Health In America survey reports that youth depression is worsening. Statistics show that this disproportionately affects youths who identify as more than one race. However, some statistical growth can be attributed to an increase in diagnoses as the stigma of mental health has changed and more people seek treatment. Along with better access to therapy, access to a variety of antidepressants has increased as well. The CDC reports that from 1999 to 2014 antidepressant use has increased by almost 65% with one in eight Americans over 12
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The sensitive nature of avian biochemistry and why it is an essential tool in ERAs.

I talk a lot about birds, so I figured why not back up that passion with more science.       Lately, I have been reading on the versatility birds offer in regards to environmental risk assessment. Aside form their sensitive biology, birds provide migratory behaviors, breeding site fidelity, not to mention countless developmental factors like eggshell thickness, incubation periods, parental investment, etc. (Scheuhammer et al., 1987). There are many measurable biological phenomena that birds display, and they each are sensitive, to a degree, and subject to alteration due to heavy metals, PCBs, and other pollutants (Zhang et al., 2011).      Something that I personally wanted to explore was the ability to test materials in bird feathers, showing what has possibly entered the trophic chain via ingestion of other species or incidental ingestion. This non destructive method of sampling could allow for more rigorous and larger sampling without ecological detriment (Zhang et al., 2011). With

The Fate of the Honey Bee

   There is often chatter about the need to protect whatever charismatic species has recently been marketed into public attention, and if lucky public concern. Often characterized as charismatic megafauna, species like the bengal tiger, the giant panda, or the humpback whale are flagship species of conservation programs. These species garner affection and concern so successfully that they introduce a degree of taxonomic bias in environmental protection. On the other hand, there are species that have been branded “uninteresting, strange, or ugly” making them uniquely difficult to protect (Purdue. 2016).        In the age of social media, charismatic species have been given a new platform. In the case of the honey bee, you might say the conversation is abuzz. Since 2007, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has become a serious source of concern and discourse (Bee-Health. 2019). And I often wonder, how did this species, being so taxonomically different from it’s charismatic counterparts, make

The Need for More Research in How Microplastics Affect Crab Species

I have always found the topic of plastics in our oceans fascinating due to how destructive they can be individual organisms, a whole species, and the entire ecosystem. Plastics are not just a problem due certain marine animals eating them and dying or because of animals becoming entangled in them, but they also break down further into microplastics. 80 to 85% of marine pollution is caused by plastics, and these plastics breakdown into microplastics by UV light (Auta et. al, 2017).  These plastics are also easier to consume due to their small size making them a threat to most marine biota, and consuming these plastics has led to problems with reproduction and growth rate (Auta et. al, 2017). However, I wanted to zone in crustaceans (crabs to be more specific) since many species will spend their time both as marine and terrestrial which means they are exposed to microplastics in the water and microplastic that may be found in sediment. European green crabs have been found to not only con

Does developmental environment influence timing of life-history events?

Most of ecotoxicology focusses on immediate effects contaminants have on organisms, drawing conclusions about what this may mean for fitness based on traits like size. However, some negative effects may be unnoticed. For example, transgenerational effects may not impact the exposed generation, but those organisms may produce offspring with lower fitness. This has been shown in beetles exposed to pesticides, where the offspring of an exposed parent had reduced fitness due to transgenerational effects (Baker et al. 2019). Similarly unnoticed, and even further neglected, is how conditions during development may alter the timing of life history events. How do gene x environment interactions influence timing of sexual maturation? Or age at first reproduction? Or even number of offspring during each reproductive event? Many of these questions are unanswered as most research terminates studies well before reproduction, likely due to long generation times and/or cost of maintaining animals. Ad

Change is good...just ask a baby turtle

  Change is good, or so the old adage goes. But is that really true, or is it something said to create a silver lining when the world seems to be shifting at an uncomfortable pace. Not all change is good (just ask the climate), but for some creatures, a little variance can go a long way. Take, for example, the common snapping turtle ( Chelydra serpentina ). A recent study by Leivesley and Rollinson (2021) found that mimicking natural temperature fluctuations in incubating eggs had a beneficial effect in early-age immune response. The authors were interested in using immune response as a marker of fitness under the Charnov-Bull model. Their experimental design included four groups: a male promoting temperature (MPT; 24⁰ C) and a female promoting temperature (FPT; 28⁰ C), each split into constant and fluctuating temperature regimes. Half of the eggs in each group were treated with an aromatase inhibitor, which effectively prevents female development even at the FPT. The idea is that if i

A Wasp, a Caterpillar, and a Changing Climate

       Host-parasitoid interactions conjure up rather graphic images of a hoard of small wasps boring through the soft tissue of an unassuming caterpillar. That poor caterpillar. Since I first became aware of this gory dynamic relationship, I always sided with the caterpillar. However, my new-found enthrallment with beneficial insect performing biological control has fostered a new perspective.  The host-parasitoid relationship between the caterpillar and wasp maintains ecological balance. Now, we see climate change can completely throw this delicate system out of whack.      In a recent 2021 paper, Moore et al explore the impacts of fluctuating high temperatures on the development of both the lepidopteran larval host Manduca sexta and the parasitoid wasp Cotesia congregata . A previous study with this same host-parasitoid system had found that parasitoids had reduce survival while hosts underwent accelerated growth under constant elevated temperatures (Moore et al, 2019). However, th