This semester has been one of my favorites. It’s my first as an IDS major, so I’m finally enjoying my classes. I’ve learned so much about topics that I throughly enjoy, in classes that I’m excited to go to everyday. Two classes have stuck out this semester, both really pertain to my interests. One being Biological Science II, instructed by Kerry Yurewicz. The other is Ornithology, or Avian Ecology, instructed by Leonard Reitsma. These classes have helped me grasp the concept of Ecology and how organisms interact with their environments. I found a couple ideas that I found to be very surprising. They made me think of everyday, seemingly meaningless choices that can have huge consequences and do a considerable amount damage on the environment.
One of the ideas I found interesting from Biological Science II was learning about white nose syndrome in little brown bats. Many people wouldn’t expect for bats to be in danger, as they are a mostly solitary animal that is not often seen out and about. However, this epidemic facing these little bats it quite saddening. White nose syndrome is a fungus that grows around the snout of a bat while it’s hibernating through the winter months. The fungus disturbs the bats sleep and wakes them up prematurely, before winter is over. The confused bats fly around looking for bugs. However, since it’s still winter, there are none to be found. The bats waste the little energy they have searching for absent insects, and starve. “WNS has killed more than 5.7 million bats in eastern North America. In some hibernacula, 90 to 100 percent of bats have died.” The saddest part is, this could have been completely avoided. This fungus is not native to the U.S. It was thought to have been introduced few decades ago by cave explorers, who may have visited caves in other countries where the fungus was present, and came to the U.S. with this invasive species on their boots or other gear.
Another idea came from my Ornithology class. While discussing the number of bird species, we also talked about how many species have gone extinct within the last few centuries. I found it surprising to learn that domestic house cats are responsible for the extinction of over 30 bird species. Many others are at risk. While house cats may seem to be in their element when let outside, they can wreak havoc on any ecosystem. Being a domesticated animal for thousands of years, they do not belong outside. They play no role in the natural balance. The predation of domestic cats is the number one cause of bird deaths every year. It is estimated that cats kill 2.4 billion birds each year. Birds such as the piping plover are at risk, mainly because of cats.
These ideas both relate to human impact on animals of all kinds. While we may not be intending to do any harm to the bats or birds, we are responsible for many of their fatalities. The ideas above represent how we need to pay more attention and take responsibility for our actions. Becoming aware or our impacts is key. Being a conservation ecology major, I want to bring awareness to issues facing animals endanger of extinction and help people understand that their actions can have major consequences . Something as simple as cleaning boots between cave explorations, or reverting your outdoor cat to an indoor cat. These small steps can have a huge impacts, it all depends on us.
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