Friday, August 30, 2013

Agates Close Up -- More

We have yet another thunderstorm rolling through Grand Marais.  Hopefully it clears out of here before the rockhounding class that I've been hired to teach this morning.  The lightning and thunder woke me up, so I figured that I may as well stay up.

I want to get a few things done this morning, so for today's blog posting I decided to dip into the agate photos from my book and get a few close ups of some of the detail.

Argentina Condor agate...

Lake Superior Michipicoten agate...

Lake Superior agate...

Mexican Crazy Lace agate...

Tube agate....

Lake Superior agate...

Mexican Laguna agate...

Another Laguna agate...

Michigan Iron lace agate...

Lake Superior "finger print" agate...

Botswana agate...

Lake Superior agate...

Lake Superior agate...

Lake Superior agate...

Mexican fire agate...

Lake Superior agate...

Photos are by the photographer for the book, Tom Shearer.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Seiches and WInd Set Up on Lake Superior

For today's posting I decided to describe seiches.  Generally the prevailing winds blowing across Lake Superior come from the Northwest. These winds and passing weather fronts push the water in the lake basin to the far shores setting-up the conditions for seiche activity once the wind dies down.

First the wind pushes the entire lake toward one shore that sets up a higher water level on the far side of the lake.

After the water level rises on one end of the lake due to wind set up, a seiche (pronounced “saysh”) forms, which is the rocking motion of water in a lake that develops pendulum-like movements that are “free standing-wave oscillations.” Seiches, or sloshes as they are sometimes called on the Great Lakes, are almost always present on Lake Superior.
Seiches are often imperceptible to the naked eye, and observers in boats on the surface may not notice that a seiche is occurring due to the extremely long wavelengths. The effect is caused by resonances in a body of water that has been disturbed by one or more of a number of factors, most often meteorological effects (wind and atmospheric pressure variations), seismic activity or by tsunamis. Gravity always seeks to restore the horizontal surface of a body of liquid water
Lake Superior Seiches:
  • Create water-level changes ranging from imperceptible to at least three feet
  • Have a period of 7.9 hours
  • Stir nutrients (good stuff) and pollutants (bad stuff) into the water column
  • Reverse the flow of rivers
  • Sustain a “mini-seiche” oscillation.

The National Weather Service issues low water advisories for portions of the Great Lakes when seiches of 2 feet or greater are likely to occur. Lake Erie is particularly prone to wind-caused seiches because of its shallowness and elongation. These can lead to extreme seiches of up to 5 m (16 feet) between the ends of the lake. The effect is similar to a storm surge like that caused by hurricanes along ocean coasts, but the seiche effect can cause oscillation back and forth across the lake for some time. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel piled up water along the northwestern Lake Ontario shoreline near Toronto, causing extensive flooding, and established a seiche that subsequently caused flooding along the south shore.

Lake seiches can occur very quickly: on July 13, 1995, a big seiche on Lake Superior caused the water level to fall and then rise again by three feet (one meter) within fifteen minutes, leaving some boats hanging from the docks on their mooring lines when the water retreated. The same storm system that caused the 1995 seiche on Lake Superior produced a similar effect in Lake Huron, in which the water level at Port Huron changed by six feet (1.8 m) over two hours. On Lake Michigan, eight fishermen were swept away and drowned when a 10-foot seiche hit the Chicago waterfront on June 26, 1954


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2013 List of Top Ten New Species

Last week a new mammal was introduced to the world.  Actually, this organism has been exhibited in zoos and its bones have been tucked away in museum collections -- but it has been a victim of mistaken identity for more than 100 years. A team of Smithsonian scientists, however, uncovered overlooked museum specimens of this remarkable animal, which took them on a journey to the canopy of forests in South America. The result is that the organism has now been identified as a new species: the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) -- the first carnivore species to be discovered in the American continents in 35 years.

The location where the olinguito was found:


So I decided to do a search to find out what other new species have recently been identified.  It is estimated that we only know about 10 percent of the species that exist on our planet -- so there are a lot of plants, animals, and other organisms yet to be found.
New species are selected by an international committee of taxon experts.  Each year they not only select and identify new species, but they select the top ten -- which are not ranked or presented in any particular order. The top ten are selected from hundreds of nominated species out of an estimated 18,000 species identified each year. Committee members are free to use any criteria they wish, keeping in mind the purpose of the Top 10 to draw attention to biodiversity and the science and institutions engaged in its exploration.

The top 10 list is released each year on or about Carolus Linnaeus’ birthday on May 23rd. Linnaeus is the “Father of Taxonomy” and his work in the mid 18th century was the beginning point for “modern” naming and classification of plants and animals.
The International Institute for Species Exploration is dedicated to the exploration, inventory, and classification of earth’s species, public awareness of the biodiversity crisis, and advocacy for the important roles played by taxonomy and natural history museums.
It is interesting to point out that when Carl Linnaeus began his taxonomic organization of all known species in the 1750s, there were only 10,000 known species. Now each year scientists discover twice that number, and add significantly to the current tally of two million known species. New species are discovered by a mix of professional scientists and amateur species hunters, although hopefully not "hunters" in the traditional sense, of course.
In one of the recent years, insects and invertebrates made up the vast majority of the newly discovered species, totaling 13,903 previously unknown species. Beetles were the most common discoveries, accounting for 3,485 in all, including 568 rove beetles, 421 ground beetles, 369 long-horned beetles, 356 leaf beetles, and 228 scarab beetles. Most of the rest of the new species were made up of plants, fungi, and microbes.
There were also 41 new mammals, about half of which were bats and another third were rodents. There were also 133 new frogs, 38 lizards, 31 snakes, and two new turtles. While 43 previously unknown birds were discovered, it's hard to call most of them "new" — 34 of these species were actually fossil specimens from now extinct species.
It is estimated that 10 million additional plant and animal species still await discovery along with up to 20 million new marine microbial species.  All total, between 2000-2009, there were 176,311 newly discovered species.

Here are some of the new species recently discovered.
Lilliputian Violet  -- Country: Peru
Viola lilliputana

The new Lilliputian violet is one of the smallest violets in the world.  Known only from a single locality in the high Andes of Peru, Viola lilliputana lives in the dry puna grassland . Specimens were first collected in the 1960s, but the species was not described as a new until 2012. The entire above ground portion of the plant is less than a half inch tall (1 cm). The flower was named after the race of little people on the island of Lilliput in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.


Lyre Sponge -- Country: NE Pacific Ocean; USA: California
Chondrocladia lyra

A spectacular, large, harp- or lyre-shaped carnivorous sponge discovered in deep water (11,151 feet; 3,399 m) from the northeast Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. The harp-shaped structures or vanes number from two to six and each has more than 20 parallel vertical branches, often capped by an expanded, balloon-like, terminal ball. This unusual form maximizes the surface area of the sponge for contact and capture of plankton prey.

Lesula Monkey -- Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Cercopithecus lomamiensis
This species was discovered in the Lomami Basin of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the lesula is an Old World monkey well known to locals but newly known to science. This is only the second species of monkey discovered in Africa in the past 28 years. Scientists describe the lesula as shy having human like eyes. It is more easily heard than seen by the booming dawn chorus it performs. Adult males have a large bare patch of skin on the buttocks, testicles, and perineum that is brilliant blue in color. Although the area where it occurs is remote, the species is hunted for bushmeat and thus its status vulnerable

No to the Mine! Snake -- Country: Panama  
Sibon noalamina
This new species of snail-eating snake has been discovered from highland rain forests of western Panama. The snake is nocturnal and a predator of soft bodied prey including earthworms and amphibian eggs in addition to snails and slugs. This harmless snake defends itself by mimicking the alternating dark and light rings of venomous coral snakes. Mining of ore deposits in the Serrania de Tabasara mountain range where the species is found is degrading and diminishing its habitat. The species name is derived from the Spanish phrase “No a la mina,” or No to the Mine.


World's Smallest Vertebrate -- Country: New Guinea
Paedophryne amanuensis

A new frog was discovered near Amau village in Papua, New Guinea.

It claims the title of smallest living vertebrate from a tiny Southeast
Asian cyprinid fish that captured the record in 2006. The adult frog size,
averaging length of both males and females, is less than a third of an
inch (7.7mm). With few exceptions, this and other ultra-small frogs
have been found in association with moist leaf litter
in tropical wet forests suggesting a unique ecological habitat that

could not exist under drier circumstances.


Endangered Forest -- Country: New Madagascar
Eugenia petrikensis

Eugenia is a large, worldwide genus of woody evergreen trees and

shrubs of the myrtle family that is particularly diverse in South
America, New Caledonia and Madagascar. The new species
E. petrikensis is a shrub growing to around six feet high (2 m) with
emerald green, slightly glossy, foliage and beautiful dense clusters
of small magenta flowers. It is one of seven new
species described from the littoral forest of eastern Madagascar and

is considered to be an endangered species. It is only the latest
evidence of the unique and numerous species found in this specialized
humid forest that grows on sandy substrate near the shoreline.

Lightning Roaches --- Country: Ecuador
Lucihormetica luckae

Luminescence among terrestrial animals is rather rare and best known
among certain groups of beetles — fireflies and certain click beetles in
particular — and cave-inhabiting fungus gnats. Since the first discovery
of a luminescent cockroach in 1999, more than a dozen species have,
pardon the pun, come to light. All are rare and, interestingly, so far
only found in remote areas far from light pollution. The latest addition to
this growing list is L. luckae that may be endangered or possibly already
extinct. It is known from a single specimen collected 70 years ago from
an area recently heavily impacted by the eruption of the Tungurahua

volcano.  The species may be most remarkable because the size and
placement of its lamps suggest that it is using light to mimic toxic
luminescent click beetles.


No Social Butterfly -- Country: Malaysia
Semachrysa jade

In a trend setting collision of science and social media, Hock Ping Guek
photographed a beautiful green lacewing with dark markings at the base
of its wings in a park near Kuala Lumpur and shared his photo on Flickr.
Dr. Shaun Winterton, an entomologist with the California Department
of Food and Agriculture, serendipitously saw the image and
recognized the insect as unusual. When Guek was able to collect a
specimen, it was sent to Dr. Stephen J. Brooks at London’s Natural
History Museum who confirmed its new species status. The three joined
forces preparing a description using Google Docs. In this triumph for
citizen science, talents from around the globe collaborated by new media
in making the discovery. It is named, by the way, for Winterton’s daughter,
Jade, not its color.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fish Populations are Changing in Lake Superior

After posting the blog update a week or so ago about how climate change is impacting Lake Superior, I decided to research whether or not there is any evidence that the warmer temperature of the lake water is impacting or changing fish populations.  Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  Newly published research has found that Lake Superior's warming water is probably already affecting its most abundant big fish.
 Increasing water temperatures over the last three decades have made conditions more favorable for Chinook salmon, walleye and lean lake trout but less favorable for cold water-loving siscowet lake trout.  
 Unlike the lean lake trout, obesity is a natural state for siscowet trout that has a tendency to develop more body fat (40-70 percent) than lean lake trout (about 10 percent).  
 The study, using a mix of computer modeling and temperature measurements, estimates that fatty siscowets have lost about 20 percent of their historic habitat because of the temperature changes that have already occurred.   Although the larger lake trout has increased in numbers relative to their drastic decline due to the Lamprey eel during the 1950s and 1960s, their recovered population may now be threatened by the warmer temperatures as well as by the decrease in their preferred food source -- there is less smelt and other feeder fish in the lake. 
 The research was conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, funded by Wisconsin Sea Grant as well as the University of Minnesota Duluth's Large Lakes Observatory who found that average Lake Superior surface water temperatures increased almost five degrees F (2.5 degrees C) between 1979 and 2006, among the most dramatic examples of climate change in North America.   Since then, the rapid warming phenomenon has not only intensified in Lake Superior but also been found in other big lakes, including Lake Baikal in Russia. In 2010 research showed that the average temperature taken at three Lake Superior buoys was the highest in the 31 years of records.  Lake Superior deserves attention because these are some of the biggest temperature changes that have been seen anywhere on the planet.
Siscowet prefer temperature over 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 C), while lean lake trout, the more sought-after species by anglers, prefer about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Researches found that the number of days with preferred temperatures and the amount of water available within the preferred temperature range has increased significantly for lean lake trout, salmon and walleye.  Meanwhile, higher water temperatures have forced siscowets to move farther from shore.  Lean lake trout and salmon gained about 11,583 square miles of habitat in their preferred temperature zone while walleyes gained a whopping 19,305 square miles. But siscowet trout lost about 3,861 square miles, or nearly 20 percent, of their historical habitat.
Overall, the fish harvest in all the great lakes has drastically declined over the last few decades.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Lake Superior Grand Marais Sunset

Sorry I have not had time to post a blog update these past few days.  Between teaching classes, power outages, and other tasks -- there just has not been time.  This is the last week of summer hours, however, so I'll have more time starting next week to go on hikes, take photos, and post blog updates.  There is still a lot of work to do, but I am going to try to do a better job of getting out to get exercise.

During the summer months Grand Marais, MI has one of the best angles along the shoreline to get terrific sunset pictures.  I've seen several what looked like great sunsets from my house, located three miles from town.  The other night I decided to jump in the car at the last minute to drive over to First Creek and get some sunset photos.

Going down the steps at First Creek, located just west of Woodland Park in Grand Marais.

I arrived at the beach just in time...

A family out for a stroll at sunset...

The driftwood sculpture is still standing...

Sunset reflection on the water...

Looking east from First Creek toward the people in front of the boardwalk enjoying a pleasant evening.

Sunset after glow...

Looking west...

Orange red berries on a tree at the parking lot...

Last night, Jamey and Lois came over for a quick visit.  Our intention was to go on a little hike, but there were storm cells in the area -- with lots of lightning.  The storms continued off and on all night until 4:00 in the morning when all hell seemed to break loose.  I have not seen that much lightning -- maybe never.  Some of the town lost power plus there was some tree damage.  A couple that drove H58 from Munising said that along the shoreline at Sullivan's Landing (the overlook between the Hurricane River and Twelve Mile Beach), they said there were 50 or 60  trees down.  Crews were on site trying to clean up the mess.  What a storm.

Before it really cranked up, I took the following shots of the Cumulonimbus clouds.  a dense towering vertical cloud associated with thunderstorms and atmospheric instability, forming from water vapor carried by powerful upward air currents. Cumulonimbus may form alone, in clusters, or along cold front squall lines. They are capable of producing lightning and other dangerous severe weather, such as gusts, hail, and occasional tornadoes.