Climate Change in Science Education

As a physical geographer and educator, occasionally I’m asked to give a GeoSphere presentation on climate change.  Even more frequently the topic comes up at cocktail parties.  Having kept up over the years with the scientific issues involved, I’m quite comfortable portraying the basic physics and expanding body of research on the subject.  However, as the article Climate Change: The New Battlefield In Science Education points out, many in our society don’t like what they are hearing.  Also, many teachers are outside their comfort zone when trying to explain climate change.  For those who want to get up to speed quickly on the subject, I recommend reading Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences – A Guide for Individuals and Communities. Of course if you think that all the basic science it contains is just evidence of a vast conspiracy, the long list of federal departments that endorse the Climate Literacy project will bolster your argument as well.

-Steve Jansen, GSC Board Member

The Winter that Almost Wasn’t

This time last week it was 55° and sunny in Chicago and much of the Midwest.  Golf courses were still taking tee times, people were out jogging with shorts on, and local animals were fooled into thinking it was still autumn…

Leopard Frog -- Waukegan, IL -- January 6th

This Leopard Frog was spotted by GSC Board Members Steve Jansen and Judy Bock during a trip to the Waukegan Dunes on January 6th.  As they noted in an email the frog was “very much alive with a smaller fellow traveler” and its legs “comically slipped on the ice with each attempt to hop.”  The temperature outside was 48° F.

Waukegan Dunes

The immediate question an observation like this raises is: can such a mild and delayed winter be good for these frogs?  Don Wilson, a friend of the GSC who oversees the Great Lakes Amphibian Monitoring Program for Environment Canada, has this to say: “I wonder if these Leopard Frogs will survive the winter.  They should be hibernating, living off of fat reserves.”

However, small North American frogs such as the Leopard Frog and the Chorus Frog (the other frog, not pictured) are used to braving cold weather.  The Chorus Frog has been known to survive temperatures as low as 18° F.  So, while the appearance of frogs in January isn’t yet a major cause for concern, it’s certainly an example of very strange behavior in what has been likewise a very strange winter.

Additional Coverage: The Lake County News-Sun

Friday News and Links

Save Starved Rock!

Starved Rock State Park is unlike any other place in the Midwest.  To those who have visited, the park is synonymous with stunning sandstone canyons and picturesque waterfalls.  Almost incongruous among the level plains of Central Illinois, it’s unique geology was carved out by glacial runoff over 14,000 years ago and has seen human visitors for the last 10,ooo years.  The area also supports a wide variety of plant and animal life unique to the park’s ecology.

On January 12th 2012, the Lasalle County Board is voting on a proposal by Mississippi Sand LLC to begin mining frac sand, an ingredient in oil and natural gas extraction, from areas surrounding Starved Rock State Park.  If passed, this action has serious and myriad consequences for the park and its wildlife — pollution in all its forms will undoubtedly impact the area’s ecology, and the park’s hydrology could be altered permanently.

Mining officials estimate the mine will create roughly 40 jobs over two to three generations of workers, while the park is host to over two million visitors annually, supporting local businesses and responsible conservation practices.  Please follow this link and tell the decision makers in LaSalle County that mining action such as this is not only irresponsible but potentially disastrous.