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A Natural Disturbance

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Screen capture from Weather.com

I have a draft composition of the next Evolution’s Tempo movement, but it appears that an unexpected natural disturbance has occurred in my blogging schedule. You see, hurricane Irene is coming straight for me as a write this.

Disturbances have a funny way of reorganizing the ecosystem a little – and sometimes a lot! While my productivity is temporarily thrown in a loop as I secure my home and yard, we aren’t actually quite sure how hurricanes affect many species. I think we sort of just assume that most animals bounce back readily cause, well, that is where they live. It is optimal habitat for them.

I’m not so different really. Coastal North Carolina is optimal habitat for my family. The weather great nearly year round. The water is warm enough to swim from April to October (though for some of the more braver of our species it is year round). It’s safe here, we have a large property that get occasional visits from fiddler crabs strayed from the Marsh a few meters away. My kids grow up being an intimate part of nature, and the sea. The slow pace of life is felt just about everywhere you turn here. The wild horses on Carrot Island mosey around and munch of the salty grass, the feral cats on Piver’s Island just stretch out belly up on the overgrown railroad tracks, and even the squirrels and butterflies seem less skittish here.

Sometimes, places just get a little too calm and complacent though and Mother Nature (for instance: the Coriolis Effect, friction and a sprinkling of chaos) shakes things up a bit to remind us to keep our guard up. The individuals that survive the disturbance are better adapted for future catastrophes. These traits are passed on through to offspring and continues a thriving lineage of well-adapted species. At least, that is until a new disturbance comes along.

I hope to impart on my offspring, through our preparedness and handling of this situation, characteristics that will make them well-adapted for these sorts of disturbances which they will undoubtedly weather throughout their lives. Especially as we, as well as all life, are trying to adapt to a chaotic climate made ever more erratic by a warming planet. Throw a little heat into the pot and you’ll get boiling eventually.

We love our life in coastal North Carolina, but part of the price we pay is vigilance. All species are rewarded with survival when they keep their guard up in the face of the Gael.

Kevin Zelnio About the Author: Kevin has a M.Sc. degree in biology from Penn State, a B.Sc. in Evolution and Ecology from University of California, Davis, and has worked at as a researcher at several major marine science institutions. His broad academic research interests have encompassed population genetics, biodiversity, community ecology, food webs and systematics of invertebrates at deep-sea chemosynthetic environments and elsewhere. Kevin has described several new species of anemones and shrimp. He is now a freelance writer, independent scientist and science communications consultant living near the Baltic coast of Sweden in a small, idyllic village.

Kevin is also the assistant editor and webmaster for Deep Sea News, where he contributes articles on marine science. His award-winning writing has been appeared in Seed Magazine, The Open Lab: Best Writing on Science Blogs (2007, 2009, 2010), Discovery Channel, ScienceBlogs, and Environmental Law Review among others. He spends most of his time enjoying the company of his wife and two kids, hiking, supporting local breweries, raising awareness for open access, playing guitar and songwriting. You can read up more about Kevin and listen to his music at his homepage, where you can also view his CV and Résumé, and follow him twitter and Google +.

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The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.






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