This weekend I had the pleasure of spending the day with twelve of my relatives while we went on a train ride through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Now, I am an avid visitor to the park and have even had the honor of aiding in some of the park’s research. However, my family has never gone. I even talked my cousin into camping there and going kayaking.
I was thoroughly impressed with the train ride which wove its way through the park smoothly.
The train, which was from the 1940’s, was in great condition and the railroad system easily adapted to any changes. Due to the high population of visitors that day, the railway added several additional train cars to fit all of the passengers effortlessly.
This was my fist time on the train at the CVNP and I am definitely going back.
My family also really enjoyed the ride and said it was very relaxing. We even got the chance to see the 1000 pound (~453 kg) Bald Eagles nest. This past season two new eaglets were born and have already left the nest.
Definitely a trip to remember!
We are going back to the science track with this post.
Little known fact: Plants can talk! WHAT?!
Okay, obviously I don’t mean can plants talk in the same way humans can. I, for one, have never walked down the street and had a daisy bid me “good day” (at least not sober).
I mean plants can communicate with each other. This is done through the release of chemicals.
When a plant is being attacked by an insect or disease it releases specific chemicals. These chemicals act as a warning to neighboring plants.
A nearby plant then detects the chemical and reacts to protect itself. This can be done in several ways. However, it usually involves the action of a secondary metabolite. There are several classes of these chemicals and each performs a different job.
The neighboring plants defend themselves by releasing chemicals either inside or outside the plant. These chemicals are produced based on the threat. A plant can produce chemicals to kill an insect if ingested or release chemicals to deter the threat from the plant.
These secondary metabolites are key to plant survival and human survival. Many medicines used today are derived from the secondary metabolites of plants. These chemicals are key for the survival of both.
There are many other ways plants can communicate, but that is a whole other post.
I am amazed at the “secret lives of plants.”
In all honesty, thank you plants for producing caffeine (a type of secondary metabolite), I don’t know how I would survive without coffee.
Okay, I know this is a widely accepted fact, but I just need to say it again. Dogs are amazing!
I am not just talking about how cute and lovable they tend to be. (Although that is included). I am talking about how skilled and useful they are.
Recently, I dove into learning the skills and expertise of these canines. Most college seniors have to complete a capstone course in order to graduate. With my degree, that meant I had to prepare an hour long seminar and present it to over 100 people. Worst hour of my life.
The topic I chose was the olfactory capabilities of canines. After months and months of research I was even more amazed with dogs than I was before.
I focused on cadaver dogs or search and rescue dogs, but also came across research on detection dogs. Dogs can be trained to detect seizure in people before they start and even detect cancer in the body.
During my research I came across a comparison that blew my mind: where a human might be able to detect a teaspoon of sugar in water, dogs would be able to detect a teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic swimming pools of water. (yeah my dog can’t do that, but it means a trained scent dog would be able to).
Dogs can even smell the difference between genetically identical twins. However, they cannot smell the difference between newborn identical twins. I learned a lot about the use of dogs in law enforcement and as aids in forensics. This amalgamation of knowledge is what I am truly grateful for after my seminar.
All animals are amazing and many animals have a better sense of smell than dogs, but only dogs are man’s best friend.
Let me know if you would like more science based posts. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.