Mangrove health and canopy insects of the mangrove

Ethnobotany class began this fall with a day one presentation by researchers who are studying the health of the mangroves and the canopy insects of the mangroves. The team members that visited the class included Richard MacKenzie, Maybeleen Apwong, Kristin Jayd, and Ethan Hughes.

The presentation led off with Richard introducing the team and their background. Maybeleen Apwong is on the far right of the image above.

Ethan Hughes is seen on the left above, he joined the team from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The ethnobotany class launched with 19 of the 23 students registered present on day one.

Dr. MacKenzie covered the important role of the mangrove habitat to the environment. The mangrove provides food for communities, is a source of wood for fuel and construction - wood which is also a carbon sink, wildlife habitat, filters runoff from the island, provides a nursery for many fishes, buffers against storms and waves, and provides a sources of many traditional medicines.

Mangroves also adapt to changes in sea level provided that the rate of change is not too fast.

The mangroves of Micronesia are some of the most intact on the planet, deep, beautiful, with massive trees. The team, apparently particularly Maybeleen Apwong, have been journeying into remote mangrove sites to make measurements.

The rate of the accretion of sedimentation may make a nice example equation in MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry class. The data is based on the decay rate of Pb(210) which decays after deposition.

Ethan Hughes has a background in mathematics, physics, and engineering. He operates the LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) laser ranging system that can generate three-dimensional maps of the mangrove. Algorithms will permit calculations such as the biomass in the mangrove. Biomass estimates can help refine models of the extent to which mangroves act as a carbon sink, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The LIDAR unit was set up and ran a scan of the classroom. The system maps a full spherical volume of space. The laser spins on an axis parallel to the ground while the unit spins on an axis perpendicular to the ground.

Kristin Jayd then spoke most enthusiastically about the insects of the mangrove forest canopy and her research. The jumping spider description was fascinating - fixed lens in the front with mobile retinas at the back permitting the spider to shift its visual field. She also noted that few insects eat mangrove plants, but one particular type of inch worm (caterpillar) does have the ability to digest mangrove plant leaves.

The team used a sling shot to bring nets up into the canopy which are designed to trap small flying insects. These insects will be returned to the states for study.

My thanks to the visiting team for sharing their work and their passion with the students. I know that although the class asked no questions and may have appeared subdued, the students were absorbing information of a nature that they had not encountered before. As Kristin Jayd noted, if you have a passion for some particular field of study, there is a way to engage in a life of study and research in that field. She enjoyed studying spiders as a child but had thought one could not "make a living" studying spiders. Now she spends her days studying spiders and publishing research papers on spiders, arachnids, and insects. Dreams really can come true.


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