Tag: science

The eclipse is so bright, you gotta’ wear shades

Rebekah Hawkins, Associate Editor

In the beginning, the earth was dark.

Then there was a sun and a moon, and last Monday the moon decided to come between the sun and the earth for three hours. Even though Jacksonville wasn’t in the path of totality, people still took to the streets from wherever they were to see the event that won’t take place again until 2024.

According to JSU Associate Professor of Physics Laura Weinkauf, it’s been a while since there was a total solar eclipse like the one on the 21st.

“The last one visible from the contiguous U.S was on Feb. 26, 1979,” She said. “Times vary for eclipses, this one was around three hours. Totality was around two and a half minutes, although in 2024 totality is predicted to last more than five minutes. It depends on the details of where in their orbits the moon and earth are.”

Jacksonville State University set up a viewing party on the TMB lawn for anyone who wanted to come and view the eclipse. People in lawn chairs set up shop to wait, families brought their small children to the bounce houses set up, it was a community that came together for a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Sophomore Noah Davis went to the viewing party and said, “It was good to see a public interest in science. We need more of that.”

Sophomore Eric Cline also went with a group of his friends to see the eclipse.

“It was a really cool experience to see the lighting around everyone change,” He said. “It was almost like wearing sunglasses without actually having any.”

Viewing the eclipse without protective glasses was not recommended though. Weinkauf says that the need for protective lenses comes from the sun’s damaging rays.

“Even with part of the sun’s disk blocked, the amount of light coming through can damage the cells on the retina of the eye,” She said. “Permanent vision loss can occur, and since the sun doesn’t look as bright when it’s partially covered, there’s more danger of looking too long at the sun during an eclipse.”

Even for someone who works as an astronomer by trade Weinkauf says that she really just wanted to enjoy the eclipse. She took to Tennessee with some friends and colleagues for viewing.

“It was amazing,” She said. “Some astronomers did plan to take data from the eclipse, but I just went to enjoy it.”

 

 

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Invasssssive snake found by JSU student

 

 

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An Indotyphlops braminus, or Brahminy blind snake, similar to the one pictured here,  was brought to Dr. Cline by a student last week. (Gary Nafis/Californisherps.com)

 

JoAnna Mitchell, Staff Writer

On April 4, a student in Dr. George Cline’s herpetology class found a rare species of snake in a flowerbed in Baldwin County.

The Brahminy blind snake has been found in Alabama on only two verified occasions. The first was found in Theodore, Ala. in Mobile County only a month ago and released back into the wild.

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The particular specimen that Cline received is pictured above next to a dime for size comparison. (Katie Cline/The Chanticleer)

Cline’s specimen was sent to Auburn University on April 7 where Raymond Corey of the Alabama Herpetological Society confirmed its identity. It will be used for educational purposes in their herpetology department. According to Auburn University, this is the only vouchered specimen for the state of Alabama.

The scientific name for the species is Indotyphlops braminus, which comes from Indo, meaning India or Indonesia, typhlops, a Greek word meaning “the blind” and Brahmin, a caste of Hindus. Brahminy blind snakes are found on almost every continent, but cold temperatures prevent northern expansion. The blind snake spends most of its time underground and has developed reduced eyes that sense light and dark as opposed to seeing like most snakes.

Brahminy blind snakes are often mistaken for worms due to their small size. The snake is very slender and typically only reaches around 200 mm, or 8 in. in length. The blindsnake is not venomous, and if it were, its mouth is too small to be able to bite a human. They feed on soft-bodied invertebrates such as ants, ant eggs and termites.

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A close-up shot of a Brahminy blind snake’s head shows its almost invisible eyes. (Gary Nafis/CaliforniaHerps.com)

This species of snake is the only known all-female species.

“Females are able to produce viable, fertile eggs without being fertilized by male sperm.  his process is called parthenogenesis, and it can be seen in numerous invertebrates and vertebrates (some fishes, amphibians, and lizards),” said Cline. “This is the only species of snake in the world that can reproduce in this manner.”

Furthermore, this species is also considered triploid, meaning that even though they only have one parent, they have three sets of chromosomes.

While triploidy is common in plants, most sexually reproducing species, including humans, are diploid, receiving one set of chromosomes from the mother and one set from the father.

“Usually, individuals that have unbalanced (odd-numbered) sets of chromosomes suffer high mortality,” said Cline. “Brahminy blind snakes have somehow solved that problem evolutionarily.”

The implications of finding this non-native species in Alabama are hard to pin-point.

“It’s a non-native with no native predators,” said Cline. “Its ability to reproduce from a single specimen suggests that its population size could increase rapidly.”

If left unchecked, Brahminy blind snakes may dominate fossorial competition and have negative effects on native underground invertebrates.

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Katie Cline holds a Brahminy blind snake, which is so small that it fits in the palm of an adult hand when full grown. (Katie Cline/The Chanticleer)

Invasive species are appearing in the country, both accidentally and intentionally, at an increasing rate. Several species, such as geckos and anoles, have been introduced by the sale of ornamental plants. Others, like cane toads and pythons, have been introduced through the exotic pet trade.

“More insidious are the diseases that have been introduced, for example the chestnut blight, Dutch Elm disease and avian flu in birds,” said Cline. “We just don’t know what impact blindsnakes could have.”

 

 

 

 

 

Martin Hall hosts first biology seminar of the year

Professors at Martin Hall presented the first of many biology seminars on Friday, January 23 at 3 p.m.

The seminar was entitled “Rising Tide: Sustaining Coastal Wetlands in a Changing World” with guest speaker Dr. Julia Cherry from the University of Alabama. Cherry is an Associate Professor of Biological Science and New College, a program to help students design their own majors. She began her presentation by explaining her study of the Louisianna wetlands and how her research will help to stablize the marshlands to keep sediments in place.

“The purpose of these seminars are to show the students that it is important to learn and resaerch different fields of study and to be exposed to new methods and topics in the region. It is a collaberation between us and other professors at other universities, which brings diversity in ideas, topics and problems,” Dr. James Rayburn said.

Martin Hall professors Dr. George Cline, Dr. Lori Tolley-Jordan, and Rayburn are a few members of a group of professors who gather and plan out seminars for the semesters. They invite other professors from surrounding colleges to come and speak to their students about their specific fields of study. Students like sophomore Willow Banks came and listened to Cherry talk about her decade long research.

“I am an Ecology major, so I found this seminar to be very exciting and intriquing to hear,” Banks said.

The number of students there may have been low, only 35 were seated in the massive classroom, but the knowledge they gained from such an outstanding individual is something they will not forget.

“What I want students to take away from this is that our ecosystem is very valuable and that it needs our help to protect it. Doing so will prevent climate changes and even more drastic changes to the land and the organisms living there. The wetlands of Louisiana are important, they are being threatened and it is up to us to protect them,” Cherry said.

Brittany Robertson
Staff Writer