Something Good Can Work

Took a little time to make it a little better
It’s only going up, just one thing and another
You know, you know

Two Door Cinema Club

The weather has been giving me whiplash. It’s sunny and 50*F one day and snowing literally the next. How are animals and plants supposed to cope with this?! The daisies are starting to come up and are going to freeze this week! They can’t just go inside and adjust their thermostat or put on a few extra layers. And the animals!? I’m sure they’re like WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!? The berries and seeds will freeze instead of growing bigger which will decrease their available food in the area and man they’re screwed.

Sunday was sunny and 45*F. Tried and failed to find the start of a hiking trail so I went for a drive with friends instead!

Unless there is enough variation (genetic diversity) within populations to successfully adapt to these unpredictable changes, we will continue to see the decline of once common animals and plants in our human caused sixth mass extinction. Diversity is a hot-button topic in politics, but it isn’t in the field of conservation *and it doesn’t need to be with politics but that’s not what this blog post is about. See my friend Cameron’s blog, An Open Letter, for posts like that. Genetic diversity is imperative to species survival as our climate changes, habitat is lost, and human-wildlife conflict increases. Species that have greater genetic diversity have a greater chance of adapting. If 10 tigers are taken into captivity for a breeding and reintroduction program, and they only breed within that group for a few generations, they will end up with reproductive inadequacies and other health issues through a phenomena called the founder effect. It’s why humans don’t have kids with siblings, parents, or cousins!

How do we combat these negative things happening to creatures on our planet? There are the obvious answers like: buy only what you NEED; don’t waste food, energy, and water; use your consumer power to hold companies responsible for their environmental impacts; don’t litter; and be don’t be a self-centered, egotistical organism that disregards the needs of the other things that live on our planet too. But there are also more science-y stopgaps like captive breeding programs that use artificial insemination and cryopreservation. *If you need a refresher on high school level genetics, here is a khan academy video on it!* Sperm can be frozen in liquid nitrogen for decades and still able to fertilize an egg. Sperm collection can allow for the reintroduction of genes into a population that otherwise would have been lost. It can also be used to introduce genes from wild populations into captive populations without having to take the actual animal out of the wild.

Imagine: there are no more blue-eyed people left, but some still carry the recessive gene. If sperm from a blue-eyed dude (bb) is used to fertilize an egg from a gal who is a carrier for the blue eye gene (Bb), there is a 50% chance their baby will have blue eyes (bb)! If the dude’s sperm wasn’t cryogenically preserved, the genes for blue eyes would have eventually been lost from the population.

Julia and I learning about cat vs dog ovary from Jen Nagashima, a PhD in reproductive biology.

This past week, my classmates and I got to dissect reproductive tracts from spayed/neutered dogs to better understand the process of obtaining, freezing, and thawing of gametes. Cryopreservation, captive breeding, and reintroduction programs and important conservation initiatives to help endangered animals.

Use discretion with your scroll speed

I tried to break it down a bit but this post was on the more science-y side. If you have any questions or want to learn more, let me know! Endangered species conservation, captive population management, and assisted breeding techniques are all complex and contested topics, but by no means does this mean you can’t understand them! As this blog is coming together, I hope to emphasize both the data on how humans are killing our world AND all of the things that you as an individual can do to help.

This week’s adventures:

This post was a bit all over the place even after four rewrites but you made it through! Thanks for sticking with me and hopefully learning a bit!

Big takeaways:

Small steps to better the world have a large cumulative impact

&

Knowledge is power *love Schoolhouse Rock*

Stay positive and inquisitive,

kira