Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Academic Jungle

The Organisms of Bellarmine College Preparatory

Producer—Toyon Berries

Heteromeles arbutifolia

This plant is supposedly the namesake of Hollywood. No wonder, given its fashionably bold red color. Native to California, this plant begs to be noticed by passing animals. When birds and coyotes spot and consume the berries, the plant’s seeds are dispersed in convenient packages of fertilizer.

IMG_0841.JPGPrimary Consumer—Domestic Chicken

Gallus gallus domesticus

From its convenient perch, the chicken survives on the offerings of her loyal servants, the humans. Subsisting on a diet of grains, her life is a fairly easy one. Admittedly, her eggs disappear every morning, but otherwise, her environment lacks predators and scarcity of food.

IMG_0861.JPGSecondary Consumer—Comet Goldfish

Carassius auratus

The fish too finds prey in the hands of its caretaker, the humans. A steady source of mealworms keeps its stomach filled and its fins swishing. Its tank may be in desperate need of expansion, but its elodea plants keep the oxygen levels high enough for comfort.

IMG_0875.JPGTertiary Consumer—Corn Snake

Pantherophis guttatus

The rat snake’s diet consists, as one would expect, mainly of rodents. The rodents, which are omnivorous, will eat almost anything that sits still long enough. Because some of the rodents’ prey are primary consumers (bugs and other small animals), the rodents are secondary consumers. This makes a snake a tertiary consumer. This means that much less energy is available to the snake population (by the ten percent rule), and therefore, each ecosystem can support very few snakes. They are native to California, but similar species can be found across North America.

IMG_0877.JPGDecomposer—Mealworms (Darkling Beatle)

Tenebrio molitor

These mealworms aren’t really worms at all! Instead, they are they larvae of the darkling beetle, a species that survives mainly other rocks, in dark, confined spaces. The darkling beetle consumes the dead waste of animals and plants, such as fallen leaves, to obtain energy. This returns resources of the ecosystem to a usable state by new organisms. It lives in temperate forest and grasslands worldwide.

IMG_0900.JPGHerbivore—Rhinoceros

Rhinoceros sondaicus

The rhinoceros, despite it frightening horn and skin resembling plate armor, is an herbivore at heart. It requires large territories so that it can forage for edible plants. However, land available to the rhinoceros has been shrinking in recent years, due to deforestation and development, leading to territories shrinking as well. This leads to competition between the rhinos, and lowers the number of individuals the habitat can support.

IMG_0847.JPGCarnivore—Northern Lynx

Lynx canadensis

The Canadian Lynx, or Northern Lynx, subsists off a variety of preys. It’s not afraid of large targets, and can hunt anything from grown dear to young rodents. Because of the large forested area available in Canada and the North United States, this species is not endangered.

IMG_0716.JPGOmnivore—Zayd

Homo sapiens

The Homo sapiens, despite being both meat and plant eater, is oddly picky. It often requires that foods be mixed together, thoroughly cooked, and served onto flat stones before choosing to consume them. Nonetheless, its enormous population spans the globe, and it grows much of its own food. Unfortunately, it is also considered the main reason for climate change, and the expansion of its cities and towns has destroyed many habitats.

IMG_0850.JPGThreatened species—Great White Shark

Carcharodon carcharias

The main threat to the Great White Shark today is commercial hunting. In search of shark fins to produce stew or other cuisine, hunters will often kill as many sharks as they can. Though shark fin soup has been proven to have no health benefit, many seek it as a supernatural cure for many ailments, chiefly cancer.

IMG_0896.JPGEndangered species—Tiger

Panthera tigris

The dense growth of human populations is the main concern for the tiger population, which is steadily decreasing. Other causes of its endangerment include poaching, and killing by humans out of fear. The tiger, while not being chased by angry humans, survives off a varied diet of meat. Consuming over 80 pounds of food at once, it will hunt gazelles, elk, or wild board

IMG_0853.JPGNon-native species—Unicorn

Equus unicornus

The unicorn seems slightly out of place in the Sobrato hallway for good reason. One has never before been spotted in the Bellarmine habitat, and it appears to be an invasive species. It might have displaced the local horse population, if there were one, but its presence seems mainly harmless.

IMG_0825.JPGPollution source—Car

Auto mobilus

The car is only one of the sources of pollution provided by humanity. By burning a fossil fuel, gasoline, it allows for easy and fast transport along public roads. However, in the process, it emits greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide. These, once in the atmosphere, trap heat and light from being re-emitted through the atmosphere, leading to globally higher temperatures. In addition, the exhaust of cars can contain particulate matter, which can damage the lungs of nearby animals, and cause smog.

 

In this Ecological study, I examined where each organism in the Bellarmine campus. Compared to environmental science, which is a much broader topic that covers all biotic and abiotic factors of an ecosystem, this was much more specific and focused. Humans indistinguishably shape the Bellarmine campus environment. The pavement and buildings limit the area usable by other organisms. These influences walk a fine line between biotic and abiotic factors. After all, they are the effect of humans, a living species, but they themselves have no organic material.

 

In the Bellarmine campus multiple food webs exist and intermingle. For example, trees can produce leaves, which, once decomposed, feed the Darkling Beetle larvae. These decomposers may then be consumed by rates, a secondary consumer. Finally, the top predator, the rat snake, feeds off the rats. Overall, the amount of biomass on each level of the pyramid decreases, in ccordance with the ten percent rule.

 

Of course, given the influence of humans, pollution also plays a key role in the ecology of Bellarmine. The climate change resulting from humans’ use of fossil fuels has led to the largest drought on record in California. In turns, this limits the water supply to many native plant species, such as native grasses, endangering new species. Pollution, which covers any waste that directly affects the ecosystem, also exists in Bellarmine in the form of sewage. However, because of the admirably extensive plumbing system, this is prevented from harming the outside environment. However, it cannot be denied that the ecology of Bellarmine is continually shaped by humans, both of the campus and of the world.

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