Goodbye Bees?

Wild bees are in decline across the United States and this can be traced back to human causes. From 2008 to 2013 wild bee populations roughly declined by 23 percent, according to Taylor Ricketts, ecologist at the University of Vermont. Urbanization has taken over the bees natural habitat and forced them to find other places to live in smaller natural areas or attempt to live amongst humans. In addition to increased urbanization, the use of insecticides is contributing to the decline in bee populations. Even when applied correctly, bees still come into contact with these chemicals when pollinating. There are 11 states with the greatest declines in populations, Ohio being one of them, illustrated by the figure below.

Part of this problem can be described as colony collapse disorder. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this is when the worker bees disappear, or die off, and leave behind the queen with nurser bees to take care of the hive. Some causes for this are not human caused, like pest varrora mite or the gut parasite nosema. But other causes can be traced back to humans including pesticide use and stress from habitat changes.
There are measures you can take to help bees survive. You can provide a dense area of blooming flowers in your yard to provde nectar. Avoid ornamental flowers as these do not produce enough nectar. Good options include sunflowers, clover, and crocus. You can also purchase organic food because this does not support the use of pesticides on a large scale. The most important thing is to not use chemicals on your lawn. Traveling bees come into contact with yards across the country and the less yards that are chemically treated the better.

Other sources:

The Fading Blue Beauty

Often overshadowed by the flashier monarch, Karner blue butterflies suffer from a similar plight. Currently registered as Ohio’s only endangered butterfly, Karner blue’s have been reduced to just a fraction of the population that they used to have. Habitat destruction and fire suppression have severely limited the growth of their only host plant, wild lupine. Wild lupine grows best in a prairie setting and is quick to bounce back after being burned. When a fire rolls through, the visible parts of the lupine plant will burn away, but the roots will remain intact to send new shoots up shortly after. The loss of wildfires has increased forest canopy cover over many areas across their range and has inhibited the optimal growth of these plants.


The specific habitat that is necessary for both of these species to grow is an oak savannah, which is now considered one of the rarest ecosystems on earth. Oak savannahs are very dependant on fires to maintain balance, so when European settlers started suppressing fires, they nearly disappeared. The light tree cover allows the lupine to grow, as well as give the Karner blue caterpillers protection from the sun. In Ohio, Karner blue’s were extirpated by the late 1980’s, and it was not until 1998 that a captive-breeding and release plan was created. Several habitats in northern Ohio were restored and the Karner blue’s were reintroduced back into the Buckeye state. There has been a promising comeback so far with small populations taking hold again up north, but they still have a long way to go.


Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife. “ / Search.” Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife,

Grundel, Ralph, et al. “The Effect of Canopy Cover and Seasonal Change on Host Plant Quality for the Endangered Karner Blue Butterfly ( Lycaeidesmelissasamuelis ).” Oecologia, vol. 114, no. 2, 1998, pp. 243–250., doi:10.1007/s004420050442.

Meyer, Rachelle. “Lupinus Perennis.” US Forest Service, 2018,

“Oak Savanna and Fire.” Forest Ecology Lab, 22 Dec. 2014,

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Ohio Dams: Danger in the Water

All across Ohio, dams are getting attention.

The Mahoning River. Dams and years of toxicity following the mass mill exodus of the 1980s had made this river toxic. Image obtained from The Business Journal.2

A dam is a manmade or animal-made structure that alters the flow or level of water. Often dams are used for a human purpose: to gather electrical power. Recently, however, dams have been doing much more and effecting humans, wildlife and habitats in different ways. These ways, as scientists and researchers are beginning to discover, are for the worse. New dams could be different story, but older dams are continuing to cause more and more trouble.

However, there is hope. Dam removal may be the key to environmental success in a certain Ohio river

This river runs through my own hometown, Niles, Ohio. The river: The Mahoning River. It stretches through Warren all the way to New Castle, Pennsylvania and runs 113 miles.2

Journalist Dan O’Brien of Youngstown’s The Business Journal investigated the river’s history.2 He describes in his article, “…dominated by steel interests… Once those mills fell silent during the late 1970s and 1980s, the environmental damage left behind was staggering…”.2 This environmental damage has, unfortunately, become a characteristic of the river and is devastating to the community.

As a resident, I know this is true. My family and all the others in the community were and still are unable to enjoy a true, healthy river. My mom would always say, “Oh honey, we can’t swim there…that river is disgusting!”. Decades of contamination and toxification have made it unfit for human usage.

But how?

Well, it’s actually a perfect storm. The mills’ toxic wastes, including an estimated daily 400,000 pounds of suspended solids, 70,000 pounds of oil and grease, 9,000 pounds of ammonia-nitrogen, 500 pounds of cyanide, 600 pounds of phenols, and 800 pounds of zinc, all combined with the river dams’ improper and restricted effects on water flow have turned what could be a natural beauty into the tri-county health hazard.2

How will the communities fix such a problem?

The first step, according to O’Brien, is the dam removal. He proclaims,” Removal of [the Lowellville Dam] and eight others along the Mahoning River are the most critical and costly components to cleaning the waterway. The Lowellville project could cost about $2.3 million”.2

O’Brian also cites the return of flowing water as a natural method of removing toxins, stating, “it restores a free-flowing river that would reinvigorate the natural habitat, inviting fish, avian and other aquatic species back to the waterway”. 2

The Mahoning River is seeing some improvement after decades of water toxicity, however, the president and CEO of the Warren/Youngstown Regional Chamber, James Dignan, traveled to Washington D.C. on June 20th of this year to fight for more funding on behalf of the river clean up and dam removal. 2

The Mahoning River however, is just one Ohio river that will hopefully benefit from the removal of a dangerous dam.

The removal of the Gorge Dam on the Cuyahoga River should also help the habitat and human safety.1

This removal, which would affect mainly the lands and waters between Akron and Cuyahoga Falls, will also bring health to its whole river system.1 As of March 9th 2016, the dam removal approval was made public and is scheduled to take place in 2019.1 As significant as the removal of Mahoning River dams, the Gorge Dam removal is predicted to contribute to the clean-up of 43 contaminated spots throughout the Great Lakes, according to the Ohio EPA. 1

The Gorge Dam along the Cuyahoga River. This dam is set up for removal. Image obtained from the Akron Beacon Journal.1

However, there is one challenge to be faced before this dam is destroyed. According to Bob Downing’s article in the Akron Beacon Journal, Bill Zawiski of the Ohio EPA claims that the removal of sediments – “830,000 cubic yards, enough to fill the old Akron Rubber Bowl from floor to top four times” – must be removed before the dam can be destroyed.1 The build-up these sediments is almost undoubtedly caused be the dam itself. Plans for sediment removal are still tentative, but the overall process of removing this dam will continue through a collaboration of state and federal efforts.

Likewise, another Ohio river will be subject to a dam removal, and for a more unique reason.

The Tait Station Low Dam on the Great Miami River. This dam is also scheduled for removal. Image obtained from the Dayton Daily News.3 Photograph by Chris Stewart.3

The Tait Station Low Dam on the Great Miami River in southwestern Ohio is also getting removed mainly due to the danger it poses for aquatic recreation.3 In Chris Stewart’s Dayton Daily News article, Sarah Hippensteel of the Miami Conservancy District (MCD) states,” “Removing Tait Station Low Dam is a real positive for the paddling community… Boaters can be trapped at low dams and drown. Now, people will be able to more safely enjoy this section of the river.”3 This dam removal is predicted to cost $1.75 million, which is actually smaller compared to other dam removals ($12.5 million for the Cuyahoga Gorge Dam1).3 Stewart notes that while the dam is low, it’s removal “should also improve habitat for fish, insects and birds along the river”.3 The removal of this dam is expected to have a great impact of both humans and both the local terrestrial and aquatic life. Boaters in the Dayton will finally be able to enjoy their river without fear while also assisting local fisheries and wildlife!

As anyone can now see, the dangers of dams can be vast. While harming fisheries and wildlife, they can also be a major danger to human health and wellbeing. It should come as no surprise if dam removals along Ohio rivers and watersheds become increasingly frequent.


1 Downing, Bob. “Gorge Dam Removal on Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cuyahoga Falls Is Moving Forward with Federal Blessing.”, Akron Beacon Journal, 9 Mar. 2016,

2 O’Brien, Dan. “Mahoning River Slowly Scrubs Its Contaminant.” Business Journal Daily, The Business Journal , 8 June 2018,

3 Stewart, Chris. “A Dam Removal Is the Latest Project to Make the Great Miami River Safer: What’s Really Going on?” My Dayton Daily News, Dayton Daily News, 30 May 2018,

Ohio Minks

Hello there!

On this page, we are going to talk about a species that is in the wild in Ohio: The Minks!
Minks are a really special species that inhabits our state. At a glance, it looks like a weasel or a ferret. However, minks are generally larger and has a bushier tail. The other physical features that could describe minks are short legs, sharp claws beady eyes and small rounded ears. The fur is commonly in rich chocolate brown which at times can be seen almost black. They live on average for 3-4 years but can live up to 5 years. Throughout their lifetime, an adult can be as heavy as three pounds and as long as 17 inches. Their mating season is from January through March and usually the female will deliver about four to five pups and rears them sole handedly.

Minks are very important to the food chain in an ecosystem. They feed on muskrats, frogs, fishes and even birds, hence keeping the numbers in check. They are really good hunters, as they are swift, able to swim and even climb trees.

Are they threatened?

Here in Ohio, most of the areas proximate rivers and lakes has been ‘touched’ by humans. These watershed regions, which is the only habitat that the minks are depending are getting smaller due to urbanization and deforestation. Conservation and preservation of watersheds in Ohio would help the population of the minks to thrive in this ever changing ecosystem.

There are a few predators that try to prey on them, such as coyotes and great horned owls. Humans also hunt them to use their beautiful winter fur. The highest contribution to mortality rate of minks is due to humans and them killing each other. They are not at the brink of regional extinction for now, but the population should be maintained to ensure the ecosystem balance. Let us not make them endangered in any way.

A mink. Retrieved from

If you have any intentions to see these beautiful creatures in the wild, there is several tips for you!

Where can they be found?

Near freshwater sources! Find nearby rivers, lakes or streams because chances are, they are going to be there lurking around. They usually make dens in burrows along stream banks or under a log. It could take some time to see them in daylight, but it is easier to find them at dawn or night.

What should you do when you see one?

Observe them from a safe distance so that they would not feel threatened and minimize risks of any safety issues. Be careful not to scare them as they might screech, snarl, hiss or bark. A good indicator of telling whether those minks are in good mood is when they either purr or churr. They are also able to excrete a fluid that has similar smell to a skunk. Take some picture and share the images of these cute creatures to the world!








Lake Erie Algae Blooms

You may know Lake Erie as a favorite fishing spot or home to the best beaches in Ohio but every summer it has a major problem. Over the past few decades, hypoxic algae blooms have become a huge problem for the lake. Algae blooms are caused by phosphorus runoff. This runoff comes from local farms who use phosphorus-rich fertilizer on their crops every Spring. The phosphorus runoff is rapidly consumed and causes an explosion of cyanobacteria in Lake Erie. This alga has been known to produce a dangerous chemical called microcystin, which is a toxin known to be harmful to humans and animals. The consumption of contaminated water has been shown to have a negative effect on the local wildlife populations. The toxin causes liver failure and can lead to death.

What about the local fish populations?


Lake Erie algal blooms, August 2011

Many individuals count on the summer months for a time of bountiful harvest of Lake Erie’s most famous fish. Unfortunately, these algae blooms create hypoxic dead zones. These are areas of the lake that the algae have completely taken over. The hypoxic dead zones are devoid of any oxygen making it impossible for any living organism to live in that area of the lake. Algae blooms keep increasing in size, some years taking up 700 square miles of the lake. This has resulted in a slight decline in fish populations as they are getting trapped in these dead zones. 



The United States Environmental Protection Agency. Harmful Algal Blooms. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)

Watson, S. B., et al. (2016). Harmful algae: The re-eutrophication of Lake Erie: Harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. Elsevier, 56 (1): 44-66). 10.1016/j.hal.2016.04.010



Tom Archer, (August 19, 2011) Michigan Sea Grant. Retrieved from

Jeff Schmaltz, (August 3, 2014) NASA observatory. Retrieved from

Fracking Boom Wreaks Havoc on Ohio FFW

Fracking is single handedly keeping the oil business afloat with its cheaper and more efficient method of literally sucking the earth dry of its precious oil. It comes as no surprise that this practice can have horrible consequences for the local forests, fisheries, and wildlife. Ohio is one of the main fracking hotspots with the Utica Shale occupying the north eastern quadrant of Ohio.


Fracking uses harsh chemicals to extract oil from deep within the earth. After doing their job, these chemicals as well as radioactive materials brought up from the fracking process sit in waste water tanks next to the well. Spills happen, and when they do, even the smallest of them can cause catastrophic harm to the population. A spill in Kentucky had lasting effects on the creek. “Fracking wastewater that was being stored in open air pits overflowed into Kentucky’s Acorn Fork Creek and left an orange-red substance, contaminating the creek with hydrochloric acid, dissolved minerals and metals, and other contaminants” (Dalessandro). The chemicals spilled into this creek killed almost all of the aquatic life. This is ironic, because before the spill, the creek was designated an Outstanding State Resource Water and was therefore home to many protected species of aquatic life.


A fracking site is a large scale operation and that has a large negative effect on the surrounding ecosystems. “A single drilling station can affect 30 acres of forest. Birds and nocturnal species are highly sensitive to disruption” (Good). The trucks that transport the chemicals and fracking products, as well as, the heavy machinery used to extract materials all cause a major disruption to the ecosystem in the area. “Since 2005, over 360,00 acres of land across the United States have been damaged by fracking.

 Oil and gas companies are even looking to expand fracking activities into national parks” (Good). Throw into the mix the danger of ground pollution and water contamination and fracking just doesn’t seem worth the consequences, seeing that alternative greener forms of energy are rising in popularity and decreasing in prices.



Dalessandro, Nicole. “How Fracking Hurts Animals.” EcoWatch, EcoWatch, 27 June 2016,

Good, Kate. “No Fraccident: How Animals Are Hurt By Fracking.” One Green Planet, One

Green Planet, 17 Dec. 2014,


Resources for Media:

Kuhlman, Mary. “Report: Who Pays for the Cost of Fracking in Ohio?” Not Just an Ocean

Problem Microplastics Found in MT Watershed / Public News Service, Public News

Service, 22 June 2013,

Policy Matters Ohio. “Fracking in Carroll County, Ohio: An Impact Assessment.” Policy Matters

Ohio, Policy Matters Ohio, 10 Apr. 2014,


Invasion of the Great Lakes – Sea Lamprey Edition

A dangerous invasive species has made itself at home in the Great Lakes and has made his presence known. This parasitic fish used to be native to the Atlantic ocean but quickly invaded the Great Lakes when canals were added to make transporting goods in an out of the Great Lakes easier.

The sea lamprey is particularly devasting because of their many rows of sharp horn-shapes teeth. They use their mouths to latch on to fish and suction themselves to the fish. They then use their razor-sharp tongue to feed on the fish’s blood and other body fluids. Most fish usually do not survive the vicious attack.

The sea lamprey only lives for a 12 to 18 month feeding period. However, a single sea lamprey is a fierce predator to the local fish populations. During its short lifespan it can kill up to 40 pounds of fish.

You may ask: What is being done to protect our fisheries?

To protect our fish lampricides have been developed to kill larval sea lampreys. Traps have also been deployed to try and catch them before they reproduce. These methods have shown to be effective in trying to minimize the damage of such a parasitic invasive species.




Smallest Bats in Ohio

What comes to your mind when you think about bats? Maybe vampires or other blood sucking creatures. Truth to be told, out of many species of bats around the world, only three of them drink blood to survive. Two of these species drink bird blood and the other don’t prefer human blood so nothing to worry about, right?

Species going extinct is not news anymore since it happens more frequently now. So here is one more species that is very close to extinction if nothing is done stop it. The mammal species which is in danger currently is called Tri-Colored Bat. These little furry mammals are the smallest bats in Ohio, while in flight they can be mistaken for a big moth. Their color can be yellowish-brown to dark reddish-brown and their ears are longer.

The baby bats which are referred as pups are born in May and June. To get pregnant, female of these bat species goes through a process called delayed fertilization. During fall season, a cluster of bats gather for accessing a cave before hibernation. While mating, sperm gets transferred to female bats in fall, but ovulation and fertilization happens when they wake up from hibernation in next spring. After they wake up, it takes six to nine weeks for pups to be born. It is rare, but these specific bats species usually have 4-5 pups.

Going back to the point about these species being close to extinction. In 2006, the bats in New York State cave were affected due to the fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans. This fungus is native to Europe but this disease spread quite rapidly which wiped out 95% of their colony. Bats are very important for our ecosystem in forest areas all over the world. They harvest millions of insects which saves billions of dollars in pest control in North America. Kim Baker, a ranger and her guide with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been keeping an eye on this bat species and have been protecting them for years now. So far, their population have been constant so let’s hope for the best.


Photos by Jim McCormac –

“Tri-Colored Bat”. Wildlife.Ohiodnr.Gov, 2018,

habitats/species-guide-index/mammals/tri-colored-bat. Accessed 22 June 2018.

“Tricolored Bats!”. Jimmccormac.Blogspot.Com, 2018, Accessed 23 June 2018.

“All About Bats!”. Ohiohistory.Org, 2018, Accessed 23 June 2018.


Caddisflies: The Treasure in Rivers


Caddisflies are one of a kind. They are insects under the Trichoptera order. Usually, the can be found proximate to water sources, like rivers and streams as its larvae lives in the water while the fully grown adult lives on land, similar to mosquitoes. The larvae are able to live in low oxygen conditions. They are selective feeders that feed on more nutritious foods that trapped at their nets. They are special due to their ability to make protective cases from things around them. The larvae use silks that are reinforced with twigs, gravels and other debris. There were some people that ‘supply’ the larvae with stones and jewels so that these larvae would make a case out of it!

A caddisfly larvae in a jewel case.



Caddisfly larva arranging parts that make up the nest.


The Importance of Caddisflies.

Caddisflies larvae are really sensitive to the environment, especially the water quality as it has low tolerance to pollution. If there are changes in turbidity of the water, nutrient content and even the pH, it would affect the population. Hence, researches use this information to assess the water quality in streams, river and lakes. In Ohio, the data that was retrieved showed that the caddisflies species that are present are currently endangered and fell under species of concern. This is mainly due to the water quality that is deteriorating relative to previous years. The two figures below were obtained from a file published by Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife.

Three endangered caddisflies species.




The number of caddisflies that are endangered, threatened and within concern of ODNR.

Here, we could see that there are three species that is endangered, six species that is threatened and three species that is of concerned. To ensure that the species continue to survive, the water quality of our river has to be maintained at all cost. The presence of caddisflies in our rivers and watershed means that these places has a really low pollution level, and that indicator also benefits other species as it makes the habitat habitable.