Monthly Archives: May 2019

ENDANGERED!

After the last male white rhino died in March 2018, only 2 females remain alive in the world.

By Sharon Reily, Reference Department

You may have recently read distressing headlines predicting mass extinctions of species of animals and plants. Most alarming is the U.N.’s new report on biodiversity and ecosystems asserting that up to 1 million species of plants and animals are now threatened with extinction, some within decades, including 40% of all amphibians, 33% of marine mammals, and another 33% of shark, shark relatives and reef-forming corals. Since May is Endangered Species Month, this is a good time to explore where information on endangered species comes from. Who collects and analyzes the data? Who decides which plants and animals make it onto the endangered list?  What is the processing for getting on the list? Once an animal is added to the list, who determines what steps are required to protect it? Which animals are currently considered to be in the most danger, and which threatened animals are making a comeback?

The Endangered Species Act

The Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep was the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act in the 21st century.

In the 1960s, due to hunting, habitat loss and use of the toxic pesticide DDT, the bald eagle had suffered a drastic decrease in population that left only 417 breeding pairs accounted for. In 1966, public outcry over the decline of our national bird and other animals motivated Congress to pass the Endangered Species Preservation Act. The Act eventually evolved into The Endangered Species Act (ESA), which was signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon. The bald eagle was one of the first animals protected by the ESA.

The ESA is our nation’s most powerful tool for protecting wildlife. Its purpose is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The ESA is administered by the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (responsible for terrestrial and freshwater organisms) and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (responsible for marine wildlife such as whales and also fish like the salmon that live in the sea and migrate to fresh water to breed).

Under the ESA, a species can be listed as “endangered” or “threatened.” An “endangered” species is in danger of extinction while a “threatened” species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. All species of plants and animals, except for pest insects, are eligible to be listed in both categories. Currently, 1471 animals and 947 plants species are on the ESA’s endangered list.

Several species of sea turtles are endangered, with many killed in commercial fishing nets.

The ESA lists species as endangered or threatened based on five factors:

  • Damage or destruction to their habitat
  • Overutilization of the species for commercial, recreational, scientific or educational purposes
  • Disease or predation
  • Inadequacy of existing protection
  • Other natural or manmade factors that effect a species’ continued existence

Numerous other organizations monitor and report on endangered species, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Center for Biological Diversity. They don’t have the regulatory powers of the ESA, but they do provide valuable information used by the ESA and other conservationists.

Animals and plants can be added to the endangered list in one of two ways. Either biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service add candidates based on the findings of their own assessments, or they respond to a public petition. Under the act, anyone can submit a written petition, and must be notified within 90 days whether the request warrants further research, which must be completed within a year. Thirty days after a listing is added, it becomes effective.

Once a species is on the list as either endangered or threatened, the ESA protects it and its habitat by prohibiting interstate or international trade and “take” of the listed animal. Take means “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect” a member of the species. Listed plants are not protected from take, although it is illegal to collect or harm them on Federal land. They’re also protected from commercial trade.

The Endangered Species

The population of the Florida manatee has increased enough that they’ve been downlisted from Endangered to Threatened on the list.

The ESA and other conservation organizations haven’t been able to save every species. Three species of birds went extinct in 2018 – two songbirds from Brazil (the Cryptic Treehunter and the Alagoas Foliage-gleaner) and the Po’ouli from Hawaii.

Nearing extinction are the vaquitas (a small dolphin-like porpoise), the northern white rhino, and the red wolf. Only 30 vaquitas remain in the world. The last male northern white rhino died at a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya last March, and only two females are left. In the U.S., only 40 endangered red wolves remain in the wild and they could become extinct in the next 8 years.

Other endangered species are well known:

  • Amur Leopard
  • Cross River Gorillas and Mountain Gorillas
  • Hawksbill and the Leatherback Sea Turtles
  • Sumatran Orangutan
  • Sumatran Elephant
  • Saola (an antelope-like animal discovered in Vietnam in 1992)
  • Tiger
  • Black Rhino, Javan Rhino and Sumatran Rhino
  • Pangolin (Scaly Anteater)

In April the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is considering adding giraffes to its endangered list and will begin an in-depth review that can take several years.

The number of bald eagles has improved enough that it has been removed from the endangered species list.

But there is also encouraging news. While only 39 species have been declared fully recovered in the ESA’s 46-year history, scientists estimate at least 300 species would have been lost to extinction without the law. According to the National Resources Defense Council, 99 percent of the species granted protection under the act have managed to survive until today.

Some of the success stories include:

  • Bald Eagles: recovered from less than 500 breeding pairs to nearly 70,000 birds today.
  • Humpback Whales: increased in such numbers that in most habitats, they’ve been delisted.
  • Grizzly Bears: numbers are still low, but they’re beginning to rebound thanks to aggressive conservation efforts.
  • Florida Manatees: population has increased to the point that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in 2017 that the mammals had been downlisted from Endangered to Threatened on the list.
  • California Condors: there are now over 400 birds, up from only 23 in 1982.
  • Grey Wolves: starting to make a comeback.
  • Whooping Cranes: still endangered with only 800 living today, but the numbers were once in the 20s.
  • Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep: after being added to the list, the bighorn has come back from the brink of extinction. Its population is slowly on the rise, although it is still endangered.

Population numbers for the endangered mountain gorilla have recently increased despite ongoing civil conflict, poaching and an encroaching human population in their habitats in the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.

In addition, the American peregrine falcon, Eggert’s sunflower, and the red kangaroo have recovered enough to be delisted, meaning they’re no longer in danger.

For more details on specific species and to find out how you might be able to help or get involved, check out the websites of these conservation organizations:

If you’d like to learn more about the ESA and endangered species, see the attached sampling of books available at WCPL. Read the rest of this entry

Saved by the Librarian

By Rebecca Tischler, Reference Department

Originally published on April 17, 2015

A few days ago, I was having a relaxing night watching the Fellowship of the Rings and eating dinner, when I had a sudden revelation about the beginning of the movie. When (spoiler alert!) Gandalf realizes that the Ring left to Frodo might be a dangerous and evil object, what’s the first thing he does? He rides through the night, straight to the LIBRARY! Gandalf went to the library to save the world and fight evil. I know, technically, he went to an archive where they preserve all of the important historical documents, but it’s still a library.

In all these wonderful fictional stories, I know that information from a library has saved the world, but that made me start wondering, what about the librarians who saved the world (because we all know that real librarians are awesome every day, right?).  So in honor of National Library Week, here are six librarians who saved the world, and just so you know, past this point are a lot of spoilers.  BEWARE!

6. ZOE HERIOT

zoe-heriot-wendy-padbury-1For those of you who are familiar with one of the longest running sci-fi series, Doctor Who, Zoe was one of the companions to the Second Doctor from 1968-1969. She is first introduced to the Doctor while working as a librarian on a 21st century space station. She had a photographic memory and was incredibly smart, especially in mathematics, so basically she’s a complex human calculator. On her most intense adventure with the Doctor, her skills and intellect are instrumental in calculating an explosive chain reaction to destroy enemy ships to stop the Cybermen invasion.

5. REX LIBRIS14050780737_470443cb9b_o

Rex is the main character in a science fiction/humor comic book. Everyone knows him as the head Librarian at the Middleton Public Library, but what they don’t know is that he is actually over a thousand years old and was the original librarian at the Library of Alexandria. As a member of the Ordo Biblioteca (a secret international society of librarians), and with the ancient Egyptian god Thoth, Rex travels to the farthest reaches to fight the powers of darkness and ignorance, as well as to collect late book fees.

4. EVELYN (Evie) CARNAHAN

Evelyn-in-The-Mummy-evelyn-carnahan-26627779-467-309Evie could read and write Ancient Egyptian, decipher hieroglyphics and hieratic, and was the only person within a thousand miles who could properly code and catalog the library where she worked.  Although she was surrounded by more action inclined individuals (an adventurer mother, an explorer father, a treasure-hunting brother, married to a gunslinger and close friends with a Medjai warrior), she was proud to be a librarian.  And rightly so, because the first time she encountered a resurrected mummy, it was her knowledge and research ability that allowed her to strip the cursed mummy of his supernatural abilities.

3. RUPERT (Ripper) GILESgiles

Buffy the vampire slayer’s long-suffering mentor may have seemed like a mild mannered librarian when first introduced. However, as the series continued, it was revealed that he was a wild and dangerous teenager who ended up knee-deep in dark magic, and that magical dabbling ended up costing a friend’s life. While he helped save the world many times with his reference and research skills, he would show that his dark past left him capable of making difficult and morally-questionably decisions to protect not only the world, but those that he loves.

2. BARBARA GORDON

Batgirl_by_NowlanBarbara Gordon was a librarian at the Gotham Public Library, and you might also know her as BATGIRL, or ORACLE.  As  a crime fighter information was her true weapon, along with her ability to kick butt.  She had a near flawless memory and was a computer expert, and after her spine was broken, she continued to  fight crime by acting as a information broker for superheroes (and later operates as the leader of a full team of female crimefighters).  And as all librarians know, the librarian’s special power is finding and organizing information.  She had no superpowers, like Batman himself, and yet she was able to protect others and defeat villains who were powered.

1. FLYNN CARSEN

The main reason I gave Flynn the top spot is because his title is The Librarian. Flynn is the guardian of a secret collection of magical artifacts at  the Metropolitan Public Library.  Originally he was a somewhat lost but insanely intelligent individual (by the time he was 31 he had 22 academic degrees) and it wasn’t until one of his professors kicked him out of college that he stumbled on his librarian career.  Unlike most librarians, however, he travels the world searching for dangerous artifacts like the Judas Chalice, the Spear of Destiny, and King Solomon’s Mines and defeating those who would use those artifacts to harm others.  He saved the world with his intellect, knowledge, research skills, and the fencing skills he learned from the sword Excalibur.  Also, he had apprentice librarians who had their own TV series and saved the world on a weekly basis.Flynn-Carsen-noah-wyle-33582052-449-330

Madness, Paranoia, Blame: What Caused the Salem Witch Trials?

By Shannon Owens, Reference Department

The Salem Witch house of Salem Massachusetts. It is the only house directly connected to the Salem Witch Trial.

On March 1st, 1692, three women were charged with practicing witchcraft by their neighbors in Salem Village, located in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The charges stemmed from an occurrence in the previous month in which two young girls (9 year old Elizabeth Parris and 11 year old Abigail Williams) were afflicted with strange fits and other odd maladies. A local doctor suggested the girls were suffering the effects of witchcraft and the children corroborated this claim. Mysteriously, this affliction spread to other children in the village, resulting in the madness and fear we know today as the Salem Witch Trials. In the end, 19 innocent people were executed on the basis of these flimsy claims.

Interestingly enough, how this madness over witchcraft became such a craze remains an utter mystery. One would think 21st century science and minds would be able to come to a more conclusive hypothesis about an affliction of this magnitude. Alas, we’re left in the dark, confounded as ever. There have been several suggestions about the cause, some more fascinating than others; some certainly more compelling than others.

Salem 1630: Pioneer Village in Winter 2008

According to records, witch hunts occur more frequently worldwide during cold weather periods. In her senior thesis at Harvard, economist Emily Oster pushed this theory and pointed out that the most prevalent period of witch trials in Europe coincided with a 400 year “little ice age.” Oster points out that during this time, scholars and popes believed witches were capable of controlling the weather, and since cold spells (no pun intended) led to low crop yields and general economic depression, witches made the perfect scapegoats. As a person who turns into an utter malcontent anytime the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, I can see Oster’s point.

In a less intuitive direction, we look to Native American Wars which reached an apogee during the 17th century. The front lines of battle were a mere 70 miles from Salem; many of the citizens of the village were refugees from the war and had witnessed certain horror. It’s not hard to imagine that this would lead to a certain amount of post-traumatic stress that would keep anxieties running high. Historian Mary Beth Norton has a slightly different take. With superstitions being what they were at the time, she suggests that the accusation and subsequent execution of ex-minister George Burroughs (who led several failed campaigns against the Native Americans) of witchcraft was symptomatic of the town officials’ attempts to shift blame from their own inadequate defense of the village to something more sinister.

Witchcraft at Salem Village. Engraving. The central figure in this 1876 illustration of the courtroom is usually identified as Mary Walcott.

More commonly we see the hysteria attributed to demographics. Many suggest that since this is a situation in which the accusers are prepubescents and the accused are adults, this might simply be a case of childhood rebellion (insert eye roll here). Personally, I find it hard to believe that a 9 year old would come up with this. In my opinion, it seems far more likely that the girls were egged on by their parents who may have held personal grudges against the defendants (something to the tune of Capulets vs Montagues or Hatfields vs. McCoys). Feminist historians have always viewed the trials as patriarchal oppression, given that most of the accused were women and more particularly, women who didn’t follow societal norms of the Puritan age. This is almost certainly a contributing factor, but cannot tell the whole tale since men were also executed on charges of sorcery.

Ergot on Wheat

The most individual (and fascinating) theory was put forward by behavioral scientist, Linnda Caporael. She suggests that some of the events in Salem may have been caused by ergot poisoning. Ergot is a fungus that can grow on grains and causes hallucinations and spasms, which fit the symptoms of the afflicted. More studies have found that children and females are the most susceptible to ergot poisoning. Some historians have suggested that ergot poisoning was the chief cause of the French revolution (rather insane conjecture given the massive poverty and unyielding oppression the French citizens were dealing with, but I digress).

However, the most accepted cause is the psychological disorder known as “mass hysteria syndrome.” This is defined as “rapid spread of conversion disorder, a condition involving the appearance of bodily complaints for which there is no basis…psychological distress is converted into physical symptoms.” Perhaps living in such an insular and repressed community led to the manifestation of these symptoms.

In the end, there’s probably not enough evidence to support one theory over the next, but it’s entertaining to speculate. In all likelihood, a combination of contributing factors is likely the culprit. With few reliable resources of the time (outside of physical court documents), this is liable to remain an unsolved mystery. While education, law, and enlightenment have made this situation rather unimaginable in North America or Europe, we still see prosecution of witches in Africa. Interestingly enough, a 2003 study by Berkeley economist Edward Miguel showed that extreme rainfall (whether too much or too little) coincided with increased witch killings in Tanzania (typically the oldest woman in the household and she was killed by her own family.) Does this lend itself to the weather theory? The debate may never end.

 


Sources:

Space, the Final Frontier…

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

The first Friday in May was established as National Space Day in 1997.   Lockheed Martin set the day up as a one-day celebration of space and its wonders and to help students take more interest in science and what’s out there above us in space. It proved so popular that teachers and schools decided to celebrate it every year, and always on the first Friday in May.  This space day became more and more popular every year, especially with students who learned about space day in school.

The aim of creating Space Day was to promote STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and math) in schools, and many schools have special speakers or programs to celebrate space.  In recent years the focus was on getting girls interested in space technology and engineering.  Having more female astronauts has helped this interest grow!  In 2001, John Glenn, former astronaut and Senator, said we should change the title to International Space Day.   And the whole world was brought into celebrating Space Day.

Lucky for us, this year has brought us a Space weekend! Tomorrow is May 4th, which is Star Wars Day  (May the 4th be with you!!). May 5th is National Astronaut Day. May 5 was chosen for this annual day because May 5 was the day Alan Shepherd became the first American in space.  It was a brief flight, lasting around 15 minutes, but it was such a first for our nation.

How to Celebrate Space Weekend

  1. Enter the student art contest every year to create artwork that will become an astronaut special mission patch. The contest begins on May 5, 2019 and ends on Friday, July 20, 2019.  If you are an artist in grade k-12, you can enter this contest and maybe an astronaut will wear your patch in space!  There are 2 categories: grades K-6, and 7-12. There are other prizes, too.
  2. Come to the library and check out a movie like First Man, Apollo 13 or October Sky.
  3. Watch space documentaries on TV, rent from our library, or stream them.
  4. Go to a science museum – Why not the Adventure Science Center or Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory.
  5. Have an astronaut in space read a book to you.  Granted they are children’s books, but he does such a good job that everyone will enjoy it.  Scott Kelly read and recorded several books while he was in space.
  6. Check out the NASA website and find out something interesting
  7. Check out the B612 website – B612 is an organization that works towards protecting the Earth from asteroid impacts and informing and forwarding world-wide decision-making on planetary defense issues. The name of this website comes from The Little Prince, who lived on asteroid B62.

 

Fun Facts about NASA

  • NASA actually has an Office of Planetary Protection, just in case life is discovered out there on another planet.
  • NASA admitted to recording over the 1969 moon landing, in 2006!.  Luckily they weren’t the only organization recording the event.  Other organizations who did record the momentous event are restoring their recordings.
  • NASA will send you a text message whenever the International Space Station passes over your location.
  • Lonnie Johnson is a NASA scientist.  He also developed the Super Soaker water gun.
  • You may think NASA received a great deal of money from the US government budget.  Actually, they only receive $0.005 of every dollar.
  • The area code for the Kennedy Space center and surrounding area is 321.
  • When Skylab crashed in Australia in 1979, NASA was fined $400.00 for littering by the Australian government.
  • When the Space Shuttle components became outdates and near obsolete, NASA would buy spare parts from EBay and other similar sites.
  • There are others on the list.  Check it out yourself!

An Additional Item for Sky Viewing

The International Observe the Moon Night will be Saturday October 10.  This is a world-wide celebration of lunar science and exploration.  Every year one day is chosen; this celebration started in 2010.  This event occurs in September or October when the moon is in its first quarter.  The best viewing is usually during the time of dawn or dusk.  Even though we all would want to watch at the full moon, there is too much of a reflection of sunlight and it is too bright for human eyes (if you are using a telescope.) Read the rest of this entry

Ghosts of Franklin

By Amy Shropshire, Reference Department

Nothing sends a shiver down the spine like a good ghost story, except maybe seeing a real ghost! Franklin is chock full of tales of the supernatural, spirits coming to visit this earthly plane and frightening the daylights out of folks. Franklin is so haunted that walking tours downtown take you through some of the haunted places daily, and entire museums are set up to accommodate spectral visitors. National Paranormal Day seems a great day to explore these historic places and maybe check out a book about ghosts.

Just a few blocks from the library are the Lotz House and the Carter House, two haunted pieces of Civil War history. During the Second Battle of Franklin the Lotz family and other civilians gathered in the basement of the brick Carter House, huddled together as the battle raged about them. When they emerged 17 hours later, dead bodies littered the ground from the battle between the two houses. Thousands of bullet holes are still visible in the brick. One of the Carter sons fought in the battle and was mortally wounded and died days later at the home. The young Lotz twins also died after playing near a stream because the union soldiers had poisoned the water supply in anticipation of defeat.

A Dead Civil War Soldier Created by Edouard Manet in 1871

Further south, the Carnton Plantation House has its own tales of ghastly visitations. Countless soldiers died there as it was used as a field hospital. The apparition of a jawless floating head recalls the story of a soldier that lost his jaw and died of starvation. Blood stains are still present, dark shoe prints of the surgeon that stood amputating limbs for hours and reportedly chucking the spare limbs out the window. The property contains the largest Confederate graveyard in the south. The bodies that populate it however, have been interred for a second time. After the Second Battle of Franklin the bodies were simply buried where they fell, before the graveyard was donated. Perhaps these disturbed graves are responsible for the appearance of ghostly soldiers.

Ghost sightings have been reported at all these houses. At the Lotz House, Civil War soldiers appear with accompanying fog and at the Carnton Plantation, the lady of the house appears in windows and on balconies to wave toward the cemetery. A bandaged soldier has been known to appear sitting on the bed where the Carter’s son died after being wounded in battle. Closer to downtown, the courthouse has been known for ghost sightings, where lynchings, hangings, and branding of criminals took place. Along third avenue several businesses that are currently open  claim hauntings.

Bullets and Bayonets Book

Celebrate National Paranormal Day with something to chill the blood. Take a stroll through these haunted places with a tour group downtown or walk into a tour at Lotz House to chase down some ghost sightings of your own. Book ahead for a tour of the Carter house and Carnton Plantation to see if you can rustle up a spook or two. To fuel your ghost hunting, come check out a book at the library to gather more info about the local specters and spirits. Also, take a look at the fabulous book Bullets and Bayonets that was written and created by the employees of the Williamson County Public Library System.  Happy hunting!


Books:

  • Bullets and bayonets : a Battle of Franklin primer : a Sesquicentennial project of the Williamson County Public Library compiled by the staff of the Williamson County Public Library (J 973.737 BUL)
  • Tennessee Ghosts they are among us by Lynne L. Hall (133.109768 HAL)
  • Haunted Battlefieds of the South by Bryan Bush and Thomas Freese (133.10975 BUS)
  • Ghosts of Franklin: Tennessee’s most haunted town by Margie Gould Thessin (133.10973 THE)
  • Carnton Plantation Ghost Stories by Lochlainn Seabrook (133.10973 SEA)

Resources:

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