Nicole Vanick's ScrapESbook

On September 21, I took a voyage to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. The Shedd offers many activities ranging from educational to pure entertainment. Depending on how much you're willing to spend, your experience at the aquarium can be as fun as playing guessing games figuring out what type of creatures are in the tank, or more up close and personal where you can actually swim inside the tank alongside the fish, sharks, stingrays, and many more. The Shedd has activities that people of any age can enjoy while also learning to love the environment all that lives in it.

The Shedd attracts many kids to learn about science without even knowing they are. With many fun games for them to personally interact it makes learning about the ocean and environment very enjoyable and interesting for children. There are descriptions on every tank about what type of creatures are inside and sometimes the descriptions are also accompanied by pictures and games for young children to be just as amused as the older people who can actually understand the words of the descriptions. There are endless opportunities to learn here that will amuse all ages. The Shedd turns learning into fun by actually being able to see creatures up close, and in some cases, even be able to touch and feed the creatures. By seeing how adorable and loving all the animals, fish, and other living things are, it makes us think twice about how much we should appreciate, love, and care for our environment. The Aquarium is a great place to take kids in order to teach them to love the environment from a young age.

I personally thought the Shedd was going to be very boring and childish but after seeing how many cool things I can learn and interact with there it makes me even more intrigued to go back. I think the coolest things the aquarium offered was the chance to get to see a dolphin show, pet stingrays, and also scuba dive in the aquarium. The awesome setup with facts lined on the floor, ceiling, and walls was very cool to see and learn from. I think its set up flawlessly to give the perfect mix between education and fun. It was a great place to be able to learn more about Science and all the types of living things there are in the world while also providing amusement with interacting and watching the creatures live. This experience really opened my eyes to the millions of types of creatures that will be hurt if we continue to be reckless with pollution. I'd definitely recommend any parents to take their kids there to make them grow a strong love for the environment and all the creatures in it. I'd definitely go back as well.

Authorities Step in to Save the Manta Rays

In Indonesia, the authorities are beginning to strongly crack down on the illegal selling of the endangered manta rays. Manta rays are often killed or sold for their gill plates. The gill plates are thin cartilage that filters plankton, which happens to be the Ray's main food source. In China, these grill plates are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The plates are in high demand in China and also give a high dollar amount for trade. Manta Rays can live more than 20 years but only reproduce once every two years. With such low reproduction rates, it makes them in a spot where they can become easily endangered. Indonesia marked the Manta rays as a protected species with a max fine of $25,000 or possibly arrest. In the last couple months four arrests have been made for illegally selling or attempt in trafficking these newly endangered species. Scientists hope that Indonesia will be an example for all country to help slow down the threat of extinction of the rays. They hope between the laws and fines, as well as the growing tourism that Manta Ray's will be protected from going extinct.

I completely support and agree with Indonesia's laws to prohibit the selling and trafficking of the Manta Rays and their parts. I think that no matter how much money can be made off them, they shouldn't have to go extinct because of people's greed for money. I think they have every right to arrest or heavily fine those involved in putting these creatures in further danger. I also hope that every country will pass a law to protect the endangered species and actually follow through on prosecuting the people who go against it. Even though I 100% agree with the actions Indonesia took, I can also see the benefit of selling the grill plates in order for the Chinese to make medicine. I do think they should be able to make medicine out of whatever they think helps but I also think that they can replace the use of grill plates with a different ingredient for medicine. The world would be a better place if we protected the species that are in danger instead of being greedy and careless.

Growing and Growing Vulnerable

Many coasts around the world are victims of rising sea levels due to the planet warming. The Barrier Islands, lining the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, are an exceptional example of how the rising temperatures are tearing our coasts apart. Usually the Barrier Islands protected themselves from rising sea due to storms, but with a population that has nearly doubled this year, nature just cannot take care of this problem anymore. The coasts where the Barrier Islands inhabit face some of the most powerful storms on earth : “these same coasts are subject to impact by some of the most powerful storms on earth and the destruction potential of these events is increasing due to climate change and relative sea-level rise.” Not only can nature not handle the awful damage but also the economy is taking a huge toll. Some storms even cause over a billion dollars in damage. With the economy already in rough shape, where are we supposed to find the money to be able to fix damage and damage continuously as the storms continue to destroy the islands? One of the solutions brought up was the Fire Island project which "would pump seven million cubic yards of sand from offshore and construct new dunes and beaches along almost 20 miles of beachfront." Many support that solution but of course many also disagree saying it would harm nesting sights. Currently, there is no successful solution for this dramatic problem but it was stated that the problem is going to continue to get worst, the only question left unanswered is how fast will the problems get worse?

In my opinion, I think they should try out any idea that could at least slow down the Island from completely being washed away. I don't think people realize that there is no answer as to when the island could just be taken down by a storm. No scientist is able to predict this because something like this has never happened before. Now is the time to experiment and figure out how to take control of our climate and how its effecting our daily lives. I think experimenting with the Fire Island Project would at least be a good start. The only disadvantage of experimenting would be the risk of it killing the nesting birds but if no actions are going to be taken then the nesting birds will be killed anyways from the terrible storms. Experimenting is at least an effort to put a stop to this. Time is ticking away and no one knows when final storm to take down the island will hit. I think its time to start doing whatever is scientifically possible to slow down the Barrier Islands from being destroyed because if nothing is done, there won't be anymore Barrier Islands in the future. I'd rather have a couple nesting birds be killed and destroyed rather than an entire coast of homes where people live every day.

Quarter Two ScrapESbook

On November 18, many Marist juniors were invited to go watch an exclusive premiere of Poverty INC at the Beverly Arts Center. At first, I was very excited to go, not to view the movie, but to get out of school for a couple hours. I didn't think this documentary would change my opinion and view on charity like it did. Poverty INC looks at charity work and poverty in a whole new perspective that most people don't consider. I always thought giving to the needy and sharing the things God blessed me with was a great thing but after viewing this movie I am quite confused and hesitant about what to do next.

Poverty INC begins with a quote from Machiavelli saying, “The reason there will be no change is because the people who stand to lose from change have all the power. And the people who stand to gain from change have none of the power." This quote is describing the global aid today. America is a country blessed with riches, money, agriculture, clothing, industries, companies, clean water, etc. that many countries lack or even have no source of at all. America is also a country of giving. We give to food, clothing, shoes, water, medical supplies, and more to the people and countries that need it. The question is, Is all the giving really benefiting the countries in poverty or hurting them? Before seeing Poverty INC I had no question about whether charity was good or not but now I'm second-guessing it all. Many large companies are known for giving portions of their sales to help the poor countries but instead of helping the countries, in some ways their aid is making the country even worse. For instance, the shoe company TOMS is widely known for their "one for one" policy which means every time people here buy a pair of Tom's shoes they send a pair to a person in need. Little do people know that this so kind act by Toms is actually hurting the people in Africa and other countries. By sending so many shoes, it is putting people trying to sell shoes locally out of business. Who would buy a pair of shoes from someone local when a truck comes once a week to give them out for free? Yes, the shoes do benefit those getting to wear them but each pair of shoes delivered, is one less profit the local shoemaker will make. Generous charity like what Toms does is actually making it harder for countries like Africa to become more dependent on themselves instead of relying on aid to be able to live.

Hardly anyone would be able to ever consider that their charity does more harm than good but sadly it is true. Aid is definitely beneficial after disaster strikes, but sending it every single week when there is no disaster is causing a disaster. Instead of providing aid, many of the people interviewed in the movie say they need jobs and people to teach them how to do things on their own. Instead of sending over fish to eat, send over a pole and bait so they can come dependent and get their own fish. Our system that we have now is simply not working. Orphanages are overflowing, not because parents don't want to raise their children, but simply that they can't. None of this will change until we change the way we look at charity. We need to stop looking at foreigners with pity but instead look at them as equal. Instead of sending aid, send jobs with people willing to train them. Instead of giving them clothes and shoes, send materials for locals to start making their own. If we don't start changing, poverty will never come to an end.

Mars Rover Finds Stronger Potential for Life

In order for there to be any sort of life scientists have concluded that many things must be present. The things needed to be present are: water, an energy source, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Obviously Earth has all of these things present, but the question does Mars or has it ever? Life on earth began approximately 3.8 billion years ago and now some scientists are speculating that theres a possibility life on Mars could have began around the same time. Sadly, it is also believed that the same similarities Mars had to Earth disappeared after only a billion years having lost its protective atmosphere. Currently, there is a scientific rover traveling on Mars that has found the standing water, the energy, and the key elements. All that's needed to prove life on Mars once existed is more evidence. The orbiting satellites have detected the remains of substantial ancient lakes and deltas but this isn't enough to prove life existed but it does help the evidence grow stronger. The progress toward proving life on Mars is moving steadily forward as the team has detected organics that seem to be organic and another instrument is being used now to search for more organics. Also, a mission to bring back rock and soil is going to be conducted in the near future. Our process to proving life on Mars is moving along steadily.

I think it is super cool to think that life could've existed somewhere else besides Earth. It would be very interesting to see if its possible for any type of live to still live there. I'd love to see whether or not plants could survive. The benefits of having the ability for life to survive somewhere else are plentiful. First off, with life on another planet there could be chance that Mars has elements or things that we don't have here. Who knows maybe Mars could have the cure for cancer buried in deep inside? Secondly, there would be more availability of renewable resources. Lastly, there would be more space to host living things. The problems with life being on Mars could be the thought of not knowing. We don't know whether Mars contains toxins or chemicals that we don't have knowledge to take care of. We don't know whether it is humanly possible to live there but I do hope scientists find the answer in my lifetime because I'd love to travel to Mars if ever possible.

California Drought Said to Have Natural Cause

Many people blame the droughts happening around the world on humans, especially in California, but scientists analyzed it and have now found this to possibly be untrue. Scientists have analyzed California's extreme drought and have decided that the drought is due to natural climate variability not climate change caused by humans. The temperature patterns are nothing to be shocked about and the drought is a consistent effect of the temperature variability. In fact the scientists concluded the main cause of the drought was the patterns of the water temperature in the Pacific ocean. It is likely that because of California's location on the coast, ridges of high air pressure would form and block winter storms from coming in therefore blocking precipitation from falling. Also warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate. All of there factors together add up to cause a drought, naturally, without human affects.

Even though it is unfortunate to see that a state is going through a drought, it is enlightening to hear that the drought is not being caused by humans. The benefit of this not being caused by humans is that we don't have to change our lifestyle to help prevent the drought from happening. Humans are the cause of many environmental issues and it is great to hear that for once humans are the cause of this disaster. But sadly, that also means we cannot do anything to stop it. The drought is inevitable and the only thing we can do is pray it doesn't happen. Hopefully someone will invent an instrument soon to help prevent farmers from losing their crops and plants due to this drought. To move forward the only thing we can do to help the drought is to pray it doesn't happen and think of inventions to help prevent fires from starting or crops from dying.

Quarter Three ScrapESbook

Over the past weekends I did some extreme cleaning of my closet and gathered together 5 garbage bags full of clothes to be able to be donated. There are numerous charities to choose from but I chose to donate to Juvenile Diabetes because they are one of the top charities that gives the most of what they receive to the actual ones in need instead of taking sums of money to take care of company needs and funding. It feels great to be able to give back and donating clothes is a very unique way to help. Most teenagers don't have a lot of money to spend, let alone give away, but every teenager has clothes. In my case, way too much clothes that all the items can't even fit in my closet. My mom constantly yells at me telling me to get rid of some clothes and it wasn't til now that I realized how great cleaning can eventually make you feel especially knowing it'll be going to help those in need.

How does donating clothes have any connection to environmental science? Obviously the common phrase "Reduce, reuse, recycle" comes to life through donating. Reducing the production of new clothes, reusing old clothes, and recycling them onto new people. Also, we repeatedly have talked about developing countries and how one of their problems is not having enough resources. A common strategy used to help turn developing countries into developed countries is through delivering them old clothes and shoes that have been donated. In sense, I am helping our world become more stabilized by doing  a good part in turning developing countries into developed. Putting a great use to clothes that were once just collecting dust in my closet is a great thing to do and I'm glad this experience got me to realize that. Now, instead of keeping clothes I know I'm never going to wear, the first thing I want to do is get to donating them.

Study Finds Rising Levels of Plastics in Oceans

Every single year, about 8 million metric tons of plastic debris is added to the ocean. This number is equivalent to "five plastic grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world". Unfortunately, this number is expected to increase as the years go on. In 2025, it is expected that the current 5 plastic grocery bags with plastic will exponentially grow to 10 grocery bags of plastic per foot of coastline. Unless the inhabitants of the world change the way they dispose of their trash, our oceans can greatly suffer. The worst polluter of the world is China with numbers reaching an estimated 3.5 million metric tons of debris each year with United States coming in at number 20 with an estimated 110,00o metric tons. Even though the United States produces more waste per person daily, the efficient waste management we use helps eliminate some of our pollution. Perhaps if the entire world picks up waste management ways like us, we could lower the 8 million metric tons of plastic debris found each year instead of increase the number but sadly there is no way to completely eliminate it. Once exposed to sun and saltwater, the plastic shreds into tiny toxic pieces too small to be cleaned up, but large enough to be eaten by fish and other organisms. Also, most debris sinks and settles at the bottom of the ocean making it nearly impossible to collect.

I think the numbers stated in this article are nauseating. It is so sickening to really picture that we, the inhabitants of the earth, are slowly killing our oceans by filling them with plastic debris. The problem almost seems helpless to stop because not all countries can afford waste management systems like we have in the U.S. and picking up debris among the shore isn't nearly the amount actually inhabited the waters. I do not see any pros to this topic because I don't foresee any solution to put this problem to a complete stop. Developing countries can't afford proper waste management and the debris dissolves so much that it is impossible to clean it all up. I can only think of cons to this problem. The United States has an advantage because we have the money to provide proper waste management and also proper tools to pick up debris from the shores and waters but most countries either don't have the money or the proper tools. The US contribution can only go so far and without all areas following the same plans the US uses it is unlikely we can stop or slow down this problem. The most we can do is reduce our waste, recycle our plastic, and reuse what we can worldwide in order to try and save our oceans from plastic debris.

New York in a Deep Freeze as Frigid Air Descends on the Nation

Friday February 20 the entire nation all the way from Florida to Niagara Falls faced a deep freeze with the coldest temperature reaching 41 degrees below zero. The deep freeze phenomenon is now being called the Siberian Express. The cold air is coming from the Arctic and Siberian regions blowing south towards the central and eastern parts of the U.S. The phenomenon got its name because the blowing of this air is basically an "expressway for cold air". The south usually has warmer weather but because the ground is so snow-packed that isn't the case during this chilly winter season. The cold temperatures are breaking records across the US and it is reported that we are not expecting relief any time especially for New York. The problems that this frigid cold air causes are endless. Water mains, gas pipes, and infrastructures are some of the many things put in danger during these conditions. It is advised that anyone going out in this cold needs to bundle up and if you can, just stay inside because frostbite can become a major problem with temperatures like these.

All I can say to this article is I severely hope the scientists are wrong about predicting the extreme cold temperatures aren't going away soon because I am completely over this cold nasty weather. There are so many disadvantages to the temperatures caused from this Siberian Express. First off, many schools and work places have had to call off due to snow days but hey I'm not complaining about that part. :) Secondly, the economic problems this is causing is endless. Gas mains are being broken, pipes bursting and freezing, transportation shut down, streets needed to be plowed and salted over and over again, and the repairs needed to be made to buildings all take a toll on our economy. But not only does it hurt the economy but also the people. Homeless are dying, people are being hospitalized due to frost bite, and people are unable to get to their destinations safely. The only people who can enjoy this weather must be crazy! The only advantage this brings to me is clarity that I want to go to college in the warmest state in the nation. Sadly, the options are unclear because even warm places like Florida are getting hit. Theres is nothing we can do to stop it so all we can do is sit back and hope for Mr. Tucker to call us off for some more snow days.

Quarter Four ScapESbook

Planting a tree reflection:

On March 21, 2015 I had the amazing opportunity with my environmental science class to take the reading and taking notes about trees and put it into action by actually planting a tree. I am so excited and relieved to know that Marist Chicago will always have a part of me growing with them through the years even as I grow older and out of my high school years. Through this hands-on experience, I learned countless trees that I before had never heard of. The first thing I learned was that “trees never heal only seal” meaning that every time humans or nature does any damage to the tree, the tree will naturally seal that wound but it never actually recovers from it. Secondly, I learned the proper way to mulch. I never knew mulching was so complex I figured you just tossed some mulch on and boom a tree would grow but I was very wrong there. Some facts I learned about the proper way to mulch are to never use gravel or stone, do not place mulch against the trunk of the tree, and don’t touch the bark of the tree with the mulch. Without the proper usage and placing of mulch, the tree can become trapped with moisture becoming more vulnerable to disease and insect problems. Lastly, I learned many different ways that trees impact our lives that I never knew before. To share one way trees impact us is that they increase the value of the things around them like houses, shopping centers, and other property values.

I now feel more encouraged and educated to go out and help the environment. One thing I’m going to do is to fight against deforestation by signing petitions and stating my view about how badly we need live trees. I’m going to make smarter decisions in my everyday life that will lead to fewer trees needed to be cut down. For example, I will use more recycled products and continue recycling all the waste I can. Everyday I will make smarter decisions, but I will continue to make even larger decisions in the future. I will only buy property in the future where trees are planted or can be planted. Other than that, I will care for my trees in the proper way. I will not allow damage do be done that can be prevented. For example, I will not let my lawn mower to hit the tree trunk since that causes permanent damage. I will live out these changes and also inform others on how they can help.

Field Trip Reflection:

On April 27 our envi-sci class journeyed to McClaughry Springs to do many interesting things. The first thing my group did was go on a nature walk to find the water. It was very cool to get to explore and go on a nature hike in an area I was unfamiliar with. Secondly, we determined the water chemistry of the Chicago River by using the testing skills we learned in class. We tested the pH, Phosphate, Nitrate, Dissolved Oxygen, and turbidity levels which resulted in numbers I was very surprised to see. Next, we all put on our waders on and actually got into the water! I wasn't looking forward to this part because I thought I was going to fall in but luckily I wasn't the one who did. ( Sorry Claire.) I found this part super awesome because I caught some pretty interesting things including a Crayfish. Lastly, after the snack break, the whole class went on a scavenger hunt together to end the nature part of the field trip on a high note. Of course we all enjoyed our time but we were also all looking forward to the Portillos at the end of the day.

This field trip was one of my favorite things we did all year because we got to take what we were learning and actually experience it with our own eyes. This allowed us all to connect our notes to the real world. First with the steam walk my group and I got to enjoy the fresh air and just take in the beautiful nature around us. From the types of trees, to the different flowers, all the way to the flowing water, we got to identify it all. We got to identify the different types of trees by their leaves and colors as we learned how during the year. Between the nature walk and the scavenger I paid more attention to the different trees and plants around more during that time then I ever have before. I can't believe I could've been next to poison ivy a million times in my life and never knew it- but now I do! Through identifying the water chemistry I got to physically do the tests that I read about during the year. I thought the water was going to be so dirty and gross but to my surprise, the results came out that the water was pretty excellent. It put an end to my assumptions that I've made prior to this great learning experience. To end it all, I loved having the personal time to take in my surroundings and actually hear the world living around me. I took more out of this field trip than any notes could ever give me.

Comment Stream

3 years ago


2 years ago

3rd quarter = 50/50. Nice job! Way to recycle old clothes.

2 years ago

I'm so glad you really enjoyed the field trip! Thanks for such a great year, Nicole! 50/50