Original Post by Olivia Williams:
Degree: Environmental Policy and Management, concentration undecided
1. How does the biomedical bleeding process affect the lifespan and reproductive success of the American Horseshoe Crab?
The horseshoe crab is my fourth favorite animal and is absolutely crucial to the biomedical industry because their blood is used to produce Limulus amebocyte lysate, a product that is used to test for contamination during the manufacturing of anything that might go into a human body (IV drips, vaccines, etc.) In order to get the blood, horseshoe crabs are harvested and are bled to harvest a certain amount of their blood before being released back into the wild. Death rates are around 18-30%, and studies have shown negative behavioral and physiological impacts of biomedical bleeding when monitoring the horseshoe crabs in a laboratory setting three weeks after the bleeding took place (Anderson, Watson, and Chabot 2013, 148). There is a need for further research on the long term impacts of biomedical bleeding on the life expectancy and the reproductive success of horseshoe crabs due to the ecological implications and the sustainability of a vital industry.
2. How does air quality impact migratory bird patterns across the Gulf of Mexico?
I’m an avid birder and living in Florida the last few years has allowed me to see the seasonal changes in bird populations. I love being able to track tagged birds such as purple martins and swallow-tailed kites migrate from South America to Florida every spring. Even though birds have served as sentinels in several hazardous air quality situations in the past, our understanding of how birds are impacted by air quality is lacking. Generally, birds are underused and understudied in this field and conducting a study that incorporates ornithological surveys and air pollution monitoring can help conservationist and lawmakers create policies that protect wildlife and people.
3. Is incentive-driven consumer choice a viable option for economic and environmental success?
OR (more specifically) What is the effect of incentive-driven consumer choice on the level of carbon emissions associated with product delivery through Amazon.com?
Since Amazon.com began offering the Prime membership program in 2005, the company has grown to become the largest online ecommerce retailer in the world (Debter 2019). Amazon is able to keep a massive consumer base by offering a huge variety of everyday products shipped free in an incredibly short amount of time. Not only is this convenient for consumers, but skipping a trip to an in-person store may have environmental benefits as well. A 2013 study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology determined that online shopping could create a smaller carbon footprint compared to shopping at a brick and mortar store, depending on factors such as customer location, choice of transport, item bundling, and how fast items are delivered (Weideli 2013, 6). The last two factors are where the premise of Amazon Prime two-day or, in some cases, one-day delivery begins to have negative environmental implications. The company released a Climate Pledge on September 19, 2019 that ensured Amazon will measure and report greenhouse gas emissions regularly and stated a goal for the company to reach 80% renewable energy by 2024 and 100% renewable energy by 2030 (About Amazon 2019). One of the features offered by Amazon to its Prime members is the “No -Rush Shipping Program” which offers a promotional reward, typically a credit for digital content. Certain items may choose a day of the week to receive all their deliveries to reduce packaging and consolidate shipments. How often do consumers choose these eco-friendly alternatives? Is it enough to have an impact on the company’s overall sustainability goals?
About Amazon. 2019. The Climate Pledge, September 19. https://blog.aboutamazon.com/sustainability/the-climate-pledge (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)
Anderson, Rebecca L., Winsor H. Watson III, and Christopher C. Chabot. 2013. “Sublethal behavioral and physiological effects of the biomedical bleeding process on the American horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus.” The Biological Bulletin 225, no. 3 (2013): 137-151. https://www-journals-uchicago-edu.du.idm.oclc.org/doi/10.1086/BBLv225n3p137 (Links to an external site.)
Debter, Lauren. 2019. “Amazon Surpasses Walmart As The World’s Largest Retailer.” Forbes, May 15, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurendebter/2019/05/15/worlds-largest-retailers-2019-amazon-walmart-alibaba/#417fd1134171 (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)
(Links to an external site.)Weideli, Dimitri, and Naoufel Cheikhrouhou. 2013. “Environmental analysis of US online shopping.” Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne—EPFL: Lausanne, Switzerland:1-7. https://ctl.mit.edu/sites/ctl.mit.edu/files/library/public/Dimitri-Weideli-Environmental-Analysis-of-US-Online-Shopping_0.pdf
Research question #2 is fascinating. I see it being used for environmental advocacy as it urges people who value birds to take climate change action. Your own observations are a great launching point to understanding which types of birds exist in the region. It can inform the process of searching for and gathering data sources. How else besides studying migratory patterns would we be able to learn about air quality’s impact on birds? Or, have you determined migratory patterns is an anchor providing focus for the research project? I agree conducting a study incorporating ornithological surveys into air pollution monitoring can help protect wildlife and people. With the endangered species act in mind, it may create the opportunity to strengthen enforcement of pollution sources in certain regions. At the same time, air pollution’s impact has no boundaries as the sky is a shared resource. Therefore, there is the potential for lawmakers to logically fight for stricter regulations and enhanced enforcement mechanisms over a widespread area. Also, the essay topic is so powerful because air quality impacting bird health is also affecting humans. So, the arguments you make in the research project are transferrable between various species. I also commend you for selecting a specific area. Are you considering narrowing down the research to only a few types of birds?
Response by Olivia Williams:
Thank you for your questions! They definitely are helping me rethink and refine the ideas I’ve come up with. Besides studying migratory patterns there are several studies we could conduct to learn about air quality and its impact on birds. We could compare the fitness level of a specific species in comparable habitats exposed to different levels of air pollution or we could use laboratory studies to determine the impact of air contaminants on physiological functions of individual birds. The reason I am interested in migration patterns is because the species of birds that migrate to Florida every year are crucial for maintaining ecological systems through pollination, pest/disease control, carrion disposal, seed dispersal, and increasing crop yield by decreasing crop-eating insect populations. If air quality does cause the migratory path of these birds to change, their nesting grounds would move and it will have significant impacts on local ecosystems. If this study were to find that air quality does not impact bird migrations, it could support further research into other types of environmental changes that take regulation precedence over air quality, specifically when it comes to migratory birds. Regardless of the results of this study, any information would be useful to broaden the knowledge we have in this field.