Johnny Ramirez's blog

Understanding What Causes Desertification

Long Term Ecological Research Program

We often have hectic daily schedules that make it feel like life is just blazing by. It isn’t until we turn our attention to the mountains or take a hike in a forest that we get a sense of timelessness. The plants holding stead fast to their home in the soil, and nature always coming back and forth in cycles that repeat every year for eons. From the point of view of our daily lives, our environment appears as constant as a watch that has stopped ticking. Only this stability is an illusion. The environment, especially here in the Chihuahuan Desert, is extremely variable, changing quite dramatically over the course of years.

Chihuahuan desert grassland

Chihuahuan Desert grasslands after 2014 monsoon season.

Bird of the Week: House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

This adorable bird is the most common in North America with an estimated population of 1.4 billion - that is a lot of birds.  You'll notice that these birds come in two colors, the female will be the grey one and the male will have bright red on his chest. The females prefer to mate with males with the most red, and over generations this trait is selected for resulting in males with more and more red. Interestingly, the males can't actually produce this color on their own, they get it from eating red berries and fruits.

Bird of the Week: Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

People often make the mistake of applying their moral system to animals, which is made clear when you ask people their opinion of vultures. To eat the dead is disgusting, and for an animal to live off the rotting flesh of the deceased seems to be perceived by people as an act bordering on sin. But nature does not recognize a human morality, and all species that exist in nature exist because it fulfills a need. This concept is made clear when you take a close look at the Turkey Vulture.


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