March 2021 Newsletter

Monthly Recap & Happenings Around the World

Note from the Author

Hello all you environmental enthusiasts out there! March feels like it lasted a very long time for me, but that might just be because I’ve been planning a fair amount of big stuff for the upcoming year. Some of that you might actually see soon advertised on the Prismatic Planet site! I’ll be ramping up some new environmental education work which I hope I’ll be able to share more about in the future, but for now I’ll be cautiously vague :)

Kind of nice that the global stage’s largest happening appeared to be a boat stuck in a canal, so at the very least we all got to see a large, but very known and solveable problem in front of us for what seems like a long time. While the Ever Given blocking the Suez Canal is a big deal, it’s almost relieving to see something like that being solved at the same time humanity deals with much larger, harder to grasp issues like a pandemic and climate change.

Not to say we can ignore our large issues. They need our attention now more than ever. It’s just nice to be reminded that humans are pretty capable of solving problems on the world stage. Even if that problem was just getting a boat unstuck!

Hopefully this little bit of light-heartedness finds you well and you can make your way into April with a bit of levity :)

~ Jon

~ And, as always, don’t forget to keep wondering ~

New from Prismatic Planet!


Twisting lunar tree

Crescent branch aligns under

Waxing mid-morn moon

Journey's beginning

Beside its destination

Inspire paths ahead

Timelessness in view

From pebbles to trees, eons

They've stood before you

Tall amongst the trees

Withstanding time, pedestal

Rise from Earth's cradle

Thread among many

A speck awaiting the breeze

Carried far from home

Educational Topics

Going with the Flow of Ocean Currents

Full disclosure, I was initially planning on writing about how coastal deserts are possible after last month's page on deserts got me interested in diving a bit deeper into that ecosystem.  Turns out that understanding how they exist is tied up in one of the Earth's largest environmental systems.  As can be the case with large systems, this one operates as a sort of harmonization of a number of smaller (but still quite big) pieces unique to the Earth's characteristics and a bit due to its current form.

That system, and the topic of this Eco Extra, is ocean currents.  I hope you're ready for a crash course in thermo-, hydro-, and aerodynamics because this one is a doozy.  Don't worry too much though, we'll be doing our best to keep the concept high-level while still building a solid understanding of how and why this works.

Let's dive in!

Keep Reading!

Human Nature

Surveying the United States

We had a particularly cold blast in February this year which made it too cold to get outdoors to volunteer at the arboretum.  In its place, we had a Zoom session with volunteers who found the time to talk with each other.  One of our stewards (essentially a leader for us volunteers) ended up sharing some research that he had been doing lately digging up old survey records from over a century past around the arboretum grounds.

It was pretty neat seeing some of the odd measurements that were used by the surveyors.  And, yes, I did say odd and not old.  While they are kind of both, I feel that odd best describes them.  The meticulous nature I pictured of these groups of people working together to lay measuring chains across this country before western expansion of the United States happened was an odd one indeed.  It made me want to learn more about these measurements, why they were being made, and how that influenced the shape of the country today.  After all, the United States is a surprisingly consistent grid system east to west and this measuring seemed like it could be why.

I ended up doing a little research of my own and wanted to share a bit about what I'd found, so let's dive in!​

Keep Reading!

March Eco News

A (Lack of a) Smelly Situation

COVID-19 has shown a not insignificant number of us what living without smell or taste can be like, but a fair number of people also report having “incorrect” senses when they recover. Humans, and many animals, have an instinctual dependency on our olfactory systems, which is guiding studies on the long term effects of a “broken” sense of taste and smell.

Glow in the Dark Sharks

Bioluminescent sharks have been discovered off the coast of New Zealand in the ocean’s mesopalegic zone, also known as the twilight zone. While these sharks have been known of for a long time, this is the first time we’ve witnessed their ability to emit light. They’re the largest known vertbrate to exhibit this shining characteristic!

Plants Remembering Dry Times

A new study shows that plants show the capability to “remember” drought-like conditions. By effectively keeping track of a signalling molecule quantity, plants can gauge how dry previous days were, which controls how much they open leaf pores, leading to less water loss. These tactics let plants adapt to dry conditions by retaining more water when previous days were less wet!

Iceland’s Volcanic Eruption

Livestreams of Iceland’s current volcanic eruption have been getting a lot of attention over the last half of March. Initially, experts were expecting this eruption to last a few days, but upon further inspection, the source of the magma is coming directly from a deep well in the Earth’s mantle. As a result, we may be seeing this eruption last for quite some time to the joy of onlookers and daredevils. Thankfully, the volcano is in a basin fairly far from the nearest town, so we get to watch one of the Earth’s most volatile features at a safe distance.

Coffee Waste is a Forest’s Best Friend?

Coffee lovers may be able to able forest restoration to the list of things their beverage of choice enables! Or, at least, the waste product of producing coffee (coffee pulp) shows signs of helping forest restoration projects achieve success at faster rates. This study from Hawai’i dives into the numbers, and continued tests are needed, but if this pans out, soil recovery and forest growth rates perform multiple times better than control groups, which is an astounding difference!

Thank you for checking out the Prismatic Planet newsletter! For more environmental thoughts and stories, be sure to check out the Prismatic Planet website.

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~ And, as always, don’t forget to keep wondering ~