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  • Writer's pictureMarika

Rapid Environmental Change with Dr. Rachel Blakey and Dr. Kasey Fowler-Finn 1/6

In this first episode in the Anthropogenic Change Series, listeners were given a deep dive into the intricate layers that compose our current environmental crisis, through the eyes of two specialists: Dr. Rachel Blakey, an ecologist fascinated by dynamic disturbances and committed to equity in science, and Dr. Kasey Fowler-Finn, an evolutionary biologist investigating how communities adapt in a rapidly changing world. The episode uncovers the challenges, successes, and unforeseen consequences of urbanization, climate change, and the pivotal role humans play in the shifting natural canvas.

Urbanization and its Effects on Animal Behavior

The conversation begins with an exploration into the complex relationship between urbanization and animal behavior. Dr. Rachel Blakey paints a vivid picture of changing landscapes from her childhood in Australia, where lush wetlands could appear and disappear with the seasons, shaping the habitat for a variety of species. The expansion of urban areas introduces dramatic shifts, not only in the physical landscape but in the behavior and survival strategies of animals. Dr. Blakey and Dr. Fowler-Finn elucidate on the multi-faceted impact of urbanization, from temperature rises creating “heat islands” to changes in wind patterns affecting animal communication.

Dr Blakey in a gray sweater with rainbow letters that say CAL POLY. She is giving a thumbs up!
Dr. Rachel Blakey

The Battle for Adaptation Among Animals

The speakers address the notion of rapid environmental change on a broader scale, considering both seasonal variations and the longer-term shifts happening over decades due to human activity. Dr. Kasey Fowler-Finn emphasizes the dilemma faced by many species as their evolutionary time scales fall short in keeping pace with these rapid transformations. Adaptation becomes a challenge, but not an impossibility, for both large, highly mobile vertebrates and tiny insects maneuvering microclimates. The dialogue uncovers a world where adaptation strategies are as diverse as the animal kingdom itself, highlighting successes and the inevitable struggles of less adaptable species.

Human Presence: A Double-Edged Sword

A poignant moment unfolds as Marika reflects on the pandemic lockdown's unintended side effects, like increased bird songs and wildlife sightings, underscoring the profound impact human presence has on animal behavior. This segues into discussions about wildfires, mountain lions’ responses to changing fire regimes, and how even insects are dramatically affected by human alterations of the landscape.

The Role of Citizen Scientists in Conservation

Dr. Fowler-Finn is smiling in the woods in autumn. She is wearing a jacket and holding a child who is only partially in the shot
Dr. Kasey Fowler-Finn

The dialogue transitions into a hopeful note, emphasizing the pivotal role of inclusive research and citizen science in conservation. Dr. Kasey Fowler-Finn shares inspiring insights into how common people, equipped with tools like iNaturalist, can contribute invaluable data that aids in understanding and preserving biodiversity. This democratic approach to science underscores a broader need to shift towards inclusive and community-driven research paradigms to confront climate challenges more effectively.

Reflections on the Future of Biodiversity

As the conversation winds down, Dr. Blakey and Dr. Kasey Fowler-Finn offer parting thoughts on the future, stressing the urgent need for global community action against climate change to preserve the incredible biodiversity of our planet. They call for a shift in perspective, advocating for a richer appreciation of the underappreciated, misunderstood creatures sharing our world, emphasizing that every species, from the smallest insect to the largest mammal, plays a critical role in the tapestry of life.

The dialogue encourages listeners to reflect on their relationship with the natural world and the pivotal role each individual can play in shaping a sustainable future for all inhabitants of our planet. Join us in the next episode where we discuss sensory pollution...

Show Notes

Episode 1 Series 10: Anthropogenic Change Transcript

This episode covers the effects of rapid environmental change on animals, urban ecology, adaptation challenges, and conservation efforts and emphasizes the significance of understanding animal communication and sounds in urban areas.

Guests: Rachel is an Assistant Professor at Cal Poly Pomona. She is an ecologist who is intrigued by how dynamic disturbances (like fire and human disturbance) impact animal behavior and community assembly. Her work is often inspired by conservation problems faced by her natural resource management collaborators. Rachel is also committed to working towards equity and inclusion in science, via her involvement in community science as well as experiential learning and representation for underserved students and scholars. Outside of science, she enjoys snowboarding, surfing, and going on adventures with her wife and chihuahua.

Kasey is an evolutionary biologist interested in how animal communities are coping with a rapidly-changing world. Her lab researches how human-induced changes in temperature, water availability and noise affect insect and arachnid communication, mating behavior, and predator-prey interactions. Outside of science, she is an avid rock climber, a hobby stain-glass worker, and mom to two little kids.

(This blog post was based on an AI generated script and edited by me for accuracy and additional information)


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