Are women “afraid” to give birth on Halloween?

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is associated with ghouls, death, witches, zombies, and all sorts of other “negative” images.  Although most Americans enjoy celebrating Halloween, it has a stereotype of being the creepiest and darkest of US holidays.  One might say that Valentine’s Day is the antithesis of Halloween.  Valentine’s Day is associated with love, cupid, flowers, and hearts.  Culturally, we associate specific meanings and feelings to holidays and these cultural stereotypes can actually influence human physical functions.

But how strong are these holiday stereotypes? Are they strong enough to influence physical functions that are generally considered out of our control? Specifically, can these stereotypes influence spontaneous birth? Generally, the timing of spontaneous births – where a woman gives birth vaginally without being induced – are considered to be completely out a woman’s control.  Levy et al. examined these exact questions in the October issue of Social Science and Medicine.  They wondered if cultural views of holidays could impact birth rates in the United States. To answer this questions they looked at the rate of spontaneous, Cesarean section, and induced births on Valentine’s Day, on Halloween, and during the week before and after each holiday.

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BioBlitz: An example of citizen science in National Parks

This past weekend the 2011 BioBlitz, sponsored by National Geographic and the National Park Service, was held in Saguaro National Park in Arizona. A BioBlitz is an intense day of biological sampling where experts team up with the public to try to catalog as many living things in an area as possible.  Each year National Geographic and the National Park Service organize a 24 hour BioBlitz in one of the Park Service units (the 2010 BioBlitz was held at Biscayne National Park in Florida and in 2009 it was at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore).

Saguaro Cactus in Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park also used the BioBlitz as a way to celebrate the biodiversity in their desert ecosystem. Saguaro turned their BioBlitz event into a 2-day celebration centered on biodiversity, outreach, and education. Although the NPS and National Geographic state that the goal of a BioBlitz is to “catalog all living things” – more realistically the goal is to education the public about biodiversity, involve citizen scientists in data gathering, and hopefully make a more complete record of the biota of that particular NPS unit.  The Saguaro National Park BioBlitz was a success and a summary of the species cataloged will be made available soon.


National Geographic BioBlitz Homepage

National Park Service Biodiversity Resources

National Park Service Biodiversity Involvement

Saguaro National Park Youth Ambassador BioBlitz Blog

Does technology make people take more risks in the wilderness? Imagine you are backpacking in the Southern Utah wilderness in the middle of the summer. It’s hot, very hot and very dry. You knew that you had to pack in your own water but thought that the recommended 1 gallon per person per day was an overestimate.  You still have one more day of your backpack left and you just ran out of water. You have no idea where the closet potable water source is located and your navigation skills are poor so you are afraid to hike off trail in search of water. You start to panic about what it would feel like to die of dehydration in the hot, desert sun. But lucky for you, you brought a personal locator beacon which you activate – surely the search and rescue crew can bring you water and you can finish your hike.

SPOT: A brand of personal locator beacon

Although this scenario seems absurd between 1992 and 2007, 66% of search and rescue operations that were organized by the National Park Service “rescued” people who were not ill or injured.  As technological devices such as cell phones, satellite phones, and personal locator beacons become more widely used in wilderness areas visitors may be developing unrealistic perceptions of rescue. There may be a decrease in the experience and skill of individuals entering wilderness areas and unskilled people may be accessing areas that require high-level skills to recreate safely.

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Why do people watch mixed martial arts (MMA)?

So a little background about this post: My significant other recently started a blog about his other love – Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Within days of starting his blog, he already had almost three times as many total views as me and two subscribers. I was jealous. Dave, showing pity on me, linked to my blog from photos I had taken at one of his tournaments. A couple of days ago, Dave kindly asked me if anyone had stumbled across my blog through his link. I laughed and said that I did not think his readers had much interest in a blog about recreation ecology. Kidding, I added that I should write a blog post about the science of jiu-jitsu and then maybe I would get as many site visits as he does.

Dave competing in a jiu-jitsu tournament in Boise, Idaho

Three days later: I am daydreaming in my lab and realize that, technically, jiu-jitsu is a form of recreation (it just does not happen to take place outside).  Out of curiosity I decided to do a Google Scholar search to see what I found when I used the terms “jiu-jitsu recreation science”. Nothing. Next, I searched “jiu-jitsu science”.  A few books about jiu-jitsu showed up, a couple of articles examining the use of mouth guards in combat sports, a paper about the types of eye injuries which occur in martial arts (from a journal appropriately named “Eye”), and a paper about static stretching and how that influences the amount of weight someone training in jiu-jitsu can bench press (??).  Finally, something somewhat interesting and even semi-related to my field appeared: “An Analysis of Spectator Motives in Individual Contact Sports: A Study of Mixed Martial Arts Fans.”

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Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

I suppose it is a bit early to begin singing Christmas carols (although my sister might disagree with me on this one) but I guess it is never too early to begin picking the perfect tree.  Last week the White House announced that “The People’s Tree” – the Christmas tree on displayed in the U.S. Capital –  was chosen and would be cut down on November 5th. Each year a tree is chosen from a national forest unit and the tree that, this year, will spend the last days of it’s life in D.C. is a 65-foot  tall, perfectly formed white fir from California. This is the fourth White House Christmas tree that has come from a California forest and it just so happens to be coming from the Stanislaus National Forest in the Sierra Nevada; the National Forest district where my former labmate, Dusty, is the recreation specialist.

However, do not pester Dusty to tell you where the lovely tree is residing. The exact location of the tree is a matter of national security and is therefore top secret.  The U.S. Forest Service released a photo of the tree but the image was purposely made generic – the tree can be seen in the center but the surrounding trees are pretty generic and no landmarks can be seen.  The white fir will be cut down early next month and then loaded on a truck for it’s cross-continental journey to the Capital where it will be decorated by ornaments hand-made in California and lit on December 6th.

Does recreation impact birds?

ResearchBlogging.orgThe impacts of non-motorized recreation on wildlife is a topic that is grossly understudied in the field of recreation ecology. However, of all wildlife species that can be influenced by non-motorized recreational activities, the most studied group (which is not saying much as you’ll soon find out) is birds. In the latest issue of the Journal of Environmental Management, Rochelle Steven and colleagues review all of recreation ecology studies published since the 1970s that examined the impacts of activities such as hiking, wildlife viewing, running, and dog walking on bird species. Only 69 papers have been published in English language journals, which examine the influence that non-motorized recreation has on bird species from 1978 to 2010.

Steven et al. gathered all 69 articles and recorded various characteristics of the studies as a way to summarize the recreation ecology research on birds.  They categorized studies based on the recreation activity type, location of the study, climatic region of the study, the habitat type, details about the species examined (including guild), and the species response.  Responses were broken into individual, population level, and reproductive responses. Individual response includes any physiological response (such as change in heart rate) or behavioral change (such as flushing). Population level response examples would be changes in the density or abundance of the specie(s). Reproductive responses could be changes in clutch size, number of nests, and/or nest success. The last characteristic of the study examined was the findings of each article. Was the effect on the birds negative, positive, or was there no response at all?

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From the Field: Zion National Park Scoping Trip

I spent the past week in the stunning landscape of Zion National Park.  Zion National Park is located in southern Utah, about 6 hours south of Salt Lake City and 3 hours from Las Vegas.  Zion receives about 2.7 million visitors per year and is part of the Grand Circle tour which encompasses 11 National Park units from five states in the desert southwest.  My advisor describes Zion as “a red Yosemite” due to the amazing, crimson walls of Zion Canyon.

Zion Canyon from Scout Lookout

Zion Canyon has been inhabited for over 12,000 years. However, it was visited on a scientific expedition, and brought to the attention of the rest of the United States, in 1860 by John Wesley Powell. In 1909, President Taft protected the canyon by designating it Mukuntuweap National Monument. The areas was established, and renamed, Zion National Park in 1919.  The park has especially diverse and unique geography and ecology as the Colorado Plateau, Mojave Desert, and Great Basin all converge in the area.

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