Planet Earth

Science in the Wild

From deep seas to the edge of the stratosphere, this science is taking place in the world around you.

By Discover StaffJul 29, 2015 12:00 PM

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Photo Credits: USGS

Bee Butt

This is the backend of a Lipotriches (plain sweat bee) collected in Australia. 

This is one of the bees in which the males are known to form sleeping aggregations — small groups to dozens of individuals clustering together on the same twig late in the afternoon and remaining there until after dawn. There may be quite a lot of “jockeying for position” as males alight too close to another individual with low key aggressive interactions. 

Some clusters might contain more than one species. There has been little research on the reason for this aggregating behavior, although safety in numbers might play a role.

Photo Credits: NOAA Fisheries

Braided Waters

Kachemak Bay, Alaska, at low tide reveals a beautiful braided river delta. 

The region is an important one for fisheries, but it has experienced significant declines in shrimp and Dungeness crab that have not recovered despite fisheries closures. Last year it was designated a NOAA Habitat Focus Area.

Photo Credits: Awadh Mohammed Ba Saleh / CDC

Health Check

Veterinarian Hasan Alkaf, left, takes samples from a camel during the first reported Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) case in Haramout, Yemen in April 2014.

Research since the outbreak has found that camels are a reservoir for the disease and that infected juvenile camels are particularly contagious. 

Photo Credits: NOAA Photo Library

Big Ears

It's no mystery where the so-called dumbo octopus got its name. The ear-like protrusions are actually the fins of this deep-ocean dweller. 

This dumbo octopus, photographed in 2014 in the Gulf of Mexico, displayed a body posture that has never before been observed in cirrate octopods.

Photo Credits: Gary Peeples/USFWS

Tiny Turtle

In an ongoing effort to track bog turtle populations, biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spent several days visiting southern Appalachian bogs in western North Carolina. 

Measurements were taken and recorded for each turtle found, then each individual was marked twice — one a physical marking of the turtle’s shell, and then each turtle receives a unique identifying chip.

Photo Credits: Dennis Demcheck, USGS

Mesmerizing Stare

A female Great Horned owl sits on her nest in Thornwell, Louisiana.

Photo Credits: Gary Peeples/USFWS

Field Work

Botanist Sue Fruchey counts plants in the Linville Gorge area of Pisgah National Forest. Biologists are monitoring the area's threatened mountain golden heather and its response to recent fire. 

The plant is adapted to fire, which biologists believe helps control the plant’s competitors. However a significant threat at heavily-visited sites is trampling by hikers who are unaware of the plant's significance.

One way you can help mountain golden heather is by heeding area-closed signs on public lands, which often mark fragile habitats or species easily damaged by foot traffic.

Photo Credits: Cyrus Read, USGS

Twin Peaks

A view of the flanks of Cleveland volcano (top) and Carlisle volcano (bottom) in Alaska, as seen from a commercial airliner on May 31, 2012.

Photo Credits: USGS

Ice Bridge

A U.S. Geological Survey walrus research team, including a Native Chukotkan, walk towards walrus across the northern Bering Sea ice at St. Lawrence Island, in the Bering Strait, in this 2006 photo.

Researchers were tracking the movement of the walrus and their behaviors in order to understand how the loss of sea ice affects their foraging patterns.

Photo Credits: Steve Jurvetson

Cavernous Technology

This is the inside of the largest wind tunnel in the world, located at NASA's Ames Research Center.  The maximum airspeed through the test section is 115 mph, created by six 40-foot diameter fan blades. The 80-by 120-foot tunnel is capable of testing aircraft as large as a Boeing 737.

Photo Credits: NOAA's National Ocean Service

Coral Tree

NOAA uses coral nurseries to help corals recover after traumatic events, such as a ship grounding. 

Hung on a tree structure, the staghorn coral shown here will have a better chance of surviving and being transplanted back onto a reef.

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