Plants – more interesting than they seem!

It has been a busy day today. I was at school from 8 am to 8 pm and still had some more work to do at home. Bo I’m finally done and will take some time to write a little bit about what I’ve been doing.

Since last week I have a lab course on Plant Physiology. I don’t know about you, but plants never interested me a whole lot. Surprisingly this has changed since I started  college. They are actually quite fascinating.
With the deeper I go into the topic and the more I know about how plants actually work, it comes to me how incredible these organisms are. Let’s take the example of the plant Mimosa  pudica  . Most people have heard of the plant and what it does. It can react to certain stimuli as touch, rain drops, heat or shaking ground by folding its leaves in. The way the signal is transported through the plant isn’t even that different to the way our nerves work! When you touch the plant you can watch how one leave after the other closes. Depending on the strength of the stimuli it can reach quite far along the twig of the plant. The whole mechanism of stimuli transportation isn’t even that different from ours and can even reach a comparable speed. Incredible!
This is just one example of active movement plants can undergo. You probably also know about movement towards the light or maybe water. Just as well they can also try to avoid unfavorable conditions by moving away, maybe into the shadow, when the light intensity is too high.

But even more important: Plants are the base of life how we know it. During they process of photosynthesis they produce a byproduct that is essential for our survival: Oxygen. Without the evolution of this process life wouldn’t be even close to what we see today.
But besides photosynthesis they are capable of other interesting metabolic processes. Over millions of years of evolution they have adapted to almost any environmental condition. We can see plants under water, in deserts, they survive under snow and in extreme heat.

Just keep this in mind when you look at a plant: It can do a lot more than you would ever think!

Be happy!

 

Thinking in the shower

You know those moments, when you take a shower in the evening and you recap your day?  Well I do, and I had one of these today.

What was special about it though, was the fact that a little thing that stayed in my mind the longest. When I left my house for school in the morning I met my housemate outside, who was getting her bike ready to leave. As I walked by to get to the bus I smiled and said: “Have a nice day!”
She seemed surprised by my words but here face turned into a big smile and she returned the kindness. To me that was a big thing! I don’t know her very well, because I recently moved in and we’ve hardly talked. But most of the time she seems stressed and doesn’t smile a whole lot. That made the smile very rewarding!

Where I want to go with this little anecdote is, that the little gestures in life can make a difference. You might brighten the busy day of a friend or coworker by just smiling at them and wishing them a nice day. The cashier at your bakery around the corner or the bus driver that brings you to work will enjoy an honest “Thank You!”.

It hasn’t really come to me how much I value these words until I came back to Germany from a year in Oregon. There “How are you?”, “Have a nice day” and “Thank You!” are just common courtesy. But here….. Maybe we Germans want to be left alone during our day. Hopefully the other people don’t bother us. When they want to say something it’s probably an annoying bleat or a general complaint about how horrible their life is. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad but it surely seems sometimes!

Essentially I miss how people in the US smile at you and give you a little kindness as you try to get through a busy day. I can’t make people say these things, but I surely can do it myself! As I went out the shower I told myself to be the nice guy. To smile at people. To wish them a nice day. To give thanks to the people that make my life possible. From the employees at the grocery store, over the lady that hands me the food in the cafeteria to the bus driver that takes me to school in the morning.

I hope I can sweeten their day a little or reward them a tiny bit for what they are doing! And YOU should do the same, if you can!

Be happy!

Finally it can start

A busy week is over and I’m ready to get this thing started now!

Yesterday a had a exam  in microbiology and now I’m really relaxed. After all it wasn’t that much material we had to know, but I think I haven’t been this stressed about a test in my years of studying. Maybe it was that I had to readjust to the German way of teaching and studying after my year in the US. Or maybe just the fact that the grade is actually a quite big part of my major.
And now that it’s over I am relieved to have time to do stuff I wanted to all week, so this is starting right now:

I actually don’t know for 100% what to write, but as I understand this anything is fine. Nobody has to read this 😉 So I’m just going to share a picture I took during my vacation this summer. Part of the road trip through the Western USA with my girlfriend included a 5 day stay at the Yellowstone National Park – and a fascinating description by the famous naturalist John Muir. Many bison can be seen in the park and here’s one of them:

Bison in purple flowers

Observing these magnificent animals is a great pleasure to me. Already on our first day we stumbled upon a couple of bison that were walking along the side of the road – I was super excited! Little did I know that we would see many everyday. But my excitement stayed the same at every encounter to the annoyance of my girlfriend.

I remember playing with my Playmobil toys as a kid. The Cowboys and Indians set was one of my favorite and it also included a bison. So maybe it was the stories from my imagination that came back to me as I saw these symbols of the Wild West strolling along the road, rolling in the dirt or rubbing their heads on a tree. Whatever it was, it hasn’t let me go since then. I find myself thinking about bison almost everyday and all the bison pictures from the trip – which are actually a lot – belong to my top selection.
Another key moment that started my bison mania was the story a ranger told during a presentation. It was a sad story. A story about men and their unstoppable will to conquer everything. It is estimated that their used to live around 30 million bison spread across almost all of North America. Unfortunately the greed of people caused a disaster:

The animals were immensely important for the survival of the Native American tribes. Every part was used: The meat for food, skins for shoes and tents, and the fur for clothes. While Native Americans lived along side buffaloes for a long time adn treated them with respect, cowboys used them to make money. First most of the hunting of the white men was conducted during the winter to obtain the valuable winter fur, which could be sold for high prices as they are ideal for coats. During the same time the industrialization in Europe continued and leather was needed for the belts of machines. Most of the cattle herd in South America have already been exhausted, when they started to turn their focus onto the massive abundance of bovines in the prairie. Now the hunting wasn’t just limited to the winter season but took place year around and involved all ages of bison. Even the native tribes started selling bison skin to the trading posts. At some point hundreds of thousands of skins were shipped to Europe in a single year, while the meat of the animals wasn’t even used but left to rot in the prairie. Some hunters killed dozens on a single day, like the famous Buffalo Bill.
By the end of the 19th century the population was depleted to a few hundred animals, which stayed hidden in the higher mountain regions. Fortunately the US Army squad stationed in the Yellowstone area to protect the newly founded National Park started a breeding program. Starting with a herd of 23 animals in 1890 they managed to create a healthy population. Today there are over 3’000 animals in the National Park area.

It’s hard to believe that the human race managed to almost make the bison go extinct. An animal of which many millions roamed freely through the vastness of the USA. This should be a lesson for everybody about what can happen when greed takes the best of us, but also about the power we have on this planet. Not only did we manage to kill almost all the buffaloes, but we also restored a healthy population through a collective effort to protect bison. This idea should be transferred to the rescue of our planet. A planet we almost destroyed…. Together we can change our negative influence and do something positive.
I leave this with you in the light of the Warsaw Climate Change Conference of the UN that is currently taking place.

Be happy!

 

PS: WOW! That was way more text than I was going for… Well, I hope you enjoyed it!

“I would rather…

“I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.”
― Jack London