CLIMATE CHANGE ON CROCODILIANS: MODELING THE EFFECTS OF VARIATIONS IN RAINFALL ON CROCODILIANS AND THEIR ECOSYSTEM
Karin Ebey, Los Alamos High School, Los Alamos
Climate change is projected to cause significant changes to global precipitation patterns. To explore how crocodilians and their ecosystems are impacted by variations in rainfall, a model of was created using a novel adaptation of the Lotka-Volterra equations. The model uses a time step of months, and includes a crocodilian, three plant species, and eight other animal species. Each year, populations are impacted by predator-prey interactions and reproduction. Rainfall only impacts the ecosystem through the plant populations. This model was validated by running it with Louisiana rainfall data from 1970-2018 and comparing the outputs to measured alligator nest count data. The populations in the model followed a similar pattern to the nest count data, showing that the model accurately describes how rainfall affects the ecosystem. Changes in the amount of rainfall caused the populations to increase or decrease in proportion to the rainfall. Changes in the timing of rainfall affected the seasonal variation of plant populations, which caused animal populations to increase or decrease depending on whether the plant populations were above or below average when they reproduce. Crocodilians and their ecosystems are likely to be harmed by climate change and developing management programs will be important to protect them.
By Lynn Brandvold, NMJAS Director
The American Academy of Science (AJAS) is an Honor Society for students who have done outstanding scientific research projects and is a program of the National Association of Academies of Science (NAAS) of which NMAS is a member. AJAS meets annually in conjunction with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference. Each State Academy nominates students who are invited to attend the conference and be inducted into the AJAS Honor Society. The program is not a competition but rather an opportunity for national exposure to science professionals from colleges and laboratories.
During a normal year the event starts on a Wednesday evening and concludes on a Saturday evening. During the conference, AJAS delegates tour local institutions of scientific importance, share their research with their peers and with other scientists, attend conference sessions, and are inducted as lifetime Fellows into the American Junior Academy of Science. They present their posters to the AAAS attendees and give oral presentations to each other.
Prior to 2009 NMJAS had the funds to send students and a chaperone to the national conference, but in recent years have not had the funding. Winners of our NMJAS state research paper competition were notified that they were eligible to attend but would need to provide or raise their own funding. Unfortunately, none of the students accepted the invitation.
This year, because of the pandemic things are different and the conference is being held virtually with very minimal registration fees. The opportunity to attend was offered to the top three 2020 state competition winners. The first place winner, Karin Ebey, accepted the invitation and since every student must have a chaperone, I get to attend also! Karin has submitted her abstract and poster titled “Modeling the Effects of Variations in Rainfall on Crocodilians and Their Ecosystems”. Posters and oral presentations will take place virtually. Most of the presentations and sessions will take place in February but Karin and I have already had the opportunity to watch a keynote address and attend a special session in which students could ask the presenters questions. Dr. Anthony Fauci is one of the Plenary speakers, his talk is COVID-19 in 2021: Lessons Learned and Remaining Challenges. Karin and I are both looking forward to events in February.
NMAS sponsors the New Mexico competition for the Junior Academy of Science – a research paper competition designed to enrich the communication aspects of scientific research. This year, all competitions will be held virtually, mostly in March.
Are you able to judge? Details of the competition and dates can be found on the NJMAS page. Please contact Malva Knoll to find out more or volunteer to judge.
New Mexico Academy of Science