Two vaccines have shown great promise recently to be successful against COVID-19. Pfizer and Moderna have reported that their vaccines showed close to 95% efficacy in their recent vaccine trials. These vaccines will provide immunity to covid-19, so that those who are vaccinated will not get sick, or if illness does occur, then the symptoms are less severe than they would be without the vaccine. Both vaccines are mRNA vaccines, and if approved by the FDA, they would be the first vaccines made available using this method. An interesting feature of the novel coronavirus has been its spike protein and this is what both vaccines are targeting to build immunity to COVID-19. The sequence data of the novel coronavirus shows the part of the sequence that corresponds to the spike protein and a 3D visual representation of the spike protein sequence in is Protein Data Bank. In “mRNA vaccines — a new era in vaccinology,” Pardi and others explain that vaccines made with mRNA have the potential to be quickly scaled up for widespread distribution as well as being highly effective, which is why they hold so much hope for preventing and alleviating illness due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
If you are interested in learning more about vaccines, here are a few of the resources that you can check out from the UI Libraries. You can search for more in InfoHawk+ and contact firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
Iowa is not known for having an especially dramatic landscape. But in fact there are many hidden gems to be found in this particular plot of so-called flyover country. Among them is Wildcat Den State Park in southeastern Iowa. According to Iowa DNR it is one of the most photographed state parks in Iowa. If you’ve not yet visited this state park to walk its trails and view its remarkable geological features, take advantage of any opportunity to do so before it becomes snow and ice encrusted. The park is 12 miles northeast of the city of Muscatine; from the University of Iowa campus it’s roughly an hour drive by car.
The most prominent landscape feature at Wildcat Den are the spectacular sandstone cliffs and glens whose origins date back to the Middle Pennsylvanian period, or about 310 million years ago, when ancient rivers coursed through this landscape. What makes these cliffs on the south side of the park so visually arresting is due in part to cross-bedding*, as well as iron-oxide stained and cemented zones visible on the exposed sandstone. To walk the trail at the base of these cliffs is every bit as captivating as a visit to a fine arts museum. But there’s much more to the geology at Wildcat Den.
Brian Witzke’s 1999 article in of Iowa Geology (pages 16-19 ) provides a brief, but very informative introduction to the geology of this park, while “The Natural History of Wildcat Den State Park,“ is a more detailed introduction to all aspects of the park, including its history, archaeology, vegetation, and wildlife. Its treatment of the park’s geology is in-depth and somewhat technical, but would still be informative to the novice. In this Geological Society of Iowa (GSI) field trip guidebook Robert McKay details the geological phenomena of cross-bedding* that is so visible in the sandstone at Wildcat Den. It also includes discussions of all the stops on the 1997 GSI field trip, and could serve as either a preview of what to expect on a visit or a review to answer questions raised after first visiting the park.
Two books published by the University of Iowa Press in its Bur Oak series would make excellent companion resources to help contextualize the geology of not only Wildcat Den State Park, but of geology all across the state: Jean Prior’s Landforms of Iowa and Wayne Anderson’s Iowa’s Geological Past: Three Billion Years of Earth History. Both Prior and Anderson note the preponderance of sedimentary rock throughout Iowa in its exposed rock record, evidence of its early marine environment.
Iowa Geology, a small journal published by Iowa DNR Geological Survey Bureau from 1976 to 2001, offers a treasure trove of highly readable articles for a general audience on a variety of topics pertaining to Iowa geology one might imagine, including “The Midcontinent Rift,” “Global Climate Change and the Cretaceous Greenhouse World,” and “The Age of Dinosaurs.” All issues are available in PDF format from Iowa Research Online: The University of Iowa’s Institutional Repository.
For those who wish to explore Iowa’s geology in other parts of the state, the Iowa Geological Survey (IGS) provides a beautiful suite of webpages called Parks of Iowa, which also makes available guidebooks similar to “The Natural History of Wildcat Den State Park” for 12 other Iowa state parks. In fact, IGS makes the Geological Society of Iowa Guidebooks for field trips to over 70 diverse sites throughout Iowa freely available from its publications platform.
Now it’s time to go explore!
Thank you to Kai Weatherman for writing this post, and a special thanks goes to Raymond Anderson for his expert geologic commentary!
Photographs of Sandstone Bluffs at Iowa’s Wildcat Den State Park
The best-exposed rocks in Wildcat Den State Park are Pennsylvanian-age sandstones, originally deposited in a large river that was flowing to the southwest through the area. The river was flowing through dense equatorial forests towards an arm of the sea that was advancing from the south into Iowa about 312 million years ago. The sand formed sand bars and underwater dunes that were constantly being modified as river channels changed directions, eroding and cutting into existing bars and covering them with new sand layers (beds) from different directions creating the spectacular cross-bedding that is displayed in most exposures. Geologists identify these sandstones as the Spoon Formation of the Cherokee Group. At some exposures, especially at the Devil’s Punchbowl, the sandstones are resting on a dark gray shale unit, the Caseyville Formation, the oldest Pennsylvanian unit in Iowa. The Caseyville was deposited on a river delta that developed into an earlier advance of the Pennsylvanian sea into Iowa.
Many of the photographs on this page were taken during the 2000’s. So, some features may appear somewhat different now.
The UI Libraries has free trial access to the AAPT Book Archive collection for one year. The AAPT Book Archive collection includes 34 titles originally published in print between 1977 and 2017. In partnership with the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), AIP Publishing digitized a backlist of classic texts, making the full text available in HTML online for the first time.
Titles include Exploring Laser Light by T. Kallard, Amusement Park Physics (2nd Ed.) by Clarence Bakkenand, Making Contributions: An Historical Overview of Women’s Role in Physics.
The free trial access will end September 4, 2021. Please send any feedback about the AAPT Book Archive collection to Laurie Neuerburg.
The autumnal equinox occurred on Tuesday, September 22 this year. This marks the turning point when the sun passes over the Earth’s equator, and the hours of daylight and night are close to equal. From this point on, the hours of daylight will soon begin decreasing each day until the shortest day of the year occurs on the winter solstice. One of the most beautiful effects of the shorter days occurs when deciduous trees prepare for winter by taking on the brilliant colors of red, orange, yellow, and purple. According to the Iowa DNR’s Fall Color Report, the best viewing time for fall colors in central Iowa begins the first week of October.
When deciduous trees stop producing chlorophyll to get ready for winter, their leaves cease being green and turn to red, yellow, orange, or purple. InChemistry’s “Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall?” explains the chemical compounds that are responsible for this color change. Red and purple colors are due to anthocyanins present in the leaves, while yellow and orange colors are due to carotenoids and flavonoids.
In Smithsonian Magazine, you can watch a two-minute time-lapse video showing different leaves changing color, a process that would normally happen slowly over several days. It is interesting to watch the video since the process of a leaf turning orange or yellow is different than when a leaf turns red or purple.
If you’re interested in seeking out fall colors, you can use the UI Trees web application to find maples, oaks, dogwoods, and other deciduous trees on campus. You can also view beautiful fall color displays that have been captured in the Iowa Digital Library’s Geoscience Slides collection!
2020 has been an unusual year, to say the least. A pandemic, murder hornets, an Iowa derecho, hurricanes, racial injustice, wildfires, and most recently a discovery on Venus that points to potential alien life. It is a lot to take in and it can be a relief to bury oneself in reading. What else could 2020 bring? Check out these unusual books chosen to match an unusual year.
Head to the Sciences Library for a comfortable, quiet place to study! We offer a variety of study spots. There are many computer stations, study carrels and booths with USB and outlets for phones and computers, tables, and large mobile monitors to use for sharing your computer screen. This year we have new paint, new carpeting, and new rolling white boards!
The Sciences Library is located between Phillips Hall and the Biology Building on Iowa Ave. The building is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 6 PM. During the pandemic we have hygiene stations available with disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. A face covering is required, and yellow stickers mark off seats that are to remain unoccupied. The book stacks are closed so that we can offer more electronic book access. If you would like to pick up a book, go to the service desk on the first floor.
Our live chat service is available during the day and also from 6-9 PM on Monday through Thursday, and 1-5 PM on Sunday.
On Monday, August 10 many Iowans were left stunned by the ferocity and destruction left in the wake of a band of storms accompanied by straight-line winds that blew through the state with the force of a hurricane. But in the aftermath, media references to a “derecho” caused many of us to scramble to the Internet for a definition.
What many of us didn’t realize is that this term was coined at the University of Iowa by professor of physics and chemistry Gustavus Hinrichs in the late 19th century. The first formal use of the term derecho in publication occurred in an 1888 article authored by Hinrichs in the American Meteorological Association Journal entitled “Tornadoes and Derechos.” However, the term was not widely used until after its appearance in a 1987 article that appeared in the journal Weather and Forecasting.
In June 1998 when a similar storm hit the state, blowing freight train cars off a bridge in Iowa City and into the Iowa River, scarcely a mention could be found for “derecho” in the Iowa City Press Citizen, Cedar Rapids Gazette, or The Des Moines Register. The Daily Iowan, however, did make mention of a bow echo, which is typically associated with derechos. That storm system came to be known as the Corn Belt Derecho of 1998. Even as late as 2009 Jack Williams noted in The AMS Weather Book that “this term isn’t very well known.” That is now likely no longer the case.
The August 2020 Midwest derecho received considerable national media attention, and has been called an historic event. What made this derecho so noteworthy is that very high winds persisted for an unusually long period of time. Siouxland News reported that, “Winds in the Linn County and Cedar Rapids area were likely in excess of 100 mph for nearly an hour.” The maximum wind speeds of this storm, both measured and estimated, correspond to wind speeds of EF2 and EF3 tornadoes respectively.
Derechos, a type of mesoscale convective system, are minimally defined as long-lived wind storms that produce a swath of wind damage over more than 240 miles with wind gusts of at least 58 mph along most of its length.
The National Weather Service offers a wealth of information on derechos, including a basic primer at its JetStream site, as well as an extensive Facts About Derechos article.
Watch a video showing a monarch caterpillar transforming into a chrysalis on the Sciences Library YouTube channel!In the chrysalis, the monarch caterpillar appears to be dormant on the outside, but changes inside are happening quickly, from the breakdown of tissues no longer needed to the growth of new wings, proboscis, and compound eyes that see a range of color that is larger than most other animals can see! Prior to making the chrysalis, after hatching from an egg, a monarch caterpillar will eat around 20 milkweed leaves and increase their weight by 2,700 times! Then, the crawling caterpillar will start the process of metamorphosis into an adult butterfly who can soar across the skies! This happens when a monarch caterpillar stops eating, creates a silk button from which to hang upside down in a j-shape, and does a final molt to reveal a new form as a chrysalis. The dramatic transformations of metamorphosis underlie an amazing journey from egg to butterfly, and it is not the only incredible journey that the monarch butterfly undertakes!
Each year’s final generation of Eastern North American monarch butterflies delay reproduction and undertake a long journey from as far north as Canada to spend the winter in Mexico. This trip from Canada to Mexico can be as much as 3,000 miles! In the spring, the butterflies will migrate north again. Monarch butterfly populations have been in decline for decades due to pesticide use, climate change, and habitat destruction. In response, Iowa City has taken steps to help bolster monarch butterfly populations. There are several monarch waystations across the city and they have provided a “How to Grow Milkweed” guide, which is the only type of plant that monarch caterpillars will eat, so growing more milkweed helps monarchs sustain future generations. You can attend Iowa City’s 2020 Monarch Festival virtually on Aug. 2, Aug. 9, Aug. 16, and Aug. 23. Additionally, there is a “How To Raise Monarch Butterflies At Home” guide as well as suggested ways to help monarchs on saveourmonarchs.org.
Read more about caterpillars and butterflies with these ebooks from the UI Libraries!
While we humans below the branches of a tall cottonwood tree along the Iowa River at Coralville’s Iowa River Landing have been preoccupied with the effects of coronavirus on our communities, a pair of Bald Eagles has been raising a family of two young eagles in that tree as if nothing were more important!
According to the species account for Bald Eagles in Birds of the World (HawkID login required), juveniles may depart the nest at any time between 8 and 14 weeks. Based on observations of this nest in late February and early March, this pair of juveniles are now likely somewhere between 8 and 11 weeks old. So, first flight, also known as fledging, could take place most any time now!
This pair of juveniles has already begun branching, which means moving from the nest to other branches in the tree while stretching and flapping their wings, a prelude to first flight. This can be an exciting time to observe the young eagles if you happen to catch them in action.
However, please be as respectful of the birds as possible and observe good etiquette. The eagles’ choice of nest site with close proximity to human foot and bicycle traffic makes this a somewhat unusual challenge.
Although the nest is highly visible from the paved path, depending on the time of day, the juvenile eagles may or may not be visible in the nest.
Sometimes they may be resting inside but below the rim of the nest, at other times feeding in the nest, and at others perched on a branch off to the side of the nest.
Juvenile Bald Eagles do not have the white head and white tail characteristic of an adult; it takes about 5 years to acquire adult plumage. It is not uncommon to see one of the adult eagles perched on a nearby tree.
For details of the nest location see the Sciences Library News post for April 13, 2020. For best viewing binoculars are recommended!
If you would like help locating additional information on Bald Eagles, don’t hesitate to contact us at the Sciences Library.
Many thanks to Kai Weatherman for authoring this uplifting post and sharing his beautiful photography with us!
The UI Libraries Antiracism guide provides information about understanding racism, resources for antiracist allies, support resources for people of color, and resources for parents and educators. This guide and the resources within it are meant to inspire reflection, education, and action for the University of Iowa community and beyond.