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.
Enjoy a book safely at home during the novel coronavirus pandemic to celebrate Pride Month! Also, UI Pride 2020 offers Pride at Home kits containing fun activities to do at home!
Students, staff, and faculty may request that a print book from the University of Iowa Libraries be mailed to their residence. To make the request, sign into InfoHawk+ using your HawkID, find the book, and choose “Request Physical Item.” You can find more books than shown in the Virtual Book Display in InfoHawk+ by searching on keywords in InfoHawk+ such as gays, lesbians, transgender, biography, fiction, essays, history, or literature. If you would like assistance, contact Laurie Neuerburg (email@example.com).
In his newest book, Birdsong for the Curious Naturalist, Donald Kroodsma invites us to listen to bird sound not simply to make a quick species identification, but to listen “for deeper understanding of each singing bird,” encouraging us to think scientifically about birds through their songs by posing our own questions about the behavior we observe. He also invites us to listen the same way we would listen to a musical performance, for simple appreciation.
Listening with discrimination to all aspects of how birds are communicating can become an adventure as you learn to listen for variation. The use of sound spectrograms or sonograms as described in the previous post on bird sound can help immensely, as they provide high definition rendering of all parts of a bird song or call, including those that might otherwise be missed by the ear in real time. It’s like hearing with your eyes.
It is possible to enjoy and begin thinking about birdsong without ever laying sight on the bird singing. But hearing a bird’s song is often the easiest way to locate it and then track its behavior.
One of the most delightful birds to listen to is Iowa’s state bird, the American Goldfinch. It is most identifiable by its flight call, but also has song consisting of highly variable series of high-pitched warbles. If you hear the flight call, look up to locate it weaving through the air or perched atop a tree ready to take off. Goldfinches are able to learn new songs as adults.
One of the most entertaining birds to listen to is the Gray Catbird. Although named for its “mewing” sound, the Gray Catbird is also a mimic, and is able to imitate the sounds of many other birds, often in what sounds like a chaotic mix tape of different species.
Two species frequently heard in wooded habitats are the Great crested Flycatcher, with its intermittent outbursts of “breet” or “weep” while lurking in the canopy, and the Red-eyed Vireo, whose song has a slow, rhythmic cadence.
All are welcome to join the Sciences Library for Trivia Night at 5 PM central on Fridays through July 10th! We will use Zoom and Kahoot, so join Zoom on your computer to see the trivia questions and use the browser on your smartphone to input your answers. We will do two rounds of questions and give away two prizes per evening. All are eligible to win the prize and the winning person in each round will receive a prize in the mail! Winner must provide name and mailing address to receive the prize. Register at https://uiowa.libwizard.com/f/uiscilibtrivia to receive the Zoom link. The Zoom link will be the same from week to week, so you only need to register one time. This is a free event and open to the public.
There will be two rounds of trivia each evening. The first round of trivia will be general questions. The second round will have a theme: animals on June 12, myths on June 19, movies on June 26, food on July 3, and fantasy on July 10.
Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Laurie Neuerburg in advance at 319-467-0216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.