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November 2 , 2009
Muskingum University Home

In this issue:

  • MCAT Information
  • Outreach Internship Opportunity
  • Ancient Civilization Cut Path to Demise

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Fluffy, the "Galileo of the Lemmings," with his stopwatch.

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MCAT Information

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Outreach Internship Opportunity

OUTREACH INTERNSHIP: A temporary, full-time position. Pay: Interns are reimbursed for meals and incidental  expenses at a rate of $181.50 week. Dates: Approx May 15 to August 15, 2010.

Location: Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Oceanville, New Jersey.

Qual: A Junior, Senior or graduate student with background in environmental education, interpretation, public affairs, environmental studies or natural resources is desirable.  Public speaking/group skills a plus.  Able to tolerate heat, biting bugs, and humidity.  Newly remodeled dormitory style housing available.

Duties: Wednesdays through Sundays.  Intern will be stationed on the beach at the edge of a designated Wilderness area on Long Beach Island, NJ to greet visitors and promote a greater understanding of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and the importance of its Holgate Unit.  As one of New Jersey’s last undeveloped barrier beaches, Holgate is an important and productive area for beach-nesting birds—including three New Jersey State-endangered beach-nesting bird species: the least tern, black skimmer, and the piping plover which is also a federally threatened shorebird.  Intern will serve as public use assistant to promote public stewardship of the Refuge’s biodiversity and foster support of wilderness lands and endangered species.  Intern will also prepare and present talks and other outreach programs to the general public, develop educational exhibits and represent the refuge at community events.  Newly remodeled dormitory style housing available.

Appl: Send resume, cover letter, and 3 references to

Contact: Sandy Perchetti, Volunteer Coordinator, Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 72, Oceanville, NJ 08231. Ph: 609-748-1535, Fax: 609-748-2731, Email:

Filing Date: 01/20/10.


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From Live Science...

Ancient Civilization Cut Path to Demise

The ancient South American Nasca civilization may have caused its own demise by clear-cutting huge swaths of forest, a new study has found.

The civilization disappeared mysteriously around 1,500 years ago, after apparently prospering during the first half of the first millennium A.D. in the valleys of south coastal Peru. Scientists have previously suggested a massive El Niño event disrupted the climate and caused the Nasca's demise, but new research suggests that deforestation may have also played an important role.

The Nasca are best known for leaving behind large geoglyphs called Nazca lines carved into the surface of the vast, empty desert plain that lies between the Peruvian towns of Nazca and Palpa. Though the lines have spawned many interpretations, including the suggestion that they were created by aliens, most scholars now think they were sacred pathways that Nasca people followed during their ancient rituals.

The enigmatic society that once flourished apparently collapsed around 500 A.D. after a bloody resource war. To investigate this event a team of archaeologists led by David Beresford-Jones from the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the U.K.'s Cambridge University gathered plant remains in the lower Ica Valley. Based on this evidence and pollen samples collected by co-researcher Alex Chepstow-Lusty of the French Institute of Andean Studies in Lima, the scientists found that the Nasca cleared huge areas of forest to make way for agriculture. The native huarango tree, which once covered what is now a desert area, was gradually replaced by crops such as cotton and maize.

This vital tree was a crucial part of the desert’s fragile ecosystem, serving to enhance soil fertility and moisture and help hold the Nasca’s narrow, vulnerable irrigation channels in place.

Eventually, the people cut down so many trees that they reached a tipping point at which the arid ecosystem was irreversibly damaged, the researchers found. At this point a major El Niño event likely occurred, triggering floods made much worse by the lack of forests that used to protect the delicate desert ecology.

"These were very particular forests," Beresford-Jones said. "The huarango is a remarkable nitrogen-fixing tree and it was an important source of food, forage, timber and fuel for the local people. Furthermore, it is the ecological ‘keystone’ species in this desert zone, enhancing soil fertility and moisture, ameliorating desert extremes in the microclimate beneath its canopy and underpinning the floodplain with one of the deepest root systems of any tree known. In time, gradual woodland clearance crossed an ecological threshold — sharply defined in such desert environments — exposing the landscape to the region’s extraordinary desert winds and the effects of El Niño floods."

Without the huarango cover, when El Niño did strike, the river down-cut into its floodplain, Nasca irrigation systems were damaged and the area became unworkable for agriculture. This finding fits with other evidence that shows that the generations that came afterwards did not fare as well as their predecessors: infant mortality rose, while average adult life expectancy fell. The crops cultivated by their ancestors disappeared in the lower Ica Valley and the area was probably afflicted by a severe drought.

The research also stresses the importance of huarango woodlands for sustaining livelihoods and creating fertile areas in these environments. There are now no undisturbed ecosystems in the region and what remains of the old-growth huarango forests is being destroyed in illegal charcoal-burning operations.

"The mistakes of prehistory offer us important lessons for our management of fragile, arid areas in the present," said co-author Oliver Whaley of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England.

The new study is detailed in the journal Latin American Antiquity.


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