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Friday, December 12, 2014

Species and Population

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We see different types of plants and animals around us. Some of these plants and animals are similar. Similar plants or animals form particular sets, and thus a number of sets of plants and animals are found in the nature. The individuals of one set of plants or animals remain similar with the individuals of the same set of organisms, while they remain different from the individuals of a different set.

A group of similar type of plants or animals  that can interbreed with one another in nature is called as species. There are numerous species of plants, animals and micro-organisms that exist in nature.

Individuals of one species tend to aggregate and live together occupying certain area at a given time. This aggregation of individuals of the same species often becomes permanent.This somewhat permanent aggregation of individuals of the same species that occupy a definite space at a given time is called as Population. Example: Flamingoes form a population in the figure below.



Key Words: Plants and Animals,species, population

Coral Reef and the Great Barrier Reef

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Rock like spectacular structures in seas and oceans that are made of limestone, are called as coral reefs. The limestone inside the sea is secreted by millions of tiny animals called as coral polyps.

A Coral Polyp has a sac like soft body with a single opening which remains surrounded by tentacles. The lime stone secreted by a coral polyp accumulates to form high ridges called as reefs. 

In some areas of an ocean, these reefs grow high enough to take the shape of a barrier. Example of such an oceanic barrier which is visible even from the space is called as the Great Barrier Reef. 

The Great Barrier Reef stretches itself 1,200 miles off of the east of Queensland; Australia. This is the largest marine preserve in the world. It harbours about 500 species of beautifully coloured corals; 4000 kinds of shellfish, and 1,500 types of other fish species; besides vast varieties of algae and millions of varieties of consumers. As coral reefs are very rich in animal life, these are called as Rain Forests of the sea.


The Great Barrier Reef



A Coral Reef

Key Words:coral,coral polyp,Great Barrier Reef

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Annona squimosa- an important medicinal plant - I

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Various types of natural remedies have been being made from different plants reported to contain medicinal properties. These natural remedies have been tested and found to be safe and effective. Many folkloric medicines have been prepared out of many plant species which are used for the treatment of different ailments. Compounds extracted out of plants continue to play major roles in Primary Healthcare as therapeutic remedies in many developing countries. Plants are rich sources of secondary metabolites with interesting biological activities.



Shareefa as it is known in Hindi language, Annona squimosa is one of the important medicinal plants known to Ayurveda and other traditional medical systems since time immemorial. It is profusely branched shrub or tree belonging to family Annonaceae. It bears tasty edible fruits called as Sugar Apple. It is semi-deciduous growing up to 3 metres to 8 metres in height. It is similar to soursop (A. muricata). It has a broad open crown and branches spreading irregularly.

Stem branches of Annona squimosa are with light brown bark and visible leaf scars. The inner bark is light yellow and slightly bitter in taste.

Leaves of the plant are thin, simple, alternate, occurring singly, 5 to 17 cm long and 2 to 6 cm broad, rounded at the base and pointed at the tips(oblong lanceolate), pale green on both surfaces, hairless with slight hair underside when young leaf stalks are 0.4 cm to 2.2 cm long and green.

Continued in the next post

Key Words: Annona squimosa, plant, medicinal

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Herbals and medicinal knowledge

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A compilation of medicinal knowledge about herbs is called as herbal. In fact, a herbal is a book which contains names and descriptions of plants with information on their medicinal and other virtues.



A herbal may contain information on medicinal, tonic, culinary, toxic, hallucinogenic, aromatic and magical powers and traditional stories if/any related to a plant.

Herbal is a book which may contain information on classification of plants it describes. It may also contain recipes for extracts, tinctures etc of plants also. Many herbals prepared in ancient times usually contained illustrations that assisted in identifying plants described inside them.

It is reported that herbals have been the first sources that were printed in China and Europe. These are considered to be the first literatures that were produced in Ancient Egypt, China, India and Europe.

The development of modern Chemistry, toxicology and Pharmacology during late 17th century reduced importance of medicinal values of classical herbals. However, herbals remained popular sources of complementary and alternative medicines in the forms of Homoeopathy and Aromopathy.

Now, medicinal properties of different plants are tested along modern scientific lines and after that important chemical compounds as medicines are synthesized.


Herbals still provide easy and comfortable ways of treating various ailments among common public.


Key Words: herbal, medicinal, ancient

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Barred Owls

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Owls form an important link in an ecosystem. It is a predator which mainly feeds on rats. Rats cause great damages to agriculture, horticulture and to our stored gains. Thus these are our friends.

There are many types of owls. Some are big and some are small.  A  Barred Owl is a medium-sized grey-brown owl with a large, rounded head with no ear-tufts, and streaked with white horizontal barring on the chest and vertical barring on the belly.





Body 
The facial disc of Barred Owl is pale greyish-brown with darker concentric lines. The rim is not very prominent. Eyes are dark brown to blackish-brown. The cere is pale horn, the bill pale yellowish with a slight greenish tint. The sides of the head and neck are barred light and dark. The upperparts are brown to greyish-brown, scalloped with whitish bars on the crown, back and mantle. Wing-coverts are spotted whitish. Flight feathers are barred whitish-buff and brown. The tail is brown or greyish-brown with 4-5 whitish bars.

Under parts are pale greyish-brown to dirty whitish. The upper breast and fore neck are densely barred light and dark. The rest of the under parts are boldly streaked dark to rufous-brown.
Tarsi are feathered, and toes are almost totally feathered, the bare parts being yellowish-grey. Claws are dark horn with blackish tips. Length of the body varies from 40-63 cm. Wingspan ranges from 96-125cm. Tail length 312-380mm. Weight 500-1050g. Females are normally larger and heavier than males.

Habits
It is  a nocturnal bird which means it comes out mainly during nights. It hides in dense foliage during the day, usually high in high part of a tree. It may also roost on a branch close to a broad tree-trunk, or in a natural tree hole. This owl may be very aggressive when defending a nest.

Voice
The Barred Owl is a highly vocal Owl giving a loud and resounding "hoo, hoo, too-HOO; hoo, hoo, too-HOO, ooo" which is often phrased as "Who, cooks, for-you? Who, cooks, for-you, all?" - The last syllable drops off noticeably. Like some other Owl species, they will call in the daytime as well as at night. The calls are often heard in a series of eight, then silence, when the Owl listens for a reply from other Owls. Other calls include "hoo-hoo, hoo-WAAAHH" and "hoo-WAAAHHH" used in courtship. Mates will duet, but the male's voice is deeper and mellower. Many other vocalisations are made which range from a short yelp or bark to a frenzied and raucous monkey-like squall.

Hunting & Food
Owl is a very opportunistic hunter. An owl may a sometimes be seen hunting before dark. This typically occurs during the nesting season or on dark and cloudy days. A Barred Owl will use a perch, from where it dives upon its prey - meadow voles are its main prey, followed by shrews and deer mice. Other mammals include rats, squirrels, young rabbits, bats, moles, opossums, mink, and weasels. Birds are taken occasionally, including woodpeckers, grouse, quail, jays, blackbirds, and pigeons. They also eat small fish, turtles, frogs, snakes, lizards, crayfish, scorpions, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers. Birds are taken as they settle into nocturnal roosts, because they cannot catch birds on the wing. They will also swoop down to the water's edge to catch frogs, other amphibians, and occasionally fish. Barred Owls are attracted to campfires and lights where they forage for large insects. Prey is usually devoured on the spot. Larger prey is carried to a feeding perch and torn apart before eating.

Breeding
Barred Owls call year-round but courtship activities begin in February with breeding occurring between March and August. Males hoot and females give contact calls. As the nesting season approaches, males chase after females giving a variety of hooting and screeching calls. Males display by swaying back and forth, and raising their wings, while sidling along a branch. Courtship feeding and mutual preening also occur. Barred Owls nest in cavities and will also use abandoned nests of  Red-shouldered Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Squirrel, or Crows. Eggs number 2-4 and are white, and almost perfectly round, with a slightly rough texture.

Life Spawn
Barred Owls have been known to live up to 32 years in captivity and 10 years or more in the wild. Most deaths are likely to be related to man (shootings, road kills etc). Great Horned Owls are their only natural enemy.

Key Words: Barred Owl, birds,nest

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Green School rating system

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The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) has set specific norms for the construction of school buildings in environment friendly ways. It has also developed a rating system for schools as well. Thus the IGBC addresses not only the design of school buildings and various aspects of environment friendly constructions; it also includes functioning of schools in context of environment. What is IGBC?

The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) is a part of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). It was formed in the year 2001. It is a committee based organization with a vision to enable building of an environment sustainable for all thereby facilitating India to be one of the Global Leaders in building the sustainable environment by 2025.

Now it is properly understood that children need to understand the harmful effects that degradation of environment can have on this planet and thus our children can be able to prevent degradation of environment by making informed decisions from an early age.

Environmental Education
Today Environmental Education needs to be included in school curricula as a compulsory subject. Though environmental aspects have been infused in different subjects, they just pollute the pure spirits of those subjects and the doing components lack badly due to those subjects being not based of activities. Without activity, research etc the aspects of environment can neither be understood properly nor can conservation measures be planned and implemented in any ways. A Green Rated school should spur interest and spread awareness among students through classroom and outdoor learning. The IGBC has introduced a school rating system which advocates a number of eco-friendly policies. For example norms fixed by IGBC under energy efficiency look into the usage of energy efficient electric appliances, natural light and ventilation and capturing solar potential. Points are awarded in accordance to the quantum of energy savings generated. This ensures not only an eco-friendly building but saves the running electricity costs for the management of the school also.

Indoor quality norms
The IGBC has also fixed norms for the quality of indoor environment. These norms address cleanliness of toilets, use of non-toxic paints on walls and windows etc and applications of dust free chalk in the classrooms.. This will ensure that children are educated in a healthy environment. Adequate indoor and outdoor play areas are also expected to be planned properly. The rating system for this field requires separate toilets for boys and girls. Our governments too are stressing in this area seriously and allocating funds to construct in all the schools run by them.

Treatment and re-use of waste water
The green school norms fixed by IGBC advocates effective treatment and re-use of waste water along with the use of fixers with low flow rates to conserve water. Water meters should be fixed with water pipelines. It can help children monitor how much water is used by students. The measure of conservation of water should also be demonstrated to them. One example in this regard is pipe waste water from sinks provided within each classroom through a grease trap into the planters placed outside on window sill of the same classroom. This ensures that the plants are watered everyday and the grey water from the sink is not wasted.

Waste management norms
The norms fixed by IGBC for waste water management in schools advocate provisions for separate bins for paper, plastics, organic waste; and collection of organic waste collected periodically.
Children should bring their own recyclable and re-usable waste to create sculptures or to build tree gardens or benches within the campus. Another feature of the IGBC Green School rating system is accessible facilities for students and teachers with disabilities.

Green Committees
In order to encourage echo-friendly measures schools should form Green Committees. These committees should encourage participation of schools in environmental awareness programmes and campaigns within schools and outside.


The rating system provides tangible cost saving in the forms of electricity and water at one hand and an opportunity to stand out and address one of the foremost concerns faced by the world today.
The schools that are already taking up green measures can now use the rating system to comprehensively integrate into pedagogy as well as administration and in this process add the Green School stamps to their names.

Key Words: IGBC, Environmental Education, waste

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Condition of females in poor tribal societies

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In tribal society of India women do most of the household work. Right from cooking food they have to perform duties of firewood collection, arrangement of water, child rearing, marketing and agriculture. Those with less or no land are reported to work here and there including working as labour at construction sites and at brick kilns, working as maids in houses, and even as agriculture labour. In some areas they have to migrate to other states in particular seasons to work at different sites as labourers. In many such cases they face exploitation and other types of sufferings.




In these societies school going girls are seen to leave their schools during paddy seasons to work in fields during paddy transplantation. Many such girls who remain serious towards studies apply for long leave stating reason that they have to work in fields during the activities of transplantation of paddy. In fact paddy transplantation is a group activity and cannot be continued for long depending on rains. Everything seems right in general but appears painful if education and development of girls are concerned. On the other hand even child bearing women are seen working at different places as they don’t have options except earning their livelihood. As such they have to pass through very painful conditions and many times the lives of both the mother and the child in her womb are threatened. Something must be done to improve the life-conditions of females in these societies.

Key Words: tribal, labour, paddy fields