Understanding our Bubble

By, Ramsay, Katelyn, Rebecca and Sam

1.  Where does the pollution in your air come from?


Pennsylvania’s air pollution problems are caused by many different sources – from business and industry, automobiles and from natural sources.

In Pennsylvania, there is a problem with large trucks.  The main problems that we face with these trucks are cutting through residential areas and idling.  They are emitting particulate that aggravates and cause damage to lungs.  Hundreds of these go down our very own High Street (can we say “eww?”):

Cars are also a source of air pollution. Vehicle emissions contribute to health and environmental problems such as urban smog, air toxics, and global warming.  Changes in individual driving habits make a big difference in the amount of pollution a car produces.

Another source of air pollution is factories.  From coal power plants to metal smelter to paper manufacturers, these factories emit millions of tons of waste via air pollution every year.

Thermal inversion in the valley of PA can also be a problem.  Thermal inversion occurs when a layer of warm air traps the underlying cool air, and with it the pollutants from anthropogenic sources (like those mentioned above). Follow this link for a simple demonstration: http://www.chaseireland.org/Thermal%20Inversion.htm.

2. If you live near the ocean, when is high tide today?

On Saturday September 25 High tide, in Cape May, NJ, will happen twice; once at 9:42am and once at 10:00pm. The following is a graph found at Saltwatertides.com that shows high/low tides, their high, rise and set of both the sun and moon and the moon’s visibility.

Day High/Low Tide Time Height (feet) Sunrise


Moon Time %Moon


Sat. 25 Low




3:13 AM

9:42 AM

3:49 PM

10:00 PM





6:50 AM

6:52 PM



9:01 AM

7:38 PM

Sun. 26 Low




3:44 AM

10:14 AM

4:27 PM

10:34 PM





6:51 AM

6:51 PM



10:02 AM

8:12 PM


You can see in this chart that the difference between high and low tides is between 4-5 ft.  The highest tide in the world is in Fundy Bay in Nova Scotia, Canada. Here the difference between low and high tide can be as much as 40 ft. Follow this link to see a picture: http://www.bayoffundy.com/highesttides.aspx.

*For information about the moon cycles and their affect on women’s blood and hormonal cycles see question 9.

3. What primary geological processes or events shaped the land here?

The formation of Pangea and its breaking apart played a major role in the formation of our area geologically. When Pangea broke apart and moved, it created the Appalachian Mountains and rift valleys nearby from the shifting of continental plates. Our limestone bedrock formed from the remains of a shallow sea that was rich in carbonate, and our sandstone bedrock areas developed from deeper seas. Sandstone has not eroded, situating it at mountain tops, while limestone areas have eroded, creating limestone valleys.
I learned this information through discussion with  my roommate, a Geology major, which she passed on to me from courses she has taken that explored our local geology in Carlisle and how it formed.

King’s Gap, South Mountain   http://www.friendsofkingsgap.org/home

4. Name three wild species that were not found here years ago. Name one exotic species that has appeared here in recent years.

Because the question asked for wild species that are relatively new to the area, the concept of invasive species came to mind.  So I Googled invasive species in PA and was brought to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) National Agricultural Library.  There were two species that appeared in the last few years: the Asian Tiger Mosquito, in Allegheny County in 2008 and the Emerald Ash Borer in 2007. When this turned out to not be the best way to find out, I deferred to my Forest Ecology professor, Professor Pedersen, who would likely have this knowledge.  He said that the Trees-of-Heaven (Scientific name: Ailanthus altissimo), the Gypsy Moth and the Chestnut Blight are all relatively new in the last 100 years or so.


5. What minerals are found in the ground here that are or were economically valuable?

Economically valuable resources in Pennsylvania include not only minerals, but also materials produced as a result of the geologic conditions under which the rocks and minerals formed.  For this reason, the nature and distribution of economic resources are related to the geologic history of the area.  Pennsylvania has a rich and diverse geologic history, and as a result, a wealth of economic resources.   Pennsylvania’s resources serve as fuel (like coal, oil, and gas) and construction materials, manufacturing, agriculture, and other industries (such as metals, aggregate, brick, and cement).


Pennsylvania’s most abundant energy resource is coal.  There are two kinds of coal mined:  bituminous (“soft”) and anthracite (“hard”) coal.

As displayed on the map above, Bituminous coal fields take up more than a third of the state of Pennsylvania.  http://www.leo.lehigh.edu/envirosci/enviroissue/amd/links/Pa_projects.html

Some of the largest, most modern and productive underground coalmines in the United States are located in southwestern Pennsylvania.  Historically, coal was the fuel of choice for transportation and other steam-powered applications and was essential for the production of steel.  Today, coal is used mostly by utility power plants for the generation of electricity.  Other uses of coal include steel manufacturing, heat and power for industrial plants, and residential and commercial heating.


Bituminous                                                                                           Anthracite

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bituminous_coal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthracite

Sandstone and limestone:

Pennsylvania is a major supplier of limestone and sandstone.  Limestone is made into agricultural lime, cement, and other construction materials.  Sandstone is used for construction materials and in the manufacture of glass.  Quarried and crushed sandstone makes fairly durable fill.

Oil and Natural gas:

Oil and natural gas are two of the main energy resources that have become essential commodities. While the earliest uses were for sources of light and heat, modern uses also include lubricating oils, fuels for things like cars, planes, and manufacturing facilities, plastics, vinyl, paint, and synthetic fabric.

More recently, with the advances in technology, Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania is being mined for its particularly large quantities of natural gas.  Marcellus Shale can be found under 60% of Pennsylvania’s land mass:




6. Where does your electric power come from and how is it generated?


At Dickinson, we generate some of our own power and we buy power off-campus. On campus there are several, small power generating facilities. There is a Central Energy Plant located in Kaufman Hall that is used for supplying campus with steam and chilled water. Off campus most of our power is provided PPL utilities. Energy is generated by a fuel mix that is “primarily fossil fuels (coal and natural gas) and nuclear energy with smaller portions coming from hydroelectric and other renewable sources” (dickinson.edu). We also purchase wind energy to offset our other energy costs. According to the Dickinson website, 100% of our energy is offset by wind resources and we are researching the potential to generate our own wind energy at the College Farm.

*This information was obtained by talking to an ES major and elaborated upon visiting the Dickinson website on Sustainability.


7. After the rain runs off your roof, where does it go?

From the roof, my rainwater in the Center for Sustainable Living runs into rain barrels. However, when those barrels are full and overflow, the water goes to the storm drains, then to LeTort Spring Run, which is a tributary to the Conodoguinet River. From the Conodoguinet, the rainwater flows into the Susquehanna River and follows a route that takes it to the Chesapeake Bay.
At home, in Eastern Pennsylvania, my water mostly drains underground to recharge well aquifers. When the ground is saturated, water runs off into the Saucon Creek, then to the Lehigh River, and finally to the Atlantic Ocean.
I learned the information about my watershed in Carlisle through the Luce Semester in the Environmental Studies department, where we traced our watershed over local topographic maps to illustrate our impact on the Chesapeake from hundreds of miles away.
I’ve been aware of my watershed at home since I was very young because my grandfather and father taught me how to fish, and explained to me where the water that we fished in came from and where it traveled, also explaining where the fish came from and where they went.
8. Where is the nearest wilderness? When is the last time a fire burned through it?

I assumed wilderness to mean forest closest to campus, so I mapped out which forest was closest to Dickinson.   This did not turn out to be effective. My Forest Ecology professor, who is biased as to what is considered a wilderness, said it would be Meeting of the Pines park in Chambersburg.  He considers it wilderness because it had not been cut down by European settlers.  This is a protected ’natural’ area by the state of Pennsylvania and contains 5 species of pine that are normally never all seen in the same place at once.  However, they will start to die off because there has not been a fire in the area for a while (time not known); and the law states that because it is protected, people cannot intervene.  These trees have more successful reproduction when their seeds are heated, and the ash acts as a good fertilizer for the new trees.

9. How many days until the moon is full?

The moon is full this year on September 23, 2010. Again on October 23, 2010: http://fullmooncalendar.net/. Interestingly, this year the full moon, or the Harvest Moon, arrived on the same night as the autumnal equinox. The closest its came to this in the past was September 23, 1991, and we will not see this phenomenon until year 2029 according to NASA.


The equinox occurs twice a year, when the Earth’s axis is tilted neither towards nor away from the Sun. The term equinox comes from the lasting stems aequus (equal) and nox (night), because during the equinox, the hours in night and day are approximately equal.

The moon’s gravitational forces cause the rise and fall of sea levels (combined with the Sun’s gravitations forces and the Earth’s rotation).  Most places in the ocean experience two high tides and two low tides each day, which is called a semidiurnal tide.

It is believed that women are connected to the moon by our blood, our hormones and our souls.  For instance, when the moon is full, stress becomes a major factor and people become more sensitive to details. An overload of work will add to the frustration and people will deal with their own needs rather than paying attention to others’ needs.  A new moon brings a sense of calmness.  People’s emotions get back to normal, there is an enhanced feeling that anything can be accomplished, and there will be more energy and acceptance of other other’s ideas.

In addition, the Moon has always been the primary symbol for female energy in particular.  The Moon’s cycle around the earth takes approximately twenty-nine days, which is the same amount of time as the average woman’s menstrual cycle.  It is often felt that as the pull of the Moon’s gravity affects the water tides, so does this cycle affect the body of woman.

A woman’s blood and hormonal cycle follow the ebb and flow of the Moon; from new moon to full Moon, estrogen increases leading to ovulation or fertility.  Traditionally, women start bleeding right before the new moon, in the dark of the moon.  However, in modern times, women begin their menstruation during different phases of the moon.  Their bodies are out of sync with the moon and, according to belief, their spirits have forgotten the meaning of “Grandmother Moon.”  Some women believe that one way to get back in harmony with the moon is by performing ceremonies and rituals at different times during the moon cycle and by honoring the time of women menstruation.

The connection between women and the Moon was expressed dating back to the Greek and their Gods.  The Greek deity, Artemis, was the goddess of hunting, wilderness and wild animals.  She was also the goddess of childbirth and the protector of female children. http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Artemis.html


10. What species once found here are known to have gone extinct?

The Grey Wolf:


Wolves have always been misunderstood as violent creatures    and this has been destructive to their population. They are killed  in order to protect livestock and their habitats are destroyed for  commercial development. Today they exist in only 7 states and  they are extinct in Pennsylvania. They are an endangered  species that is misunderstood and underappreciated for their  majestic beauty.

The Carrier (or Passenger) Pigeon:

According to Clive Ponting, an author for the website eco-action.org, Carrier Pigeons used to populate Northern America in the billions. He says the mass slaughter of these birds was worse than the slaughter of bison. Carrier pigeons were trapped and shipped to developing cities on the east coast because they were a cheap source of meat. Additionally, their habitats were destroyed for farmland. The last carrier pigeon died in captivity in 1914. If you google images of the carrier pigeon, most pictures are merely illustrations.


The Carolina Parakeet (or parrot):

Many of the readers who visit 10,000 Birds are members of the developed world (more than 50% are North American according to our stats), and it’s fairly easy and comforting when we think of endangered parrots to think ‘third world’ – that supposedly ‘third world’ issues like habitat change and rapidly increasing human populations etc are behind many of the problems afflicing the world’s parrots (remember that almost a third of all parrot species are threatened with extinction). It’s simply not true of course. Parrots are disappearing in so-called ‘first world’ countries like Australia (eg the Orange-bellied Parrot) and New Zealand (eg the Kea and Kakapo) for the same reasons, and it’s not so long ago that a now extinct parrot was common in the United States.”


The Carolina Parakeet faced the same hardship as the Carrier Pigeon. It was hunted for sport, for its beautiful feathers, and as a source of food. Additionally, its habitat was destroyed to make way for farmers and agriculture. Some also hypothesize that diseases introduced by yard chickens contributed to their demise. The last known specimens died in the 1950’s in Florida and North Carolina.


11.  What other cities or landscape features on the planet share your latitude?

Our latitude in Carlisle is 40.2 degrees North, and at our latitude, we are the same latitude as cities like Madrid, Spain; Bursa, Turkey; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
I found this information by searching through internet maps and using Google Maps learn our latitude and trace our location to other locations at the same latitude.  Latitude is a determinant in climate, and it is interesting to see places that are so culturally different share a similar physical characteristic with our place in the world.

12. What was the dominant land cover plant here, years ago?

Professor Pedersen stated that the area around Carlisle was mostly mixed hardwood forest before the settlers.  The Native Americans burned the forests for deer food, so they could hunt the deer.  It mainly consisted of Oaks, Hickory, Chestnut, etc. and was predominant over most of the North East.  Most of the North East consisted of thick forests before the settlers started clearing it for farm land.


As we researched these topics we made several interesting observations. First of all, depending on whom you talk to at Dickinson, there is either a breadth of knowledge about our bioregion or none at all. It was interesting that we didn’t have easy access to some of this information in such a technology-based age. Access to information is key to understanding the natural environment in which we live and having the ability to play a part in the preservation or fair treatment of it.  However, many people are ignorant of the specific details of their surrounding land and how what they do affects their ability to be healthy and survive. Anthropogenic uses of our resources have negative effects on our environment. Professor Greg Howard’s environmental health class reiterates in detail how the everyday actions of human beings (whether that be driving to work or heating your house during the winter) cause pollution that negatively affects human health.

Lack of access to information also limits the appreciation that we could have for our environment. We cannot have information about how our natural world functions available only through the extensively educated or the select few.  It is the individual community members who should understand their land the most; and it is these people who are responsible for their environment and those who will be impacted most by the degradation of that environment. Ironically, tour guides were very helpful answering some questions because they are asked to learn a wide variety of information to share with prospective students. Yet, within the general population, people tend to be inside their own bubbles of information depending on their major and what groups/organizations they are a part of. However, our bioregion is a bubble we are all a part of and should all seek to understand.

The bioregional quiz illustrates how we, in Carlisle, relate to many other places and the bigger picture of the planet. Specifically, it shows what has influenced where we are currently, such as the geologic processes that have influenced what minerals are currently available to us and have developed industry.

It also shows how we will impact other areas in the future, particularly within our watershed because the water that runs from our rooftops and through our streets ends up in the Chesapeake Bay; meaning we impact another area greatly even though it is hundreds of miles away.  The quiz also reflects how physical characteristics of the place we live in relate us to other places and their people, for example our latitude (which determines the climate we receive) is the same as places like Spain and Turkey, which are very different culturally. Overall, the quiz not only gives us a better idea of our own area, but how our area relates to other places.

Asking these questions from an ecofeminist standpoint, we came across some interesting intersections between learning about our bioregion and tying it into ecofeminist theory. The research on extinct species closely related to some of our topics in class. The vocabulary that was used to talk about endangered or extinct species was remarkably similar to vocabulary used to talk about exploitation of people. The “mass slaughter” of a species makes one think of the genocide of a human population. Additionally, just as we often turn away from genocide (think of Darfur), we easily look past the actions that continue to endanger and kill animal species.

While researching the questions about the next full Moon, we converted it into a Moon appreciation question and wanted to connect it with women. Even though women’s cycles are believed to be with the Moon’s cycles, it is generally not true.  It was also interesting to learn was about the Greek goddess, Artemis.  The connection the worshipers of this goddess made, even thousands of years ago, between the wilderness and women, was amazing and related to our discussions in class about how women are associated with nature.

Learning about how one subject can connect to many different subjects just continues to illustrate how connected different philosophies, studies, humans, animals and regions are.  We could have gone everywhere with these questions (and in some respects, we did!), because that is the beauty of our world – its complexity.

  1. #1 by Cosmetics to buy on August 24, 2011 - 11:52 am

    Nice articles, thanks for sharing this

(will not be published)