How to be an Amateur Naturalist

Cathy Taylor conducts her “Amateur Naturalist” program at Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville, S. C.

With Cathy, a half mile hike can take two hours and feel like five minutes. On a hike down the Turtle Trail, she shared the tools of her trade: magnifying lenses, binoculars and bug jars. Back at the park’s classroom is a collection of field guide books, a microscope, nets and buckets. Various animal skulls, a collection of scat replicas, birds’ nests, shed snake skins and an aquarium stocked with tadpoles and minnows from the park’s lakes provide specimens for study.

Keeping a Nature Log

Cathy also keeps a nature log, recording sightings, observations and their dates. The most important tool, she emphasizes, is a healthy dose of curiosity.

How do you identify an unknown specimen? Cathy points to a small, frilly, white flower as an example. First she observes it closely perhaps with a magnifying lens. How many petals does it have? How are they arranged? How are the leaves arranged? Do the leaves have any unusual characteristics, such as hairy or shiny surfaces? How tall is the plant? Where is it growing? What grows next to it?

Identifying the Starry Campion

Although she admits she’s not an artist, Cathy draws a picture of the specimen in her nature log. Drawing can be a better memory aid than a photograph for the simple reason that it forces the mind to notice and record all these details. Once she returns to her library, she consults her field guides. To be certain of the identification, she then searches the internet for photos and information, entering specific characteristics of the plant in the search engine. The small, frilly, white flower now has a name: Starry Campion.

Identifying Birds and Other Specimens

Crossing a small creek, one of her students spots a frog several yards away and half submerged. Cathy lends her binoculars for a close-up view. Unfortunately, sometimes even binoculars cannot help identify an animal. It may be partly hidden or it may move too quickly. In that instance, a naturalist may have to depend on other identifying characteristics. For example, while observing a bird, note its size relative to common birds such as crows, robins or sparrows. What shape is its silhouette? Does it have any distinctive field marks? What is its flight pattern? And what is its habitat? Some birds prefer feeding on the branches of a tree, while others prefer the tip top or the trunk; still others hunt on the ground.

The Swallowtail Likes Dog Fennel

Later, Cathy illustrates the importance of observing the specimen’s surroundings to learn more about its ecological niche. Once, on a nature hike, she was pointing out a dog fennel plant when a butterfly landed on it. One of the students asked, “Why did it land there?” Turns out it was a Black Swallowtail Butterfly, a species fond of dog fennel.

Cathy recommends taking advantage of state and national park learning programs to build skills and knowledge. They can be found on state park websites such as the South Carolina State Parks website, Southcarolinaparks.com . To search for programs at national parks, go to National Parks Service website, NPS.Gov.

Cathy has kept a nature log for a number of years. Nature logs record the date, place and details of a sighting. They are useful for consultation in the following years to predict the appearance of a species. They can be very scientific, recording time of day, temperature, weather etc. Or they can become a creative project. Some naturalists sketch, paint, and write poetry to embellish their logs.

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What are Traditional and Alternative Medicine Fibroid Treatments?

Do you have pain, irregular and unusually heavy menstrual periods? Talk to your doctor about fibroids. Here’s information on the various fibroid treatments.

Fibrin is a protein that the body creates in response to inflammation or bleeding. Fibroids or fibromuscular tumors occur when excessive amounts of fibrin build up. Hormonal imbalance is a reason this occurs. Specifically, fibroids can be inside the uterus muscle wall, under the uterus lining, on the outside part of the uterus, on long stalks outside the uterus, or on long stalks inside the uterus. Fibroids are typically benign; however they’re very painful and they cause blood clots, urinary urgency, pain during sex, anemia, low back pain, constipation, pelvic pressure, bleeding in between periods, heavier menstrual periods, scarring, infertility, or problems if they occur during pregnancy. In terms of age of occurrence, fibroids typically occur in women anytime from their early 20s to late 40s although occasionally fibroids occur in post-menopausal women or teenagers. There are various treatments for fibroids.

Traditional Treatment and Diet

Treatment options for fibroids are varied. For example, doctors sometimes prescribe birth control pills at low dosage to treat fibroids. Sometimes they may prescribe high dosage ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling. Or, they prescribe iron supplements to combat the anemia that occurs as a function of heavier menstrual periods.

Other treatments include surgery. For instance, physicians may choose to do uterine artery embolization which stops blood supply to the fibroid. Or, they may do hysteroscopic resectioning or may do a myomectomy to remove the fibroids. Granted, surgery also has risks such as potential regrowth of the fibroids, post-operative infections, or infertility. If the previously mentioned surgeries do not work, then hysterectomy is sometimes an extreme measure that it taken because it removes the uterus as well as removing the fibroids.

Physicians sometimes prescribe hormone therapy for persons with fibroids. Granted, hormone therapy has potential side effects that could include mood swings, depression, excessively heavy menstrual periods, or even ovarian cancer. There are other treatments for fibroids that are reportedly not as harsh on the body. For instance, doctors often prescribe stress reduction, exercise, and a high fiber low fat diet for people who have fibroids. Avoiding foods laden with sugar, flour, or yeast has also been suggested.

Avoiding phytoestrogen foods and avoiding soy has been suggested because some women have reported that consuming soy made their tumors worse. Also, apparently being given soy formula as a baby is a risk factor because a study found that women given soy formula when they were babies were in fact 25% more likely to eventually have uterine fibroids as compared to women who were fed cow’s milk or breastfed. It has also been recommended that some cereals should be avoided due to the presence of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Also, it has been suggested that processed foods, pasta, overly acidic foods or carbonated drinks should not be consumed. Additionally, it has been stated that drinking sufficient amounts of water such as eight cups of water each day is very important in the healing effort.

Alternative Medicine Treatments for Fibroids

There are also alternative medicine treatments. Examples of alternative medicine treatments include Cayce castor oil packs, chiropractic spinal adjustments, an insert into the heel of one shoe in cases where there is discrepancy in leg lengths, and colonics. Treatments for leaky gut syndrome are sometimes suggested in cases where the leaky gut syndrome is contributing to the fibroids. Acupuncture is another alternative medicine treatment that is sometimes done for persons with fibroids.

Herbals are another alternative medicine fibroid treatment. One example of an herbal used for fibroids includes the supplement fibrovan. There are anecdotal reports that fibrovan reportedly helps dissolve fibrin deposits and clots. Fibrovan contains ingredients such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is an antioxidant typically found in green tea leaves, lycopene which is an antioxidant that is found inside of tomatoes, nattokinase which is an enzyme extract that is found in soy beans, and bacillus natto which is a beneficial bacteria to the human body.

G Protein Coupled Receptors: The Most Frequent Target of Pharmaceutical Agents

The G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), or 7-transmembrane (7-TM) receptor, superfamily is one of the largest groups of related genes in the entire genome with more than 300 members. Owing to the large number of physiological processes controlled by signaling through these receptors, the superfamily members make up the largest group of “druggable” targets in the body.

GPCR Family Groups

Sequence analysis of the genes contained within the human genome has identified large numbers of GPCR genes (>300) and remarkably enough the function of a sizable portion remain unknown. But based on sequence similarities, the GPCRs have been divided into 6 different classes. All of the members of this group of proteins have seven transmembrane spanning segments. The biochemical and pharmacologic characterization of the original members of the superfamily identified them as utilizing small GTP binding proteins to transduce their intracellular signal once activated.

Examples of GPCR Proteins and Their Functions

GPCRs are involved in many different cellular processes. One of the best characterized members is the light-transducing protein known as rhodopsin. This protein and several close relatives are responsible for the specialized pigment present in the rods and cones of the retina that allow for sensing of light, and the sense of vision. The receptors in cells that respond to the hormone adrenaline, the adrenoreceptors, are GPCRs. Many important neurotransmitter receptors are members of the GPCR superfamily including receptors for serotonin and for glutamate. One of the most widely known by the public at large, and seasonally appreciated members of the GPCR superfamily are the histamine receptors. The sense of smell is possible because of GPCRs that detect odor molecules.

Common Drugs That Target GPCRs

Because of the widespread distribution of GPCRs throughout the body, their presence on the surface of cells and the vast array of cellular processes that they can modulate, GPCRs are the target of more drugs than any other targeted protein in the body. Name a body response and a need to control it and there is likely a GPCR involved and a drug available to modulate it.

  • Stomach Acid Relief: Histamine H2 Receptor blockers like Zantac and Tagamet
  • Allergy or Hayfever Relief: Histamine H1 Receptor blockers like Benadryl and Claritin
  • Blood Pressure or Heart Rate Control: beta-Adrenoceptor blockers like sotalol, timolol, atenolol, propranolol, and many, many others
  • Motion Sickness: Muscarinic Acetylcholine Receptor blocker scopolamine
  • Dilated Eye Examination: Muscarinic Acetylcholine Receptor blocker tropicamide
  • Severe Psychiatric Disorder: Dopamine Receptor blocker haloperidol

The list of potential GPCR targets and the drugs that have been developed to affect their function is extremely long. And as the functions of the 100 or so other GPCRs with as yet unknown physiological effects are identified, the list of drugs that target GPCRs will grow ever longer.