19th-Century Surveyor, Hawaii Volcano, Eagles' Nests. July 6, 2018, Part 1 | WBEZ
Skip to main content

Science Friday

19th-Century Surveyor, Hawaii Volcano, Eagles' Nests. July 6, 2018, Part 1

In the 19th century, the American West was an arid climate yet to be fully explored. But surveyors like geologist John Wesley Powell, the second director of the United States Geological Society, would chart out the natural wonders that lied beyond the Mississippi. While at the USGS, Powell would lead a project to create the first map of the country to integrate geographical features and some of the first survey expeditions along the snaking Colorado River and Grand Canyon. But he also proposed radical ideas about developing the West that took the climate and ecology into account. One of Powell’s theories stated that the U.S. was divided down the middle along the “100th Meridian”—between the dry West region and moist East. In two recent studies, climatologist Richard Seager and his team confirmed this dividing line. Seager joins Ira to explain how this ecological division has changed due to climate change.

Shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed, Congress chose the bald eagle—a symbol of freedom—as the national bird. There were an estimated 100,000 eagles at that time. But the birds were nearly driven to extinction in the 1960s, with only with only 487 breeding pairs out in the wild. After the endangered species list was created and targeted conservation efforts began, eagle populations recovered. Researchers have found that one of the keys to recovery is protecting the nest of breeding pairs of eagles.

Finally, there’s no going back for an estimated 2,700 evacuees who have lost access to their homes in Hawai'i since the eruption began in early May. “Most recovery plans are based on the assumption that there is a rebuilding. You know, like if there’s a hurricane, you go in, you rebuild. You restore infrastructure, you rebuild damaged buildings,” says Kimo Alameda, “But in this case thereʻs nothing much to rebuild.” Alameda, who works for the Hawaiʻi County Office of Aging, helps lead a coalition of service providers both public and private sector in the disaster recovery effort. “So weʻre really looking at relocating,” says Alameda, “So the notion of relocation is something that…something that we kind of gotta create.” And every idea is on the table. 


Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.