Entries - Entry Category: Science and Technology

Tornadoes

Tornadoes—destructive, violently spinning vortices of air extending from high within severe thunderstorms to the surface of the earth—are more common in the United States than anywhere else on the planet. They are particularly prevalent in the area known as “Tornado Alley,” where the proper ingredients come together: a combination of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico pulled northward by storm systems dragging strong continental cold air from Canada. While Arkansas is not normally included on maps of the infamous Tornado Alley, which is usually considered to stretch from north Texas northward through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, the state has suffered many devastating tornado outbreaks. In January 1999, Arkansas recorded the most tornadoes on any individual January day in …

Trees

When European explorers first came to Arkansas in the sixteenth century, they found the vast majority of the state covered by some type of forest or woodland. In general, the upland areas of the state were covered by short-leaf pine/oak/hickory forests in areas underlain by acidic rocks (primarily sandstone and chert) and by oak/hickory forests in areas underlain by neutral to calcareous rocks (primarily limestone and dolomite). Lowland areas of eastern and southern Arkansas were covered primarily by bottomland hardwood forests, with bald-cypress/water-tupelo swamps in the wettest areas. The Gulf Coastal Plain of southern Arkansas was covered by a mix of forest types, with loblolly and/or short-leaf pine dominant in many areas. Within these general forest types were hundreds of …

Trematodes

aka: Flatworms
aka: Flukes
Trematodes (flukes) include parasitic flatworms belonging to the phylum Platyhelminthes, class Trematoda, and subclasses Aspidogastrea (two orders, four families) and Digenea (ten orders, more than seventy-two families). The class numbers between 18,000 and 24,000 species; they are found primarily in a variety of animals, including humans and other vertebrates. Modern phylogenetic analysis reveals that the worms of class Monogenoidea (monogenetic flukes) are no longer included within the Trematoda and are more closely related to tapeworms. The modern mobility of human beings, combined with the international transportation of animals and foodstuffs that can be infected, means that diagnoses can occur well outside the areas where trematode species are endemic. However, while trematodes do occur in Arkansas, they do not pose a …

Tropical Cyclones

aka: Tropical Storms and Depressions
As defined by the National Hurricane Center, a tropical cyclone is a “rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation.” Types of tropical cyclones are classified in terms of wind speed: A tropical depression is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 miles per hour (mph) or lower. A tropical storm is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher. A major hurricane is tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph or higher. Given the landlocked, central location of the state of Arkansas, it may …

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge near Eureka Springs (Carroll County) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing lifetime homes for abandoned, abused, and neglected big cats and other endangered wildlife. With over 450 acres and more than 120 exotic cats, the refuge is one of the largest big cat sanctuaries in North America licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The sanctuary is rated a “Must See” attraction by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and is one of the most popular destinations in the Eureka Springs area. Don Jackson, a former employee of the Dallas Zoo, along with his wife, Hilda, and their daughter, Tanya Smith, founded the refuge in 1992. After a friend acquired a lion cub and realized …

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District

Although technically a part of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has played a vital role in the development of civilian transportation infrastructure and water resources since Congress passed the first river and harbors bill in 1824 and charged the corps with maintaining navigational channels. Work on the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers received first priority, but as settlers moved farther west, attention soon focused on other navigable streams. Until 1916, Congress authorized only navigational improvements on rivers. Flood control only entered the corps’ mandate indirectly, as levees were considered navigational aids. However, as agricultural and transportation needs grew and the national economic importance of the lower Mississippi River Valley became evident, politicians found it easier …

University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center

The University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center (RREC), one of five research and extension centers in the University of Arkansas System’s statewide Division of Agriculture, is one of the best known and oldest rice research centers in the world. Arkansas produces almost half the rice grown in the United States, and the center has played a vital role in the success of the Arkansas rice industry. RREC is located nine miles east of Stuttgart (Arkansas County) on Highway 130. Originally called the Rice Branch Station, it was authorized by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1923, and work commenced on it in December 1926. The University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) made an earlier attempt at establishing a …

Venomous Snakes

Arkansas hosts about forty-five species and subspecies of snakes, and six (thirteen percent) are species that use venom to obtain food and to defend themselves. There are two families of venomous snakes in the state: Elapidae (a single elapid species, the Texas coral snake) and Viperidae (five species of pitvipers). All of Arkansas’s venomous snakes inject venom through fangs via muscular contraction of paired venom glands. Texas Coral Snake The Texas coral snake, Micrurus tener tener (formerly Micrurus fulvius tenere) is a tricolored, medium-sized (maximum length = 122 centimeters), secretive elapid snake that primarily occurs in the southern and southwestern part of the state. Verified records are available for only five counties of the state in the Gulf Coastal Plain, …

Vines

In 2016, a total of 436 kinds of woody plants were known to occur in the wild in Arkansas, comprising 419 species plus another seventeen varieties and subspecies. Of these, 185 can be considered trees, 189 are best described as shrubs, and sixty-two are woody vines. In some cases, it is difficult to draw a hard line between these categories, and various reference works differ in their criteria for each. For the purposes of this entry, however, each category is defined as follows: Trees are defined as perennial, often single- or relatively few–stemmed woody plants typically greater than five meters (sixteen feet) in height at maturity. Shrubs are defined as perennial, often multi-stemmed woody or semi-woody plants usually less than …

Weather in the Civil War

Drought, flooding, bone-chilling winters, and intense summer heat all had an impact on the civilian and military populations of Arkansas during the Civil War, affecting military campaigns, access to food and supplies, and health conditions throughout the state. The Civil War was fought just after the end of a meteorological period that climate historians often call the Little Ice Age. This era, lasting roughly from 1300 to 1850, featured frequent climatic shifts, with bitterly cold winters switching to periods of heavy spring flooding, often followed by mild winters and subsequent droughts. While the trend toward cooling that characterized the Little Ice Age had moved toward warming by the 1860s, Civil War Arkansas would be plagued by temperature fluctuations that could …

Western Mosquitofish

aka: Gambusia
The western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) belongs to the order Cyprinodontiformes and family Poeciliidae. The name “mosquitofish” is appropriate for this fish because its diet sometimes consists of large numbers of mosquito larvae. The family contains about twenty-one genera and 160 species. There are eight other freshwater species of Gambusia similar in appearance in North America north of Mexico, including the eastern mosquitofish (G. holbrooki), Amistad gambusia (G. amistadensis), Big Bend gambusia (G. gaigei), largespring gambusia (G. geiseri), San Marcos gambusia (G. georgei), Clear Creek gambusia (G. heterochir), Pecos gambusia (G. nobilis), and blotched gambusia (G. senilis). Many of these Gambusia spp. are endemic and afforded protection, as populations are either listed as threatened or endangered. The similar western mosquitofish ranges …

White Nose Syndrome

White nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging disease caused by an exotic fungus of the Phylum Ascomycota, Class Dothideomycetes, and Family Pseudeurotiaceae. This fungus is native to Europe and perhaps portions of Asia and is specifically termed Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd). Pd was unknown to science and undescribed until it was identified in 2008. Initially named Geomyces destructans, it was reclassified as P. destructans in 2013. The fungus was first found in Asia and Europe, where scientists believe it had existed for some time, as host bats do not appear to get as ill from the disease it causes. The strain of Pd that made it to North America is thought to have originated from some locality in Europe. There is …

Wildflowers

The varied ecosystems in Arkansas enable a large variety of wildflowers to grow within the state. From the river deltas to the mountaintops, Arkansas boasts an abundant array of over 600 native wildflowers. The majority of wildflowers in Arkansas are along rural roads and secluded areas. Due to the growing population and changes in the environment, the areas in which wildflowers grow are in constant fluctuation. Although highways and the development of land have eliminated a majority of the state’s native wildflowers, programs are under way to preserve these flowers and bring them back to the roadways. Common WildflowersThe most common wildflowers on Arkansas highways today are as follows: An in-depth list with descriptions of Arkansas wildflowers was written by …

Williams, Virginia Anne Rice

Biochemist Virginia Anne Rice Williams helped develop more nutritious grains through her pioneering studies of rice, a major Arkansas crop. She conducted important research on the B-vitamin content of rice, on ways to keep rice from turning rancid in storage, and on the vitamin fortification of rice. Virginia Rice was born in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Roderic J. Rice, a banker, and Mattie Thurman. Her high school teachers urged her to pursue music as a career, as she was a gifted musician. Fearing that she would not succeed as a concert musician, however, she opted for science, a field in which she also excelled. In 1940, Rice graduated from Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) with a BA …

Willow Flycatchers

aka: Empidonax traillii
The willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii) is the only bird species that has been discovered in the geographic area that is now the state of Arkansas. The noted naturalist and painter John James Audubon found the bird in 1822 while he was traveling near the community of Arkansas Post (Arkansas County), in what was then Arkansas Territory. When Audubon described the species in print for science in 1828, he named it Traill’s flycatcher for his friend Dr. Thomas Traill of Edinburgh, Scotland. Ornithologists have since determined that “Traill’s flycatcher” is really two different species, willow and alder flycatchers, which have almost identical appearances but distinctive vocalizations. The form Audubon discovered is of the species that was renamed willow flycatcher in 1973. …