Posted on Leave a comment

Oxidative Stress Happens to All Animals by Elaine A. Powers, Author

a green colored iguana lying on a tree branchToday we hear about oxidative stress and anti-oxidants. One of the parameters measured on animals in field research is oxidative stress. Reactive oxygen species are quantified, or measured. Do you know what these terms mean and why they are so important?

As we learned in science class, atoms such as oxygen are made up of a nucleus with protons and neutrons, with electrons spinning around it. But oxygens don’t keep tight control of their electrons and they tend to bind to other atoms. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons.  This uneven number allows them to easily react with other molecules. These reactions are called oxidation.

Oxidation is a normal process in bodily functions. Free radicals help fight off pathogens which cause infections and damage to fatty tissue, DNA and proteins. Oxidative stress happens when there’s an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity. An antioxidant is a molecule that is able to donate an electron to a free radical without destabilizing itself.  The donation stabilizes the free radical, so it becomes less reactive.

But it’s not just humans that get oxidative stress – all animals do.  Nowadays, along with measuring an iguana for the usual length and weight, they are often examined for oxidative stress. Are our human activities increasing the oxidative stress in the native animals around us?  Sadly, yes. And it’s having negative effects on their health, as well.

I’ll be including some of these negative effects in upcoming books, such as Curtis Curly-tail Goes to the Doctor. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn about the what is being done to save the endangered Sister Island Rock Iguana, please read my book, Silent Rocks. It is for sale at Amazon.

cover of book "Silent Rocks." white background, rock iguana pictured in natural habitat on island Cayman Brac
The population of the endemic Sister Island Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) on Cayman Brac is in serious decline. These vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. The reduction in population is the result of human activity on their habitat and the threats can only be eliminated by human action.
Posted on Leave a comment

Keeping It Real–Very Real by Elaine A. Powers, Author

 

a tangle of mangrove tree roots
Mangrove tree roots image courtesy of M W from Pixabay

Even though I primarily write children’s books, I wrote a book called Silent Rocks about the declining population of Rock Iguanas on the Cayman Islands, and another about the Sonoran Desert’s Night-Blooming Cereus.

cover of book "Silent Rocks." white background, rock iguana pictured in natural habitat on island Cayman Brac
The population of the endemic Sister Island Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) on Cayman Brac is in serious decline. These vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. The reduction in population is the result of human activity on their habitat and the threats can only be eliminated by human action.

I also write murder mysteries and one is set in south Florida in a small coastal town. A lot of the action takes place in the mangroves. In fact, one scene regards a resort hotel being built within the mangroves. I thought I had included sufficient details with the tangle of roots and the wildlife flitting in and out. Recently, I had the opportunity to stay in a hotel actually built within the mangrove trees.

Who was it that thought this was a good idea?

Besides the senseless destruction of the protective trees, there are the people-consuming insects that consider the insect repellent to be seasoning. Guests slog through the muck to get to the steps of the hotel. The salt air seems to corrode everything metal instantaneously. The nesting and resting birds squabble day and night. And then there’s the smell–the omnipresent odor of hydrogen sulfide, which can be compared to odor of rotten eggs.

It’s time for me to edit the landscape descriptions in my story and really bring the location to life. In the case of a very strong setting like this one, it takes on importance equal to the charactersThis has taught me to be certain to use all the senses when writing the locationMy new motto: Get the details rights!

Posted on Leave a comment

Oh, Those Red-Reptile Eyes! by Elaine A. Powers, Author

In the human world, red eyes are usually reserved for people possessed by demons. However, in reptiles, red eyes are not unusual and serve an important purpose.

It’s usual for males of a species to be more colorful than the females, because the females need the protective coloration of camouflage. In box turtles, the males often have bright red irises. That makes it easy to determine that he’s a he. Females have brown eyes. I think this Eastern Box Turtle’s eyes are quite attractive.

close up of head and red eye of make eastern box turtle

Equally impressive are the red eyes of rock iguanas. Both males and females have red sclera. Rock iguanas live on Caribbean islands made of white limestone. It’s thought that the red coloration protects the iguanas’ eyes from damage of the bright sunshine reflecting off the rock. So, the red sclera is like us wearing sunglasses. Everyone needs to protect their eyesight.

close up of red eye of rock iguana

Silent Rocks is published by Lyric Power Publishing, about the disappearing Sister Isle Rock Iguanas. We hope to inspire the native people and visitors alike to do all they can to save them.

cover of book "Silent Rocks." white background, rock iguana pictured in natural habitat on island Cayman Brac
The population of the endemic Sister Island Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) on Cayman Brac is in serious decline. These vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. The reduction in population is the result of human activity on their habitat and the threats can only be eliminated by human action.
Posted on Leave a comment

Today is Math Storytelling Day! by Elaine A. Powers, Author

cover of book "Silent Rocks." white background, rock iguana pictured in natural habitat on island Cayman Brac
The population of the endemic Sister Island Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) on Cayman Brac is in serious decline.

Math was not my favorite, nor my best, topic, but I did like the math used to solve real-world problems. I enjoyed using geometry to determine how tall a tree is. Discovering the unknown variables in algebra fascinated me; it was like a secret code that had to be deciphered. I eventually came to understand how to use statistics and calculus in measuring aspects of ecosystems and in animal behavior. It turned out that I did like math–if it applied to my interests in science!

When master educator Marilyn Buehrer designed the Lyric Power Publishing workbooks and activity sheets based on my children’s storybooks, I was thrilled that she included some of my favorite animals in her math problems. I particularly like the one where she has the students measure the iguanas to determine average and median sizes in the workbook My Unit Study on Iguanas. I could use that in my citizen scientist work out in the field with the rock iguanas of Cayman Brac!

If you’re curious at all about the Sister Isle Rock Iguanas on Cayman Brac, check out my poignant book, Silent Rocks, pictured above. The population of Cyclura nubila caymanensis on Cayman Brac is in serious decline and these vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. Their reduction is the result of human activity on their habitat, and the threats can only be eliminated by human action. I am hopeful the people of Cayman Brac will turn this sad situation around.

colorful children's book cover with illustrations of curly-tail lizards

In The Dragon of Nani Cave, the Lime Lizard Lads, curly-tail lizards of Cayman Brac, seek an adventure up on the bluff. Their goal is to reach Nani Cave and meet the dragon that lives there. (The dragon is a Rock Iguana, but when you’re a small lizard, an iguana is a dragon!) Gene and Bony soon realize how big and how dangerous the world beyond their beach really is. Leaving home is easy, but what if they do find the dragon? And how will the lads make it back?

a green and white book cover with the image of a book called The Dragon of Nani CaveFor educators and homeschooling parents, LPP offers a 30-page coordinating workbook designed for grades 3-6. Fourteen pages are taken directly from The Dragon of Nani Cave, with 14 pages of corresponding questions. Teachers and parents read the book aloud to students, then hand out the reading and question pages. Students reread pages from the book and answer the questions for each page; they also color in the black and white pictures on every page.

illustration of head of cyclura nubila iguanaIf you have any interest in the identification booklets that LPP has published on how to tell the differences between the invasive green iguanas and the native rock iguanas, please contact Elaine Powers at iginspired@gmail.com.

Posted on Leave a comment

Saving the Sister Isle Rock Iguana on the Cayman Islands, by Elaine A. Powers, Author

illustration of head of cyclura nubila iguana
Illustration of Cyclura Nubila on cover of free booklet showing differences between the native rock iguana and the invasive green iguana

The Cayman Islands are a system of three islands located south of Cuba: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Two kinds of iguanas are found there. The most famous is the Blue Iguana found on Grand Cayman, Cyclura lewisi.  Their body color is really the most amazing sky blue.  They were almost lost to extinction, but some hardworking humans created the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and their numbers are climbing. This doesn’t mean they are out of danger, but it is a step in the right direction, as they say.  You should visit the Blues at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park if you’re ever on Grand Cayman.

I am more interested in the lesser known Sister Island Rock Iguanas (SIRI), Cyclura nubila caymanensis.  I’ve been privileged to work as a citizen scientist for their conservation. They’ve also been called the Lesser Caymans Iguana but there is nothing lesser about them. They’re said to be a subspecies of the Cuban Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubilaThey are endemic to only the Sister Islands.

Little Cayman has a fairly large population of iguanas, but Cayman Brac’s iguanas are having a tough time surviving.  Along with the usual human-caused problems, habitat destruction and feral pets, the iguanas on Brac have a high road mortality. Because the iguanas enjoy the warm, smooth roads, they are at risk for being run over by cars. Sadly, over the last few years many of the local iguanas have died this way.

My friend Bonnie Scott Edwards, who lives on the Brac, asked me to help her spread the word about the iguanas being needlessly killed. I’m always willing to help with causes like this. She had some terrific photos of iguanas both living and dead – I prefer the live ones myself. Then my friend, Anderson, who does great drawings for my books, filled in the blanks with his illustrations for my book, Silent Rocks. The book turned out great and I hope it helps not only to educate people but also tugs at their consciences. Every time an iguana is senselessly killed, a part of the future dies.

Some people wonder about the value of the iguanas. Did you know that many plants require the help of the iguanas to germinate and grow? When seeds pass through the iguana after being eaten, they germinate faster. The iguanas also help with the seed dispersal because it’s hard to make such large, active lizards stay in one place. They go up the bluff, then down the bluff, then up the bluff, then down– well, you get the idea.

However, not just any iguana will do. Many areas have introduced the Green Iguana, Iguana iguana, into rock iguana territories. Some research suggests that seeds passing through the Green’s gut does not help the plants in rock iguana territories. Only the correct iguana will do. This makes sense, since many of the plants evolved along with the iguanas. More studies are being done.

Sign on cayman brac, red border, showing rock iguana, with the words IGUANAS ON ROAD
Photo by Bonnie Scott Edwards

I’m helping Bonnie with her mission to save her Brac iguanas. They’ve put up some signs reminding people that there are iguanas on the road, so they’ll slow down and maybe even stop texting. Bonnie also tells them about the dangers of letting their pets run loose. Iguanas didn’t evolve with large mammalian predators, so they don’t know that dogs and cats are dangerous. They think they are just friends they haven’t met yet. It is so sad when they realize their mistake too late.

Then there’s the habitat destruction, with the iguanas’ dens being buried during construction. And lastly, are the poisons. Some rat poisons are the same color as the iguanas’ favorite flowers. Of course, the rats and mice were introduced by people, too. So many dangers have come along with people.

cover of book "Silent Rocks." white background, rock iguana pictured in natural habitat on island Cayman Brac
The population of the endemic Sister Island Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) on Cayman Brac is in serious decline. These vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. The reduction in population is the result of human activity on their habitat and the threats can only be eliminated by human action.

But people can also solve these problems and I’m hoping the people on Brac working to help the iguanas do succeed. Like the blue iguanas on Grand Cayman, the Brac rock iguanas can be brought back from the brink of extinction.

I wrote a book about this important issue. It’s called Silent Rocks. Bonnie’s photos of the iguanas of Cayman Brac are wonderful.