Hey, there.

Hello, my name is Jo-an. It's spelled Joan, but really it's pronounced as the former. But, by now I react just as much to Joan as I do to my real name, so you can call me by both. You can even call me Jack if you want.

Anyways, this is my Biology blog. You know that course SBI 3U1? Yeah, this blog is made solely for that purpose. Basically, this blog will be used to respond to various topics presented to me throughout the course. I'll try to be as insightful as I can, but forgive me if it doesn't exactly come through on the world wide web. Okay, enough with the formal stuff. To conclude this little reverie of mine, I hope you enjoy this trip through my brain. Well, the Biology section of my brain, anyway.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

And you thought it just ended up in the sewers...

What do we think of when we think of crops and farming? Soil, water, a couple of tractors, maybe some animal manure. But human waste? Hmm... that's new.

Agricultural methods are rapidly reaching new heights right before our eyes. Human waste are now being used as fertilizers by farmers everywhere. Human waste can also be called "biosolids". Although the fact that our crops are being grown with our poo may make some queasy, it's not just as simple as that. Biosolids are treated human waste in order to be used as fertilizers. Let's look at some of the pros and cons of using biosolids as fertilizers.

There are considered to be many pros in using biosolids as fertilizers. Biosolids are a good source of organic, and safe nutrients. Because biosolids come from humans, this reduces the need for chemically based fertilizers, while at the same time, providing the crops with the proper nutrients and minerals. Also, biosolids are considered to successfully restore land, improving its fertility and replenishing its topsoil. Another huge pro that can come from using biosolids as fertilizers is that it reduces erosion, which can protect the water quality. "Adding biosolids to soil also supplies organic nutrients that are released slowly to growing plants. These organic forms of nutrients are less water-soluble and, therefore, less likely to leach into groundwater or be carried away by streams and other surface waters." (1) Another one can also be that because we are recycling the waste, we are saving land space, not to mention money.

Of course, with all these pros come the cons. Of course, when told that human waste solids are being used to farm, one may not react well. It can be seen as gross, actually. Besides this, other cons could be: potential health hazards because the solids may not have been filtered properly, causing this to transplant into the crops, and eventually into our dinner tables. The odour, for the people that live around the area, might be a huge problem as well.

Seeing this pros and cons, I think biosolids are a great idea. Their pros outweigh the cons significantly in my opinion. Anything we can do to help the Earth, I'm all for.


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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Make Like Superheroes and Use Our Technological Powers for Good

With so many technological advances in our society, it is impossible not to see the effects it has on our medical world. These various technologies help us comprehend our internal body systems, which in turn help diagnose and treat health problems that may be observed. Some of these technologies are:


This is a form of electromagnetic radiation. X-rays are useful in understanding the skeletal system and for detecting some disease processes in the soft tissue.


When you go through an MRI scan, doctors are able to obtain scans of your body tissues, bone and internal systems. To get these pictures, the MRI uses a powerful magnetic field. These images are transferred onto a computer where it can be viewed. MRI images help doctors assess the internal body and detect any diseases.


This is a diagnostic imaging technique used for viewing body structures including tendons, muscles, joints, vessels and internal organs for assessment. Sonographers (the man in the photo) use a transducer, placed and moved directly over the patient to obtain the images that will be shown on the computer.


Spirometry is a common test to evaluate the lungs' well-being. When the tube is breathed through, it can show how well a person can take breaths in and out. This is an important aspect because how well a person can breathe can showcase underlying problems, such as: ashtma, bronchitis, or chronic pulmonary disease.

ECG machine

Electrocardigiam (ECG) is a machine specifically used for the heart. It is used to screen abnormalities of the heart. This machine works by attaching electrodes to your legs, arms and chest. These electrodes detect electrical impulses generated by the heart and transfer the information to the ECG machine. Through an ECG, we can find: heart rate, possible heart muscle damage, and abnormal heart beats.

As can be told by these few technological advances in medicine included, we are definitely making like superheroes and using our powers for good when it comes to this. The technologies' impact on our society are greatly appreciated, and I find it hard to imagine our medical society without them. We would not have the understanding we have of our internal body systems without these technologies (not to mention a few more), and this is very important to do. Understanding our internal body systems is the way to go about diagnosing and treating possible diseases and conditions. These medical technologies indeed have a great impact on our society.



Friday, February 11, 2011

Feeding a Growing Population vs. Conserving Biodiversity

When walking into a grocery store, I hardly wonder where the food is coming from. But now that this topic is being approached in the course, it makes me think. Obviously, the answer would be from various farmers and producers. Now, one might wonder, with our growing population, how are our food sources able to keep up with it all? It must be difficult.

Industrial Agriculture

The best way to explain how they are able to keep up with the multiplying population is through "industrial agriculture". Industrial agriculture is a modern form of farming that uses industrialized ways to produce livestock, poultry and other crops. There are various methods to industrial agriculture, and these include: technoscientific, economic and political. These methods include innovation in farming methods and agricultural machinery, genetic technology upon other ways. In fact, most meat, eggs, dairy, fruits and vegetables in our supermarkets are produced using this method. 

While this may be a good way to keep us satisfied with the products, there is a dark side to this. First, there is genetically engineered seeds and organisms. This is when a seed is manipulated in a lab to do something that isn't what nature intended. The seeds are planted, and then they grow. The food they produce have been proven to cause cancer and other problems in lab animals. This is also altering the genetics of these products. This is the type of food we are eating.
The biggest problem we're faced with is: while we are using this to maximize our benefits (cheap and plentiful food, convenience for the consumer, etc), we are also coming up with downsides (environmental and social costs, increased health risks, etc). The choice is, to use industrial agriculture or to not. This is a tough decision since it gives us both major pros and cons.

There seems to be a third option in "sustainable agriculture". Sustainable agriculture is a way of farming that tries to make products that is healthy for everyone. Organic farmers stay away from things like biotechnology, pesticides, and other things that would be used by an industrial farmer. Instead they use different ways, like recycling crop waste and livestock.This seems like a stellar idea, but most organic products are more expensive because of said production methods.

At what cost should we pay to keep up with our growing population? The choices are clear. I saw the pros to industrial and sustainable agriculture, and I saw the cons. While we are keeping up with the population, we are also causing harm to the environment, not to mention the biodiversity of it.  In the end, sustainable agriculture is better for us in general than industrial agriculture. I think the decision is easy for me, I would much rather eat organically for a higher monetary price than eat industrially for a higher cost, and these costs aren't monetary.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Designer Babies: Are We Going Too Far?

The term "designer baby" refers to a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected by genetic engineering combined with In Vitro Fertilization. This is to ensure presence or absence of particular genes.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process by which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the body. IVF is used to help parents struggling with infertility. The IVF process involves controlling the woman's ovulations, removing eggs from the woman's ovaries then letting sperm fertilize them in a fluid medium. The eggs are monitored, and the healthy eggs are used while others are discarded. The fertilized egg is then transferred to the woman's uterus to impregnate the woman. 

In Vitro Fertilization
Genetic screening is one of the newest and most sophisticated techniques used to test for genetic disorders.  It involves direct examination of the DNA molecule. Other genetic tests include biochemical tests for gene products like enzymes and for microscopic examination of chromosomes.

These two components joined together make "designer babies".The parents screen potential genetic disorders and such to make their future children free of that. This technology, if used in the medical way, can be a good thing. If the family has a hereditary condition, I think it is okay to "design your baby", so that the child won't suffer.

With these technological advances comes responsibility. Technologies like IVF and genetic tests will keep improving, to the point where "designer babies" are really designer babies. They'll look like they've been designed. Pretty soon, parents will be able to design how their babies look: what kind of eye colour they should have, etcetera. This would be the cosmetic portion of the term "designer baby". This is what I disagree with. I don't think designing your baby's looks right. It is unethical because we shouldn't be able to do that at all. Children should be kept natural.
There are other things that come to mind when I think about IVF and genetic screening. How much would it cost? I would bet on a high price, and that would just create a bigger gap between the wealthy and those in lower classes? Also, humans have not yet experienced the effects of genetic structure alteration that would occur once babies start being "designed". The results could have horrible consequences. It may even damage the gene pool, which would be passed on from the designer baby to its offspring and so on.
To conclude, this technology is amazing, but only when used in the right ways. If used for medical reasons, it can be a great thing because it will be preventing all of the genetically inherited diseases and conditions in offspring. However, when this technology is used for cosmetic purposes, I am against it. I believe that children should look the way they are supposed to, from their original genes. They should look natural, not designed. Using genetic screening for cosmetic use may even damage the gene pool, and people should take into consideration the affects it would have in future generations. In the long run, this technology may do more harm than good.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Positive Human Interventions on Biodiversity: Defenders of Wildlife

With so many emphasized negative effects made by humans on Earth, it is rare to find something that humans have created that is working towards a positive effect on the Earth. But when something of the sort is found, it is really refreshing to see what we can do to save what we have been given. After all, we must leave the world better than we found it, and nowadays with media's portrayal, there seem to be more negative impacts than positive we have on the world. However, there are still organizations and many people who try to help the Earth, and more specifically, preserve biodiversity.
While trying to find an example of a positive impact we are having on the world by sustaining our biodiversity, I found this organization that seemed promising. It's called Defenders of Wildlife. It was founded in 1947 as, and 60 years later, this organization employs over 150 professionals, and has 500 000 members worldwide. These people are all dedicated to the mission of "protecting species and the habitats upon which they depend." To get this mission accomplished, they focus on "preserving the health of out nation's rich biological heritage (biodiversity)."

These are stained glass window panels, depicting all the wildlife and habitats protected by Defenders of Wildlife
Today, this organization is based in Washington, D.C., but their mission is not only based there. They work around the world, protecting biodiversity everywhere.

The organization is involved in many ways trying to protect biodiversity everywhere. Some examples of their involvements are: "Help Save Pelicans and Sea Turtles" and "Support a New Beginning for Wolves".

One of the many animals that Defenders of Wildlife has been helping out.

For a full list of the things that they are doing, visit: Defenders of Wildlife, Current Actions

Defenders of Wildlife offers various ways to help out, but the easiest way to help out with the cause is to donate money. By becoming a member and helping out, they will give you a free gift (a stuffed animal, backpack), showing appreciation for what has been donated. It's very easy to give to the foundation, and donations can be given online.

There are many stories of the organizations' success, such as the Arctic wildlife getting protection from drilling for oil this year, "Tens of thousands of Defenders supporters have spoken up and contributed to our efforts against dangerous offshore drilling that threatens polar bears, bowhead whales and other Arctic wildlife."

More success stories can be found here: Defenders of Wildlife, Success Stories

This organization is very inspiring in its attempts to sustain biodiversity. It truly is a positive impact that they are trying to inflict on the world. There is much more to this organization that cannot fit into this blog, so here is the website of the organization: Defenders of Wildlife

This assignment really opened my eyes to many different organizations with amazing goals and motivations, such as Defenders of Wildlife. I've never heard of this organization before, what with all the negativity surrounding our human impacts on the world, it never really occured to me that we do do things for the environment, they are just overshadowed by the things we do against it.

Don't Almost Give Website

Defenders of Wildlife

Sea Turtles

Artic Wildlife Gains Protection from Big Oil

Defenders of Wildlife, FAQs

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