amphibians: A group of animals that includes frogs, salamanders and caecilians. Amphibians have backbones and can breathe through their skin. Unlike reptiles, birds and mammals, unborn or unhatched amphibians do not develop in a special protective sac called an amniotic sac.
basin: (in geology) A low-lying area, often below sea level. It collects water, which then deposits fine silt and other sediment on its bottom. Because it collects these materials, it’s sometimes referred to as a catchment or a drainage basin.
biodiversity: (short for biological diversity) The number and variety of species found within a localized geographic region.
biology: The study of living things. The scientists who study them are known as biologists.
birds: Warm-blooded animals with wings that first showed up during the time of the dinosaurs. Birds are jacketed in feathers and produce young from the eggs they deposit in some sort of nest. Most birds fly, but throughout history there have been the occasional species that don’t.
boreal: An adjective referring to something in the far North, especially lands dominated by pine forests.
Borneo: The largest island in Asia and third largest in the world. It is mountainous, covered by vast expanses of rainforest and sparsely populated by people. Part of its land belongs to the nation of Indonesia, a small part to the sultanate of Brunei and the rest to the nation of Malaysia.
carbon: The chemical element having the atomic number 6. It is the physical basis of all life on Earth. Carbon exists freely as graphite and diamond. (in climate studies) The term carbon sometimes will be used almost interchangeably with carbon dioxide to connote the potential impacts that some action, product, policy or process may have on long-term atmospheric warming.
carbon dioxide: (or CO2) A colorless, odorless gas produced by all animals when the oxygen they inhale reacts with the carbon-rich foods that they’ve eaten. Carbon dioxide also is released when organic matter burns (including fossil fuels like oil or gas). Carbon dioxide acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere. Plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen during photosynthesis, the process they use to make their own food.
caribou: Antler-wielding North American deer belonging to the species Rangifer tarandus. They are the same species as the European reindeer, although the two groups show enough subtle differences to be considered subspecies. Caribou tend to be a bit bigger and their fur is not as thick or dense as a reindeer’s.
climate: The weather conditions that typically exist in one area, in general, or over a long period.
colleague: Someone who works with another; a co-worker or team member.
consensus: An opinion or conclusion shared by most, if not all, of a specific group.
conservation: The act of preserving or protecting something.
conservation biologist: A scientist who investigates ways to help preserve ecosystems and especially species that are in danger of extinction.
conserve: To protect, as from loss or degradation.
continent: (in geology) The huge land masses that sit upon tectonic plates. In modern times, there are six established geologic continents: North America, South America, Eurasia, Africa, Australia and Antarctica. In 2017, scientists also made the case for yet another: Zealandia.
coral: Marine animals that often produce a hard and stony exoskeleton and tend to live on reefs (the exoskeletons of dead ancestor corals).
COVID-19: A name given to the disease that caused a massive global outbreak. It first emerged in December 2019 and is caused by a new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms include pneumonia, fever, headaches, blood clots and trouble breathing.
crop: (in agriculture) A type of plant grown intentionally grown and nurtured by farmers, such as corn, coffee or tomatoes. Or the term could apply to the part of the plant harvested and sold by farmers.
development: (in economics and social sciences) The conversion of land from its natural state into another so that it can be used for housing, agriculture, or resource development.
dire: An adjective that means grave, or hard to survive.
diversity: A broad spectrum of similar items, ideas or people. In a social context, it may refer to a diversity of experiences and cultural backgrounds. (in biology) A range of different life forms.
ecosystem: A group of interacting living organisms — including microorganisms, plants and animals — and their physical environment within a particular climate. Examples include tropical reefs, rainforests, alpine meadows and polar tundra. The term can also be applied to elements that make up some an artificial environment, such as a company, classroom or the internet.
environmental science: The study of ecosystems to help identify environmental problems and possible solutions. Environmental science can bring together many fields including physics, chemistry, biology and oceanography to understand how ecosystems function and how humans can coexist with them in harmony. People who work in this field are known as environmental scientists.
European Union: The confederation of 27 European countries that have agreed to work peacefully together. Residents of EU can move freely between its member countries and sell goods to them. Most members have also adopted the same currency, known as the Euro.
extinction: (adj. extinct) The permanent loss of a species, family or larger group of organisms.
focus: (in physics) The point at which rays (of light or heat for example) converge sometimes with the aid of a lens. (In vision, verb, “to focus”) The action a person’s eyes take to adapt to light and distance, enabling them to see objects clearly. (in behavior) To look or concentrate intently on some particular point or thing.
Great Barrier Reef: Some 2,300 kilometers (1,430 miles) long, this natural coral habitat is the largest living structure on Earth. In coastal waters off of northeastern Australia, It’s big enough to see from space. It’s home to some 3,000 coral reefs, 600 islands, and hundreds of types of 600 types corals, more jellyfish, mollusks, worms and fish. It’s also patrolled by more than 30 species of whales and dolphins.
Greenland: The world’s largest island, Greenland sits between the Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic. Although it is technically part of North America (sitting just east of Northern Canada), Greenland has been linked more politically to Europe. Ice covers roughly 80 percent of Greenland. Although this is the 12th biggest nation (based on surface area), Greenland averages the fewest people per square kilometer of its surface area.
habitat: The area or natural environment in which an animal or plant normally lives, such as a desert, coral reef or freshwater lake. A habitat can be home to thousands of different species.
illusion: A thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses.
indigenous: Native to some region. (in anthropology) An adjective used to describe people that have lived for eons in some region, developing a culture that reflects the resources, climate and ecosystems of that place.
inherent: An adjective that describes some trait or condition that is always present in something or is a critical feature of it.
mammal: A warm-blooded animal distinguished by the possession of hair or fur, the secretion of milk by females for feeding their young, and (typically) the bearing of live young.
marine: Having to do with the ocean world or environment.
oceanography: (adj. oceanographic) The branch of science that deals with the physical and biological properties and phenomena of the oceans. People who work in this field are known as oceanographers.
pandemic: An epidemic that affects a large proportion of the population across a country or the world.
policy: A plan, stated guidelines or agreed-upon rules of action to apply in certain specific circumstances. For instance, a school could have a policy on when to permit snow days or how many excused absences it would allow a student in a given year.
prey: (n.) Animal species eaten by others. (v.) To attack and eat another species.
rainforest: Dense forest rich in biodiversity found in tropical areas with consistent heavy rainfall.
range: The full extent or distribution of something. For instance, a plant or animal’s range is the area over which it naturally exists. (in math or for measurements) The extent to which variation in values is possible. Also, the distance within which something can be reached or perceived.
reef: A ridge of rock, coral or sand. It rises up from the seafloor and may come to just above or just under the water’s surface.
reptile: Cold-blooded vertebrate animals, whose skin is covered with scales or horny plates. Snakes, turtles, lizards and alligators are all reptiles.
savannah: An open, largely treeless landscape in tropical and subtropical environments that is dominated by grasses.
sea: An ocean (or region that is part of an ocean). Unlike lakes and streams, seawater — or ocean water — is salty.
species: A group of similar organisms capable of producing offspring that can survive and reproduce.
strategy: A thoughtful and clever plan for achieving some difficult or challenging goal.
sustainable: An adjective to describe the use of resources in a such a way that they will continue to be available long into the future.
terrestrial: Having to do with planet Earth, especially its land. Terra is Latin for Earth.
threatened: (in conservation biology) A designation given to species that are at high risk of going extinct. These species are not as imperiled however, as those considered “endangered.”
tract: A particular, well-defined area. It can be a patch of land, such as the area on which a house is located. Or it can be a bit of real estate in the body.
vertebrate: The group of animals with a brain, two eyes, and a stiff nerve cord or backbone running down the back. This group includes amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and most fish.