Glossary

ABIOTIC
nonliving components of an ecosystem

ACCLIMATION
to become accustomed to a new climate or environment; to physically adapt

ACTIVE INGREDIENT
an ingredient that is biologically active in a formulated product

AGENT ORANGE
an herbicide used by the U.S. military to defoliate forests during the Vietnam War

AGRO-ECOSYSTEM
The area of land that is influenced by or that supports agricultural activity; land used for crops, pasture, and livestock, the adjacent uncultivated land that supports other vegetation and wildlife and the associated atmosphere, the underlying soil, ground and water, irrigation channels, and drainage networks

AIR QUALITY INDEX (AQI)
a numerical index used by government agencies to inform the public of air quality levels

ALGAL BLOOM
a rapid increase of accumulation in the population of algae (typically microscopic) in an aquatic system

ALKYLPHENOL
a commonly accepted marker of industrial and urban pollution; a family of organic compounds used in the production of detergents and other cleaning products

ALLUVIUM
a deposit of sand, mud, or other sediment formed by flowing water

ALPHA (MALE/FEMALE)
the highest ranking member of a group of animals that has reserved breeding rights and first choice of food from a kill

ANADROMOUS
a species which migrates from the sea to freshwater to reproduce

ANNUAL CROPS
crops that grow, produce seeds, and die in a year and must be replanted each season

ANTHROPOGENIC
caused by or related to human action; originating in human activity

ANTI-SCALANT
a chemical that inhibits or delays precipitation and subsequent scale formation

AQUACULTURE
Farming of aquatic organisms (plant or animal) in any water environment (ocean, pond, or river)

AQUEDUCT SYSTEM
a series of pipes, ditches, canals, tunnels, and supporting structures used to transport water from its source to its main distribution point

AQUIFER
an underground layer of permeable rock or soil that is saturated with water; a geological formation containing ground water

ARID
a region characterized by a severe lack of available water to the extent of hindering or preventing the growth and development of plant and animal life

ATMOSPHERE
the layer of gases surrounding Earth and held by Earth’s gravity

ATMOSPHERIC RIVERS
regions of intense moisture over oceans that transport moisture from lower altitudes to higher altitudes

ATOLL
a region characterized by a severe lack of available water to the extent of hindering or preventing the growth and development of plant and animal life

BACTERIA
a single-celled, prokaryotic organisms that lacks a nuclei

BALLAST WATER
water taken into the haul of a shipping vessel to provide stability

BASHAR AL-ASSAD
the President of Syria since 2000

BIODIVERSITY
the variety of life on Earth or in a particular habitat or ecosystem

BIOLOGICAL CONTROL
biocontrol, a management practice that involves introducing a predator to an area to regulate the population of a pest

BIOMAGNIFICATION
the increased level of substances within the tissue of predators as a result of consuming organisms that contain bio-accumulated substances such as mercury

BIOMASS
material from plants and animals that can be used for energy

BIOTIC
the living or organic components of an ecosystem

BIRTH DEFECT
structural or functional abnormalities present at birth that cause physical or mental disability

BORNEO
island in Indonesia, east of Sumatra, which is mountainous and has extensive rainforests

BRINE
water saturated with salt; a liquid with high salinity

BROADCAST
to uniformly distribute fertilizer on a soil surface without working it into the soil

BYCATCH
a non-target organism that is caught unintentionally when harvesting a target species

CALCIUM CARBONATE
CaCO3; a common chemical compound composed of three main elements calcium, carbon and oxygen

CANCER
a type of disease characterized by unregulated cell growth

CANINE DISTEMPER
a viral disease associated with canines that affects the lymphatic and nervous system

CARBON CREDITS
a permit that represents carbon removed from the atmosphere, which can be purchased by companies or governments to offset the carbon emissions they generate

CARBON SINK
a process or material in an environment that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

CARCINOGENIC
cancer causing

CARRYING CAPACITY
the population size that an area can support indefinitely

CERES
a non-profit organization advocating for sustainability leadership

CESIUM-137
one of the common fission products of uranium nuclear power plants

CLEAN AIR ACT
U.S. law that authorizes the EPA to set standards for dangerous air pollutants and enforce those standards

CLEAN WATER ACT
U.S. federal legislation that regulates the release of point source pollution into surface waters and sets water quality standards for those waters

CLIMATE
long-term weather conditions in a particular region

CLIMATE CHANGE
a change in global climate patterns such as rainfall and average regional temperature

CLIMATOLOGY
the scientific study of Earth’s climates, climate variability, climate change, and effects of climate on the biosphere

CNIDARIAN
an invertebrate belonging to the Cnidarian phylum; they are characterized to have radial symmetry and a saclike internal cavity

COLIFORM BACTERIA
type of bacteria that are universally found in the feces of warm blooded animals; commonly used as a water quality indicator

COLONIES
refers to individual organisms of the same species living closely together

COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER (CCD)
a disorder in honey bees categorized by sudden loss of worker bees, lack of dead bodies, and delayed invasion from attackers

COMMODITY
a physical substance that is uniform in quality and can be bought and sold

CONDENSE
to change from a gas to a liquid

CONDUCTOR
a material which easily permits the flow of electrons, often an electric current

CONSERVATION
a political, environmental, and social movement to help protect natural resources and wildlife from exploitation

CONTAMINATION
to make something dangerous, dirty or impure by adding something harmful or undesirable to it

CONTRACEPTION
a technique used to prevent pregnancy

CORAL BLEACHING
the expulsion of the algae living within coral’s tissues causing it to die

CORRELATION
a statistical relationship involving the dependence of two or more variables

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
a species that is facing a very high risk of extinction

CRITTERCAM
a camera that is attached to a wild animal with intent to study the animal’s behavior and ecology

CROP YIELD
the amount of product a crop produces per unit of land in a given time

CULLING
a method of population control that involves the killing of an entire family unit

DAMASCUS
the capital city of Syria

DEFORESTATION
removal of forest areas by humans for non-forest use, often for agriculture

DESALINATION
the removal of salt from a water source to convert it to fresh water, often used with seawater

DESERTIFICATION
the increased degradation of drought affected areas, causing them to become deserts

DIABETES
a metabolic disorder defined by high blood sugar and insulin resistance

DIOXINS
a group of chemically related compounds that are classified as environmental pollutants

DISRUPTIVE STIMULI
chemical, light, or audio repellents used to try and deter organisms

DISTILLATION
the process of separating substances in a mixture

DNA
deoxyribonucleic acid; found in all living organisms and contains genetic information

DROUGHT
an extended amount of time with little to no precipitation

ECOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA
a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of scientists founded to promote, conduct, and disseminate studies in the ecological sciences

ECOSYSTEM
all of the organisms in a given area interacting in a physical environment

EDNA
Environmental DNA; genetic material left behind by a species

EFFLUENT
liquid waste discharged into a body a water; outflow from a sewage treatment plant that is rich in nutrients

ELECTRIC FISH BARRIER
a tool that sends low-level electric currents into a body of water to cause discomfort in fish and cause them move away from the affected area; used to regulate the movement of fish

ELYTRA
one of the anterior wings in beetles and other insects that serve to protect the delicate posterior pair of functional wings

EMERALD ASH BORER
a green beetle that was accidentally transported from Asia to North America in the 1990s and has caused widespread destruction of ash trees in the United States and Canada

EMISSIONS
the production and discharge of a gas

ENDANGERED
a species that is threatened with extinction

ENDOCRINE DISRUPTOR
a chemical that interferes with the endocrine system, typically mimicking a hormone or preventing a hormone from having effect

ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
the system cells, glands, and tissue within an organism that is responsible for secreting hormones into the bloodstream

ENTRAINMENT
the loss of fish during water diversion often occurring when fish enter irrigation systems and become isolated when diversion ends

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)
a federal agency in the United States tasked with implementing legislation concerning the protection of the environment

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY INDEX
a measure of a country’s overall progress towards environmental sustainability

ENZYME
a molecular protein that acts as a catalysts and facilitates complex biological reactions

EROSION
the process by which something is gradually worn away by natural forces (wind, water, or other natural agents)

EUROPEAN UNION
economic and political union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe

EUTROPHICATION
the process by which a body of water is enriched with nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) stimulating excessive growth of photosynthetic organisms like algae. Human activities can accelerate the process.

EXTINCTION
the complete loss of a species

EXTIRPATION
describes a species that is locally extinct in one or more areas within its historical range

FALLOUT
airborne radioactive particles that gradually fall back to Earth after a nuclear blast

FARADAY’S LAW
Faraday’s Law of induction states that the flow of electricity will be induced on a conductor when it is in the presence of a varying magnetic field. this principle allows for the generation of electricity by moving magnets through coils of wire.

FECUNDITY
related to fertility; the actual reproductive rate of an organism

FIELD TRIALS
small, controlled fields of genetically modified plants used to conduct research

FLOY TAG
a small piece of plastic attached to live fish as part of scientific studies; a company which produces tags used to specifically identify live fish as part of studies

FOLSOM LAKE
a reservoir in Northern California formed by the Folsom Dam and that provides flood control, drinking water, hydroelectricity, and water for irrigation to the surrounding communities

FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA)
a federal agency of the United States government found within the Department of Health and Human Services which is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation

FOSTERING
when a female cares for and raises an orphaned juvenile in addition to her own offspring or after the death of her biological offspring

FOUL BROOD DISEASE
a disease in bees in which bacteria attack larvae and kill them before they mature

FRACKING FLUID
a combination of sand, liquids, and chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process which are pumped underground to break away natural gasses from permeable rock layers

FUNCTIONAL EXTINCTION
when a population becomes so reduced that it no longer plays an important role in the way an ecosystem functions

FUNGUS
a diverse group of eukaryotic single-celled or multicelled organisms that live by decomposing organic material

GAME RESERVATION
a controlled area used for wildlife conservation which sometimes allows regulated hunting

GENE
the hereditary material of an organism that direct the production of a particular protein and influence an individual’s traits

GENETIC DIVERSITY
the hereditary variability among individuals of a single population or within a species

GENETIC MARKER
a gene or short sequence of DNA used to identify a chromosome or to locate other genes on a genetic map

GENETIC MUTATION
a heritable change in the DNA sequence

GENOTYPE
the complete genetic content of an organism

GHOST TOWN
a human settlement, such as a town, that has few or no remaining inhabitants

GLOBAL WARMING
a scientifically observed and ongoing rise in the biosphere’s average temperature that is contributing to climate change

GMO
a genetically modified organism; an organism whose DNA has been altered with a gene from another species to produce a desired trait

GOLDEN RICE
a variety of rice that has been genetically modified to produce beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A

GRAPHITE MODERATOR
a nuclear reactor that uses carbon as a neutron moderator, which allows un.enriched uranium to be used as nuclear fuel

GREENHOUSE GASES
water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone; gases that contribute the greenhouse effect and global climate change

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT (GDP)
the total value of goods and services provided in a country during a one year period

GROUNDWATER
the water beneath the surface of the ground, consisting largely of surface water that seeped into the ground

HABITAT
the environment in which an animal or plant species resides

HALLIBURTON LOOPHOLE
a provision included in the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 that gave natural gas drilling and extraction companies exemptions from the Safe Drinking Water Act

HAULING OUT
leaving the water to stay on land between periods of foraging

HEGEMONY
a form of government where one state or group has cultural, economic, and military dominance over all others

HERBICIDE
a substance used to exterminate or slow the growth of plants

HIBERNATION
cessation from or slowing of activity during the winter

HIGH PRESSURE RIDGE
a region where the atmosphere pressure at the surface of the planet if greater than its surrounding environment

HISTOPATHOLOGY
the study of tissue abnormalities using microscopy

HOME RANGE
the area where an organism lives and travels

HYDRAULIC FRACTURING
aka fracking; the process of breaking up subsurface rock formations through the use of high pressure liquids usually mixed with sand and chemicals to extract gas and oil

HYDROGEOLOGY
the study of the distribution and movement of water through the Earth

HYDROGRAPH
a graph showing the rate by which water flows past a specific point in a river over time, or a chart that displays a hydrologic variable over time

HYPOCHLORITE
any salt or ester of hydroclorus acid; a chemical commonly found in bleach, water purifiers, and cleaning products

HYPOXIA
a condition in which a body of water contains inadequate amount of oxygen, compromising the health of aquatic organisms

IMMUNOCONTRACEPTION
a type of contraceptive technique that uses immunochemistry as opposed to hormones to prevent pregnancy

INACTIVE INGREDIENT
an ingredient that does not increase or affect the intended action or purpose of a formulated product, drug, or pesticide

INFRASTRUCTURE
the physical and organizational structures and facilities needed for a functioning society

INHOSPITABLE
an environment where organisms cannot grow or live easily

INSECTICIDE
chemicals used to kill insects

INVASIVE SPECIES
a nonnative species whose introduction is likely to cause environmental or economic harm; a nonnative species that disrupts the local ecosystem

IODINE-131
heavy radioactive isotope of iodine with a half-life of 8 days; a major product produced by uranium plutonium nuclear power plants

ISOTOPE
an atom of a given element that differs in the number of neutrons in its nucleus

IVORY
mammalian teeth or tusk composed of mostly dentin, the desirable white material in which elephant tusks are made

KEYSTONE SPECIES
a species whose presence in its ecosystem is necessary to prevent the system from collapse

LACTATION
when mammary glands (breast tissue) secretes milk, often occurring after a female has given birth and is supporting offspring

LANDSAT
a satellite imagery program first launched in 1972

LARVAE
the immature and often wormlike feeding form that hatches from the egg of many insects that have a metaphoric lifecycle

LETHAL CONTROL
a method of controlling wildlife populations that result in the death of individuals from the target population

LIMITING NUTRIENT
a nutrient in limited supply relative to others that when exhausted prevents further growth of an organism

MACRONUTRIENT
in the case of plants, phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium; a nutrient needed in large amounts for normal growth to occur

MATRIARCH
the female who is the leader of a family unit

MICROORGANISM
an organism that cannot be seen with the human eye

MICROSCOPY
the practice of using a microscope to study objects

MIDDLE EAST
geographic region northeast of Africa and southwest of Asia that contains the country Syria

MIOCENE AGE
the first geological epoch of the Neogene period and extends from about 23.03 to 5.332 million years ago, this time period had a warmer global climate

MISSISSIPPI RIVER BASIN
the area covering much of the central United States that includes tributaries that drain into the Mississippi River

MOBBING
when more than one adult male attempts to mount a female in heat; often leads to serious injury and has been linked to a boost in testosterone and uneven distribution of gender in a population

MODIS IMAGES
Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer; a satellite imaging instrument that views the entire Earth’s surface every 1-2 days

MONOCROP
a single crop produced year after year on the same land that is economically efficient but ultimately damaging to soil ecology

MONSANTO
an American multinational chemical and agricultural biotechnology company; the leading producer of genetically engineered seeds

MUSTH
a period in which a bull (male) elephant is ready to mate, characterized by increased aggression and a surge of reproductive hormones – mainly testosterone

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
a non-profit society established by the U.S. congress in 1863 in order to provide independent and objective consultation on matters related to science and technology

NATIONAL PARKS
an area of land set aside by the national government of a country specifically for the purpose of safeguarding nature and wildlife biodiversity

NATIONAL TIGER RECOVERY PROGRAM
a conservation program enacted in 2011 by the Ministry of Forestry in Indonesia with the goal of doubling the number of wild Sumatran tigers by 2022

NATURAL GAS
a combustible mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons consisting mostly of methane

NEBRASKA SANDHILLS
a region of mixed-grass prairie on grass-stabilized sand dunes, it is the largest sand dune formation in the western hemisphere

NO-TILL
growing crops without disturbing the soil through tilling or plowing in order to increase soil organic matter and decrease soil erosion

NOBLE GAS
any of the gaseous elements helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon, occupying Group 0 (18) of the periodic table that are believed to be unreactive

NON-GMO PROJECT
a non-profit organization that verifies non-GMO products and educates consumers

NON-LETHAL CONTROL
a method of controlling wildlife populations through actions that do not harm the health of the target population

NUCLEOTIDE SEQUENCE
the order in which nucleotides are situated in a chain relative to one another, which provide the template of a particular amino acid

OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
the decrease of pH levels in the ocean due to the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

OGALLALA AQUIFER
an aquifer located on the High Plains in the United States, it is composed of clay, sand, silt, and gravel

OZONE LAYER
a region of Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation

PAPAYA RINGSPOT VIRUS (PRSV)
a virus that infects papayas and is transmitted by aphids. Infested papayas exhibits yellowing, leaf distortion, and severe mosaic. The papaya fruit will have bumps and a “ringspot”.

PARTICULATE MATTER
pieces of matter small enough to remain suspended in the the air for long periods of time

PARTURITION
giving birth; synonymous with pupping

PATHOGEN
a bacterial, viral, or fungal agent of disease

PESTICIDE
a substance that is used to prevent or kill animals or insects that damage plants of crops

PETROLEUM HYDROCARBONS
the primary molecular constituent in oil, gasoline, diesel, and other petroleum products; the simplest of organic compounds containing only carbon and hydrogen atoms

PHLOEM
a complex tissue in the vascular system of high plants like trees; responsible for the translocation and storage of nutrients and water

PHOTOSYNTHESIS
the conversion of sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water into glucose and oxygen by organisms for use as energy

PLANKTIVOROUS
referring to planktivore, an aquatic organism that feeds on zooplankton and phytoplankton

PLANKTON
microscopic organisms that float freely in marine and fresh bodies of water PM10 particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter

PM10
particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter

POACHING
the illegal hunting, killing, or capturing of wild animals

POLLINATE
the transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma of a plant often from one plan to another

POLYCHLORINATED BIPHENYLS (PCBS)
a broad range of man-made chemicals used as a coolant and flame retardant; a chemical known to be carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and cause developmental and reproductive disorders

POLYMER SHEET
a chemical compound or mixture of compounds formed by polymerization and consisting essentially of repeating structural units

POLYMERASE CHAIN REACTION (PCR)
a method to amplify copies of DNA using many cycles of DNA denaturation, primer annealing, and DNA polymerization

POLYP
the individual base of a coral; sedentary form of a coelenterate

POPULATION
a group of organisms that are of the same species, which reside in the same general geographic location and are able to interact and breed

PRECIPITATION
weather activity in the form of rainfall, hail, or snowfall

PRESERVE
a protected area set aside for the refuge and safety of plants and animals

PRIMARY FOREST
mature forests of native trees that have not been affected by deforestation

PROPAGANDA
use of communications to try and influence a person or group of people with often biased information

QUANTIFIABLE
the ability to be expressed or measured in terms of quantity

QUARANTINE
a state of enforced isolation, often imposed when a human or animal has been exposed to an infectious disease

RADIOACTIVE
atoms that spontaneously emit subatomic particles and/or energy; emitting ionizing radiation when decaying

RADIONUCLIDE
atoms with an unstable nucleus, characterized by the availability of excessive energy; can be naturally occurring or artificially produced

RANCH HAND
an U.S. Military Operation during the Vietnam War that involved spraying millions of liters of herbicide in order to rid Vietnam of crops and vegetation to expose roads and trails used by the Viet Cong

REDUCING EMISSIONS FROM DEFORESTATION AND FOREST DEGRADATION (REDD)
a mechanism to mitigate climate change through reducing net greenhouse gas emissions; under negotiation by the United Nations

RESERVOIR
a natural or artificial body of water that is used to store water

REVERSE OSMOSIS
a process by which a solvent passes through a porous membrane in the direction opposite to that for natural osmosis when subjected to a hydrostatic pressure greater than the osmotic pressure

RNA
ribonucleic acid; a molecular structure present in all living cells that carries and transmits commands to build proteins

ROTOR
the non-stationary part of a rotary motor or generator; contains electromagnets which are used by the generator to induce an electrical current

ROUNDTABLE ON SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL (RSPO)
a non-profit organization that aims to transform markets towards sustainable palm oil

RUNOFF
the portion of precipitation on land that is not absorbed by the ground but instead flows into nearby waterways; waste products that are carried by rain into surface waters

RUST BELT
referring to economic decline in a region of the United States surrounding the Great Lakes

SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT
Federal law setting standards for water quality across the United States to be enforced primarily by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

SALMONIDS
a fish belonging to the family Salmonidae which includes the salmon, trout, and whitefish

SANCTUARY
a protected area set aside for the refuge and safety of plants and animals

SECONDARY PRODUCTION
the rate at which primary consumer organisms convert food into their own biomass

SEDIMENT
a solid material that moves and settles in a different location, often from erosion

SESSILE
an organism that is immobile or fixed to one place

SHOAL
a piece of land where moving water promotes sediment deposition, such as a sandbar

SIERRA NEVADA MOUNTAIN RANGE
mountain range in the western United States between the Central Valley of California and the Basin and Range Province, the majority of the range lies in California

SNOWPACK
a layer of compacted snow on the ground that often accumulates in high altitudes for long periods of time

STAND
a contiguous area that contains a number of trees that are relatively homogeneous or have a common set of characteristics.

STATOR
the stationary part of a rotary motor or generator; contains conductors on which electric current is induced by the rotation of the rotor

SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP
a close relationship between two organisms in which they mutually benefit

THERMAL PROCESS
a process by which phosphate rock is heated to create phosphorus pentoxide, which is then dissolved in dilute phosphoric acid to form very pure phosphoric acid

THYROID CANCER
cancer originating in the thyroid gland, which is located in the front of the neck

TOPOGRAPHY
surface features or an area or a region on a map

TRANSLOCATION
immobilizing and transporting one or more individuals of a population from an area of high population density to an area of lower population density where they will have less of an environmental impact

TROPICAL STORM
a localized, powerful storm that forms in tropical areas

TSUNAMI
a series of high sea waves caused by an earthquake, submarine landslide, or other disturbance

TURBIDITY
a measure of the amount of suspended solids in water

VASCULAR
of or relating to a channel for the conveyance of a body fluid (as blood of an animal or sap of a plant)

VIRUS
an acellular particle containing a genome that can replicate only inside a cell; a noncellular pathogen

WATER STRESS
a lack of sufficient water resources available to meet the demands of water usage

WATER TABLE
the planar level at which water saturated soil or rock meets unsaturated ground

WEANING
a period in which young mammals transition to sources of food other than their mother’s milk

WESTERLIES
consisting of the winds that blow from the west towards the east; a belt of major air currents in the mid-latitudes of the northern and southern hemispheres

WET ACID PROCESS
a process by which phosphate rock is dissolved in sulfuric acid forming phosphoric acid and waste products

WICKET GATE
doors used to control the rate of water intake through a generator’s turbine

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO)
an agency of the United Nations that promotes health and control of diseases around the world

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Glossary by Kylienne A. Clark, Travis R. Shaul, and Brian H. Lower is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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