behavior: The way something, often a person or other organism, acts towards others, or conducts itself.
biology: The study of living things. The scientists who study them are known as biologists.
Caribbean: The name of a sea that runs from the Atlantic Ocean in the East to Mexico and Central American nations in the West, and from the southern coasts of Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico down to the northern coasts of Venezuela and Brazil. The term is also used to refer to the culture of nations that border on or are islands in the sea.
climate: The weather conditions that typically exist in one area, in general, or over a long period.
climate change: Long-term, significant change in the climate of Earth. It can happen naturally or in response to human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests.
coexist: To exist at the same time as or along with.
conservation: The act of preserving or protecting something. The focus of this work can range from art objects to endangered species and other aspects of the natural environment.
conserve: To protect, as from loss or degradation.
context: The setting or circumstances that help explain an event, some statement or some conclusion.
coprolite: Fossilized feces. The word coprolite, in Greek, means “dung stones.” Coprolites are very important because they can provide direct evidence of what ancient creatures ate.
data: Facts and/or statistics collected together for analysis but not necessarily organized in a way that gives them meaning. For digital information (the type stored by computers), those data typically are numbers stored in a binary code, portrayed as strings of zeros and ones.
diet: (n.) The foods and liquids ingested by an animal to provide the nutrition it needs to grow and maintain health. Sometimes this is a specific food-intake plan. (v.) To adopt a specific food-intake plan. People may adopt one for religious or ethical reasons, to address food allergies or to control a disease such as high blood pressure or diabetes. They may also adopt one in an effort to lose weight, although this can be unhealthy if not done under the guidance of a health professional, such as a physician or registered dietician.
DNA: (short for deoxyribonucleic acid) A long, double-stranded and spiral-shaped molecule inside most living cells that carries genetic instructions. It is built on a backbone of phosphorus, oxygen, and carbon atoms. In all living things, from plants and animals to microbes, these instructions tell cells which molecules to make.
ecology: A branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. A scientist who works in this field is called an ecologist.
economics: The social science that deals with the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services and with the theory and management of economies or economic systems. A person who studies economics is an economist.
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.
endangered: An adjective used to describe species at risk of going extinct.
environment: The sum of all of the things that exist around some organism or the process and the condition those things create. Environment may refer to the weather and ecosystem in which some animal lives, or, perhaps, the temperature and humidity (or even the placement of things in the vicinity of an item of interest).
evolution: (v. to evolve) A process by which species undergo changes over time, usually through genetic variation and natural selection. These changes usually result in a new type of organism better suited for its environment than the earlier type. The newer type is not necessarily more “advanced,” just better adapted to the particular conditions in which it developed. Or the term can refer to changes that occur as some natural progression within the non-living world (such as computer chips evolving to smaller devices which operate at an ever faster speed).
evolutionary: An adjective that refers to changes that occur within a species over time as it adapts to its environment. Such evolutionary changes usually reflect genetic variation and natural selection, which leave a new type of organism better suited for its environment than its ancestors. The newer type is not necessarily more “advanced,” just better adapted to the conditions in which it developed.
extinct: An adjective that describes a species for which there are no living members.
extinction: The permanent loss of a species, family or larger group of organisms.
fault: In geology, a fracture along which there is movement of part of Earth’s lithosphere.
feces: A body’s solid waste, made up of undigested food, bacteria and water. The feces of larger animals are sometimes also called dung.
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.
fossil: Any preserved remains or traces of ancient life. There are many different types of fossils: The bones and other body parts of dinosaurs are called “body fossils.” Things like footprints are called “trace fossils.” Even specimens of dinosaur poop are fossils. The process of forming fossils is called fossilization.
genetic: Having to do with chromosomes, DNA and the genes contained within DNA. The field of science dealing with these biological instructions is known as genetics. People who work in this field are geneticists.
ice age: Earth has experienced at least five major ice ages, which are prolonged periods of unusually cold weather experienced by much of the planet. During that time, which can last hundreds to thousands of years, glaciers and ice sheets expand in size and depth. The most recent ice age peaked 21,500 years ago, but continued until about 13,000 years ago.
lens: (in social issues) An attitude or perspective that helps bring broad issues into focus.
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.
paleontologist: A scientist who specializes in studying fossils, the remains of ancient organisms.
Pleistocene: The earlier epoch of the Quaternary Period. It ranged from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago. The term can also refer to rocks that from this period. During this time, periods of Ice Ages and interglacial warming occurred. The mammoth was one of the largest land animals from this time.
policies: Plans, 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.
rodent: A mammal of the order Rodentia, a group that includes mice, rats, squirrels, guinea pigs, hamsters and porcupines.
rooster: An adult male chicken.
shrew: A mouse-sized, insect-eating mammal. Related to moles, it’s chiefly active at night. Shrews have a long, pointed snout and tiny eyes. Despite looking somewhat mouse-like, a shrew is not a rodent (which a mouse is).
sloth: A slow moving, plant-eating mammal that lives in tropical rainforests in the Western Hemisphere. Most of these tree dwellers sleep all but four to nine hours a day.
species: A group of similar organisms capable of producing offspring that can survive and reproduce.
system: A network of parts that together work to achieve some function. For instance, the blood, vessels and heart are primary components of the human body’s circulatory system. Similarly, trains, platforms, tracks, roadway signals and overpasses are among the potential components of a nation’s railway system. System can even be applied to the processes or ideas that are part of some method or ordered set of procedures for getting a task done.
tar: A thick, viscous black flammable goo derived from coal or wood. It consists of a range of hydrocarbons, resins, alcohols and more.
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.”
tool: An object that a person or other animal makes or obtains and then uses to carry out some purpose such as reaching food, defending itself or grooming.
tree of life: A diagram that uses a branched, treelike structure to show how organisms relate to one another. Outer, twiglike, branches represent species alive today. Ancestors of today’s species will lie on thicker limbs, ones closer to the trunk.
undergrad: Short for undergraduate, which is a student at a two- or four-year college.
urban: Of or related to cities, especially densely populated ones or regions where lots of traffic and industrial activity occurs. The development or buildup of urban areas is a phenomenon known as urbanization.
venom: A poisonous secretion of an animal, such as a snake, spider or scorpion, usually transmitted by a bite or sting.
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.