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Remember how much you cared about endangered animals when you were a kid? We've got some news...

Sometimes it can seem like the government can't do a thing whether they pass a law or not, but that's not always the case!

Remember how much you cared about endangered animals when you were a kid? We've got some news...

In the '60s and '70s, Congress passed a set of laws to get endangered animals OFF the endangered list. Guess what? It worked!

So, let's reflect on the progress we've made in 40+ years! Especially when that progress can be shown via adorable (and, when possible, baby) animals.


What still exists thanks to laws? Well...

1. Bald eagles

In 1962, there were only a little more than 400 eagles left (?!?!). This was because DDT (a chemical used to control pests) was thinning their eggshells, their wetland habitats were disappearing, and people were actually hunting them (holy moly).

But we've come a long way, baby! DDT was eventually banned, and a lot was done to protect the eagles in their natural habitat. In 2007, the American bald eagle was *removed* from the endangered species list ... meaning over 11,000 were counted zipping majestically through the clouds!

Not cute enough yet?

p.s. Did you know a baby eagle is called an eaglet?

"Thank you for saving me, and let freedom ring! I hope to grow up to inspire millions and be in commercials maybe." — Baby Bald Eagle

If you want more info, you can read up on all the details at this site by the Center for Biological Diversity.

2. Grizzly bears

While their natural homes were disappearing, grizzly bears were also being killed (again?) and having major problems with their food chain. By 1975, there were just over 1,000 bears total — down from 50,000 grizzlies in the 1880s! But, thanks to the Endangered Species Act, they were eventually removed from the endangered species list in 2010.

"Don't mess with my mom, and tell Stephen Colbert I say hiiiii." — Baby Grizzly Bear, who's so hip she knows that Stephen Colbert doesn't trust bears

For more info on how it all happened, here's a link.

UPDATE: While grizzlies are off the endangered list, they are still extremely threatened. We found this out because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service emailed us about it! There are some interesting complexities related to the Yellowstone population, but FWS says all grizzlies in the lower 48 states retain threatened status at this time (check out information on recovery areas from the FWS). You can see the official status of the grizzly bear (and any other federally listed species) by searching the FWS Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS). Stay vigilant!

3. American alligator

People were hunting them AND their habitats were disappearing (notice a theme yet?), but when they were put on the endangered species list in 1967, things started improving. For example, with Florida alligators, the population went from just 350 in 1975 to 2,085 as of 2005.

"Hello, friend. I'm glad you're OK." — Me, talking to this tiny baby alligator

Here's a bit more info on alligator numbers.

4. Utah prairie dog

Livestock and agriculture were getting in the way (and actively poisoning) these pesky yet adorable lil' guys. Not to be * dramatic*, but the population was down to just over 3,000 in 1972! As of 2010, it's back up to over 11,000.

Teeny hands! Weird nails!

"DUN DUN DUNnnnn" — Dramatic Prairie Dog

All the prairie dog details you can handle here.

*BONUS NON-ANIMAL FLORA RESCUE*

5. Tennessee coneflower

Residential and recreational development were threatening this naturally rare (it only lives in cedar glades) wildflower's life! But they're back, and ain't they pretty!

Check out the natural beauty of the Tennessee Smoky Mountains webcam, where many of these flowers live. Sometimes I look at it and feel calmed by the majesty of nature.

More info on the dangerous life of the Tennessee coneflower here.

Now, I know many of you — myself included — might say to yourselves, "Who cares about a flower or a pesky prairie dog? There are much HUGER PROBLEMS happening!"

But that's the thing — seeing that Congress was able to pass an act and work together with states and local government gives me hope.

If we can save a flower or a baby alligator, we can save ... America!

Why not? I know it's cheesy, but it makes me feel better.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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