Biodiversity in Pennsylvania

In this module we discussed biodiversity and how it differs across many different environments throughout the world. For this assignment:

  1. In 150-200 words, discuss the biodiversity within your own area, and how human and environment factors have impacted the level of biodiversity you have come to know.
  2. In 150-200 words discuss one of the endangered species in your area and what factors led to this


I live in Port Matilda, PA, a small suburb 25 minutes outside of state college. My house lies within an area surrounded by forests, including many small creeks flowing through them. In my own backyard you can follow the woods back for miles before hitting another neighborhood. In the years that I have lived here I have encountered a great deal of biodiversity and a variety of different animals and plant life. Most commonly my backyard is full of deer, turkeys, rabbits, groundhogs, squirrels, etc, however I have seen many other animals as well. My house also falls in an area surrounded by farms, meaning I am directly exposed to cows, horses, pigs, goats, and a llama farm down the street. Unfortunately, many of these animals that live in the forests surrounding my home are at risk for extinction, most notably the mountain lion. Over the years factors such as water pollution, dam building and disease have threatened their lifestyle killing many. Many of these factors are directly related to the actions of people living in this area and we must take charge to protect the remaining species.


One of the species in my area that is at the most prominent risk for extinction is the Indiana Bat. It has been listed as an endangered since 1967 and is currently a priority species in the Pennsylvania state Wildlife Action Plan. The Indiana Bat is found only in 18 hibernation sites across the state, with only around 1,000 bats in total. The bats preferred habitat includes many very strict requirements such as airflow and temperatures falling only one degree above freezing. Of the hibernation sites across the state very few offer the conditions necessary for the bat’s survival. The main cause of their extinction is the presence and interference of humans. Human entry into the hibernation sites disturbs the bats and causes them to burn up their fat reserves, making survival in winter impossible. Similarly, with the continued loss of natural hibernation sites, humans have interfered to create manmade structures for the bats to use. Unfortunately these sites are prone to collapsing resulting in the death of more of this endangered species. We must make efforts to limit our involvement in the lives of these species leaving them with stable living sites prior to stepping away from their living situations, and allowing them to survive on their own.

Information found at:

Climate Change

Climate Change

My diagram focuses on the specific influences of climate change and how the Copenhagen accord has shaped efforts to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. Climate change is a very prominent issue in today’s society. It begins with the burning of fossil fuels, which leads to the emission of greenhouse gases. These fossil fuels are burned by vehicles and industries and are used to power our cars, heat our homes, and run appliances. These seemingly mundane activities are contributing to the constant climatic change we can observe. The introduction of the Copenhagen Accord, while its intentions were good, lead to a lot of actions from our country that were less than respectable. As shown in my chart, the US used tactics such as bribery, spying/hacking, and hostility in order to coax allied countries into signing the accord. Poor and/or underprivileged countries were promises money in return for their signature of support, others were spied on and hacked in order to gain crucial information the US could use as leverage for their signature. Most notably, and least respectably, the US used acts of hostility and violence threatening the lives of those who did not sign the accord. While the Copenhagen Accord’s intended purpose was to work together in an effort to reduce or prevent the emission of greenhouse gases, the US likely created many less than stable relationships with allied countries in an effort to achieve this goal. Ultimately 140 countries signed the accord, but at what cost? We must consider the long term effects these behaviors had on the stability of our alliances.


While I do not necessarily believe that the State Department cables SHOULD have been made public, I think that it was important for that information to surface. I do not agree with the tactics used by the US government to coax allied countries into backing the Copenhagen Accord, and I believe it is crucial to call attention to these corrupt actions. However, access to such information could lead to backlash and consequences our country may not have necessarily been prepared to face. This issue is both interesting and disheartening to me. I firmly believe in the importance and promise behind the efforts of the Copenhagen Accord, and think that working towards more environmentally conscious alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels is crucial to the sustainability of this planet. However, these efforts were, as stated previously, almost overshadowed by the negative action taken by the US to insure that countries would back them. The US preyed upon chaos and instability in other countries for their own personal gain through the use of bribes and scare tactics. This particular situation is sticky however as the end gain was extremely positive for our environment, and this effort was entirely necessary. I believe however, that future efforts to protect our environment should me made not through brute force and promise of compensation, but as a united front working towards a common goal.

Module 8- Natural Hazard

My hometown is Port Matilda, Pennsylvania which is 25 minutes outside of State College. Located in central Pennsylvania, which falls in the northeastern corner of the US, Port Matilda is generally not very susceptible to most natural disasters. We are far away from any area that could be affected by a volcano. Port Matilda falls in zone 0 for earthquakes, having only one mild earthquake I can remember experiencing in my lifetime. We also fall in zone 0 for Tropical Cyclones, and are not categorized as being at risk of a tsunami or iceberg drift. We fall in zone 2 for hailstorms, zone 1 for extratropical (winter) storms, zone 2 for tornadoes, and zone 1 for wildfires. I believe the NATHAN map is very accurate as my town and most of Pennsylvania do not experience high levels of extreme weather or disaster of any form.


On March 31st, 2016 at 6:36 AM, a volcanic eruption occurred in Puebla, Mexico. While no people have been reported to be dead, and the damage level is unknown, I am certain that a disaster of this kind would have wreaked havoc on Port Matilda. I live in an incredibly small town with only 600 people populating it, and as the houses and buildings are set up almost side to side, a volcanic eruption would likely have wiped us out. The volcanic eruption reached heights of over 11,000 feet or almost 2 miles. A disaster of this size would easily wipe out all of my small town, which makes up approximately .6 square miles. Puebla, Mexico is made up of 281 square miles. An eruption of this size would only affect less than .01% of the town as a whole, while it would destroy 100% of my town as well as the surrounding areas. While my town would be incredibly vulnerable in the event of a volcanic eruption in my area, it is not realistic to say that we are currently vulnerable as there are no volcanoes near us, and it is impossible that we might be struck by a disaster of this kind. A volcanic eruption would have disastrous effects on the people of Port Matilda, as we have never experienced a disaster even slightly similar to this. We are in no way prepared for the types of mass damage that could be caused by a natural disaster of this kind, and therefore it would have detrimental effects on the health and well-being of people living here.


In researching the potential risk for natural hazards in Port Matilda, I came up very little as it falls in an area that is not overly susceptible to most natural disasters. We are at a very low risk for hail storms and tornadoes, and are most often susceptible to wind, thunderstorms, flooding and ice storms. Most notably, Port Matilda falls in a red zone for Radon exposure meaning that we are at the highest level of potential exposure, with radon screening levels falling above 4. This is very hazardous to the health of our residents. (Centre County)

Centre County, PA Radon Risk and Information. (n.d.). Retrieved April 01, 2016, from


Most of the hazards that face my town are not within our control, however we can work to be prepared for such situations. My high school was incredibly susceptible to flooding as our north building was built at the bottom of a slope down from the south building. Any time it rained heavily, the parking lot would flood to the height of student’s shins, causing a lot of problems for drivers and students crossing the street. Radon is a more pressing current issue, but I am not familiar with the process of radon exposure prevention and protection. I believe it is important to make people aware of the radon levels within their homes and encourage procedures for safe living and minimal exposure to protect health of residents.

Urban Planning

While I’ve always told people that I am from State College, Pennsylvania, I technically live in a small town just outside of State College called Port Matilda. Port Matilda can be separated into two parts, Residential and Downtown. The residential area (where my house is located) is an Automobile Suburb, while the “downtown” area is more of a Streetcar suburb. The town as a whole has just over 600 people. The town has very little to it outside of a salon inside my neighbor’s home, a small gas station, a pizza place, and one actual restaurant. The nearest grocery store is 25 minutes away, and the schools I attended over the years ranged anywhere from 20-35 minutes away. I have lived in this town for almost my entire life, attending the recreation program at the local community center, and cheerleading for the local youth league founded by my next door neighbor. I have a lot of love for this small town in its simplicity, even if I often wish it was closer to State College.

The first city I have chosen to focus on is Rochester, New York. The neighborhood featured in the picture looks almost identical to my own, and the city as a whole is very similar to my own. Similar to Port Matilda, this particular neighborhood falls outside of the more urban region of Rochester (or in my case State College), and has very little within walking distance. Similar to this neighborhood and its residents, my neighbors and myself must drive to get almost anywhere. I have become accustomed to driving a minimum of 20 minutes to get to most places I need to be. This Rochester suburb, is geared toward activity such as bicycling, walking, running, etc. in the neighborhood without fear of interruption from city traffic leading to safety concern.

The second city I have chosen to discuss is Boston, Massachusetts. Boston, specifically Beacon Hill, is very similar to State college in that it is a pedestrian oriented area. The town is set up strategically to make employment, food, entertainment, and shopping easy accessible through walking. While State College also includes access for cars, those who live downtown do not necessarily need one in order to have their needs met. This is similar to Boston as the appeal of walking and little necessity for travel, makes residents choose to do so. All of the stores and restaurants line two main streets, similar to that of Beacon Hill making everything easy to reach from any given point. There is plenty of access to housing for both students and families to take advantage of, making this an ideal place in which to live.

Food Choice and Social Norms

I grew up in a family that was always on the move. As my siblings and I all participated in sports and clubs, we rarely had the time to make/eat family dinners. As we got older and more involved, it became significantly harder to find the time to make a meal before leaving for our various activities, and more common that we would stop for fast food such as McDonald’s on the way to practices. Rather than preparing meals ahead of time, or buying healthy snacks to bring with us, we fed into the social norm of unhealthy fast foods being the solution to lack of time and money. Fast food has been socialized as the alternative to home cooked meals, as it saves time, effort, and money that might be spent on expensive groceries. However, alternatively, consumers are damaging their health by eating foods high in sodium and fat, all to save a few minutes that could be spent making a healthier alternative. I have since tried to break this habit and eat healthier.


Fast food consumption is one of the leading causes of Obesity in today’s society. While stopping for food rather than cooking may save you time and money in the long run, the negative effects it has on your health can take time off your life. Obesity can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, respiratory problems, diabetes, or death. This is an extremely pressing issue today as obesity rates, especially childhood obesity rates, are alarmingly high. Children are being introduced to these unhealthy habits at a young age and without education on nutrition they are likely to pass this habit down to their children. I believe that schools should focus on health and nutrition in order to provide children with the necessary education to lead a healthier lifestyle. I also believe that schools should provide healthier school lunches rather than cutting portion sizes of unhealthy foods in order to cut calories. Overall I think this knowledge and action will help to slowly reduce the childhood obesity rate in this country, and we can work towards a healthier future.

Food choice diagram

Water Tracking: Kaitlyn Baker


Part 1A: The water source for my hometown of Port Matilda, Pennsylvania begins with groundwater sources located in the Valley and Ridge province where there are limestone springs and wells. The water discharged from these sources is pumped through a wastewater treatment plant before being returned back into the groundwater system near the Spring Creek watershed in Ferguson Township through pumps and piping. This water is then distributed to local homes and businesses. When water is finished being used it is discharged into the sewage system before going back through the wastewater treatment cycle and into our water systems.

Part 1B: For this section I chose to record my water usage on a weekend day, as I was home for the large majority of the day and had time to do all of the necessary tasks around my apartment. These are my recordings for Sunday, February 7th.





10 Minutes


20 Gallons


Teeth Brushing


2 times


.5 Gallons

Hands/Face Washing  

10 Times


10 Gallons

Dishwashing by Hand  

1 Wash (5 Minutes)


10 Gallons


Clothes Washing


2 Loads


50 Gallons


Toilet Flush


8 times


16 Gallons


Glasses of water


16 Glasses


1 Gallon


Total: 107.5 Gallons


Part 1C: In preparing for this experiment I considered each activity, and the amount of water used before determining the necessity of each thing. I deemed teeth brushing, toilet flushing, and glasses of water to be necessary. While I typically shower every morning, I chose to shower the night prior to my experiment so as to cut down on my water use by a lot for the day I chose. Throughout the course of the day I only used paper/plastic products when eating to eliminate the need for washing dishes. I also prepared only foods that did not require water for cooking. When it came to drinking water, I limited myself to only 3 glasses of water (one at each meal). This proved to be the most difficult for me as I typically drink double (if not more) the recommended amount of water. I brushed my teeth once in the morning and once in the evening, being careful to turn the faucet off while brushing. Instead of washing my hands, I used hand sanitizer for the course of the day. Toilet flushing was the only activity I found troublesome to cut back on, but having only had 3 glasses of water, I only needed to flush the toilet 4 times. While I was unsuccessful in using only 2 gallons of water, I did cut back on my overall usage by almost 99 gallons, only using just over 8 gallons which I think is a huge success. This experiment was very eye opening, as I was forced to think about what is truly necessary each day. Having not had to ever limit myself, I’ve never considered how wasteful my habits are. Geography matters when it comes to water use, because not all people have the same resources and access to clean water. Those who live in areas where clean drinking water is scarce,  are likely far more frugal with their use of the water they DO have, whereas those living in a town such as state college, have readily available resources and therefore can use without thinking.

Ethics (questions 1, 2, and 6)

  1. It is more important to be a good person than to perform good acts. I believe this to be true because being a good person and doing good things are entirely different. Often, people who are not particularly good hearted, can perform seemingly charitable acts for their own personal gain. For example, I went to high school with a girl who was developmentally disabled, and mercilessly tormented by the “popular” kids in my school, as she regularly expressed her love for our school’s quarterback. This particular quarterback had known her since middle school and had always treated her with more cruelty than anyone else. Our school had a long standing tradition where on the school day preceding a home football game, players would give their jersey to a girl of their choice to wear in support. Prior to the final home game of his senior year, the quarterback, not moments after ridiculing her to his friends, offered the girl his jersey, making her dreams come true. The story spread throughout the school, and was featured in the local paper. The following week, the school board presented him with an award for his kindness. Although the quarterback continued to bully this girl following his seemingly charitable act, he basked in the praise and glory that came along with it. Thus, while he performed a good act, he was not then, and is not now a good person. One act of kindness cannot make up for years of torment.


  1. In almost all cases, the ends do justify the means. Often times, while something may be considered unethical in and of itself, its outcome justifies the action itself. A very controversial topic in today’s society is that of abortion. While I am personally pro-choice, many people believe abortion to be unethical regardless of circumstance. When having a child would be detrimental to the mother’s health, potentially resulting in death, can unethical means can be justified by the ends? In a situation of this kind, it becomes a debate of the value of human life, be that the life of the unborn fetus or its mother. While aborting the child may be unethical, it is necessary to save the life of its mother, and therefore the ends justifies the means.



  1. While I don’t believe my life to be worth more than another, I do believe that is important to put yourself first. As someone who has spent most of her life putting everyone before herself, I know the value of self-love and time spent on oneself. Altruism is incredibly important, but we would be naïve to think that being selfish under certain circumstances is fundamentally wrong. Perhaps the best example is airplane safety. When riding an airplane, it is common knowledge that in the event of an emergency you are to put on your own air mask before helping others. If you pass out for lack of air, you cannot assist others in wearing an air mask. Simply put, you are unable to help others if you do not first help yourself. Caring for yourself allows you to have the strength to take care of others.

Biogas system diagram


In my diagram I mapped how the use of wood vs. biogas use in cooking both positively and negatively affects the community and the people who live in it. I began by mapping the negative health and environmental impact wood burning has on the community. As mentioned in the video, the use of wood produces both excessive dirt and excessive smoke. This smoke has detrimental health impacts as it irritates eyes and can lead to chest infections. For women and children in low income families, this is a very common occurrence. I followed the progression of this negative impact on health and how it leads to a negative environmental impact, as well as its impact on mental health and stability. As the collection of wood is a time consuming and tedious task, adults need the help of their children. This keeps children from school and their school work, as they have little to no time for anything outside of this process. The environment is negatively impacted by the smoke, the use of the trees for wood, and the cow dung present in excess. I then switched my focus to the more positive impact that the use of biogas is having on the environment and the health of the citizens living within the community. Biogas eliminates some of the natural resources (cow dung) that make the community unclean and unsuitable, while creating methane gas for safe and clean cooking. This makes an economical impact in that the production of such gas leaves behind the materials with which to produce an organic compost. This compost production creates job opportunities for low income women, as well as increases profit for farmers whose product is improved by such compost. My diagram differs from the image shown as while in that diagram many of the elements are connected, my diagram follows two separate paths connected to the factor preceding or following itself.

Getting to know you

Hello! My name is Kaitlyn Baker. I am a sophomore living at Penn State University Park, and I am originally from State College, Pa. I am an early childhood education major, and after graduating I will ideally be certified to teach pre-school through 4th grade. I would most like to teach 2nd or 3rd grade. I am considering a minor in fine arts, which will give me the opportunity to be an art teacher if I choose to do so. Art has always been a passion of mine, and I would love to put that to use. Music is another of my passions, and my friends and I spend a lot of our time travelling for concerts along the east coast. This course is required for my major, which is mainly why I am taking it, however I do have an interest in geography.

The issue I am most interested in focusing on is human effect on the environment. My family has always been environmentally conscious, and after having taken an environmental science class last year I am interested in gaining more knowledge about this particular issue. It has become increasingly obvious to me that we tend to abuse the society in which we live under the belief that our actions (the actions of ONE person) cannot make a difference, be that positive or negative. While making environmentally conscious changes in your life cannot solve the problem as a whole, it is a step in the right direction. Each and every one of us have the opportunity to influence the world in a positive way. On the same note, we can influence the world negatively with our actions. Until we begin making changes, our environment will continue to suffer.