Natural Environment Reference


A chemical element which at room temperature appears as a silvery metal in liquid state. In nature, it can mostly be found in droplet form in cinnabar (mercury sulfide) ores. Because it is a fair conductor of electricity and easily forms alloys, mercury has been used as catalyst, conductor, and to produce metal amalgams in various products such as thermometers, batteries, and dental fillings. However, mercury is highly toxic, and while it is still used in the industrial chemical industry, as well as in the electric and electronics industries, its common commercial uses have been significantly limited in recent decades.


A relatively level area of natural land that is covered with grass and often wild flowers. Meadows can be found in low as well as high altitudes, and in a variety of climates. In the American Southwest, small, open grasslands are a typical feature of the otherwise densely forested mountains, and can also occur around sources of water such as rivers and lakes.


A colorless and sweet-smelling flammable liquid, diethyl ether was used in the past as an inhaled general anesthetic. Due to its flammability, diethyl ether has been replaced by halogenated ethers or nitrous oxide in hospitals.


A young tree with a girth less than four inches in diameter at breast height (DBH).

electrical current

The movement of electrons through a substance or material, such as a wire.


A quality of richness in soil that has nearly equal amounts of clay, silt, and sand with humus, an organic substance consisting of decayed plat materials. Humus is the element that makes loamy soil incredibly fertile. This mix of sand, clay, silt, and humus causes the soil to be crumbly and prone to retain moisture.


A sheep that is less than one year old. Sheep (and lambs) were introduced into the Americas by Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century, along with horses and cattle. Among indigenous American cultures, the Navajo in particular were influenced by their contact with Basque sheepherders, who also were imported to the New World along with their sheep. Navajo traditional culture and economies grew to revolve in part around sheep, including herding, sheering, spinning, and weaving the wool from what are today known as Navajo churro sheep. Navajo weaving is renowned around the world for its quality and its innovative and intricate designs.

Lamb is also a popular form of meat, and when the sheep matures past a year it is called mutton. Mutton stew and roast mutton are today main staples of the Navajo diet.


In humans, the kidney is located near the spinal column, just above the hip bones. As part of the excretory system, kidneys filter toxins from the blood. These waste products are collected in the bladder and then expelled from the body as urine.


These evergreen conifers feature leaves that are like scales rather than the needles associated with pine trees. Junipers are well-adapted to hot, arid environments such as the high desert plains and mountains of the U.S. Southwest due to their extensive root systems. Native Americans, such as the Navajo, have traditionally used juniper to treat a range of maladies, including diabetes. Native Americans have also used juniper berries as a female contraceptive.

Junipers tend to grow and migrate in conjunction with the ebb and flow of pinyon pine stand secession. An over-abundance of junipers encroaching into a stand of pinyon pine indicates long-term drought or other ecosystem disturbances, such as over-grazing. In the U.S., the pinyon-juniper woodland range spans from New Mexico to southeastern California. It extends through the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and higher elevations of the Mohave Desert.

kangaroo rat

Kangaroo rats (Diposomys ordii) are a medium sized rodent with long tails and large back legs, which enable them to jump up to nine feet to escape predators. The kangaroo rat is almost perfectly adapted to life in the desert and can survive without drinking any water. Instead, it extracts the moisture it needs from a diet of seeds. Kangaroo rats have excellent hearing and can even detect the practically silent approach of an owl.


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