PZ Myers updates this xkcd comic about how scientists think differently from normal persons, to better approximate reality. And I think you graduate students will appreciate the addition PZ makes at Pharyngula. Nothing like these little insights to bring graduate students closer to their professors, don't you think? :-)
Saturday, March 31, 2007
PZ Myers updates this xkcd comic about how scientists think differently from normal persons, to better approximate reality. And I think you graduate students will appreciate the addition PZ makes at Pharyngula. Nothing like these little insights to bring graduate students closer to their professors, don't you think? :-)
Friday, March 30, 2007
Blogger Bio Blitz Proposal for HWY 168
I want to participate in the Bio Blitz Project, but I particularly wanted to sample the terminal point of HWY 168 in the Sierra Nevada's (and maybe Dr. Crosbie's property). I know the first proposal is a long way away but I still want to drive up there, as far as the weather and climate may permit, or do a transect of several sites on HWY 168. If any of you have anything to say about this please leave a comment.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
We (those of us in reconciliation ecology and biogeography) have decided to meet on Wednesday, April 4 at 6pm in Science 211 to discuss our footprint project.
Because the CCRS is Thursday, April 12 (right after spring break), we need to finalize some preliminary results (trend data in the variables we have discussed). Greg will look up any conversion factors he may come across in "Our Ecological Footprint"; however, I think we should also delve into the literature and see if we find anything.
Check out these very relevant publications:
Can City and Farm Coexist? The Agricultural Buffer Experience in California
Urban Development Futures in the San Joaquin Valley
Craig, Karl and Vanessa hope you can make it.
Response to the Troll's Opinion (Anonymous comment to the previous post on global warming), expand and read the post below.
Whether or not global warming is occurring is a matter of opinion, hopefully your opinion is based upon the evidence that is presented and your interpretation of it, not someone's else view. So far from my understanding, I happen to believe that global warming is occurring, along side the degradation environment at a global level. However, regardless of my opinion or yours (whom ever), conservation and environmental protection are actually moral issues. These issues are blind to religion, and are based on standard practices of just being a decent person.
The issue of global warming, in most part if not all is based on the carbon emissions caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. Even if it was discovered those fossil fuels cause no change in the atmospheric environment, we as a global society need to reduce the amount of oil based products we use daily. The reason is quite simple, the amount of crude oil that is left in the Earth is limited, and there is not doubt about this. It may last between 10 or 100, or even 1000 years (very unlikely) more. However, due to this uncertainty WE ALL need to help in the effort to conserve this limited resource. This is not an issue of foreign versus domestic oil; it is an issue pertaining to the world as a whole. The same thing goes for the environment, it is a limited resource which must be conserved not destroyed and over used, like it was something going out of style.
Hopefully, what you get out of reading this short editorial is that conservation/protection of the environment is not a political issue it is an issue of doing the right thing. The simplest analogy is this: Oil consumption is like a buffet at a wedding, restaurant, etc. When you go to the trays you don’t extend your arms to the side and tell the rest of the patrons that you are not going to allow them to eat until you’ve had your fill of the top 2 or 3 items. Instead, you go up to the table(s), serve what you think you can eat and the other people do the same. Oil comsumption is the same, it is something that you should be utilizing only to satisfy your needs not your wants (which will never be met, just like in economics).
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I learnt last night that that beloved liberal media darling, NPR, staged a debate that convinced a number of people that Global Warming Is Not a Crisis! So we can all go home now.
This was part of a new series of Oxford Style Debates NPR is bringing home to its audience in its new program Intelligence Squared U. S., available for download as a podcast at the website. I caught a few minutes at the end of the above debate broadcast on KVPR last night on my way home from our class (did anyone else in class hear this also?) - just a couple of the closing statements, including one by Michael Crichton, and the remarkable result of the concluding poll of the audience which found that the number of people in support of the proposition (that Global Warming is not a crisis) went up from 30% to 46% with a corresponding decline in opponents.
Now such a public debate (even if it is tagged with the name of Oxford) is no way to settle any question in science, of course, but it is likely to have some impact on public perception of the scientific debate (if there even is any). And since winning these debates relies more on rhetorical skills than on more mundane things like, oh, you know, doing some actual science (collecting data, conducting experiments, testing hypotheses, and similar tedious activities), they tend to be popular with deniers of science, e.g., Intelligent Design advocates (remember the great Fresno Oxford Debate about Darwin last year?), and, of course, climate change deniers. I'll withhold my judgment on the new NPR show for now, and you can listen to this one (and others, including one about whether America is too damn religious) to make up your own minds.
What got my skepticism meter buzzing about this particular debate was the composition of the debate panels - in particular the inclusion of the pulp writer Michael Crichton, clearly the least qualified to talk about this subject on either side. But hey, didn't he write a big fat sci-fi novel, with plenty of footnotes (which makes it more science-ey, don't it?), about how global warming is a conspiracy by environmentalists? And didn't he have an MD in a past life? So that must make him equivalent to any practicing scientist then, from any field! I wonder how much his presence alone swayed all those in the audience who turned around to start favoring the proposition - but he did display considerable rhetorical skill, sowing plenty of doubt about global warming, even while posturing as a rational skeptic who was "kind of stranded here" because scientists had not demonstrated to his satisfaction "that CO2 is the contemporary driver for the warming we are seeing".
So that settles that, doesn't it? And we can stop worrying about "the planet having a fever", right?
Speaking of Ecological Footprints, here's a radical attempt by one family to reduce their footprint, blogged at No Impact Man. There was a story about this family experiment in the House and Home Section of the NYT last week. Apart from media attention, and attending discussion of individual level measures we can take to reduce our impacts, how much of a difference do you think this will make to larger scale (let alone global) environmental issues? How effective are individual life-style changes are likely to be as opposed to larger-scale institutional / social changes? Further, how well do you think will such an experiment work in a place like Fresno?
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
This is what I read about determining the calculations for Our Ecological Footprint.
"As previously explained, the EF concept is based on the idea that for every item of material or energy consumption, a certain amount of land in one or more ecosystem categories is required to provide the consumption-related resource flows and waste sinks. Thus, to determine the total land area required to support a particular pattern of consumption, the land-use implications of each significant consumption category must be estimated. Since it is not feasible to assess land requirements for the provision, maintenance and disposal of each of the tens of thousands of consumer goods, the calculations are confined to select major categories and individual items."
That was the first paragraph for the calculation procedure of a EF. It states just what we've mentioned in class - that we need to find our resource estimates for our area before we can do any calculations. The book does give good examples on what we should take into consideration(food, transportation, services, housing, and consumer goods) as well as examples on how calculations should be done. By skimming through, I can tell that we're going to be doing lots of calculations!
Monday, March 26, 2007
In honor of National Wildlife Week, April 21 - 29, I am inviting bloggers from all walks to participate in the First Annual Blogger Bioblitz, where bloggers from across the country will choose a wild or not-so-wild area and find how many of each different species - plant, animal, fungi and anything in between - live in a certain area within a certain time. Pick a neat little area that you are relatively familiar with and is small enough that you or the group can handle - a small thicket, a pond, a section of stream, or even your backyard - and bring along some taxonomic keys or an Audubon guide, or if you're lucky enough, an expert in local flora and fauna. Set a time limit. Try to identify the different species of organisms that you find as well as the number of each species that you find. Take pictures if you have a digital camera, compile your numbers, make observations, set up your post however you wish as long as you include your numbers in a digestible fashion (I'll have more details on that later) - then submit it to me and I'll include it on the list. We will also be tallying total numbers of each species found, and then a grand total. There has also been talk of coding an interactive Google Map with distribution information, geotagging regions with a blogger's submitted information. This is not meant to be a contest, nor is meant to be a hard source of taxonomic data. It is meant to be a fun little excursion to highlight little pockets of biodiversity across the world. I should have a 160x160 button available for distribution in a couple days. This event was inspired by the National Wildlife Federation's own project, the Wildlife Watch. They will be posting a downloadable list of springtime critters in the near future that may be of use.
Jeremy Bruno of The Voltage Gate sent me an email over the weekend inviting participation in The First Annual Blogger BioBlitz:
We can discuss the details in class to work out how we participate, and what we can do to make this happen here in the Central Valley. If you are interested in participating, or even simply observing the process of how the network of bloggers takes shape in this project, please join the bulletin board Jeremy has set up. And if you are from the Fresno area, and interested in participating, please leave a comment here, or drop me an email so we can coordinate our local efforts here. And if you know of a cool little local habitat that you would like to learn more about, and this strikes you as an opportunity to get some data, please do share such site suggestions with us also!
Watch this space for more as we work things out.
In honor of National Wildlife Week, April 21 - 29, I am inviting bloggers from all walks to participate in the First Annual Blogger Bioblitz, where bloggers from across the country will choose a wild or not-so-wild area and find how many of each different species - plant, animal, fungi and anything in between - live in a certain area within a certain time.
Pick a neat little area that you are relatively familiar with and is small enough that you or the group can handle - a small thicket, a pond, a section of stream, or even your backyard - and bring along some taxonomic keys or an Audubon guide, or if you're lucky enough, an expert in local flora and fauna. Set a time limit. Try to identify the different species of organisms that you find as well as the number of each species that you find. Take pictures if you have a digital camera, compile your numbers, make observations, set up your post however you wish as long as you include your numbers in a digestible fashion (I'll have more details on that later) - then submit it to me and I'll include it on the list. We will also be tallying total numbers of each species found, and then a grand total. There has also been talk of coding an interactive Google Map with distribution information, geotagging regions with a blogger's submitted information.
This is not meant to be a contest, nor is meant to be a hard source of taxonomic data. It is meant to be a fun little excursion to highlight little pockets of biodiversity across the world. I should have a 160x160 button available for distribution in a couple days.
This event was inspired by the National Wildlife Federation's own project, the Wildlife Watch. They will be posting a downloadable list of springtime critters in the near future that may be of use.
It is not necessary to restate the obvious: that species are being lost because of our seemingly careless attitude toward maintaining biodiversity or in general, the health of our environment. Too many scientific papers document the effects of our harmful influence on the environment at regional and global scales, but what are the alternatives?
Indeed, does Michael Rosenzweig offer us a convincing alternative?
Rosenzweig argues that area is an important parameter that can predict biodiversity; in most cases, a logarithmic relationship between species and increasing area yields a positive slope. Thus, a percent reduction in area would imply a percent loss of species.
These species-area relationships (SPARs) yield similar trends when regional diversity is used to predict local diversity—echo patterns. However, archipelagoes yield an asymptotic curve with local diversity reaching a plateau and not a linear increase in species. Rosenzweig argues that this might be in part because the islands are sampled as one province rather than individual regions. If this is not a question of sampling, from a solely speculative angle, might this suggest the involvement of a dynamic phase (expansion of a species range) that regulates abundance between archipelagoes? Still, these patterns remain phenomena because the mechanisms underlying the relationship between the variables are unknown.
What we do know is that a loss in area affects species in a plethora of ways—for example, habitat loss and redistribution and/or reduction of range size. But how do small range sizes imply a reduced rate of speciation? This nagging question (a statement by Rosenzweig) teases my mind to only generate further questions: what does range size have to do with the rate of speciation? And further, is Rosenzweig using range size as an assumption to hold the species-area relationship that drives the concept of reconciliation ecology? Let’s suppose that large ranges have a lower rate of speciation. Doesn’t this assumption by itself undermine the species-area relationship? Because larger areas reflect a greater number of species and since “species are nurseries for other species”, in theory, a large range would have a higher rate of speciation. It seems Rosenzweig doesn’t offer a strong theoretical or observational correlation between range size and rate of speciation.
However, we concur with Rosenzweig that some standard conservation efforts are not effective and we all know Dr. Stoner’s perspective on the issue. Our modified ecological landscape presents us with the perception that humans exist amid these island-like patches of biodiversity or the idea that nature somehow exists decoupled from human habitation. Here, the concept of reconciliation ecology informed by the basis of SPARs finds its footing. The modified landscape (for e.g., from loss of area) can be used to maintain biodiversity levels. The string of examples (Rosenzweig 2003, p. 201-203) provide a convincing case for the fresh concept. But we could have ten alternatives and still be faced with the same problem because this in some sense requires a shift in our thinking, right?
Another tool for assessing changes in species distribution based on future climatic scenarios are climate envelopes. Like SPARs, climate envelopes do not address specific threats that affect the behavior and physiology of a species or human-related causes such as pollution and urban development on the redistribution of species. The Ibanez et al. review work is effective if area and climate envelopes are not used as sole indicators of change in diversity since they do not address in general, complex interactions. However, the review falls short of suggesting a particular predictive path or a pattern among the suggested approaches for estimating diversity. Rather, the focus is drawn to a series of questions that provoke a rethinking of current approaches.
Perhaps more interesting is the Butler et al. (2007) work on predicting mean risk score of farmland birds in the UK based on six components of agricultural intensification. The model assumes that the agricultural practices will have an effect on “diet, foraging habitat and nesting success”. In my opinion, it also assumes a uniform effect of agricultural intensification but in reality one of these six practices may affect a habitat more severely than another. Risk scores are related to the conservation status of the species in the UK; lower risk scores reflect a species that has a broad niche and the least severe conservation status. In addition, species with high risk scores also have a lower population growth rate.
The effects of using a genetically-modified herbicide-tolerant (GMHT) cropping system were examined; this method predicts a limited effect on farmland bird index (FBI) while reducing “above-ground invertebrates and weeds”. However, even under a 2020 scenario, current management schemes and the GMHT system will produce a positive growth rate only in a limited number of farmland species.
In some strange way, the predictive/theoretical aspect of biology seems more concrete given some failures of past efforts or the seeming lack of evaluation of effectiveness of current strategies.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Our readings for Monday will be about "invasions as opportunities or study" (IS2) and "invasion of American drainages by non-native fishes" (IS5). They will be posted on Blackboard.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
UPDATE (from Madhu, 03/14/07): Karl has revised the abstract, and you can see his new edit below the fold. And you know where to get the version open for collaborative editing, right?
While thanking Karl for the revision (which he had posted as a separate blog post, but I have incorporated it within this one), let me also offer some suggestions for making the collaboration more efficient, and keeping things better organized. First, let's limit the collaborative editing and revising to that document, and not create a new blog post every time it is revised. If you want to carry on an online discussion, let's use the comments thread for this post for that purpose. For example, if you make substantial changes to the abstract/paper, and want to let everyone know, you could leave a short comment to that effect here. Unless you want me to start a google group for this class as well. But I don't think it is necessary, and keeping discussion for this class limited to the blog will help minimize potential confusion with the other class paper some of us are working on this semester. Does that sound good?
Karl's original post (03/11/07): I have started the abstract. Please provide comments and recommendations. We also need to present some preliminary results and a conclusion. Also if anyone knows how to post a word document on the Blog then we can all start writing it online.
Reconciliation Ecology. Changing Landscapes and Sustainability: Fresno’s (city & county?) ecological footprint and the affects of urbanization. Department of Biology, California State University, Fresno, USA.Urbanization is currently a common trend seen in California, which transforms natural landscapes and can significantly affect biodiversity and ecosystem services. Located in the heart of California, Fresno County stretches from the Sierra Nevada to the Costal Range and contains the sixth largest city in California and some of the most fertile agricultural lands in the world. The growth rate in Fresno County is currently 1.9% and it is estimated that the county’s population will increase by 479,407 people (58%) from a population of 821,797 in 2000 to a population of 1,301,204 by 2025. To meet the demands of an increasing population the Fresno County General Plan allows for new development on 37,737 acres of land which will result in a loss of 2.9% of agricultural lands. Here we examine Fresno’s ecological footprint and the ecological impact of urbanization. The ecological footprint is a measure of how much biologically productive land and water an individual, a city, a county or a region uses to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb the waste it generates, using prevailing technology and resource management.
Revised text from Karl, on 03/14/07:
Provided below is a new draft of our abstract. I removed the section that describes an Ecological footprint and I think that we should end the abstract describing our investigation and include preliminary results. What do you think?
Urbanization is currently a common trend seen in California, which transforms natural landscapes significantly affecting biodiversity and ecosystem services. This trend has been well documented and analyzed in large metropolitan areas such as the San Francisco Bay region and Phoenix, Arizona. However, in the Central Valley of California, areas such as Fresno County only brief amount of information are known about the ecological effects of urbanization. Fresno County is located in the heart of California, stretching from the Sierra Nevada to the Coastal Range. It contains the sixth largest city in California and some of the most fertile agricultural lands in the world. The growth rate in Fresno County is currently an annual 1.9% and it is estimated that the county’s population will increase 58% from a population of 821,797 in 2000 to a population of 1,301,204 by 2025. Such an increase would certainly place more stress on the environment. To meet the demands of an increasing population the Fresno County Office of General Planning allows for new development to occur on 37,737 acres of land, which will result in a loss of approximately 2.9% of agricultural land. This set projection raises the question: What will be the effect(s) of losing agricultural land? In this investigation we examine Fresno County's ecological footprint and the impact of urbanization upon agricultural land.
Friday, March 9, 2007
If there is any single common cultural thread that is widespread across the increasingly diverse blogosphere, it is that many blogs feature some sort of photographic feature on fridays - usually something with a critter theme, and most commonly the critters are cats. Well, not to be left out here at this blog, let me introduce our first such friday photo feature, the 2007 Hooters calendar! Look below the fold for the image.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Spreadsheet for Ecological Footprint (EF) is has been created, read below for more.
I just made a spreadsheet that lists the topics and the people who are researching each one. The sheet also contains additional columns for websites to be pasted into, so if anyone wants to look at the resource that other people are using it is possible to get an idea.
The title of the spreadsheet is Topics for EF Fresno, it should be accessible via this link. If this doesn't work I'll try to post the adjustments or some other link but the title is still "Topics for EF Fresno." I did try this link in a preview and it seemed to work, but inform me if it doesn't work.
Monday, March 5, 2007
Here is the URL address to the site that questions whether Jesus prefers Ferrari Spyders over Toyota Prius. Perhaps it will give you something to think about, who knows.
Saturday, March 3, 2007
While catching up with some blog reading as I sit here nursing my cold/sore throat this Saturday morning, I found a variety of interesting articles, some highly relevant to our conversations here in Reconciliation Ecology - so let me share a couple of these with you.
First, via The Tangled Bank, the latest edition of which is @ Neurotopia, I'd like you to read this thought-provoking piece on The Dynamics of Social Extinction. Its a nice summary of a symposium talk at the recent AAAS meeting (held not too far from us in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago) by one of my postdoc mentors, Dr. Charles Redman, director of the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU. I would like us to dwell upon some provocative questions raised in this article (both by the author and by Dr. Redman) about sustainability and resilience of societies. You've heard me bring up the idea of resilience in class several times, and Dr. Redman is part of the Resilience Alliance, which promotes interdisciplinary thinking and research in this important area. I hope we will sink our teeth into the topic some more over the coming weeks, and you may consider it as part of the background perspectives for our collective class project.
Next (also via Tangled Bank), if you want a depressing story (and who doesn't love a depressing story on a sunny California Saturday, right?), check out this follow-up to what was apparently an Earth-Day inspired attempt to recycle tires (yes, them rubber circles covering the limbs of your vehicles) into coral reefs (yep, the very same biodiverse habitat of poor lost Nemo!). I had never heard of this spectacular eco-engineering effort before, and it makes me wonder - how many ways can we come up with to foul up this planet, even when we try to save it?!
Finally, since the subject of religion seems to keep coming up in some of our class discussions, and you may actually read this on a Sunday, I should share this from the always soft-spoken Pharyngula!
[P.S.: In case you haven't looked on Blackboard yet, I uploaded a paper for Monday's class, and some other reading material)
Dr. Stoner started the class of with a great presentation on conservation and park management in Africa. She provided a background on global biodiversity. There is a definite link between the growth of the human population and the decline in species. This is probably due to the fact that humans have encroached on more and more land, decreasing the amount of land for wildlife to survive on. Furthermore, people have degraded the few habitats that are left.
It is clear that species need to be conserved. But why and how should we do this? Dr. Stoner discussed two reasons that are on the opposite ends of the spectrum of why people should conserve species diversity. The first is that species have intrinsic value, meaning, they have the right to exist. Granted, this reason may not persuade the majority of people to conserve species. However, if those species served some kind of useful purpose, humans might be more inclined to want to save them. This is the second reason people might want to conserve biodiversity.
This brings up the issue of how we should go about conserving biodiversity. One way is to protect large areas of land. The “Yellowstone Model” was brought up in the presentation as an example of how parks were first protected. In its early years, Yellowstone was protected vigorously and people were kept out or the park. Even American Indian tribes that were known to inhabit the park were relocated.
In Africa, this type of enforcement has been hard to keep which has lead to so called “paper parks.” These are areas of land that are supposed to be protected but actually have little enforcement. Another problem in Africa is that large areas that are protected are not always very high in biodiversity. Also, only small areas of land that are high in biodiversity are protected. This is probably because these areas are also high in human populations. Dr. Stoner discussed that since there are new approaches to conservation that involve the support of the local people and give biodiversity an economic value.
Data to determine whether any approaches to conservation are working is hard to come by. There have been studies to show that protected areas experience fewer declines than non-protected areas. However, protected areas still experience decline.
The question was asked in class as to whether we really needed data to protect these parks. It seems like the data are necessary to show that protected areas are improving the status of biodiversity. Also, funding sources might be more likely to fund conservation if it could be shown that their money is not going to be wasted on something that is not going to solve the problem. Something needs to be done about the lack of monitoring in protected areas. One reason protected marine areas are doing well may be because they are constantly being monitored (for fisheries). A possible solution for land based parks may be to have tourists and rangers record what they see. This would provide more data for protected parks even if it were not perfectly accurate.
Another big topic discussed was how to change the behaviors of the people that live around protected areas. What is needed to change attitudes and behaviors? Is it community outreach, incentives, ownership of the land? I think there is really no way to tell this because programs are started and when it seems like it might not be doing well all the funding pulls out. We will not be able to tell if a method works if it is not allowed to be evaluated over a long period of time.
There were many other topics touched on in class, such as religion, economics and politics. It seems that these topics are always going to tie into what we discuss in class. However, I found the discussion on religion to be interesting. On one hand, should we discuss conservation with religious people in a bible friendly way so that they might be more inclined to preserve the environment while still respecting their beliefs? Or, is that approach dishonest because it leaves out major scientific contributions like evolution and manipulates people to get a desired effect? What do you think?
Friday, March 2, 2007
What the hell is going on? Is it me, or does it seem like scientific progress is backsliding?
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Here are some of the work we need to do for Monday's project discussion.
I think that our project and discussion needs some anchoring and direction. As a means of trying to accomplish this task, I will submit a few papers to Dr. Katti, which he may post on Blackboard. The papers describe the calculation methods and what they represent in each scenario (city vs country). Hopefully, you will all read these and from that point we can figure out the factors what we will be using in our project.
For Monday’s project discussion we need to fully (or in large part) figure out as a group, the factors for calculating the ecological footprint of our area. This brings me to my next point, we need to settle on the area whose footprint we are calculating. As I have come to understand, we were going to calculate the footprint of the Fresno's metropolitan area, including Clovis. In addition, we can also calculate the footprint of CSU Fresno to see if its growth correlates to the grow of the city. The other option to juice up our paper is to figure out the footprint of agriculture in the out laying area. We can than compare this footprint to the metropolitan footprint to see how changing from one type of land use, ag to urbanization compares.
So once again, Monday’s project discussion should focus on listing the factor we need and the possible sources from which we can obtain them.
I just found a hip/cool video about biodiversity via Evolving Thoughts over on Scienceblogs.
The original website accompanying the video has a fair amount of textual stuff as well on What is Biodiversity?. For more educational (edutaining?) material along similar lines, check out the Ecogeeks website where you will find their podcast of other similar videos, from something called The Wild Classroom!