... you know, the one that opened in Petersburg, Kentucky this Memorial Day, and has been all over the news? Well, you may visit that if you are in the region and want some amusement - or need to raise your blood pressure. Like that pathetic "fair-and-balanced" review in the New York Times did to me. Fortunately, there is an excellent antidote, from (who else) Dr. PZ Myers, who has waded through a flood of media coverage and blog commentary to compile a carnival: The Creation Museum. That's the one you should be visiting this sunday.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Rachel Carson would have been a 100 years old today, had she not lost her battle to breast cancer in 1964, 18 months after publishing her seminal work, Silent Spring, which many consider the birthpoint of the modern environmental movement in the US. I remember reading it and being affected quite powerfully while I was in college in Bombay some 20+ years ago, and wondering why DDT had not yet been banned in India (it was banned, for agricultural use, in 1989, but not for malarial mosquito control). Silent Spring (like Barry Commoner's The Closing Circle), was one of the first books I had read which showed not only that science had a role in helping us understand how the world worked, and how we humans interact with it (for better or worse), but also that scientists could (and indeed should) play an active role in shaping the public discourse on the relationship between humans and nature.
And that role is even more urgent now, especially here in the US, where science and reason have been taking quite a beating lately. It shouldn't be surprising therefore, to note that the US Senate failed to take up a measure to honor Rachel Carson in time for her birth centenary! The resolution was blocked, using senate rules, by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla) who likened Silent Spring to "junk science", no less!! These guys know all about junk science don't they?! Anyway, I don't want to sully my (and your) remembrance of Carson by linking to any more of these sad stories of wingnut ravings.
Instead, consider the following for your sunday morning, this May 27, 2007, and may they inspire you to more positive action, to inherit and further her legacy, follow her model as a scientist, citizen, and activist.
- Read a nice essay by Elizabeth Kolbert in the latest New Yorker.
- Listen to Earth and Sky's (an online science radio show) podcast Considering Rachel Carson, featuring an interview with Carson biographer Linda.
- And, of course, you can read much more about and by her here, and
- Stop by (physically if you are in the area, else virtually) the celebrations at the Rachel Carson Homestead.
The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.
-- Rachel Carson, 1954.
Friday, May 25, 2007
My co-author Eyal just alerted me that our paper modeling population dynamics under urbanization is finally out in print today! Its been a long haul getting this thing out, and I plan to write more about it (in non-mathematical terms) here one of these days, once I recover from this last semester...
In the meantime, here's the full citation:
John M. Anderies, Madhusudan Katti and Eyal Shochat. 2007. Living in the city: Resource availability, predation, and bird population dynamics in urban areas. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 247:36-49.Unfortunately the full article is behind a institutional/paid subscription firewall, but I'll be happy to shoot you a PDF reprint. Just let me know. If you have online access to the journal, clicking the citation links above will take you to the paper. You may read the abstract here below the fold:
aSchool of Sustainability, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 873211, Tempe, AZ 85287-3211, USA
bDepartment of Biology, M/S SB73, California State University, Fresno, CA 93740-8027, USA
cGeorge Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center, Bartlesville, OK, 74005-2007 USA
Received 29 July 2006; revised 28 November 2006; accepted 20 January 2007. Available online 20 February 2007.
This article explores factors that shape population structure in novel environments that have received scant theoretical attention: cities. Urban bird populations exhibit higher densities and lower diversity. Some work suggests this may result from lower predation pressure and more predictable and abundant resources. These factors may lead to populations with few winners and many losers regarding access to food, body condition, and reproductive success. We explore these hypotheses with an individual-energy-based competition model with two phenotypes of differing foraging ability. We show that low frequency resource fluctuations favor strong competitors and vice versa. We show that low predation skews equilibrium populations in favor of weak competitors and vice versa. Increasing the time between resource pulses can thus shift population structure from weak to strong competitor dominance. Given recent evidence for more constant resource input and lower predation in urban areas, the model helps understand observed urban bird population structure.
Keywords: Resource dynamics; Predation; Population dynamics; Urban; Birds
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
A few nights ago, I joined a group of new found friends (Mikey, Matt, Ty and Ray) to grab a bite at Mimi’s Café in River Park—apparently, Chicken and Fruit is a hit specialty! I ate the Fried Chicken Salad…
Before dinner was served, I cared to notice the flowers on the table and took a closer look at them. My friends thought I was being a little weird, but I couldn’t resist a passing remark. I said something to the effect of, “this is an inflorescence of male flowers!” They got somewhat inquisitive about how I could tell a male flower from a female one. And, so I explained in introductory botany lingo the different parts of a male and female flower.
But every time I chance upon giving an explanation for such occurrences, I feel there’s always more to tell. It almost seems like there exists an imaginary divide between explaining small scale patterns and how they relate to the bigger picture. Yes, I just paraphrased Rosenzweig! After all, why must we expect people other us (the science types) to become remotely enthused about telling a male flower from a female one? I mean, seriously, there are more interesting questions, ones that would probably earn you a buck here and there—grant money. So what benefit does it serve that we know a bunch of facts but stumble when we have to relate them to the bigger picture? Wouldn’t such an approach, one that integrates small scale patterns and macro scale processes provide a richer and deeper explanation that would give people pause to reflect and appreciate the process of evolution—indeed the depth of time through which the world has evolved?
The more I muse about how to offer a succinct yet detailed insight about something as small as male and female flower structure, I find the evolutionary link is often given little or no mention. I have yet to examine how to integrate evolutionary explanations in every day observations, especially when others expect an amateur ecologist to tell them something more about nature in a more exciting almost hip style.
Those among us who teach introductory biology ought to consider, perhaps, teaching the course from an evolutionary perspective—I think such an approach would be more organic, one that integrates the various sub disciplines in biology in a way that makes sense through the process of evolution. In this way, people gain a deeper perspective on the mechanisms that drive living systems. It becomes a temptation for me to present mitosis, natural selection and biodiversity as individual, seemingly unrelated concepts when in fact the evolutionary underpinning of life itself should be accentuated within each area of biology.
Moreover, the concept of reconciliation ecology ought to permeate our own research work. Why must we expect funding agencies to care about the physiology of a weed species? Or as a matter of fact, our findings indicate that the tiger salamander is affected by urbanization in the Central Valley, but so what? When will people begin to become interested in such questions before we can demand any sort of action to the problem at hand?
Reconciliation ecology transcends our understanding of evolutionary ecology in human dominated landscapes—it should even shape how we address a research question within the context of humans and the effect our research findings will have on their lives. It becomes almost impractical to study evolutionary ecology devoid of human interactions because our species has unequivocally impacted the global ecosystem—the negative ramifications need no further mention.
Type your summary here.
Hi, you fine folks...
Did you see this on Yahoo news? This could be HUGE !!
Type the rest of your post here.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Have you ever wondered how Charles Darwin maintained an active correspondence with some 2000 people over his lifetime in the 1800s? Do you try to imagine what he could have done (or not) with email, the internet, and all this Web 2.0 stuff? Curious to read what he wrote to everyone from the scientific bigwigs of the day to shoe-salesmen who collected beetles over the weekend? Well, now you can, for the Darwin Correspondence Project just went online today with some 5000 of his letters!
Here's an excerpt posted as today's Daily Quote on the site:
I have not yet got your Poultry Book; though I presume that it is lying at my Brother's (for I have not been for a long time in London; my health having been of late very indifferent), & therefore I do not know whether you describe the plumage of chickens in their down: Dixon describes most of them; but the chicks of Gold & Silver Pencilled & spangled Hamburghs are not described, & I shd. like to know them.One more reason to be thankful for these intertubes, eh!
It appears that some people in Washington are beginning to hear the message about the importance of saving the SREL. I just received this update (below the fold) on Ecolog-L reporting that at least a couple of congressmen on relevant committees are questioning the decision to close down the SREL. (Washington, DC) The Investigations and Oversight (I&O) Subcommittee and the Energy and Environment (E&E) Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology today called on Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to continue funding for the Savannah River Ecology Lab. The mission of the lab is to study effects of the Savannah River Nuclear Weapons facility on the surrounding environment. It has been recognized internationally as a leader in radiation ecology and a training ground for future scientists and engineers in the field. “We are currently unsure why and how the decision was made to terminate the Department’s support for the facility,” wrote I&O Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC). “We ask that you continue to provide support to the lab until the Committee can thoroughly review the Department’s actions in this case.” “The Subcommittees deserve a chance to review the logic that led DOE to terminate support for a lab that has been doing world-class research since 1951,” added E&E Subcommittee Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX). “On the face of it, this is a difficult action to understand.” Miller and Lampson called the lab indispensable in tracking the environmental conditions around the Savannah River site and providing unbiased information to the public and the government about those conditions. The Chairmen have asked for continued support for the lab from DOE pending further review by the Subcommittee. They have also asked that the Department provide all records since August 1, 2006 regarding the lab and the decision to terminate support. A major benefit of the Savannah River Ecology Lab has been its long-term research and steady accumulation of detailed field records than can provide insights into, among other things, the possible consequences of climate change on the complex ecology of the region. Read the letter from the Chairmen to Secretary Bodman by clicking here. ###
So, thank you if you responded to last week's action alert, and I guess the message here is that we should keep up being the squeaky wheel in order to get the worm.
(OK, that's a mixed metaphor I couldn't resist using even though only a handful of people who ever heard Ted Case use it in his Ecology classes might get it!)
via Nadine Lymn of ESA:
Thanks to the efforts of many individuals, there seems to be a promising
development regarding the proposed closure of the Department of Energy's
Savannah River Ecology Lab.
See below or visit:
Press Releases :: May 16, 2007
Miller and Lampson Challenge Proposal to End Funding for Savannah River Ecology Lab
(Washington, DC) The Investigations and Oversight (I&O) Subcommittee and the Energy and Environment (E&E) Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology today called on Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to continue funding for the Savannah River Ecology Lab.
The mission of the lab is to study effects of the Savannah River Nuclear Weapons facility on the surrounding environment. It has been recognized internationally as a leader in radiation ecology and a training ground for future scientists and engineers in the field.
“We are currently unsure why and how the decision was made to terminate the Department’s support for the facility,” wrote I&O Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC). “We ask that you continue to provide support to the lab until the Committee can thoroughly review the Department’s actions in this case.”
“The Subcommittees deserve a chance to review the logic that led DOE to terminate support for a lab that has been doing world-class research since 1951,” added E&E Subcommittee Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX). “On the face of it, this is a difficult action to understand.”
Miller and Lampson called the lab indispensable in tracking the environmental conditions around the Savannah River site and providing unbiased information to the public and the government about those conditions.
The Chairmen have asked for continued support for the lab from DOE pending further review by the Subcommittee. They have also asked that the Department provide all records since August 1, 2006 regarding the lab and the decision to terminate support.
A major benefit of the Savannah River Ecology Lab has been its long-term research and steady accumulation of detailed field records than can provide insights into, among other things, the possible consequences of climate change on the complex ecology of the region.
Read the letter from the Chairmen to Secretary Bodman by clicking here.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
This blog has been quiet for a few days as the semester closes with finals this week, and we see where we go from here as the class which provided the starting nucleus for us here ends. The blog will likely live on, and I'll have more to say on that in a few days.
For the moment, as I wait here for the last of my Evolution class students to finish the final exam, it occurs to me that I should share some of the writing that has recently come out of that class. I experimented with an instructional blog for that class also this semester - but that was more a one-way blog, rather than participatory. But over the last couple of weeks, I offered students the opportunity (for minor extra credit) to contribute brief essays for the class blog. The guidelines were minimal - basically anything they have come across recently that has some bearing on evolutionary biology, and is something they want to share with others.
Their submissions are now all online, and I invite you to read them if you are looking for some interesting light reading, and a glimpse of what catches these undergrads' attention. You may start with a summary/index I've just added to the blog listing list of all student posts.
Feel free to drop by - browse / read / leave feedback in the comments there for the students or myself. And let me know if you think this is a worthwhile activity for future classes!
Friday, May 11, 2007
Since it seems to be Action Alert Friday, let me share another one that just arrived in my inbox from the Ecological Society of America - this one is about urging congress to act responsibly towards science and education funding as they draft their alternative to the Bush administrations 2008 fiscal year federal budget proposal. I'm pasting the entire message from ESA below the fold.
Dear ESA Member:
The Bush Administration unveiled its budget proposal for fiscal year 2008 in February and Congress is in the process of reacting to that proposal and developing its own plans for the federal budget. That means that now is an excellent time to contact Congress and encourage support of science and education at federal agencies. By clicking on the links under each agency listed below, you may access the template letters on the ESA website.
ESA encourages you to use the template letters to contact your Representative and Senators. We recommend sending either by fax or email with ‘Constituent Letter’ on the subject line. Use the following link to determine your congressional delegation and their contact information www.visi.com/juan/congress/.
If you would like further information on the budget proposed by the Administration for the coming fiscal year, please see the AAAS Report at http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/rd08main.htm . Chapter 17 of that report http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/08pch17.htm provides an analysis of the biological and ecological sciences in the proposed budget.
ESA’s Public Affairs Office would appreciate a copy of your comments. Please e-mail comments or any questions to Nadine Lymn, Director of Public Affairs at Nadine@esa.org.
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory’s funding from DOE will be exhausted at the end of May 2007 and as a result will likely be forced to close. SREL has worked with Savannah River Site to implement a new 5-year cooperative agreement with task-based funding, similar to what has been used for the past 20-plus years. The funds have been budgeted and are actually at the SRS to complete these tasks, however DOE has not released these funds to SREL. SREL programs are more important than ever, performing environmental evaluation for SRS programs that will process new nuclear materials.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
The Administration is proposing a $8.8 million cut to the Human Health & Ecosystems Program that would nearly completely eliminate the extramural ecosystem program. Also, a $5.75 million cut is proposed to the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) of which some $800,000 that has funded long-term surface water monitoring in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic for 20 years would be cancelled. Funding for EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) fellowship would be cut by $1.8 million under the President’s budget plan.
A $17 million decrease is proposed for the Forest and Rangeland Research budget. Fire suppression costs have been increasing and have contributed to the erosion of the agency’s R&D portfolio. The budget request does support the agency’s long-range goal of increasing extramural research.
NATIONAL OCEANIC & ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
NOAA supports intramural and extramural research related to its mission to “understand and predict changes in Earth’s environment and conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our Nation’s economic, social, and environmental needs.” The majority of the agency’s research is supported through the agency’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, which would stay essentially flat funded. The National Ocean Service, a mission-driven unit, would continue its decrease in funding since fiscal year 2005 while the National Marine Fisheries Service would reflect no marked change since fiscal year 2003.
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
NSF is the primary federal funding source for basic, non-medical biological research, funding about 68 percent of this research at universities and other non-profit research institutions. Under the Administration’s budget proposal, the Biological Sciences Directorate would receive a 4.1 percent increase, in contrast to the proposed 7.7 percent agency-wide increase. The budget would provide $24 million for the National Ecological Observatory Network, $15.9 million of it coming from the Research and Related Activity funds.
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION—EDUCATION & HUMAN RESOURCES
The Administration proposes that the agency’s core education portfolio grow by 7.5 percent in fiscal year 2008 after remaining flat in 2007. But the Education and Human Resources budget would still lag 19 percent behind its 2004 funding levels. In a turn-around from its previous proposals, the Administration would keep the Math and Science Partnerships program as a multi-agency program. (Previously President Bush sought to transfer it under the sole jurisdiction of the Department of Education). However, the program is slated for flat funding.
US GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
As the science agency for the Department of the Interior, USGS provides the expertise informing conservation and management of biological species and ecosystem management. Biological Resource Discipline programs would see an increase of $8.5 million. The budget would also include funds to pay for fixed cost increases, an expense that has not been fully funded in recent years.
USDA NATIONAL RESEARCH INITIATIVE
The Administration proposes a $10 million cut to the National Research Initiative, the nation’s premier competitive research program for fundamental and applied agriculture research.
Has the tide of public opinion—and, perhaps more importantly, that of the opinion makers in the media—on global warming really turned here in the US in the last couple of months? Are we really past the "debate" frame and into the "what can we do about it" frame now? One has to wonder, when its not just Oprah talking about it, and ABC News covering No Impact Man (whom you may remember from this post here), but when even Rupert Murdoch launches an effort to green News Corp.'s operations and programming!
So is FOX news really going to go green? Are we going to see them stop providing a "far and balanced" platform for deniers and industry shills such as Steve "Junkman" Malloy? What about Hannity and his rants against the "liberal global-warming hysterical people"? Will FOX actually start covering science in a responsible manner, leaving aside their usual political bias? Perhaps, but don't hold your breath just yet. It appears that at least some of the initial impetus for the greening of Murdoch comes from good-old-fashioned bottom-line concerns:
"Our advertisers are asking us for ways to reach audiences on this issue," Murdoch said. He also argued that the new climate strategy would reduce energy costs, help the company recruit top talent, and provide "a chance to deepen our relationships with our viewers, readers, and web users." Well, what do you know - the public can apparently still lead these media "leaders" in the right direction! Create enough of a groundswell of public opinion, enough of a "market perception" and the money will want to (at least appear to) go towards green solutions. That's encouraging, I suppose. So if you want to push Murdoch to really put his money where is mouth is, tell him to stop providing a platform for junk science, and start covering science in a truly fair way, without any fake "balance". Consider signing this petition (even though I generally don't like email petitions - but that's another topic), and keep your eye on this fox as it now apparently wants to guard the hen house.
Los Angeles tops the bad air list again. Storms and droughts continue to plague the nation and the world. Glaciers are disappearing. Coral reefs are disappearing. What will it take for the United States to change? How much destruction of the Earth is necessary to make people think this a problem that needs to be dealt with now?
The United States is a very generous country. We come to the aid of tsunami victims, earth quake victims, and remove despots from power. Yet when it comes to the threat of global warming we stick our head in the ground and do nothing. The warning signs are there. They have been showing themselves for decades. The retreating glaciers, the melting polar ice caps, the increasing severity and frequency of tornadoes and hurricanes. But there is still a reluctance to change. Is the change too costly? If we stop using fossil fuels and switch to zero emission energy sources will the initial cost be too great and our economy will crash? What is going to happen if we don’t? How many lives will need to be lost in heat waves, floods and other severe weather? The cost will be too high to pay if we don’t change.
The thing is we can make smaller changes now. But the time for gradual changes is over. Does anyone remember the gas shortages in 1970’s? Does anyone remember the public outcry for alternative fuels? Does anyone realize how much better this country would be off right now if we did this back when we should have and not wait until we have to? The President keeps spouting the evils of “foreign oil” when the problem is oil itself. This nation has the scientific know-how and potential to change. We put a man on the moon in 10 years. We could put a zero emission car on the road in the same time frame if we wanted to. Instead we are content to let Exxon make the decision for us and happily drive our Earth into oblivion.
This brings me to the news article about Los Angeles. If you don’t care about the glaciers and polar bears and the coral reefs, then what about the air in your own city? If these changes are made, could you imagine being able to see the Hollywood sign in Anaheim? Fresno State University is located about 30 miles from the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Yet only a few days a year are they visible from the Valley because of the air pollution. This air pollution isn’t only coming from the residents of the San Joaquin Valley but it blows over from the Bay Area and Sacramento. The Bay Area has no emission regulations on their cars because they do not have an air quality problem. Their problem becomes the valley’s problem.
California has realized the problem with global warming and is setting stringent emission regulations for automobiles. How have the automakers responded? With lawsuits not wanting to change. If we don’t change, if we don’t lead the world in the technological front, we will be left behind having to get the technology from other countries which will be far costlier and the U.S. will have missed out on a growing market. If we change our air quality, health and quality of life will improve.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The Savanna River Ecology Laboratory of the University of Georgia is about to go under, after 56 years of ecological research, thanks to the Bush administration's apathy if not antipathy towards science, especially in the environmental arena.
Read below the fold two messages on this issue posted to Ecolog-L this week. And visit the Save SREL website to find out if and how you might be able to help them stay open.
Howie Neufeld posted the following alert yesterday:
Dear All - Despite a concentrated letter writing campaign, it appears that the Savannah River Ecology Lab is slated to be closed by the end of this month. I received an email from the President of the University of Georgia today in which I quote:
"In recent weeks, UGA Vice President David Lee has had several conversations with the Department of Energy in hopes of breaking the impasse and obtaining continued support for SREL. Regrettably, it does not appear that this is possible. Consequently SREL will run out of funds at the end of May and the laboratory must initiate a close-out operation. We are working with the department to effect an orderly close-down of SREL, one that will minimize the human suffering and preserve as much of SREL's research legacy as possible." from Welch Suggs, Asst. to UGA President Michael Adams
Thus, an era in ecological research that E.P. Odum helped start comes to a close. I would hope that those still at the lab now would let others in the ecological community know what is in store for the facility, and most importantly, it's researchers, many of whom established international reputations while working at the lab. And what of the long-term ecological research projects that are (or were) ongoing there? Much could be lost by this decision.
On a more personal note, I can't wait until a more enlightened administration takes charge in this country, and the environment is put to the forefront where it should always be. I see this as one of the more shameful things that the Bush administration (and Republicans in general) have done with regard to environmental issues. I'm sure this is not how any of us would like to have seen this part of the legacy of E.P. Odum turn out.
Dr. Howard S. Neufeld, Professor
Department of Biology
572 Rivers Street
Appalachian State University
Boone, NC 28608
departmental webpage: http://www.biology.appstate.edu/faculty/neufeldhs.htm
personal webpage: http://www.appstate.edu/~neufeldhs/index.html
But it may not be all over yet, according to the following message, just posted on Ecolog-L from Prof. Rebecca Sharitz of the SREL:
Many of you have contacted me regarding the message posted yesterday by Howie Neufeld regarding the future of the University of Georgias Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. Indeed, the Department of Energy (DOE) Savannah River Operations Office has been blocked by DOE Headquarters from releasing funds (which are available at the SRS and which were promised to SREL both verbally and in writing) to support SREL research programs for the remainder of FY2007. Without additional funding, SREL will run out of money for its ecological research and environmental education programs within a few weeks.
For 56 years SREL has provided an independent scientific evaluation of SRS operations. Furthermore, as we move deeper into the 21st century, in the United States and globally there is an increasing need for vastly more (not less) credible scientific research into sensitive ecological and environmental issues. Without the continuance of the kind of objective scientific research conducted at SREL, responsible governments (federal or state) and institutions of higher learning (such as the University of Georgia) run the huge risk of losing much of their public credibility with regard to nuclear activities conducted on or near their lands.
Although the SREL budget crisis is extreme and urgent, the laboratory is not yet taking steps to close its doors as the statement from a UGA official quoted by Howie Neufeld in his message yesterday implies. Other possible options to continue SRELs programs are being actively explored. Continued and vocal support from the public and the broad scientific community may be a key factor in keeping the laboratory viable. Please visit the website: www.savesrel.org for information about what you can do.
Dr. Rebecca Sharitz, Professor
Savannah River Ecology Laboratory
University of Georgia
So tell yourself, and everyone you know who might care (and who, unlike me, might actually be a voter in this so-called great democracy!), to get on the phone, and call people on this list to register a protest. Let's hope it is not too late...
I'm afraid my suburban backyard doesn't quite offer this level of excitement of a morning:
Gary got up, expecting to see a bear in the trash or a similar scene. He saw the bear all right, but the rest of the scene was beyond imagination.Or, look below the fold if you want to watch the videos right here! But pause before you click, for this video may not be for the faint of heart, or those sensitive about cartoon predation a la Bambi.
Gary and Terri wound up with front-row seats as brown bear killed a full-grown moose less than 20 feet away from their home.
"I saw this wildlife spectacle of a full-grown brown bear on a moose and the moose fighting for its life," Gary recalled Monday, admitting he was still rattled by the incident.
The couple ran downstairs and got the dog (who was remarkably quiet) inside. Then they got their cameras out.
The bear worked the moose down the driveway and finally killed it.
"She tore apart the chest cavity, ripped out the heart and ate it," Gary said. "It was like she knew that's what kept it alive."
Meanwhile, the digital cameras clicked – and rolled – as the entire incident was documented in both still and video footage. The video footage is now viewable on YouTube (type in "moose kill driveway" into the YouTube search bar.)
On the other hand, I know our 7-year-old Sanzari will probably rub her tummy and go, "Mmmm... meat! I want meat!! Let's go to that all-you-can-eat Brazilian Churrascaria for dinner!!!" (And, yes, that is an actual quote from her a year ago when she was watching a snow leopard hunt mountain goats in the documentary "Silent Roar: Searching for the snow leopard"). So if you share her perspective, look below... but don't say I didn't warn you!
Monday, May 7, 2007
On April 20, Oprah did a show about how to go green to celebrate Earth day. The show was full of ideas that everybody can do to help the environment. Some of the ideas included not printing a receipt during ATM transactions (apparently this is big source of litter and waste of paper) and using less paper napkins.
There were a lot of simple ideas that would be good for people who don't want to sacrifice a lot to help the environment. I am so glad Oprah did a show on this topic. This lady has serious power, especially with women. Millions of women watch her show everyday. I hope this show has a big impact. I just wanted to let you guys know because I seriously doubt any of you watch Oprah.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
... is the IPCC, of course - the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is making the news on a regular basis these days. The US public seems to be finally catching on to the reality of global warming, with even the Fresno Bee running a front page story (from the NYT, of course) on climate change, and not including a single quote from any token global warming naysayer! How refreshing is that in the media world of he-said-she-said, and, every-story-has-two-sides, especially ones about scientific fact!
So you can stay ahead of the curve by reading the actual IPCC reports, available for download via the IPCC website mentioned above. Not all 4 volumes (form four working groups) of the latest round (AR4) of the IPCC report are online yet, but you can start with the first working group's report on the physical science Basis of climate change.
As I try to find some time, amid the thin interstices of these last weeks of the semester, to finish ID'ing the critters we saw during our bioblitz and write up my report here, I've been skimming the reports from our fellow blogger bioblitzers. And I just came across this rather depressing account by Karmen of her encounter with the dark-side of humanity: how some members of our species "relate" to other species, i.e., another example of how much contempt some grown men have for nature, and how these a**holes actively inculcate such attitudes among their own children! Karmen was out sketching some geese by a pond in Colorado, when this happened: As I sat, softly sketching, watching the geese out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one of the guys who was fishing across the cove had started "exploring". He walked right across the narrow strip of land that I was drawing, and marched right up to the goose's nest. I watched, horrified, as he bent down and picked up an egg out of the nest. The geese went nuts, honking at him, but he ignored them, and started to walk back, egg in hand. I was pissed. I put down my pastels, and called out. "Hey! You do realize that you are on a wildlife refuge, and that bird and its eggs are protected by the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, right?! You're breaking the law!" He sneered at me. "It was already broken," he drawled, with a thick accent that seemed to match his cowboy hat. I didn't really know what to say. I sat there, watching and shaking with anger, as he brought his buddy and kid over to stomp around on the nest. Not only was he going to raid the poor bird's nest, but he was going to teach his little kid how to do it, too. What a way to teach your kids to respect their environment. As they walked, the pile of sticks (one of the focal points in my painting) collapsed under them, sending debris spilling into the cove. They kept poking around the nest, while the geese shouted angrily. What could I do? I grabbed my camera, and took pictures of their despicable desecration of my bioblitz site.
I guess we were luckier to only run into a sixth grade field trip where the kids were actually learning to appreciate (scientifically from what I overheard) rocks, and plants, and bugs, and birds.
We sure have a lot of work to do on our own species, don't we? So I'm glad Jose has taken the lead to start a new sustainability club on our campus where we might begin to address some of these kinds of issues as well!
As I sat, softly sketching, watching the geese out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one of the guys who was fishing across the cove had started "exploring". He walked right across the narrow strip of land that I was drawing, and marched right up to the goose's nest. I watched, horrified, as he bent down and picked up an egg out of the nest. The geese went nuts, honking at him, but he ignored them, and started to walk back, egg in hand. I was pissed. I put down my pastels, and called out.
"Hey! You do realize that you are on a wildlife refuge, and that bird and its eggs are protected by the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, right?! You're breaking the law!"
He sneered at me. "It was already broken," he drawled, with a thick accent that seemed to match his cowboy hat.
I didn't really know what to say. I sat there, watching and shaking with anger, as he brought his buddy and kid over to stomp around on the nest. Not only was he going to raid the poor bird's nest, but he was going to teach his little kid how to do it, too. What a way to teach your kids to respect their environment. As they walked, the pile of sticks (one of the focal points in my painting) collapsed under them, sending debris spilling into the cove. They kept poking around the nest, while the geese shouted angrily. What could I do? I grabbed my camera, and took pictures of their despicable desecration of my bioblitz site.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Creating a Sustainability Club at Fresno State, and ideas for joining (expand and read below).
Hi, everybody. I gave serious contemplation the idea of starting a sustainability club. I have decided to be a founder and go thought with it. Dr. Katti already said he would be our faculty sponsor, so that is taken care. My initial goal for this club, particularly my goal, was to plant a few trees around campus. Now, you may ask yourself, “Jose, how can this be done without making the department look like a bunch of tree hugger?” So yesterday to answer this question I went to the Plant Ops and talked to the Arboretum manger.
And well, my friends and comrades, this club is actually being formed at a good time. The reason it is a good time to start this club is that the campus as a whole is starting its own sustainability advisory board. Which I have been apparently nominated to join, all this just after a 15 minute meeting with the Arboretum manager to discuss how and where trees are planted. By working in conjunction with the advisory board we can network with other campus departments. As mention earlier my goal was to plant trees, for other people to hug, but that goal my become part of a larger goal. This larger goal is something I haven’t really thought out, plus I want some input from an array of different points of view. Therefore, I would like to extend my hand and invite you to support the idea of starting sustainability club.
Here is the reasoning why you should support and join the club. Now, each one of you is a biologist, or at least that is what you call yourselves. You see, being a biologist, regardless of specialty, it is your DUTY to aid in the productivity of sustaining life, it is the very thing you are studying. The fact that this club is geared toward helping maintain the biological values of the campus should be your strongest motivation to join.
At this point I am not asking you join Greenpeace or some other hippie cult. What I am asking you is for you to make a statement, and put in your ideas and thoughts in managing how the campus biological issues are dealt with. I know a lot of you are busy, but being in this club would not require a whole lot. It would ask that you contribute to the management issue with ideas or activities. One person can present an idea and another portion of the club could be the ones to implement it, keep this in mind. I’ll make a posting on the blog with updates about the initiation of the club. If there is any questions you should post them under the comments section.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
What was it we heard at the climate project presentation yesterday about Arctic sea ice? That it was going to disappear by 2050? Well, believe it or not, that forecast may have been too optimistic! A new analysis, in the latest issue of Geophysical Research Letters, compares empirical observations of sea ice extent over 53 years with predictions from 13 climate models used by the IPCC for their recent report to conclude that the Arctic ice cap may in fact be melting 30 years ahead of the IPCC forecast. Look below the fold for the abstract, and a couple of key (scary) figures: Figure 2. Arctic March sea ice extent (× 106 km2) from observations (thick red line) and 18 IPCC AR4 climate models together with the multi-model ensemble mean (solid black line) and standard deviation (dotted black line). Models with more than one ensemble member are indicated with an asterisk. Inset shows 9-year running means.
Stroeve, J., Holland, M. M., Meier, W., Scambos, T., and Serreze, M. 2007. Arctic sea ice decline: Faster than forecast, Geophys. Res. Lett., Vol. 34, No. 9, L09501Keep your eye on the scary red lines in the following information dense (which is how I rather like them) figures - and click on them to open larger, more readable versions:
From 1953 to 2006, Arctic sea ice extent at the end of the melt season in September has declined sharply. All models participating in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) show declining Arctic ice cover over this period. However, depending on the time window for analysis, none or very few individual model simulations show trends comparable to observations. If the multi-model ensemble mean time series provides a true representation of forced change by greenhouse gas (GHG) loading, 33–38% of the observed September trend from 1953–2006 is externally forced, growing to 47–57% from 1979–2006. Given evidence that as a group, the models underestimate the GHG response, the externally forced component may be larger. While both observed and modeled Antarctic winter trends are small, comparisons for summer are confounded by generally poor model performance.
Figure 1. Arctic September sea ice extent (× 106 km2) from observations (thick red line) and 13 IPCC AR4 climate models, together with the multi-model ensemble mean (solid black line) and standard deviation (dotted black line). Models with more than one ensemble member are indicated with an asterisk. Inset shows 9-year running means.
There are two interpretations for why the red line (squiggly with yearly data in the main figure; smoothed out with 9-yr averages in the inset) lies in some contrast to the 13 model predictions, or the multi-model mean trend which were the basis of IPCC's cautious predictions of when summer sea ice will disappear:
Either way, the conclusion is that the Arctic summer is likely to be ice-free well within our lifetimes, perhaps as early as 2020! So how soon can we move to bring those GHG emissions under control? Not soon enough...
Figure 2. Arctic March sea ice extent (× 106 km2) from observations (thick red line) and 18 IPCC AR4 climate models together with the multi-model ensemble mean (solid black line) and standard deviation (dotted black line). Models with more than one ensemble member are indicated with an asterisk. Inset shows 9-year running means.
Yes! Even though we are barely 4 months and 70-odd posts old, our blog has had a baby!
Conrad, our very own Conrad from this class, has gone and gotten himself his very own
soapbox blog!! Participating in this blog apparently whetted his appetite, or something. And he's made an excellent start by biting off on a rather big topic too - go check out his thoughts on Why Science?
This is a tangential follow-up to yesterday's Global Warming presentations - specifically to the comment James Wilson made about his experience at the Climate Project training workshop where someone in his group completely misunderstood/misrepresented the peer-review process.
To paraphrase James, this person (who apparently thought him/herself an expert on the matter) described peer-review as the process whereby when a scientist submits their research for publication, other scientists (the peers) actually re-do all of the work, to replicate every experiment and observation, to be sure it works, before the paper passes peer-review! What a caricature of real peer-review that is. As James put it, it is hard enough to get the funding and the resources to do the original research in the first place! Imagine if we had to keep reproducing work that has already been done for "peer-review"! Science would grind to a halt, indeed.
On the other hand, later last night, I came across another take on peer-review by John Dennehy, the Evilutionary Biologist, writing about a recent proposal in PLoS Biology to incentivise peer-review in order increase the efficiency of the process - primarily turnaround time.
What is most surprising to me is that many scientists shirk peer review when asked to perform it. I recall one colleague who suggested the following strategy: after acquiescing to a request for peer review, ignore it until after the deadline, until the editor writes asking where it is. Only then should you perform the task and submit your comments. The colleague reasoned, perhaps then the editors would leave you alone and not request future reviews from you. The strategy, in addition to being appalling and uncollegial, is particularly shortsighted. If the strategy spread, it eventually would be applied to your own submissions as well.Sound like it might work? Perhaps, but there are pitfalls:
In a letter to PLoS Biology, Marc Hauser and Ernst Fehr propose to incentivise the peer review process by punishing transgressors. Here editors would keep databases on when papers were sent to reviewers and when the reviews were returned. The late reviews would be punished accordingly: "For every day since receipt of the manuscript for review plus the number of days past the deadline, the reviewer's next personal submission to the journal will be held in editorial limbo for twice as long before it is sent for review."
Naturally the system is not without bugs. Who is punished when multi-authored papers are submitted? What happens if one of the authors is a timely reviewer and another is a slacker? Hauser and Fehr suggest penalizing only the primary corresponding author, but I think that might easily be gamed by making the least penalized author the correspondent. Also slackers could avoid penalties by refusing requests for reviews. Hauser and Fehr suggest penalizing them by adding a one-week delay their own next submission. However, this also penalizes those who turn down reviews because of time constraints and or because they feel unqualified to do the service.In addition, I would particularly like to emphasize and elaborate upon that last point, about time constraints, because that really hits close to home for me, especially this semester! At a place like CSU-Fresno (non-Ph.D.-granting; lower-tier in terms of research universities), you always hear us complain about the workload, given how many classes we have to teach, and the increasing desire (which I wholeheartedly support) to increase our research activities and output. As a still-green faculty at such an institution, I am struggling to come to grips not only with balancing the teaching/research workload, but also a number of subtler constraints that don't often get recognized. While it is hard enough for us to compete with the big-boys of research universities in terms of attracting grants, one of the challenges is to even remain in circulation/contention among the big-boys at all, especially when transitioning from a strong research postdoc background. To me, participation in peer-reviews is one way to remain on the radar, so to speak, even as I try to keep up my research productivity while teaching 3-4 classes a semester. Which is why I have found it difficult to say no when an editor solicits a peer-review, even though I probably should decline more often. As a result I am guilty (even right now) of slow turnaround on some peer-reviews. And this is also tempering my own previous impatient reactions to prolonged peer-reviews.
So what would be my options under Hauser & Fehr's proposal, even with Dennehy's caveats? Of course, the first thing I have to try and do is to manage my limited time better, and meet deadlines (and likely sleep even less than I already do!). But if, given the multiple demands on us CSU-type faculty, the many hats we have to wear, I slip the deadline - I will get punished by encumbering a hold on my own future papers. If, on the other hand, I decline to review at all, I will also get whacked with a similar hold. Either way, my already slowing productivity will plummet further down the spiral, pushing me farther out of the orbit of higher-level research! Great - yet another constraint; just what we need. I don't want to shirk peer-review, nor deliberately push past deadlines as strategy to avoid being called upon. But given everything else we have to deal with, please don't make it any harder for us to participate in the scientific research community!
As Daniel Ebbole of Texas A&M wrote in a comment on the PLoS Biology site:
The time demands on potential reviewers have become enormous. The love of science is really the only motivation for agreeing to review. The funding situation is testing that love. No serious scientist has much time for reviewing, and certainly no time to respond to such a silly suggestion as punishing people who are too busy to turn in reviews on time. Of course, unless you are from Harvard, you have no time to write such a silly suggestion in the first place...But then Ebbole goes on to suggest a monetary incentive - paying reviewers (or rather, their institutions) for timely reviews - in addition to punishment. I don't like that idea either. As Dennehy points out in another posting today, we scientists and our students are already paying three-times over for publishing/reading our own work, so adding to these publishing costs is not a smart idea. Instead, I'm inclined towards more open peer review, an experiment Nature tried out last year, but which apparently did not quite catch on.
As for faculty workloads at institutions other than Harvard and its ilk, how about changing the tenure-evaluation criteria so that the time spent on peer-review is not completely discounted when evaluating our job performance?!
Enough venting, I guess - I better get back to finishing up that review now!
Alternatively, I could always add endlessly to my CV through this golden opportunity for publishing in a different kind of "peer-reviewed journal"!