Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
pass Proposition 21, which seeks to provide a protected independent source of funding for our State Parks. The California State Park network is an excellent example of good use of the commons in this state, for the benefit of all of us - yet it is one of the first things to get cut whenever the state budget feels a pinch. While I generally don't like this state's proposition system much at all (why bother pretending at a representative form of government if every citizen has to vote on important matters of governance? How can people busy in the daily grind of making their own ends meet have the time and resources to make informed decisions on everything?), we're stuck with it, and this is a good one to get behind come November.
Monday, September 27, 2010
... not attending another faculty senate meeting, but traipsing through this meadow in full bloom under darkly brooding skies, cooling my heels in the tranquil streams, and catching the occasional cloudburst of the late monsoon!! I wish!
This and other similarly fantastic images come from Kaas, part of the Deccan Plateau in Maharashtra, India, as captured through Ganesh's lens. Go lose yourself in the gallery, escape from your Monday afternoon blues, imagine a better world...
Here's another image, a more intimate view of a single flower and a little bug enjoying a walk along its stalk.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Like the Vaux's Swifts that take over a chimney in Los Angeles during their autumn migration through that megacity, as narrated in this radio story:
And here is a video clip accompanying the story, which I first found via Audubon California's Facebook page:
Vaux's Swifts roosting in downtown LA building from 89.3 KPCC on Vimeo.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Does a documentary about Tigers in Bhutan really need such hype? Especially when it also features Alan Rabinowitz? As if that combination is not enough, the series also features first-time-ever footage of tigers at high altitudes, closer to the treeline than they've ever even been suspected of existing!
Now that footage, I'd love to see more of! But I hope the tone of the rest of the series isn't as over-the-top as in the trailer above. If you think you won't attract any particular viewer demographic with that combination of charismatic creature, enigmatic location, and charismatic biologist, do you really want those viewers? But what do I know about the marketing decisions of tv networks?! Nor do I know how long the BBC and/or National Geographic will make us wait for this series outside of the UK.
Meanwhile, here's a bonus: a great episode of Radiolab featuring Alan Rabinowitz, from 2007:
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Instead of giving boring dry presentations about your Ph.D. when asked what its about, what if you could dance instead? That is the premise behind this fun (now that my own is well behind me and I don't have to dance!) "Dance Your Ph.D." contest organized by Science magazine where people submitted videos of dance interpretations of their Ph.D.s. They have now picked finalists in four disciplinary categories, and you can vote on the one you like the best, as they compete for a $500 grand prize!
I haven't seen all the videos yet, but here's the biology one:
When it comes to the world's oceans, on this watery planet, our actions have been unconscionable indeed, driven apparently by two sad dimensions of our blinkered perspective. Out of sight, out of mind is a big reason why even many conservationists and environmentalists failed to realize (and some continue to underestimate) the sheer magnitude of our crimes against the marine realms. The other problem, historically, has been the perception that the ocean is so vast — and it certainly seems so to the eyes of tiny bipedal primates wading into the shallows from a beach — that it must surely be able to absorb everything we throw at it and pour into it! How can the actions of puny terrestrial humans affect such vast unfathomable realms of mystery? Our comprehension of scale — the true scale of our impact in relation to the scale of the oceans — has lagged far behind our newfound abilities to lay waste to vast stretches of land and sea. And our senses aren't catching up fast enough to arrest, let alone reverse, the damage.
Last week, NPR's Talk of the Nation hosted Sylvia Earle and Enric Sala, both National Geographic Explorers in Residence, in a wide-ranging (and often eye-opening for this landlubber) discussion of the incredible beauty of the ocean realm, as well as our impacts thereupon and how we have pushed marine ecosystems to the brink all over the world. They both tried to end with messages of hope, but its damned difficult to maintain optimism when you realize just how badly we have damaged the oceans, and how we aren't even slowing down our unbridled consumption of the sea's resources. Listen to the conversation, and tell me where you glimpse any rays of hope:
Also last week came some fresh evidence of our crimes against the oceans: an estimate of our visible impacts on that invisible realm, the deep seafloor. According to this press release from the UK's National Oceanography Center, our collective hunger for seafood, and the horrendous trawling we do to capture our prey and all else in our path by dragging massive nets across the seabed, leaves by far the biggest visible footprint on the deep seafloor. And its not a pretty picture:
IMAGE: This is a damaged cold-water coral reef off Troms county, Norway: coral debris and trawl marks.
Click here for more information.
They looked exclusively at the physical footprint rather than the consequential ecological effects of disturbance, contamination and pollution, which are harder to ascertain. One difficulty that they faced was that of accessing data on human activities that was accurate, up to date and comprehensive, and in a suitable format for analysis.
"Some governments, public organisations and private companies were far more forthcoming with information than others," explained Benn. "Significant improvements are needed in data collection and availability, and this requirement needs to be built into international conventions and treaties with a legal framework in place to ensure informed environmental management."
Despite difficulties and various uncertainties, the researchers' assessment suggests that, although now banned, previously dumped radioactive waste, munitions and chemical weapons together have the lowest physical footprint of the human activities considered, although they do not consider potential dispersal after leakage.
Non-fisheries marine scientific research also has a relatively small footprint, whereas those of fisheries marine scientific research, telecommunication cables and the oil and gas industry are moderate. However, even on the lowest estimates, the spatial extent of bottom trawling is at least ten times that for the other activities assessed, with a physical footprint greater than that of all the others combined.
Monday, September 20, 2010
I just received the following email from the Sierra Club about a meeting that is relevant to people in the central valley neighborhood. It involves a public consultation process to decide about what the US Forest Service needs to do to manage the Giant Sequoia National Monument (GSNM).
The timing conflicts with my graduate class, so I'm deciding on whether to bring the whole class there instead as an engaged educational exercise. We shall see. Meanwhile, those reading this who have the time, should go and participate.
You can learn more about the GSNM on the FS website, and the email below.
From: Sierra Club - Resilient Habitats Natl Camp
Date: September 20, 2010 8:46:38 AM PDT
To: Sierra Club - Resilient Habitats Natl Camp
Subject: Important Public Hearing Tomorrow (Tuesday 9/21) to Protect the Giant Sequoia!
Reply-To: Sierra Club - Resilient Habitats Natl Camp
Important Public Hearing Tomorrow (Tuesday 9/21) in Clovis to Protect the Giant Sequoia!
Please come and support the "Citizens' Park Alternative" for Giant Sequoia National Monument
Dear Sierra Club Members and Friends in the Fresno area,
We are sending this out as a last reminder for the critical public hearing tomorrow (Tuesday 9/21) in Clovis for managing the Giant Sequoia National Monument. The Forest Service will be taking public comment for the newly released Giant Sequoia National Monument's management Draft EIS.
This is the second attempt by the Forest Service to create a plan to protect the Giant Sequoia. Their original plan was thrown out by the courts for placing logging interests over preservation. Unfortunately, the Forest Service is once again catering to the logging industry and has failed to provide adequate protection for the treasured Giant Sequoia ecosystem. Some favored agency proposals now call for more tree removal than before the monument was designated.
Citizen activists for the Giant Sequoia have now decided to come forward with a true alternative for managing the monument that will forever protect the Giant Sequoia ecosystem.
**Please come in support and tell the Forest Service to adopt the "Citizens' Park Alternative" for managing Giant Sequoia National Monument**
It is critical that we attend and show the Forest Service that citizens have a better plan for protecting the Giant Sequoia ecosystem.
The Giant Sequoia National Monument Public Hearing will be held this:
Tuesday, September 21st at 6:00pm-9:00pm
The Hilton Garden Inn, 520 West Shaw Ave
Here are the summarized main points of the Citizens' Park Alternative:
1) Restore the vision of President Clinton's Proclamation and protect the giant sequoia ecosystem from continued proposals for logging and other dangers, as proposed in the Forest Service's preferred alternative
2) The Monument's Giant Sequoias Groves and intertwined forest ecosystem should be managed in the same fine manner as Sequoia National Park
-- This means that fire should be used as the preferred method of ecosystem restoration and fuel reduction treatments
--The plan must prioritize the protection and restoration of healthy habitats for sensitive wildlife species, including fisher, martens, owls, and goshawks
3) Alternative C is not really a park style management alternative and goes too far by eliminating all dispersed recreation
-- Historical recreation is OK, so long as it is consistent with protecting the Monument's natural resources, including the use of trails and dispersed camping
--Park style management should focus on ecosystem restoration, not recreation management
4) Any mechanical thinning for fuel reduction should be focused in areas directly adjacent to structures
5) Tree removal from the Monument is prohibited by the Clinton Proclamation, unless absolutely necessary, and must be scientifically justified for ecosystem restoration and maintenance or public safety
--This means that any larger trees that are cut should be left in the monument because they generally are not the type of material that causes unwanted fire behavior and are needed for ecosystem restoration
--Any removal of trees, tree limbs, and slash should be focused on small diameter material, which is the type of material that could cause unwanted fire behavior
--Salvage logging should be expressly prohibited because it is only done for commercial purposes and prohibited by the Clinton Proclamation
--The Forest Service should cancel the three remaining commercial timber sales in the Monument still under contract that were held illegal by the Federal Court: Frog, Saddle, and White Mountain
6) All Roadless Areas should be managed to maintain their Wilderness potential, and the Forest Service must keep its promise from the last plan revision to recommend the Moses Roadless Area as Wilderness
Please make the effort to attend this important event and invite your friends and neighbors.
For any questions contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
For additional information, go to the GSNM website at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sequoia/gsnm_planning.html
Thanks and see you there!!
Sierra Club 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105
Saturday, September 18, 2010
For the first time in more than ten years, there has been a confirmed sighting of one of the rarest and most enigmatic animals in the world, the Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) from the Annamite Mountains of Laos and Vietnam. The Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic (also known as Laos) has announced that in late August villagers in the central province of Bolikhamxay captured a Saola and brought it back to their village.
When news of the Saola's capture reached Lao authorities, the Bolikhamxay Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office immediately sent a technical team, advised by the IUCN Saola Working Group and the Lao Programme of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), to examine the Saola and release it. Unfortunately, the animal, an adult male, weakened by the ordeal of several days in captivity, died shortly after the team reached the remote village. The animal was photographed while still alive.
"The government of Lao PDR and WCS are to be commended for their rapid response and efforts to save this animal. We hope the information gained from the incident can be used to ensure that this is not the last Saola anyone has a chance to see," says William Robichaud, Coordinator of the IUCN Saola Working Group.
This is the first confirmed record of the species since two photographs of wild Saola were taken in Laos by automatic camera traps in 1999.
RENO, NEV. — Scientists are hailing the confirmed find of a Sierra Nevada red fox about 90 miles south of Reno, a native subspecies feared extinct in the range since the last verified sighting in 1990.
The fox was photographed Aug. 11 near Sonora Pass on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest by a motion-activated camera set up by U.S. Forest Service employees monitoring the activities of other wildlife.
DNA testing of saliva samples from a chicken-filled sock at the site found the fox is most likely a member of a remnant population of the subspecies in the Sierra, said Ben Sacks, an assistant professor of biology at the University of California, Davis, who conducted the tests.
"This is the most exciting animal discovery we've had in California since the discovery of a wolverine in the Sierra two years ago," Sacks said. "Only this time the unexpected critter turned out to be homegrown, which is truly big news."
Researchers determined the wolverine wandered into the Sierra from the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.
John Perrine, a biology professor at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, said it was the first confirmed sighting of the fox subspecies (Vulpes vulpes necator) in the Sierra since 1990 near Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park.
Friday, September 17, 2010
I'm guessing the headline on this CBS newreport is based on / derived from / linked to this analysis from the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Birdwatching does seem to be a growing hobby in this country, which is great news, and has significant economic impact as well! Although I wonder how the recession plays into it.
But what I can't find, is the basis for the claim that birding is the second fastest growing hobby in the states! So what's the first then, eh? Is it really beer can collecting?
Thursday, September 16, 2010
A recent blog post by Jenny Rohn observed that 'celebrated science bloggers are predominantly male', and points to the fact that across the various science blogging collectives – including our fledgling efforts here at the Guardian, although I can tell you we certainly tried to get a fair balance – there is a distinct over-abundance of Y chromosomes.
So like the armchair activist I am, I created a hashtag on Twitter – #wsb – and asked people to help me come up with a list. Over the next several hours, more than a hundred replies came in, and beautifully, the tag became an impromptu celebration of women in science blogging.
Here's the resulting list:
(In alphabetical order of first name. Please post any errors or people I've missed in the comments, preferably with a URL where I can find their blog.)
(With particular thanks to: @alicebell, @smallcasserole, @sarahkendrew, @scicurious, @biochembelle, @geekingambia, @jomarchant, @aetiology, @BecCrew, @droenn, @tdelene, @hpringle, @kateclancy, @oanasandu, @elakdawalla, @tkingdoll, @anthinpractice,@hpringle and @culturingsci.)
- 'Dr Dr A' (@drdrAatBLC) | Blue Lab Coats
- Abbie Smith | ERV
- Alice Bell (@alicebell) | Through the Looking Glass
- Alice Pawley (@alicepawley) | Science Woman
- Alice Sheppard (@penguingalaxy) | Alice in Galaxyland
- Amanda Lovell (@a_lovell) | The Underground Sky
- Amy Freitag (@bgrassbluecrab) | Southern Fried Science
- Annabel Bentley (@doctorblogs) | BMJ Group Blogs
- Anne Jefferson (@highlyanne) | Highly Allochthonous
- Athene Donald | Athene Donald's Blog
- Bec Crew (@beccrew) | Save Your Breath for Running Ponies
- Dr. Becca (@doc_becca) | On the Market
- Biochem Belle (@biochembelle) | There & (Hopefully) Back Again
- Bordado Ingles (@BordadoIngles) | Bordado Ingles
- 'Bug Girl' (@bug_girl) | Bug Girl's Blog
- Carin Bondar (@DrBondar) | Biologist with a Twist
- Carmen Drahl (@carmendrahl) | Chemical and Engineering News Blog
- Cath Ennis (@enniscath) | VWXYNot?
- C.C. Peterson (@spacewriter) | The Space Writer's Ramblings
- Christie Wilcox (@NerdyChristie) Observations of a Nerd
- Christine Ottery (@christineottery) | Christine Ottery
- Christine Pikas (@cpikas) | Christina's LIS Rant
- Claire Evans (@TheUniverse) | Universe
- Darlene Cavalier (@scicheer) | Science Cheerleader
- Deborah Blum (@deborahblum) | Speakeasy Science
- DeLene Beeland (@tdelene) | Wild Muse
- Dorothy Bishop (@deevybee) | BishopBlog
- Emily Anthes (@EmilyAnthes) | Wonderland
- Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) | The Planetary Society Blog
- Emily Willingham | Complete Idiot's Guide for College Biology
- Eva Amsen (@easternblot) | Eastern Blot
- Evie Marom (@SpaceGurlEvie) | Evie's Sci Blog
- Female Science Professor | Female Science Professor
- 'Grrlscientist' (@GrrlScientist) | GrrlScientist
- Hannah Devlin (@hannahdev) | Times Science Blogs
- Hannah King (@BabbleNan) | Naked Little Ape
- Hannah Waters (@culturingsci) | Culturing Science
- Heather Pringle (@hpringle) | Last Word on Nothing
- Holly Barnes (@hollybarnes) | Holly's Blogs
- Dr. Isis (@drisis) | Isis the Scientist
- 'Jade Ed' (@jadedbybiotech) | Jad Ed
- Janet Stemwedel (@docfreeride) | Adventures in Ethics and Science
- Jennifer Ouelette (@JenLucPiquant) | Cocktail Party Physics
- Jennifer Rohn (@JennyRohn) | Mind the Gap
- Jess Palmer (@jesspalmer) | Bioephemera
- Joanne Manaster (@sciencegoddess) | Joanne Loves Science!
- Jo Marchant (@jomarchant) | Decoding the Heavens
- Jovana Grbic (@ScriptPhD) | Script PhD
- Jules B (@geekinthegambia) | Geek in The Gambia
- 'Disgruntled Julie' (@ethidiumbromide) | Disgruntled Julie
- Karen Grepin (@KarenGrepin) | Karen Grepin's Global Health Blog
- Karen James (@kejames) | kejames.com
- Kat Arney (@harpistkat) | Cancer Research UK
- Kate Clancy (@kateclancy) | Context and Variation
- Kelly Oakes (@kahoakes) | Basic Space
- Dr. Kiki Sanford (@drkiki) | The Bird's Brain
- Krystal D'Costa (@anthinpractice) | Anthropology in Practice
- 'Lab Mom' (@Lab_Mom) | The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love
- 'Lady Scientist' (@LadyScientist) | A Lady Scientist
- Dr. Leigh (@dr_leigh) | Neurodynamics
- Leila Battison (@leilageologist) | Science in Pen and Ink
- Lily Asquith | LHCsound
- Lisa Jarvis (@lisamjarvis) | The Haystack
- Liz Borkowski (@LizBorkowski) | The Pump Handle
- Maggie Koerth-Baker (@maggiekb1) | Boing Boing
- Marianne (@noodlemaz) | Purely a Figment of Your Imagination
- Maryn McKenna (@marynmck) | Superbug
- Michelle (@physilology) | C6-H12-O6
- Miriam (@oystersgarter) | Deep Sea News
- Naomi McAuliffe (@naomimc) | A Vagina Dentata
- Nancy Atkinson (@Nancy_A) | Nancy Atkinson
- 'Dr. O' (@microdro) | Academic Aspirations
- Oana Sandu (@oanasandu) | Communicating Astronomy
- Pamela Gay (@starstryder) | Star Stryder
- Pascale Lane (@PHLane) | Stream of Thought
- 'Pesska' (@pesska) | Royal Society Group Blog
- Dr. Petra Boynton (@drpetra) | Dr Petra Boynton
- 'Psi Wavefunction' (@psiwavefunction) | Skeptic Wonder
- Rachael Dunlop (@DrRachie) | The Skeptic's Book of Pooh-Pooh
- Rachel Walden (@rachel_w) | Women's Health News
- Rebecca Higgitt (@beckyfh) | Whewell's Ghost
- Rebecca Montague (@sanitizedfor) | Sanitized for your Protection
- Sandra Porter (@digitalbio) | Discovering Biology in a Digital World
- Sarah Kendrew (@sarahkendrew) | SarahAskew
- Sarah Murray (@SarahScientist) | Chemistress
- 'Scicurious' (@scicurious) | Neurotic Physiology
- S.C. Kavassalis (@sc_k) | The Language of Bad Physics
- S.E. Gould (@labratting) | Lab Rat
- Sharon Astyk | Casaubon's Book
- Sheril Kirshenbaum (@Sheril_) | The Intersection
- 'Captain Skellett' (@CaptainSkellett) | A Schooner of Science
- Sonya (@daGreatAntidote) | The Great Antidote
- Sophie Scott (@sophiescott) | Speaking Out (UCL)
- Susan Niebur (@WomenPlanetSci) | Women in Planetary Science
- Susan Steinhardt (@scisu) | BioData Blogs
- Tara Smith (@aetiology) | Aetiology
- 'Dr. Val' (@drval) | Better Health
- Vanessa Woods (@bonobohandshake) | Bonobo Handshake
That's 86 women science bloggers – clearly no shortage – so why aren't they breaking through and gaining more prominence?
What do you think, and who have I missed in the list above?
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Intriguing notion this, a sort of guerilla action to take over paved spaces (i.e., impervious cover in the parlance of landscape ecology) in our cities to stage a global demonstration of the human need for connection with nature. How about that?
I know some folks in Fresno are considering joining this movement. I just hope no one thinks to roll out more lawn into this land already overly lush with unsustainable expanses of green lawns! I mean, just look at the Fresno State Campus (click on this aerial image to make the info bubble go away so you can see the "greenspace", or on the link below the image for a larger view)!
View Larger Map
Going Green does not have to be taken literally: in many parts of the world, the truly Green thing to do is to let your lawn go brown and let the dirt, rocks, and sand show instead. This new user-generated urbanism better be prepared to reconnect with that nature as well, and learn to embrace xeriscaped parks.
So how about we go rip up some lawn somewhere around here, and party to cut down on wasteful water use?
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
And in case you don't remember the youthful precursor of this poetic film, here's a reminder, from one of the classics of cinema at the turn of the last millennium: American Beauty.
[Tip o' the hat to Anthroguy]
Monday, September 13, 2010
And if you are still trying to figure out where your food comes from, and the biodiversity it contains, this is a good way to ease that nagging ecological consciousness: simply turn your lawn into an urban farm, harvest your own food, and participate in the community that your efforts may draw to you. We have certainly found the latter in our own modest horticultural efforts this year, which has fostered much sharing of produce among friends and neighbors who are also similarly farming, and cut down our visits to the produce aisles of the grocery stores. I know it is not easy to do everywhere—we're lucky to be in central California, which is already a major agricultural region—but I know friends in the upper midwest and even Canada who make the most of their short summers to grow and store produce for the long winters as well. Here, via the Grist blog Feeding the City, is an example of how one man is converting the urban lawnscape into an edible one in Seattle.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Here's another way to visualize the footprint of our daily meals, in terms that should make the locavores sit up and take notice:
The article contains a much more detailed analysis of the biodiversity on Hale's plate, giving us insight into just how omnivorous we are. With our average modern-day meals drawing upon so many living species from all over the world, shouldn't we be more concerned about the loss of global biodivesity? Might the way to our biophilic hearts lie through our omnivorous stomachs after all? Or are we simply going to devour all we can while the going is good?
How many species have you eaten today? And what do you know about their status on this planet?
Friday, September 10, 2010
What would we do without The Onion to provide us with such perspective?
How curiously our biophilia manifests, in the way we name our sports teams after creatures (be they non-human or human) we destroy! If only these totems of the sporting fans could really bite back!
It is curious, and reassuring, that in this week of familial heartbreak after the loss of a mother, I should come across these two videos of animal mothers that touch the heart in different ways.
First, the Jane Goodall Institute remembers Fifi, the matriarch famous all over the world ever since she entered Jane's life:
And here we have a curious tale of an orphan squirrel being adopted by a cat, and beginning to act like one, even purring when stroked! How fascinating the way evolution has wired the mammalian maternal brain to allow such wonderful associations! Ain't motherhood grand?
Thursday, September 2, 2010
The appearance of a mountain lion Tuesday near downtown Berkeley, Calif., caused a stir in this animal-loving, environmentally conscious community, where residents may obsess about locally grown organic food but don’t expect to be on the menu.
The mountain lion, a 100-pound female, was spotted around 2 a.m. Tuesday in the city’s Gourmet Ghetto district, according to the Berkeley Police Department.
The cougar roamed within pouncing range of Alice Water’s Chez Panisse restaurant, the temple of California cuisine, where twice-cooked kid goat with cumin, ginger, eggplant, and chickpeas was the featured dish that evening. But the state’s top-level predator probably was on the hunt for venison and got lost, according to wildlife experts.
“A mountain lion traveling through an urban environment is infrequent but looking at aerial photographs of the surrounding area you can see why it chose Berkeley,” said Marc Kenyon, the statewide mountain lion program coordinator for the California Department of Fish and Game.
Interesting to read this debate crop up again, after yet another mountain lion got shot dead for "straying" into yet another bit of suburban sprawl blotting its former habitat in California. Living with large carnivores is a tough nut for reconciliation ecology, especially in a trigger-happy society that shoots first, asks questions later (if at all).
What would you do if one showed up near your favorite restaurant?
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Carnival of Evolution #27 – Feed Your Head Edition
As your server for this evening’s Carnival of Evolution, allow me to introduce the offerings from a line-up of over two dozen chefs!
For your pleasure we have these specials . . . .
1. Chicken’s teeth, whale’s legs, and the tails of humans.
Thus begins a most appetizing (or stomach-turning, depending upon your culinary adventurousness) menu of evolutionary blog writing pulled together by your energetic host Andrew Bernardin, who's pulled out all the stops for this 27th edition of the Carnival of Evolution. I hope you are hungry. Read your fill, for the next CoE is a whole month away!