Saturday, December 13, 2008

Eat Kangaroos to Fight Global Warming

Ok- The quarter is over and I guess I'm now addicted to blogging. One last random but relevant article. Check out the New York Times "Year in Ideas" article, letter "E".

Eat Kangaroos to Fight Global Warming, by Charles Wilson.

"Of all the ideas developed to combat the climate crisis, George Wilson of Australian Wildlife Services may have the least intuitive: eating more kangaroos. In a paper published in June by the U.S.-based Society for Conservation Biology, however, he explains that 11 percent of Australia’s total greenhouse-gas emissions come from the methane produced by the rumen of cattle and sheep. “It’s been long known that kangaroos don’t produce methane,” Wilson say s, noting that kangaroos’ stomachs have different microorganisms to ferment their food. “I began to speculate, What if we managed the kangaroo population up and the cattle population down?”" Photo by Sarah Illenberger, NYT.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New York: filled with people, pigeons and now hawks!

Well... It's been a great quarter. Thank you everyone for actively contributing to our Friday discussion sections!

A recent article in the New York Times (A Hawk and its Prey) caught my attention about conservation and people, wildlife habitat and changing landscapes. According to the story, red-tailed hawks are rising in Harlem. Great for the predators, probably less ideal for the rats and pigeons. Also, NYC is compared to a "savanna". That's a first!

"Glenn Phillips, executive director of New York City Audubon, said that red-tailed hawks are on the upswing in the city, partly because they adapt well to the savanna conditions and because people don’t kill them so much anymore."

Have a great winter holiday!

Hawk photo by Josh Barbanel/New York Times.

Campus lagoon Internship opportunity

Water Quality/Hydrology Internship:
I am looking for a student interested in working with me on the data and reports on the Campus lagoon water quality from studies we have completed, implementing follow-up studies, assisting with data monitoring for the larger study and, possibly, helping with modelling of water quality in the lagoon. I need a self-starter willing to do some independent research, collect water samples and collaborate with professors on campus. We have a stipend of $250 for Winter quarter and the possibility of additional funding should the candidate have more time to commit to the project.

Interpretive Sign Research Project Internship:

We are designing a sign to provide essential information about the ecological state of the UCSB Campus Lagoon related to geology, recent history and current ecological status. Looking for an independent person who can do research and is interested in interpretive signage and presentation. Skills in graphic design not required. Creativity a plus! Pays $250.

Both internships come with an expectation of ~ 6 hours per week commitment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

MLPA Initiative Public Talk

In class I discussed the California’s Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPA). If you're not swamped with exams, here's an opportunity to learn more about it in our own backyard.

Thurs., Dec. 11
Free lecture: By Michael Sheehy from Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.

The lecture will be held at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Fleischmann Auditorium 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm and there is plenty of free parking. Directions:

This lecture is offered through a collaboration with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Ty Warner Sea Center, Shorelines and Watersheds and UCSB’s Coal Oil Point Reserve.

This is a great opportunity to learn about California’s Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, learn about current research on marine protected areas locally and internationally and meet new people.

Please join Michael Sheehy, Channelkeeper's Marine Conservation Coordinator to learn more about California's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) and how you can get involved. Santa Barbara Channelkeeper is providing an informational presentation on California's initiative to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Southern California. For more information about this event, please email or call (805) 563-3377. For more information on the MLPA Initiative and MPAs, please visit or

Internship: Devereux Slough Monitoring Program

Outreach Internship Available for Devereux Slough Monitoring Program:

One paid internship is available as part of a long-term monitoring
study of the Devereux Slough ecosystem. Devereux slough is a
seasonally flooded coastal wetland located within UCSB’s Coal Oil
Point Reserve. The Devereux Slough Monitoring Program collects
important information on the slough including: water quality, fish
surveys, and sedimentation rates.

The outreach intern will be responsible for raising awareness among
UCSB students and the community about the Devereux Slough ecosystem,
the slough monitoring program, Coal Oil Point Reserve, the non-profit
group Shorelines and Watersheds, and the importance of responsible
watershed management. In particular the intern duties would include:
updating website materials, participating in outreach events,
distributing brochures, helping create an annual report, and updating
educational postings.

The intern will receive a $300 at the end of the academic quarter,
funding provided by the Coastal Fund. Applicants must be a UCSB
student. To be considered for the internship please send your resume
and class schedule for Winter quarter. To:

Tara Longwell
Slough Monitoring Program Coordinator

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Unique Holiday Gift

We need your help to keep our beaches, creeks and Channel clean and healthy! clean water is a giftGive your friends and family an annual membership to Santa Barbara Channelkeeper or make a donation in their names as a thoughtful holiday gift. Click here to give the gift of clean water now.

Check out the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper for more information.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cane Toads have Arthritis

As they spread westward, cane toads are developing arthritis due to inbreeding. This is great for Australia. Not so much for the toads though.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Penguins, democracy and the future

Well here we are, ten weeks just flew by. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the blog. I have posted some review questions at the top of the link section. With a number of mentions of penguins I can't resist ending with this video - you'll definitely want to have audio on this one.

Penguin's - adorable flightless comedians of the Antarctic. Leonard Cohen - the adorable flightless poet from Canada. Put them together and you get something truly disturbing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Winter quarter Habitat Restoration Internship

This sounds like a great opportunity for research or potential grad school application experience.

UCSB’s Coal Oil Point Reserve has several paid habitat restoration
internships available for Winter Quarter 2009. Interns will work with
a habitat restoration ecologist, the Reserve steward, other interns
and volunteers assisting with restoring native wetland and coastal
sage scrub habitats. Job duties will include planting natives, seed
collection, greenhouse work, invasive weed control, ecological
monitoring, and general site maintenance. Requires 30 hour
commitment; generally 3 hours/week with occasional week-end time.
Applicant must be available either Tues OR Friday mornings from
9am-12noon beginning the week of Jan 5th. $300 stipend on successful
completion of the internship. No experience is necessary but
knowledge of native plants and restoration ecology is a plus.
Positions are funded by Wildlife Conservation Board.

To apply send resume and class schedule/time availability for Winter
quarter to Darlene Chirman at 692-2008 and Tara
Longwell at


Yes, that's a real crab and not a prop from a sci-fi movie.

WebEcoist is a blog about 'Sustainable Living, Green design and Environmental Oddities' and they really seem to like making lists of things. Yesterdays post 'Twenty more strange and exotic endangered species' was a follow up to their earlier 'Twenty of the world's weirdest endangered species'.

Other posts (in numerical order):
6 of the Most Innocent-Looking Animal Assassins
7 Extraordinary Examples of Animal Camouflage
10 of the Most Bizarre Animal Defense Mechanisms
15 Eccentric Endangered Trees, Plants, and Flowers
They obviously tend to be a little sensational but there are some great photographs.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Don't forget your paper is due tomorrow. The pisco server seems to have eaten too much turkey and is not responding well. This affects the links for the discussion section but not the regular links above them. The only link that you may need to refer to at this point is the outline and final paper guidelines so I have copied this over to the lifesci server. It is now the top link 'paper guidelines'.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Science, technology and ethics

Science and medicine are amazing. Slightly off topic, but really interesting none the less, check out this article on science, intervention, medical wonders, and ethics. About what? Using a surrogate mother to have a baby.
While not exactly mainstream, the trend seems to be rising. Like I said, I'm not sure it really has to do with 'conservation ecology' per se (although in a blog earlier this week, "Wooly mammoths on the return?"
, I pointed out the use of domestic cats as "surrogate mothers" to birth cloned wild African kitties), but it's an interesting timely piece about science, technology and ethics.

If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend the Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Cartoon fr.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Buy Nothing Day

Suddenly, we ran out of money and, to avoid collapse, we quickly pumped liquidity back into the system. But behind our financial crisis a much more ominous crisis looms: we are running out of nature… fish, forests, fresh water, minerals, soil. What are we going to do when supplies of these vital resources run low?

There’s only one way to avoid the collapse of this human experiment of ours on Planet Earth: we have to consume less.

Check out Buy Nothing Day at the Adbusters website. It's not a new event, I remember first hearing of it a decade ago when several television stations refused to air their paid advertisements encouraging people to buy nothing. I guess they were frightened that their more regular customers would be offended.

Oh, and happy thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oceans Ten Times More Acidic Than Thought

In PNAS this week:
Dynamic patterns and ecological impacts of declining
ocean pH in a high-resolution multi-year dataset

Increasing global concentrations of atmospheric CO2 are predicted to decrease ocean pH, with potentially severe impacts on marine food webs.....
....Our results indicate that pH decline is proceeding at a more rapid rate than previously predicted in some areas, and that this decline has ecological consequences for near shore benthic ecosystems.

Or read the National Geographic summary.

Woolly Mammoths on the return?

So...let's say a species is extinct, how valuable is it to bring it back? Is it worth academic time and money?

Today's New York Times woolly mammoth article discusses using cloning to bring the beasts back. Not a joke.

Author Olivia Judson sums it up: "In regular cloning, the genome is from the same species as the egg. In cross-species cloning, the genome and egg are from different species. So, for mammoths, you’d put mammoth DNA into a blank elephant egg, and transplant the egg into an elephant surrogate mother. For Neanderthals, you’d put Neanderthal DNA into a blank human egg, and have a human surrogate mother (or, one day, perhaps, an artificial womb). For a bird like a dodo, you’d put dodo DNA into a blank pigeon egg (dodos were essentially big flightless pigeons), and pop the egg into an incubator. Easy peasy."

Hmm... 10 different species of mammals have already been cloned. Judson points out the challenges. It took '1,552 African wildcat kitten embryos transferred to domestic cats to produce only two healthy kittens; three gray wolf clones have been born from 372 embryos transferred into surrogate domestic dogs.'

If mammoths returned, where would we put them? What would some consequences be on the existing ecosystem? Wouldn't they be hot with global warming? Maybe they could be cloned to have less fur?? Should this be a research priority?

Photo by S. C. Schuster fr.
See the NYT article for genetic references.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

People and Marine Wildlife

In class we're learning about species conservation, endangered animals, and fishing of whales. What do you think about animals that are supposedly saved from the "dinner table" by being placed in aquariums? Is conservation being attained or are marine animals being exploited?

Can aquariums can be used as conservation tools? For example, the Georgia Aquarium hosts the "World's largest and most engaging aquarium." It boasts a "Ritz-Carlton"-esque home to its resident whale sharks, which are the world's largest fish and can grow up to 66 feet in length. The aquarium states that it is encouraging marine conservation and supporting research. The whale shark is listed on the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Animals as "indeterminate" status; little is known about the creatures, thus, any knowledge is beneficial, right? Furthermore, four whale sharks were proportedly saved from "Taiwan's kill quota, which means they would have ended up as food if they had not been brought to Atlanta".

Additionally, the aquarium advocates close contact with whale sharks in order for people to learn more about them (and have undeniably cool experiences they can tell friends about). Called the 'Swim with Gentle Giants' programme, six snorkelers and six divers can share the tank with the whales. Through the live webcam, you can also see the tank and fish from your home!

In spite of popularity among viewers, the aquarium's hosting of giant marine animals is controversial. For example, some past favorites entertainers, such as a Beluga whale, have been euthanized. The aquarium stated that the beluga "suffered from a string of chronic illness even before he came to the aquarium". However, overall, little is known about how wild marine animals do in captivity. For example, 4 aquarium whale sharks became sick from a tank chemical parasite treatment; they stopped treatment and the animals healed. During a later autopsy of one whale shark that died, scientists found that his death was due to a perforated stomach, most likely caused by the feeding tube. “Sometimes in science we learn as much through death as through life,” Mr. Swanagan, the aquarium’s president and executive director, wrote.

Some scientists refuse to attend a 2011 International Whale Shark Conference at the aquarium to protest the uncertainty and lack of science regarding keeping such animals captive.

Despite (or perhaps in response to) widespread controversial publicity, the aquarium is continuing to view large animals, such as the new guest/prisoner, Nandi: a young 9 foot winged female manta ray saved from entanglement in South African shark nets.

Shark photo fr.
Belgua photo fr. John Amis/European Pressphoto Agency at
Manta photo fr. David Banks/CNN at

Monday, November 24, 2008

Updated Office Hours this week

Hi Everyone,

My office hours this week will be Tuesday, November 25th right after class, instead of Wednesday.
MSRB 1304A
3:20 pm-5:00 pm

Feel free to still email me questions Wednesday; I'll be working from home.

FWS Boxscores

Possibly a little optimistic about the speed with which things move in conservation biology the Fish and Wildlife Service maintain a summary page on the endangered species listings that is updated daily. Although it might not change much on a day to day basis it is nice to have a place you can always go to for the most accurate and up to date information.

The Fish and Wildlife Service pages on the Endangered Species Program contain a LOT of information, particularly on the 'Species information' link. Marine species are covered at National Marine Fisheries Service webpage on the NOAA website here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's not all bad

"As bad as his environmental record has been, he could, as one individual, protect more of the Earth's surface than anyone else in history," says Lance Morgan of the US Marine Conservation Biology Institute.

One of the George W. Bush's final acts as US president could be to create the largest marine conservation area in the world. President Bush is considering a proposal to turn up to 2.3 million square kilometres of tropical waters, coral reefs and remote island atolls in the Pacific Ocean into US National Monuments. In 2006, President Bush designated a 365,000 square kilometre Marine National Monument incorporating the northernmost islands of Hawaii, creating the world's largest protected marine area.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Short man or tall door?

Inspired by a section in 'The Week' magazine I'm going to start a new tag called 'Boring but important.' First use will for the news today that Representative Henry Waxman has won the chairmanship of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee from holder Representative John Dingell.

Although both men are members of the Democratic party Mr. Dingell has been a strong ally of the auto industry and has blocked many safety and environmental standards that the auto companies argued they could not meet.

Mr. Waxman has long championed clean air legislation, increased federal support for disease research and is a strong advocate of legislation to combat climate change. It is suggested that the tacit approval of Nancy Pelosi, that allowed the 'coup' that replaced Dingell, was designed to help accelerate passage of energy, climate and health legislation backed by President-elect Barack Obama.

Others have pointed out that it was Representative Waxman who was responsible for the exposure of the dubious scientific practices of big tobacco firms in congressional hearings in the mid '90's.

'Waxman is now in a position to haul the energy executives onto to the floor and demand they release their strategy documents to confuse the science of global warming and expose this campaign just like he did with Big Tobacco. He now has the power to expose this campaign of confusion that has effectively delayed action on the most important issue we face today.'

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Talk on fish and biological invasions.

This Monday November 24th, 6pm at Harder South there is a talk on fish and biological invasions by Roland Knapp (Research Biologist, UCSB.)

Title: Thinking outside of the lake: fish impacts on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in the Sierra Nevada.

For more info, please contact Lisa Stratton at

Thought extinct, Pygmy tarsier found!

Ginny brought to my attention this cool discovery of rare and mouse sized pygmy tarsiers. Thought to be extinct, it was evidently a surprise for both the scientists and pygmies when they were recently discovered in central Sulawesi, Indonesia. For over 80 years they've been hiding! Here's another furry friend website for more info. Pygmy photo by Sharon Gursky-Doyen, Texas A and M. Map from

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Although there are some interesting Kakapo videos on YouTube there doesn't seem to be a good one of their mating call. The best one I can find is at the Arkive website here. You may need to turn up your volume to hear the low frequency call.

The Kakapo Recovery Program website is your one stop website for all things Kakapo.

ESA blawg

For all things legal and ESA check out the ESA blawg - a legal blog that discusses the Endangered Species Act. The latest post is a good indication of the sort of material covered but there are lots of great posts there that will give you a greater legal background to some of the material we have covered. 
While an essential goal of the Endangered Species Act is to increase attention to the endangered and threatened species, compliance with the law also leads to unintended consequences.  The problem stems from a simple fact: increased ESA demands do not equate with increased government agency resources.  Three news stories this week highlighted the tensions between the ESA demands, and the other competing needs, priorities and duties of state agencies. 
With number of ESA-listed species ever growing, and indeed, with global climate change threatening an explosion in threats to species, the absolute demands of the ESA could become increasingly difficult, or even impossible, to bear.  When that day comes (assuming it hasn't already), and in the absence of increased funding, a triage system becomes inevitable. 

Other recent posts you may find interesting - mainly because they are Californian stories:

Monday, November 17, 2008

To fish or farm?

Instead of another purely scientific shock story about how our fisheries and marine biodiversity are bound to collapse, this NYT week in review article gives a fresh fishery argument from a food critique's taste buds. In Discussion, we've debated this a bit. In short, author Mark Bittman proposes we pescavores eat cod only occasionally and sardines more frequently instead of encouraging the campaign for 'tasteless' farm-raised salmon.

The article weighs the ecological harm from farming fish (inefficient fishmeal, excessive waste (aka poo), genetic pollution, and long term unsustainability) against the convenience of year round salmon (probably not as tasty as the 85 pd Chinook photoed below). For specific fishery trends, note the NYT side graphs and how the Northwestern Atlantic Coast Herring looks like it's doing ok, after catch restrictions were imposed. Unfortunately, the Western Atlantic bluefin tuna trend looks more dismal.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Giant critters

I think it's an interesting commentary on human nature that despite the absolutely incredible diversity of life (see squid photos here and here) we still want to believe in a variety of fabulous creatures that do not exist (yeti's, bigfoot, sasquatch, etc). For a while there was a brief craze of picture postcards, featuring large creatures - usually out west (see chicken below and rabbit to left). I presume this also reflected a desire to con the rubes back east.

So I was a little hesitant when I heard tale of a giant fish (hmm, I think I saw that movie) and the link was to Cryptomundo - an entertaining website that specializes in 'crytptozoology' or the study of hidden animals(like the aforementioned bigfoot). Here's the photo of an allegedly 85 lb Chinook salmon. Yeah right. Except in this case the story appears to be true. I could pretend this is relevant to class because the Chinook salmon are listed under the state and federal endangered species acts but really I was reminded of this picture by Katherine's giant chicken picture.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Genetic Integrity

I hope you're all safe from the Santa Barbara fires! I was recently up in Big Sur and it was amazing to see how much fire damage there was... Part of the natural cycle?

Anyway, as a follow up to our question in discussion about the term "genetic integrity", I found this information online: one Genetic Integrity Project strives to "protect genetic resources, the integrity of genetic material and species biodiversity". For more information on why genetic integrity is important, see this quick summary by Jayne Belnap. When the option exists, Belnap says it's best to restore ecosystems using local plants instead of non-local genetic material or non-native species to preserve genetic integrity.
Photo from

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Good news everybody

An important follow up Michael's post on George W. Bush's Last Environmental Stand. I came across this article on the Politico website and it turns out that President-elect Obama may have a much easier job than anticipated in overturning the numerous Bush administration regulations that have recently been implemented. Many of these regulations significantly weakened environmental protections - for example by allowing federal agencies to determine on their own whether their policies will threaten endangered species, rather than requiring them to go through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for approval.

It could take Obama years to undo ... rules finalized more than 60 days before he takes office — the advantage the White House sought by getting them done by Nov. 1. But that strategy doesn’t account for the Congressional Review Act of 1996. The law contains a clause determining that any regulation finalized within 60 legislative days of congressional adjournment is considered to have been legally finalized on the 15th legislative day of the new Congress, likely sometime in February. Congress then has 60 days to review it and reverse it with a joint resolution that can’t be filibustered in the Senate. In other words, any regulation finalized in the last half-year of the Bush administration could be wiped out with a simple party-line vote in the Democrat-controlled Congress.

“If these rules are overturned, the benefits for the environment are potentially significant,” said Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at OMB Watch, a liberal regulatory watchdog group.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Supreme Court Says Navy Trumps Whales

Thanks to Jessica for pointing this one out.

In the first decision of the new term the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that military training trumps protecting whales in a dispute over the Navy's use of sonar in submarine-hunting exercises off the coast of southern California.

The use of MFA sonar under realistic conditions during training exercises is clearly of the utmost importance to the Navy and the Nation. The Court does not question the importance of plaintiffs’ ecological, scientific, and recreational interests, but it concludes that the balance of equities and consideration of the overall public interest tip strongly in favor of the Navy. The determination of where the public interest lies in this case does not strike the Court as a close question.

The case was seen as a test of whether the U.S. government could sidestep some environmental restrictions on national security grounds......

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Endangered giraffes beating the odds

Curious about giraffes? Read this Smithsonian magazine article about how the endangered Niger giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis peralta, is surviving despite stiff competition for resources, a limited population size and one neighboring country's poaching tendencies. (Below map shows Niger, home of these giraffes, and Nigeria, where two were poached)

Sex, birth, lots of leaves, and timber collection all come into play in this well written article. If not for the drama, note how economics and conservation biology are intertwined here: by protecting the local giraffes, villagers are investing in a growing tourism industry.

Photo from the Smithsonian Magazine by Jean-Patrick Suraud.

California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA)

Coal Oil Point Reserve Monthly Lecture
Thursday November 20th 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Topic: California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA)
Presenter: Michael Sheehy, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper

On Thursday, November 20th, from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm Santa Barbara
Channelkeeper is providing an informational presentation on
California's initiative to establish a network of Marine Protected
Areas (MPAs) in Southern California. MPAs are underwater wilderness
areas that limit the extraction of marine species and aim to protect
and conserve marine life and habitats. Proposals for the designation
of these areas in Southern California will be developed over the next
year and will be greatly influenced by public input and participation.

Directions and Parking: The presentation will take place at the Cliff
House, located at Coal Oil Point Reserve in Goleta. You can find
directions to the Coal Oil Point Reserve at
Limited parking is only available in the inner parking lot (through
the gate) and anyone who parks in the outer parking lot may receive a
parking ticket. Carpooling, biking, or walking from Isla Vista with
friends is encouraged. If you plan on parking in the inner parking
lot, please arrive 30 minutes early so you will have time to check if
there is a spot available or drive to the end of Isla Vista and walk
with a friend.

Please join Michael Sheehy, Channelkeeper’s Marine Conservation
Coordinator, to learn more about California’s Marine Life Protection
Act (MLPA) and how you can get involved. For more information about
this event, please email or call 563-3377. For more
information on the MLPA Initiative and MPAs, please visit or

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper is a non-profit organization dedicated to
the protection and restoration of the Santa Barbara Channel and its
watersheds. As Channelkeeper’s Marine Conservation Coordinator,
Michael Sheehy communicates with and educates the public on marine
conservation efforts and issues as they pertain to the Santa Barbara
Channel, including engaging the public in the Marine Life Protection
Act Initiative process in California’s south coast region. Michael
has extensive regional knowledge of the Santa Barbara Channel’s
near-shore marine communities and scientific expertise in marine
ecology- having worked for more than eight years as a research
ecologist with the Marine Science Institute and as a project manager
with the research consortium, Partnership for Interdisciplinary
Studies of Coastal Oceans, at UCSB. Michael has also consulted for
non-profit and businesses interests, including advising on such topics
as the state of global marine resource management.

Reservations are requested. Please send Leeza Charleboix an email to
reserve a spot at the lecture.

Leeza Charleboix
Coal Oil Point Reserve
Education and Tour Program Coordinator
Phone: (805) 893-5092

Monday, November 10, 2008

Habitat Restoration Workday at Coal Oil Point Reserve

Hello Restoration Volunteers!

Come join us Saturday,Nov 15th from 9am-12 noon for a Habitat
Restoration Workday at Coal Oil Point Reserve. Coal Oil Point Reserve
is a 170-acre nature reserve owned by UC Natural Reserve system, and
located just west of Isla Vista. The Reserve is an ecologically
important area that is home to a number of endangered and threatened
species, including the Western Snowy Plover and CA Least Tern. This
Saturday we will be improving critical habitat by planting native
species, removing non-natives, and maintaining previously planted
areas. This is a great opportunity for all community members who want
to improve water quality and the local habitat for all the critters
that live here!

If you plan to join us please RSVP to Tara Longwell at to receive directions to our meeting spot.
Tools, gloves, water, and snacks will be provided.

Hope to see you there!
Tara Longwell
COPR Reserve Steward

Glass squid

I missed this when the photo was published last year. I think it beats the piglet squid. Who knew there were so many anthropomorphic squid?

It was in a photo gallery at National Geographic. Here's the caption.

With its polka-dot mantle and cartoonish expression, this glass squid brings out a lighter side of the inky ocean deep.

Scientists found the squid and other species while mapping more than 1,500 square miles (3,900 square kilometers) of an undersea mountain range in the North Atlantic.

Until now the region had scarcely been explored because of its remoteness and depth. But the new survey shows that the ridge is teeming with life, said Monty Priede, expedition leader and director of the University of Aberdeen's Oceanlab research center.

"The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is roughly equivalent in size to the European Alps and is one of the largest areas of habitat available in the ocean," Priede said.

You can read more at the accompanying article.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wonders of ocean life counted in massive census

I'm not sure exactly why this is the lead story on the CNN website right now, slow news day?, but it's good to see some biology there.

A city of brittle stars off the coast of New Zealand, an Antarctic expressway where octopuses ride along in a flow of extra salty water and a carpet of tiny crustaceans on the Gulf of Mexico sea floor are among the wonders discovered by researchers compiling a massive census of marine life.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cloning extinct species

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Japanese scientists have produced clones of mice that have been dead and frozen for 16 years -- a feat that could lead researchers to one day resurrect long-extinct species, such as the mammoth.

Most of the recent extinctions we know about have involved habitat loss to one degree or another. In the absence of habitat restoration is it ethical or sensible to clone them? Discuss.

Friday, November 7, 2008

George W. Bush's Last Environmental Stand

In the wake of the election the White House seems to be doing all it can to destroy current environmental protections. Here is the story according to TIME.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Future EPA head?

According to the Washington Post, President-elect Barack Obama has short listed environmental lawyer Robert F Kennedy, Jr as a potential head of the US Environmental Protection Agency. Wired magazine don't seem that impressed because of Kennedy's involvement with the vaccines-causing-autism-hypothesis, which has virtually no scientific support. But, as New Scientist Blogger Phil McKenna points out, it's a lot better than the current situation and as a prosecuting attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council Kennedy has already been acting as the de facto EPA head as 'Bush appointees used the Cabinet seat to plunder public lands for oil and gas, gut the Endangered Species Act, and block CO2 emission regulations. '

Robert F. Kennedy is the nephew of former US President John F Kennedy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ecosystem services

Ashok Khosla
Chairman, Development Alternatives Group India President
International Union for Conservation of Nature
Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008
12:30 - 1:30 p.m.
Bren Hall 1414

"The Importance of Including the Value of Ecosystem Services in Economic Calculations "

Greenhouse Job for Work Study Student

Opening at Greenhouse for special project

Requires some knowledge of carpentry
Requires lifting 50 lbs
Self motivated & Dependable
$9.50 per hour

Hours to be determined - could include a Saturday; Email Joan Calder at Please state hours available and experience.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On Oct. 25th I blogged about 7 missing orcas in Washington waters. The scientists hypothesized that their disappearance may be due to decreased salmon populations. An article in today's NYT by Alexandra Morton, "Saving Wild Salmon, in Hopes of Saving the Orca" , goes more in depth about the salmon problems (such as farms) that may be causing killer whale deaths.

This article highlights a potential example of genetic pollution: where the farmed salmon are infecting wild salmon with sea lice, and leading to the wild populations decline. It also narrates the author's passion and success in pursuing whale conservation (through cooperation with universities and Trivia Pursuit philanthropists), despite her non traditional academic background. Ms. Morton points out that the whole trophic cascade, including bears, eagles and other animals, may be affected by the salmon farms.

Wind energy in Antarctica

Last week in class (and in his below blog "Biodiesel- friend or foe?") Professor Lotto discussed how conservation actions sometimes create conflicts. While energy savvy consumers are encouraged to use biodiesel instead of gasoline, there is an ecological cost when land is transformed to produce biodiesel fuel.

What is another alternative energy source (especially in the windiest place in the world)? Today's New York Times highlights the future use of small wind turbines at Belgium's new Antarctica station. If you're interested in alternative energy or Antarctica (because it is such a cool place!!) check out the NYT greening Antarctica blog.

Fyi- Google "McMurdo" or "Palmer" for more information on the United States' Antarctica stations. As I mentioned in discussion, UCSB offers amazing opportunities for students to do research in Antarctica with a diverse group of faculty from different disciplines. Feel free to ask me if you want to know more.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Snovy Plover Docent Training this Sat., Nov. 8th

Train to become a Snowy Plover Docent and help protect this threatened species at Sands Beach, Coal Oil Point.
Next training:
Sat., November 8th, 2008
The Cliff House, Coal Oil Point Reserve

During the training, we provide a 2 hr tour of Coal Oil Point, a DVD featuring the collaborative researcher projects at Coal Oil Point, a presentation about plover ecology and natural history and provide instruction about the docent roles: educator and protector.

If you have any questions, please call Jennifer Stroh, Snowy Plover Docent Program Coordinator, at (805) 880-1195 or email:

Here's a plover news article. Above photo by Morgan Ball, UCSB.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Roadless Wilderness Area Determines Forest Elephant Movements in the Congo Basin

Published in the Open Access PLoS One Journal this week:
Roadless Wilderness Area Determines Forest Elephant Movements in the Congo Basin

A dramatic expansion of road building is underway in the Congo Basin fuelled by private enterprise, international aid, and government aspirations. ..... We investigated the ranging behaviour of forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis)in relation to roads and roadless wilderness by fitting GPS telemetry collars onto a sample of 28 forest elephants living in six priority conservation areas... (W)e show that roads outside protected areas which are not protected from hunting are a formidable barrier to movement while roads inside protected areas are not. Only 1 elephant from our sample crossed an unprotected road....Forest elephants are increasingly confined and constrained by roads across the Congo Basin which is reducing effective habitat availability and isolating populations, significantly threatening long term conservation efforts. If the current road development trajectory continues, forest wildernesses and the forest elephants they contain will collapse.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lecture statistics

Just to clarify a couple of questions from the last lecture, both area related. For your convenience: a hectare is 100m x 100m (2 football fields side by side) and so there are 100 hectares per km2. There are about 2.5 acres in a hectare.

1/ I haven't exactly placed the US on the forest loss/preservation graph yet but I've found some recent, and very interesting, reports. Here are the links followed by some relevant statistics. I also re-read the Dinnerstein and Wikramanayake paper (D+W) (to see their exact criteria) and if you are interested it is a good read: Beyond Hotspots: How to Prioritize Investments to Conserve Biodiversity in the Indo-Pacific Region.

Useful Reports on Global Forest Resources and Deforestation
  • Between 2000 and 2005, the United States lost an average of 215,200 hectares of "primary forest" per year. D+W extrapolated current rates of primary forest loss to give their estimated 10 year loss rate. This would give the US a predicted 10 year loss of 2.1 million hectares.
  • In absolute terms this gives the United States the seventh largest annual loss of primary forests in the world, ranking it the worst among wealthy countries. However in terms of % loss this change is less dramatic.
  • There are approximately 300 million hectares of forest in the US but only about 100 million of this is primary forest.
  • 6o million hectares of forest is protected for conservation in the US. If we assume that all this is primary forest then that leaves 40 million hectares of unprotected primary forest.

2/ Maybe I misspoke but I think the figures I gave on land surface area and conservation plans in Madagascar were correct.
  • Madagascar is 587,000 km2 or ~60 million hectares.
  • Currently about 1.8 million hectares are in reserves (about 5 million acres)
  • Plans are to triple this to over 5.5 million hectares (about 15 million acres) or about 10% of the land surface area.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tahoe-Baikal Institute

The Tahoe-Baikal Institute is pleased once again to offer our Summer Environmental Exchange (SEE) program at Lake Tahoe and Lake Baikal from June to August 2009. Each summer the SEE program brings together an international group of young environmental leaders to learn about and directly participate in watershed protection, sustainable economic development, and cross cultural exchange.

The 2009 exchange will mark the 19th consecutive SEE program. Many of our 300+ international “graduates” of the SEE and other TBI programs hold influential positions as natural resource managers, academics, NGO leaders, and stewards of international cooperation and understanding all over the world, including Lakes Tahoe and Baikal. For students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in natural resource management, international policy, or related fields, the SEE is a promising and rewarding summer opportunity!

Visit the website for more information. There you can find more detailed information about the SEE program itself and the application process.

Biodiesel - friend or foe?

I took a couple of the pictures in lecture today from an article in National Geographic this month entitled Borneo's Moment of Truth . The article is worth reading and raises some interesting points about conservation.

"Virgin rain forest is a dead concept now in Borneo," says Glen Reynolds, chief scientist at the Danum Valley Field Center in Sabah. "All of the big areas of primary lowland forest that can be conserved already have been. It's difficult, but now what you've got to do is convince people that what we think of as degraded forest can sustain biodiversity."

Don't overlook the photo gallery with the usual high quality National Geographic photography.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ecological credit crunch

Feel free to chime in here but I suspect that most people don't understand the current financial crisis. They may know, or suspect, how it is going to influence them but at heart I think peoples' eyes glaze over when the experts start talking about derivatives. See? Half of you just stopped reading this post....

Anyhow it struck me that using the current global economic crisis as a metaphor for something else might not be the smartest move. But what do I know?

Anyhow, in the hews today:

A report by a number of leading conservation groups warns that unless prompt corrective measures are taken, the planet is heading toward an ecological credit crunch.


We graded the midterm and will return it to you after class tomorrow. It's on a straight scale so >27/30 is an A, > 24/30 is a B and >21/30 is a C. Everybody passed and two people scored 30/30

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ivory For Sale, Legally (and Controversially)

Almost 20,000 pounds of elephant ivory went for sale in Namibia today.

Is this protecting the elephants from 9 years of future poaching? Is the revenue from the auctions really going to “be used exclusively for elephant conservation and community development programs within or adjacent to the elephant range,’’ as Cites says, according to today's New York times article? The Cites press release gives more info.

This sale is the first of four approved by the United Nations which will result in almost 240,000 pounds of Southern African ivory sold. What do you think of this way to manage a growing elephant population?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wildlife Overpasses

This is an experts' rendering of a wildlife overpass. As you can see, all the animals are happily gridlocked in their corridor.
It seems as they forgot about this wonderful option
which is quite pretty with its stepping stones and such. I'm sure if they knew about it they would love crossing this gated-animal-community-garden-thing.


No great revelations just a number of small clarifications and some small pieces of advice.
  • Please try to get to class promptly. You should have enough time but coming in late may disturb others.
  • Please turn off your phone.
  • You will not need a calculator, scantron or blue book. You will need a pen. A back up pen may be a good idea.
  • Please write legibly. The space provided for the answers is enough to provide a good answer but is deliberately limited to make you think carefully about exactly what you write. Use the space wisely.
  • In the longer questions you will generally do better if you make a number of points rather than making the same point a number of times.

Thoreau Is Rediscovered as a Climatologist

From today's New York Times:

Henry David Thoreau endorsed civil disobedience, opposed slavery and lived for two years in a hut in the woods here, an experience he described in “Walden.” Now he turns out to have another line in his résumé: climate researcher.

In 1851, when he started recording when and where plants flowered in Concord, he was making notes for a book on the seasons.

Now, though, researchers at Boston University and Harvard are using those notes to discern patterns of plant abundance and decline in Concord — and by extension, New England — and to link those patterns to changing climate.

Their conclusions are clear. On average, common species are flowering seven days earlier than they did in Thoreau’s day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Congolese rebels seize gorilla park

I try quite hard not to make this course too depressing. I also try not to make the blog a non-stop parade of bad news. But sometimes it just keeps on coming. A headline today on CNN is 'Thousands flee fighting as Congo rebels seize gorilla park.'
Rebels have seized the headquarters of the Virunga National Park in the Eastern Congo. The 3,000 square mile park is home to 200 of the remaining 700 mountain gorillas. The 50 park rangers have been forced to flee.

This is the same park where seven gorillas were murdered last year. National Geographic covered this story in depth. Curiously this month's issue has a letter objecting to the use of the word murder in the gorilla story.

The continual conflict in the Congo has had a severe toll on wildlife in the region. In 2005 a survey by the World Wide Fund for Nature showed the population of hippopotamuses in Lake Edward in Virunga National Park's had plummeted to less than 900 individuals from an estimated 29,000.

The fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is also a humanitarian crisis. Since 1998, and the start of the Second Congo War (also known as Africa's World War) over 5 million people have died. Although the second Congo war ended in 2003 this has not stopped the fighting or the deaths due to malnutrition and disease.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

7 Missing Orcas

Ok - Ignoring the fact that it's Saturday night and I'm online reading the news, did you know that killer whales can live up to 98 years???

Seven killer whales recently disappeared from their local haunt in Washington waters. Scientists hypothesize that the orca vanishing act may be due to reduced chinook salmon populations (their prey) this year. Alarm is rising as the orca population in this area has already decreased from 140 animals in the last century to now only 83. In 2005, these resident orcas were listed as endangered. Of particular concern are 2 missing females of breeding age! Click the above link to read more about scientists investigating this mystery.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Piglet squid

I reserve the right to post pictures of amusing animals here because they demonstrate the incredible variety of life. That, and they amuse me.

Here's the piglet squid, Helicocranchia pfefferi. It is only found in water below 300 feet and its habit of filling up with water and the funny location of its siphone with a wild-looking 'tuft' of eight arms and two tentacles has prompted scientists to name it the piglet squid.

Even though I will never see one in the wild, may never see one in an aquarium, and may possibly never see a picture of one ever again, I'd rather live in a world that has piglet squid than one that doesn't. We will actually address the the topic of 'contingent valuation' or 'existence values' a little later in the course.

EEMB Seminar

Monday, October 27th at 4:00PM MSRB Auditorium Dr. Brad Cardinale - “Effects of biodiversity on the functioning of ecosystems … one summary of, and vision for a paradigm."

Class textbook on Reserve

Hi Everyone,

If you want to use the textbook to review, please feel free to borrow it from the library. I just put one on reserve and it should be available by tomorrow (Saturday 10/25/08). The book is called Principles of Conservation Biology and is under reserve for EEMB 168.

Good luck studying!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

This and that

We predict, on the basis of mid-range climate-warming
scenarios for 2050, that 15–37% of species in our sample
of regions and taxa will be ‘committed to extinction’.

Here's a link to the "Extinction risk from Climate Change" paper I skipped by quite quickly. It was quite controversial when it came out in 2004 and was widely misreported in the press. Here's the Nature editorial about it.

I was trying to check out where I got that Beech example figure from. The example is a bit of a classic and the figure is too 'pretty' to be from the original paper so I guessed I probably got it from a textbook but couldn't remember which. I did find a very similar figure in a text but am still not sure where that bogus figure came from. This one at least makes sense.

Eyewitness to Global Warming

Monday, October 27, 2008 @ 7:30 PM, Campbell Hall

Will Steger: Eyewitness to Global Warming

The fourth person ever to reach both poles, Will Steger is known by many titles – educator, activist, photographer, and former Explorer-in-Residence for National Geographic. His monumental 1,200 mile expedition by sled and canoe between Russia and Ellesmere Island, Canada, earned Steger the prestigious John Oliver La Gorce Medal, awarded only 19 times since 1888, and placed him in the ranks of such pioneers as Amelia Earhart and Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Steger will present an visual account of the global warming induced changes that he’s witnessed firsthand in Arctic regions over four decades of polar exploration.

Co-presented with The Will Steger Foundation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crystal Palace

This isn't the set of a science fiction movie. This is a real cave in Mexico containing giant crystals of selenite. With temperatures over 110 degrees and humidity of 90 to 100% every visit carries a real risk of heat stroke and death. The people you see in the picture have vests filled with ice packs under their suits.

In this course I will not have time to cover the conservation of such natural wonders. Some of the issues are similar to the conservation of biodiversity and some are rather different. I wish we had more time. I thought I'd mention it here though. This picture is from an article in this month's National Geographic. Check out the article and the picture's at their website. Amazing.

Web of Science: online tool for research papers

As you're working on your conservation ecology papers and looking for references you may find Web of Science useful. This tool enables you to find papers on your subject and then identify other papers that also cite those papers. Through UCSB's library website you can then access those papers that are in electronic journals.

To access Web of Science from UCSB go to the library website and select "Research".
Select "Article Indexes and Databases".
Select "Sciences and Engineering".
Then, scroll down and select "Web of Science".
From there, you can use "Web of Science". More information on how to use Web of Science can be found at this link. A free online tutorial that takes 10 minutes is also helpful.

Note: If you are off campus, you may need to log-in to the UCSB library website through a proxy. This is straightforward. Go to the library website "home page" and select "Off-Campus Log-in". You can even add a link to your toolbar for easy access next time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Santa Barbara Ocean Film Festival / October 22-23

This looks like a great opportunity to see how media is used to portray marine issues!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Society of Undergraduate Biologists

FINALLY! An undergraduate organization for ALL biology majors! The Society of Undergraduate Biologists (SUB) will be the main social and informational network for bio students, helping you to make the most out of your biology degree. (Look for us on Facebook!)

INFORMATIONAL MEETING for 2008-2009 Come to our Open House! Hang out, snack, and learn about the benefits of being a SUB member! Learn about our other upcoming events!
Wednesday, Oct. 22nd in Life Sciences Building Rm. 4307, 4:30-6:30 PM
15 min Presentations at 4:30 and 5:30 PM

EEMB seminar today on ocean Conservation

EEMB seminar, 4pm in the MSRB Auditorium, Monday 20th October
"The Next Big Thing in Ocean Conservation - Out on the Bleeding Edge"
Rod Fujita from the Environmental Defense Fund

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wildlife detected

Following a (slight) theme of hi-tech solutions comes a report from the LA times last week about a system in Denver Colorado that detects deer and elk crossing the road and warns motorists. The system, which covers a mile of highway on US160, detects changes in the earth's electromagnetic field caused by the presence of large animals. When large animals are detected the system flashes warnings to motorists. Obviously the impetus behind this is more road safety than wildlife conservation but if the costs fall this might be a useful tool. Currently the system costs about $1 million for a mile of coverage.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cactus rustling

A perfect story from AP this week for our last class on overcollecting.

National Park Service officials at the Saguaro National Park in Arizona are embedding microchips in thousands of Saguaro cacti because people are stealing them. The chips will act as both a deterrent and a way to identify stolen cacti.

Apparently there is a precedent for cactus-chipping. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona and Nevada began putting microchips in barrel cacti in 1999.

Friday, October 17, 2008

How important are ecosystem services?

One controversial subject in ecology is putting values on natural resources. In discussion we talked about how ecosystems are valued, who creates the "values", the role of science in determining values, and whether science may be used to create criteria for measuring values. I referred to a recent paper by Leslie and McLeod (2007) that values marine ecosystem services as being "very important" to "not important"(p. 3 Figure 2).

As seen in this photo taken at a Tonnara in Sardinia (where Atlantic Bluefin Tuna have been harvested for hundreds of years), some ecosystems can be valued for multiple (and at times conflicting) reasons. For example, fishing can be valued for a variety of reasons including culture, food, employment, money, tourism and recreation.

Human Impact on Marine Ecosystems

In discussion we talked about how science may be used to measure the impact of humans on the environment. A recent paper by a UCSB graduate and ecologist addresses this very issue: A Global Map of Human Impact on Marine Ecosystems by Halpern et al (2008).

Why map the human impact on the world's oceans?
For more information see the NCEAS website link.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stinky whale update

Below is the Stinky Whale story I posted in May of this year. I was hoping to update it with more information but it still seems to be a bit of a mystery. There was a National Geographic article in June, bringing the issue to a bigger audience but the cause of the problem, let alone the solution, still seems elusive. Gray Whales are the whales you will see from here as they migrate past each and every year. Gray whales migrate farther than any mammal - between their warm birthing lagoons in Mexico and their arctic feeding grounds. A 10,000 mile roundtrip every year of their lives. The journey north around February each year and is quite spread out so late Winter and early Spring is your best time for Whale watching. Last year the peak day for observations from Coal Oil Point was March 22nd when 41 Gray Whales were spotted. There is some information on the COP Gray Whale counts and a link for how to get involved with 2009 monitoring at this page.

Gray Whales have been granted protection from commercial hunting by the International Whaling Commission since 1949, and are no longer hunted on a large scale. Limited hunting of Gray Whales has continued since that time, however, primarily in the Chukotka region of north-eastern Russia, where large numbers of Gray Whales spend the summer months. This hunt has been allowed under an "aboriginal/subsistence whaling" exception to the commercial-hunting ban and the annual quota for the Gray Whale catch in the region is 140 whales per year. After increasing from the brink of extinction to a population of about 20,000 the grey whales now seem to be struggling. Numbers are estimated to have fallen to between 15,000 and 18,000, and some researchers are concerned that the trend of the past few decades may have reversed.

In the past few years, the aboriginal whalers of the eastern coastline who hunt gray whales for meat have reported that an increasing number of them smell so foul that even dogs won't eat them. The few people who have tried the meat suffered numb mouths, stomach ache and skin rashes.

Possible culprits are either pollutants in the ocean or a change in the whales diet. A preliminary analysis has not revealed any unexpected pollutants and attention has switched to diet. One possibility is that the smell is a side effect of following a cetacean version of the Atkins diet as their diet shifts. There is some evidence to support this idea: the whales normally stick to a diet of shrimp-like crustaceans called amphipods, but hunters have reported finding stinky whales' stomachs full of seaweed and cod. As with the Atkins diet in humans, this could be causing the whales to enter the state known as ketosis, in which they burn fat for energy. In people, this causes bad breath. Perhaps the whales are undergoing something similar.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't forget the archive

If you are starting to wonder what you are going to write your paper about and don't know where to start then don't forget to check out the blog archive from last Spring. I'm hoping most of you have plenty of ideas of your own but if you need some ideas some of the old postings provide some great jumping off points. They may also make interesting reading even if you already have a topic for your paper.

You can access old posts in indexed form via the labels over on the right hand side, or just scroll back through time.

Here are just a handful of old posts that I think raise interesting issues worthy of further investigation:
(The picture is another leaf tailed gecko just for the heck of it.)