Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More buffalo

And in further buffalo related news you might have seen this news story out yesterday. Apparently a harsh Yellowstone winter has led to the starvation of more than 700 buffalo. In addition more than 1,600 were shot by hunters according to National Park Service figures.

As a result, the park estimates its bison herd has dropped from 4,700 in November to about 2,300 today, prompting the government to halt the culling program early.

Government officials say the slaughter prevents the spread of the disease brucellosis from the Yellowstone bison to cattle on land near the park but the USDA acknowledges that bison-to-cattle transmission is difficult to document.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Buffalo Hunt: International Trade and the Virtual Extinction of the North American Bison"

Scott Taylor, Professor of Economics,University of Calgary
Friday, May
16, 2008

4:00-5:30 pm
Bren Hall 1424

Part of the 2007-2008 seminar series in Environmental & Natural Resource Economics


In the 16th century, North America was home to 25 million to 30 million buffalo; by the late 19th century, fewer than 100 remained. While removing the buffalo east of the Mississippi took settlers over 100 years, the remaining 10 to 15 million buffalo on the Great Plains were killed in a punctuated slaughter in little more than 10 years. I employ theory, data from international trade statistics, and first-person accounts to argue that the slaughter on the plains was initiated by a foreign-made innovation and fueled by a foreign demand for industrial leather. Ironically, the ultimate cause of this sad chapter in American environmental history was of European, not American, origin.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Condor chick

Aww, isn't it cute? In an ugly sort of way....

Welcome to the first wild born condor chick of 2008. Born in a cave in the Sespe Condor Sanctuary (north of Fillmore) the chick is now a month old. There's an article here that links to the US Fish and Wildlife site with some volunteer opportunities. If you've ever wanted to hike around the wilderness carrying a large, dead, carcass then this could be the opportunity for you.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Overcollecting: Plants

Overcollecting is surprisingly common and you may be accidentally contributing to it. Here are some plant groups that suffer from overcollecting and if you ever buy these species you may want to check where they come from. There are certainly sustainable sources for many of these organisms but it never hurts to check.

Carnivorous plants- including sundews, bladderworts, Venus flytrap, and pitcher plants. Collectors or suppliers have stripped many areas in the Southeastern United States of all of these plants.

Cacti - in the Southwest United States rare cacti are harvested for sale nationwide and worldwide. Endangered cacti include the Nellie Cory cactus (which has one remaining colony), Epithelantha micromeres bokei, Ancistrocactus tubuschii, saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea), and Coryphantha minima.

Epiphytes - In southern Mexico, there are 411 species of epiphytes (air plants or bromeliads in the genus Tillandsia), of which several are extremely rare. These plants are threatened by overcollection for the houseplant trade.

Orchids - Several species have been collected to extinction. Examples include the extremely rare blue vanda (Vanda caerulea); Paphiopedilum druryi, believed extinct in its native habitat; Dendrobium pauciflorum, endangered and possibly extinct--only a single plant was known to exist in the wild in 1970; and the Javan phalaenopsis orchid, Phalaenopsis javanica. The latter was believed extinct. When it was rediscovered in 1960's, it was overcollected by commercial orchid dealers and thereby exterminated. There are no other known wild populations.

Even the humble African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) of Tanzania may soon be extinct in the wild partly because of the horticultural trade.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Anthropogenic Allee Effect

Standard economic theory predicts that exploitation alone is unlikely to result in species extinction because of the escalating costs of finding the last individuals of a declining species. We argue that the human predisposition to place exaggerated value on rarity fuels disproportionate exploitation of rare species, rendering them even rarer and thus more desirable, ultimately leading them into an extinction vortex.

Here is the link to the Courchamp et al. paper I mentioned in class. There is also a synopsis of the paper written for a more general audience. There's another commentary on the paper in Nature and one in Scientific American.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


We conclude that marine biodiversity loss is increasingly impairing the ocean's capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover from perturbations. Yet available data suggest that at this point, these trends are still reversible.

I was looking for this 2006 paper from in Science about the collapse of the world's fish stocks that attracted quite a lot of press when I came across this relatively new site - which has a nice clean design and a lot of interesting (although often depressing) links and articles. Don't miss the bottom trawling satellite images.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gray Whale Conservation

Cris Sandoval, Director of the Coal Oil Point Reserve, writes:

Dear friends,
This is a special time of the year to see Gray Whales and Sea Otters at the Coal Oil Point Reserve. This is the first year that the otters have shown up in numbers, an average of 20 a day. If you would like to visit the reserve, please email me and I can arrange parking. Michael Smith and other docents are at the point (next to the Cliff House) daily and have a scope to show the whales and otters. For more information on the whales, check NORTH Report
I hope to see you soon,

>This is going to the Gray Whales Count community.
>Many of you have asked about the progress of the migration. To this
>point, we at Gray Whales Count have counted more whales than any
>year, and we are in the final phase: the cow/calf pairs. We are a
>bit anxious, trying to be patient in hopes that the whales have
>traveled much further than usual and are spreading out the
>northbound parade.
>To get a better insight into what is going on from many different
>perspectives, I hope you will follow the link to Journey North to
>see Jane Duden's latest report, which includes some very interesting
>information from NOAA's Wayne Perryman, as well as reports from
>Mexico to Alaska.
>My best,
>michael h smith,
>project coordinator
Gray Whales Count


NORTH Report website has some links towards the bottom of the page on scientific research on Gray Whale conservation. Including an interesting study conducted by Steve Palumbi of Stanford University using genetics to estimate historic whale populations. Here is a link to the paper and his website.

Whale season

It's Gray whale season and although the count is low this year at Coal Oil Point it seems to be a bumper year for sea otters. I lived in Santa Barbara about 20 years ago and I never once saw sea otters this far south, now they seem to be regulars. Apparently, until recently, otters that ventured south were removed from the 'no-otter zone'. The government now wants to change this policy and not everyone is delighted.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bamboo Corridor

Around half of the estimated thousand or so wild pandas that remain are located in nature reserves. Even within these reserves the panda is at risk because the reserve forests are now fragmented, existing as woodland "islands", each surrounded by a sea of human activity. The populations of panda marooned within these islands are nearly all tiny, often less than 10 animals. Such small populations have no long term future and as it appears that every wild panda is isolated in this way, the future of the species in the wild is bleak.

A joint project between China's Wolong Giant Panda Research Centre, the World Wildlife Fund and the Panda Trust based in the UK aims to establish corridors linking some of the reserves. Following earlier evaluations, the first bamboos have now been planted between two known panda habitats. The plan is to utlimately plant several 0.5km-wide "bamboo corridors" on degraded agricultural land between panda "islands".

Check out the animation at the WWF site which is annoyingly cute. The project gets regular press reports but that's the way it goes when you are charismatic.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bushbuck Conservation in Africa

I came across this article that was quite relevant to our last lecture. The paper describes the conservation of unique habitats in order to protect the most genetically distinct populations of this species. Here is the original paper, and here is a description of it in Science Daily.

This photo displays some of the phenotypic diversity within this species, Tragelaphus scriptus. One of the authors of the paper described above, Dr. Moodley, writes:

Tragelaphus scriptus is a phenotypically variable pan-African complex, collectively known as bushbuck. The smallest of the spiral-horned antelopes, the bushbuck is the most widely distributed ungulate on the African continent; occurring from as far west as southern Mauritania and Senegal, east across the Sahel to Ethiopia and Somalia and south in all countries to South Africa. Bushbuck are singularly unusual in their ubiquity.

Throughout their extensive distributional range, they inhabit, and appear to be adapted, to a wide variety of ecotypes including rainforest, wooded savanna, semi-arid to arid savanna, sub-desert, fynbos and montane forest. Bushbuck are dependent only on the cover offered by forests, dense bush and thickets (Dorst and Dandelot, 1970). They are usually found in the vicinity of permanent water but are able to subsist on dew in waterless areas (Kingdon 1997).

Free Movie: Sharkwater


Sharkwater Directed and produced by Rob Stewart
Running time: 89 minutes
Winner of 26 international awards, including Best Of The Festival - Santa Barbara Ocean Film Festival and Canada's Top Ten - Toronto International Film Festival

Tuesday, April 22, 2007
5:00 pm
Bren Hall 1414
Admission: Free
Trailer and further information at the Sharkwater website.

"Over 90% of global shark populations are destroyed. Within the next few years, most of the world's shark populations may go extinct due to over-harvesting and overexploitation of marine ecosystems. If the sharks go extinct, the global consequences may be catastrophic. Stewart argues that the collapse of the world's shark populations is at least as great an emergency as global warming. This mass extinction will greatly impact life on Earth -- including humans. The fate of the world is at stake. This film is an urgent alarm and a terrifying call for immediate global action."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Captive Tigers Harbor Rare "Purebred" Genes

In a National geographic story this week they report on a study of the genetics of captive tigers. There used to be eight distinct subspecies of tigers, now there are five and one of these no longer exists in the wild. In order to preserve the genetic identity of the subspecies it is necessary that any captive breeding uses only 'purebred' animals from that subspecies. Until this recent study many captive animals were not of use because their genetic history was unknown. In addition it was assumed that many of them would be likely to be the results of crossbreeding between different subspecies. However this latest research provides good news by showing that almost half of the captive tigers tested might be purebreeds. Since there are only 3,000 wild tigers and 15-20,000 captive tigers this is important news.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A flap in the right direction

Next week we'll be talking about deforestation. This is naturally a somewhat depressing subject. But looking on the bright side, in some areas, and Costa Rica is a prime example, there has been some interest in reforestation. This can be tricky and expensive. A report this week by German scientists suggests that providing artificial bat roosts may be a much cheaper way of starting the reforestation process. The bats consume fruits from the forest, and will forage over quite an area, and then spread the seeds around their roosts in their droppings. There's a report here and apparently the paper will be published in an upcoming issue of Conservation Biology.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stool pigeon

One method of killing passenger pigeons was to blind a single bird by sewing its eyes shut using a needle and thread. This bird's feet would be attached to a circular stool at the end of a stick that could be raised five or six feet in the air, then dropped back to the ground. As the bird attempted to land, it would flutter its wings, thus attracting the attention of other birds flying overhead. When the flock would land near this decoy bird, nets would trap the birds and the hunters would crush their heads between their thumb and forefinger. eg. letter to Time Magazine, Dec 29 1930

There is a debate about whether this method of capturing the passenger pigeon is really the origin of the term 'stool pigeon' - used today to refer to an informer, but originally used to refer to a person used as a decoy to entice criminals into a trap. However despite the debate over the etymology of the term it is clear that this was an actual method used to capture large flocks of passenger pigeons.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ferrets on a prairie

If you'd like to read more about the ongoing black-footed ferret recovery program there is a nice website at There are some interesting approaches to conserving the genetic diversity. Instead of the traditional stud book that recorded matings and attempted to cross as widely as possible we now have:

One high priority for protecting genetic diversity was to establish a "Black-footed Ferret Genome Resource Bank", a frozen repository of sperm from the most genetically valuable males.

What do you think they mean by 'genetically valuable' here?

The video is not especially informative but does give a nice idea of what the breeding facility looks like, and you do get to see a lot of ferrets.......

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

California bans coastal salmon fishing

More bad news for salmon fishers: State regulators Tuesday banned salmon fishing this year in coastal waters off California, just days after a federal decision to cancel the season for the first time ever.

The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to prohibit commercial and recreational salmon fishing in state waters, which extend three miles off the coast.

The federal ban approved last week by the Pacific Fishery Management Council applies to U.S. waters extending from three to 200 miles off the coasts of California and Oregon.

Government regulators are taking the unprecedented action because runs of fall-run chinook salmon are experiencing a sharp decline.

Scientists say the most worrisome trouble is on the Sacramento River.

-- Eric Bailey
LA Times

More press:
NY Times
The Sacramento Bee
Pacific Fishery Management Council News Release

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Megapark for elephants

Here's an interesting paper from Biological Conservation last year that uses several of the ideas we talked about today, particularly metapopulations and sources and sinks. But in this case, when the species of concern is elephants, we have an interesting situation - too many elephants in an area can be too much of a good thing. They trample crops, come into conflict with people and can damage vegetation in conservation areas. In this case the authors suggest that the establishment of sinks may be a good thing that prevents populations in the sources from becoming too numerous.

We support the development of one or more networks of conservation areas that will allow the southern African sub-region’s elephants to be driven by metapopulation dynamics. Inevitably, our model must provide for both source and sink populations. This can be achieved by allowing dispersal from sources, including many existing conservation areas, to sinks. In doing so, our approach links source populations within a megapark context. We advocate that the landscape matrices between conservation areas act primarily as sinks. By the very nature of sinks, here elephant mortality rates must be greater than birth rates, while populations are maintained by immigration from sources. Such immigration should limit numbers in source populations. In restoring this type of metapopulation structure, elephant numbers could be prevented from increasing locally to levels that are deemed undesirable in sources.

Megaparks for metapopulations: Addressing the causes of locally high elephant numbers in southern Africa by Rudi J. van Aarde, Tim P. Jackson
Biological conservation 134, 3, Pages 289-297

Monday, April 14, 2008


"I have now a library of nearly 900 volumes over 700 of which I wrote myself--"

Thoreau, Journal, October 28, 1853

93106, the weekly faculty/staff newspaper at UCSB has an interesting article about the UCSB based 'Writings of Henry D. Thoreau Project'. They have just completed a project to read and transcribe each of the approximately two million words in the forty-seven manuscript volumes of the Thoreau's Journal.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Try harder

A slightly tenuous connection to conservation biology but bear with me. Recently I've been reading Tim Noakes 'Lore of Running' which is a 930 page behemoth that covers absolutely everything you might ever want to know about the physiology of running, training and the history of the sport. In it he talks about the legendary coach Franz Stampfl who revolutionized the sport by introducing the concept of interval training. This concept, which he introduced in the 1950's, is still widely used today. Stampfl was a tremendously successful coach who used these methods to train three of the first five men to break the four minute mark for the mile, including the first person to do so Roger Bannister.

In the 1950's Norman Myers, who later introduced the concept of Biodiversity Hotspots, was an undergraduate at Oxford and trained with the already legendary Stampfl. He recalls that the sum total of Stampfl's advice was to 'try harder' and if this worked to come back in a month. Coming back in a month Myers got the advice 'Try harder still'. I don't know what success Myers had as an undergraduate but apparently he ran a 2:37:00 marathon at the age of 46 - which, if you don't know, is pretty damn fast.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

News from down under

Two conservation ecology related news stories from out of Australia hitting the news this week courtesy of Reuters news agency

In the first two men from the United States have been arrested and charged with trying to smuggle about 1,300 native beetles out of Australia in empty yoghurt containers. We tend to forget that small species as well as big ones suffer from trade and smuggling. A quick internet search reveals a flourishing trade in exotic beetles. Who knew?

In the second story two plants that were thought to have been extinct since the late 1800s have been rediscovered in northern Australia. One of them, Rhaphidospora cavernarum, which is a large herb that stands about one and a half metres high, hasn't been seen since 1873 and the other, Teucrium ajugaceum, was last seen in 1891.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Religion, Science, and the Environment

Here is the website of the "Religion, Science, and the Environment" movement I mentioned in section today. Dr. Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University among other scientists were invited to participate in this international symposium, which recently met in Greenland to discuss the role of religion and science in the face of climate change.

As a side-note, Jane founded the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program that teaches environmental scientists to be effective communicators of scientific information to the public, policy makers, the media and the private sector--definitely an important skill for science to influence conservation measures.

Commercial break

Speaking of charismatic megafauna, which I think I did very briefly, the World Wildlife Fund is well known for the panda logo, but they are not afraid to utilize other animals to further their goals. As a special offer for Mother's day this year, if you donate $50 to the WWF you can get both a blue footed booby AND a red footed booby. Now that's a good deal. Tell me your mom wouldn't appreciate this gift.

Male blue-footed boobies take great pride in their feet displaying them to prospective mates during their mating dance. The bluer the feet, the more attractive the mate. There are some videos on YouTube but this one from Getty Images is the best one I've seen.

If you want something cuddlier they are doing a similar two for one deal on sea otters (and pandas, lemurs, macaws and gorillas).

We now return to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hey it's the leaf tailed Gecko again!

A study out of UC Berkeley in the journal Science this week provides new techniques for identifying the best regions to conserve within Madagascar - itself a biodiversity hotspot.

Madagascar, like other globally recognized biodiversity hot spots, has complex spatial patterns of endemism that differ among taxonomic groups, creating challenges for the selection of within-country priorities. We show, in an analysis of wide taxonomic and geographic breadth and high spatial resolution, that multitaxonomic rather than single-taxon approaches are critical for identifying areas likely to promote the persistence of most species.

This is of great importance because Madagascar has a goal of tripling the land area under protection, and it is important that these areas are selected as wisely as possible.

There's a nice report at the Berkeley website and the Science article is here. This ties in with a whole bunch of topics we have or will talk about so this one is definitely worth a look. It's also the cover story for Science this week.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A World of Possum-bilities

Having just utilized the services of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network to find a home for three baby opossums that were left in my yard I thought I would give them a plug here. The woman I spoke to on the phone said that in a few weeks they will be inundated with birds and mammals and can use all the help they can get. If you want to get some volunteer experience working with animals this is a great opportunity. Their new location in the Fairview Center is convenient for campus too. You can complete an application on their website and they can use you even if you can only spare an hour or two a week.

FYI - If you find injured wildlife during the day, you can take it to the Wildlife Care Network located near the OSH store in the Fairview Center in Goleta. After hours, weekends, and holidays, you can take it to the C.A.R.E. Hospital downtown (Garden & Haley) which is conveniently open 24 hours.

(Apologies for cross posting this one, I try not to do this but in this case it seemed appropriate.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fish Hatchery Controversy Takes On New Significance As Wild Chinook Salmon Populations Crash

ScienceDaily (Apr. 8, 2008) — "A recent study indicates that wild salmon may account for just 10 percent of California's fall-run chinook salmon population, while the vast majority of the fish come from hatcheries. The findings are especially troubling in light of the disastrous decline in the population this year, which will probably force the closure of the 2008 season for commercial and recreational salmon fishing." click here for the rest of the article

Researchers from University of California, Santa Cruz published their findings in a recent issue of the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. These researchers are members of the large-scale marine research program called the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO), which includes researchers from UCSC, UCSB, Stanford and OSU. Visit their website for more information on the research that is conducted here along the 1200 miles of coastline from California to Washington.

Summer Field Course

Summer Field Course in Environmental Studies—Oregon Restoration Ecology

The University of Oregon is taking applications for its summer 2008 field course in restoration ecology. Past participants in this course have come from the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Humboldt State University, and the University of Washington. The course offers hands-on experience at ecological restoration projects in Central Oregon. Study sites range from the wet forests of the High Cascades to the juniper-sage scrub of the Oregon desert. A diverse faculty from the University of Oregon and Oregon State University instruct in restoration methods, invasive species, soils, geomorphology, and philosophy. The course is four quarter-credits, and runs from June 16-27, with final projects due via email on July 7. It is designed for upper-division students (juniors, seniors, and graduated seniors) and entry-level masters students from any academic institution. $525 covers tuition, fees, room, and board. For more information, including photos, student comments, a sample syllabus, and how to apply, visit Directions for filing an application are under the "course information" link.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Society for Conservation Biology

I mentioned the Society for Conservation Biology so I thought I'd give their website a quick plug. There are a number of resources there that you might find useful. There is a moderately active bulletin board where you might just find an interesting job, grant or course and a more active Job Board which you can search by location. In addition to journals they also publish a popular magazine, Conservation, that is available online. Of course you can always support the aims of the society by becoming a member (students get a 50% discount).

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rare rabbit spotted (striped actually)

I already mentioned some of the problems of working with and counting rare species. Here's one of the rarest, the Sumatran striped rabbit. This photograph from last year was taken in Bukit Barisan National Park in Sumatra and is only the third photograph ever taken of the species, the first dating from 1998 and the second taken in 2000. Before that, the last confirmed sighting by scientists of a living animal dated from 1972, and only 15 specimens exist in museums, all dating from before1929. It is currently listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The story was picked up by a few news outlets such as the BBC.

"This rabbit is so poorly known that any proof of its continued existence at all is great news".

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Think like a mountain

One of Aldo Leopold's most famous, and probably most widely cited, essays is a short piece with the memorable title 'Thinking like a mountain.' It is included in the San County Almanac but you can also read it here.

In 1996 Comic book artist and writer Paul Chadwick took Leopold's phrase and used it for a 6 issue comic series where his reluctant hero 'Concrete' becomes involved with a radical environmental organization. If you like your ideas and preconceptions tested this is a great read.

Friday, April 4, 2008

What killed the wooly mammoth?

In PLoS Biology this week is a new paper that uses climate models and fossil distribution to deduce that the woolly mammoth went extinct primarily because of loss of habitat due to changes in temperature, while human hunting acted as the final straw. The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a nonprofit open access scientific publishing project and the PLoS journals have rapidly become a premium venue. Like some other major journals they have editorials on a number of selected articles each issue (eg here for the mammoth story) and you can also see the response of other readers.
Sedwick C (2008) What Killed the Woolly Mammoth? PLoS Biol 6(4): Published: April 1, 2008

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Leopold and Hardin

The Aldo Leopold Foundation continues the legacy of Leopold and maintains an interesting website but if you are interested in Leopold you should check out his archives at the University of Wisconsin.

The Garrett Hardin Society is dedicated to the preservation of the writings and ideas of Garrett James Hardin and has links to many of his writings.

Unusual conservation tool

I was reading about research on the clearing of land mines for a different class when I came across this interesting story from the Falkland Islands. During the 1982 Falklands War parts of the island were heavily mined by the Argentinean forces. It is estimated that 25 years later 25,000 land mines still remain. However the locals are in no hurry to get rid of them. In contrast to the situation in many Asian and African countries the remaining mines are in well fenced and sign posted areas and are proving to be a haven for penguins and other wildlife.

One of their favourite spots is on the mined side of fences with "Danger Mines" and skull and crossbones signs. Tourists are kept on the safe side of the fence, allowing the nervous, partner-seeking penguins to forget about encroaching humans. "The gentoos come up on Kidney Cove and can rest there because it is in a minefield," said Adrian Lowe, who runs penguin safaris on his family farm. "It is their natural habitat. Only the minefield fences are man-made."

An interesting technique but only recommended for relatively small species of penguin.....

Underwater Canyons

Thursday, April 3rd, MSB 1302, 4 pm

*Beauty and Destruction in the World's Largest Underwater Canyons*

*John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA*

* *

John Hocevar, Senior Oceans Specialist at Greenpeace USA, will present
video and images from Greenpeace's exploration of two of the world's
largest underwater canyons. Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons are located
in the heart of the Bering Sea fishing grounds of some of the world's
largest fisheries, so the findings from this expedition have immediate
implications for management and conservation. Over a dozen species of
coral were observed, as well as an unexpected abundance and diversity of
sponges. Considerable evidence of fishing impacts to benthic marine
life was documented in these deep, remote locations. Hocevar will share
preliminary findings from the expedition and discuss management
proposals to protect habitat-forming corals and sponges.

As the head of Greenpeace USA's oceans programs, John Hocevar works on a
broad range of marine conservation issues in US waters and on the high
seas. Since joining Greenpeace in 2004, he has led two expeditions to
the Bering Sea, confronted factory fishing vessels in the Chesapeake
Bay, coordinated the UN lobbying efforts for the Deep Sea Conservation
Coalition, and challenged Japan's illegal and wasteful whaling
operations. Hocevar has a Masters degree in marine biology from Nova
Southeastern University, where he evaluated tools to protect coral
reefs. His work has included sea turtle nesting projects, and oil spill
prevention plans. He also helped design a coastal and marine management
plan for the government of Belize.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Kakapo love

The Kakapo is a large, nocturnal and flightless parrot found in New Zealand. Only 86 Kakapo remain and the birds prospects look dim since they only breed every three to five years. On the bright side the birds are long-lived, possibly one of the world's most long lived birds. I don't know how many species are so rare that every individual has a name but Kakapo are part of that select club.

Reproduction seems to be correlated with bumper crops of the Rimu tree but the eggs are incubated for 30 days so the Kakapo must lay them well before the fruit is ripe. How do Kakapo know to start reproducing? Research published this week unravels the mystery:

The unripened fruit of the rimu contains chemicals that mimic the action of the birds' sex hormones. Prior to a bumper crop, kakapo eat more unripened fruit than usual. The chemicals in it prime the liver so that come summer, when the lengthening days trigger the birds' ovaries to produce the sex hormone oestrogen, the liver responds by producing more egg-yolk protein, essential for developing eggs (Wildlife Research, vol 35, p 1).

Although this is just a hypothesis, it is testable and, if shown to be correct, may help conservation workers improve Kakapo breeding success.

Summer research assistantship - Mojave Desert

Riparian Restoration and Avian Ecology Research in the Mojave Desert
Summer 2008 Internships

We want to determine the availability of applicants for field internships
for a regional wetlands and riparian habitat restoration project spanning
southern Nevada and portions of three adjacent states. We are researching
the success of past habitat restoration efforts and conducting new
restoration in Mojave Desert oasis and riparian habitats, including
vegetation inventory, avian and insect communities, GIS, invasive species
control, prescribed fire, simulated biocontrol, and native plantings. The
overall focus is vegetation and avian community inventory and research to
develop more effective control of saltcedar/tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) and
other secondary plant invaders. The research sites are widely scattered
across the Mojave Desert region, with the base of field operations in the
Las Vegas (NV) area.

DUTIES: Habitat inventory and research tasks emphasize plant and avian
ecology, and field and office GPS/GIS applications. For field
reconnaissance, interns will use field (backpack) GPS/GIS technology,
including a sub-meter Trimble Pathfinder ProXT GPS unit, handheld
computer, Windows Mobile 5, and ArcPad GIS software.

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE/SKILLS: College undergraduates, recent graduates, and
others, are encouraged to reply as to their availability for summer
internships. A working knowledge and demonstrated experience in plant and
wildlife ecology, soil chemistry and/or GIS (ArcView GIS 3.3 and/or ArcGIS
9.2) are desirable. Successful candidates will be expected to be
conscientious self-starters capable of independent work and timely project

CONDITIONS: Potential applicants should be capable of vigorous physical
activity (e.g., working long hours outdoors in hot, cold, rainy, and buggy
weather; able to hike with a 40-pound pack across uneven terrain). The
normal work week will consist of five eight-hour days, though working
days and weekends may be necessary.
Internship positions are expected to start in May 2008 on either a
seasonal or continuing basis, depending on applicant availability. Interns
will be provided liability protection, lodging, field transportation, and
an hourly wage of $9-$16, depending on experience. Health insurance and
other benefits
are not included.

PROJECT INVESTIGATORS: Interns will work with several project
investigators, including:
Tom Dudley, Ph.D., Marine Science Inst., UCSB
Tom Hayes, Ph.D., Research Manager, UCSB
Matt Brooks, Ph.D., U.S.G.S., Fresno and Henderson, NV

APPLICATIONS: Please respond immediately, since internships are expected
to start in May 2008. However, additional intern openings will be
available throughout the 2.5-year project.

Respond to:

Tom Dudley

Marine Science Institute
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA, USA 93106-6150
Natural Resource & Environmental Sciences
University of Nevada, Reno

Office: Noble Hall 1128; Lab: Noble 1250

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

One more volunteer opportunity

If you know of other volunteer or intern opportunities that are conservation related then please post them here, especially any you may have had experience with.

Snowy Plovers are Nesting Once Again at Coal Oil Point Reserve!

Our last count on Friday, March 28th, revealed 4 plover nests, a total of 8
snowy plover eggs at Coal Oil Point Reserve. It takes about 28 days for the
eggs to hatch. About a month from now we'll have little plover chicks running
around on the sandy beach.

The snowy plover is a threatened species. Nesting on the open sand makes them
very vulnerable. Often their eggs and chicks are at risk of being stepped on or
destroyed by unknowing beach users or off leash dogs.

The Snowy Plover Docent Program (SPDP) was started in 2001 to assist
with the protection of the Snowy Plovers at Coal Oil Point Reserve, and to raise
awareness in the community of the importance of the preservation of this
species and its habitat.

The commitment of each Plover Docent volunteer has contributed toward the
success of recovering the nesting population at Coal Oil Point. Each docent
plays a crucial role in the protection of the plovers by educating beach users
about this threatened species and what they can do to improve the chances for
the plovers' survival. Docents provide a personal and friendly contact for
beach users. They promote public interest and understanding, and in turn,
dramatically increase the effectiveness of other plover/tern management
efforts at the Reserve.

Can you spare 2 hours per week? If so, you could make a significant contribution
as a Volunteer Docent or an Intern for the Snowy Plover Docent Program.

The next training is

*Saturday, April 5th, 9AM-1:30PM*

To register, please contact the Program Coordinator, Jennifer Stroh:
office: 805-893-3703
vcml: 805-880-1195

Burning bright

Henri Rousseau, the artist known for his lush paintings of jungles,never set foot out of France. Zoos, botanical gardens and illustrations gave the artist a taste of the exotic

A couple of uses of this blog are illustrated below, the posting of seminar announcements and volunteer opportunities.

1/ "Tiger, tiger, burning bright: hope for tiger conservation in the wild".
Dr. Jai Ranganathan, postdoctoral associate at NCEAS. This Thursday (April 3rd) at 12.15

The seminar is actually at NCEAS (National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis) which is right by the Paseo Nuevo Center in downtown SB.
Ecolunches are Thursdays, at 12:15 pm (Brown Bag
Lunch) National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, 735 State St., Suite 300, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 Phone: (805) 892-2500
DIRECTIONS FROM UCSB BY BUS: You can get to NCEAS by taking the 11:40 a.m. bus (# 24x) from campus. From the transit center, walk one block east to State Street and two blocks south to the Balboa Building at 735 State Street. To return to campus, you can take the 1:30 p.m. bus (#24x) from the transit station and be back on campus by 1:49 p.m.

2/ Habitat Restoration Workday at Coal Oil Point Reserve.
Come join us this Saturday, April 5th from 9am-12 noon for a Habitat Restoration Workday at Coal Oil Point Reserve. Coal Oil Point Reserve is a 170-acre nature preserve owned by UCSB, 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. This Saturday we will be improving habitat by planting natives, removing non-native plants, 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 We strongly suggest carpooling to cut down on the number of cars on site! Tools, gloves, water, and snacks will be provided.

Hope to see you there!
Tara Longwell
Reserve Steward
Coal Oil Point Reserve
UC Santa Barbara
Natural Reserve System