Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Turtle news

Also spotted in the news yesterday was this report that leatherback turtles have been seen off the central California coast, drawn by an increase in the numbers of jellyfish.

This reminded me that earlier in the year a marine turtle was coming ashore at Coal Oil Point every full moon. This one was thought to be either a Ridley turtle or a Green sea Turtle.

Amazon destruction speeds up

As we'll see a bit later in the course, although we have problems estimating species diversity and, consequently, monitoring species loss, what we are good at doing is at measuring habitat loss. Why? Because you can measure it from satellite images. So whenever you see an estimate of the number of acres of rainforest being lost and the number of species within the rainforest going extinct remember that the first estimate is pretty good, with a few minor problems such as cloud cover, and the second estimate may have some huge errors associated with it and is often based on some very dubious assumptions.

This ties in to today's lecture but also to this news story you may have seen today which revealed that the Amazonian rainforest is being deforested three times more rapidly than last year. The global spike in food prices is being blamed for an increase in land cleared for soybean production.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Restoration opportunity

Hello Restoration Volunteers!

Come join us Saturday, Oct 4th 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 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 longwell@lifesci.ucsb.edu 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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Who will protect our pic-a-nic baskets?

Stump speech version: "My friends we spent $3 million of your money to study the DNA of bears in Montana. Now I don't know if that was a paternity issue or a criminal issue, but it was a waste of money."

Debate version: "You know, we spent $3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana. I don't know if that was a criminal issue or a paternal issue, but the fact is that it was $3 million of our taxpayers' money. And it has got to be brought under control."

When I mentioned John McCain's favorite pork-barrel spending example on Thursday I didn't realize he would be citing it again in the presidential debate on Friday.

Although I'm sure there are numerous examples of wasteful government spending, and I agree that the earmark system is prone to abuse, McCain seems to take particular pleasure in mocking the bear study and specifically calls it a 'waste of money'.

Several things seem odd about McCain picking this particular example:
  • It isn't really that much money. In all the talk of billions and trillions a $3 million study is tiny. I'm sure there are much bigger and much sillier projects. In fact the project has received further funding since Senator McCain first attacked it (I think it's more like $4.5 million now) and released their results literally a few days ago.
  • A moment's consideration makes the project seem like a good idea. Passively sampling fur from bears and then identifying individuals from the fur is faster, cheaper, safer and more accurate than the alternative. Surely there are projects that were funded that after several hours study still leave people scratching their heads?
  • The study is supported by almost everyone apart from Senator McCain, not just environmentalists but also ranchers and farmers - albeit for different reasons. This makes a nice tie in with Thursdays lecture since everyone in this issue might reasonably claim to be interested in bear conservation and, temporarily at least have the same goal - getting the grizzly bear off the endangered species list. However beyond that the goals are very divergent. Once off the list, areas of land would be opened up for logging and drilling - an outcome that could financially dwarf a $3million DNA study.
I can only assume that, like Stephen Colbert, John McCain just has a problem with bears.

Sunday's bonus trivia question: Given that Yogi bear was a casual kind of bear why did he always wear a necktie? (An especially odd choice of dress since he never wore pants.) Answer after this nice video of USGS biologist Kate Kendall describing the project. More information is also available at the USGS Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project website.

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera realized that cartoons were going to move from the cinema to TV but needed a way to make them more cheaply. One of their pioneering techniques was to have minimal movement and frequent recycling of backgrounds. If you look at many of Hanna-Barbera's most popular characters - Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo - you will see that they wear a necktie or have a prominent collar. This meant that the body could remain static when the character was speaking, and the artists would only have to re-draw the character's face in each frame. So it's actually Yogi's collar that is important, not the necktie. I guess the tie was added because a collar alone would be silly on a bear. Like a bear wearing pants, that would be really silly. If they were drawing the cartoons today they could give him a radio collar and forget the necktie.....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Turtle with Mohawk

From a post at BoingBoing, here's the Mary River Turtle an endangered turtle from South East Australia. I found some more details about the turtle and the story of photograph at the ABC Australia site. The green hair is, of course, algae, but it isn't just caught on the turtle it's growing there - presumably restricted to the areas the turtle can't reach with its legs or mouth.

Sadly, it's a conservation related story too since the turtle is threatened by plans to build a dam on the Mary River.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Although I said that I wouldn't talk much about restoration the blog is also a place for things I'm not going to be talking much about....

Since they are currently painting a big green stripe on the hills above us, visible from much of campus, I thought I'd find out a bit about what they are up to. Information below is from an article in the Goleta Valley Voice and a Forest Service Press release. The photograph was posted on edhat.

What is going on is that a fleet of small planes are flying numerous flights to add a mulch mix to areas that burned during this year's Gap fire. The technique is known as hydromulching and is being used to help stabilize the bare soil, and, hopefully, reduce flooding this winter.

Hydromulch is a mixture of wood mulch, recycled paper, water, green dye and a glue to stick it all together. It helps to bind the soil, preventing erosion, and hold moisture which can aid in seed germination. The green dye is just there to help the pilots see which areas have been covered and fades to a green/gray color after a few weeks. Although hydromulching sometimes includes seeds into the mix no seeds or fertilizer are being used in the current application.

The magnitude of the operation is impressive. There are six small planes involved, each carrying 800 pounds of hydromulch per trip. They make a combined total of 200 trips each day and the flights will go on 10 hours a day, 7 days a week for 2 months.

Of the 9,500 acres burned in the Gap fire, 2,500 acres are suitable for hydromulching and 1,500 acres this is on Forest Service land and is the area currently being covered, at a cost of $3,200 per acre.

The aim of all this effort is almost entirely to prevent flooding so it is interesting to consider what impacts it might have on the natural regeneration from fire.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Devereux Slough Internships

Field researcher needed

Two internships are available as part of a long-term monitoring and ecological study of the Devereux Slough ecosystem. Devereux slough, located at the University managed Coal Oil Point Reserve, is a seasonally flooded coastal wetland. The internship will consist of weekly monitoring of water quality, fish surveys, data entry, data analysis, and updating educational postings. Most of the work will be conducted in the field and give participant ample opportunity to gain experience in numerous field sampling techniques.

The intern must be a UCSB student, able to commitment to a regular schedule of 3-4 hours/week, reliable, independent, and willing to learn. The project is funded by the Coastal Fund, and the intern will receive a $300 stipend upon successful completion of the Fall internship requirements.

To apply send resume and class schedule/time availability to Tara Longwell at longwell@lifesci.ucsb.edu

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Volunteer opportunity

Docenting for Snowy Plovers is a Decent Thing To Do!

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, September 27th, 9AM-1:30PM

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


October Seminars on Biological Invasions of Plants and Animals

Cheadle Center for Biodiversity & Ecological Restoration (CCBER) is very pleased to announce that Biological Invasions of Plants and Animals will be the topic of our Fall Restoration Ecology Seminar.
Location and Time: CCBER Classroom 1013, Harder Stadium: 6-7pm Monday Nights. Lisa Stratton & Carla D’Antonio.


October 6. Prof. Jonathan Levine. Understanding biological invasions from introduction through impact.
October 13. Prof. Carla D’Antonio. Ecosystem impacts of invasive plant species: Examples from the western USA.

October 20. John Knapp, Director of Native Range. The role of prioritization in invasive plant management.

October 27. Tom Dudley. Biocontrol and the SW Willow Flycatcher

Monday, September 22, 2008


Welcome to the Fall 2008 class. Unlike a class website this blog is not reset back to zero each quarter. The old postings are still available below and you can access them by topic using the labels.