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.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rigs to reef or rigs to rubbish?

What does the Santa Barbara Channel have in common with the North Sea? Very, very little - except for the presence of oil and the accompanying oil rigs. Inevitably some of those oil rigs need to be decommissioned and oil companies can save hundreds of millions of dollars by sinking the rigs as reefs, or by removing only the top and leaving the support structure as a reef, rather than dismantling them piece by piece.

This process has been successfully carried out in gulf states like, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi for example but has been more controversial in California and in the North Sea. One of the issues under debate is the quality of the habitat that is created and for how many species the artificial reef is a good habitat.

If you google 'Rigs to Reefs' you will find a lot of information. I thought this article from a Scuba Diving website was quite well balanced and there's an article from the Daily Nexus in 2001.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Two stories from ScienceDaily today

Just a few days ahead of our class on overharvesting comes the news that there is a huge gap between the world demand for fish and what can be sustainably harvested.

And a week ahead of our class on the effects of global warming on species comes the results of an IUCN study showing 35% of the world’s birds, 52% of amphibians and 71% of warm-water reef-building corals are likely to be particularly susceptible to climate change.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Human Evolution

Apparently human evolution has come to a halt, according to this article. I found it somewhat interesting if not disheartening.

Elephant texting

There's an interesting article on the CNN home page today 'Texts from elephant warn rangers of trouble' about fitting elephants with mobile phones so they can call rangers when they stray where they shouldn't. We will talk a little bit about such technology solutions to integrating people and wildlife later in the course.

The headline is somewhat misleading since the elephants don't actually send text messages, they merely have a gps unit capable of sending their location to a mobile phone when they pass certain boundaries. The idea of an elephant sending a text message is, of course, ridiculous. Can you imagine how big the keypad would have to be?

Friday, October 10, 2008

A little more passenger pigeon

"There will always be pigeons in books and museums, but these are effigies and images, dead to all hardships and to all delights. Book-pigeons can not dive out of a cloud to make the deer run for cover, or clap their wings in thunderous applause of mast-laden woods. Book-pigeons cannot breakfast on new-mown wheat in Minnesota, and dine on blueberries in Canada. They know no urge of seasons, no lash of wind and weather. They live forever by not living at all."
A. Leopold, 1947

In addition to contemporary accounts of the flock sizes two other pieces of information indicate the prodigious size of the passenger pigeon flocks. First, the number of towns in the US and Canada with 'Pigeon' in their name and secondly the fact that the Bishop of Quebec formally excommunicated the species because of its crop destruction, not once, but apparently several times in the 1600's. This would have been unusual but not unique, I know that leeches were excommunicated in the 1500's.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Are Pronghorns Smarter Than Classical European Royalty?

I'm curious whether everyone doing studies like this is nervous that John McCain will make fun of them in front of a national TV audience.

Over the past two decades, John Byers has proven that female pronghorns are smarter than many humans when it comes to mate selection. Rather than going for the male with the biggest body or most impressive horns, female pronghorns expend a ton of energy searching for the most vigor and best stamina; traits that will give their offspring the greatest chance of success.

But are they smarter than classical European royalty? When pronghorns select a mate, can they factor in what many historians believe doomed the famous Hapsburg dynasty – inbreeding?

Thanks in part to a four-year, $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Byers will be able to answer that exact question.

Further information at ScienceDaily.

I find Pronghorn fascinating. They are North America’s fastest mammal and worldwide they are second only to the Cheetah in terms of top speed. But in contrast to the cheetah, which is exhausted after a short sprint, the pronghorn can both accelerate explosively from a standing start to a top speed of 60 miles per hour and also cruise at 45 miles per hour for many miles. Why is this fascinating? Because nothing is chasing them. There is nothing remotely fast enough in the current North American predator fauna to chase a pronghorn. Their speed must be a consequence of predators past, presumably lions or hyenas that died out in the end-Pleistocene extinctions 10,000 years ago, when many mammals in North America went extinct.
As mentioned in class, Snowy Plover Docent Volunteers are Needed (Coal Oil Point Reserve)
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? JOIN US! The next training is at the Cliff House, COPR, *Saturday, October 11th, 9AM-1:30PM*
To register, please contact the Program Coordinator, Jennifer Stroh:
office: 805-893-3703, vcml: 805-880-1195,

Sunday October 19th, Tour of Coal Oil Point Reserve

Here's a great way to get involved in local reserve monitoring!

Sunday Oct. 19th: Enjoy a tour of Coal Oil Point Reserve, a nature reserve owned by UCSB

Trained tour leaders will take you on a walk through a few of theReserve’s ecosystems: from sandy beach to the Devereux Slough to a restored coastal dune system. Learn about the Reserve's current
restoration projects and its cultural and geologic history while identifying flora and fauna-such as American Kestrel, Coast Golden Bush, and the Globuse Dune Beetle-that make their home at Coal Oil
Point. $5 donation suggested, except for students and Reserve volunteers.

Tours occur monthly on the third Sunday from 2:00 pm to 4:15 pm. Tours for groups or classes over five people are available by appointment if reservations are made atleast three weeks in advance.

Reservations for tours are required. No reservations are taken on weekends. Tours are capped at 15 people, so early registration is suggested. Contact Leeza Charleboix via email at or via phone at (805) 893-5092 to reserve a spot.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Salmon Run

Patagonia, a Ventura based clothing firm, are well known for their environmental concern and often feature environmental campaigns in their catalogs and advertisements. Each year they sponsor a 5k run/3k walk in Ventura as a benefit for a local conservation type organization. This year the beneficiary is the Friends of the Santa Clara River. The run is on Sunday November 9th. For a $25 entry fee you get a cool Patagonia t-shirt, a fun run up the Ventura River, and an auction and raffle afterwards. I knew some people who made out like bandits last year, winning their age group for further goodies and winning raffle prizes. Sadly I'm neither fast enough nor lucky enough but I still had a good time and will be back this year. Entry details are here.

"It was just about raining penguins,"

Under the headline 'Cute, lost penguins 'fly' home' CNN ran the story of some wayward penguins today. It raises some interesting conservation questions about the extent to which we should assist animals in distress if the species is not endangered and the distress is not caused by humans. Does this make up some of the other bad things we do? Is this leading to a survival of the cutest? We don't extend this courtesy to most other birds, many of which get lost during migrations. Is there anything special about penguins apart from their cuteness? What do we even mean by cute? Why is a penguin cute when a chicken isn't?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

When Good Animals Love Bad Habitats

If you'd like to read a bit more about the idea of source and sink habitats then there's a nice review article in Conservation Biology:
When Good Animals Love Bad Habitats: Ecological Traps and the Conservation of Animal Populations
They expand the idea of a sink by dividing it into poor quality habitat that is preferentially avoided by the species (a sink) and poor quality habitat that is preferentially selected by the species (a trap). They also give a number of nice examples.

Perhaps the best-documented trap is the case of Cooper's Hawks (Accipiter cooperii) nesting in the city of Tucson, Arizona (Boal 1997; Boal & Mannan 1999). The hawks occur at much higher densities in the city than in exurban areas. Nesting begins earlier in the city, and clutches are larger than in outlying areas. The trap is sprung after the eggs hatch: nestling mortality is much higher in the city (>50%) than in exurban areas (<5%). The primary cause of mortality is trichomoniasis, a disease carried by pigeons and doves, which make up 84% of the diet of urban hawks. Based on demographic analysis, the urban population should experience significant declines (Boal 1997), but it appears to be stable or increasing, suggesting that birds are immigrating from outside the city.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Religion, Science & the Environment

In Friday's discussion, we discussed how it may be time for a new "conservation religion". Here is more information about the Religion, Science & the Environment group of religious leaders and scientists I mentioned. The group travels all over the world (including the Arctic) to look at and raise awareness about environmental issues.

The professor I met who is directly involved with the group is Dr. Jane Lubchenco. She has many publications on climate change and ecology, and it an inspirational female scientist and role model.

New Study Offers Solution to Global Fisheries Collapse

I should save this for our Solutions section but every time I do that I forget to post the article later so I'll do it now instead.

A study published in the September 19 issue of Science shows that an innovative yet contentious fisheries management strategy called "catch shares" can reverse fisheries collapse. Where traditional "open access" fisheries have converted to catch shares, both fishermen and the oceans have benefited. UC Santa Barbara scientists Christopher Costello and Steven Gaines are two of the co-authors of the study.

There's a press release on the story, an article in the Universities 93106 newspaper or you can read the actual paper or Science's news summary of the paper.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Jared Diamond

I neglected to explicitly point out that the work on Bird species turnover on the Santa Barbara Channel islands was carried out by Jared Diamond - a scientist whose work you may have come across if you have read the best sellers Guns, Germs and Steel (links to PBS website from a show based on the book) or Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (links to a video of Jared Diamond presenting a seminar based on the ideas in the book). He has also written a number of essays for Discover magazine, which are usually fairly provocative and interesting: eg. The worst mistake in the history of the human race?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Telephone santitizers are back!

If you are not cleaning off your phone, keyboard, coffee pot, and other office tools every day, then you are inviting the spread of germs!

The telephone sanitizers I mentioned from the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy are back!

Also, according to this site, telephone sanitizer, was originally a euphemism for toilet cleaner.

What's distinguishes the term "telephone sanitizer" among a great many other toilet-related euphemisms is the linguistic disconnect: few Americans seem to know the meaning of this British circumlocution. It shows both the British insistence on preserving a veneer of gentilities and the American willingness to attribute any amount of silliness to the British rather than assume the obvious and mundane.

Have Ecologists Oversold Biodiversity?

There's a nice overview of the Biodiversity/Ecosystem function debate in the Chronicle of Higher Education. This only takes a couple of minutes to read and is a good background to both the science and the way that this debate has got quite acrimonious at times.

There's an interview with Dave Tilman here that gives you a good idea of the practicalities of working with such large scale experiments. I like the fact that he mentions how many people and how long it takes to do certain tasks. It gives you an idea of the scale of the project. If you want to work at Cedar Creek LTER over the summer here's their internship page.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Local action to preserve beach monitoring

Beach Monitoring in Jeopardy
Beach sign warning
Right now, the Channelkeeper warns that Santa Barbara County Beach Monitoring is in jeopardy of losing funding. Monitoring is of importance to surfers, divers and other marine enthusiasts. The Channelkeeper is urging beach users to donate money and write letters to Governor Schwarzenegger to restore funding to this critical program. More information for letter writing is posted here

Goleta Stream monitoring

Stream Team - October 4th & 5th
Stream Team is Channelkeeper's volunteer-based water quality monitoring program. Every month, volunteers join Channelkeeper staff to test for common water quality parameters at numerous different sites in the Ventura River and Goleta Slough watersheds. Come join us to help protect our local waterways; we will be testing in Ventura on Saturday, October 4th and in Goleta on Sunday, October 5th. For more information, visit our website, or contact Penny Owens at or 805.563.3377 ext.0.