Thursday, December 10, 2009

Field Research Assistant - Opportunity for Fall and Winter 2010/2011

Field Assistant opportunity for coral reef study - Comoros Islands, Western Indian Ocean

Our research team is looking for field assistants for 3-6 months of assistance from September 2010 through March 2011. Individuals could volunteer from Sept-Dec; January-March, or September - March. Qualified individuals should meet the following criteria:
- strong swimmer
- has experience snorkeling in open water
- has *at least* sophomore standing as of start date
- has an interest in ecological study
- willing to work long days
- willing to work with a team in an international setting
- Speaking ability in French would be helpful, but is not required.

- Conduct coral benthic surveys
- Monitor sediment traps & temperature gauges
- Assist with photography, community interviews and surveys
- Input field data into MS Excel

Field assistants will have the opportunity to:
- earn undergraduate research credits,
- gain field experience in reef survey methods and in socioeconomic interviews
- conduct research for an undergraduate thesis, if interested.

Send cover letter explaining related experience, why you are interested in the volunteer position, and what you hope to gain from this experience, and dates available. Please include your resume and two letters of reference to by March 15.

Elise Granek, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Environmental Sciences and Resources
Portland State University
PO Box 751
Portland, OR 97207

Tropical Marine Ecology Semester Program - deadline extended


Date: December 10, 2009 4:23:33 AM PST


Subject: [Coral-List] Tropical Marine Ecology Semester Program - deadline extended

Dear Coral-listers:

There are still a few openings for students for spring semester, 2010. If you know of undergraduate students that would be interested in a semester of study in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation; please pass this notice along to them. Students with an interest in Independent Research experience and Scientific Diving are especially encouraged to apply. Enrollment is limited to 12 students.

Thanks in advance,
Rita Peachey

Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation Semester Abroad: Bonaire, Spring 2010
Undergraduate Study Abroad Opportunity in the Caribbean
The Tropical Marine Biology and Conservation study abroad program is accepting applications for spring semester. Students register for 17 semester hours: Coral Reef Ecology (4), Marine Ecology Field Research Methods (3), Advanced SCUBA (1), Environmental and Cultural History of Bonaire (2), Marine Conservation Biology (3) and Independent Research (4). The program description can be found using the following link:

The Scientific Diving course provides dive training that prepares students for AAUS certification at their home universities. Students will receive the following training in the Scientific Diving course: Open Water, Advanced Diver, Rescue Diver, Emergency First Responder, CPR + First Aid, Dan Oxygen Rescue, underwater photography and videography, night diving, and underwater navigation. Students will learn internationally recognized monitoring protocols including REEF and AGRRA.

Independent Research provides students with the opportunity to conduct a research project of their choice in marine science and to publish the results in a student journal, PHYSIS: Journal of Marine Science. A copy of the journal can be downloaded on the following page:

Prerequisites: Overall GPA 2.75 or better, 2 semesters of biology, chemistry, geology, ecology or environmental science and a nationally recognized open water SCUBA certification (or a PADI referral – you can do your check out dives in Bonaire). The deadline for application to the spring semester program is 15 December 2009.

Interested students should contact Rita Peachey Director of CIEE Research Station Bonaire at or call 1-800-40-STUDY. The study abroad office at your institution will assist you with registration.

Coral-List mailing list

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Seafood Guides

As I mentioned in class if you want to do your part for the oceans then you can download and print out handy guides to recommended, and not so recommended, seafood produced by Monterey Bay Aquarium.

They are all available at their website but the most relevant ones are the West Coast Guide and the new Sushi guide. If you have friends that eat a lot of seafood or just want a lot of cheap Christmas presents you can order a large quantity of hard copy guides to hand out. If you have an iPhone you can download the guide straight to your phone.

Take a Tour

This Saturday December 5th at 2:00 PM: Join us for a nice Saturday afternoon walk at Coal Oil Point Reserve, a nature reserve owned by UCSB.

During the walk, find out more about interesting, meaningful, and fun local environmental research, management, conservation, and education programs, as well as volunteer and internship opportunities! Invite your friends and family too.

Trained tour leader will take you on a walk through a few of the Reserve’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 the Snowy Plover, 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 twice a month on the first and third Saturday from 2:00 pm to 4:15 pm. Tours for groups or classes over five people are available by appointment.

Reservations for tours are required. Contact Ofri Gabay via email at or via phone at (805) 636-8408 to reserve a spot. Ofri will send you a confirmation email with more information.

PLEASE BRING: sun protection, sturdy shoes, water, and binoculars.

SUGGESTED DONATION: $5, except for students and Reserve volunteers.


Coal Oil Point Reserve is located near UCSB in Goleta. The closest major cross streets are El Colegio and Storke Rd. For a map of the area, visit:

From 101 North:
Exit on the Glenn Annie/Storke Rd exit. Turn LEFT. Go through 4 stop lights. The 5th light is El Colegio. Continue straight through this light. After the intersection, Storke Road turns into Slough Road. Continue on this road for .8 miles until you reach a dirt parking lot. Important note: there are several turn off spots on Slough Road. Stay on the road that hugs the Devereux Slough (the body of water on the right side of the road) until you reach the dirt parking lot.

From 101 South:
Exit on the Glenn Annie/Storke Rd exit. Turn RIGHT. Go through 3 stop lights. The 4th light is El Colegio. Continue straight through this light. After the intersection, Storke Road turns into Slough Road. Continue on this road for .8 miles until you reach a dirt parking lot. Important note: there are several turn off spots on Slough Road. Stay on the road that hugs the Devereux Slough (the body of water on the right side of the road) until you reach the dirt parking lot.

If walking or biking from Isla Vista or UCSB:
Take Del Playa (in IV) west to Camino Majorca, the western most street in Isla Vista. At this intersection, head towards the bluff, and you will see a dirt trail that runs along the bluff top. Take this trail along the bluff for five minutes until you reach a group of buildings. There are bike racks near these buildings for you to lock your bike.


The Slough Road will dead-end at a dirt parking lot with a metal gate at the end. This is the outside parking lot: DO NOT PARK HERE. You will get a parking ticket! There will someone at the gate to guide you to an inside parking lot.

*******Parking at Coal Oil Point is limited! If you are visiting the reserve with a group, please carpool or ride bicycles if possible.*******


We will meet at the picnic benches in front of the Cliff House. After parking, head down the dirt road towards the ocean. There will be a sign to guide you to the meeting place.

If you are on bike, you will see the picnic benches on your left just before you park your bike.

You will need to fill out a waiver before heading out on the tour.


The tour will begin promptly at the tour start time. 15 minutes after the tour start time, the gate will be closed and you can no longer park in the inside parking lot. If you park in the outside lot, you will be ticketed!


Tours will be canceled if it is raining or there are high winds in Goleta. We will send you an email the morning before the tour, especially if rain is in the forecast, to cancel the tour.

***Please check your email before departing for the tour.***

If you do not receive an email, assume that the tour will continue as scheduled.

Tours are a program of Shorelines & Watersheds - a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization - and Coal Oil Point Reserve. Funding for the Tour Program is provided by the Coastal Fund and Venoco Inc.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Prairie Restoration

There was an interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle last year about the efforts of the Shakopee Mdewakanton communities efforts to restore land that has been farmed for over 100 years to it's native prairie community - Tribe plowing jackpot into prairie, wetlands. Casino revenue going to buy up land, restore native species
'The tribe's scientists study old maps and other records to figure out the mix of plants that will bring a piece of land closest to its historical character.'

Become a Coal Oil Point Reserve Tour Leader

Coal Oil Point Reserve is a 170-acre nature reserve owned by UCSB.

Volunteer tour leaders provide two-hour tours to university and elementary school classes, as well as community groups, several times per month.

The time commitment for this volunteer job ranges between from 6 to 12 hours per month.
Advanced training is provided on Coal Oil Point Reserve, local natural and cultural resources, scientific research, resource management and conservation, as well as many other interesting and meaningful environmental science topics.

For more information and to apply, send an email to UCSB’s Coal Oil Point Reserve Tour Program Coordinator Ofri Gabay at

Tours are a program of Shorelines & Watersheds-501 (c) (3) nonprofit organizations and Coal Oil Point Reserve. Funding for the Tour Program is provided by the Coastal Fund and Venoco Inc.

Looking forward to meeting you in Coal Oil Point Reserve!

Ofri Gabay, PhD
Coal Oil Point Reserve
Shorelines and Watersheds
Tour Program Coordinator
COPR Phone: (805) 893-5092

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Death of Environmentalism

I'll mention this essay, The Death of Environmentalism, a couple of times tomorrow. Although it is primarily directed at the global warming crowd there are a lot of lessons here that apply to conservation biology. Even if you don't agree with what they say I think you'll find it quite thought provoking.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Conservation monitoring seminar in Bren

Friday, Dec. 4, 2009
1:30 - 2:30 p.m.
Bren Hall 1424

"Optimal Monitoring for Conservation"

Hosted by Bruce Kendall


Conservation science is booming, but how rigorously are we making our decisions? In this talk, I will discuss how my research group has been using decision-theory tools to pose and solve a variety of real-world conservation problems. More specifically, this talk will focus on our work on optimal monitoring. Forget everything you learned about statistics and monitoring for pure ecology, and think about questions such as: How much data we need to make decisions? Is monitoring sometimes too expensive? Do null hypotheses have any place in applied ecology? I conclude that applied monitoring is first and foremost an optimization problem.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Easement Incentives

With a title like 'Easement Incentive Cosponsors in the 111th Congress' I think I'm going to have to tag this 'boring but important'. There's lots of information at the Land Trust Alliance:

The enhanced tax deduction for conservation easement donations has helped America’s land trusts work with farmers, ranchers and other modest-income landowners to increase the pace of land conservation by at least 250,000 acres a year! But unless Congress acts, this important conservation tool will expire at the end of 2009!

Fortunately, majorities of both Democrats and Republicans in the House have co-sponsored legislation to make the easement incentive permanent!
An amazing 261 Representatives from all 50 states -- including majorities of both parties -- have signed on as co-sponsors of H.R. 1831! Senate legislation, S. 812, now has 38 co-sponsors.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Into the future

Just because we aren't invited to the party doesn't mean that we can ignore what goes on there.

The Convention on Biodiversity has a pretty nice and, I think, fairly easy to navigate website with a whole lot of information.

You can find out just what goes on at those parties....

You can check out progress towards the 2010 Biodiversity target.

You can see plans for the 10th Convention of the parties to be held in Japan in 2010.

2010 will also be the International Year of Biodiversity and there are some details about that.

And much, much more.

(Oh, and they still have the wonderful theme song from Bonn archived. All together now.....).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reef Check California Job Posting

Job announcement: Southern California Volunteer Coordinator for
Reef Check California Program

Review of applicants will commence on November 30, 2009.

Applicants should submit a CV and cover letter via email to

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shagged by a rare parrot

You wouldn't believe the number of people that sent me a link to this clip when it appeared on YouTube. Or maybe you would...

For more Kakapo fun, including more inappropriate mating attempts, check out this video of a video at the Te Papa museum in Wellington, NZ.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Biodiversity and climate change

Boundary between the Mfungabusi Forest, Zimbabwe, and surrounding farmland highlights the contrast between protected and nonprotected landscapes.

In last week's Science there was an interesting 'Perspectives' article on Biodiversity and Climate Change.

Kathy Willis and Dr Shonil of Oxford University suggest that predictions made over the last decade about the impacts of climate change on biodiversity may be exaggerated.

They suggest that ‘we should expect to see species turnover, migrations, and novel communities, but not necessarily the levels of extinction previously predicted’.

I think their final paragraph, and final sentence, is particularly thought provoking.:
The results also highlight a serious issue for future conservationists: the urgent need to develop a research agenda for regions outside of protected reserves in human-modified landscapes. Although every measure should be put in place to reduce further fragmentation of reserves, we must determine what represents a "good" intervening matrix in these human-modified landscapes. Furthermore, with the combination of climate change and habitat destruction, novel ecosystems are going to become increasingly common. Their conservation will require a whole new definition of what is "natural".

Friday, November 13, 2009

Conservation and Restoration Ecology Seminar Series.

This Monday Nov. 16th (6-7pm) seminar series will feature a double-header on
Eel Grass Research and Restoration
Carol Blanchette and Jessie Alstatt

Seminars are in Rm 1013, Harder South.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Endangered species

The Fish and Wildlife service keep a nicely organized webpage on endangered species that makes it easy to pull out virtually any statistic you might want. Although they don't have a listing by administration they do have a listing by year and 2009 has seen the addition of one animal, the Reticulated flatwoods salamander (due to taxonomy change - one species was divided into two and so a new listing is required), and two plants the Slick Spot Peppergrass and Phyllostegia hispida - a member of the mint family with no common name.

Good news today as one more species was removed from the endangered species list - the Brown Pelican was removed - and for genuine recovery reasons too!

And a correction. Just because I just heard about it doesn't mean this news was quite as minty fresh as I thought. The announcement by the Obama administration that it will take steps to confront the candidate species backlog actually dates back to September this year.

The law says Interior must issue a "finding" -- a decision on whether a species deserves a listing -- 12 months from its receipt of a listing petition. But petitions are going unanswered for an average of 11 years, the center says, and often are not addressed until forced by a judicial order.

The Obama administration says it is going to change how candidate species are handled. The Fish and Wildlife Service, the Interior agency responsible for the management of endangered species, is working on an accelerated listing process, said Doug Krofta, the service's listing chief. With new techniques and more funding, Krofta said, the service can trim the candidate list by 25 percent by the end of 2010.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Forty-eight parrots

Michael Gilpin wrote an interesting essay for Conservation Biology about parrots, spotted-owls, fruit fly bristles and the origins of population viability analysis. It's only a couple of pages and is full of interesting details.
Forty-eight parrots and the origins of population viability analysis

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Although the Freakonomics books are probably rightly criticized for some oversimplifications, I find the blog to be absolutely fascinating. I'd call it my favorite way to waste time on the internet except that I'm not sure it is a waste of time, I always learn a bunch of stuff I didn't know, and didn't know that I didn't know.

Justin Wolfers, one of the regular contributors, has a 6 part series on the economics of happiness which reanalyzes the traditional story.
Great stuff - and although it might not seem relevant to conservation biology it is very much central to the biggest picture

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Marine Ecosystem-Based Management Consensus Statement

Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea (COMPASS) provided a great definition of ecosystem-based management in their Consensus Statement.

"On March 21st, 2005, COMPASS released a Scientific Consensus Statement on Marine Ecosystem-Based Management. This document, signed by more than 220 scientists and policy experts from academic institutions across the U.S., highlights current scientific understanding of marine ecosystems, explains how this knowledge shapes the call for a new management approach, and provides a definition for what the scientific community envisions when it recommends "ecosystem-based management" for the oceans."

National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

This center is a part of your university! Check out their website. Here is their mission statement.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ecosystem management in Madagascar during global change

An interesting article on Madagascar's efforts to prioritize areas to manage in the face of climate change and deforestation.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More food for thought (and a picture of a sloth)

Two species of three-toed sloth — 15 million years of evolution.

A great News Feature in the journal Nature in 2007 about Conservation Priorities: What to let go summarizes some of the key work in this field of research.

It expands the idea of Conservation priorities into two areas we have not discussed yet - taking account of taxonomic distinctiveness (hence the sloth) and cost

“You could make an analogy with art,” says Isaac. “You are in a spaceship leaving Earth with three paintings. Do you take three Rembrandts, or do you take one Rembrandt, one Leonardo and one Picasso?”

Monday, November 2, 2009

Snowy Plover docents wanted

Calling all community members:
Can you spare 2 hours per week? We need your help! Train to become a Snowy Plover Docent and help us protect this threatened species at Sands Beach, Coal Oil Point.

The next training will be offered Sat., November 7th, 2009,
9AM, at the Cliff House. During the training, we provide a DVD featuring the collaborative researcher projects at Coal Oil Point, a presentation about plover ecology and natural history, instruction about the docent role, AND a brief tour of the plover site. Biking and driving directions are below with instructions.

If you have any questions, please call
(805) 893-3703 or email:

Jennifer Stroh
Snowy Plover Docent Program Coordinator

Only 1 in 3

Only 57% of Americans believe there is solid scientific evidence that the Earth's atmosphere is warming, said a recent poll of 1,500 people by the Pew Research Centre for the People & the Press.

That is a fall of 77% from 2007. The number of people who believe that human activity is causing global warming also fell to just 36%.

Just to put that in perspective about a third of Americans believe in ghosts (34 percent) and UFOs (34 percent), and about a quarter believe in astrology (29 percent), reincarnation (25 percent) and witches (24 percent). ie between a quarter and a third of Americans will believe in any old crazy crap.

James Hoggan, a PR executive and author of Climate Cover-Up, blamed an intense lobbying campaign against global warming legislation now before the Senate. "I would say a big part of this problem is this campaign to mislead Americans about climate science," he said. "This is a very sophisticated group of people who know how to create doubt and confusion and they have done a very good job of it."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Abalone seminar

RE188/288 Conservation and Restoration Seminar Series:

CCBER is pleased to announce that this Monday Nov. 2nd, 6pm
we will feature Tal Ben-Horin who will speak on his work:

Abalone Restoration and Research

Seminars are 6-7pm in Rm 1013, Harder Stadium, South.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Successful Conservation

The Large Blue Butterfly story:
Successful Conservation of a Threatened Maculinea Butterfly
Science paper
Science news report

Globally threatened butterflies have prompted research-based approaches to insect conservation. Here, we describe the reversal of the decline of Maculinea arion (Large Blue), a charismatic specialist whose larvae parasitize Myrmica ant societies. M. arion larvae were more specialized than had previously been recognized, being adapted to a single host-ant species that inhabits a narrow niche in grassland. Inconspicuous changes in grazing and vegetation structure caused host ants to be replaced by similar but unsuitable congeners, explaining the extinction of European Maculinea populations. Once this problem was identified, UK ecosystems were perturbed appropriately, validating models predicting the recovery and subsequent dynamics of the butterfly and ants at 78 sites. The successful identification and reversal of the problem provides a paradigm for other insect conservation projects.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The truth about Tibbles

The tale of the lighthouse-keeper’s cat: Discovery and extinction of the Stephens Island wren (Traversia lyalli)
Notornis, 2004, Vol. 51: 193-200

The Stephens Island wren Traversia lyalli is widely quoted as having been discovered and promptly exterminated from its only locality, Stephens Island, New Zealand, by a single lighthouse keeper’s cat. Examination of archival and museum records indicates that this account is oversimplified, and throws more light on the roles of the lighthouse keeper David Lyall, the dealer Henry Travers, and the ornithologists Sir Walter Buller and Walter Rothschild. Extinction of the wren was more extended than generally stated: 10 specimens were evidently brought
in by a cat in 1894, but another two-four were obtained in 1895, and two-three more after that and possibly as late as 1899. Fifteen of these specimens are still held in museums. Cat predation probably was the main factor in the wren’s extinction, but not necessarily by a single cat: cats became established on Stephens Island in 1894, increased rapidly and exterminated several other species before they were eliminated.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rabbit expansion

A rapid population expansion retains genetic diversity within European rabbits in Australia

The well documented historical translocations of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) offer an excellent framework to test the genetic effects of reductions in effective population size. It has been proposed that rabbits went through an initial bottleneck at the time of their establishment in Australia, as well as multiple founder events during the rabbit's colonization process. To test these hypotheses, genetic variation at seven microsatellite loci was measured in 252 wild rabbits from five populations across Australia. These populations were compared to each other and to data from Europe. No evidence of a genetic bottleneck was observed with the movement of 13 rabbits from Europe to Australia when compared to French data. Within Australia the distribution of genetic diversity did not reflect the suggested pattern of sequential founder effects. In fact, the current pattern of genetic variation in Australia is most likely a result of multiple factors including mutation, genetic drift and geographical differentiation. The absence of reduced genetic diversity is almost certainly a result of the rabbit's rapid population expansion at the time of establishment in Australia. These results highlight the importance of population growth following a demographic bottleneck, which largely determines the severity of genetic loss.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Double Bill

Not directly class related but some of you might be interested in tonight's double bill

Tonight (Tue October 22nd) in Campbell Hall. $5 students.

7:30 pm

This cinéma-vérité feature is the epic story of one of the largest and most controversial legal cases on the planet, the infamous $27 billion “Amazon Chernobyl” case in the jungles of Ecuador. Pitting 30,000 indigenous and colonial rainforest dwellers against the oil giant Chevron, this real-life, high-stakes legal drama focuses on the human cost of our addiction to oil. (Joe Berlinger, 2009, 104 min.)

“A forceful, often infuriating story about Big Oil and little people.” The New York Times

Presented in conjunction with the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center series OIL + WATER.

Followed at 9:30 pm by:

Flow - For the love of water

“Heartbreaking and infuriating…lucidly conveys a coming crisis and its grass-roots solution.” The Washington Post

This award-winning documentary builds a case against the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on politics, pollution and human rights. Interviews with scientists and activists intelligently reveal the rapidly building crisis while considering practical solutions and new technologies for a successful global and economic turnaround. It begs the question: Can anyone really own water? (Irena Salina, 2008, 93 min.)

Presented in conjunction with the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center series OIL + WATER.

Global Collapes of Fisheries

Here is the New York Times article that I mentioned in section last week. Notice that figure 3A from the Worm et al. 2006 paper is extended to 2048 in the NY Times article. There was also some coverage by National Geographic. Did the media present the issue as you think the scientists had hoped?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oceans on the brink, it's time to act

From Ben:

As Californians, we surf and sunbathe on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world -- sharing them with otters, seals, and sea creatures large and small.

Unfortunately, the delicate marine ecosystems are at risk -- wildlife populations are dropping fast. Environment California is working to establish protection for turtles, otters and other wildlife by establishing marine protected areas, which work like national parks in the ocean.

Right now, state officials are considering putting a new protected area off the San Diego shore, and we're working to make sure it happens. Please join me, and send an e-mail to the state commission today.

Check out this page at the Environment California Web site.

Marine planning seminar

CCBER's Conservation and Restoration Seminar Series will feature:

Will McClintock who will speak on: The Role of Stakeholder Involvement in Marine Spatial Planning

Monday, Oct 19th, 6-7pm, Rm 1013, Harder South.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Portfolio Effect

This is an interesting article I came across while browsing JSTOR that discusses the "portfolio effect" of biodiversity in a more economic context, for anyone interested in the Worm '06 article. You might need to go through the UC Libraries off-campus log in to view the full text.

Biodiversity, Ecosystem Function, and Investment Risk
December 2006, Vol. 56, No. 12, Pages 977–985


Biodiversity has the potential to influence ecological services. Management of ecological services thus includes investments in biodiversity, which can be viewed as a portfolio of genes, species, and ecosystems. As with all investments, it becomes critical to understand how risk varies with the diversity of the portfolio. The goal of this article is to develop a conceptual framework, based on portfolio theory, that links levels of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the context of risk-adjusted performance. We illustrate our concept with data from temperate grassland experiments conducted to examine the link between plant species diversity and biomass production or yield. These data suggest that increased plant species diversity has considerable insurance potential by providing higher levels of risk-adjusted yield of biomass. We close by discussing how to develop conservation strategies that actively manage biodiversity portfolios in ways that address performance risk, and suggest a new empirical research program to enhance progress in this field.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ferret update

Black footed ferrets are back in the news as this month saw the first reintroduction of the ferrets to Canada. They were last seen anywhere in Canada in 1937 !

As I mentioned in class the species was considered extinct until a colony was discovered in Wyoming in 1981. (It was actually discovered because a dog killed one of the ferrets and brought it home....).

In the US black footed ferrets are in the news because conservation groups have sued the Environmental Protection Agency for its decision to register pesticides that kill prairie dogs, the main source of food for the endangered black-footed ferret.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sustainable Seas – The Vision, The Reality

TALK: Sustainable Seas – The Vision, The Reality
Sylvia Earle
Monday, October 19 / 8:00 PM
Campbell Hall UCSB
Admission $10 general / $8 student
Oceanographer and 2009 TED Prize-winner Sylvia Earle has led more than 50 expeditions worldwide involving more than 6,000 hours underwater. She has served as the chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and is currently an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society. Now, Earle is the face behind Google Oceans, a comprehensive simulated ocean guide that explores the evolving history of the sea. Earle will share her joy of discovery through images and stories from her more than 30-year aquatic career – and express how that joy can help save the world. Books will be available for purchase and signing.
Sponsored by Arts & Lectures, the Environmental Studies Program as part of the Critical Issues in America Forum “Forty Years After the Big Spill – Looking Back, Looking Ahead: 21st Century Environmental Challenges in a Global Context,” and the IHC’s Oil + Water series.

Or you can watch her TED prize talk for free. Or maybe watch the free talk and then get inspired to go and see her in person.....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Multiple Allee effects and population management

(S)pecific population models of species... could help reveal how component Allee effects interact in nature. This endeavour is especially important in systems where human activity has a significant role, if sustainable development and conserved biodiversity are to remain primary goals of conservation biology.

I briefly mentioned this paper, Multiple Allee effects and population management, in class. It contains a nice review of the issue and is, I think, a good example of how ecology and conservation biology are well integrated these days

Allee effects, strongly related to the extinction vulnerability of populations and gradually becoming acknowledged by both theoretically oriented and applied ecologists, have already been shown to have important roles in the dynamics of many populations. Although not yet widely recognized, two or more Allee effects can occur simultaneously in the same population. Here, we review the evidence for multiple Allee effects and show that their interactions can take several forms, many of which are far from inconsequential. We suggest that more research is needed to assess the prevalence and interactions of multiple Allee effects, as failing to take them into account could have adverse consequences for the management of threatened or exploited populations.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Panda insemination

How did we ever live without the internet? I now know more than I ever thought I would about artificial insemination in panda.

The bottom line is that they DO use artificial insemination now, and it's very successful. However, although China began to try artificial fertilization technologies on giant pandas in the 1960s, success was very low until quite recently. Major breakthroughs only occurred after the 1990's with nine baby pandas from artificial insemination born in 2000, 12 in 2001, 10 in 2002 and 15 in 2003.

Giant pandas show little instinctive behavior in captivity, especially sexual desire, essential for natural mating and conception. Zhang and his team have worked hard in recent years to tackle the endangered animals' breeding problems and have resorted to artificial insemination, frozen semen and even showing the pandas videos on natural mating in the wild to arouse their sexual instincts.

The somewhat clueless nature of the panda has led some to suggest that it may not be worthy of its emblematic status.

"Here's a species that, of its own accord, has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac," said BBC wildlife expert Chris Packham

"Unfortunately, it's big and cute and a symbol of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and we pour millions of pounds into panda conservation."

Packham, who hosts Springwatch, a popular BBC nature show, said money spent trying to save the panda would be better invested in helping other species.

A BBC spokesperson declined to comment, saying Packham's statements were his "personal views".

China Daily had a fairly reasonable report on this with the excellent header:
Anti-panda tirade of bat fan slammed

Monday, October 12, 2009

Windshield splatter analysis

Metagenomic analysis is a recent tool used to investigate the microbial diversity of various environments by direct sampling of potentially unculturable organisms. In a paper in this week's 'Genome Research' journal, Sergei Kosakovsky Pond, describe how they used the technique to identify insect diversity:
Windshield splatter analysis with the Galaxy metagenomic pipeline

How many species inhabit our immediate surroundings? A straightforward collection technique suitable for answering this question is known to anyone who has ever driven a car at highway speeds. The windshield of a moving vehicle is subjected to numerous insect strikes and can be used as a collection device for representative sampling. Unfortunately the analysis of biological material collected in that manner, as with most metagenomic studies, proves to be rather demanding due to the large number of required tools and considerable computational infrastructure. In this study, we use organic matter collected by a moving vehicle to design and test a comprehensive pipeline for phylogenetic profiling of metagenomic samples that includes all steps from processing and quality control of data generated by next-generation sequencing technologies to statistical analyses and data visualization.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Scientists Demonstrate Importance of Niche Differences in Biodiversity

If you've already taken ecology classes, particularly if you took EEMB120 with Jonathan Levine you should check out recent Nature paper :
The importance of niches for the maintenance of species diversity.

There's also a UCSB press release which contains the Readers Digest version.

"Ecologists have long assumed that species differences in how they use the environment are key to explaining the large number of species we see all around us, but the importance of such niches have never been field tested."

Thursday, October 8, 2009


From ScienceDaily: Australian researchers have discovered a huge number of new species of invertebrate animals living in underground water, caves and "micro-caverns" amid the harsh conditions of the Australian outback.

A national team of 18 researchers has discovered 850 new species of invertebrates, which include various insects, small crustaceans, spiders, worms and many others.

"Our research has revealed whole communities of invertebrate animals that were previously unknown just a few years ago. What we have discovered is a completely new component to Australia's biodiversity. It is a huge discovery and it is only about one fifth of the number of new species we believe exist underground in the Australian outback."

"Discovery of this 'new' biodiversity, although exciting scientifically, also poses a number of challenges for conservation in that many of these species are found in areas that are potentially impacted by mining and pastoral activities".

Do you think these species perform valuable ecosystem services? Does that make them more or less worthy of conservation than species that do?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Plant diversity and biomass production

In the next class I'll briefly mention some of Brad Cardinale's work on the relationship between diversity and ecosystem function. Brad is a Professor in EEMB here at UCSB and has had a series of interesting papers on this topic. He recently received the 2009-10 Harold J. Plous Award. One of the university's most prestigious faculty honors, the award is given annually to an assistant professor from the humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences who has shown exceptional achievement in research, teaching, and service to the university.

On his webpage you can see a couple of his recent papers on this topic and how the media reported them eg:

Paper: Impacts of plant diversity on biomass production increase through time because of species complementarity.

CBC news: Extinctions could cut plant productivity in half

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Climate Change: some alternative views to the IPCC report

Please see the following link to an extract of a comprehensive literature review of CO2 levels over the past 180 years, essentially saying that the Keeling curve may not be the most accurate representation. I haven't looked in detail at the back up for this paper, however the key points that my Professor had made was that Keeling and Calendar chose not to show any of this data for their own reasons, but the media profile of their research now has meant that people over look this data gathered for many years before hand, some with higher CO2 concentrations. Interesting alternative view to think about.

I have also attached a Word document with a few graphs and tables of the water vapour statistics. The document is not a scientific paper, perhaps even too colloquial, but the papers referenced have interesting articles as well. I don't go along with everything said, there needs to be more evidence shown, but again, thought provoking, shows a different perspective and it's worth thinking about as a possibility.

Posted by Peadar Brehony

"humans seem to be hard-wired for immediate danger but soft-wired for long-term threats"

At the end of the last section some students shortly mentioned the question of the reality of the human species evolutionary problem to face long-term problems.

I found an editorial of "Environment" refering to an article just on that subject.

Why Carbon-Reducing Behavior Is Proving So Frictional

Students would probably be interested in reading this article as well :

When Our Brains Short-Circuit

Posted by Nora Muller

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Section Room

A reminder that all sections will now be in 2124 Girvetz.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Example Paper Topics

Here are a few example paper topics that I mentioned in section last week. A couple of you asked that I post links to the papers I passed around.

Examining the role of marine reserves in biological conservation here at the Channel islands (Paper: Airame et al 2003 APPLYING ECOLOGICAL CRITERIA TO MARINE RESERVE DESIGN: A CASE STUDY FROM THE CALIFORNIA CHANNEL ISLANDS)

Balancing human activities with species conservation: lead poisoning in the California condor

Rigs-to-Reef: What are the ecological risks and benefits of decommissioned offshore oil facilities?
(Paper: Schroeder and Love 2004 Ecological and political issues surrounding decommissioning of offshore oil facilities in the Southern California Bight)

21st Century Environmental Challenges in a Global Context

Each year, the College of Letters and Science sponsors two distinguished endowed programs, the Critical Issues in America program and the Arthur N. Rupe Great Debates Series. This year the topic for the Critical Issues in America program is "Forty Years after the Big Spill - Looking Back, Looking Ahead: 21st Century Environmental Challenges in a Global Context." Led by Dehlsen Professor of Environmental Studies William Freudenberg and supported by Water Policy Program Director Robert Wilkinson, the program references an historical benchmark - for the campus as well as the nation - and addresses a breadth of environmental challenges for the 21st century with a strong, interdisciplinary group of core faculty and key collaborators.

All talks are free and open to the public.

TOMORROW, Thursday, October 1: Wm. Freudenburg: "The Tragedy of the Un-Commons?" 12:30 - 1:45 p.m. in Lotte Lehmann Hall

Wednesday, October 21: Bill Gibson, CSU Long Beach: "Re-Enchanting the World," 2:00 - 2:50 p.m., in Bren 4016

Wednesday, October 28: Kai Lee, Packard Foundation: "Humans in the Landscape," 2:00 - 2:50 p.m., in Bren 4016

Wednesday, November 4: Doug Bevington, "Environment Now: The Rebirth of Environmentalism," 2:00 - 2:50 p.m., in Bren 4016

Tuesday, November 10: Riki Ott: "Learning the Lessons of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill," 12:30 - 1:45 p.m. in Lotte Lehmann Hall.

As the academic year unfolds, please continue to look for events related to this exciting and timely Critical Issues in America program.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

John Muir, naturalist and maker of odd inventions?

The new Ken Burns documentary on America's National Parks has brought a renewed interest to the lives of the early conservationists such as John Muir.

The Sierra Club have added a new page to their website that describes a relatively unknown side of John Muir - his inventive side: Was John Muir a Mad Scientist?

His inventions included an alarm clock that knocks the leg out from under the bed, and his mechanical study desk, pictured, that "would automatically light his lamp and fire, open the right book to study, and then change books after half an hour.

FYI - if you want to watch the PBS documentary online it looks like it will only be available until October 9th and a new show is being added each day. The first two are up now.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Volunteer Docents Needed for wildlife recovery at Sand's Beach, COPR

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.

Plover Docents are trained volunteers who facilitate public outreach and education about the western snowy plover, a threatened shorebird species, and its habitat at Sands Beach, part of Coal Oil Point Reserve.

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.

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.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It used to be free

I almost forgot to post this. I thought this open letter to her students by Professor Catherine Cole at UC Berkeley was interesting and well argued. It also contains some good links to further information.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Coastal Fund

The Associated Students Coastal Fund is a student-supported, student-led funding organization whose mission is to protect, enhance and restore the greater UCSB coastline through preservation, education, open access, research, and restoration.

They provide some funding for community and campus related programs and projects, undergraduate and graduate research and applications for Winter 2010 funding are due by October 2, 2009.

They also maintain a nice website with very useful pages on Additional Funding Sources and Jobs and Internships. Although many of these positions have been filled it is a a nice list of some of the local opportunities available.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Welcome to the Fall 2009 Conservation Ecology 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 (on the right hand side if you scroll down a bit). There's lots of interesting stuff there.

Lectures slides will be posted after each lecture and they will appear under 'Links' on the right hand side. Papers for discussion section will also be posted here, right under the links section in the imaginatively named 'Discussion section' section.

You are all welcome, and encouraged, to comment on the posts. You can also write your own posts of anything that is relevant to class but to do this you will need to be added as a contributor. Just send me an e-mail and I'll send you an invitation to join. It's a simple process.