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.