Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Unicorn chaser

I'm not embarrassed to admit that I find teaching this class to be somewhat depressing. I believe that we are currently in a period where we are losing a tremendous amount of biodiversity. In the future people will look back and ask how we could let this happen. I don't know that I have a good answer.

On the other hand having watched the film in Campbell Hall on the Earth Liberation Front last night (I'd love to hear your comments if anyone else saw it) there are clearly limits to the actions you can take in a civilized society.

Sometimes it all gets a bit much to take. Can we coexist with nature? I think we all need to find our own unicorn chasers. Mine is to go by the Elwood Monarch butterfly grove. This place is truly wonderful - in the sense that it can fill you with wonder. If you haven't been then you should make the time - a perfect study break. The butterflies are early this year and there are already large numbers there. The picture at the top is taken from an edhat post yesterday. Directions here if you want to visit - it's about 4 miles from campus.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thank you

I wanted to thank everyone who has posted here this quarter. Okay, it was part of the assignment, but even so I think some of you posted more than required and it's been interesting reading your posts.

I will be holding office hours on Thursday (1st) and Tuesday (6th) before the final as usual.

Wayne T. Ward Invasive Species

Recently I read an article regarding the negative impacts of invasive species in lake ecosystems. Specifically, Vander sought deeper understanding of smallmouth and rock bass’s effect on native trout species. The author hypothesized that littoral fish prey abundance as well as diversity would be markedly lower in affected systems. In addition Vander believed that Trout diet would shift away from pelagic fish prey toward a more littoral diet. Data from this paper shows that introduction of prey species into non-native lakes will have negative ecological effect. It also, provides more incentive to the current angler to use non-live bait in order to avoid these costly consequences on the natural ecosystem.

The introduction of non native species should be discontinued as well as the use of live bait by anglers due to the potential strong top down effects that can occur as seen with bass on trout. Normally littoral and pelagic dynamics are not intimately associated, but the bass’s top-down effect, pressured the normally pelagic predators to obtain their energy from the littoral habitat. This was clearly demonstrated through Vanders clever use of isotopes to track energy flow within a system and should be considered by fisheries. What do you guys think? Could there  be potential benefits to such an introduction? If so, do you like Vanders use of isotope tracking as a means to study food web dynamics?

EEMB168 final

The EEMB168 final will be on Tuesday Dec 6th from 4-6.

This is as published in the Final examination schedule published by the office of the registrar.

For some unknown reason after staying the same for 4 years it changed this year (from Wednesday to Tuesday) and I didn't notice when I prepared the original syllabus. I think I already mentioned this but I wanted to make sure everyone was aware.

So please note that the final will be on TUESDAY (ie in one week's time).

I can't be the only person to have made this mistake so you should double check all your final dates carefully.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sarah's office hours this week

To make up for not having office hours while I was gone, I will hold office hours this Wed and Thurs from 9 am -11 am (1304 Marine Science Research Building). I will not have my normal Wed afternoon office hours. But, from now up until the final, you can also schedule an appointment with me if you would like to.

Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving Holiday. See you this Friday in section or in office hours Wed or Thurs.

UN: farmers must produce 70% more food by 2050 to feed population

The United Nations has completed the first global assessment of the state of the planet's land resources, finding in a report that a quarter of all farmland is highly degraded and warning the trend must be reversed if the world's growing population is to be fed.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that farmers will have to produce 70% more food by 2050 to meet the needs of theworld's expected 9-billion-strong population. That amounts to 1bn tonnes more wheat, rice and other cereals and 200m more tonnes of beef and other livestock.

Read full article here

And if that isn't bad enough....

Climate Set to Worsen Food Crisis

Predator Control: Does it work or doesn't it?

A recent study on predator-prey interaction led Kim Murrey Berger to investigate the problem. In a study made by Berger, "Carnivore-Livestock Conflicts: Effects of Subsidized Predator Control and Economic Correlates on the Sheep Industry" , the problem of predator control was examined. Predator control which is one of the oldest form of wildlife control and conservation was measured using data from 1990 to 1998 using the change in sheep population as a way to determine the efficiency of the control. Unique to this study is how the discussion of what predators are killed as a necessity to ensure sheep survive. Among the animal killed are Bobcat, Mountain Lions, Black Bears, etc. This also makes things complicated as the problem seems to go in the direction of having to kill some or a lot of endangered predators out there to ensure the survival of an industry that makes millions if not billions yearly in profit. Another funny and interesting way this study went through with was the purchasing wool and sheep product as a measurement of variability in the sheep industry and correlating that with efficiency of predator control made by the government. The results even though it was explained in a serious manner seems very funny.

Despite the importance of carnivores in terrestrial ecosystems, many nations have implemented well-coordinated, state-funded initiatives to remove predators, largely because of conflicts with humans over livestock. Although these control efforts have been successful in terms of the number of carnivores removed, their effects on the viability of the industries they seek to protect are less understood. I assessed the efficacy of long-term efforts by the U.S. government to improve the viability of the sheep industry by reducing predation losses. I used regression analysis and hierarchical partitioning of a 60-year data set to explore associations among changes in sheep numbers and factors such as predator control effort, market prices, and production costs. In addition, I compared trends in the sheep industry in the western United States, where predator control is subsidized and coyotes (Canis latrans) are abundant, with trends in eastern states that lack federally subsidized predator control and that were (1) colonized by coyotes before 1950 or (2) colonized by coyotes between 1950 and 1990. Although control efforts were positively correlated with fluctuations in sheep numbers, production costs and market prices explained most of the model variation, with a combined independent contribution of 77%. Trends in sheep numbers in eastern and western states were highly correlated (r ≥0.942) independent of the period during which they were colonized by coyotes, indicating either that control has been ineffective at reducing predation losses or that factors other than predation account for the declines in both regions. These results suggest that government-subsidized predator control has failed to prevent the decline in the sheep industry and alternative support mechanisms need to be developed if the goal is to increase sheep production and not simply to kill carnivores.

Work Cited: BERGER, K. M. (2006), Carnivore-Livestock Conflicts: Effects of Subsidized Predator Control and Economic Correlates on the Sheep Industry. Conservation Biology, 20: 751–761. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00336.x

Efforts in San Diego Help Restore Critically Endangered Wolf

In the Press: Efforts In San Diego Help Restore Critically Endangered Wolf KPBS Story, November 8, 2011 (posted 11/10/11) By Katie Euphrat, Susan MurphyA vibrant chorus cascades down the mountainside near Julian. The talented vocalists are gray wolves. They roam in a 50-acre conservation and research facility known as the California Wolf Center, founded in 1977 to educate the public about wildlife and ecology ... . "Here at the center we have 23 wolves," said Erin Hunt, general manager of the California Wolf Center. "We have six Alaskan gray wolves, and the Alaskan gray wolves are here for education and research purposes. We also house Mexican gray wolves, which are critically endangered, with only about 50 living in the wild today." Once on the brink of extinction, Mexican gray wolves are staging a comeback. A conservation center in San Diego is helping with the effort to reintroduce them to the wild.Mexican gray wolves were nearly extinct in the 1970s, with just five remaining in the wild. But the survivors were captured and the species was saved. Today, the Wolf Center is part of a national effort to give them a second chance."We have had one pack of wolves born here actually get to go out into the wild and they lived successfully in the wild for many years," said Hunt. "And the alpha female of that pack has offspring that are still currently living in the wild."Three more wolves are set to be released this fall or winter to the reintroduction area along the Arizona and New Mexico border.The wolves preparing to be reintroduced have very limited human contact. Most of the packs are off display and kept far away from visitors."We limit the amount of time we spend in each enclosure," said Hunt, "and we only enter certain areas of the enclosure. You don’t want to release a wolf that’s gotten a little too used to being around people by being in the captive environment," Hunt explained.Hunt said the wolves thrive at the center -- four pups were born in April. But when they’re released into the wild they face many challenges."That’s when the work really begins," said Chelsea Davis, the Center's animal care and facilities manager. "The wolves in the wild are monitored and checked weekly."One way they're monitored is through howl surveys. "So they'll go out around dawn or dusk – peak activity times for wolves," said Davis. "And they'll actually try to get wolf packs to howl -- and you can tell two individuals and two pups."Another way is through special micro-chipped collars."A lot of times you’re expecting the wolves will stay in the area where you released them and then you find them 60 miles away from there by the end of the week," said Davis.The wolves are also observed to make sure they’re hunting and eating the right prey, such as elk, deer and fish. That’s because the reintroduction area is federal grazing land where roaming cattle and sheep often become tasty temptations.Historically, wolves were killed by ranchers for attacking livestock. At the Wolf Center, researchers are experimenting with taste aversion, which is lacing meat with a nausea-inducing chemical.Dan Moriarty, a professor of psychological sciences at the University of San Diego is using the technique to teach captive Mexican gray wolves that eating sheep will make them sick."Some people describe this as a process of going from yum to yuck," he said. "It tasted good when you first encountered it, but after this illness episode it simply doesn’t taste good anymore.Moriarty said the question is whether the learned aversion during captivity will be enough to prevent the wolves from attacking livestock in the wild. ... The real answer is going to come with the field trials, Moriarty added. ...The goal is to create a thriving ecosystem –just like their sister, the Alaskan gray wolf has done in the northern Rockies. They too were on the brink of extinction and were reintroduced in the wild starting in 1995. "So in Yellowstone national park when wolves returned, they kept the elk herds on the move. This prevented overgrazing which allowed willow and aspen trees to return and thrive. With the return of the willow and aspen, we saw a decrease of erosion in the stream beds in the river ecosystems in the park, which meant that song birds, fish, amphibians beavers and all sorts of other life could return to those areas," said Hunt.That’s why there’s such excitement over four Mexican gray wolf pups born at the center earlier this year. Hunt said they’ll likely be selected for breeding or release."It could take several years for that to happen," said Hunt. "As I said they are very young animals right now, but it is definitely a potential in their future."

How to keep elephants out of your property

With the increase of human development, the home ranges for the elephants in the wildlife have reduced significantly, causing a rise in human and elephant conflicts. A study done by a British scientist, Lucy E. King, proposes a very clever and excellent way to conserve the world's largest land animals as well as proving the importance of bees to people. Her research proves that African honeybees can be a potential solution to deter the elephants to help protect the crops as well as the sale of honey.

Lucy King and her team have previously discovered that acacia trees that hosted beehives either occupied with bees or without, were saved from the damage by the elephants. Therefore, they hypothesize that if the farmers built beehive "fences," they would be able to keep the elephants out of the farmers's properties and crops without harming the elephants. The team demonstrated that 90% of the elephants will flee when they hear the sounds of buzzing bees. The study showed that the elephants would warn the other elephants by producing a special rumble and leading the entire group of elephants away from the beehives. The scientists believed that the reaction of the elephants could result from negative past events such as being stung by a bee or even observing other elephants being stung by bees. Such response also suggested that they probably obtained such behavior through social learning during a family retreat caused by disturbed bees. After the proposal of the solution, the community farmers adopted the findings to construct beehive barriers, weaving the beehives into their fences, to keep the elephants from where people live and grow crops.

Reference: African elephants run from the sound of disturbed bees Lucy E. King, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Fritz Vollrath Current Biology - 9 October 2007 (Vol. 17, Issue 19, pp. R832-R833)

Check it out!

The New York Times
November 27, 2011

Partnership Preserves Livelihoods and Fish Stocks

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. — Stevie Fitz, a commercial fisherman, was pulling up his catch in one of his favorite spots off of Point Reyes in June when he saw something terrifying — in his nets were nearly 300 bocaccio, a dwindling species of rockfish protected by the government.

There are such strict limits on catching the overfished bocaccio that netting a large load, even by accident, can sideline and even ruin an independent fisherman.

Still, Mr. Fitz did not try to hide his mistake by slipping it back into the deep. Instead, he reported himself. With a few swipes on his iPad, he posted the exact time and location of the catch to a computerized mapping system shared by a fleet of 13 commercial boats, helping others to avoid his mistake.

“It was a slap in the face,” he said, “but we are trying to build an information base that will help everyone out.” He was later able to sell the bocaccio, although the catch still counted against his quota for the year.

A lifelong fisherman, Mr. Fitz is part of a very unusual business arrangement with the Nature Conservancy, an environmental group that is trying to transform commercial fishing in the region by offering a model of how to keep the industry vital without damaging fish stocks or sensitive areas of the ocean floor.

Five years ago, the conservancy bought out area fishing boats and licenses in a fairly extreme deal — forged with the local fishing industry — to protect millions of acres of fish habitat. The unusual collaboration was enjoined to meet stricter federal regulations and the results of a successful legal challenge. But once the conservancy had access to what was essentially its own private commercial fishing fleet, the group decided to put the boats back to work and set up a collaborative model for sustainable fishing.

Bringing information technology and better data collection to such an old-world industry is part of the plan. So is working with the fishermen it licenses to control overfishing by expanding closed areas and converting trawlers — boats that drag weighted nets across the ocean floor — to engage in more gentle and less ecologically damaging techniques like using traps, hooks and line, and seine netting.

The conservancy’s model is designed to take advantage of radical new changes in government regulation that allow fishermen in the region both more control and more responsibility for their operating choices. The new rules have led to better conservation practices across all fleets, government monitors say.

“It is blowing me away what is happening out there,” said William Stelle, the administrator for Pacific Northwest region of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine fisheries service. But, he added, the conservancy “may be the most sophisticated example of the successful marriage of interests between the environmental community and the fishing industry in marine conservation.” Similar programs are beginning to appear in other places.

American fish stocks have been troubled since the early 1990s and remain so because of overfishing, pollution, and warming seas. The government says that today 23 percent of fish stocks are not at self-sustaining levels at current fishing pressure.

Congress passed a law in 1996 demanding that local fishery councils protect “essential fish habitat.” In 2006, it also imposed tight catch limits for overfished species. As a result, if a fishery exceeds its limit on just one of these species, under federal law, the entire area could be closed to commercial boats for a season.

Local councils have struggled to balance the inherent tensions of adhering to these limits without ruining the fishermen’s ability to make a living. To do this, they have imposed regulations like prohibiting fishing in some areas, dictating the catch season and limiting what techniques and gear are used.

But last year, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council replaced some of those restrictions with strict quotas on six imperiled species and parceled them out among all 138 commercial vessels along the coast. Government observers are now put on every boat to make sure there is no cheating.

The downside is that if one boat lands too much of a sensitive species, known as bycatch, it must be docked until it can buy another boat’s unused quota — and there is not always a market to balance the catch. The quota system also provides incentive for each fisherman in the risk pool to help prevent others from using up their quota. And the early results for fish stocks are promising. Bycatch has dropped from 15 percent to 20 percent of the total haul to less than 1 percent.

The Nature Conservancy first got involved in central California in 2004 when it was looking to invest in marine conservation zones. The group realized that it needed better information to preserve the most critical areas.

“What the fishermen had was a deep local knowledge of the habitats of certain species,” said Michael Bell, senior project director with the conservancy. “There wasn’t scientific information at that level that could match the fisherman knowledge.”

But getting information from fishermen was difficult because they suspected that the conservancy was just looking to close off more prime fishing territory. So to get cooperation, as well as to reduce trawling along as much of the central coast as possible, the conservancy agreed to reduce the potential financial hardship to fishermen by buying the boats or the fishing permits of anyone who wanted out of the business. Thirteen volunteered to sell their permits, and six of the lot also sold their boats for a cost of about $7 million.

The fishermen soon divulged which nurseries and rock formations needed to be protected and which areas where mature fish congregated should be left open. What resulted was a proposal that included large areas of closings — nearly 4 million acres — that most fishermen thought was fair. It was adopted easily by the fishery council in 2006.

It has not been unheard of for environmental groups to buy boats and licenses and then to retire that part of the quota to take pressure off of an area fishery. But it was not an outcome that the fishermen or their coastal towns — Monterey, Half Moon Bay and Fort Bragg — wanted in this case. Rick Algert, the former harbor director for Morro Bay, near Monterey, explained that fishermen were critical to supporting local infrastructure like fuel piers. And besides, he said, “tourists still like to see boats in a working harbor.”

So the conservancy agreed to lease back some permits and boats, but only if their sustainable conditions were met.

Perhaps the hardest one for the fishermen to accept was the automated posting system known as eCatch. But fishermen have come to believe that the data will show patterns — for example, high catch rates of certain species after full moons along the edge of the shallow water shelf in July — that will help them all predict the danger zones. Independent fisherman have joined the risk pool and eCatch system because they see benefits. By handing out free iPads, the conservancy made the posting of real-time results almost effortless.

Their well-financed effort is among the most technologically advanced and coordinated in the country, but others are catching on. In Massachusetts, scallop fishermen, with the help of the University of Massachusetts, have developed a similar reporting program to avoid pulling in endangered yellowtail flounder.

Many of the fishermen have become fans of a system that yields profits and hardly any bycatch. Steve Fitz, Stevie’s uncle, sold their fishing permit to the conservancy and now leases it back. The lease is fair-market value as long as Mr. Fitz continues to use Scottish seining, which is far gentler to the ocean bottom than trawling is.

“The Nature Conservancy had identified that the small family boats were sustainable, and they wanted to help,” Mr. Fitz said. “We recognized that we needed help negotiating this increasingly confusing path into the future.”

Saturday, November 26, 2011

If a Tree Falls

 Interesting looking film on campus on Tuesday and I believe it is free for students.

 If a Tree Falls - a story of the earth liberation front
Tuesday, November 29, 2011 @ 7:30 PM, in  Campbell Hall

“A remarkable and moving film… a documentary that forces viewers to challenge their own preconceptions and opinions.” Utne Reader

In December 2005 federal agents conducted a nationwide sweep of radical environmentalists involved with the Earth Liberation Front – an organization the FBI has called America’s “number one domestic terrorism threat.” This film is the remarkable story of the group’s rise and fall, told through the transformation and radicalization of one of its members. A thought-provoking film If a Tree Falls asks hard questions about environmentalism, activism and the way we define terrorism. (Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman, 2011, 85 min.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Electronic Waste Industry

An investigation on the industry behind electronic waste done by correspondent Peter Klein and a group of graduate journalist from the University of British Columbia took them to one of the most polluted places in  the world. Outside the cities of Ghana, by a river in an area called Agbogbloshie,  tons of electronic waste is dump each year and left there to be burn by the local people. Plastic from computers and other electronics are burn daily to extract the metals and sell it for profit, greatly polluting the environment and  presenting a health hazard for the community who lives there. But Ghana is not the only place where tons of electronic waste dumping has lead to massive pollution and health hazards. In China , the entire city of Guiyu has become home for electronic waste, and the growing middle class and their demand for high technology in India has also lead to the increase in electronic waste
However, there are recycling plants in Bangalore, India were recycling is done responsibly and the scraps are use to make "eco friendly" jewelry. But even with the attempts of a few alternative  recycling plants like the one in Bangalore, poverty and the lack of strict policies in many countries make it easier for the people to resource to such methods of extracting metals for profit which are harmful to their health and the environment.
However, what is more shocking than finding those large areas of electronic waste, was finding where the waste comes from and how it gets there. In the case of Ghana and China, electronic waste arrives from places like Germany, the UK and America. The import of electronic waste to Ghana has been disguised as "donations", however, only about 50% of the imported electronics can be salvage and the rest becomes waste  dump outside the cities. And in both cases, the "donations" can be problematic, either by becoming the source of pollution or the source of cyber crime. The salvage hard drives can be scanned by criminals to extract personal information (names, account numbers, pictures, etc.) which can be use in scams. In more serious cases, information rewarding U.S.'s  government documents have been found which could potentially present a danger to the country's security. In China, electronic waste is imported in containers returning to China from places like the U.S., that would other wise would have returned empty. 
When talking to dealers in the importation of electronic waste, one man reveal that even though such imports are illegal, it is cheaper for the containers to return with something and that the cost of appropriate recycling "isn't worth it". While places in Ghana, China and India are going through massive pollution because of electronic waste, we most not forget the complete effects of such pollution, its sources and the actions being taken to prevent it. Countries like the U.S. and the UK have grown "rich", but their waste has also grown, and in the case of their electronic waste, it has been imported to "poor" countries. While importing electronic waste might appear to cut cost for "rich" counties and provide some profit to "poor" countries, the true of the matter is that irresponsible recycling of electronic waste is polluting cities and eventually the whole planet, and with its pollution it is risking the health of the polluted communities as well. 

Article/Video Link

An Uphill Battle

Although it has been stated time and time again that fragmentation is a very severe concern of conservation ecology efforts, it has proven very difficult to remedy. In an article by John A. Bissonette and Ilse Storch titled, “Fragmentation: Is the Message Clear?,” various important points were made regarding obstacles that one must overcome in order to even begin to tackle the immeasurable issue of fragmentation in an ecosystem. Due to the sheer complexity of ecology, it seems more common for ‘easier’ problems to be addressed as opposed to harder ones due to a lack of technology. Unfortunately, the harder problems tend to be the more pressing and important ones.

In a study performed by Debinski and Holt (2000), they performed a survey of habitat fragmentation experiments in which they comprised percentages of truth for each of six areas of concern regarding fragmentation: 1) species richness vs. area, 2) species abundance vs. area density, 3) the effect of fragmentation on interspecific interactions, 4) the effect of edge on ecosystem ‘services,’ 5) correlation between corridors and movement between fragments, and 6) if connectivity increase species richness. The validity of each of the hypotheses was >50% for only 2 comparisons; based on experimental evidence it was 66.6% true that there was a correlation between edge effect and ecosystem ‘service,’ and it was 80% true that fragmentation inhibits the development of corridors and that connectivity and movement are directly proportional. However, the lack of substantiation for the remaining 4 categories suggests that such seemingly basic interactions are actually very complex and very difficult to confirm experimentally. Debinski and Holt (2000) suggest that such inconsistent results can be due to time lags, exclusivity in social interactions between certain species, and the sheer vastness of the scale being studied. Time lags, in particular, make it very difficult to conduct conclusive studies. There are so many different time scales to consider when examining different environments that it becomes quite intricate. In addition, it is nearly impossible to couple both temporal and spatial schemes on such large scales. One example mentioned in the article was that of the worldwide distribution of forests that takes place over the long time span of tens of thousands of years. It is impossible for any one person to gather and analyze data over such a long period of time, far greater than that of any lifespan.

Furthermore, they examined whether quantitative or qualitative analyses was better when attempting to study habitat fragmentation and determined that regardless of the method used, the results were still the same: unclear and inconclusive. Similarly to weather predictions, ecology predictions are harder once they exceed predicting the immediate future due to unforeseeable factors that may come into play in the future. For this reason, it appears that ecologists have an uphill battle ahead of them.

Works Cited:

Bissonette, John A.,and Ilse Storch. “Fragmentation: Is the Message Clear?.” Conservation Ecology 6.2 (2002): 14. 20 November 2011.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Rats - not all bad

From a paper in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Invasive rats and recent colonist birds partially compensate for the loss of endemic New Zealand pollinators

In this study they show that animals such as the highly destructive ship rat can become an important part of the ecosystem in the absence of native pollinators, many of which perish precisely because of animals such as the highly destructive ship rat!

Reported declines of pollinator populations around the world have led to increasing concerns about the consequences for pollination as a critical ecosystem function and service. Pollination could be maintained through compensation if remaining pollinators increase their contribution or if novel species are recruited as pollinators, but empirical evidence of this compensation is so far lacking. Using a natural experiment in New Zealand where endemic vertebrate pollinators still occur on one offshore island reserve despite their local extinction on the adjacent North Island, we investigated whether compensation could maintain pollination in the face of pollinator extinctions. We show that two recently arrived species in New Zealand, the invasive ship rat (Rattus rattus) and the recent colonist silvereye (Zosterops lateralis; a passerine bird), at least partly maintain pollination for three forest plant species in northern New Zealand, and without this compensation, these plants would be significantly more pollen-limited. This study provides empirical evidence that widespread non-native species can play an important role in maintaining ecosystem functions, a role that needs to be assessed when planning invasive species control or eradication programmes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Discussion Question 12

Ecotourism is defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well being of local people. It aims to unite conservation, communities, and sustainable travel to raise funds for conservation and increase cultural awareness.

I chose to investigate sea lions and their behavioral responses to humans in their natural environment on Granito Island in the Gulf of California, in a study completed by K. Holcomb. This paper addressed the most common human disturbances on the island, artisanal fisheries coming close to shore and inland disturbance from tourists and researchers. The distance sea lions fled from each of these disturbances was measured to quantify human disturbance on the wildlife. Animals usually fled between 5-15m. Sea lion behaviors were observed and recorded in response to each of the disturbances, “tourist” “researcher” and “fisheries”. The behaviors suggest that adult sea lions are not significantly effected by human disturbance because they do not have any terrestrial predators and likely don’t see humans as much of a threat. There were inconsistencies with juveniles, young females, and pups. These groups show an immediate behavioral response to human disturbance like territorial, aggressive, active (compared to inactivity), and maternal behaviors.

With this information sea lion tourism can be a great ecotourism venture in the Gulf of California. Many are familiar with sea lions on docks all along the California coast, but seeing an animal in its natural habitat is far more exhilarating. This ecotourism venture could easily be made possible by involving the local communities around Granito, Mejia, and Angel la Guarda. Many local people are employed by fisheries, resorts, or cater to tourists. Creating a new tourism venture to view sea lions in their natural habitat in a manner that is sustainable, and benefitting both the community and the animals has a great appeal to the eco-minded tourist. Applying a UNESCO idea, creating biosphere reserves on the island would allow the animals to have the most protection possible, creating zones to allow development and tourists, and zones just for natural habitat and research.

Addressing sustainability, transportation to the islands should be in a sail boat to eliminate the need for fossil fuels which are degrading our environment. The venture should aim to educate the community and the tourists, and unite them through local custom. Travel is all about absorbing experiences and new cultures, so incorporating viewing a majestic animal in its natural habitat, sustainably, with local culture and tradition mixed together seems to me, to be a recipe for success!

The influence of human disturbance on California sea lions during the breeding season. By K. Holcomb; J.K. Young; L.R. Gerber. Animal Conservation, March 2009, 592-598, 7p.

Ella Bendrick-Chartier

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stripping Them of Their Dignity

Question 10: Are poverty and the conservation of biological diversity linked, and if so, how? Should these problems be attacked together or separately?

In an article titled “Mediterranean cork oak savannas require human use to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services,” it is suggested that cork oak savannas are neglected, deserted, or overused, depending on where the savanna is located on the Mediterranean Basin. The conservation of cork oak savannas has been monitored closely due to their protection through the Convention on Biological Diversity. The term biodiversity “hotspot” was defined in lecture as Earth’s most biologically rich and most endangered terrestrial ecoregions. The reason much of the Mediterranean Basin can be defined as such, is due to the presence of people. This is particularly true of the oak cork savanna in northwestern Africa, which is being degraded due to poverty-driven overuse. The lack of regulatory policies present in such impoverished regions helps perpetuate this problem. Although the savannas are technically owned by the state, local people are sanctioned to use the woodland resources. However, overharvesting of both fuel wood and acorns and overgrazing threaten the fine balance of the savanna ecosystem by degrading the tree cover, decreasing the regeneration of the oak cork trees, and risking the sustainability of the environment. These effects are magnified for communities that suffer from poverty due to their lack of education in the proper ways of cork harvesting. Therefore, often times the cork is inappropriately stripped; too frequently gathered, not giving the tree enough recuperation time since a live tree should be harvested once every 9-12 years; or accidently harmed by unskilled harvesters.

Although both poverty and conservation of biological diversity are two very broad topics that seem as though they should be addressed separately, they are linked in such a way that sometimes makes it easier to tackle them at the same time. One of the reasons that the European Union doesn’t face similar problems as does northwestern Africa is because they put into effect the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), whose goal is to protect biodiversity. The CAP attempted to do this by establishing the Agri-environmental schemes (AES) which helped to decrease the negative effects of agriculture and promote environmentally friendly farming techniques by providing monetary compensation for the farmers. However, AES weren’t very successful since there wasn’t a very strong thread holding AES and other CAP projects together. Other initiatives such as “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and enhancement of carbon stocks,” also known as REDD+, proved to be a far more successful scheme. REDD+ was established specifically for places such as the northwestern cork oak savannas of Africa, where the land was downtrodden by overuse. It was designed to act as a proponent of large-scale ecological restoration activities. Furthermore, its role in the reduction of overharvesting of fuel wood would also in turn benefit biodiversity conservation efforts. By providing technological support and/or compensation for pursuing alternative energy/livelihood approaches to such rural areas as Africa, REDD+ can help promote more positive social impacts and help both impoverished communities and biological diversity.

By: Niree Dingizian

Works Cited:

Bugalho, Miguel N., et al. “Mediterranean cork oak savannas require human use to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services.” The Ecological Society of America (2011): 10.1890/100084. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

Monday, November 21, 2011

EEMB168 class is CANCELED tomorrow (Nov 22)

Unfortunately I'm pretty sick today and have decided to cancel class tomorrow. I apologize for this and hope that it maybe allows some of you to get an early start on Thanksgiving. I would have liked to give you more notice but I wasn't planning on being sick...

The good news is that this will require very little adjustment to the class - because Veterans day was on a Friday this year we had an extra lecture day and we are about exactly where we should be at this point in the quarter.

Endangered Animals Fed To Starving Children

Research by Christopher Golden from UC Berkley states that in the Makira Protected Area in Madagascar (a hotspot), environmentalists were forced to compromise the conservation of their surrounding environment for the health of the African community.

Bushmeat, also known as the meat of terrestrial wild animals such as, lemurs and bats, was given to children living in the village. Many researchers found that if they limited any family's access to wildlife as a nutrient source, several of the children would end up suffering from severe cases of anemia and undernourishment. A total of 77 children, under the ages of 12, were participants in the experiment for a year. During this period they were tested for hemoglobin levels every month and scientists found that those who ate more bushmeat were the ones who were the ones with more iron-containing hemoglobin.

Nonetheless, though the health of the children improved, it got more complex. For one, feeding children bushmeat is not a form of sustainable hunting. Secondly, children cannot be given iron supplements to help with their anemia since it leads to a weakened immunity system by dropping levels of calcium and zinc. Golden and his researchers add that bushmeat may be the "food of the poor" since hunting is one of the only ways for people to get food. Unfortunately, the experiment raises the question of what will happen after the last lemur, for example, is eaten? Golden summarizes the answer as, "we need to find ways to benefit the local populations into our conservation policies, not hurt them." In other words, we cannot simply choose between the value of human life and the conservation of the environment--it's just too complicated.

Article by Brian Clark Howard

Please DO Feed the Bears!!

Black bears in states like Minnesota have become a real problem for the people who inhabit areas around their habitat. This problem has been solved in recent years with the shooting of the bears. However, a new, more humane solution has been proposed and tested recently. In an article written in The Vancouver Sun, Lynn Rogers, who is a director of the Wildlife Research Institute and the North American Bear Centre in Ely, Minnessota stated, “...studies show that putting food out for bears at a designated site -- a practice known as diversionary feeding -- can keep black bears away from population areas but doesn’t condition the bears to human food.

This new technique was quite shocking to me and I’m sure many other when they first hear of it. If you have ever lived around or visited any bear-populated areas you have probably noticed signs that say not to feed the bears. I found it very interesting that black bears and humans can coexist by simply feeding the bears. In one of Lynn Rogers articles, located in an academic journal, she goes into detail about diversionary feeding tests lasting 8 years. According to Lynn, during this time period, “the only bear [that had to be] removed was a transient sub-adult male that had not yet found the diversionary feeding site. This study proved that hunger is the main factor that creates conflict between humans and bears.

Works Cited

Rogers, Lynn L. "Does Diversionary Feeding Create Nuisance Bears and Jeopardize Public Safety?" Berryman Institute. 20 May2009. Web.


Santin, Aldo. "'Diversionary Feeding' Better than Bullets for Problem Bears, Biologist Says." The Vancouver Sun. Winnipeg Free Press, 18 Aug. 2011. Web.


Biodiversity Loss Can Increase Infectious Diseases In Humans

The extinction of plant and animal species can be likened to emptying a museum of its collection, or dumping a cabinet full of potential medicines into the trash, or replacing every local cuisine with McDonald's burgers.

But the decline of species and their habitats may not just make the world boring. New research now suggests it may also put you at greater risk for catching some nasty disease.

"Habitat destruction and biodiversity loss," -- driven by the replacement of local species by exotic ones, deforestation, global transportation, encroaching cities, and other environmental changes -- "can increase the incidence and distribution of infectious diseases in humans," write University of Vermont biologist Joe Roman, EPA scientist Montira Pongsiri, and seven co-authors in BioScience.
See Full Article Here

University of Vermont. "Biodiversity loss can increase infectious diseases in humans." ScienceDaily, 3 Dec. 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.

The rise of the sharing ecomomy

An interesting, and possibly optimistic, article in the Atlantic about the rise of the sharing ecomomy. Well worth a read but here's the bottom line (and why it's relevant):

What happens when millions of people spend 10 percent less on new things and 10 percent more sharing old things or getting sophisticated deals? It's easy to say that sharing is good for efficient markets. It's not so easy to say that sharing is good for a growing economy that depends on new shoppers.

The pessimist would say that the sharing economy is a smaller economy. The optimist would respond that by spending less money on homes, cars and clothes, we could get back to focusing on new projects. More family savings would find their way to banks and investment firms. That capital would flow into exciting entrepreneurial projects looking to answer more big problems. Young start-ups waiting to change the world with their new ideas would benefit from the capital that flows from all this new investment.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Specious Species: Fight against Seafood Fraud Enlists DNA Testing

In lecture, the genetic approach to monitoring whale meat species composition, reminded me of an article I had stumbled upon last week concerning seafood fraud. I found the article surprising, considering it has never crossed my mind that I might possibly be eating something that does not correlate to its labeling.

In summary, DNA fingerprinting, is being used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent seafood fraud. The FDA is improving its inspection and enforcement efforts. The FDA's library went live on November 1st and is now available to the public. It contains DNA bar codes from 250 species of frequently consumed fish, each identified by an expert using a specimen held at the Smithsonian as a reference. The agency is also developing a crustacean database covering species like shrimp, lobster and crab.

The cost for the FDA to run a DNA barcode test on a fish sample (not including labor and supplies) is only $10. By comparison, tests for seafood contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can run as high as $1,000 a sample. Essentially, cheap tests mean more analysis which would lead to less fraud. The cost has dropped so much that the FDA is also starting to look at mislabeled pet foods and wild game meat using the same technique. However, the article also mentions the problems that can arise when using DNA barcoding without a specific genetic marker, as well as the economics involved for businesses.

(article link)

For more information, a Consumer Report is available that reveals detailed findings.

After Years of Conflict, a New Dynamic in Wolf Country

The case of the gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park is a classic example of how the Endangered Species Act is effective in saving species nearing extinction. The endangered population started with 66 captive-bred gray wolves reintroduced into the park in 1995 and 1996 and is now over 1,500 and is continuing to increase. The wolves restored balance to the ecosystem which had previously been thrown "out of whack" by the surplus of herbivores and primary carnivores. Lawmakers are now demanding that the gray wolf be removed from the endangered species list; however, many conservationists are concerned that once the protection granted by the ESA are removed, farmers will continue the practices of shooting and poisoning the wolves that made them endangered in the first place. From the farmers' points of view, the decision to reintroduce the wolves was "'shoved down their throats with a plunger'" and they deserve the right to shoot any wolf that comes onto their land and threatens their livestock. The farmers claim that the wolves kill their animals and have drastic effects on the average weight of the animals since they spend so much time looking for a predator rather than eating. Conservationists are now working with farmers to find a compromise. They are training horseman to guard pastures and allowing some wolves to be hunted. For now the gray wolf remained listed as an endangered species and will remain so until sufficient management plans are in place to ensure the gray wolf population is safe.

Kimberly Crispin

“Putting carbon dioxide in the ocean is a terrible way to deal with climate change. Maybe we should do it”

The World’s Best Bad Idea by Peter Friederici

I read this article about options of carbon sequestration. Scientists argue whether putting carbon dioxide into the ocean, versus under the sea floor, versus just trying to find more eco-friendly fuel options. The article firsts talks about the suggestion to sequester the carbon 1500 meters into the ocean, in which we would see effects within a few centuries, but then discovers putting it 3000 meters would liquefy carbon dioxide, and wouldn’t really start to present a problem until a few thousand years. But what about about sea creatures like sea urchins who need calcium carbonate dissolved in water to make their hard protective shells? “The amount of carbonate in water is a direct function of the concentration of carbon dioxide” (Friederici, 2010). Essentially the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the water makes it more acidic, and calcium carbonate structures can’t persist, and carbon dioxide levels “in the open ocean, directly mirrors that of the air”.

Many scientists think this might be a good idea, for the mean time, but we really should find ways to make and use fuels that will generally reduce our carbon emissions. Meanwhile, other scientists think it might be a great idea, and better still are working on sequestration below the sea floor. In many places this might work, except maybe Japan, who has suffered many earthquakes, and the inconsistent state of the land below sea might cause leakages, which would reduce the effect of sequestration at all.

I agree that it might be a “short” term fix, but we also really should work on reducing our carbon footprint so this will not become something we have to do forever.

Coho Salmon Release

I found this article a while back but it is a good example of habitat restoration and restoration of an endangered population of Coho salmon. After ten years of working to restore the Willow Creek habitat, scientists from California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers as well as officials from organizations like Trout Unlimited and Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods were finally able to realize their goal of restoring the Salmon to this particular tributary and ideal spawning ground. "As many as 50 percent of the salmon fingerlings released into Willow Creek Tuesday are expected to survive, according to Ben White, a fisheries biologist for the Corps." This figure for juvenile survival is quite high I think, but represents an optimism about the project that is needed if it is to be a success. The cost of the whole project is well over one million dollars, which is mostly due to the removal of culverts and replacing them with a bridge. This seems like a large sum just to restore a tributary, but it is vital work that will possibly allow the survival of this population of Coho salmon. It is uplifting to see a restoration effort that works and that so many different agencies collaborated on in order to ensure its success.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Arctic Predators

Human development and economical advancements seem to be pressing concerns for the conservation community. I looked into the effect of oil fields in Alaska and how the infringement on habitats has been affecting the species that live there.

Many species such as gulls, ravens and arctic foxes inhabit the areas in Alaska which are being turned into American oilfields. These oilfields have had a strange effect on the populations that coexist. It's been noted that raven populations have increased in oilfield areas because they are now able to nest in the building towers. Foxes are supplied with fresh roadkill on the crossing roads and use the buildings for shelter to house their young.

Despite the beneficial habitat for the ravens and foxes, there are many ground nesting birds greatly affected by the influx of predators. Their eggs and hatchlings get preyed upon by voracious small predators such as the arctic foxes, and ground squirrels. The new buildings and oilfields don't provide protection for the ground nesting birds but instead attract an almost detrimental amount of predators.

This question this raises is, do the benefits of creating new habitats for a select number of species out way the costs of destroying the ground nesting birds? Is it worth it to expand the American oil industry, yielding large economic benefits, while still negatively affecting those species of birds. Can a price really be put on a species even though the ground nesting birds may not have the largest impact on human life?

I guess these what plagues the minds of conservation biologists is do policy makers consider these costs and benefits when formulating decisions?

The practical conservationist

The practical conservationist : An environmental organization decides to work with big business, not against it.

From a Q&A in the Journal Nature last month with Peter Kareiva, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy. Looks like some new strategies for The Nature Conservancy again:

Last January, TNC began a US$10 million, 5-year partnership with the Dow chemical company, headquartered in Midland, Michigan. In courting big business, the organization is following in the footsteps of the other leading conservation groups, including the WWF, which has had a $20-million relationship with the Coca-Cola Company since 2007.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Clothed in innocence, the treaty is in fact designed to radically transform Western Civilization into a society where wolves and other entities of nature have more rights than humans.
Biodiversity treaty more than senate willing to pay.
Sovereignty International Corporation

I've posted this before but I'm going to post it again and ask you to add a comment if you can help explain to me why the US has still not signed the Convention on Biodiversity. 

I've tried to look into this several times but it's just not easy for me to understand exactly why the US did not ratify the Convention on Biodiversity. In search of answers I've been doing some reading on websites written by those who opposed the Convention. This has proven more enlightening but the level of paranoia is scary.

The open letter to congress I mentioned in class (from 293 signers, representing four million American voters) only specifically mentions two issues - alien species and the transfer of technology. However the testimony given to congress focused on a third issue - private property rights and the threat of a massive property grab by the federal government if not the United Nations themselves. Here is testimony given by Senator Hutchison (Texas) from the Congressional Record S13790, Friday, September 30, 1994.

I am especially concerned about the effect of the treaty on private property rights in my State and throughout America. Private property is constitutionally protected, yet one of the draft protocols to this treaty proposes "an increase in the area and connectivity of habitat." It envisions buffer zones and corridors connecting habitat areas where human use will be severely limited. Are we going to agree to a treaty that will require the U.S. Government to condemn property for wildlife highways? Are we planning to pay for this property? One group, the Maine Conservation Rights Institute, has prepared maps of what this would mean. I do not know if they are accurate yet, but that is my point. Neither do the proponents of this treaty.

This is the map, presented on the Senate floor. Note the heading - As mandated by the convention on biological diversity.

The areas you see in red represents "wilderness reserves" which will be off limits to humans. Areas in yellow represents highly regulated buffer zones where human existence will be greatly restricted. The areas in green represent zones for normal use of high density mixed use urban areas.

In the minds of some the UN Convention on Biodiversity has become associated with the Wildlands Project (now known as the Wildlands Network). This organization focuses on scientific and strategic support for creation of “networks of people protecting networks of connected wildlands.”  They identified existing protected areas and proposed wildlife corridors that would connect them as pathways for wide-ranging species in need of room to roam. Their ideas are not exactly radical and their maps are very general but it is these rather general maps that were apparently the inspiration for the scary map above.

Worst of all, the basis for protecting biodiversity and ecosystems was to be centered on what is known as the Wildlands Project. This draconian plan calls for setting aside vast areas (about 50 percent) of America into reserve wilderness areas, interconnecting corridors, and human buffer zones where human use would be eliminated or severely restricted. According to the June 25, 1993 issue of Science magazine, such a system of reserves and corridors would create "an archipelago of human-inhabited islands surrounded by natural areas."
Biodiversity treaty more than senate willing to pay.
Sovereignty International Corporation

The Rewilding Project is brought to us from the United Nations. A relevant tentacle of Agenda 21, the Rewilding Project is designed to restore a major portion of the planet to its 'original' state before man came along and messed it all up; however, it could not be happening if it were not being implemented by state and local legislation.

Suffice to say that when they want your property you WILL sell and at a price they set. Otherwise, they'll remove you forcefully. Private land is being taken all over America by local, state and federal governments under 'eminent domain'. ... In the case of Wildlands and their Corridors, it will be dedicated exclusively to plants, insects, bees, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and animals. Carnivores figure heavily in their plan.
From The Rewilding Project

This video tells the complete story (check out how the map changes at 3:34 to 'simulated map'). Wetland mitigation, critical habitat and conservation easements are all part of the same conspiracy....

Monday, November 14, 2011

The DaVersity Code

A popular solution bounced around in brainstorming sessions between ecologists is, in so many words, "education." The semantics may vary but ultimately derive from the formula of "[We] need to educate [students/people/other laymen] about [ecological issue X] so they will support our cause and the wheels of change will turn." However, when asked, if at all, how to carry this out, the usual sound off of political activism, congressional lobbying and the most popular, "tell them," happens.
Without giving too much away (words can't quite capture it, you should really see it), this, Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment sponsored, late 2000s cartoon takes some artistic liberties and compares the current biodiversity crash to The DaVinci Code in a very concise and almost tongue in cheek display of cheesiness, and a new breed of Viral Activism, starring "Robert Penguin and Sophie Minnow." The cartoon brings up the inter-connectivity of all life on earth, using the endangered cone snails and frogs as proxies for pharmaceuticals and disease control, and cautions against thinking that humans are separate from this "Priory of Species."(really, you should see it.)
Is it cheesy? Yes.
Is it strange? Maybe a little.
Is it copyright infringement? That's debatable.
But what isn't debatable is this is an honest effort on the part of an organization that isn't known quite as much for activism so much as science, to reach the masses in a new, and relevant manner (that is, unless Conservative Dan Brown fans take this to mean that Pandas are in on it).

Hit with the ugly stick

If you are going to attack endangered species it is wise to choose one of the less charismatic ones. Rep. Joe Baca of San Bernardino County has chosen well with the Delhi sands flower loving fly.

Here is the summary of House Resolution 1042 which is currently in committee. What do you think?

Amends the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) to treat a limited listed species as extinct for purposes of this Act upon the expiration of the 15-year period beginning on the date it is determined by the Secretary of the Interior to be an endangered species, unless the Secretary publishes a finding that: (1) there has been a substantial increase in the population of the species during that period; or (2) the continued listing of the species does not impose any economic hardship on communities located in the range of the species. 

Defines "limited listed species" as any species that is listed as an endangered species for which it is not reasonably possible to determine whether the species has been extirpated from the range of the species that existed on the date the species was listed because not all individuals of the species were identified at the time of such listing.

For the back story on this fly see this article in the San Bernadino County Press enterprise Newspaper with the fabulous title: Colton: City moving on two fronts to battle fly.

At stake is the city's long-sought plan to establish a Superblock development of restaurants and stores along the west side of Pepper Avenue across from Arrowhead Regional Medical Center. Those plans have been stalled by restrictions imposed since the fly, which depends on the area's sandy soil, was placed on the federal endangered list in 1993.  

The fly is linked to the dunes created by centuries of Santa Ana winds scooping sand from the mountains and depositing it in the valleys below.
Development has paved over much of the dunes, leaving only 1,200 acres scattered across Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

"This community can't afford to sit and watch that pile of sand" remain undeveloped, Councilman Vincent Yzaguirre said.

For lots more fly information you can read the 5-year status review of the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.