Friday Insanity 1.29

Posted by Tim on March 20th, 2009 • • Comments Off

News Roundup

  • Today marks the release of the first “U.S. State of the Birds” report. A lot of agencies and NGOs involved in putting it together — check out the website, or the full report (PDF… wait, I can’t find the PDF. Little help, please?). Also, full articles from the Washington Post, AP, and NY Times. Wetland birds are doing well. Hawaiian birds, notsomuch.
  • What happens to zoos when their budgets are cut? GORILLAS ARE NOT GETTING THEIR BLUEBERRIES. As John Calvelli points out, they’re “living museums,” so it’s much harder (if not pointless) to cut admission times. The Bronx Zoo is usually open like 364 days of the year (when it’s snowing being the best time to go). Some zoos, on the other hand,  just disappear altogether.
  • May I present the new tiniest frog.
  • Did cockroaches survive the nuclear disaster? Not really.
  • American carnivores may have evolved to avoid each other, in time if not in space.
  • A friend recently alerted me to the fact that it is illegal in Colorado to trap rainwater, because that water has other legal destinations. It’s true.
Posted by Tim on March 19th, 2009 • • Comments Off
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Conservation Success Stories

Posted by Tim on March 18th, 2009 • • Comments Off
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IUCN Red List Vulnerable

As we approach next year’s CBD meeting, people are beginning to speak up about the quality of the IUCN Red List. My basic philosophy is, yeah, it’s not great, and it’s definitely not scientific, and people shouldn’t be publishing papers about extinction risk using the Red List, but we just aren’t in a position to assess every species on earth comprehensively, and this is our first, best attempt. And the architects of it are aware it’s not perfect, and they’re trying to improve it. That said, there are a couple of good, fairly even-handed articles and editorials from The New Scientist (+editorial) and the Telegraph. Given that climate change appears to be undergoing a small (hopefully dead cat bounce) renaissance of non-believers (“Rising View that Climate Risk Exaggerated“), it’s

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easier to recognize that it’s important not to over-state the case for endangered species. I know I’ve argued for an over-statement of climate change dangers — well, to be more nuanced, I want scientists to present their knowledge within the framework of public discourse, not the framework of scientific discourse — but if doing so has increasingly led to a fear of exaggeration, I might have to re-think that. Unfortunately, it’s unclear who’s causing that fear of exaggeration: maybe people are reading big, scary headlines, but then mis-hearing scientists as saying it’s no big deal*. In that case, the problem would be scientists not being hysterical enough.

Since I’m more familiar with the IUCN Red List and its problems, it’s easier for me to say that we shouldn’t depend too heavily on it. Nevertheless, as in most things conservation, if used properly and with the correct understanding, and so long as people

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are working to improve it, it’s a good start. As far as I can tell, that’s becoming my conservation mantra: a good start.

*Recall that, while the IPCC report has a specific definition of “very likely” as >90% of happening, most people view that as a less than 66% chance of happening.

(Also see: Framing and climate change).

Posted by Tim on March 17th, 2009 • • Comments Off
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News Roundup

  • There’s a public lands bill that’s been floating around Congress (previously mentioned here), and last week the House messed it up and actually failed to pass it. They were trying to do a runaround of Republican shenanigans by getting a 2/3 super-majority that would allow no amendments to the bill, but they lost by 2 votes (2 votes! And if 2 of those opposition votes simply hadn’t showed up to vote, it would’ve passed, because the 2/3 requirement would’ve been lower). Well, they’re trying it again — the Senate has set it up for re-passage as part of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act.
  • In-depth, fascinating read on the different Yellowstone wolf packs’ activity. A true soap opera.
  • Peter Kareiva kind of knocks it out of the park talking about children and carbon footprints. Worth a full read, but here’s the take-home message: being an eco-hero in your daily life could probably save 300-500 tons of carbon over your lifetime. Reducing the number of children you have by one would save nearly 10,000. Unless you live in Bangladesh, in which case you would save about 50.
  • Nice article from the NY Times on the trade-offs between preserving ecosystems and building the fabled Smart Grid.
  • WCS has released free software that, using camera trap photos of tigers, develops 3D models of their stripes to identify individuals. They’ve even used it to identify poached skins. The next question, of course, would be whether certain patterns are spatially correlated. Can you identify a tiger’s home based on his stripes?
  • Dinosaur mesopredator discovered.
  • Had a very nice dinner with Brian (of the consblog Brians) last night, and the topic of “fish: good for you, terrible for the oceans” came up.
Posted by Tim on March 17th, 2009 • • Comments Off
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Friday Insanity 1.28

Takes a while, but here’s some footage

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of a baby blue whale. It’s been a light posting week, but we will have some exciting Conservation Blog stuff coming in the rest of the month. (SPRING BREAK HAVASU CITY. what.)

Posted by Tim on March 12th, 2009 • • Comments Off

News Roundup

  • A recent paper in TREE (covered at SCB Journal Watch) suggests that editing Wikipedia entries should be considered a professional responsibility for scientists. In their fields, obviously. [Insert your own obscure Wikipedia page edit + tenure joke here].
  • Some simple population models, originally coded by Kent at Uncommon Ground, have been ported to Javascript and look pretty elegant over at Panda’s Thumb. Simple ecological models + computers = awesome (… in my world).
  • Corey Bradshaw at ConservationBytes not only has the cover of FREE on “Tropical Turmoil,” but is also the guest of the ESA podcast. It’s a good listen, don’t miss it.
Posted by Tim on March 9th, 2009 • • Comments Off
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News Roundup

  • Mark Tercek, new TNC CEO (and former Goldman Sachs investment banker), interviewed at Mongabay.
  • The title of the article is “When science hijacks conservation funding.” When NSF starts giving grants for direction conservation actions, it will make a lot more sense.
  • A totally engaging review of the U. of Oregon’s Public Interest Environmental Law Clinic. (Bare-breasted women attacking Julia Butterfly and climate change conspiracy theories).
  • The Bay Area is the second “birdiest” city in the country (after Dauphin Island, Alabama, that renowned urban center).
  • Don’t worry about climate change — species can adapt.
Posted by Tim on March 6th, 2009 • • Comments Off
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Friday Insanity 1.27

Kind of brutal, but I guess “that’s

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nature.” (Thanks to both Brians).

Posted by Tim on March 6th, 2009 • • Comments Off

Gulls are bastards

Posted by Tim on March 5th, 2009 • • Comments Off