Something interesting going on with the California State Parks Foundation:
In the last several years, California’s state park system has been proposed to be shut down to the public – first in January 2008 and again in May 2009. These proposals have been eye-opening to all Californians who support their state parks. Yet often in times of crisis, opportunities and new ideas emerge. In this moment, we believe it is critical to begin a public dialogue about what excellence in California’s state park system should look like.
They’re opening up an online survey to solicit views on how the state park system should be run.
It is because of men like John that many endangered species still exist on this planet. It is because of men like him that we know that childhood dreams are something you can follow.
This morning struck into the region of full goatees–sometimes accompanied by a mustache, but only occasionally. It was odd to come upon this thick crop of an obsolete and uncomely fashion: it was like running suddenly across a forgotten acquaintance whom you had supposed dead for a generation. The goatee extends over a wide extent of country, and is accompanied by an iron-clad belief in Adam, and the biblical history of creation, which has not suffered from the assaults of the scientists.
-Life on the Mississippi (1883)
- An okay article (“Why Africa’s National Parks are Failing to Save Wildlife”) with some terrific and nuanced comments folllowing.
- A British otter has been spotted climbing a tree. I have failed to come up with a sufficiently dry comment about the non-news-worthiness of this story. But then, why am I linking to it?
- Yasuni NP has been getting some attention as one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, after a new paper in PLoS ONE pretty much confirmed that. You may recall Yasuni as the unfortunate hostage of Ecuador’s President Raphael Correa.
- Conservation biologists are kind of lazy when it comes to publishing.
- Java’s increasingly empty forests are dwindling to just 10,000 hectares (about the size of San Francisco County).
- The world’s ‘most miserable looking creature‘ (click through, seriously. You do not take animals that evolved in pressures many times our atmosphere and put them in a lab. Of course it’s miserable) is maybe going extinct.
- New sighting of ivory billed woodpecker probably not an ivory billed woodpecker.
Ecology seems to be approaching an explosion of understanding. While the last century gave us lots of neat computing tools (matrix calculations actually became doable! statistical tests on thousands of points of data! elevation models that didn’t take 4 years to digitize by hand!), to address the true complexity of the natural world requires something much more powerful. On the one hand, we need a better understanding of systems. There’s this thing — you might have heard of it — called the internet that has exploded our understanding of networks (‘Network Theory: A Key to Unraveling How Nature Works’, Carl Zimmer). Now it’s a matter of continuing to translate that into our research.
Networks are complex. I believe the current average for food web connections modeled is on the order of 10². That’s it? Can we reliably say we have an understanding of nature if we don’t imagine what happens as that number approaches the infinite? I expect we’d find an entirely different set of behaviors. But how do we begin test any of that, or gather data? How about designing a National Ecological Observatory Network? Sweet! How about getting $20 million in funding to get it started from the new Obama budget? Awesome. Or you could start tracking every tiger death in India.Or an application to map sudden oak death from your iPhone?
Networks are also resilient. But I suppose the thing that keeps most ecologists up at night is the fact that we’re on this threshold of technology that will dramatically reshape our understanding of how the world works. And the tragedy is that all of those intricate connections might all collapse before we have a chance to really get it.