California State Parks

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.

Posted by Tim on February 26th, 2010 • • Comments Off

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Posted by Tim on February 25th, 2010 • • Comments Off

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Sad news. John Thorbjarnarson, Senior Conservation Scientist for WCS and renowned reptile expert, died suddenly early this week. A warm and fitting tribute from his nephew.

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.

Posted by Tim on February 19th, 2010 • • Comments Off

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Posted by Tim on February 19th, 2010 • • Comments Off

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Posted by Tim on February 12th, 2010 • • Comments Off

The More Things Change

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)

Posted by Tim on February 10th, 2010 • • Comments Off

News Roundup

Posted by Tim on February 8th, 2010 • • Comments Off
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The Future

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.

Posted by Tim on February 8th, 2010 • • Comments Off

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Posted by Tim on February 5th, 2010 • • Comments Off