Archive for March, 2010

March 30, 2010

Visualizing GOOD Seafood

GOOD magazine has a serious love for infographics and I happen to adore their latest on sustainable seafood. Created using the same information you and I use all the time from Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch Program, they came up with a fun.. if large.. pictorial to follow.  Even if its no more portable than the cards Monterey already provides (including ones for sushi diners) it at least gets the concept of sustainable seafood out there just a little bit further to GOOD readers.

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March 26, 2010

Pseudorcas Safe From Orcas? False!

Gnarly stuff to share this morning: killer whales going after pseudorca whales off the coast of New Zealand. A good friend of mine is currently visiting family down under, and apparently she was able to see much of this action in person!  (Lisa, if you’re reading this, I’m terribly jealous!)

It’s not easy to tell if the orca’s are going after the pseudorca adult or calf that’s visible in the breach, nor is it clear whether or not this is feeding behavior or perhaps a territorial dispute.  Whatever the motivation, its pretty amazing footage.

March 25, 2010

Armadillos In the Garden

Spring weather has finally set in with mild sunny days and no danger of frost. I set out to tame the wild jungles of dead brush in the garden this afternoon, enjoying the sunshine and the heady smell of confederate jasmine blooms intermingling with the orange blossom drifting in from the nearby grove.  I love the smell of spring in Florida.  I probably look like a crazy person when I’m outside at this time of year; inhaling deep breaths of the floral perfusion that probably look like hyperventilation to anyone else.

One of the decidedly lovely things about gardening with all native plants is that – even with extreme weather events – they’re often hardy enough to come back on their own.  But first I’ll have to clear all the dead scrub to see what’s managed to survive beneath.

One of the species hardest hit in our landscape: dune sunflower. Most of the large stands of mature plants were nothing but crispy twigs so dried out they would’ve made great kindling and snapped like uncooked spaghetti noodles as I pulled it free.  The root systems had totally died back and I easily plucked the main stems from the loamy soil.  At least I didnt wind up with a backache today from yanking out heavy rootballs.  With dune sunflower, there simply isn’t too much of a root mass even when they’re incredibly healthy.

Luckily, even though the mature plants are toast, the sunflowers self-seeded and there is a dark green carpet of seedlings sprouting up underneath all this old canopy.  Once the deadwood came out I set to work thinning out the seedlings and reworking borders and edges around the paver stones.  The seedlings had already invaded the passionflower vine and honeysuckle vine borders as well as the coontie.  Speaking of which, the coontie was the least hardest hit of all the natives in our garden.  They looked completely unscathed.

Wish I could say the same for the wild coffee. While the plants have died back entirely to the core stems and stock there are weak little green leaves popping through the leaf mold.  Hopefully they’ll make it as well.

The only thing missing from the garden?  Indian blanketflower.  This beautiful ground cover usually races all over the place – a weed really – but I can’t find any seedlings at all yet.  Let’s hope the continuing warm weather will coax a few out of dormancy.  Otherwise, we’ll have to transplant.

All in all, I must say, I’m shocked that the garden is going to recover so well. While many of my neighbors lost, literally, thousands of dollars in landscaping due to the extreme freezes in January I don’t think we’ll have really lost anything.   Even the pineapple plants in the front border are hanging on, despite having lost a few leaves.   And to cap off the beautiful day and tremendous progress, a little troop of armadillos snuffled through the far border while I sat with some iced tea in hand.  It took a lot of self restraint not to run over to the line of babies, scoop them up and cuddle them.   Little armadillos are unbelievably adorable… but unfortunately just as smelly as their parents.. and they usually ‘poo when they’re frightened.

March 24, 2010

The Rabbit Hole Deepens for Manatees..

Well, it’s official: three months into 2010 and we’re already experiencing our worst year of manatee mortality on record. I know that seems like an extremist statement, but the situation is pretty severe.  FWC’s latest press release updated the totals for mortality, seeing jumps in the three categories I last highlighted: cold stress, unrecovered, and undetermined.

Here’s the new data updated to March 19th, and keep in mind (as last time I showed a similar table) the data for all other years is YTD for the same time period from January 1st to March 19th.

It hardly needs to be repeated that in all of 2009 we lost 429, which was then the record mortality year. It will be years before we truly understand what this drop in manatee numbers will mean for the overall population but my greatest concern is for genetic diversity.  While it’s true we’ve had lots of volatility in the population numbers over the past few years (seeing yearly gains of a thousand of more from 2008 to 2009 to 2010, see here) this relatively enormous loss of manatees in 2009 and 2010 cannot be a good thing for the species.

Let’s continue to keep our fingers crossed for a relatively inactive hurricane season, a mild red tide season, and a spring and summer filled with aware and conscientious boaters who not only avoid manatees but also pull trash and entanglements from the water to keep them safe.

March 23, 2010

Rescued From the Illegal Trade.. Now What?

I often discuss the illegal trade in wildlife with my students, both from the terrestrial ecosystems like the rainforest and marine areas such as seagrass beds and reefs. Worldwide the trade in live wildlife and endangered species – not just in their products – threatens to unbalance habitats through the loss of seed dispersers, predators, prey, and natural control for algae to prevent phase shifts.  Even for those species that are relatively numerous, when individuals are removed for the trade the animals are lost as potential mating partners and their genes go with them.

The usual pipeline for the trade runs from capture, to transportation, to holding and sales, to the end consumer who then displays the animal at home or in some other way.   Certainly many animals are lost along the route due to stress and disease, and the outlook (in terms of welfare) for each individual varies widely dependent upon the skills, knowledge, and resources of the person at the end of the chain.  And even for those animals kept in the best of conditions, there are still lingering ethical concerns.

But this pipeline isn’t unidirectional. If that seems strange, perhaps it should, as it certainly was to me when I first ran across the TED talk of Juliana Machado Ferreira.  Her work focuses on animals pulled from Brazilian forest that are intercepted along the trade route by enforcement officers.  She poses a brilliant question: once we’ve rescued them from the trade, what do we do with them?

March 22, 2010

A Treatise On Bottled Water for World Water Day

Surfrider Foundation also chose today to release their movie The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water, but for now just a trailer is available online.  The movie is being screened this afternoon and evening in California.  I’ll anxiously await its posting to their blog KnowYourH2O.org for our enjoyment and thought provocation.

March 21, 2010

Trash As Art

Using collected marine debris in art installations and outreach collages isn’t exactly a novel concept.  However, it is interesting to see various artists use the materials in ways that demonstrate some hidden truth about the issue of plastic trash.  GOOD Magazine, one of my new favorite online reads, recently posted about a pair of artists from northern California.  Their online gallery showing collages of marine debris is interesting for a number of reasons but I particularly liked that they chose to collage like items together for their work.  The effect of an all out show of such pieces must be quite dramatic – depicting concentrations of various sorts of trash (like lemon juice containers or little girl’s dragonfly barrettes) intermixed across several groups.

I almost wonder whether such a show is ultimately an intellectual endeavor or an emotional one. Do the observers of this couple’s art ask themselves questions of how the trash got out into the ocean, consider the the storylines of the trash?  Do they wonder how much more debris is still at large on shorelines around the world?  Are they at all motivated by seeing trash used as art to reconsider their use of plastic in their everyday lives?  Or is it more of a depressing afternoon stroll, looking at images of globalization gone awry?  Hmm.  Things to ponder as an educator certainly.

The other thing that really struck me while looking at their work?  How clean all the debris is! They must be cleaning their work or are living in areas where the waves are doing much of the work of keeping the trash relatively clear of sediment and algae and fouling organisms like worms and barnacles.  The other alternative of course is that this trash isnt out there long enough to pick up hitchhiking bivalves and greenery, and gets burped out onto the California beaches in short order.

I’m considering whether or not to do something similar with One Ton Landed project’s collected trash.  The rain kept us off the beachline today but tomorrow we’ll be back out scoping and seiving for trash.

March 19, 2010

Satellite Beach Manatee Rescue Update

SeaWorld released a great short video on their recent rescue of a juvenile female calf from a culvert near Satellite Beach, FL last week. The subadult was rescued for cold stress.  You can see some of the white shading, almost chalk-like, across the skin of her flipper that occurs during cold stress.

What I really love about this clip is that its a great, and rare, glimpse into SeaWorld’s veterinary services and some of their diagnostic tests including x-rays.  We hear about rescue operations quite often, but we don’t usually see anything released publicly about the process of rescue and rehabilitation programs.

March 18, 2010

Addicted To Plastic (And Documentaries)

I have become hopelessly addicted to documentary films over the last three months; particularly those I can find streaming online via NetFlix, Hulu, and SnagFilms. Some of my current favorites include Food, Inc., The Cove, 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, The Botany of Desire, Supersize Me, Bowling for Columbine, and at least a dozen others I’ve been gobbling up with my eyes.

Considering my personal concerns over marine debris and plastic pollution in our oceans, you’d think I’d have heard about Addicted to Plastic before now, but I was lucky enough to run across it streaming on an international website just last night thanks to a post via Facebook by the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

If you, like me, haven’t yet seen the film promise me you’ll find an hour and a half out of your evening or weekend to watch it. There are so many eye-opening bits that help enhance our understanding of the scope and size of the problem, the concerns about contamination of plastics with toxic compounds, and winds down with an inspiring exploration of bioplastics and the potential for an improved future where we aren’t living in some Stone Age dystopia having sworn off all plastic materials but instead have innovated and safeguarded ourselves by using new renewable materials.

March 17, 2010

Who You Calling A Daft (Sea) Cow?

Duluth, Topeka, and Sarasota are all vying to be the first to host Google Fiber. Each city’s mayor has taken to somewhat dramatic demonstrations to prove their city is the best choice; in fact Sarasota’s mayor dove the shark aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory to show his commitment. I happen to love the video clip above, where Motes’ resident rescued male manatees Hugh and Buffett voice their own opinion.

I’m not sure what I’m more impressed with – that Sarasota had the ingenious idea to get one of the world’s more charismatic marine mammals involved, or that Hugh and Buffett are target and bridge trained (the whistle you hear when he hits the Sarasota sign)!

All in all, I’m certain I’m not the only one who remembers this clip from South Park (NSFW).