Introducing the spoon-billed sandpiper:
(c) Roland Digby/WWT/PA Wire, originally published here.
Spoon-billed sandpipers are migratory wader birds that breed in the sub-Arctic and winter in southeast Asia. Best estimates point to less than 100 breeding pairs left in the wild due to a decrease of breeding habitat in the Arctic and increase of bird-hunters in Asia. Don’t worry, this is a story about #OceanOptimism…
I have just attended a big international conservation meeting for the past week and there was a lot of discussion about the “Cecil the Lion Phenomenon.” In many discussions, the terms animal welfare and animal rights were brought up frequently, and it was very clear that many conservation scientists do not know the difference between the terms, or the differences between those who advocate on issues that are more about individuals than species or populations. When the term “welfare” was brought up, it was often with scorn and PETA was almost always the organisation that was given as an example. This really does show a fundamental lack of understanding about advocates and organisations that represent individual animals, and that could be major (even essential) assets and allies in conservation.
The terms “welfare” and “rights” cover a wide spectrum; lumping them together is like lumping Democrats (left wing liberals) and Republicans (right wing conservatives) together and making no distinction because they are both political parties. There are nuances, but as a basic primer, here are some (very) approximate distinctions:
A couple of days ago (20th January) was penguin awareness day1. But do we really need to be more aware of penguins? Well, actually yes.
Photo by Chris Parsons
We conducted a study a couple of years ago (pdf also available) to look at public awareness of penguins (using university students as a sample) and found that nearly half (43%) of those questioned though that penguins were protected under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) and were thus listed as “endangered.” At the time only one penguin was listed on the ESA (the Galapagos penguin, Spheniscus mendiculus). The IUCN currently classifies five species of penguin as “endangered” 2 and six as “vulnerable” 3. The biggest threat to penguins generally is, unsurprisingly, climate change. The chicks of Magellanic penguins (S. magellanicus) in Argentina have experienced increasing mortality because of increasing numbers and severity of storms, and will continue to experience mortality as these further increase, in addition to additional mortality from increasing rainfall and temperatures. Changing patterns of sea ice cover are impacting Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) foraging at Ross Island, Antarctica. In various locations in the Antarctic Penninsula in particular, Adelie colonies are expected to be impacted by warming temperatures and changes in sea ice with perhaps as many as 75% of colonies decreasing or declining. Although in some locales, melting ice has increased potential Adelie habitat. Chinstrap colonies have been reported to be in decline as well, despite this being a more open water species, that was previously being thought of as potential benefactors from melting sea ice – penguin nest occupation on Deception Island declined by more than third between 2002/2003 and 2009/10. These chinstrap penguins are likely being impacted by declining krill stocks, as will their Adelie penguin cousins, in addition to ice loss which so affects this latter species. Overall, across the Antarctic Pennisula, there has been a decline in both Adelie and chinstrap penguin numbers. Read More
My family loves to watch movies, which presents a problem during the few times we’re all together: there are very few good movies that none of us have already seen. This past Thanksgiving, we resolved that dilemma by watching some “based on a true story” garbage starring Nicholas Cage and the star of High School Musical, a plot-less but action packed shoot ’em up starring the governator and Sawyer from Lost, and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”
Based on a popular children’s book, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs tells the story of Flint Lockwood, a young inventor who keeps trying to make life better for people in his small island town of Swallow Falls. His inventions always backfire, including the titular invention that makes the sky rain food. In the sequel, which I watched this past weekend because shut up I enjoyed the first one leave me alone, we learn that some of the food has become sentient. Swallow Falls is now home to a unique ecosystem that includes watermel-ephants, taco-diles, fla-mangos, and many other hybrids called foodimals. In addition to featuring some of the best puns I’ve ever seen, these movies also raise some interesting questions about ecology, sustainability and conservation.
My lazy Sunday morning was ruined by a “whacktivist” on a friend’s Facebook page on whale and dolphin issues.
To explain what I mean, here are some definitions:
ACTIVIST – someone who tries to draw public attention and concern to an issue they consider to be important. This typically involves trying to convert an uncaring or unaware public into a public that is aware of and likewise concerned about the issue.
Activists are an important part of society. Activists often lead major societal shifts that have changed things for the better. Civil rights and environmental activists were responsible for encouraging ground breaking laws and societal changes in the 1960s and 1970s.
WHACKTIVIST – someone who tries to convert the public into caring about an issue using inappropriate means, such as insulting those who do not agree with them and using arguments that are illogical or factually incorrect. Whacktivists often do not respect the rights of those who are opposed to them – they use bullying, harassing, and threatening violence and other criminal acts. Whacktivists often see issues in black and white and are resistant to opinions and facts that do not fit their world view.
Until March 9, 2013, I’ll be at sea. I love that phrase. At sea. For this expedition, we’re leaving from Jamaica, returning to Antigua, and spending several days on a research program separate from ours. I have a lot of travel and a little downtime to look forward to. When I started going to sea almost a decade ago, this meant that I carried a couple books and dozens of research papers, and traded them around with the rest of the science team, the crew, and the ship’s library.
Now, thanks to kindles and other e-readers, I can carry entire libraries with me, loading them up with all the books I want to read and stockpiling thousands of research papers. This. Is. Awesome.
So, if you find yourself with a kindle and a long stretch of travel time, consider checking out some of my favorite ebooks. I’ve read all of these over the last year and they all look great on an e-reader. This reading list should keep you occupied during the quieter moments of your travels.
Hi everyone. I’m Chuck and I used to blog primarily over at Ya Like Dags?, where my main focus was on interactions between apex predators (sharks mostly, but I also occasionally dabbled in other large fish and sea mammals) and those other top marine predators, humans. This was not in the “shark attack” sense, but in the context of fisheries management. Writing about this subject and living it as part of my research have given me valuable perspective on marine science and conservation that I really didn’t have as a freshly-minted Bachelor of Science.
Unfortunately I see more extreme versions of my old perspective show up in countless blog comments, posts, and tweets by perfectly well-meaning people whose only issue is that they’ve fallen for a simplistic, “us vs. them” attitude towards conservation. Consumptive uses of the ocean, such as fishing, are inherently evil and must be opposed. This no-compromise approach sounds cool and may bring in the TV ratings, but is it truly helpful?
Sunday night at 7:30, David Shiffman and myself will host the first, of what we hope will be many, Blue Pints on Google+. The two of us will get together via Google Hangouts and broadcast a 45-minute-to-one-hour program discussing recent important issues in ocean science, while enjoying a pint of what-cures-you. We’ll provide a link to the live stream (and subsequent YouTube video) here, in this post, as well as announce it over our various social media platforms. We’ll be monitoring the comment thread on the Google+ post, so feel free to ask questions and join the discussion during the hangout.
This week, we’ll be discussing shark fishing, shark finning, and finding common ground in shark conservation. Tune in Sunday at 7:30!
Watch the video here:
Poor Vindaloo never learned to crow. Photo by Andrew David Thaler.
I awoke one morning early last spring to a noise I has been dreading for weeks, the first crow of a chicken that was not supposed to be a rooster. It took me several minutes to fully register what I was hearing. Rather that the classic cock-a-doodle-do we often associate with the rooster’s crow, the sound emanating from my hen house was an awkward, unstable noise not unlike a turkey squawking through a vat of molasses while being vigorously shaken. Over the next several months, two more cocks arrived crowing, in my flock. All three roosters, different breeds from different parents, made noises resembling nothing like a rooster’s crow. There was no pattern; some mornings they would crow off-and-on for a few hours, other mornings they would, for lack of a better word, gargle for half-an-hour straight.
I raise my chickens from day-old hatchlings. Those three roosters, from my very first flock, had never met an adult chicken. They imprinted on Amy and me and looked to us for guidance. When we introduced them to new food, new water dispensers, even small changes to their habitat (like a particularly terrifying log), we had to teach them. Instinctively, they would scratch for food, and if left to their own devices, they would attempt to eat everything, but for the most part, we had to show them how to eat, how to drink, how to roost. But we could not teach them how to crow.
Which is why Casey B. Mulligan’s Economix article in the New York Times – Species Protection and Technology – which argues that cloning could be an effective tool to restore extinct species (a topic I’ve been thinking about quite a bit in terms of population dynamics), is fatally flawed.