Conservation Science News January 3, 2014

Focus of the WeekHow Isaac Asimov in 1964 Imagined the World in 2014









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Focus of the Week

In 1964, Isaac Asimov Imagined the World in 2014

Rebecca J. Rosen Dec 31 2013, 12:20 PM ET The Atlantic

America’s Independent Electric Light and Power Companies/Paleofuture

In August of 1964, just more than 50 years ago, author Isaac Asimov wrote a piece in The New York Times, pegged to that summer’s World Fair.

In the essay, Asimov imagines what the World Fair would be like in 2014—his future, our present.

His notions were strange and wonderful (and conservative, as Matt Novak writes in a great run-down), in the way that dreams of the future from the point of view of the American mid-century tend to be. There will be electroluminescent walls for our windowless homes, levitating cars for our transportation, 3D cube televisions that will permit viewers to watch dance performances from all angles, and “Algae Bars” that taste like turkey and steak (“but,” he adds, “there will be considerable psychological resistance to such an innovation”).

He got some things wrong and some things right, as is common for those who engage in the sport of prediction-making. Keeping score is of little interest to me. What is of interest: what Asimov understood about the entangled relationships among humans, technological development, and the planet—and the implications of those ideas for us today, knowing what we know now.

Asimov begins by suggesting that in the coming decades, the gulf between humans and “nature” will expand, driven by technological development. “One thought that occurs to me,” he writes, “is that men will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better. ”

It is in this context that Asimov sees the future shining bright: underground, suburban houses, “free from the vicissitudes of weather, with air cleaned and light controlled, should be fairly common.” Windows, he says, “need be no more than an archaic touch,” with programmed, alterable, “scenery.” We will build our own world, an improvement on the natural one we found ourselves in for so long. Separation from nature, Asimov implies, will keep humans safe—safe from the irregularities of the natural world, and the bombs of the human one, a concern he just barely hints at, but that was deeply felt at the time.

But Asimov knows too that humans cannot survive on technology alone. Eight years before astronauts’ Blue Marble image of Earth would reshape how humans thought about the planet, Asimov sees that humans need a healthy Earth, and he worries that an exploding human population (6.5 billion, he accurately extrapolated) will wear down our resources, creating massive inequality.

Although technology will still keep up with population through 2014, it will be only through a supreme effort and with but partial success. Not all the world’s population will enjoy the gadgety world of the future to the full. A larger portion than today will be deprived and although they may be better off, materially, than today, they will be further behind when compared with the advanced portions of the world. They will have moved backward, relatively.

This troubled him, but the real problems lay yet further in the future, as “unchecked” population growth pushed urban sprawl to every corner of the planet, creating a “World-Manhattan” by 2450. But, he exclaimed, “society will collapse long before that!” Humans would have to stop reproducing so quickly to avert this catastrophe, he believed, and he predicted that by 2014 we would have decided that lowering the birth rate was a policy priority.

Asimov rightly saw the central role of the planet’s environmental health to a society: No matter how technologically developed humanity becomes, there is no escaping our fundamental reliance on Earth (at least not until we seriously leave Earth, that is). But in 1964 the environmental specters that haunt us today—climate change and impending mass extinctionswere only just beginning to gain notice. Asimov could not have imagined the particulars of this special blend of planetary destruction we are now brewing—and he was overly optimistic about our propensity to take action to protect an imperiled planet.

2013 was not the warmest year on record but it will come close. Last month, November, was the warmest since 1880. All of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998. A video from NASA shows the dramatic shift in recent years. Watch what happens in the decades after Asimov wrote his essay. (Yellow and red represent temperatures warmer than the average for the years from 1951 to 1980.)

What color will 2014 be on that map? And what about in 10, 20, or 50 years ahead? Predictions are a messy, often trivial sport, but the overall direction the planet is heading is all too clear. As Wen Stephenson wrote in a blistering essay last year, “It’s entirely possible that we’ll no longer have a livable climate—one that allows for stable, secure societies to survive—within the lifetimes of today’s children.” No prediction should scare us more.





Focus on Ocean’s Health as Dolphin Deaths Soar

By LIZETTE ALVAREZ NY Times December 29, 2013

The resurgence of a marine mammal virus on the Eastern Seaboard and “unusual mortality events” in the Gulf region have puzzled scientists.


45 examples of conservation practices in California

How California Farmers and Ranchers are Producing a Better Environment

American Farmland Trust |   December 23, 2013 —- 45 Stewardship Profiles

…”One of AFT’s top priorities is to promote sound farming practices and improve the environment by protecting our land, air and water,” said McElwaine. “The case studies we released today demonstrate how farmers all over California use conservation practices to protect the environment and the natural resources they and we depend on. They are role models for good stewardship of land and resources.” McElwaine said, “They demonstrate the potential benefits of conservation and serve as encouragement for other farmers to adopt the same practices. Programs authorized by the federal farm bill are critical to providing the kind of technical and financial assistance that farmers need to make these practices more widespread,” he said. The conservation practices highlighted in the Profiles conserve water, reduce greenhouse gases, improve air and water quality, restore wildlife habitat, generate renewable energy and achieve other environmental benefits,” said Edward Thompson, Jr., California state director for AFT. “We have seen practices like these become increasingly commonplace throughout the state and the profiles help document that trend.”

Thompson added, “Many public agencies and private sector agricultural organizations in California are now promoting these practices, but have yet to join forces in a way that would take full advantage of their various contributions. AFT would like to help make that happen.”….


DNA Barcoding to Monitor Marine Mammal Genetic Diversity

Dec. 30, 2013 — Marine mammals are flagship and charismatic species, very attractive for the general public. Nowadays, they are also considered as highly relevant sentinel of the marine realm. Their presence and their welfare in an area is thought to indicate the health of the place, whereas their disappearance, their displacement, or a decrease in their abundance or health could reflect negative environmental changes, whether of anthropogenic origin or not. Monitoring marine mammal biodiversity is often difficult to perform. If some species can be easily observed, others are more difficult to detect, because for instance, of their scarcity or their discrete behavior. One of the solution suggested by scientists is based on the organization of stranding networks, listing and recording marine mammal strandings, which represent a cost-effective means to follow the marine mammal biodiversity.

Eric Alfonsi, et al. The use of DNA barcoding to monitor the marine mammal biodiversity along the French Atlantic coast. ZooKeys, 2013; 365: 5 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.365.5873


San Francisco Bay waters are becoming more clear, but that may mean threats from algae growth

By Paul Rogers Bay Area News Group Posted:   12/29/2013 01:00:00 PM PST

SAN FRANCISCO BAY is becoming clearer. Decades of tidal action have finally washed away most of the mess created 150 years ago by Gold Rush miners who blasted apart hillsides in the Sierra Nevada. The result was millions of tons of mud, gravel and sand that made its way downriver and ended up in the bay, clouding its waters and coating the bottom with a layer of silt up to 3 feet thick. Most of the silt, scientists say, has moved out to the ocean. But what sounds like good environmental news has a significant downside: The clearer water is letting in more sunlight — and that’s causing a big increase in the amount of algae blooming in the bay. “The bay is a very different place now than it was 15 years ago,” said David Schoellhamer, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Since 1993, the concentration of algae in the South Bay, which is shallower and receives less tidal action, has increased 105 percent — 300 percent during the summer — according to the USGS. In San Pablo Bay, it has jumped 72 percent. All the algae hasn’t yet turned into vast mats of floating green slime, like in Lake Erie, or generated “dead zones,” like in the Gulf of Mexico, where low oxygen levels have killed fish and other marine life.

But the issue is increasingly raising concerns. Scientists, state water regulators and operators of the 42 sewage treatment plants around the bay have stepped up research and planning over the past two years. They say that if algae levels continue to increase, sweeping new regulations that could cost from $5 billion to $10 billion may be imposed on the sewage plants to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus they put into the bay. Both act as fertilizers. “It’s a high-priority issue. Our goal is to avoid serious water quality problems,” said Naomi Feger, planning division chief of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board in Oakland. Over the next year, the water board will work on setting limits for nitrogen and phosphorus and begin computer modeling to see if moderate changes in the way sewage plants operate would reduce algae growth, Feger said….. Phytoplankton, algae and other microscopic plant life in the bay are vital to its health. They provide food for fish, clams and other marine life. And they create oxygen.

How much is too much? “Phytoplankton is like red wine,” said Jim Cloern, a senior scientist with the USGS who has studied the bay for nearly 40 years. “A glass a day is good for our health, but a bottle a day is bad for our health. The question is where are we now between the glass and the bottle?” In addition to the Gold Rush sediment, Cloern said, two other things have helped keep algae blooms in check in years past: strong tidal action, and an abundance of clams and mussels consuming large amounts of algae. In recent years, the silt has decreased, as have the clams and mussels in many parts of the bay, Cloern said. That’s because ocean conditions have led to more fish and crabs coming through the Golden Gate to eat them. The sewage treatment plants haven’t been increasing the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus they are putting in the bay. But the bay’s resistance to algae blooms has weakened…..



DNA Barcodes Made of 147 Bird Species from The Netherlands

Dec. 30, 2013 — DNA barcoding is used as an effective tool for both the identification of known species and the discovery of new ones. The core idea of DNA barcoding is based on the fact that just a small portion of a single gene already can show that there is less variation between the individuals of one species than between those of several species. Thus, when comparing two barcode sequences one can establish whether these belong to one single species (viz. when the amount of variation falls within the ‘normal’ range of the taxon under consideration and below a certain threshold level) or possibly to two species (when the amount exceeds this level). A recent study in the open access journal ZooKeys sequenced 388 individuals of 147 bird species from The Netherlands. 95% of these species were represented by a unique barcode, but with six species of gulls and skuas having at least one shared barcode. This is best explained by these species representing recent radiations with ongoing hybridization. In contrast, one species, the Western Lesser Whitethroat showed deep divergences between individuals, suggesting that they possibly represent two distinct taxa, the Western and the Northeastern Lesser Whitethroat. Our study adds to a growing body of DNA barcodes that have become available for birds, and shows that a DNA barcoding approach enables to identify known Dutch bird species with a very high resolution. In addition, some species were flagged up for further detailed taxonomic investigation, illustrating that even in ornithologically well-known areas such as the Netherlands, more is to be learned about the birds that are present.


Mansour Aliabadia et al. DNA barcoding of Dutch birds. ZooKeys, 2013; 365: 25 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.365.6287


Testosterone in Male Songbirds May Enhance Desire to Sing, but Not Song Quality

December 30, 2013 — Introducing testosterone in select areas of a male canary’s brain can affect its ability to successfully attract and mate with a female through birdsong. These findings could shed light on how … > full story


Sea Change: Food for millions at risk.
Seattle Times
Hundreds of millions of people around the world rely on marine life susceptible to warming temperatures and ocean acidification, the souring of seas from carbon dioxide emitted by burning coal, oil and natural gas. But from Africa to Alaska, many coastal communities face a substantially greater risk: a shortage of seafood.


Extensive use of antibiotics in agriculture creating public health crisis, study shows
(December 26, 2013) — Citing an overabundance in the use of antibiotics by the agriculture and aquaculture industries that poses a threat to public health, an economics professor has proposed a solution in the form of user fees on the non-human use of antibiotics. … > full story

Cambodian Tailorbird (© Ashish John / WCS)

Amazing New Species of Birds Discovered in 2013

 – ‎December 31, 2013‎


Meet the gorgeous and colorful new birds discovered this year: Cambodian Tailorbird, Guerrero Brush Finch, Sierra Madre Ground-Warbler, Junin Tapaculo and Rinjani Scops Owl.




Fox Sparrows Plentiful at Palomarin Field Station

by Alessandra Bergamin on December 19, 2013 BAY NATURE

A sooty fox sparrow. Photo: Alejandro Erickson.

This fall’s government shutdown left a two-week gap in Point Blue Conservation Science’s bird monitoring and banding data, the first such gap since Point Blue’s inception in the mid-1960s. But with the counts now in, the second half of October appears to have been a success, with researchers capturing and banding a surprisingly high number of birds — among them the mottled-brown, barrel-chested fox sparrow. “We banded an unprecedented number of fox sparrows—four times higher than we have ever captured before,” said Tom Gardali, Point Blue’s Pacific Coast and Central Valley group director. “They were really amazing numbers.” During 16 days of mist netting—a method used to capture birds in a net structure—at the Palomarin field station in October, researchers captured 379 fox sparrows out of a total of 532 birds of 34 species. The trend has continued through November on a slightly lesser scale, but with continued above average numbers—out of the 489 birds captured, 145 were fox sparrows. While an increase in one species often means increased competition for other species, Gardali said it probably isn’t the case this time. Researchers captured relatively high numbers of several bird species, including those not affected by seasonal changes and found year-round at the field station…..


USA Rice Honors Former USDA Official for Conservation Work

Posted by Dave Sanden, Natural Resources Conservation Service, on December 27, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Rice producers recently honored Dave White, former chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, for his innovative conservation achievements. White was presented with the fourth annual USA Rice Federations’ Distinguished Conservation Achievement Award at the 2013 USA Rice Outlook Conference held in Saint Louis, Mo. “Dave worked very closely with the rice industry during his tenure as NRCS chief,” said Leo LaGrande, a California rice producer and chairman of the USA Rice Producers’ Group conservation committee. “His vision and foresight led to the development and implementation of the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI) in several mid-South and Gulf of Mexico coastal states, including the five rice-producing states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.” White helped develop the program in response to the oil spill in the Gulf to provide habitat for millions of migratory birds whose annual habitat sites in the Gulf region had been damaged by the spill. Most of the program’s enrolled acres were rice fields. White also worked closely with the California rice industry to develop and implement the Waterbird Habitat Enhancement Program, or WHEP, based on the efforts in the Gulf region. The University of Delaware also conducted a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the MBHI implemented in response to the Gulf oil spill. That report was issued earlier this year. NRCS is also working with the Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership, composed of Point Blue Conservation Science, Audubon California and The Nature Conservancy, to monitor bird response to the new conservation activities undertaken by California farmers.

Rice fields in California provide year-round habitat for more than 200 different species of wildlife, including about 10 million migratory birds that travel the Pacific Flyway twice a year. Photo: NRCS




Weird animals drawn to California in 2013

Peter Fimrite

Published 4:13 pm, Saturday, December 28, 2013

Strange birds, exotic animals, bugs and sea creatures showed up in California this year in unprecedented numbers after getting hopelessly lost, lured by abundant prey, blown off course or simply carried in by unsuspecting humans. A lot of the vagabonds are staying put in the Golden State, apparently happy with their newfound time zone, according to wildlife biologists and researchers. Diving gulls, tropical boobies, ducks, owls and other birds from far-off lands were spotted at various times of the year, creating a ruckus among avian aficionados. The alien invasion also came via the sea, with orcas moving in, tuna showing up off the north coast and reports of rare sea turtles far north of where they normally go. Add to that California’s first wolf in decades, albeit off and on, a wolverine that moved to the Sierra from God-knows-where, infestations of stinging wasps and never-been-seen-before lice and mites savaging the deer and eagle populations and one might think something is out of whack. Should we prepare for doomsday or read up on Dr. Doolittle? While California is a magnet for extraordinary birds during the fall migration, the sheer number of those and other exotic breeds gallivanting around the state this year is unusually large. “California is a great place to see vagrants because it is right on the coast and you get a lot of birds stacking up here,” said Jim Tietz, the Farallon Islands program biologist for Point Blue Conservation Science, formerly the Point Reyes Bird Observatory. “They stop over to feed before continuing their migration.“….





Solution to cloud riddle reveals hotter future: Global temperatures to rise at least 4 degrees C by 2100
(December 31, 2013)Global average temperatures will rise at least 4 degrees Celsius by 2100 and potentially more than 8 degrees C by 2200 if carbon dioxide emissions are not reduced, according to new research that shows our climate is more sensitive to carbon dioxide than most previous estimates.
The research also appears to solve one of the great unknowns of climate sensitivity, the role of cloud formation and whether this will have a positive or negative effect on global warming. “Our research has shown climate models indicating a low temperature response to a doubling of carbon dioxide from preindustrial times are not reproducing the correct processes that lead to cloud formation,” said lead author from the University of New South Wales’ Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science Prof Steven Sherwood. “When the processes are correct in the climate models the level of climate sensitivity is far higher. Previously, estimates of the sensitivity of global temperature to a doubling of carbon dioxide ranged from 1.5°C to 5°C. This new research takes away the lower end of climate sensitivity estimates, meaning that global average temperatures will increase by 3°C to 5°C with a doubling of carbon dioxide.” … > full story


Steven C. Sherwood, Sandrine Bony, Jean-Louis Dufresne. Spread in model climate sensitivity traced to atmospheric convective mixing. Nature, 2014; 505 (7481): 37 DOI: 10.1038/nature12829


Climate Change Vastly Worse Than Previously Thought

Slate Magazine (blog)

 – ‎Jan 1, 2014‎


A new study published in Nature suggests that climate change is even worse than scientists had previously anticipated, upgrading the forecast from “dangerous” to “catastrophic. Damage from Typhoon Haiyan. Expect more and more of this. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

A new study published in Nature suggests that climate change is even worse than scientists had previously anticipated, upgrading the forecast from “dangerous” to “catastrophic.” According to the study’s authors, temperatures are currently snared in an upward spiral: As earth gets hotter, the heat prevents sunlight-reflecting clouds from forming, trapping more heat and further exacerbating the problem. The result could be a temperature climb of 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. The alarming report follows yet another confirmation, this time by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that humans are almost indubitably the drivers of climate change. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed concern, stating that “if this isn’t an alarm bell, then I don’t know what one is. If ever there were an issue that demanded greater cooperation, partnership, and committed diplomacy, this is it.”…


Sunny Sierra raises chilling drought fears. On the shoreline at Lake Tahoe, where snow should be piled high by now, Valerie Chown and her family this week stumbled across a most unusual winter phenomenon. There, on the beach, was a nude sunbather. “It was crazy,” said Chownst. Overall, the snowpack is down 81 percent. San Francisco Chronicle


California drought deepens as another year’s rains stay away

By Lisa M. Krieger Posted:   12/29/2013 03:59:58 PM PST | Updated:   about 3 hours ago

A lone cow looks out over a parched hillside on Jim Warren’s Gilroy ranch Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. As the statewide drought drags on into a new year with no rain in sight, the water shortage tightens its grip on people who most depend on annual rainfall, rural residents whose water comes from springs and wells and ranchers who have to pay increasingly more for feed and hay to keep their cattle and horses that ordinarily might be munching their way through freshly greened winter pastures. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)

Jerry Richeson, 73, of Clayton, stands next to his 5,000 gallon water tank at his home in Clayton, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013. Richeson lives on 2.5 acres on Marsh Creek Road and like many rural residents his water comes from a well deep under ground. The recent water shortage forced many ranchers to pay increasingly more for feed and hay to keep their cattle and horses. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

Jim Warren feeds his cattle hay on his Gilroy ranch Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. As the statewide drought drags on into a new year with no rain in sight, the water shortage tightens its grip on people who most depend on annual rainfall, rural residents whose water comes from springs and wells and ranchers who have to pay increasingly more for feed and hay to keep their cattle and horses that ordinarily might be munching their way through freshly greened winter pastures. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Grou)

The driest year on record is turning the golden hills of California to dust, drying up wells, pastures and cash reserves in a season that is traditionally lush and generous. “It’s about the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Gilroy’s Jim Warren, 72, as a hungry herd of Angus cattle jostled toward his truck, piled high with $6,000 worth of imported alfalfa hay. “But you can’t starve a cow into profit.” In Clayton, Jerry Richeson’s well went dry, so he buys water by the gallon for his home and horses. Sebastopol sheep rancher Rex Williams has sold off one-third of his flock rather than borrow money to support them. In the vast artichoke fields of Castroville’s SeaMist Farms, irrigation has started even before planting, so tiny seedlings won’t perish. The official drought map of California looks as if it has been set on fire and scorched in the center. The Bay Area has pulled out its umbrellas only few times this year. Normally, December offers a reprieve, delivering at least a storm or two. But the jet stream that usually pushes rains across our landscape remains up in the Pacific Northwest, allowing a warm and dry high pressure system to linger overhead.

Records are being broken all over the state, according to the National Weather Service. San Jose has only received 3.8 inches since January, well short of its 14-inch average. Oakland is even drier — 3.39 inches this year, compared with its 22.8-inch average. The last time it was this dry in San Francisco was in 1917, with 9 inches. This year, the city has had less than 6 inches. The state’s official rain year will end on June 30 and a good storm or two in January or February could bring back a touch of winter green.

But while water managers and urban gardeners are nervously watching the sky, the impact of the growing drought is especially troubling for farmers. A parched landscape, unlike a hurricane or tornado, is a slow-moving disaster with indirect effects.

Droughts are measured in dollars, not just inches. Small water systems and private well owners lose precious drinking water supplies stored in unreliable fractured rock, said Jeanine Jones of the California Department of Water Resources. Rangelands are shrinking and the San Joaquin Valley is continuing to subside as its groundwater levels fall. And drought can contribute to catastrophic wildfires. On Dec. 17, the governor set up a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations and the state’s level of preparedness. The first snow survey of the winter season will take place near the first of the year, with the Sierra snowmelt runoff forecasts following about a week later. This is the third dry year in a row, accelerating the fall of water tables, cracking of fields and shrinking of water holes. “We have five different ponds, and four are completely dry,” said rancher Dave Duarte of the Santa Clara County Cattleman’s Association and who runs 300 cows and calves in San Jose’s eastern foothills. “One water tank, which is fed by a natural spring, is only half full.” …..


Still uncertain: Climate change’s role in drought. A new analysis led by scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research says there are still many uncertainties about how climate change is affecting drought globally.Climate Central 




Global warming will intensify drought, says new study

The Guardian

December 23, 2013


A very recent study by Trenberth et al., “Global warming and changes in drought” published in Natural Climate Change has investigated the way droughts are measured.



Is the West’s dry spell really a megadrought?

The Associated Press Published: Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013 – 9:41 pm Last Modified: Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013 – 10:11 pm

SAN FRANCISCO — The drought that has been afflicting most of the Western states for 13 years may be a “megadrought,” and the likelihood is high that this century could see a multidecade dry spell like nothing else seen for 1,000 years, according to research presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting last week. Today, drought or abnormally dry conditions are affecting every state west of the Mississippi River and many on the East Coast, with much of the Southwest under long-term severe, extreme or exceptional drought conditions. Drought conditions nationwide are down this year, but they remain entrenched in the West. Since 2000, the West has seen landscape-level changes to its forests as giant wildfires have swept through the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada, bark beetles have altered the ecology of forests by killing countless trees, and Western cities have begun to come to terms with water shortages made worse by these changes as future snowpack and rainfall becomes less certain in a changing climate. “The current drought could be classified as a megadrought – 13 years running,” paleoclimatologist Edward Cook, director of the Tree Ring Laboratory at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., said at an AGU presentation Wednesday night. “There’s no indication it’ll be getting any better in the near term.” But the long drought the West is undergoing might not be a product of human-caused climate change, and could be natural, he said.

“It’s tempting to blame radiative forcing of climate as the cause of megadrought,” Cook said. “That would be premature. Why? There’s a lot of variability in the system that still can’t be separated cleanly from CO2 forcing on climate. Natural variability still has a tremendous impact on the climate system.”

Tree ring data show that decades-long droughts have occurred before humans started emitting greenhouse gases that fuel climate change. Long-lasting droughts have been tied to fluctuations in ocean conditions, which can alter large-scale weather patterns. For example, when the tropical Pacific Ocean is cooler than average and the Atlantic Ocean is unusually mild, as has been the case for several years, there is a higher risk of drought in parts of the West and Central U.S. An area of the West was affected by severe drought in the Medieval period that was much longer than the current drought, tree ring data show. It is “indeed pretty scary,” Cook said. “One lasted 29 years. One lasted 28 years. They span the entire continental United States.” Two megadroughts in the Sierra Nevada of California lasted between 100 and 200 years. Cook is among the first to suggest that the current drought in the West is a megadrought, typically defined as a widespread drought lasting for two decades or longer, Cornell University Assistant Professor of earth and atmospheric sciences Toby Ault said during an AGU presentation Thursday. But the idea that the current 13-year dry spell will be of a magnitude similar to the megadroughts found in tree ring records is subject of debate. “Are we in a megadrought? I guess we are,” Ault said. “They are a threat to civilization in the future.” Ault is studying the probability that the U.S. will experience a megadrought this century on the order of no other dry period seen here at any time in the last millennium. Data gleaned from tree rings and other sources show that the chance of a decadelong drought in the U.S. this century would be about 45 percent, and a multidecade drought less than 10 percent, he said. “That’s not the whole picture because we’re going to see climate change in this century,” he said. He said that the chances of a widespread multidecade megadrought are high in the worst-case scenario, but he quoted University of Arizona geosciences professor Jonathan Overpeck to characterize the chances of megadrought in less severe scenarios: “It’s extremely non-negligible, the risk of prolonged multidecadal megadrought.” The bottom line: “The picture looks like we’re going to have to take this seriously,” Ault said. Such dry spells would have severe implications for the nation’s water supply, and the U.S. is going to have to adapt and find smarter ways to cope, he said.

The current drought is occurring at a time of sweeping and abrupt changes in the nation’s forests as a result of the extended dry period and human-caused climate change, said Lisa Graumlich, dean of the College of the Environment at the University of Washington. Speaking at AGU on Wednesday, Graumlich said vast ecosystem changes are happening at an unprecedented scale across the country as tree mortality in Western forests is increasing dramatically, partly because bark beetles are spreading widely as summer warm seasons are longer than before. “The time in which forests are burning in the West is much longer than it was in previous decades,” she said. “Forest insects are erupting across the West.” Those changes and others – including loss of sea ice, longer growing seasons in the Arctic, and tundra being replaced by forests and shrubs – are occurring across an area scientists haven’t seen before, she said. “We’re seeing right now ecosystem tipping points,” she said. “They’re at an unprecedented spatial scale. They’re related to timing of biological events that ecologists are finding surprising.”


Greenland ice stores liquid water year-round
(December 22, 2013) — Researchers have found an extensive reservoir in the Greenland Ice Sheet that holds water year round. A surprising discovery, the existence of the 27,000 square mile aquifer adds important information to sea level rise calculations. … > full story

La Ninã Cuts 50 Percent of Oceanic Melt in Antarctica

Headlines & Global News

 – ‎January 3 2014‎


A new study found that La Niña has cut the oceanic melt in West Antarctica by 50 percent during a three-year observation. (Photo : Reuters).


Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier sensitive to climatic variability
(January 2, 2014) — The thinning of Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica is much more susceptible to climatic and ocean variability than at first thought, according to new research. … > full story

Methane hydrates and global warming
(January 2, 2014) — Off the coast of Svalbard methane gas flares originating from gas hydrate deposits at depth of several hundred meters have been observed regularly. A new study shows that the observed outgassing is most likely caused by natural processes and can not be attributed to global warming. … > full story


2013 review: The year in environment. New Scientist  Don’t stop at the bad news. Behind the usual headlines about rising greenhouse gas emissions and mostly stalled United Nations negotiations, this was a remarkable year. 


Daunting calculus for Maine shrimpers as entire season is lost. NY Times Shrimping in the Gulf of Maine was so bad last season that Randy Cushman, a longtime fisherman, wondered if there was any point in going out at all. Regulators recently closed the 2014 Gulf of Maine shrimping season — which, in a normal year, might have run from December through the spring. New York Times



America burning – The Yarnell Hill fire tragedy and the nation’s wildfire crisis. The Weather Channel Given the explosive and powerful nature of fires, fighting them could never be entirely free of risks. But one of the biggest threats firefighters face today are not from the truly wildfires, burning far from civilization, but instead come from places where homes and entire neighborhoods are constructed in the midst of forests and grasslands.


Revealed: how global warming is changing Scotland’s marine life

By Rob Edwards Environment Editor Sunday 29 December 2013

Global warming could cut commercial fish catches around Scotland by 20% while they increase by 10% around the south of England, according to a new study by more than 150 Government and university scientists. Gradually rising temperatures caused by climate pollution could drive porpoises, whales and dolphins away from Scotland’s shores. The sea will also become increasingly acidic, which could harm some marine wildlife, the study says. The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership has released its report card for 2013. It summarises the latest research from 55 UK science organisations including Scottish Natural Heritage, Marine Scotland and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. The report points out that over the last 30 years landings of cold-water fish like cod, haddock and whiting from the north-east Atlantic have halved. This trend is predicted to continue in the coming decades. Northern UK seas like the central and northern North Sea will become “up to 20% less productive, with clear implications for fisheries”, it says. But at the same time southern seas like the English Channel and the Celtic Sea will become up to 10% more productive. Although fish that prefer warmer water like hake and anchovy might increase, the cold-water species that have traditionally been a mainstay of the Scottish fishing industry will decline. Climate projections suggest fish will move northwards faster than in the past…..


Ocean acidification: A climate change issue. VOXXI Ocean acidification has become a problem. And it holds severe ramifications for the future of both the oceans and their vibrant, yet fragile residents.



Major reductions in seafloor marine life from climate change by 2100
(December 31, 2013) — A new study quantifies for the first time future losses in deep-sea marine life, using advanced climate models. Results show that even the most remote deep-sea ecosystems are not safe from the impacts of climate change. … > full story


2013 Australia’s hottest year on record. Sydney Morning Herald

2013 is the year Australia marked its hottest day, month, season, 12-month period and, by December 31, hottest calendar year. “We’re smashing the records,” said Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of NSW.


Dramatic decline in industrial agriculture could herald ‘peak food’. The Guardian 

 Industrial agriculture could be hitting fundamental limits in its capacity to produce sufficient crops to feed an expanding global population according to new research published in Nature Communications. 


2014 preview: The key to surviving climate change. Be prepared – for anything. That will be the message of the next report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, its first attempt in seven years to forecast the impact of climate change on specific geographical regions. Due out in March, it will emphasise versatility over any fine-tuned mitigation measures. New Scientist 


Florida’s Mangrove Forests Expand with Climate Change

December 30, 201



Written by

3 Tia Ghose


Fewer deep freezes, attributable to Earth’s warming climate, have caused mangrove forests to expand northward in Florida over the past three decades, new research suggests.




The Ghost Of Climate Change Yet To Come

By Joe Romm on December 24, 2013 at 11:06 am

Unlike Scrooge, we don’t get a spirit to show us what the future holds if we don’t change our ways. In the past few years, though, we have gotten the tiniest glimpse of climate gone wild. As Dr. Jeff Masters stated, “The stunning extremes we witnessed [in 2010] gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability.” And the price tag for climate-related extreme weather reached $188 billion just in 2011 and 2012. And we did get dozens of scientific papers warning us of what is to come (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts” and “Alarming IPCC Prognosis: 9°F Warming For U.S., Faster Sea Rise, More Extreme Weather, Permafrost Collapse”). The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change laid out the choice in its recent report:

Humanity’s choice (via IPCC): Aggressive climate action ASAP (left figure) minimizes future warming. Continued inaction (right figure) results in catastrophic levels of warming, 9°F over much of U.S. Yes, it is increasingly unlikely that we will adopt the aggressive but low-net-cost policies needed to stabilize at 450 ppm atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, and then quickly come back to 350, thanks in large part to the deniers, along with their political pals and media enablers. But the question of whether it’s “too late” — as one reporter asked me, “Have we crossed a tipping point?” — doesn’t have a purely scientific answer….




Halley’s Comet dust caused droughts, famine. International Business Times  Climate change in AD 535-536 was caused by dust spilled into the atmosphere by Halley’s Comet, according to a new study.








Drought brings water rationing orders

By Matt Weiser Published: Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013 – 12:00 am Last Modified: Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013 – 11:50 am

December is usually not the time of year to discuss water rationing. But this holiday month has been so dry that mandatory water conservation orders are beginning to sweep across the Sacramento region. The city of Folsom led the pack on Monday, imposing a mandatory 20 percent water conservation order. On Thursday, Sacramento County asked customers in unincorporated areas to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 20 percent. The cities of Sacramento and Roseville are likely to consider their own measures during the first week of January. In some cases, these will be the strictest water rationing orders the region has seen since the drought of 1976-77, one of the worst in history…


Sierra Club releases white paper on alternatives to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan

December 30, 2013 by Maven

The BDCP is not the right plan for the 21st century, says the Sierra Club in a newly released white paper.  It would accelerate the decline of the Delta and do nothing to reverse the damage related to the flow changes and it merely recycles an old idea rejected by voters decades ago that if built, would burden Californians statewide with the financial and environmental impacts of an unnecessary and costly project, the paper says. Instead, the paper says the state can meet its water demand by using a combination of strategies such as improved conservation and water use efficiency in both the urban and agricultural sectors, local groundwater and surface storage, conjunctive management, recycled water, groundwater remediation and groundwater desalination.  Furthermore, the paper recommends that policies that reinforce the use of improved technologies such as graywater re-use or industrial recycling should be employed or expanded; existing regulations that require proof of adequate water supply for new development should be tightened; mandatory groundwater monitoring and reporting plans should be enacted statewide; and existing landscaping programs to reduce outdoor use should be revisited to ensure maximum participation statewide. “California can meet its water demand sustainable and reliably by focusing investment in recycling, conservation, water efficiency, and better groundwater management for both urban and agricultural users,” the paper states.  “The list of alternatives in this document is not exhaustive, but it demonstrates that there are reasonable ways to meet California’s water demand without building the tunnels.” Read the white paper from the Sierra Club by clicking here.


Plastic-Foam Container Ban Approved by New York City Council

By Esmé E. Deprez Dec 19, 2013 9:00 PM PT

Plastic-foam food and drink containers in New York are set to go the way of trans fats and smoking in bars as the City Council voted to ban them in the name of environmental responsibility.
The Democratic-led, 51-member body passed the legislation unanimously yesterday in Manhattan. It prohibits restaurants, food carts and stores in the largest U.S. city from selling or providing single-use cups, clamshells and trays, as well as peanut-shaped packing materials, made from a type of thermoplastic petrochemical called expanded polystyrene.
An amendment gives officials a year to determine whether the substance can be recycled in an “environmentally effective, economically feasible and safe” way. If not, the ban will take effect as passed July 2015.
“This is a very important step forward to reduce the city’s solid waste stream, to reduce the amount of products that are out there that are dangerous and literally living on for half a century in our landfills,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said at a City Hall news briefing prior to the vote.
The foam ban is part of a slew of initiatives to make New York healthier and more environmentally friendly from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose 12-year tenure ends Dec. 31. Calling for the “environmentally destructive” substance to “go the way of lead paint,” Bloomberg proposed the idea in February alongside initiatives for more electric vehicles and a curbside food-composting pilot program.
Almost 100 cities and towns, including San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, have banned polystyrene food and beverage containers, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

New York’s ban pitted closely held foam-maker Dart Container Corp. and Restaurant Action Alliance, a group backed by the American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing chemicals and plastics manufacturers, against Bloomberg and the 24 council members who co-sponsored the bill.

The foam doesn’t biodegrade and can’t be recycled, according to the mayor’s office. It makes up an estimated 20,000 tons of the city’s annual waste and contaminates the stream of recyclable metal, glass and plastics, the office says. Dart, which is based in Mason, Michigan, dropped its opposition this month, while saying the legislation still “singles out and unfairly maligns a quality, cost effective and safe line of products.” A report funded by the American Chemistry Council valued annual sales of foam containers in New York at $97.1 million. It said the ban would in effect be an “environmental tax,” forcing businesses and consumers to spend almost double on replacements including other plastics, coated paperboard and compostable materials. The Bloomberg administration disagrees, saying “substantial research” it has conducted found the average cost difference per product would be $0.02. Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent, is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, takes office Jan. 1.


Climate change: It’s hot – and not just in the kitchens of bickering politicians. January 3 2013 Sydney Morning Herald
Record warmth for Australia in 2013 will start to look a lot more ordinary in the future.



Tom Steyer may be liberals’ answer to the Koch brothers. December 21 2013 Los Angeles Times by Evan Harper

California billionaire and former financier Tom Steyer is building a vast political network and inserting himself into elections nationwide, with a focus on fossil fuels and global warming.


Elizabeth Warren Comes Down Hard Against Global Warming, Separates …

Huffington Post

 – ‎Dec 22, 2013‎


On Friday, December 20th, Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren finally separated herself clearly from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, regarding the issue of climate change and global warming. Here is the story: TransCanada













In The Midst Of Record Oil Boom, Obama Administration Seeks More Oil Production

By Kiley Kroh on December 27, 2013 at 2:43 pm

CREDIT: Shutterstock

America produced an average of 7.5 million barrels of crude oil per day in 2013, an increase of one million barrels per day and the biggest one-year jump in the nation’s history, FuelFix reported Thursday. The U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA) estimates production will grow by another one million barrels in 2014 and will peak at a whopping 9.5 million barrels per day in 2016. And the production surge doesn’t stop at the water’s edge. According to FuelFix, “the Gulf of Mexico also is seeing a boost, with oil production expected to grow to 1.4 million barrels per day in 2014, up by 100,000 barrels.” Despite the oil boom already well underway, the Associated Press reported this week that the Obama administration was seeking to ‘clean up’ coal by capturing carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and using it to force more oil out of the ground.

“Obama has spent more than $1 billion on carbon-capture projects tied to oil fields and has pledged billions more for clean coal,” according to the AP report. While the administration has touted the environmental benefits of carbon-capture, some are skeptical of a plan that seeks to reduce carbon emissions by increasing the production of another fossil fuel — which will only emit more CO2 when burned. Fueling the criticism, AP notes that “the administration also did not evaluate the global warming emissions associated with the oil production when it proposed requiring power plants to capture carbon.” And the report cites a 2009 peer-reviewed paper which “found that for every ton of carbon dioxide injected underground into an oil field, four times more carbon dioxide is released when the oil produced is burned.” The administration counters that the oil would be extracted regardless and will help bolster U.S. energy security by producing more energy domestically. From a climate perspective, however, that logic is less convincing. As climate change spirals out of control and the need to drastically reduce carbon emissions becomes even more pressing, U.S. production of carbon-emitting fossil fuels is higher than ever. Noting the country’s record high coal exports and the fact that by the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will be the world’s largest producer of both oil and oil and gas combined, Bill McKibben writes in Rolling Stone that “we are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.“….


North Dakota train crash prompts call for evacuation. December 30, 2013 Grand Forks Herald
Officials urged people in Casselton, N.D., and the surrounding area to evacuate their homes as they dealt with the fallout from a massive fire when two trains collided Monday.


Concern over safety grows as more oil rides the rails. January 3 2013 New York Times
Safety officials have worried for years about hazardous materials carried on trains, but concern has intensified recently as a drilling surge in remote oil fields has generated heavy traffic on North America’s aging rail-freight networks.



Rueing the waves

Britain is a world leader at something rather dubious

Jan 4th 2014 | From the print edition The Economist [note- no mention of marine wildlife impacts!]

SINCE October sightseers on the hills above Edinburgh have gawped at a brand new landmark. Across the Firth of Forth, on a test site, stands the biggest wind turbine in Britain. The tips of its blades rise 196m above sea level. Its rotor sweeps an area twice as large as the London Eye. This monster and others like it are bound for the North Sea—part of the biggest and most ambitious offshore wind programme in the world. Britain gets more electricity from offshore wind farms than all other countries combined. In 2012 it added nearly five times more offshore capacity than Belgium, the next keenest nation, and ten times more than Germany. Its waters already contain more than 1,000 turbines, and the government thinks capacity could triple in six years. Boosters think Britain a global pioneer. Critics say ministers are flogging a costly boondoggle.

Two things explain Britain’s enthusiasm for offshore wind turbines. First, the country is committed by European law to generate about 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, up from about 13% now. Nuclear energy does not count and Britain is well behind on solar power, which means lots more wind turbines and biomass plants (mostly wood-burning power stations) will be required.The simplest solution would be to put more wind turbines on land. But they are unpopular with locals: rural voters have harried several Conservative MPs into outright opposition. So Britain is building much of its new capacity at sea. Offshore turbines supply less than 3% of Britain’s juice but about one-fifth of its renewable power (see chart). That share is rising.

The second reason for ministers’ enthusiasm is that they spy a chance to conquer a growing global market. Miles of shallow sea give Britain an unrivalled opportunity to experiment with technologies it may one day lucratively export, much as North Sea oil has turned Scotland into a hub of hydrocarbon expertise. China and Japan have a growing appetite for offshore generators but little capacity. America has only a single prototype turbine.

Unfortunately, offshore wind power is staggeringly expensive. Dieter Helm, an economist at Oxford University, describes it as “among the most expensive ways of marginally reducing carbon emissions known to man”. Under a subsidy system unveiled late in 2013, the government guarantees farms at sea £155 ($250) per megawatt hour for their juice. That is three times the current wholesale price of electricity and about 60% more than is promised to onshore turbines. It is also more than the £92.50 which Britain’s new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point will get—though that deal is for 35 years, not 15.

Ten-metre waves and salty gales are just two of the hazards that keep offshore costs high. Second-world-war bombs on the seabed are slowing new projects in Germany; in December Scottish Power, an energy firm, scrapped plans for 300 turbines on a site filled with basking sharks.

The government wants offshore generators to slash costs by about one-third by 2020. The price of energy from offshore farms has actually risen since Britain built its first turbines at sea in the early 2000s, in part because developers are putting them in ever deeper waters, farther from land. But costs now appear to be stabilising. Operators claim bigger turbines can bring prices down. Simpler models that break less ought to help matters, too. In some places floating wind farms could prove cheaper than fixed foundations. To cut losses from outages, offshore operators are investing in helicopters to whizz engineers to stricken turbines when seas are too rough for boats.

Another hitch is that much of the money lavished on building offshore wind farms leaves the country. Only about 25% of capital spending flows through British companies, compared with 70% of the cash invested in North Sea oil and gas. Almost all of the country’s existing offshore turbines were produced by two firms, Siemens and Vestas, which manufacture them in Denmark. Fleets from continental ports commonly construct the farms.


Berkeley library branch a ‘zero net energy’ building

David R. Baker SF Chronicle Updated 4:20 pm, Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bright light floods the main room of Berkeley’s newest library branch. Cool, comfortable air surrounds the stacks. But listen carefully, and you won’t hear the usual whoosh of an air conditioning system trundling in the background. Look carefully during the daytime, and you won’t see many switched-on lights. The new West Berkeley branch of the city’s public library system was designed to save energy. Its heating, cooling and lighting systems use so little electricity, in fact, that solar panels on the roof generate more than the building needs. The branch is a “zero net energy” building, meaning it produces more electricity over the course of a year than it draws from the state’s power grid. As such, it’s a rarity. While the concept has been around for years, few zero net energy buildings have been built. Berkeley boasts that the $7.5 million branch, which replaced a building dating to 1923, is California’s first zero net energy library….



Scientists Find 7,300-Mile Mercury Contamination ‘Bullseye’ Around Canadian Tar Sands

By Emily Atkin on December 30, 2013

The contamination was revealed just one week after regulatory responsibility for the controversial tar sands was handed over to a fossil-fuel funded corporation.








CA SEAGRANT- Applications Open for Graduate Fellowships in Marine Policy

APPLICATION DEADLINE Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 at 5 p.m. PST

The California Sea Grant College Program is now seeking applications for the 2015 NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. The Knauss Fellowship, established in 1979, provides a unique educational experience to graduate students who have an interest in ocean and coastal resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources. The program, which is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program, matches highly qualified graduate students with hosts in the legislative or executive branch of the government in the Washington, D.C. area for a one-year paid fellowship to learn about marine policy. California applicants may apply through either the California Sea Grant Program in La Jolla, or through the University of Southern California Sea Grant Program in Los Angeles. Other interested students should discuss this fellowship with their State Sea Grant Program or Project Director. Formal announcement of the fellowship has been published on the Knauss Fellowship website.



Rewilding our rivers – cultivating common ground: John Carlon at TEDxChico

Published on Dec 3, 2013 A social entrepreneur, John has been restoring and protecting California’s rivers and floodplains for almost 16 years. A co-founder of River Partners, he is directly involved in the acquisition and restoration of over 2,000-acres along the Sacramento River. The organization’s disruptive methods of improving Northstate habitats have led them to receive numerous state and federal restoration projects. In addition to land conservation, Carlon promotes responsible outdoor recreation and stewardship of California’s watersheds and river systems through activities like the annual Mudder Nature Challenge wherein racers tackle obstacle courses on open fields and a trail run around an ancient riparian forest. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations).





The Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey January 14, 2014 12:00-1:00pm PST

How do changes in habitat management and climate effect shorebird populations at local, regional and hemispheric scales? The Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey project, let by Matt Reiter, PhD, of Point Blue Conservation Science, seeks to answer this question. 

 Click here for more information on this CA LCC webinar. To join this webinar:

1. Click here at the scheduled time.
2. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: calcc
3. Call in number: 866-737-4154; passcode: 2872670






Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)  January 17-18, 2014, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program and Center for Integrated Spatial Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz Registration fee: $500 Instructor: Barry Nickel, Director of the Center for Integrated Spatial Research

This course is an introduction to the concepts and application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The course presents conceptual and practical discussions of the analysis of spatial information with the addition of exercises using the ESRI ArcGIS suite of applications. The class is designed to provide a basic introduction to GIS including spatial data structures and sources, spatial tools, spatial data display and query, map generation, and basic spatial analysis using ArcGIS software. It is the foundation for the rest of the classes offered in our GIS series.

Course Format: Approximately 50% lecture and 50% lab exercise. Please Note – There is a lot of information presented in this workshop in a short amount of time. We will maintain a fast pace, so please be prepared.


Date CHANGED! : Rangeland Coalition Summit 2014 January 21-22, 2014  Oakdale, CA  Please note that the dates have been changed for the 9th Annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit to be hosted at the Oakdale Community Center. Mark your calendar for January 21-22, 2014, more details will be coming soon! The planning committee will have a conference call on September 11 at 9:00 AM to start planning for the event. If you are interested in serving on the planning committee or being a sponsor please contact Pelayo Alvarez:


EcoFarm Conference
January 22-24, 2014  Pacific Grove, CA
This year’s conference features Temple Grandin as a plenary speaker and workshop presenter.  The special workshop Integrating Stockmanship with Range Management, on January 23 will teach participants how to incorporate stockmanship, the skillful handling of livestock in a safe, efficient, low-stress manner, into range and pasture management for economic and environmental benefits. Presenters will discuss opportunities for how stockmanship can reduce predation from herding and restore native grasslands. Other ranching topics include Managing Pastures for Optimal Forage Quality and Improved Nutrition of Meat, Milk and Eggs, Safe, Wholesome Raw Milk From Your Farm, among others.  Farmer/rancher scholarships and discounts are available now on a first-come, first-serve basis.


Fostering Resilience in Southwestern Ecosystems: A Problem Solving Workshop

February 25-27, 2014
Tucson, Arizona
This workshop will focus on answering urgent questions such as: How do managers “build resilience” when ecosystems are undergoing rapid change? What are our options when megafires remove huge swaths of forests not well adapted to this disturbance?

Click here for more information or to register. 




Communicating Climate Change: Climate Engagement Strategies and Problem Solving

San Francisco Bay NERR  March 4, 2014 Contact: Heidi Nutters, 415-338-3511 -or-
Elkhorn Slough NERR   March 6, 2014
Contact: Virginia Guhin, 831-274-8700  Please read the details carefully as this 1-day training is being offered in two locations!

Sponsored by: Elkhorn Slough and San Francisco Bay Coastal Training Programs Instructor: Cara Pike, TRIG’s Social Capital Project/Climate Access

Most Americans accept the reality of climate disruption and climate impacts are beginning to act as a wake-up call for many. Engaging key stakeholders and the public in preparing for and reducing the risks from these impacts is essential.  This engagement requires approaches that recognize how people process risk, such as the importance of values, identities, and peer groups. Join environmental communication expert Cara Pike for an in-depth training in public engagement best practices for climate change. Participants will have an opportunity to design strategies for reaching and motivating target audiences, and be part of a unique problem-solving approach where a common public engagement challenge is tackled collaboratively.

Intended Audience:

Coastal resource managers, government staff, public engagement staff, outreach specialists and environmental interpreters

Workshop Format: This one-day workshop will be held in two locations, the registration fee is $60 for either, and includes your attendance in a follow-up webinar that will take place on March 19, 2014 more details to follow.  The fee also includes lunch and materials.

Important Registration and Payment Details Please note, you must pre-register, and we must receive your payment no later than 5 p.m. on February 10, 2013 for us to reserve a spot for you at the workshop. Your registration will not be completed without payment received by this date.  Please pay by credit card from this site or, if sending a check, make it payable to Elkhorn Slough Foundation. Mail to: Elkhorn Slough Foundation ATTN: Virginia Guhin 1700 Elkhorn Road Watsonville, CA 95076

Follow-up Webinar – March 19 from 10:00am-11:30am (for all workshop attendees) additional details will be emailed to registered attendees and shared at workshop.  This workshop is complementary to the February 4 and February 6 training (Communicating Climate Change: Effective skills for engaging stakeholders, partners and the public.)


Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.

March 6-9, 2014 Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA Sponsored by the Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey. More info is available here:



North Bay Watershed Association  Friday, April 11, 2014  NOVATO, CA  8:00 AM to 4:30 PM PDT

The conference will bring together key participants from around the North Bay to focus on how we can work together to manage our water resources.

Keynote Speakers

  • Mark Cowin, Director, CA Department of Water Resources
  • Jared Huffman, U.S. Congressman, California 2nd District
  • Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board

For more information or questions contact: Elizabeth Preim-Rohtla North Bay Watershed Association 415-945-1475


Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

By now we are all familiar with our collective role in polluting the planet, the ocean included. But we are also critical for the many potential solutions. Please join us for a morning of lively discussions about the many scales of problems and solutions, ranging from the small plastic nurdles to a state-size garbage patch, from the deep sea to the intertidal, from local policies to the international arena.  Discussions will occur around plenary sessions featuring internationally-recognized scientists, a research poster session, and exhibitry throughout the day.

Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January.  Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium


99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014






Point Blue Conservation Science is a renowned, award-winning non-profit working to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation. At the core of our work is ecosystem science using long-term data to identify and evaluate both natural and human-driven changes over time. We work hand-in-hand with public and private natural resource managers from the Sierra to the sea and Alaska to Antarctica studying birds and ecosystems. Founded in 1965 as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, the organization has tripled in size over the last decade, and currently has a $10M annual budget with significant growth expected to continue. We seek a qualified CFO, who is passionate about our mission and vision, to join a team of 140+ scientists, informatics experts and educators.  

National Wildlife Federation: Senior Climate Policy Rep

The Senior Policy Representative (Climate & Energy) will help define and support efforts to implement National Wildlife Federation’s national climate and energy policy initiatives, including securing carbon controls under existing statutes, and devising strategies to advance new federal policies. This position will require initiating meetings and briefings with decision makers, conducting policy analysis, preparing electronic communications, and developing resource materials, including reports, blogs, fact sheets, and presentations.


California Park & Recreation Society (CPRS) (pdf) Executive Director

CPRS is a nonprofit, professional and public interest organization with more than 3,000 members. CPRS supports its members who provide recreational experiences to individuals, families and communities with the goal of fostering human development, health and wellness, and cultural unity. As the largest state society of park and recreation professionals in the United States, CPRS has the collective strength in numbers to be able to advance the positive impact and value of the profession on society. CPRS is the organization that furthers careers of those who know that Parks Make Life Better™.




Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community

Karen T. Litfin  ISBN: 978-0-7456-7949-5 224 pages December 2013, Polity

In a world of dwindling natural resources and mounting environmental crisis, who is devising ways of living that will work for the long haul? And how can we, as individuals, make a difference? To answer these fundamental questions, Professor Karen Litfin embarked upon a journey to many of the world’s ecovillages, intentional communities at the cutting-edge of sustainable living. From rural to urban, high tech to low tech, spiritual to secular, she discovered an under-the-radar global movement making positive and radical changes from the ground up. In this inspiring and insightful book, Karen Litfin shares her unique experience of these experiments in sustainable living through four broad windows – ecology, economics, community, and consciousness – or E2C2. Whether we live in an ecovillage or a city, she contends, we must incorporate these four key elements if we wish to harmonize our lives with our home planet. Not only is another world possible, it is already being born in small pockets the world over. These micro-societies, however, are small and time is short. Fortunately – as Litfin persuasively argues – their successes can be applied to existing social structures, from the local to the global scale, providing sustainable ways of living for generations to come.









The eight champions of climate change in the US in 2013

From the CEO of the only channel to run Obama’s climate speech in full to the editor who refused to print climate skeptics’ letters – Anne Kelly picks out climate change champions

What will future generations will say about 2013, about the year climate change action made a significant mark on college campuses globally, was re-committed to by the president and even prompted a Philippines leader to go without food in order to spur stalled climate negotiations in Warsaw?

To paraphrase the philosopher Edmund Burke, bad things happen only when not enough of the good people stand up. And this year, some good people really did stand up.

Here are some of the individuals who stand out for standing up on climate change:

Mike Robinson and his colleagues at General Motors, which joined 700 other companies and 3,000 individuals in signing Ceres’ Climate Declaration, which calls tackling climate change “one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century.”

David Kenny, Weather Channel CEO, whose TV network covered President Obama’s important 49-minute climate speech last June in its entirety (the only major media outlet to do so.)

Letitia Webster, director of global corporate sustainability at apparel giant VF Corp, who affirmed the IPCC’s latest climate study and its implications for global cotton suppliers who are already seeing “raw material disruptions caused by prolonged droughts in the western U.S. and more recent flooding in Asia.”

Geraldine Link, public policy director at the National Ski Areas Association, who helped organise 100-plus ski areas to speak out on climate change and the threat it poses to winter skiing and the rest of the $12bn winter outdoor industry.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the Rhode Island Democrat, for being the climate champion of the US Senate, delivering more than 50 climate speeches on the floor of the Senate this year.

Paul Thornton, the Los Angeles Times editor who refused to run letters in the newspaper from climate “skeptics”. “I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page,” Thornton wrote to his readers. “When one does run, a correction is published. Saying, ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change” is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”

TJ DeCaprio, senior director environmental sustainability at Microsoft, who championed an internal carbon fee at the software giant and recently published a “how to” guide that others can replicate.

Sam Brownback, Republican Kanas Governor, and lawmakers in a dozen other US states who fought off cynical attacks to repeal state Renewable Portfolio Standards, which have catalysed thousands of wind and solar projects across the country and generated hundreds of thousands of jobs.

All of these individuals collectively are bringing us closer to a sustainable, low-carbon world. Let’s hope many more good people stand up in 2014 – and that those already standing will stay standing.

“You can describe the predicament that we’re in as an emergency,” activist Wendell Berry often reminded us. “Your trial is to learn to be patient in an emergency.”

Anne Kelly is policy director at Ceres, a US-based nonprofit organisation mobilising business leadership on climate change. Follow on Twitter @CeresNews.


Cambridge man sets bird-watching record

By Bryan Marquard|  Globe Staff   January 02, 2014

As a year’s final hours slip away, many measure its success in paychecks, vacations, or the simple pleasures of everyday life. But for Neil Hayward of Cambridge, 2013 ticked down to a single bird.

He was among the select bird-watchers who had attempted what’s known as a “big year” — seeing as many different kinds of birds as possible, traversing the continent to do so. With just days left in 2013, he was tied with the longstanding record of 748 sightings. He kept going.

And then it happened. Last Saturday, from a boat along the North Carolina coast, he spotted a Great Skua, the winter light catching the gold specks on its back. That made bird 749 — and made Hayward the North American bird spotting champion.

“Compared to your average bird walk in a local park, this is like climbing Everest,” said Jeffrey Gordon of Colorado Springs, Colo., president of the American Birding Association.

Cambridge bird-watcher sets new mark

Having a “big year” is not as simple as some might imagine. And it is certainly not just a matter of luck. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, gosh, if you’ve got the money and the time, you just do it,’ ” said Greg Neise of Chicago, listing moderator for the American Birding Association. “Being able to figure out the logistics is a huge part of it. It’s a lot of flying, it’s a lot of driving, it’s a lot of days away from home. It’s a lot of figuring out your next step, but also being able, at a drop of a hat, to change everything and go someplace else.” On his “Accidental Big Year 2013” blog, Hayward kept updating statistics that would give an ardent traveler pause. He spent 195 nights away from Cambridge, drove 51,758 miles, was at sea for 147 hours over 15 days, and flew 193,758 miles on 177 flights through 56 airports….


Scientists use sound waves to levitate objects in three dimensions


Jan 3 2014


Written by

Shawn Knight


Scientists at the University of Tokyo and the Nagoya Institute of Technology were recently able to levitate small items in three dimensions using only sound waves.







The Entire IPCC Report in 19 Illustrated Haiku




 Top 75 pictures of 2013
(with a sampling below)



Photograph by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute



Photograph by



Photograph by KEENPRESS Photography |



Photograph via ubomw on Reddit



Bill Anders, Apollo 8, 1968


100-Year-Old Box of Negatives Discovered by Conservators in Antarctica

Almost one hundred years after a group of explorers set out across the frozen landscape of Antarctica to set up supply depots for famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, a box of 22 never-before-seen exposed but unprocessed negatives taken by the group’s photographer has been unearthed in one of those shacks, preserved in a block of ice. This incredible discovery was made by the Conservators of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust who are working to restore an old exploration hut. The 22 cellulose nitrate negatives were, the Trust believes, left there by Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, which became stranded on Ross Island when their ship blew out to sea during a blizzard. As you can imagine, the negatives weren’t in the best of shape when they were found, but a Wellington photography conservator took the time to painstakingly process and restore them until they revealed their secrets.

Here are a few more of those photos (you can see them all on the Trust’s website here): ….The Ross Sea Party was eventually rescued, but only after three of their party (including Spencer-Smith) had died. These photographs are the legacy those men left behind, a glimpse back at a long-lost age exploration.






Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

707-781-2555 x318  | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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