Conservation Science News February 28, 2014

Focus of the Week – DROUGHT: CA
Snowpack Grows, But Not Enough; Federal Rules Complicate Water Management in West









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The items contained in this update were drawn from,, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration,,,, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
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Focus of the Week– DROUGHT: CA
Snowpack Grows, But Not Enough; Federal Rules Complicate Water Management in West



California drought: Snowpack grows, but not enough

Kurtis Alexander SF Chronicle Updated 6:40 am, Friday, February 28, 2014


Fresh snow is blanketing the Sierra this week, but not enough to put a big dent in the statewide drought. State surveying crews, making their monthly trek on skis and snowshoes to high-elevation weather stations, said Thursday that the snowpack is just 24 percent of average for this time of year. That means the mountain runoff that normally fills reservoirs and makes up a third of the state’s water supply will amount to little more than a trickle. Although there’s more snow than there was a month ago – when the accumulation was just 12 percent of average and surveyors found bare ground in some spots – it’s likely that cities and farms that depend on the Sierra for their water will come up short in the summer. “It’s not a good situation for us,” said Steve Ritchie, assistant general manager for water for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which delivers water from the Sierra to 2.6 million Bay Area customers. “We’re waiting for the snow to melt and come down and fill our reservoir, but it ain’t happening.

Voluntary cutbacks

The district is among several Bay Area agencies that are asking people to reduce their water consumption by 10 percent, while hoping late-season storms will head off the need for mandatory rationing. Some North Bay communities, which depend on local supplies, and Sacramento have already imposed mandatory cuts. The wet weather hitting California this week is helping. A system from the Gulf of Alaska dropped a foot of snow in the High Sierra since Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service, and an additional 15 inches is expected this weekend. The incoming storm is expected to drop large amounts of rain over much of the state. With precipitation at just 42 percent of average in the northern range and 36 percent in the southern mountains, much more is needed. But more may not be on the way. The weather service’s Climate Prediction Center is projecting a drier-than-average spring.

40 days, 40 nights

“Every report I’ve seen says we need another 40 days and 40 nights of rain or whatever to make any difference,” said Daniel Sumner, who as director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center in Davis is closely watching water supplies. “Every drop is helpful, but we need a lot more.” The Department of Water Resources’ snowpack measurement is a benchmark for state and federal officials who determine how much water California’s networks of reservoirs and canals will deliver to communities and farms. At the Phillips Station off Highway 50 near Echo Summit, surveyors measured 8.1 inches of water in the frozen snow Thursday, just a third of what the site averages at this time of year. It was the same story at other weather stations. “We welcome the late storms, but they are not enough to end the drought,” Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources, said in a statement. “We can’t control the weather, but we can control the amount of water we use. This drought is a wake-up call that we all have to take water conservation seriously and make it a way of life.”

No help from feds

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said last week that water districts serving farmers are likely to get no water from the Central Valley Project if conditions don’t improve. Urban districts, they said, would get just half of what they requested. State Water Project officials said last month that their customers would get no water. The estimates mean cities and farms will have to turn to other sources, such as groundwater and locally managed reservoirs. Some parts of the state are better equipped to do this than others. San Francisco officials say voluntary water reductions and a few more storms should get them through the dry year. In the East Bay, water officials also say 10 percent voluntary reductions and backup supplies will help weather dry times. “We certainly got a big boost with the rains in February,” said Andrea Pook, spokeswoman for East Bay Municipal Utility District, which provides water, largely from the Sierra, to 1.3 million customers. “But we’re going to need a lot more precipitation to bring us out of a drought.”

Drought coverage

For complete coverage of California’s water problems, go to


Dusty federal rules complicate water management in parched West

Annie Snider, E&E reporter Greenwire: Thursday, February 27, 2014

California wine country was parched early in the winter of 2012. So Sonoma County Water Agency chief engineer Jay Jasperse was relieved when a major storm blew in that December, dumping buckets of rain that filled Lake Mendocino, the agency’s reservoir on the upper Russian River. Then Jasperse watched in misery as the Army Corps of Engineers drained that water to make room in the reservoir in case another big rain fell on the flood-prone region. The corps was following its rules for the reservoir — an operations manual that Mother Nature ignored.

“It basically quit raining through 2013 and early 2014,” Jasperse said. “We had the driest year in over 400 years based on tree ring studies, and so we’re all looking back and a lot of folks in the community are saying, ‘Why didn’t we hang onto the water that was released by the corps in December 2012?'” With climate change expected to shift precipitation and snowmelt patterns, federal rules that have long governed water management in the West are making it difficult to balance supply and flood protection.

Already, warmer temperatures are causing winter precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow in the mountains that provide much of California’s drinking water. And the mountain snowpack is melting earlier in the season, rather than during the spring and summer months when users rely on it for water supply. But winter and early spring are when the region tends to see intense storms fed by “atmospheric rivers” that dump massive amounts of water in a very short period of time — a big flood risk.

The average atmospheric river moves an amount of vapor 10 times what the Mississippi River dumps as water into the Gulf of Mexico, according to Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. These storms provide between a third and a half of the region’s average annual rainfall and snowpack, he said. Although research on atmospheric rivers is in its early stages, the West Coast has long been lashed by storms they spawn and built reservoirs to accommodate their deluges. For reservoirs where the Army Corps handles flood control, the agency wrote manuals with “rule curves” delineating how much water can be stored in the reservoir during different times of the year.

During fall and winter, water levels are kept low to leave room for runoff in big storms. When spring comes, the reservoir is allowed to refill and water levels are kept higher during the summer when the risk of storms is low. Then, when fall comes, the reservoir is drawn back down to create flood space.
But with warming temperatures pushing the snowmelt season earlier, the season when runoff needs to be captured for water supply begins to overlap with the time when major storms still pose a flood risk. “The big dilemma is, if you drain the reservoir in the fall a fair bit in order to make room for a possible flood in the winter, but then you don’t get enough rain when you’re officially able to refill in the spring, there’s no water to refill with,” Ralph said.

‘Slide rules and pencils, not computers’

Water management is complicated in the West because there’s more than one agency overseeing many dams. The Army Corps often manages flood protection, so it prefers to keep as little water in the reservoir as possible, while the Bureau of Reclamation or local agencies like the Sonoma County Water Agency manage for water supply and tend to angle for as much water as possible. Hydropower, environmental and recreation interests are also part of the equation.

Some say divided management responsibilities help ensure that any decision is given full attention. But others argue that because managers must follow the Army Corps’ manuals first, flood control is given the upper hand. “The corps’ manual is No. 1 on the hierarchy,” said Ron Stork with Friends of the River in Sacramento. “You can do anything you want with the dam as long as it doesn’t interfere with the corps’ manual.”

Moreover, many of the manuals are decades old, and activity and development in the watershed have often changed dramatically since the rules were first written. For example, the rule curve at Lake Mendocino hasn’t been updated since 1959. Over the years, Sonoma County agriculture has shifted from orchards to vineyards, cities have grown, and inflows from a neighboring hydroelectric tunnel have been cut. The National Environmental Policy Act has also inserted endangered species concerns into the mix. “A lot of these rule curves literally were done when the corps was using slide rules and pencils, not computers, and that’s just outrageous,” said Melissa Samet, senior water resources counsel for the National Wildlife Federation.

A number of groups, ranging from environmental organizations to the state of California, have been pressing the corps to regularly update its manuals. But the corps contends that engineers have long accounted for climate variability in their planning. “To say that climate change wasn’t contemplated is almost wrong — anytime you do water resource engineering, you build some sort of adaptive capacity into it, because the process of identifying how much flow of water you’re going to have at a given location is uncertain,” said Stu Townsley, flood risk program manager for the Army Corps’ South Pacific Division. “It’s a remarkably robust process.” Still, Townsley acknowledged that if current climate predictions prove correct, rule curves will likely have to be updated — a pricey proposition that could potentially require new congressional authorization. “Frankly, we’re just not really funded,” Townsley said. “This would come out of the corps’ operations and maintenance budget, and that budget’s been in essence flatlined for the past 30 years. We’re literally confronted with, should we pay to keep a dam tender in there to make a gate change, or can we support these kinds of studies?”

Is flexible water management possible?

What many stakeholders would like to see is for modern weather forecasting to be incorporated into reservoir management. “The fundamental runoff patterns, we know, are changing — have changed — as has the weather science,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who represents Sonoma County, said in an interview. “From both ends of that, you’ve got an overwhelming case for updating these manuals.”

Huffman, who previously worked as an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council as well as the director of the Marin Municipal Water District, introduced legislation (H.R. 3988) earlier this month to require the corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to review whether weather and runoff forecasting can improve reservoir operations in some cases. Those on the water supply side hope modern weather forecasting and better monitoring throughout the watershed could open the door to a fundamental rethinking of how reservoirs are managed.

“With the rule curve, there’s not that much room in terms of increasing the water supply function,” said Chris Delaney, senior engineer at the Sonoma County Water Agency.

But with the ability to see coming storms even just a few days out, water managers could store extra water in the reservoir during winter months and then release it to make room for runoff if a major storm were predicted, he said. “You would basically remove the line and operate the whole pool in benefit of water supply,” Delaney said. “Or, if you had a large event, you might actually drain the reservoir extra in order to increase that flood control option.” That type of flexibility is being contemplated now as the corps works with stakeholders to update its manual for Folsom Dam near Sacramento during a major construction project.

Whether the science and forecasting ability are to the point where water managers feel confident making updates related to climate change varies by location, said David Raff, the Bureau of Reclamation’s new scientific adviser, who has long worked on water and climate issues. “It is very regionally dependent,” he said. “And yet we start to see trends and agreement amongst models that is enough information to start to adapt to climate change.”

Ralph, the atmospheric rivers researcher, said meteorologists can currently offer forecasts about three days out that are accurate enough for reservoir operators to start paying attention. But how much extra water that could allow to be held back also depends on how quickly the rules allow water to be released without causing environmental and flood risk concerns downstream. “I think the advances we’re making in atmospheric rivers and prediction offer the potential for a breakthrough advance for how to do this in the future,” Ralph said. “But nobody in their right mind would sign on to do this without a serious demonstration.”

But then there’s another problem: There’s only so much wiggle room for the agencies without congressional involvement, federal managers say. The corps in particular has a reputation for being risk-averse, not wanting to chance the possibility of not being able to perform the tasks it’s responsible for, even if there are big benefits on the other side. If Congress approved a dam to be built for flood control 40 years ago, that’s still its purpose today unless lawmakers formally change it. Reclamation is also facing the possibility of having to go back to Congress for authorizations if the conversations it is having now with communities about the future climate and water-demand challenges in Western river basins yield proposals for new reservoirs or changes in the flood control rules.

Raff said any such proposal would need to be “darn near consensus for it to be viable.” But, he said, “I don’t think that there are very many subjects or opportunities with regard to that that are wins just about everywhere.”


More drought coverage at the end of the Climate/Extremes section below.





A fin whale is shown breaching the water’s surface.Credit: Kate Stafford, UW

Whales, ships more common through Bering Strait
(February 26, 2014) — The Arctic is home to a growing number of whales and ships, and to populations of sub-Arctic whales that are expanding their territory into newly ice-free Arctic waters. A three-year survey of whales in the Bering Strait reveals that many species of whales are using the narrow waterway, while shipping and commercial traffic also increase. … A study of the narrow passage of the Bering Strait uses underwater microphones to track the whales by their sounds. Three years of recordings reveal more detections of both Arctic and sub-Arctic whales traveling through the narrow choke point. Kate Stafford, an oceanographer with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory, will present the results Feb. 26 at the Ocean Sciences meeting in Honolulu.

The recordings show Arctic beluga and bowhead whales migrating seasonally through the region from the Arctic south to spend winter in the Bering Sea. They also detect large numbers of sub-Arctic humpback, fin and killer whales traveling north through the Bering Strait to feed in the biologically rich Chukchi Sea.

“It’s not particularly surprising to those of us who work up in the Arctic,” Stafford said. “The Arctic seas are changing. We are seeing and hearing more species, farther north, more often. And that’s a trend that is going to continue.” Stafford placed microphones below the water’s surface and recorded in summer and early winter from 2009 to 2012 as part of a U.S.-Russian scientific collaboration. Melodious humpback whale songs showed up regularly on recordings into late fall. Fin and killer whales, which are southern species that seldom travel into Arctic waters, were heard into early November. “These animals are expanding their range,” Stafford said. “They’re taking advantage of regions in seasons that they may not have previously.” The recordings also picked up ships using the ice-free summers to travel through two international shipping lanes. This poses an increased risk of collisions between whales and ships, and of noise pollution.
Marine mammals rely primarily on sound to navigate, to find food and to find mates. Sound is their modality,” Stafford said. “If we increase the ambient sound level, it has the potential to reduce the communication range of cetaceans and all marine mammals.”…> full story



Amid Efforts to Expand Marine Preserves, a Warning to Focus on Quality

FEB. 19, 2014 NY TIMES Green Column
SAN FRANCISCO — A generation ago, when Tommy Remengesau Jr. went fishing off the beautiful island nation of Palau, the seas were so rich, he said, that “I could see great stocks of fish.” Such bounty has since dwindled, in Palau and worldwide.
“Reckless and destructive fishing practices, overfishing, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing have robbed us of our resources,” Mr. Remengesau, now Palau’s president, told the United Nations General Assembly this month. “They must be stopped.” That grim pronouncement lies behind a new plan by Palau to ban commercial fishing in a vast area off its coast. The reserve will cover 230,000 square miles, which is about the size of Ukraine. Palau is far from alone — other nations are also engaging in efforts to create marine reserves. New Zealand, which already has a number of protected areas, is establishing a new conservation area in its far southern region that is off-limits to fishing, mining and oil exploration, though it is smaller, at 1,680 square miles. Over all, 2.8 percent of the world’s oceans have been committed to conservation reserves, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a global environmental group. That remains far short of an international goal of 10 percent. The reserves are often called marine protected areas, or M.P.A.s. “There is a trend toward creating more M.P.A.s in recent years,” said Samantha Murray, director of the Pacific program at the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental group. But the percentage of ocean territory that is protected is far lower than the comparable figure for land, she said….


A big problem is that the quality of the reserves varies. A new study in the journal Nature found that of 87 marine protected areas surveyed, 59 percent “were not ecologically distinguishable from fished sites.” The reality may be even more dismal, because the survey included some of the world’s most effective reserves. A different study, to be published next week in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, finds that countries often seek to create marine reserves in areas that are the least used, rather than focusing on maximizing biodiversity. Achieving targets for protecting a certain amount of the ocean could therefore result in a “false sense of achievement for conservation,” it warns. “It’s almost universal, the fact that whenever there’s negotiations over marine protected areas, the areas with most fish are retained by the fishing areas,” said Graham Edgar, a professor at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania in Australia. Professor Edgar was involved in both studies…..




Connecting the Dots for Pacific Marine Life

Connecting with Sarah Allen, National Park Service “Bureau-ologist”

by Beth Slatkin on February 27, 2014

National Park Service ecologist Sarah Allen has been looking at the “big picture” of marine ecosystem health since the mid-1970s, when she worked on the Farallon Islands and later in the 1980s and ’90s  tracking seabirds, whales, and seals in the Gulf of the Farallones  for Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now Point Blue Conservation Science).

Sarah Allen, NPS marine ecologist

After grad school, she resumed her work as a marine ecologist, working for the Point Reyes National Seashore.  Author of Bay Nature’s current cover story on orcas (Jan-Mar 2014), Sarah now connects the dots for researchers at 24 national marine parks across the Pacific West and represents the National Park Service in inter-agency ocean policy issues. She recently took time out from her very busy job as NPS’ Coast and Ocean Program Lead (Pacific West Region) to talk to Bay Nature.

Are you originally from the Bay Area?  Tell us a bit about your educational background. Yes, I’ve lived here most of my life since age 7 and grew up in West Marin. When I was in high school my biology teacher connected me with a professor at the College of Marin to sample bivalves in Bolinas Lagoon. That’s where my interest in field study started. I got my Bachelor of Science in Conservation of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley in 1976, taking classes from Starker Leopold, who at the time was on the Marine Mammal Commission. Later I returned to UC and  got my MS and PhD in Wildland Resource Science….. 


Ecological impacts of invasive species can be readily predicted from features of their behavior
(February 27, 2014) — Ecologists have studied the behavior of some of the “world’s worst” invasive species, including the large-mouth bass, an invasive fish which typically devastates invertebrate and other fish communities wherever it is introduced. They have revealed that the ecological impacts of invasive species might be readily predicted from features of their behavior. … > full story


Microbes on floating ocean plastics: Uncovering the secret world of the ‘Plastisphere’
(February 24, 2014) — Scientists are revealing how microbes living on floating pieces of plastic marine debris affect the ocean ecosystem, and the potential harm they pose to invertebrates, humans and other animals. … > full story


The importance of (experimental) design
(February 25, 2014) — One of the hottest debates in evolutionary biology concerns the origin of behavior: is it genetically encoded or do animals and birds copy their parents or other individuals? A classic experiment published in 2000 seemed to provide overwhelming evidence that a particular behavioral choice (whether individuals of a species of swallow breed in a small colony or a large one) is largely genetically determined. Scientists have now re-examined the data and shown that the findings could be explained by random choice. … > full story

It’s all water over the dam – but how, when it falls has huge impact on salmon
(February 25, 2014) — By adjusting water discharges in ways designed to boost salmon productivity, officials at a dam in central Washington were able to more than triple the numbers of juvenile salmon downstream of the dam over a 30-year period. The investigators say the results also show how the existence of dams can actually improve salmon survival. Prior to the development of the hydroelectric system, water flow in the Columbia could drop very low in winter. These low flows, when combined with temperatures below freezing, likely resulted in mortality of eggs and young salmon still in the gravel. Current dam operations maintain minimum water flows that are more than twice as high as historic levels during winter, which keeps young fish in water more consistently than what might occur naturally. … > full story


Bison and Cranes Reunited to Support Habitat Restoration


 – ‎Feb 25, 2014‎


But this year, thanks to the work of a nonprofit organization called the Crane Trust, a small group of the giant herbivores have made their triumphant return to Shoemaker Island, an 11-mile-long, 1.25-mile-wide plot of grassy habitat surrounded by river.


Join the crowd: Digitize biodiversity research specimens
(February 26, 2014)A crowdsourcing project aims to enable transcription of specimen labels and ledgers from the world’s 3 billion biodiversity research specimens. … > full story


Storms ‘slaughter’ kills over 21,000 birds on French coast

February 26, 2014

A wave crashes against the breakwater of Lomener in Ploemeur, western France on February 5, 2014 as Brittany and the Atlantic coasts were facing winds of 100 kilometres an hour

More than 21,000 sea birds have died since the end of January on France’s Atlantic coast due to storms in the worst “slaughter” in a century, the national Bird Protection League (LPO) said Wednesday. A total of 21,341 dead birds had been counted up to February 24 on the southwestern Basque coast and in Brittany in northwestern France, a statement said. The worst affected species were the Atlantic Puffin, the Common Murre or Common Guillemot and the Razorbill, it said. Nearly 2,800 were housed in bird protection shelters in these areas, the LPO said, adding that this was a provisional toll and the final numbers could be much higher. It said the count had been carried out over three weekends and involved more than 500 volunteers. The birds basically died of starvation, LPO’s Nicolas Gendre told AFP, adding that the “storms had forced the birds to areas that are less rich in food”. He said the last such toll only occurred in 1900. Gendre said that the birds used up more energy to survive and seek food during storms. Although most of the bird deaths were caused by the weather conditions, the LPO said there had also been some caused by pollution as a result of cargo ships taking advantage of the inclement conditions to dump noxious gases at sea.


Gauging what it takes to heal a disaster-ravaged forest: Case study in China
February 24, 2014) — Recovering from natural disasters usually means rebuilding infrastructure and reassembling human lives. Yet ecologically sensitive areas need to heal, too, and scientists are pioneering new methods to assess nature’s recovery and guide human intervention. A new study focused on the epicenter of China’s devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, a globally important valuable biodiversity hotspot and home to the beloved and endangered giant pandas. Not only did the quake devastate villages and roads, but the earth split open and swallowed sections of the forests and bamboo groves that shelter and feed pandas and other endangered wildlife. The study indicated that forest restoration after natural disasters should not only consider the forest itself, but also take into account the animals inhabiting the ecosystem and human livelihoods. … > full story


Fukushima’s Radioactive Ocean Water Arrives At W. Coast

Discovery News

 – ‎Feb 25, 2014‎


When people fled Fukushima and other parts of Japan a year ago, thousands of pets were left behind. While many pets have since been reunited with their owners, a horrific situation still exists in the no-go 12.5-mile radiation zone around the damaged 


Biologists hope wild-hatched condor will produce more birds

Salt Lake Tribune

 – ‎February 26 2014‎


Phoenix • Groups tracking the reintroduction of the endangered California condor celebrated last year when a record four birds hatched near the Arizona-Utah border. This year has brought increased enthusiasm with the possibility that a condor hatched



World Ocean Summit Puts Marine Issues “On Global Agenda”

NatGeo News Watch (blog)

Feb 25, 2014


Written by

Clark Howard


Goddard said there has been a relative “poverty of knowledge” about the ocean, compared with the land, although that has been changing in recent years thanks to significant investments by governments, nonprofit institutions, and companies.



Antarctic circumpolar current carries 20 percent more water than previous estimates
(February 26, 2014) — By analyzing four years of continuous measurements of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current at Drake Passage, the narrowest point in the Southern Ocean, oceanographers have concluded that the current carries 20 percent more water than previous estimates. They also found that the current remains strong all the way to the seafloor. … > full story


‘Oddball science’ has proven worth, biologists say
(February 27, 2014) — Scoffing at or cutting funds for basic biological research on unusual animal adaptations from Gila monster venom to snail sex, though politically appealing to some, is short-sighted and only makes it more likely that important economic and social benefits will be missed in the long run, say a group of evolutionary biologists. … > full story


Cows are smarter when raised in pairs: Evidence practice of housing calves alone linked to learning difficulties
(February 26, 2014) — Cows learn better when housed together, which may help them adjust faster to complex new feeding and milking technologies on the modern farm, a new study finds. Dairy calves become better at learning when a “buddy system” is in place. The study also provides the first evidence that the standard practice of individually housing calves is associated with certain learning difficulties. … > full story


Waterbirds’ hunt aided by specialized tail: Swimming birds evolved rudder-like tail to dive for food
(February 26, 2014) — The convergent evolution of tail shapes in diving birds may be driven by foraging style. Birds use their wings and specialized tail to maneuver through the air while flying. It turns out that the purpose of a bird’s tail may have also aided in their diversification by allowing them to use a greater variety of foraging strategies. To better understand the relationship between bird tail shape and foraging strategy, researchers examined the tail skeletal structure of over 50 species of waterbirds, like storks, pelicans, and penguins, and shorebirds, like gulls and puffins. They first categorized each species by foraging strategy, such as aerial, terrestrial, and pursuit diving, and then compared the shape and structure of different tails. … > full story




Gray whales feed on which of the following?
(a) small shrimp that float around on the currents
(b) small fish and crustaceans that swim at the surface of the ocean
(c) small crustaceans and tube worms found in ocean sediments
(d) small to large fish and other animals that stray into its mouth
(e) a, b, c,
(f) all of the above

See answer at bottom




Emperor Penguins: Changes in the extent and duration of Ross Sea ice will significantly impact marine life in what is one of the world’s most productive and unspoiled marine ecosystems, where rich blooms of phytoplankton feed krill, fish, and higher predators such as penguins.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Walker Smith


Big thaw projected for Antarctic sea ice: Ross Sea will reverse current trend, be largely ice free in summer by 2100
(February 27, 2014)

A new modeling study suggests that a recent observed increase in summer sea-ice cover in Antarctica’s Ross Sea is likely short-lived, with the area projected to lose more than half its summer sea ice by 2050 and more than three quarters by 2100. These changes will significantly impact marine life in what is one of the world’s most productive and unspoiled marine ecosystems. …

Smith says “The Ross Sea is critically important in regulating the production of Antarctica’s sea ice overall and is biologically very productive, which makes changes in its physical environment of global concern. Our study predicts that it will soon reverse its present trend and experience major drops in ice cover in summer, which, along with decreased mixing of the vertical column, will extend the season of phytoplankton growth. These changes will substantially alter the area’s pristine food web.”

Researchers attribute the observed increase in summertime sea ice in the Ross Sea — where the number of days with ice cover has grown by more two months over the past three decades — to a complex interplay of factors, including changes in wind speed, precipitation, salinity, ocean currents, and air and water temperature. But global climate models agree that air temperatures in Antarctica will increase substantially in the coming decades, with corresponding changes in the speed and direction of winds and ocean currents. When Smith and his colleagues fed these global projections into a high-resolution computer model of air-sea-ice dynamics in the Ross Sea, they saw a drastic reduction in the extent and duration of summer sea ice.The modeled summer sea ice concentrations decreased by 56% by 2050 and 78% by 2100. The ice-free season also grew much longer, with the mean day of retreat in 2100 occurring 11 days earlier and the advance occurring 16 days later than now.

Also changed was the duration and depth of the “shallow mixed layer,” the zone where most phytoplankton live. “Our model projects that the shallow mixed layer will persist for about a week longer in 2050, and almost three weeks longer in 2100 than now,” says Smith. “The depth of the shallow mixed layer will also decrease significantly, with its bottom 12% shallower in 2050, and 44% shallower in 2100 than now.”

For Smith, these changes in ice, atmosphere, and ocean dynamics portend major changes in the Antarctic food web. On the bright side, the decrease in ice cover will bring more light to surface waters, while a more persistent and shallower mixed layer will concentrate phytoplankton and nutrients in this sunlit zone. These changes will combine to encourage phytoplankton growth, particularly for single-celled organisms called diatoms, with ripples of added energy potentially moving up the food web. But, Smith warns, the drop in ice cover will negatively affect several other important species that are ice-dependent, including crystal krill and Antarctic silverfish. A decrease in krill would be particularly troublesome, as these are the major food source for the Ross Sea’s top predators — minke whales, Adélie and Emperor penguins, and crabeater seals.

Overall, says Smith, “our results suggest that phytoplankton production will increase and become more diatomaceous. Other components of the Ross Sea food web will likely be severely disrupted, creating significant but unpredictable impacts on the ocean’s most pristine ecosystem.”

….> full story


Walker O. Smith, Michael S. Dinniman, Eileen E. Hofmann, John M. Klinck. The effects of changing winds and temperatures on the oceanography of the Ross Sea in the 21stcentury. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL059311


Climate change: No warming hiatus for extreme hot temperatures
(February 26, 2014) — While there are claims that there has been a hiatus in global average temperatures, no such hiatus has occurred at the extreme end of the temperature spectrum. New research shows extremely hot temperatures over land have dramatically and unequivocally increased in number and area despite claims that the rise in global average temperatures has slowed over the past 10 to 20 years. … “It quickly became clear, the ‘hiatus’ in global average temperatures did not stop the rise in the number, intensity and area of extremely hot days,” said one of the paper’s authors, Dr Lisa Alexander. “Our research has found a steep upward tendency in the temperatures and number of extremely hot days over land and the area they impact, despite the complete absence of a strong El Niño since 1998.” The researchers examined the extreme end of the temperature spectrum because this is where global warming impacts are expected to occur first and are most clearly felt. As Australians saw this summer and the last, extreme temperatures in inhabited areas have powerful impacts on our society.

The observations also showed that extremely hot events are now affecting, on average, more than twice the area when compared to similar events 30 years ago….”It is important when we take global warming into account, that we use measures that are useful in determining the impacts on our society,” said Professor Sonia Seneviratne from ETH Zurich, who led the study while on sabbatical at the ARC Centre. “Global average temperatures are a useful measurement for researchers but it is at the extremes where we will most likely find those impacts that directly affect all of our lives. Clearly, we are seeing more heat extremes over land more often as a result of enhanced greenhouse gas warming.”…> full story


Sonia I. Seneviratne, Markus G. Donat, Brigitte Mueller, Lisa V. Alexander. No pause in the increase of hot temperature extremes. Nature Climate Change, 2014; 4 (3): 161 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2145


Nature Stunner: As Climate Change Speeds Up, The Number Of Extremely Hot Days Is Soaring

By Joe Romm on February 26, 2014

The number of very hot days have soared in the past 15 years, a new study finds. Based on observations, the authors conclude that “the term pause, as applied to the recent evolution of global annual mean temperatures, is ill-chosen and even misleading in the context of climate change.”



Where have all the codfish gone? Research suggests food source loss has contributed
(February 26, 2014)
— The mega-decline in cod and other fisheries across the North Atlantic Ocean threatens the livelihood of fishermen and communities in New England and Atlantic Canada. One suspect in the disappearance of cod and other groundfish is the food source for their young: a planktonic copepod crustacean. The first transcriptome for the key North Atlantic copepod Calanus finmarchicus has been published; scientists will use it to decode the genetic instructions that are resulting in population changes. …
For this and other reasons, Petra Lenz and Andrew Christie are among the scientists at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa working to understand how copepods are responding to global climate change, including to increases in water temperature, altered ocean currents, and ocean acidification. Because of the copepod’s small size and its vast ocean habitat, it is a poor subject for conventional physiological studies. New molecular techniques have opened doors for an alternative approach. Known as transcriptomics, this technique makes a catalog of all the messages (“transcripts”) produced by the cells that control the animal’s physiology. With this tool, biologists are now able to listen in on the instructions being sent out to direct an organism’s response to its changing environment. With respect to copepods, the challenge is to identify and understand each message, in order to track down the causes of population changes….This publication provides the first publicly accessible, large-scale molecular resource for investigating the physiological ecology ofCalanus. Highlights of this study include:

  1. The observation that a large percentage of genes are not in play at any particular time while a young copepod matures;
  2. The discovery of specific messages being sent out as individuals prepare to enter a critical dormant phase in their annual population cycle; and
  3. The discovery of a number of previously unknown genes, suggesting a more complex biology than that of related animals like the fruit fly and water flea, which are used extensively for biomedical and ecotoxicologial research.

With the Calanus transcriptome in hand, scientist now have a tool to better understand how copepods adapt, and may be better able to predict when and where population changes will occur for this planktonic crustacean on which many fisheries depend…..full story


Petra H. Lenz, Vittoria Roncalli, R. Patrick Hassett, Le-Shin Wu, Matthew C. Cieslak, Daniel K. Hartline, Andrew E. Christie. De Novo Assembly of a Transcriptome for Calanus finmarchicus (Crustacea, Copepoda) – The Dominant Zooplankter of the North Atlantic Ocean. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (2): e88589 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088589


Acidic Waters Kill 10 Million Scallops Off Vancouver

By Kiley Kroh on February 26, 2014 at 11:16 am Think Progress

A worker harvests oysters for Taylor Shellfish in Washington, another company grappling with the effects of ocean acidification.  CREDIT: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File

A mass die-off of scallops near Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island is being linked to the increasingly acidic waters that are threatening marine life and aquatic industries along the West Coast. Rob Saunders, CEO of Island Scallops, estimates his company has lost three years worth of scallops and $10 million dollars — forcing him to lay off approximately one-third of his staff. “I’m not sure we are going to stay alive and I’m not sure the oyster industry is going to stay alive,” Saunders told The Parksville Qualicum Beach NEWS. “It’s that dramatic.” Ocean acidification, often referred to as global warming’s “evil twin,” threatens to upend the delicate balance of marine life across the globe. As we pump increasing amounts of carbon pollution into the atmosphere, it’s not just wreaking havoc on air quality. The oceans are the world’s largest carbon sinks, absorbing one-quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted every year. The more carbon dioxide absorbed, the more acidic the water becomes and as a result, organisms like shellfish no longer have the calcium carbonate they need to build their shells…..


IPCC: Climate Impacts ‘Are Very Evident, They’re Widespread’ And ‘We Are Not Prepared’

By Joe Romm on February 25, 2014

The next IPCC report due in March from the world’s top scientists is on impacts, and it isn’t pretty. One summary of a leaked draft of the report noted man-made climate change is likely to worsen “starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease.”….


Scientists blend synthetic air to measure climate change
(February 26, 2014) — Scientists have produced a synthetic air reference standard which can be used to accurately measure levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. This will greatly help scientists contribute to our understanding of climate change. … > full story

Cyclones and frost: Two climate change myths debunked
(February 25, 2014) — Scientists have debunked two big myths around climate change by proving firstly, that despite predictions, tropical storms are not increasing in number. However, they are shifting, and South Africa could be at increased risk of being directly impacted by tropical cyclones within the next 40 years. Secondly, while global warming is causing frost to be less severe, late season frost is not receding as quickly as flowering is advancing, resulting in increased frost risk which will likely begin to threaten food security. … > full story

Offshore wind farms could tame hurricanes before they reach land
(February 26, 2014) — Computer simulations have shown that offshore wind farms with thousands of wind turbines could have sapped the power of three real-life hurricanes, significantly decreasing their winds and accompanying storm surge, and possibly preventing billions of dollars in damages. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, the computer model revealed that an array of 78,000 wind turbines off the coast of New Orleans would have significantly weakened the hurricane well before it made landfall. … > full story


National Academy Of Sciences Delivers Highly Readable Climate Change Warning

By Joe Romm on February 27, 2014 at 4:11 pm

So you’ve been wondering what to recommend to your open-minded friends who want a readable but authoritative introduction to climate change, one which answers their key questions. Look no further! The US National Academy of Sciences and the U.K. Royal Society have achieved a breakthrough in readability with their new report, “Climate Change: Evidence & Causes.” Group reports by leading climate scientists are notoriously hard to read, such as the opaque-as-squid-ink IPCC report from September. But the Academy and Society shrewdly break the mold for climate reports by starting with a Climate Change Q&A — and by beginning each answer with a short, non-technical response….


Climate change puts wheat crops at risk of disease
(February 26, 2014) — There is a risk that severity of epidemics of some wheat diseases may increase within the next ten to twenty years due to the impacts of climate change according to a study by international researchers. The researchers carried out a survey in China to establish a link between weather and the severity of epidemics of fusarium ear blight on the wheat crops. This weather-based model was then used to predict the impact on severity of the disease of future weather scenarios for the period from 2020 to 2050. … > full story


Did five years of drought lead to two years of revolution in Syria?
(February 26, 2014) — Negotiators in Geneva might not have brought the conflict in Syria to an end last week, but new research explains how the 2006–10 drought contributed to its start. … > full story


Climate change causes high but predictable extinction risks

February 26, 2014 Science Daily











Ornate Box Turtle and Massasauga are among the species in a study that focused on the predictability of species extinction risks due to climate change.

Judging the effects of climate change on extinction may be easier than previously thought, according to a paper entitled, “Life history and spatial traits predict extinction risk due to climate change,” published today in the journal Nature Climate Change. Although widely used assessments of threatened species, such as the IUCN Red List, were not developed with the effects of climate change in mind, a study of 36 amphibian and reptile species endemic to the US has concluded that climate change may not be fundamentally different from other extinction threats in terms of identifying species in danger of extinction. The new study, funded by NASA and led by Dr. Richard Pearson of UCL Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research and formerly of the American Museum of Natural History, and by Dr. Resit Akçakaya of Stony Brook University in New York, identified factors that predispose species to high extinction risk due to climate change. By looking at pre-existing information on species of salamanders, turtles, tortoises, snakes and lizards, the team hoped to create a blueprint for judging extinction risk in other species around the world…..


Volcanoes contribute to recent global warming ‘hiatus
(February 24, 2014) — Volcanic eruptions in the early part of the 21st century have cooled the planet, according to a new study. This cooling partly offset the warming produced by greenhouse gases. … > full story


Climate Boomerang: Small Volcanoes Restraining A Much Faster Warming Planet, For Now

By Joe Romm on February 24, 2014

Surface temperatures would be warming much faster if not for various natural cooling factors, such as small volcanic eruptions since 2000. Since recent research shows surface temperatures have not slowed down, we should expect accelerated warming in the near future as some of these factors abate….


Is polar warming to blame for America’s and Britain’s bad winter weather?

The Economist

 – ‎Feb 21, 2014‎


CLIMATE change is supposed to unfold slowly, over decades. But that is not true up in the great white north, as those attending this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science were reminded in the session on climate …


Climate engineering: Minor potential, major risk of side-effects?
(February 25, 2014) — Researchers have studied with computer simulations the long-term global consequences of several ‘climate engineering’ methods. They show that all the proposed methods would either be unable to significantly reduce global warming if CO2 emissions remain high, or they could not be stopped without causing dangerous climate disruption. … > full story


Decline of bronze age ‘megacities’ linked to climate change
(February 26, 2014) — Scientists have demonstrated that an abrupt weakening of the summer monsoon affected northwest India 4,100 years ago. The resulting drought coincided with the beginning of the decline of the metropolis-building Indus Civilization, which spanned present-day Pakistan and India, suggesting that climate change could be why many of the major cities of the civilization were abandoned. … > full story


Could climate change ruin the winter sports industry? C BS NEWS

The Sochi Olympics suffered some of the most extreme weather of any Winter Games. Athletes faced fog, rain and temperatures in the 60s. Research predicts that could become the new reality at ski resorts around the world…


Why are we still debating climate change?

By Carol Costello updated 9:11 PM EST, Mon February 24, 2014

Costello: Climate change isn’t a debate


  • 97% of scientists say humans are causing climate change
  • Carol Costello: Why pretend that there’s still a debate going on?
  • Politicians, conservative organizations seek to foster denial of the reality, she says
  • Costello: Lack of trust in scientists is one reason the phony controversy continues

Editor’s note:
Carol Costello anchors the 9 to 11 a.m. ET edition of CNN’s “Newsroom” each weekday.

(CNN) — There is no debate. Climate change is real. And, yes, we are, in part, to blame. There is a 97% consensus among scientific experts that humans are causing global warming. Ninety-seven percent!

Yet some very vocal Americans continue to debate what is surely fact. The question is, why? Trust certainly plays a part. According to Gordon Gauchat, an associate professor of sociology from the University of Wisconsin, just 42% of adults in the U.S. have a great deal of confidence (PDF) in the scientific community…..





Jayme Laber, Senior Service Hydrologist at NOAA National Weather Service gave an interesting and informative presentation on our current drought situation. If interested, check out this ~20-minute excerpt from his full seminar presentation given last week… (from Maven’s Notebook)


Russian River district orders 50% mandatory cutbacks  Press Democrat

Ukiah Valley residents, businesses and farmers will be required to cut their dependence on Lake Mendocino water by half beginning next month.  The Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District board of directors Monday night unanimously adopted the 50 percent mandatory cutbacks in an effort to maintain as much water as they can in drought-plagued Lake Mendocino.


California Drought: How NASA tracks underground water levels from space

This week NASA will meet with officials from the California Department of Water Resources to talk drought.  The space agency tracks the levels of underground aquifers using satellites.  It plans to advise the state on how to keep those crucial water supplies from getting too low.  But how exactly does a satellite in space monitor something as deep underground as an aquifer?



The Search For Drinking Water In California Has Led To The Ocean

by Nate Rott NPR February 26, 2014 5:45 PM

Extreme drought conditions in California have state officials looking for alternative sources of water, including desalinated ocean water.

Richard Vogel/AP

California is getting some much needed rain this week, but more than two-thirds of the state is still in extreme drought conditions, and that has the state thinking about alternative ways of getting water.

On the coast in Carlsbad, Calif., construction workers are building what will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. When finished in early 2016, it is expected to provide up to 50 million gallons of fresh drinkable water every day. “That’s enough water for 112,000 households here in the region,” says Peter MacLaggan with Poseidon Resources, the developer of this $1 billion plant.

The process, MacLaggan explains, involves taking water from the Pacific Ocean, removing the silt, sand and “organics,” then pressurizing the water through very fine membranes. The technical name is reverse osmosis. And the result? “Every 2 gallons of seawater that goes in, 1 gallon of high-quality drinking water comes out,” he says. And MacLaggan says the best part is it’s droughtproof.

“It’s droughtproof because it’s not dependent on snowpack in the Sierras, it’s not dependent on rainfall here in San Diego,” he says. “You’re getting water from the Pacific Ocean.”


The word “droughtproof” carries a lot of weight in California. That snowpack in the Sierra Nevada he’s talking about is still less than half of what it should be for this time of year. Farmers, environmentalists and cities like nearby San Diego have been fighting over what little water there is.

“San Diego currently imports about 70 percent of its water,” says Bob Yamada, the water resources manager at the San Diego County Water Authority. Yamada says that’s why the authority has agreed to buy water from the Carlsbad plant when it’s finished — even though it costs twice as much as the water imported from Northern California and the Colorado River. It’s expensive “but it does provide you with the highest reliability,” Yamada says. And he says people are willing to pay more for reliability. He also thinks that the difference in price between imported water and desalinated will shrink as more and more people vie for less and less water from rainfall and snowpack.

Desalination costs more because it takes a lot of energy to suck 100 million gallons of ocean water into a plant and pressurize it through little tubes. And that’s where the opposition comes in.

“Well, on a macro level, we just think that there are less expensive, less environmentally damaging ways to increase our water supply,” says Rick Wilson with Surfrider Foundation. The nonprofit environmental group opposes the Carlsbad project. One reason, Wilson says, is that all of that energy use will contribute to global warming. More directly, he says, the intake pipe for the plant will suck in sea life, killing marine animals. “And there’s also the concern in some cases about the discharge from these plants,” he says. Discharge is the extra salty leftover water that’s pumped back into the ocean. Those concerns have stalled plans for another desalination site farther up the coast, in Huntington Beach. Carlsbad though, has met all of the state’s requirements. Still, Wilson says, money would be better spent on conservation and water recycling efforts.

Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, says the district has invested in conservation and recycling, and it has helped, but the region still needs more water to meet demand. That’s always been the case in arid California, but it’s even more so now. “There are two things that are changing the landscape for us,” he says. “One is we’ve grown a lot. We’re doing water for nearly 40 million people statewide. The second thing that really changed is climate change. It’s real. And it’s stressing our system in new ways.”

Kightlinger says that means Californians have less time and flexibility to debate different ways of getting water, storing it and moving it to areas where it’s needed. “We don’t have time to rehash the same debates over and over and over again. We’re going to have to start investing in things for the future,” Kightlinger says. He says desalination helps, but it’s not a cure-all. It’s expensive, it does take a lot of energy and it can treat only so much water at a time. His agency gets about 30 percent of its water from Northern California through the State Water Project. “To replace that supply would require a Carlsbad plant every 4 miles between LA and San Diego,” he says. That would be 25 plants in that stretch. Statewide, 17 desalination plants are in some stage of planning on the California coast.





Review opens door to assessing oil reserves in Atlantic
Feb 27 2014

The Obama administration laid out a framework on Thursday for assessing the amount of crude off the Atlantic coast, another step toward possibly allowing oil production in an area that has been out of reach for decades…..


Bipartisan Energy Efficiency Bill Gains More Support — Could Congress Pass It?

By Emily Atkin on February 28, 2014

The original premise of Shaheen-Portman was simple: create a new energy-saving standards for buildings and homes, and do it in a way that both parties can agree with.


Colorado Becomes The First State To Regulate Methane Emissions From Fracking

By Kiley Kroh on February 24, 2014

As fracking booms in Colorado, historic new rules will attempt to curb the air pollution it creates.


U.S. Falling Behind As Other Countries Pass Climate Legislation, New Survey Shows

By Rebecca Lefton, Guest Blogger on February 27, 2014

Out of 66 countries representing 88 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, 61 have legislation aimed at cutting carbon pollution and promoting clean energy sources, according to an annual audit released Thursday.



Drought: Feds cut water to Central Valley farmers to zero

Kurtis Alexander Updated 6:39 am, Saturday, February 22, 2014

A sign is seen at an intersection near Cantua Creek, California in this February 14, 2014 file photo.The worsening drought in California will for the first time force a complete cutoff of federally supplied irrigation water to most farm districts in the state’s Central Valley heartland this year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said on February 21, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files

Central Valley farmers took a crippling blow Friday when U.S. officials made the unprecedented announcement that they would get no irrigation water from the federal government this year because of the drought. But growers in a region with the country’s most productive soil said the loss of one of their chief water supplies won’t be their problem alone: Consumers will be hit hard in the form of higher prices at the produce market….


California Legislature sends drought relief package to Gov. Brown

The $687.4-million emergency drought relief package would free up California’s water supplies and aid residents facing hardship due to the drought.


By Melanie Mason and Patrick McGreevy LA TIMES February 27, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — A $687.4-million emergency drought relief package is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown‘s desk after easily clearing the Legislature on Thursday.

Brown and legislative leaders unveiled the proposal last week to free up the state’s water supplies and aid residents who face hardship due to the drought.

“Today we provide significant relief,” state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said in a floor speech. “This is a lot of money and will help thousands of California families dealing with the drought.” Although recent storms have offered slight relief, the state has been suffering from dramatically parched conditions. Last year was the driest calendar year on record in California.

The proposal would direct $15 million to address water scarcity. The state Department of Public Health last week identified 10 rural areas at risk of acute drinking water shortages due to the drought…..



California ocean salmon season looks promising

Sacramento River fall Chinook abundance forecast is large

by Dan Bacher Feb 27 2014
In spite of the record drought, the forecast for recreational and commercial salmon fishing year on the California coast from Horse Mountain in Humboldt County to below Monterey looks relatively good, according to data released at a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) meeting in Santa Rosa on Wednesday. The majority of the fish caught in this region are Sacramento River fall-run Chinook salmon stocks, the driver of West Coast salmon fisheries. The ocean abundance forecast is 634,650 Chinook salmon, less than last year’s forecast of 865,525, but still a promising number. “The abundance forecast is large,” said Michael O’Farrell of the National Marine Fisheries Service. “Our preliminary prediction is 328,567 spawners that would return to the Sacramento River and tributaries if the 2013 regulations were in place this year.” .. Based on the preliminary data released on Wednesday and other scientific information, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) will craft three options for ocean salmon seasons in its upcoming meeting at the Double Tree Hotel in Sacramento March 7-13. The Council will then make a final decision on the seasons at its April meeting. For more information, go to:….


Source: Investigators think Rancho Feeding sold beef from cows with cancer

By JEREMY HAY THE PRESS DEMOCRAT February 26, 2014, 3:00 AM

A criminal investigation into Rancho Feeding Corporation is examining allegations the Petaluma plant slaughtered cows with cancer and illegally sold the carcasses as healthy meat, according to a source with knowledge of the probe.”Basically, Rancho had figured out a way to sell meat for profit that they would otherwise have had to destroy,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity….The slaughterhouse, which closed Feb. 9, is at the center of an international recall of all beef and veal produced at the plant in 2013, some 8.7 million pounds of meat. No illnesses linked to the meat have been reported. The company is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the USDA’s inspector general and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The USDA has said the plant is under investigation for “intermittent circumvention” of the inspection process, which involves repeated examinations of the animal from the time it leaves the truck at the slaughterhouse through its death and processing. The scheme described by the source would have had to completely bypass the inspection process or else involve the USDA veterinarian or inspector assigned to the slaughterhouse, a former USDA supervising veterinarian said…..The recall has ensnared tens of thousands of pounds of meat belonging to custom beef ranchers whose cattle were slaughtered at Rancho separately from the dairy cows that Rancho bought, killed and sold under its own brand. On Wednesday evening, Amaral’s attorney called on the USDA to release meat that Rancho processed for Bolinas rancher Bill Niman and other custom beef producers who hired the Petaluma company to slaughter their cattle. Niman has more than $300,000 worth of frozen beef slaughtered at Rancho that his BN Ranch cannot sell because of the recall. “None of Bill Niman’s cows, or the meat from other local custom beef ranchers, were in any way tainted, diseased or uninspected. The records and documentation obtained by federal investigators support this fact,” attorney Jeffrey Bornstein said in a statement….

The USDA has been silent on most matters related to the recall and investigation. That has frustrated North Coast legislators trying to help Niman and other ranchers prove their beef was properly inspected, fully healthy and not mingled with diseased meat. “If we could just get some facts from USDA I think these producers could demonstrate that. But the problem is USDA has put out this sweeping recall and won’t tell anyone what happened,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who was briefed Monday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The secretary felt that he was unable to share specifics with us because of the pending investigation,” Huffman said. “I get no facts beyond what was already reported in the media.” “They have been pretty tight-lipped on anything,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, who was on the telephone briefing with Vilsack.





U.S. Approves Two Huge Solar Projects On Public Lands In California

By Emily Atkin on February 21, 2014

Before President Obama’s election in 2008, there had been no solar projects approved on public lands. With these two approvals, there are now 50….


Seismic Airgun Blasts Would Harm Ocean Wildlife, Find Little Atlantic Oil

By Ari Phillips on February 28, 2014

On Thursday the Interior Department set the stage for controversial seismic tests to locate fossil fuels off the Atlantic coast. If found, the region will be subject to similar risks as 2010’s Deepwater Horizon disaster.


Still-fresh remnants of Exxon Valdez oil 25 years after oil spill, found protected by boulders
(February 26, 2014) — Twenty-five years after the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, beaches on the Alaska Peninsula hundreds of kilometers from the incident still harbor small hidden pockets of surprisingly unchanged oil, according to new research. … > full story

Sugarcane converted to cold-tolerant, oil-producing crop
(February 24, 2014) — A multi-institutional team reports that it can increase sugarcane’s geographic range, boost its photosynthetic rate by 30 percent and turn it into an oil-producing crop for biodiesel production. … > full story

Tesla sees electric future outside the automobile

David R. Baker SF Chronicle Updated 5:21 am, Friday, February 28, 2014

Tesla Motors’ voracious appetite for growth reaches beyond cars. The upstart automaker also wants to build batteries capable of powering homes or businesses, an emerging market that could even surpass Tesla’s core business making high-end electric sedans. Tesla recently disclosed plans for a $5 billion “Gigafactory” to make advanced batteries for its next generation of cars. But the Palo Alto firm also said it will use some of the lithium-ion batteries for “stationary storage applications,” according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. “We also plan to start selling (batteries) for use in homes, commercial sites and utilities,” the company said in the filing. “The applications for these battery systems include backup power, peak demand reduction, demand response and wholesale electric market services.” CEO Elon Musk touts Tesla’s battery pack technology, developed with help from Panasonic, as the best in the business. Speaking Thursday at a public forum in San Francisco, Musk said Tesla has been developing battery packs for homes, where they can be paired with rooftop solar panels to store electricity during the day for use at night. Combining cheap, reliable and compact storage with aesthetically pleasing panels, he said, could be a game-changer for the solar industry….









Climate-Smart Conservation  NWF/NCTC ALC3195 

March 4-6, 2014 Sacramento State University – Modoc Hall. Sacramento, CA 3 days /no tuition for this class.

The target audience includes conservation practitioners and natural resource managers working at multiple scales to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of their work in an era of climate change. This course is based on a forthcoming guide to the principles and practice of Climate-Smart Conservation. This publication is the product of an expert workgroup on climate change adaptation convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the FWS’s National Conservation Training Center and other partners (see sidebar).  …Register online at . In partnership with staff from National Wildlife Federation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, EcoAdapt, Geos Institute, and Point Blue Conservation Science.

Contact for Registration Questions: Jill DelVecchio at 304/876-7424 or  

Contact for Content Questions: Christy Coghlan at 304/876-7438 or


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


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:


Cartographic Design for Geographic Information Systems (GIS)March 14-15, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Center for Integrated Spatial Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz– The Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program

Registration fee: $500 Teacher: Tim Norris, Cartography Consultant, PhD Candidate



North (SF) 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



Stanford experts from a range of disciplines will discuss the interconnections and interactions among humanity’s need for and use of climate, energy, food, water, and environmental resources…..


Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop

April 22-24, 2014 Yosemite Valley, CA

This workshop is focused on developing an integrated view of the physical landscape, climate effects, hydrology and fire regimes of the Sierra Nevada.


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

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


Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.


Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development (in DC)

29 – 30 MAY 2014 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA


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


California Adaptation Forum 
August 18-20, 2014

This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference.  To register go to:





‘Water 4.0,’ by David Sedlak

Kate Galbraith SF Chronicle Book Review Updated 5:08 pm, Friday, February 21, 2014

Water 4.0 The Past, Present, and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource

By David Sedlak

(Yale University Press; 332 pages; $28.50)

With the turn of a tap, clean water flows out. With the flush of a toilet, waste travels to a plant for treatment. It all seems so simple and obvious.

And yet, as UC Berkeley Professor David Sedlak explains in his fact-packed new book, “Water 4.0,” such conveniences are really a marvel of engineering, built on centuries of trial and (often) error. More improvements are urgently needed as new challenges like climate change loom. So Sedlak’s effort to engage the public on this oft-neglected subject is welcome.

Sedlak’s focus is city water systems, and he begins with the ancient Romans. They built an impressive aqueduct network, albeit capped off with lead pipes and fountains, to support Rome’s growing population. Subsequent centuries brought efforts to solve the overlapping problems of waste removal and drinking-water quality – challenges made more urgent amid outbreaks of diseases like cholera and typhoid.


‘The Sixth
Extinction,’ by Elizabeth Kolbert – San Francisco

San Francisco Chronicle Review by Mary Ellen Hannibal Updated 5:03 pm, Friday, February 7, 2014.

“There is grandeur in this view of life,” concludes Charles Darwin in his opus “On the Origin of Species.” “… From so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” Darwin was right about many things, including the mechanism by which the plenitude of life we know as biodiversity came to thrive on this planet. Unfortunately for us, his picture of a continuously rich congregation of interacting species has hit a big roadblock.  ….. In the West, the lack of big teeth on the landscape actually has an impact on the water system, since the over-browsing deer and elk erode the banks of creeks and rivers, and pave the way for invasive plants to further degrade nature’s operations there.  Finally, while there is probably no hope for many of the Earth’s creatures no matter what we do right now, we certainly can stem this extinction crisis. With any hope, Kolbert’s readers will not be able to sleep until we all do our part to protect habitat for our co-travelers through what Darwin rightly called Earth’s grandeur. As climate change forces species to adjust how and where they live, we can help them by protecting enough natural places for them to do so.


Mary Ellen Hannibal is the author of “The Spine of the Continent: The Race to Save America’s Last, Best Wilderness,” and winner of Stanford’s Knight-Risser Prize in Western Environmental Journalism. E-mail:



Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic

Environmental Philosopher Baird Callicott has recently published a new book entitled Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic, now available from Oxford University Press. In this book, Callicott develops a new moral philosophy that is capable of engaging the most urgent and otherwise intractable ethical concern of the first century of the new millennium: global climate change. He updates and expands Aldo Leopold’s land ethic to make it relevant to contemporary concerns with regard to climate change.











Ancient ‘great leap forward’ for life in the open ocean: Cyanobacteria sheds light on how complex life evolved on earth
(February 27, 2014) — Plankton in the Earth’s oceans received a huge boost when microorganisms capable of creating soluble nitrogen ‘fertilizer’ directly from the atmosphere diversified and spread throughout the open ocean. This event occurred at around 800 million years ago and it changed forever how carbon was cycled in the ocean. … > full story

Byproducts of bacteria-causing gum disease incite oral cancer growth, study shows
(February 25, 2014) — Researchers have discovered how byproducts in the form of small fatty acids from two bacteria prevalent in gum disease incite the growth of deadly Kaposi’s sarcoma-related lesions and tumors in the mouth. High levels of these bacteria are found in the saliva of people with periodontal disease, and at lower levels in those with good oral health — further evidence of the link between oral and overall physical health. The discovery could lead to early saliva testing for the bacteria, which, if found, could be treated and monitored for signs of cancer and before it develops into a malignancy, the researchers say. … > full story

Different eggs in adolescent girls, adult women
(February 26, 2014) — Are the eggs produced by adolescent girls the same as the ones produced by adult women? A recent study shows compelling evidence that there are two completely distinct types of eggs in the mammalian ovary — ‘the first wave’ and ‘the adult wave.’ The first wave of eggs, which starts immediately after birth, contributes to the onset of puberty and provides fertilizable eggs into the transition from adolescence to adulthood. In contrast, the adult wave remains in a state of dormancy until activated during the adult life and then provides eggs throughout the entire reproductive lifespan. … > full story



Bird’s-eye view

Lynne Parks explores loss of migratory songbirds in BMA exhibit


Water filter from the sapwood in pine tree branches
(February 26, 2014) — If you’ve run out of drinking water during a lakeside camping trip, there’s a simple solution: Break off a branch from the nearest pine tree, peel away the bark, and slowly pour lake water through the stick. The improvised filter should trap any bacteria, producing fresh, uncontaminated water. In fact, scientists have discovered that this low-tech filtration system can produce up to four liters of drinking water a day — enough to quench the thirst of a typical person. The researchers demonstrate that a small piece of sapwood can filter out more than 99 percent of the bacteria E. coli from water. … > full story


Why dark chocolate is good for your heart
(February 27, 2014) — It might seem too good to be true, but dark chocolate is good for you and scientists now know why. Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis. What’s more, the scientists also found that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect. … > full story










CA BLM WILDLIFE TRIVIA answer and related websites

Gray whales feed on which of the following?

(c) small crustaceans and tube worms found in ocean sediments.

SOURCE: Gray Whale Fact Sheet
(American Cetacian Society Webpage)

RELATED: Gray Whale Population Studies
(NOAA Website)

RELATED: National Marine Sancutuary Foundation
(Facebook Page)
Great blog post on national marine sanctuaries from our friends at the National Aquarium!



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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