Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Afforestation in the Fight Against Climate Change

In Thursday of week 6 (I know, a little late), the Carboniferous Period was mentioned in class as the period in which plants started to increasingly dominate the landscape. The presence of so many photosynthesizing organisms completely changed the atmosphere, converting the harmful CO2 to breathable oxygen. This got me thinking: the pre-Carboniferous Earth had a lot of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is a growing concern for us today. If the plants could take up all this CO2 during the Carboniferous Period, couldn't they do the same for our atmosphere today?

I decided to do some further research on this possible solution (dare I say?) to all the CO2 in our atmosphere. In my research, I stumbled upon this article about a study done to determine exactly what I had pondered. And, the article has a link to the original paper! How exciting, I don't think it gets much better than this:


I think afforestation seems like a pretty good idea, for environmental as well as aesthetic reasons. Thoughts?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Larch repeat

It is a sad indication of the state of education these days when students are not grounded in the fundamentals of Monty Python.

Season 1, episode 3 from 1969: How to Recognise Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away.

And what a great episode this is too, not only the Larch but Cardinal Richelieu, Superman's alter-ego Bicycle Repair man and nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

The larch re-appears in the closing sequence although I do feel compelled to point out that doesn't look like a larch trunk, I think its a birch - almost all the other trees around it are clearly silver birch. And look at all those wonderful ferns. Just look at them!

Spatial Ecology of Top Marine Predators

Monday, February 24th at 4pm in the MSRB auditorium.

Using the Spatial Ecology of Top Marine Predators to Effectively Inform Management of Marine Resources 

Dr. Sara Maxwell Postdoctoral Scholar, Stanford University, Hopkins Marine Station

 My research focuses on the development of science-based solutions to conservation and management issues in the ocean. My expertise is in the application of spatial tools, such as satellite tracking and oceanographic modeling. I use these tools to understanding the distribution of large marine predators, how these predators interact with ocean processes, and how this knowledge can be applied to managing predator populations, human activities and ocean resources. Through my research, I aim to fulfill three goals: (1) conduct innovative science that is applied to conservation and management issues, (2) build knowledge and capacity in underdeveloped regions of the world, and (3) use research as tool for teaching and engaging students. As a Postdoctoral Researcher at Stanford, my focus is on the concept of 'Dynamic Ocean Management', or management that explicitly incorporates the changing nature of the marine environment, and that integrates management across multiple objectives such as species conservation and minimizing socioeconomic effects.

 Select publications: Maxwell, S. M., E. L. Hazen, S. J. Bograd, B. S. Halpern, et al. (2013) Cumulative human impacts on marine predators. Nature Communications 4. Maxwell, S. M. and L. E. Morgan (2013) Facilitated foraging of seabirds on pelagic fishes: implications for management of pelagic marine protected areas. Marine Ecology Progress Series 481:289-303.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Visit to CCBER on Thursday

Don't forget that on Thursday  we will visit the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration. You can find information and directions at their website. We will meet there at 11.00 am and you should allow 5 minutes to cycle or 10-15 minutes if you are walking over there - although that is naturally dependent on where you are walking from......

Here's a map showing the bike route from CCS (click for a larger version). As someone pointed out you don't have to cycle this way...

We will meet just inside the entrance in the classroom on the left.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Some Nerdy Valentines

I'm not the biggest fan of Valentine's day, but if you are and have that special someone who wouldn't be offended by being called a parasite, these are pretty awesome.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

If you are interested in algae….

--> There are some great resources available to help you identify the dominant species of algae in our local intertidal and subtidal habitats around campus.
The Field Guide to Kelp Forest of the Santa Barbara Channel was prepared by the Santa Barbara Coastal Long Term Ecological Research Program and is available for free download here.  

The Algae Field Guide of Santa Barbara was written by UCSB students Mary-Sophia Motlow and Alyssa Hall and is available for purchase from UCSB’s Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration.   More info here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

After our talk on the theory of speciation in the Amazon due to past glacial fluctuations, I was thinking about what kind of forcing current climate change may cause in terms of speciation. This article covers a few of examples of species that are being forced to change how they interact with their environment. Do you think these environmental changes could cause speciation? Maybe a pregnant polar bear will be taken on a floating ice cap to Hawaii!
^A foraging Pika. Some Pika populations have been observed migrating south, and changing their eating habits.^

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Going back to our discussion on extremophiles, I thought I’d share some links I found after further research. This animation gave short summaries about some well-known microbes here on Earth, and speculation about some on other planets.

For example, 6 feet below the extremely dry Atacama Desert in Chile, they found microbes living in salt crystals with a slim amount of water that feed on anhydrite and perchlorate. The research team developed an instrument to find the microbes, called SOLID (Signs of Life Detector). Their goal now is to use the instrument to search for life on Mars. Here's the 2012 article in Science Daily with a more in-depth description of the discovery. 

If you’re interested in learning more, here is another more recent discovery of extremophiles in a cavern close to Tucson, Arizona.

Additionally, a side of cuteness: Who doesn’t love an adorable, indestructible microbial bear? Watch it waddle away here.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Antibiotic "Smart Bomb"

Recently scientists have developed a new antibiotic that can target certain bacteria to stop infections without killing good bacteria including gut flora. The antibiotic uses a bacteria's CRISPR-Cas system against it so that it will destroy its own DNA and commit bacterial suicide. Researchers have already tested the antibiotic on Salmonella cultures and are currently working on developing an effective method to administer the antibiotic in a clinical setting

Orchid moth video

This video always makes me think of that great Skinner quote from the Simpsons:

'There's nothing more exciting than science. You get all the fun of sitting still, being quiet, writing down numbers, paying attention. Science has it all.'