Monthly Archives: June 2007

Tangled Bank – Back to the Future

The latest edition (#82) of the Tangled Bank, that venerable blog carnival, is now up in the form of a most excellent temporal travelogue by a Derwin Darwin II, alleged nephew of Charles Darwin, describing encounters from the “Blogos Fear” of a whole bunch of things evolutionary in the year 2007!

Hats off to Greg Laden for so lovingly rendering this edition of the Tangled Bank in the venerated genre of victorian travel writing. Back to the Future, indeed.

Is the SREL’s fate sealed now?

Looks that way according to breaking news this weekend. Here’s an excerpt from this latest action alert, although I’m not sure how much is actionable at this point:

The future of SREL is uncertain no longer. In a 15 June 2007 letter from UGA President Adams to DOE Secretary Bodman, Adams has committed to closing SREL within about one year. Approximately 40 SREL employees will be terminated effective 30 June. Six UGA-tenured faculty will have their appointments transferred to the Athens campus. The few employees who remain at SREL will work toward completing outstanding commitments on the Lab’s 40+ active external grants, and then will close the facility.

Adams’ letter states that SREL employees have been notified about the terminations, but in fact NO SREL personnel have received any information about whether they are included on the list of those to be terminated. It’s hard to understand how an organization can treat dedicated employees in such a manner–to have them learn that they may be losing their jobs by reading it in the newspaper. It will be Monday or later before SREL personnel know if they are to be terminated or whether their jobs will be saved for the time being.

You can read the rest of the alert and follow the links therein to see if there is any action you can / want to take.

An unusual spectator at a soccer game? Or a messenger?

Is this one of Hedwig‘s friends who got lost while carrying the post and ended up at the wrong ballgame? Maybe it was on its way to some player of another sport involving multiple balls flying about crowded stadia? It is the high season for that sport too now after all…


Looks like a Eurasian Eagle Owl, no?

[Hat tip: GrrlScientist]

More godless eloquence from PZ Myers

If you read just one thing today or this week, go read this wonderful essay on how much more awesome the Gilgamesh, the Bible, the Koran, the Gita and all your religious texts, not to mention the concept of God itself, are, if you but stop taking them literally as words of some imaginary being, rather than as wonderful expressions of entirely human awe and anguish over our existence in this strange, beautiful, indifferent universe. And please stop telling us atheists that we just don’t get it about your faith – as PZ expresses it far more eloquently than I can, we get it all right, I’d say we get it at a deeper level than many believers do.

An Ecologist in the US Senate? Could it happen?

This came via Ecolog-L a couple of days ago: Dr. Rand Knight, a Ph.D. in ecosystems analysis, member of the Ecological Society of America, and a recent postdoc at the NSF’s National Ecological Observatory Network, has just announced his candidacy for the U.S. senate seat open in the next round from Georgia!

Rand Knight, most recently a post-doctoral associate with NEON, has just announced his candidacy for the US Senate seat currently held by Saxby Chambliss from Georgia.

The Senate Office of Archives and Public Records indicates that he is the first Ph.D. in Ecology/Environmental Science to run for US Senate. Wouldn’t it be a great day when an ESA President or staff from the Public Affairs Office are on “The Hill” giving testimony before one of our own.

His campaign web site is at:

While I haven’t seen much about this in the blogosphere yet, here’s an interesting comment, especially on the potential implications of his replacing Chambliss, from’s lurking ecologist:

First, Chambliss has been the Chairman of the Agricultural, Nutrition and Forestry Committee in the Senate, and of course, he has been a disaster, ignoring forecasts of drought, global warming, etc. etc. Typical GOP SOP. Knight has a PhD in ecosystem analysis and from this standpoint, he would be one of the most qualified Senators in history to lead this committee if he were elected and then appointed the committee position. It also gives him a strong base from which to point out the failings of the current Senator. With his educational background, Knight believes in and understands the science behind the most important ecological and environmental issues of the day, and the future. Think that doesn’t matter in Georgia? Think again, as water quality decreases, sea levels rise, and wild fires and crop losses increase with greater drought severity.

Knight’s stands on issues are truly Democratic and Progressive, so he isn’t a DINO like Zell Miller was. He does not have a long career in politics, which I suppose is a blessing and a curse, but he does come from a well known GA family. Frankly, I’m tired of old men being elected to Senate anyway.

By the way, I don’t know Knight personally or even in passing. I am a professional ecologist though, and the thought of having a professional ecologist in the Senate during these times of impending environmental crisis is very appealing.

Very appealing indeed, I have to agree (and I don’t know Knight either). But how likely is it to happen? In any case, this is one race we (ecologists, environmentalists, scientists, science bloggers) should definitely keep an eye on, don’t you think?

Trapping leopards using ringtones?!

Now that might sound like another one of the craziest f#?king thing you’ve heard, but according to this article in the Houston Chronicle, some forest officials in India have apparently used ringtones of roosters and cows to trap leopards! (And don’t ask why I’m getting this from the Houston Chronicle – they picked it up as filler from the AP, I guess):

<!– –>

Ringtones used to trap leopards in India
© 2007 The Associated Press

AHMEDABAD, India — Those ubiquitous ringtones have reached the forests of western India, where leopards are answering their call.

So far six leopards that have strayed too close to villages have been lured into traps by ringtones playing the calls of roosters, goats and cows, said H.S. Singh, chief conservation research officer in the state of Gujarat.

“Now instead of using live bait, sounds of animals have been downloaded as ringtones on mobiles, which are attached to speakers kept behind cages and then played at regular intervals,” Singh said Tuesday.

“The leopard drawn by the sound is an unsuspecting victim,” Singh said, adding that the trick only worked at night.

All the leopards were later released unharmed in forests away from the villages, Singh said.

Thousands of leopards roam the Indian countryside, but continued loss of habitat has forced them into more frequent contact with villagers, resulting in the deaths of both humans and leopards.

Like me, you might be wondering why they didn’t use straighforward playback of these sounds with a boombox or something (as I did when I was trapping warblers in India some years ago)? I’m hoping someone on Nathistory-India (where I picked up this story) will shed some further light on this.

No silent spring, this, for Rachel Carson

Why, even the newspaper of record has joined the wingnuts in dissing Rachel Carson’s work during this, the week of her birth centenary. I hadn’t seen the New York Times in a couple of weeks, having been home, without access to the free copies on campus (I don’t subscribe at home, and am even less persuaded to give them any money now). Well, I was back on campus yesterday, and it being tuesday, picked up the rag, turning eagerly to the Science Times section, looking for something good from Carl Zimmer. Instead, what hit the eyeball squarely and painfully was this hatchet-job on Carson’s legacy by one Jon Tierney, who proudly proclaims (in the “about” section of his blog) that he “always wanted to be a scientist but went into journalism because its peer-review process was a great deal easier to sneak through”! And boy, does he ever live up to that aspiration to sneak bogus claims past his readers with the diatribe against Carson! Fortunately, it appears that many of his readers are not willing to swallow his bullshit, going by the bulk of the comments on his blog (pompously labeled TierneyLab) where he backtracked just a wee bit by adding some qualifiers to his print article. I won’t hold my breath, however, for him to actually acknowledge his falsehoods, nor him/NYT to publish any retraction to the print version. I didn’t have the energy to start rebutting Tierney’s claims last night – and now am saved the effort thanks to Tim Lambert’s excellent takedown of the article at Deltoid, and Merrill Goozner’s article on Carson bashing and the campaign to boost DDT which the NYT has become a part of.

For more on the smear campaign against Carson, read this and this from Deltoid, and follow the money trail with Raw Story.