Monthly Archives: May 2009

Waterfowl groups oppose proposed Central Valley power line routes

Isn’t it enough that the once expansive wetlands of California’s great Central Valley have already been drained, squeezed dry, filled with agricultural runoff, and put under plow and bulldozer, reducing them to less than 10% of their original area? We now have to put new power lines through them also? Why? The question is raised by several conservation groups, including some representing hunters who want to save the waterfowl so they can shoot them for recreation! (an aside for my reconciliation ecology class: Robin would have loved this, eh?) as reported in this LA Times blog:

Ducks Unlimited and the California Waterfowl Assn. are calling on members, waterfowl hunters and conservationists to voice their concern and opposition to a new power line construction proposal, stating that the suggested routes will negatively affect many of the waterfowl habitats and hunting areas in central California (for maps of area involved click here).The Transmission Agency of Northern California Transmission Project would place transmission towers and lines along approximately 600 miles, including portions of numerous wildlife refuges.

‘Ducks Unlimited and waterfowl hunters are not opposing the new energy in the region, we would just like to see wetlands and other wildlife habitat protected from the placement of power lines in these proposed routes,’ Rudy Rosen, director of Ducks Unlimited Western Regional office said.

“Ducks Unlimited and waterfowl hunters are not opposing the new energy in the region, we would just like to see wetlands and other wildlife habitat protected from the placement of power lines in these proposed routes,” Rudy Rosen, director of Ducks Unlimited Western Regional office said.

The DU website states that less than 250,000 acres of wetland remain of an area that once encompassed 3 million to 5 million acres. The proposed power lines will threaten this relatively small acreage that wintering and breeding waterfowl are dependent on.

Waterfowl experts say that large power lines impact birds, especially in foggy conditions when large waterbirds such as geese, cranes, herons and swans are killed or injured when they hit the lines.

“California’s Central Valley winters or provides migration habitat for 60% of the Pacific Flyway’s waterfowl and 20% of North America’s waterfowl population,” added Rosen. “This is not just a California issue but should be addressed by everyone in the U.S.”

The forensics of investigating meth labs at tonight’s Café Scientifique!

Tonight we — i.e., the Central Valley Café Scientifique — present what appears to be (barring some last minute surprise) the final talk of the academic year – on methamphetamine labs. Before we go on our summer hiatus, Dr. Eric Person, my colleague in the Chemistry Department here who had law enforcement experience up in the Washington area prior to joining academia, will tell us about the forensics of pursuing meth labs in answering the question “Why is it so hard to buy Sudafed?“. The Café will be at the usual time (6:30-8:30 PM) and place (Lucy’s Lair), and you can get all the details, including map and directions, at our website.

And no, we did not deliberately time this talk about meth labs just days before finals week!!

The Life and Times of Australopithecus – a colloquium @CSUF this Monday

As the semester winds down, we have a special treat on campus this Monday, when the Biology colloquium series winds down for the semester with a lecture by palaeoanthropologist Dr. Kaye Reed, of the Institute of Human Origin at Arizona State University, on “The Life and Times of Australopithecus” . This lecture is co-sponsored by the Tri-Beta Biological Honors Society and the Consortium for Evolutionary Studies at CSU-Fresno, and is part of our ongoing series celebrating Darwin Bicentennial year. Dr. Reed has been working in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa, places where some of the most important and exciting hominin fossils (such as the famous Australopithecine, Lucy seen in the reconstructed portrait here) have been discovered. Her specialization is paleoecology with a focus on reconstructing the ecological communities within which our own lineage evolved. So it should be a very exciting lecture – I hope to see you there (especially if you are taking one of my classes!)!

Spatiotemporal coordinates: Monday, May 4, 2009 @3:00PM in Room 109 of Science II building, CSU-Fresno (of course!).

Website for additional details: Darwin’s Bulldogs.

A perfect storm for viruses

According to Nathan Wolfe, a virus hunter interviewed last week in another TED Q&A, “We’ve created a perfect storm for viruses”. An excerpt:

SARS, avian flu, swine flu … what’s going on here? Why are we suddenly seeing so many more outbreaks of viruses from animals?

Viruses have always passed from humans to animals. In fact, the vast majority of human diseases have animal origins. But the human population is different from what it once was. For most of our history, we lived in geographically disparate populations. So viruses could enter from animals into humans, spread locally and go extinct. But the human population has gone through a connectivity explosion. All humans on the planet are now connected to each other spatially and temporally in a way that’s unprecedented in the history of vertebrate biology. Humans — as well as our domestic animals and wild animals we trade — move around the planet at biological warp speed. This provides new opportunities for viruses that would have gone extinct locally to have the population density fuel they need to establish themselves and spread globally.

We’ve created a “perfect storm” for viruses. And we’ll continue to see — as we have in the past few years — a whole range of new animal diseases as outbreaks in human populations. But we have to stop being surprised by them. Right now, global public health is like cardiology in the ’50s — just waiting for the heart attack, without understanding why they occur or the many ways to monitor for them, detect them early and ultimately prevent them. Swine flu is not an anomaly. We know that swine flu — like the vast majority of new outbreaks — comes from animals. We should be monitoring those animals and the humans that come into contact with them, so we can catch these viruses early, before they infect major cities and spread throughout the world.

And here’s Wolfe’s TED talk: