Category Archives: biogeography

Where on Earth are endangered species?

You can read about them in academic journals. You could go on long, arduous, adventurous journeys all over the planet with no guarantees you’ll actually see any (like I’ve done). You could get really lucky like me!! You could wait for Stephen Fry and Mark Cawardine to take you on a vicarious journey to visit the most endangered of them in the footsteps of the late Douglas Adams – depending on if and when BBC’s “Last Chance to See” ever airs in your country. You can do all of those things. Or/and, you can sit right here on your computer, and let ARKive take you on a spin around Google Earth, as featured in Google’s Outreach Showcase! You can traverse the spinning 3D globe, even dive into the oceans, looking for endangered species using ARKive’s helpful signposts, with links to images, videos, and more information in a little window right here in this very browser tab, if you have the Google Earth plugin installed. But surely you already have the Google Earth application on your computer (if not, why on earth not?! Go get version 5 with the underwater views), so why not download the ARKive KML file instead, and enjoy the ride in fullscreen glory?

And if you need someone other than me to persuade you to try this out, who better than Sir David Attenborough himself, speaking here about marine endangered species?

Guns, Germs, and Steel

– a student essay by Matthew Dodd

In this book Jared Diamond explains how people evolved at the rate that we did, and how different places in the world evolved at different times than one another. Most people wonder why Europe was the first continent that not only powered over the whole world but also had advance technology compared to most of the world. To most religious people they would assume that god created Europe that way. But Jared Diamond’s answer is so simple most people over looked it thinking it could not be the reason. What do people do when they have a lot of free time on their hands? They tend to create things and try to make life easier for themselves.

Back when most people where hunter and gatherers there was very little free time to be had because most of the village/tribe was spending all of their time trying to find food, in order to survive. The one thing that the Europeans had over the rest of the world is the geography of their location. The reason is not because the people are superior but because they where able to domesticate wheat. This also led to the domestication of sheep, goat and cows. This may seem like nothing to most people today because that is normal to today, but to the people of that time it meant a steady food source. Because of the steady food source life spans became longer and the people of Europe where able to support more people than was needed in order to produce food. This free time allowed people to invent, and create technology as we know it today.

At the same time across the world other people where not as fortunate enough to have found a crop like wheat that was easy to grow and reliable, so they kept on being hunter gatherers, out of no choice of their own. Other areas developed also for example, China and Japan. But Europe was the only region who went out and made colonies around the world.

Granted they did have to fight some people but for the most part their success was due to their superior technology, guns, and the fact that from being around animals for so long they had become immune to diseases, germs, that they had mostly forgot or did not think about. As Europeans went through new places they spread small pox to all of the people they conquered making the people of the new land even weaker and easier to conquer. The only continent that the Europeans had trouble with was Africa, because Africa was a host to a disease that the Europeans had never been introduced to before and that is Malaria. As the Europeans moved farther north into Africa they just could not seem to stay alive for very long because of Malaria. But why would the Europeans try to go out and conquer these knew places. Was it for power? Was it for more resources? Or was it and opportunity to make money by selling and trading new items? These are things not discussed in his book but I feel they are fascinating questions.

Jared Diamond took all known knowledge and pieced it together to come up with a completely original idea on how the world came to be what it is today. He did some thing that no one has ever done before when creating this book is that he thought out side the box, and by doing so he put his knowledge to work for himself in order to be able to create this book (and accompanying PBS documentary) that makes perfect sense to why people and the world are the way that we are today.

For More information on Jared Diamond and Guns, Germs, and Steel visit

Urban development and the biogeography of California’s Central Valley (CCRS abstract #1)

The effects of urban development and climate on species distribution in the San Joaquin Valley, California

S. Boyd, C. Braganza, V. Cadiz, S. Hatfield R. Kamansky, L. Miller, G. Phillips, S. Salcido, J. Soto, D. Tovar, J. Vang, & M. Katti

Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Fresno

Global climate change is expected to substantially rearrange the distribution of earth’s biodiversity, on global and regional scales. In northern California, mean annual temperatures are projected to rise by 3oC and 5°C by 2050 and 2100 respectively. Simultaneously, human population in the San Joaquin Valley is projected to nearly double by 2050, to 8 million due to urbanization. We investigate rapid urban development and climate as two predictor variables that are expected to influence the distribution of organisms in the San Joaquin Valley. We map the distribution of endemic species, which includes endangered and threatened varieties, within a GIS framework, to address how climate change and urban development will alter the regional distribution of biodiversity. We obtained the geographic ranges of several endemic species and plotted their relative abundance in the Valley. The projected climate and urban development are significant stressors to the current distribution of species. We expect species to either go extinct or to shift their ranges; California plant communities are already predicted to shift their range in response to urbanization and climate change. Further, we analyze the relative effect of urban development and climate change at the local scale; this component of our study may result in policy-level recommendations should one or both variables produce a significant stressor effect on species diversity. Currently, we are investigating change in land use from agricultural to urban as an important variable that will affect future biodiversity. Our results should propel an increased awareness of the rapidly escalating adverse anthropogenic impacts on the unique habitat heterogeneity and species richness of the Valley.

Download complete poster in PDF.

Exciting times for amateur cartographers

These are exciting times for amateur cartographers (and biogeographers like me). Right on the heels of the technique of mashing Google Spreadsheet data with Google maps, which I found and used to create the map for our BioBlitz site several days ago, what does Google do, but make mapping simpler! In case you haven’t heard, they’ve now added a new Google Maps feature: “My Maps” (where you can build your own maps mashup). With this, they’ve brought some of the features of Google Earth – the ability to add placemarks, draw lines and shapes – to the online Google Maps portal. You can thus create your own custom map – for your study site / home / favorite hiking trail / whatever – and avail yourself of the rest of the Google Maps features like overlaying your map on a satellite image. Go ahead, give it a try! See some cool examples of the kinds of things Googlers have been doing with this tool. Or check out my own far tamer work-in-progress map of Mundanthurai plateau in the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in southern India, where I spent many years chasing warblers for my Ph.D., and then helping Kaberi chase slender lorises.