Butterflies in California

Note: This program was recorded in advance and broadcast on Tuesday, July 11.

Dr. Arthur Shapiro, Distinguished Professor of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California – Davis, has been monitoring butterfly populations across central California at two-week intervals for 45 years.  This is the longest butterfly population study in North America, and one of the two longest in the world (the other, in the UK, began almost simultaneously).

In the course of that work and related research and teaching, he has become extraordinarily knowledgeable about butterfly population dynamics, evolution, and a wide range of related subjects.  We could talk with him for hours…

Dr. Shapiro also authored the “Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions” (illustrated by Dr. Timothy Manolis, a previous Ecology Hour guest).  (Amazon link here.)  Much more than just a guide to identification, it presents a lot of information about butterflies, their life cycles and habitats, conservation, tips on gardening, and even how to raise them.

For this program, Dr. Shapiro discusses his monitoring project, some of the many findings, and its historical context.  He also updates us with specifics about the status of the Monarch butterfly in California and elsewhere, and how the use of different Milkweed species in urban gardens is affecting their life history.   We also hear about some of the myriad other butterfly species, native and alien, whose populations and ranges are changing as the California climate changes.  Some of the findings are counter-intuitive and may surprise you!

The North American Butterfly Association offers more information about butterflies, including the July 4 Butterfly Count.  Next year we will try to schedule another interview with Dr. Shapiro for June, so you can all prepare for the Count!

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Mountain Lions

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Reports of mountain lion sightings, including attacks on livestock or pets, have occasioned much commentary in the Mendocino area lately – so this is a timely topic.  Our guest, Dr. Winston Vickers, is one of the top lion researchers in this country.  He is an Associate Veterinarian and leads research under the Mountain Lion and Bobcat Project at the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center.  Much of his work is in the field, tracking the movements of individual lions, as described in this article from the Mountain Lion Foundation.

General background information about mountain lions

Free online book: Cougar, the American Lion

Articles by Dr. Vickers:

Isolation effects on genetics of Southern California mountain lions (2014)

Survival and Mortality of Pumas in a Fragmented, Urbanizing Landscape (2015)

A Single Migrant Enhances Genetic Diversity… (2017)

Pumas as a case study in conservation planning (2017)

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Environmental Oceanography

Our guest on The Ecology Hour, Dr. John Largier, is Professor of Coastal Oceanography at the University of California Davis and a pioneer in the emerging field of environmental oceanography – linking traditional oceanographic study to critical environmental issues.  His research includes field studies of small west coast estuaries, focusing on water movement and water-borne transportation of plankton, larvae, contaminants, pathogens, heat, salt, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, and sediment.

Some Mendocino County streams empty into the sea through small estuaries that are seasonally blocked by sand bars.  The Navarro River in particular often receives attention in late fall and early winter, when the lagoon behind the barrier bar can rise to flood Highway 128, prompting some to call for efforts to artificially breach the bar.  Dr. Largier’s research may help us understand how and why these bars form, how the lagoon functions ecologically, and what environmental effects could result from artificial breaching.
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(image from Nicholas Wilson, via Facebook)

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Earthquakes and Tsunamis

We change our focus this month, from biology to geology.  Our guest is Dr. Lori Dengler, Director of the Humboldt Earthquake Education Center and Emeritus Professor of Geology at Humboldt State University.  She will talk about earthquakes and the tsunamis they sometimes generate, and how they affect our coastal environment.

Dr. Dengler answered many questions about tsunamis on the NOVA “Wave That Shook the World” website.  She also co-authored a children’s book, “The Extraordinary Story of Kamome,” about a small boat from a Japanese school that was lost in the 2011 tsunami and found two years later on a Humboldt beach.

Links mentioned in Dr. Dengler’s interview:

Cal OES My Hazards page

Living on Shaky Ground preparedness magazine (Print copies of the preparedness magazines in English or Spanish or Mendocino tsunami brochures can be requested by leaving a message at: (707) 826-6199)

The story of Kamome, the tsunami boat found in Crescent City is at humboldt.edu/kamome

Tokyo National Museum talk about connections between California and Japan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8QC_6PZKGw

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Fire Ecology – another view

Last August, we had a great interview with Dr. Chad Hanson about the ecological effects of forest fires in California, challenging the dominant paradigm.  This month, we return to the topic with Dr. Dominick DellaSala, Chief Scientist of the Geos Institute and a past President of the Society for Conservation Biology.  His recent book– The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix – presents groundbreaking science on the ecological importance of large fires.

Dr. DellaSala will explain how and why forest fires – even severe fires that burn everything – are in fact creative and regenerative, vital to forest ecosystem health, and not the destructive events as usually described in popular media.  For example, Spotted Owls will shift their territories to take advantage of newly-burned areas and the increased prey abundance there – but only if the burned area is not logged.  So-called “salvage logging” “is the worst thing you can do to these forests after wildfire.”

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Snowy Plovers

The snowy plover is one of the most endangered shore birds on the West Coast.  Dr. Mark Colwell of  Humboldt State University has been studying these birds and how to bring them back from near local extinction in northern California.

Dr. Colwell has authored or co-authored a large number of papers on Snowy Plovers.  A list of his peer-reviewed publications can be found here.

The inerview is on the KZYX Jukebox for another few weeks.

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Pre-empted!

The Ecology Hour for November 8 was pre-empted for election coverage.  (And see how THAT turned out!)

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