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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White Rhinos and Iron

In a departure from our usual California and Pacific Coast centered programs we travel to Africa and Indonesia this month to hear about Rhinoceros Conservation.  Our guest is local scientist Donald Paglia, M.D. who will be discussing challenges of the declining populations of several species of rhinoceros, specifically his experience in diagnosing and treating iron overload.  He will tell us how this condition leads to dire consequences if not properly managed in captive rhinos. This is a fascinating scientific detective story and the solution that could help preserve captive animals, perhaps our only hope for saving some species in the face of unrelenting slaughter in the wild for their horns.

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Captive-breeding White Abalone

White Abalone once numbered in the millions off the California coast, but on  May 29, 2001, they became the first marine invertebrate listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  We talk with Dr. Kristin Aquilino of UC Davis and Dr. Melissa Neuman of NOAA, who run a captive breeding program using Aquaculture techniques at the University of California- Davis Bodega Marine Lab.  Their goal is to produce captive-bred animals that will be used to establish a self-sustaining white abalone population in the wild.  Turns out, it’s not that easy!

Video about White Abalone: Delicacy of the Deep

Video overview of the Captive Breeding Program  (more sciencey)

(This interview was recorded on August 22 and broadcast on Tuesday September 13, 2016.)

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