Thursday, December 22, 2005

Happy Holidays!

The grad school application went into the mail yesterday. Letters of recommendation, hopefully shiny ones, are meandering their way through the postal system. Transcripts, too.

We're on our way to California for the holidays. Make 'em happy ones, people - See you around the 28th.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Big Brother

Are you an environmentalist? An animal rights activist? Vegan? Catholic?

You might want to read today's NY Times article F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show.

"It's clear that this administration has engaged every possible agency, from the Pentagon to N.S.A. to the F.B.I., to engage in spying on Americans," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director for the A.C.L.U.

"You look at these documents," Ms. Beeson said, "and you think, wow, we have really returned to the days of J. Edgar Hoover, when you see in F.B.I. files that they're talking about a group like the Catholic Workers league as having a communist ideology."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

What Do We Want? Zero Extinction! When Do We Want It? Now!

The Alliance for Zero Extinction has identified 595 key sites that are the last remaining habitat for one or more species listed as "Endangered" or "Critically Endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

To qualify, a site must meet all of 3 criteria (from the AZE report):

1. Endangerment. An AZE site must contain at least one Endangered (EN) or Critically Endangered (CR)species, as listed on the IUCN Red List.

2. Irreplaceability. An AZE site should only be designated if it is the sole area where an EN or CR species occurs, contains the overwhelmingly significant known resident population of the EN or CR species, or contains the overwhelmingly significant known population for one life history segment (e.g. breeding or wintering) of the EN or CR species.

3. Discreteness. The area must have a definable boundary within which the character of habitats, biological communities, and/or management issues have more in common with each other than they do with those in adjacent areas.

The AZE has a time-sensitive approach to biodiversity:

The purpose of the Alliance is to identify sites in most urgent need of conservation, and to act together to prevent species extinctions. Because time is running out for many important sites, our science must be iterative: it must begin with the crises we know about, and expand its focus as new information emerges on the status of species and their habitats.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bears: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good

The Raincoast Conservation Society purchased the rights for commercial trophy hunting of large carnivores in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia. This move will help protect resident grizzly and black bears, including the beautiful Kermode bear - a white-colored subspecies of the black bear.

The group, supported by the Central Coast First Nations, will replace the trophy hunt with the more sustainable industry of wildlife viewing and photography.

“We view this unprecedented initiative as part of a larger effort to create a conservation-based economy on the central coast,” said Wuikinuxv Nation chief Alex Chartrand. “Our value system does not support killing animals for trophies and our communities are working hard to develop a sustainable wildlife viewing industry.”

Unfortunately the bears still aren't completely safe. The rights purchased by RCS only cover foreign hunters. Residents from British Columbia still retain the right to hunt large carnivores in the area. Also, habitat in the area is largely unprotected from logging, mining, road-building and general human settlement expansion.

Still, this is such heartening news - especially considering that the $1.35 million paid for the trophy hunting rights was raised by donations from individuals in nine countries. That's a lot of people voting for conservation values with their wallets.

The Bad

Prior to the 1800s the black bear thrived throughout New Jersey. Due to unrestricted hunting the population was almost completely wiped out. By the 1950s less than 100 individuals remained in the state. Hunting was restricted and the population was allowed to partially recover. In 2003 the population was estimated to be 1490 individuals (Link to New Jersey's Black Bear Status Report - see pg.16). It was in 2003 that the first bear hunt in 30 years took place. 328 bears were killed.

The 6 day hunt was not repeated in 2004, but returned this month with a result of about 280 bear deaths. Black bear habitat in New Jersey is decreasing due to human expansion, with a result of more human-bear interaction. And since humans generally can't deal with living near other living things the "interaction" usually concludes with a dead bear. Or 280.

The Ugly

"For anyone who has wondered how global warming and reduced sea ice will affect polar bears, the answer is simple -- they die," said Richard Steiner, a marine-biology professor at the University of Alaska.

Due to melting ice, polar bears are drowning. What else is there to say?

(All photographs courtesy of the MorgueFile)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

You Just Can't Stop That Signal

Who: Firefly fans in the Portland area
Where: The Kennedy School
When: Tonight, 8pm
What: A gathering to watch Serenity - Maybe for the last time!

For more information see the original post over at

New Things Are My Favorite

Two fun new weapons in my time wasting arsenal:
  • Suggested by my good friend Dagny: GoogleTalk. Historically I haven't been much of an IM fan, but it's Google, so of course I had to have it. Do you GoogleTalk?

  • I know, I know - I'm hopelessly behind the "it" times. Better late than never, though, right? Although today wasn't the best day to jump on this particular bandwagon due to some transition issues as a result of being acquired by Yahoo!.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Narwhal

Photo from Scientific America - http://www.sciam.comTalk about your charismatic megafauna!

I remember from grade school learning about the narwhal. We were taught that its horn was used for fighting and for breaking up the ice so it could breathe. However, like so much learned in elementary school, this piece of information has been shown to be, well, wrong.

The tusk is actually a giant tooth with millions of nerve endings that allow the narwhal to gather information about water pressure, temperature and matter concentration.

The NY Times has a nice article about this discovery, and you can learn more than you probably ever wanted to know at

However, neither of these sources says much about the narwhal's declining numbers. In April of 2004 National Geographic ran a story on Dr. Mads Peter Heide-Joergensen's study of narwhal population numbers. This study showed an average 6% decrease per year over the past 17 years.

Hunting may be one reason for the narwhal's slow disappearance, Heide-Joergensen said. Narwhals are hunted by local Inuit populations for their tusks, meat, and skin. The narwhal's skin is particularly valuable, as it has an extremely high vitamin C content, he said.

In addition, climate change and a growing halibut fishery may be playing a role in the changing numbers, Heide-Joergensen said.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Welcome to my new blog!

First, a bit about the name. Charismatic Megafauna is fun to say, and also a very interesting phenomenon. Probably the most often cited example of Charismatic Megafauna is the Giant Panda:

Jessie Cohen, NZP photographer

Aww...So cute, right? Obviously the decor around here is more "charismatic megaflora," but I liked the template so I just went with it.

A quick update on me - I'm good! I've decided to apply to a PhD program and am busy as a beaver trying to get everything together by the upcoming deadline of February 1. Happily this application process is quite a bit more sane than law school's!

It's kind of fun, prepping for another standardized test, gathering those letters of recommendations again - it's kind of like pushing the "restart" button in this game we call graduate school.

I'm very excited to get back to studying in my real areas of interest, and to be happy about going to school again.