Latest Zoo & Conservation News
Week ending August 6, 2011

Compiled by:
Library Staff
San Diego Zoo Global

African rainfall data 'will improve climate predictions'
July 22, 2011 By Mico Tatalovic

Thanks to data from a European Meteosat satellite, scientists will soon have long-term data for accurate climate predictions in Africa. This open-access 30-year dataset will be released within a year, according to David Grimes at the University of Reading.

From the article:

"Some models predict an increase in rainfall in some areas, other models predict a decrease of rainfall in the same area, and part of the reason for that is that data coming out of Africa [are] very poor and very sparse," Grimes said.

The new data "can tell us whether the rainfall and the climate in particular areas, at particular times of year or seasons, have been changing in the past 30 years, and then we can compare that with what climate models predict," said Grimes. "If the climate models say the same thing as our data sets that would give us much more confidence in their future predictions."

Data on African climate and weather have lacked consistency in the past and without accurate data, determining change patterns is difficult.

Full article:

Mass turtle deaths on Great Barrier Reef have scientists worried
July 25, 2011

The bodies of more than 400 sick and dying turtles and dugongs (Dugong dugon) were found on the coast near the Great Barrier Reef, and many more animals may have died in more remote areas or the open ocean.

From the article:

Experts think the fatalities could be the result of extreme weather in northern Australia. Devastating floods in December and January, and a cyclone in February, caused a runoff of nutrients into the ocean, potentially killing the seagrass that both turtles and dugongs -- or "sea cows" -- feed on. The grass provides nutrients and improves the animals' ability to breath underwater.

"There is evidence that marine animals, including turtles, are suffering from poor nutrition because of a lack of seagrass," Vicky Darling, the Queensland Environment Minister, said.

The impact of this disaster is comparable to that caused by an oil spill, and may result in the loss of a generation of juvenile turtles.

Full article:

Saving (and studying) one of Nigeria's last montane forests
July 26, 2011 By Jeremy Hance

From 2000 to 2005, over half of Nigeria's primary forests were destroyed, and the country has one of the worst environmental track records. There is good news: The Nigerian Montane Forest Project (NMFP) is providing an example of a way to reverse this trend. Started by Nigerian native Hazel Chapman, who is an evolutionary ecology professory at the University of Canterbury, the NMFP conducts research in the Ngel Nyaki Forest (approx. 1,780 acres). The Ngel Nyaki Forest is home to the most endangered subspecies of chimpanzee, the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti).

From the article:

Growing up in Malawi and Nigeria with a father who was passionate about botany, and who would take his intrepid daughter with him on forest expeditions, convinced Hazel Chapman to pursue a career in ecology. She traveled the world, studying in Scotland and New Zealand, but in 2002 Chapman returned to Nigeria to explore some of the remaining montane forest in Nigeria.

"The aim of the expedition was to revisit the forests my father had worked in during the 1970s and see how they had fared over the years. Our survey involved 50 days of trekking, mainly in the Gotel Mountains and Mambilla Plateau, with a base in Gashaka Gumti National Park. One of the forests we visited on the Mambilla Plateau was Ngel Nyaki Forest, and I couldn't help thinking that it would be a perfect site for field research."

In 2004 Chapman returned with students to undertake the first studies in the Ngel Nyaki Forest. By the next year, building began on the field station. Today the project is booming.

Nigeria's montane forests are important biodiversity refuges, home to some notable primate and rare bird species. The Nigerian Montane Forest Project has helped preserve these species and their habitat. However, pressure from cattle ranching and humans threatens the forests, and unless changes are implemented, the future does not look good.

Full article, and interview with Hazel Chapman:

Cows 'may offer greener fuel key'
July 26, 2011

Enzymes found in the stomachs of cattle and other ruminants that break down plant matter have the potential to create environmentally friendly fuel, according to Edinburgh scientists. Scientists at ART-Geonomics at Edinburg's Roslin institute, Ingenza, and John Wallace from the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen are conducting the study. They hope that their findings will provide ways to create not only fuel, but comodity and fine chemicals.

From the article:

Dr Ian Fotheringham, president of Ingenza, said: "People have been trying to unlock the energy in plant and tree matter for years but our approach recognises how nature has already successfully done it.

"If we can identify novel enzymes that allow ruminants to break down these tough structures, and then replicate them on a large scale, the possibilities for more sustainable and renewable industrial practices are enormous.

"Society is starting to look towards how greener practices can contribute to economic growth and more sustainable living in a meaningful way. This project could be a real step towards that."

Full article:

Are cancers newly evolved species?
July 26, 2011

Peter Duesberg, a molecular and cell biology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, says that cancerous tumors are parasitic organisms which depend on their hosts for food, but otherwise are independent life forms. Duesberg and his colleagues theorize that carcinogenesis is a form of speciation, resulting in the evolution of a new species. The researchers relied on a comparison of cell karyotype stabiltity across cell cultures, comparing karyotypes of different cancers and cancers from different patients.

Dr. Mark Vincent of the London Regional Cancer Program and University of Western Ontario agrees, arguing that "carcinogenesis and the clonal evolution of cancer cells are speciation events in the strict Darwinian sense."

From the article:

The evolution of cancer "seems to be different from the evolution of a grasshopper, for instance, in part because the cancer genome is not a stable genome like that of other species. The challenging question is, what has it become?" Vincent said in an interview. "Duesberg's argument from karyotype is different from my argument from the definition of a species, but it is consistent."

Vincent noted that there are three known transmissible cancers, including devil facial tumor disease, a "parasitic cancer" that attacks and kills Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii). It is transmitted from one animal to another by a whole cancer cell. A similar parasitic cancer, canine transmissible venereal tumor, is transmitted between dogs via a single cancer cell that has a genome dating from the time when dogs were first domesticated. A third transmissible cancer was found in hamsters.

"Cancer has become a successful parasite," Vincent said.

Duesbeg's arguments derive from his controversial proposal that the reigning theory of cancer – that tumors begin when a handful of mutated genes send a cell into uncontrolled growth – is wrong. He argues, instead, that carcinogenesis is initiated by a disruption of the chromosomes, which leads to duplicates, deletions, breaks and other chromosomal damage that alter the balance of tens of thousands of genes. The result is a cell with totally new traits – that is, a new phenotype.

Duesberg's research may support new methods for diagnosing and treating cancer.

Full article:

CITATION: Duesberg P, Mandrioli D, McCormack A, Nicholson JM. 2011. Is carcinogenesis a form of speciation? Cell Cycle 10(13):2100-2114. doi:10.4161/cc.10.13.16352

Cave restrictions extended a year over bat disease
July 27, 2011 By Wayne Harrison

To protect bat populations from a fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, last year the U.S. Forest Service limited access to caves and abandoned mines in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas. Those restrictions have been extended for ome more year. While officials are not sure how spores are transported, they feel that preventing human contact with the bats may be a solution. Critics note that the bats may the cause. More than one million bats have been killed since 2006. A possible fine of $5,000.00 has been posted for trespassing in closed caves.

Full article:

Organized crime is wiping out wildlife
July 27, 2011

According to WCS conservationist Elizabeth Bennett in the June 7 online journal Oryx, organized crime syndicates have discovered that there is profit to be made from illegal trade in wildlife parts. The result is a dramatic impact on well-known species such as rhinos, tigers, and elephants. East Asia is providing a large market and increasingly sophisticated methods are being used, including e-commerce, to procure and transport wildlife.

From the article:

"We are failing to conserve some of the world's most beloved and charismatic species," said Bennett, who began her career in conservation more than 25 years ago in Asia. "We are rapidly losing big, spectacular animals to an entirely new type of trade driven by criminalized syndicates. It is deeply alarming, and the world is not yet taking it seriously. When these criminal networks wipe out wildlife, conservation loses, and local people lose the wildlife on which their livelihoods often depend."

For example, South Africa lost almost 230 rhinoceroses to poaching from January to October, 2010; and less than 3,500 tigers roam in the wild, occupying less than 7 percent of their historic range.

Unless wildlife laws are strictly enforced and increased resources brought to bear on the criminal organizations, some wildlife populations may dwindle and disappear.

Full article:

Publication changes announced at International Botanical Congress in Melbourne
July 27, 2011

The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature has undergone a name change to "make explicit that the Code applies not only to plants, but also to algae and fungi." The Code will now be entitled the "International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants" and will now for the first time "allow for the electronic publication of names of new taxa." A demonstration at the 18th International Botanical Congress in July 2011 underscored the efficiency of electronic publishing. PhytoKeys, which has taken the lead in electronic publishing of new plants, will continue to provide print versions of the journal to the six leading botanical libraries of the world. Electronic publication of new names will enable taxonimists and publishers to disseminate information more quickly and efficiently. With habitat disappearring in many parts fo the world, finding and describing new species before they disappear is of extreme importance.

Full article:

CITATION: Miller JS, et al. 2011. Outcomes of the 2011 Botanical Nomenclature Section at the XVIII International Botanical Congress. PhytoKeys 5:1-3. doi:10.3897/phytokeys.5.1850

Robot water strider modeled after insect
July 27, 2011 By George Wigmore

Qinmin Pan and colleagues at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China have developed a robot that literally walks on water, using the science behind the water strider.

From the article:

Tiny hairs on the legs of the water strider enable it form tiny swirling vortices, trapping small pockets of air, and enabling them to skirt across water without drowning.

Taking inspiration from the water strider and advantage of the high surface tension of water, the tiny 15 cm-long robot can stand, turn and walk perfectly fine on water, reaching speeds of up to 15 cm per second. Despite weighing as much as 390 water striders, the robot can stay afloat supported by ten water-repelling legs, propelled by two actuating legs driven by two tiny motors.

In the past, robots that walk on water have been developed, but they have been expensive and limited in ability. This new robot can be equipped with a camera or other equipment, allowing it to monitor water-related activity.

Full blog post:

The end is in sight for amphibian fungal disease
July 27, 2011

Chytridiomycosis, a fungal infection, has been implicated in the extinction of perhaps 200 species of amphibians over the past 30 years. In a new approach, researchers at the National Natural Sciences Museum in Spain have studied techniques to prevent this infetion, and propose methods to instead control the problem.

From the article:

"There are several alternatives for mitigating chytridiomycosis that are more effective than trying to prevent the pathogen from arriving or eradicating it from the environment", Jaime Bosch, a researcher at the National Natural Sciences Museum (MNCN-CSIC) in Spain and co-author of the new study on controlling the infection that has attacked 200 species of frogs, toads and other amphibians, tells SINC.

After reviewing all the current mitigation actions – or those that could possibly be developed in the near future – the researchers have concluded that new strategies based on the use of different methods to control infection levels "could be enough to prevent outbreaks of the disease and could, therefore, largely prevent local extinctions", says Bosch.

Pilot studies using increased temperature and baths of antifungal itraconazole have shown promise, but more research is needed before these treatments can be recommended.

Full article:

CITATION: Woodhams DC, et al. 2011. Mitigating amphibian disease: strategies to maintain wild populations and control chytridiomycosis. Frontiers in Zoology 8:8. doi:10.1186/1742-9994-8-8

Pearl-flowered legume a surprise new find in the Cape Snowy Mountains, South Africa
July 27, 2011

The Sneeuberg Centre of Floristic Endemism, which is South Africa's newest Centre of Endemism, was only recently recognized in 2009 by researchers from the Department of Botany at Rhodes University. In the first two botanical expeditions to this area, scientists found "27 endemic species confined to these remote mountains," and several new species. One such new species is a pearl-flowered legume (Psoralea margaretiflora), endemic to the Sneeuberg and with a very limited range. Ralph Clark, one of the researchers who participated in the expeditions, is "collaborating with taxonomic experts from around the world to ensure that these new species are described and recognised in a reasonable time frame so that their conservation can be ensured." The research conducted in this area "is a response to the increasingly obvious lack of baseline biodiversity studies on the species-rich Great Escarpment in southern Africa."

Full article:

CITATION: Stirton CH, Clark VR, Barker NP, Muasya AM. 2011. Psoralea margaretiflora (Psoraleeae, Fabaceae): a new species from the Sneeuberg Centre of Floristic Endemism, Eastern Cape, South Africa. PhytoKeys 5:31-38. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.5.1585

Atlantic cod show signs of recovery off Nova Scotia
July 27, 2011 By Daniel Strain

Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), haddock (Gadidae Melanogrammus) and other predators, decimated by overfishing off the coast of Nova Scotia in the 1970s, may be making a recovery, according to a study by Brian Petrie and Kenneth Frank, of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Canada. The Canadian government imposed a moratorium on cod and haddock fishing in 1993 as a result in the drop in cod population. Fewer predators caused an increase in the number of prey fish like capelin (Mallotus villosus) and Atlantic Herring (Clupea harengus). Now those numbers may be reversing, and the researchers report increased combined weights of cod and haddock.

From the article:

But the comeback is far from complete, Petrie says. Individual cod and haddock are still about half the size, on average, that they once were. Study co-author Kenneth Frank, an ecologist also with the Bedford Institute, compares rebuilding an ecosystem to the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme. "When Humpty Dumpty fell, it broke into many pieces," he says. "Putting him back together again is quite a challenge." And although the new Scotian Shelf is on its way toward rebuilding that egg, it may never look the same again, he adds. Because haddock seem to be recovering faster, they, not cod, could become the shelf's dominant predators in the future.

The study may support a contention that an ecosystem can be restored through a fishing moratorium, but George Rose, a fisheries scientist at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, cautions that larger fisheries may not respond like the small Scotian Shelf ecosystem.

Full article:

Gopher tortoises are in trouble but won't get federal protection
July 27, 2011 By Kevin Spear

Due to land development and poor management of conservation lands in Florida and the Southeast, the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is probably facing extinction. The Fish and Wildlife Service says it won't be declared a threatened species anytime soon, due to legal action currently in the courts for other species.

From the article:

"This determination does mean we believe the species needs to be listed, but we do not have the resources to pursue the listing," said Cynthia Dohner, the agency's southeast regional director. "We know the gopher tortoise population is in trouble."

The agency decided to classify the tortoise as one of nearly 250 "candidate" species, which federal officials can try to protect by encouraging voluntary help from property owners. Dohner stressed that land developers face no additional regulations because of the candidate status.

The gopher tortoise is likely to continue as a candidate species because the Fish and Wildlife Service feels its threats are not as pressing as some other species, and the process may take a few years.

Full article:

Fossils could be feathered dinosaurs and not the first bird
July 27, 2011 By Matt McGrath

Xiaotingia, a new dinosaur fossil discovered in China, may change scientific thought about the origin of birds. Chinese palaentologist Xu Xing believes his discovery proves that Archaeopteryx, considered for 150 years as the first bird and an example of evolutionary change, is a feathery dinosaur and not a bird.

From the article:

By carefully analysing and comparing the bony bumps and grooves of this new chicken-sized fossil, Prof Xu now believe that both Archaeopteryx and Xiaotingia are in fact feathery dinosaurs and not birds at all.

"There are many, many features that suggest that Xiaotingia and Archaeopteryx are a type of dinosaur called Deinonychosaurs rather than birds. For example, both have a large hole in front of the eye; this big hole is only seen in these species and is not present in any other birds.

"Archaeopteryx and Xiaotingia are very, very similar to other Deinonychosaurs in having a quite interesting feature - the whole group is categorised by a highly specialised second pedo-digit which is highly extensible, and both Archaeopteryx and Xiaotingia show initial development of this feature."

The similarities between species of birds and reptiles from 150 million years ago are such that this argument may continue, and new finds can change scientific perspective.

Full article:

CITATION: Xu X, You H, Du K, Han F. 2011. An Archaeopteryx-like theropod from China and the origin of Avialae. Nature 475:465-470. doi:10.1038/nature10288

Rescued bald eaglets to be released
July 27, 2011 By Justin Jouvenal

After their mother was killed by a jet, five-month-old bald eaglets (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were taken from their nest at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens and moved to the Virginia Wildlife Center. They were taught to fly and interact with other eagles, becoming an Internet hit via a webcam set up in the center. Wednesday they will be released with a ceremony and around 1,000 people have indicated they will attend.

Full blog post:

Climate Research Unit releases climate data
July 28, 2011 By Quirin Schiermeier

The Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Norwich has made publicly available "most of the meteorological raw data it had used to put together a contested global land temperature dataset, CRUTEM." Climate change skeptics have made several freedom-of-information-act requests over the past years but have been denied by CRU up until now, with CRU "...arguing that it had no permission to release the commercial datasets." Steven McIntyre, a Canadian statistician, had been one of the people making requests for the data so that he could perform his own "re-analysis of global temperature trends."

From the article:

In autumn 2009, unknown offenders hacked CRU computer servers and released more than a thousand emails – some containing aggressive language and alleged hints of data manipulation - exchanged over ten year or so between CRU director Phil Jones and a group of leading climate scientists. Jones and his co-workers were later cleared of all allegations of misconduct. Even so, ‘Climategate’, as critics were quick to dub the affair, prompted a severe confidence crisis from which the climate sciences have not yet fully recovered.

With yesterday’s release, raw data from 5,113 weather stations around the globe are now in the public domain. The only data missing are those from 10 stations in Poland. The Polish meteorological service, say CRU officials, refused permittence to have their data publicly released. But CRU reluctantly opted to release station data from Trinidad and Tobago against the Caribbean state’s express wish.

The climate records can be found at the Met Office Hadley Centre website

Full article:

India to initiate country-specific red list
July 28, 2011

The Environment Ministry of India has decided to "initiate the country-specific red list of endangered species" and will release a 'Red list of Indian Plants' and 'Red list of Indian Animals' by the end of 2012. The reports will be published by the Botanical Survey of India and the Zoological Survey of India. The country currently has 57 animal species listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, with many more that are listed as "data insufficient." This will be a huge task, as "India is home to approximately 90,000 species of animals and 40,000 species of plants," with many of these endemic to the country. The red lists would aid conservationists in planning their conservation strategies in India.

Full article:

Colugos save time through energy-intensive gliding
July 28, 2011 By George Wigmore

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the Royal Veterinary College attached accelerometers to colugos (Galeopterus variegatus) to study how the animals move from tree to tree. Colugos are nocturnal tree-dwelling mammals that live in South East Asia which have "flaps of skin between their limbs to move from tree to tree, covering distances of nearly 150 metres (approx. 492 feet) in a single glide." Surprisingly, the researchers found that climbing up trees and then gliding from tree to tree took up to "one and a half times as much energy as travelling through the canopy," but allowed the animals to travel up to ten times faster. The researchers think that gliding allows the colugos to "spend more time foraging for food," more easily access hard to reach branches, "protect them from predators," and allow them to avoid "the risk of climbing on perilous branches."

Full blog post:

CITATION: Byrnes G, Libby T, Lim NT-L, Spence AJ. 2011. Gliding saves time but not energy in Malayan colugos. The Journal of Experimental Biology 214, i. doi:10.1242/jeb.062687

San Diego's urban farms: oases in food deserts
July 27, 2011 By Tom Fudge

In an empoverished area in Linda Vista, by Tecolote Canyon, the Bayside Community Center is building the Linda Vista Neighborhood Garden, according to Jorge Riquelme, the executive director. Thanks to volunteer effort, brush, trees, rocks and garbage were removed to make room for the proposed garden. The garden and proposed farmer's market will provide low-income neighborhoods with a source of fresh fruits and vegetables. A similar project in City Heights has done well for the last three years. Creating urban gardens with associated markets cuts down the distance food needs to be moved, providing both fresh produce and an income to support both projects.

Full article:

Huge Arctic fire caused large losses of carbon
July 28, 2011 By Richard Black

A 2007 fire in northern Alaska "burned across more than 1,000 sq km (400 sq miles), doubling the extent of Alaskan tundra visited by fire since 1950." While fires in this area are rare because the ground is covered in snow and ice for a large portion of the year, the warm and dry conditions in 2007 created the perfect conditions for fire when lightning struck in July. Researchers from the University of Florida in Gainesville are studying this fire and conducting other field studies in the state.

From the article:

"In 2007, we had a hot, dry summer, there was no rain for a long period of time. "So the tundra must have been highly flammable, with just the right conditions for fire to spread until the snow in October finally stopped it."

According to the team's calculations, the statistics of the fire are remarkable. It is the largest on record, doubling the cumulative area burned since 1950. It put carbon into the atmosphere about 100 times faster than it usually escapes from the ground in the Arctic summer, and released more than 2 million tonnes. Although a small contribution to global emissions, this is about the same amount as the entire swathe of tundra around the Arctic absorbs in a single year. There is some vegetation on the summer lands, which did burn; but the main fuel is carbon in the ground itself.

Scientists are still unsure what climate change will mean for the Arctic. While warmer temperatures "could increase the frequency of fires and [reinforce] global warming," it could also mean that "plant life could flourish..., potentially increasing absorption and sequestering of carbon from the atmosphere."Full article:

CITATION: Mack MC, et al. 2011. Carbon loss from an unprecedented Arctic tundra wildfire [letter]. Nature 475:489-492. doi:10.1038/nature10283

House strikes proposed ban on endangered species listings
July 28, 2011 By Daniel Strain

The House of Representatives voted 224-204 to remove a measure that would have significantly limited endangered species protection in the US. The measure, which was part of a larger Department of the Interior and related agencies appropriations bill HR 2584, "would ban the federal government from naming new endangered species under the Endangered Species Act in 2012 [and] would have blocked the feds from designating new 'critical habitats'".

From the article:

Proponents of the measure contended that the ban would stymie environmental groups from suing the feds in order to see new species make the endangered list. "This bill will allow the biologists to get back to work recovering species, rather than responding to court cases," said supporter Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA) in floor debate.

Opponents, however, said that the measure would cut off a number of imperiled species from basic protections. "Without these important preliminary steps of listing and critical habitat designation, it would be impossible to develop a scientifically valid and legally defensible recovery plan for declining species," said Representative Norm Dicks (D-WA) earlier this week.

Full article:

Researchers map long-range migrations and habitats of leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean
July 28, 2011

Endangered leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) are "the largest of all marine turtles, weighing up to 2000 pounds...and measuring almost six feet in length." Their greatest threats come from the harvesting of their eggs and breeding females on nesting beaches and through accidental capture by fishing operations. Scientists from NOAA Fisheries Service and their colleagues have tracked the movements of 126 individual turtles by satellite, following their migrations from nesting beaches to foraging areas across the Pacific. The results of the study have shown that the turtles travel from the western Pacific, to the North Pacific, to islands in the southern hemisphere, to the East Australia Current Extension. Although there has been regulation which "restricts commercial fishing in large areas north of Hawaii and off the United States west coast because of concern over accidental bycatch of leatherbacks," this new research shows that in order for conservation efforts to be successful, there must be more coordination between nations and communities around the Pacific.

Full article:

CITATION: Benson SR, et al. 2011. Large-scale movements and high-use areas of western Pacific leatherback turtles, Dermochelys coriacea. Ecosphere 2(7):art84. doi:10.1890/ES11-00053.1

M. evenia leaf shape attracts bats
July 28, 2011 By Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib

In previous studies, biologist Ralph Simon and colleagues at the University of Ulm in Germany determined that bats were attracted to plants that had leaves with a hollow hemisphere. So, Simon said that he and his team were "totally amazed" when they found "that very shape on a rainforest vine in Cuba that depends on bats for pollination." Marcgravia evenia has a "large, cup-shaped leaf above its red-and-pink buds" and "reflects bat sonar with a strong echo" from many angles, which would help it "stand out against a background of varying vegitation."

From the article:

Simon and his colleagues then created an artificial vegetation backdrop on a wall in their lab and trained captive nectar-feeding bats to search for a feeder hidden in the mix. The bats found the feeder almost 50% faster – in about 12 seconds – when it was under one of the cupped-leaf shapes, versus under a regular leaf shape or on its own.

Although a cup shape reduces the light the leaf can trap for photosynthesis, it more than makes up for the loss by attracting an important pollinator to the rare flower, say the researchers. M. evenia is one of many plants that depends on bats for spreading its pollen, so the authors say they expect to find even more acoustically unique varieties.

The next step for the researchers is to find examples of this in the field, rather than reproducing results in the lab.

Full blog post:

CITATION: Simon R, Holderied MW, Koch CU, von Helversen O. 2011. Floral acoustics: conspicuous echoes of a dish-shaped leaf attract bat pollinators. Science 333(6042):631-633. doi:10.1126/science.1204210

First study of South-West Ghana bird health
July 28, 2011

Justus Deikumah, a PhD student from the University of Queensland (UQ), will be traveling home to South-West Ghana to conduct the "first ever study of the impact of habitat loss on the health and condition of birds" in the area. The region's forest has been greatly fragmented, with more and more habitat disappearing due to unsustainable land use practices. Mr. Deikumah said, "The concern is that the health and condition of birds could suffer as a result of this drastic change in habitat, leading to a decline in bird populations and ultimate extinction."

From the article:

Mr. Deikumah will use increased stress levels in birds as an early warning sign, so that appropriate conservation measures can be taken before the impacts of environmental change are irreversible.

He is using a number of indicators such as the parasite load and types of white blood cells in blood samples, which can reveal information about bird health. Mr. Deikumah will compare his results between sites in rainforest next to mines and farmland.

“Birds are being captured in about 40 different rainforest sites. I have completed about 75 per cent of the fieldwork necessary and 60 per cent of my blood smears have been successfully received back at UQ by my supervisor, Dr. Martine Maron, for further examination when I return in September” he said.

This research will add to the body of knowledge regarding the "underlying causes of bird population declines in fragmented tropical rain forest landscapes" and will aid in conservation and restoration planning in the region.

Full article:

Historic Texas drought bad news for Mexican free-tail bats in Austin
July 28, 2011 By Karen Brooks

A historic Texas drought has diminished the crop output, which in turn has diminished the number of insects in the area. This means that there is less food available for the Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) living under the Congress Street bridge in Austin. The 1.5 million bats living under the bridge comprise the world's largest urban bat colony (the largest colony in the world consists of 20 million bats in a cave outside of San Antonio) and eat approximately 20,000 pounds of insects from the air each night. James Eggers, director of education for Bat Conservation International, says, "If we just have one to two years of drought, it's a natural cycle and it's not going to affect the species as a whole. What some scientists fear is that this is not a regular drought, but could be indicative of change coming because of global warming. If we have an extended drought for many years, that could affect the population of the Mexican free-tails."

A declining bat population would also be bad for Texas farmers, who in a 2006 study were shown to save "some $750,000 a year from pestilence thanks to the [bats]." The city of Austin also profits from having the bats around, making up to $8 million dollars in eco-tourism.

Full article:

Eagle Fire burning out; areas begin to reopen
July 28, 2011 By Erik Anderson

A fire burning a 22-square-mile area near Warner Springs (remote northeastern San Diego County) has been 75 percent contained as of the 28th. The Eagle Fire was started by an arsonist towards the end of July and has burned over 14,000 acres. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spent around $13,000,000 fighting the fire and reports that 17 firefighters were injured and one outbuilding was destroyed.

*As of Monday, August 1, the fire was contained by Cal FIRE, who continues to extinguish hot spots. More than $15 million had been spent battling the fire by this date.

Full article:

Toucans wearing GPS backpacks help Smithsonian scientists study seed dispersal
July 28, 2011

Scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama have conducted an experiment which confirms that "toucans are excellent seed dispersers, particularly in the morning." Additionally, by attaching GPS transmitters in backpacks to the toucans, the researchers were able to "create a map of the relative patterns and distances that toucans distribute the seeds of a nutmeg tree."

From the article:

In the first stage of their experiment, the scientists collected fresh seeds from a common Panamanian nutmeg tree (Virola nobilis) and fed them to captive toucans (Ramphastos sulfuratus) at the Rotterdam Zoo. Toucans gulp nutmeg seeds whole, the outer pulp is processed in the bird's crop, and the hard inner seed is then regurgitated. Five zoo toucans fed 100 nutmeg seeds took an average of 25.5 minutes to process and regurgitate the seeds.

Next, in Panama, the scientists netted six wild toucans (four R. sulfuratus and two R. swainsonii) that were feeding from a large nutmeg tree in the rainforest at Gamboa. They fitted the birds with lightweight backpacks containing GPS tracking devices (these devices recorded the birds' exact location every 15 minutes) and accelerometers which can measure a bird's daily activity level.

When matched with the seed-regurgitation time of the zoo toucans, the GPS data indicated the wild toucans were probably dropping nutmeg seeds a distance of 472 feet, on average, from the mother tree. Each seed had a 56 percent probability of being dropped at least 328 feet from its mother tree and an 18 percent chance of being dropped some 656 feet from the tree.

Additionally, the scientists noted that because the birds are more active in the morning and mid-day, seeds eaten at these times had a higher chance of dispersal than seeds eaten later on in the day.

Full article:

CITATION: Kays R, et al. 2011. The effect of feeding time on dispersal of Virola seeds by toucans determined from GPS tracking and accelerometers. Acta Oecologica. doi:10.1016/j.actao.2011.06.007

Stranded emperor penguin released from Wellington Zoo
July 29, 2011

The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) who was found stranded five weeks ago on a New Zealand beach 2,000 miles from home is now healthy enough to be released back into the wild. The penguin, nicknamed "Happy Feet", was the first emperor penguin to be seen in New Zealand since the 1960s. It became ill after ingesting wet sand, which scientists believe the penguin mistook for snow. Veterinarians at the Wellington Zoo have nursed the bird back to health, reporting that the animal had gained about 9 pounds since coming to the zoo and "passed an x-ray and blood test." The bird will be released offshore within the next few weeks.

Full article:

Botswana government has no plans to end wildlife hunting
July 29, 2011

The Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism in Botswana has said that there are no plans to ban wildlife hunting. They will instead "encourage photographic tourism" and place quotas on hunting species with declining numbers but animals "...with increasing numbers like elephants, will continue to be hunted withing CITES framework" (according to Mable Bolele, who works with the Ministry). This announcement comes after a recently completed aerial survey of the wildlife in the Okavango Delta, which was conducted by Mike Chase (a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research) and his colleagues at Elephants Without Borders. The data from this survey indicated that many species such as the tsessebe, lechwe and wildebeest are on the decline. And, although the elephant population is estimated at 140,000, they are threatened by drought, fires, poaching, fences, and human encroachment.

Full article (scroll down page):

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center teaches teachers how to incorporate gardening into classes
July 29, 2011 By Andrea Granahan

The "Mother Garden" at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in Northern California "shows teachers how to plant and tend a garden, and how to integrate it into a curriculum." The eight acre garden, which is California's sixth oldest certified organic garden (established in 1974), is part of the larger 80 acre facility and hosts an annual "week-long, live-in intensive training for school teachers." Since the program's inception in 1997, "more than 500 teachers, principals and parent volunteers from 189 Bay Area schools have gonet through the program."

From the article:

One of the first lessons children learn in school gardens is teamwork. They keep garden journals, and because gardens are social places, most have tables and chairs where the kids can eat lunch or do homework. From planning the garden layout, students begin learning math and mapping, said Patty Sherwood, and as they track their progress they learn such skills as charting. “It connects the kids to nature in a sustainable way,” said Sherwood, a former science and math teach who now specializes in garden consultation.

The teachers who attend the training learn how to "raise seedlings, manage a green house, develop a school garden and design a school curriculum using the garden."

To learn more about OAEC, visit their website.

Full article:

New population of Critically Endangered Aders' duiker found in Kenyan forest
July 29, 2011

Conservationists have discovered a new population of Critically Endangered Aders' duiker (Cephalophus adersi) in the Boni-Dodori forest in north coastal Kenya. This is the same forest where a new species of elephant-shrew (Macroscelidea) was discovered earlier this year. Previously, Aders' duikers were only found in "diminishing forest patches on Unguja Island, Zanzibar and the Arabuko-Sokoke forest in coastal Kenya." Researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS), Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT), National Museums of Kenya and the WWF captured over 3,300 images of the rare antelope on camera traps. Additionally, they found evidence of other important populations of animals living in the Boni-Dodori forest, such as "African wild-dogs (Lycaon pictus), elephants (Loxodonta africana) and lions (Panthera leo)." The conservationists are calling for protection of the forest, which is "currently under threat from rapid coastal and agricultural development," citing the extreme biodiversity of the area.

Full article:

New mileage standards aim for less fuel, pollution
July 29, 2011

President Obama has brokered a deal that would require automakers to "double overall fuel economy to 54.5 mpg by 2025," which would be the "largest cut in fuel consumption since the 1970s." Today's average is 27 mpg for cars and trucks.

From the article:

When achieved, the 54.5 mpg target would reduce U.S. oil consumption from vehicles by 40 percent and halve the amount of greenhouse gas pollution coming out of tailpipes. It builds on a 2009 deal between the Obama administration and automakers, which committed cars and trucks to averaging 35.5 mpg by model year 2016. For American families, the president said the agreement...means filling up the car every two weeks, instead of every week. That would save $8,000 in fuel costs over the life of a vehicle purchased in 2025, compared with a 2010 model, a White House analysis said.

The deal was a compromise between what environmentalists and automakers wanted — 62 mpg and 43 mpg, respectively. The President stated that these new regulations would decrease the country's reliance on foreign oil sources and help reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the environment. The deal is being challenged by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who alleged "that the new mandate was decided without the input of consumers and Congress and could harm consumers."

Full article:

National Science Board launches I-Corps grant program
July 29, 2011 By Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib

In this time of looming budget cuts on the national level, the National Science Board (NSF), which governs the National Science Foundation (NSF), has reiterated the need for government-funded research to "further the administration's far-reaching national goals, such as creating jobs and reviving a moribund US economy." One such new program that aims to make US science more relevant is the I-Corps (Innovation Corps) grant program. Announced at the end of July, the program is "meant to bridge the gap between bench science and innovation."

How I-Corps works:

Visit the NSF website for more information on I-Corps grants.

Full article:

Maryland company, Eco-Goats, clears weeds from parks and gardens
July 30, 2011

Eco-Goats, a Maryland-based company, provides the use of goats for a fee to customers who want to clear areas of weeds and grass.

From the article:

Brian Knox, owner of Eco-Goats, a business based in Davidsonville, Maryland, said the hungry animals graze on dense vegetation and munch unwanted weeds and invasive plants while also leaving fertilizer behind for the grasses that people want. "There is poison ivy and all kinds of stuff that you know people don't want to go in there for, and the goats don't seem to mind that much," he said.

Eco-Goats, which has been in business for three years, often brings dozens of goats to the site that a customer hopes to clear, then puts up electric fences and allows the goats to graze for days. One group of 30 goats can clear 100 square meters of brush per day, according to Eco-Goats. Because the animals are agile and good climbers, they can often get to hard-to-reach vegetation. When the work is finished, the goats have left behind their droppings which serve as fertilizer, said Eco-Goats, which charges about $5,750 for 2.5 acres.

Full article:

Pollinators lured away by farmland
July 30, 2011 By Mark Kinver

A new study conducted by researchers from Oxford University and Earthwatch UK were surprised by findings that showed that pollinators may be "lured away" by pollen-rich farmland instead of using these areas as corridors between stands of native trees. Their results challenge "the long-held assumption that areas that were rich in resources would encourage the movement of pollinators from one group of native trees to another, [instead] creating a barrier effect for non-specialist feeders."

From the article:

"Looked at from an insect's point of view, it makes sense," explained co-author David Boshier. "These insects are not trying to pollinate a particular species of tree, they are just foraging. So if they leave a patch of native forest and fly across farmland which happens to be rich in resources, they are likely to collect pollen and nectar there rather than carry on to another patch of native forest."

However, Dr Boshier added: "Conversely, areas of sparse resources - such as (conifer) plantations - have less to offer so the pollinators are more likely to continue their journey and reach other patch of the native forest."

The researchers studied the polliation of a Gomortega keule, an endangered tree native to central Chile, by hoverflies. Co-author Dr. Tonya Lander explained, "In general, there was more pollination happening when trees are separated by tree plantations, and less pollination happening when the trees were separated by agricultural land." The team is calling this effect the "Circe Principle, after a nymph in Homer's Odyssey who seduced Odysseus on his journey home from his adventures." They hope their research will aid future landscape models to better account for areas traditionally thought of as "non-habitat."

Full article:

CITATION: Lander TA, et al. 2011. The Circe Principle explains how resource-rich land can waylay pollinators in fragmented landscapes. Current Biology. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.06.045

Groups hope to take over two San Diego state parks
July 31, 2011 By Michael Gardner

Governor Jerry Brown has slated 70 state parks for closure beginning in September. San Diego is home to two of these parks, Palomar Mountain and San Pasqual Battlefield, which would be closed starting in July 2012. Assembly Bill 42 is currently pending approval by the state senate. The bill, which was authored by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), would allow non-profits to take control of the parks from the state, thereby preventing their closure. Two groups in San Diego have begun "preliminary talks with state park officials with hopes of saving Palomar Mountain and San Pasqual Battlefield." They will have to "convince the state that they have sizable sums of money, a long-term commitment and considerable skills to do everything from fixing toilets to managing crews."

While the governor is claiming the closures will save the state about $22 million through the summer of 2013, opponents are saying the cost savings would be much less due to the costs of closing the facilities, patrolling the parks, and maintaining sewer systems. Additionally, cities would lose any profits from tourism at these areas. The state currently provides $300,00 annually to run Palomar and receives about $140,000 back in income from camping, day use, and leases. Palomar staff are also in talks with the Cleveland National Forest to potentially have that park's staff take over the running of the park in the event of a closure. The state pays $55,106 to run the San Pasqual Battlefield, with no income received.

Full article:

San Diego Zoo Safari Park to send elephants to Tucson zoo
July 31, 2011 By Tony Perry

This week, two staff members from Tuscon's Reid Park Zoo came to observe keepers interact with elephants at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Their visit is in preparation for an exchange between the two organizations, with the Safari Park sending a group of 4 or 5 elephants to Reid Park on a breeding loan and Reid Park sending an older Asian elephant to join the herd at ths San Diego Zoo. One of the elephants who will be loaned to Reid Park to live in a new $10 million expansion called "Expedition Tanzania" is Vus'Musi, a seven-year-old male who was "sired in Swaziland and born in San Diego." The rest of the herd to be exchanged has not yet been determined.

The Safari Park has the largest elephant herd in the United States, with 17 individuals, and has been "approached by several zoos about an elephant loan." According to Jeff Andrews, animal care manager for San Diego Zoo Global, the Reid Park Zoo was selected to participate in a loan "because its elephant management plan is similar to San Diego's." San Diego Zoo Global practices "protected contact" system, in which "keepers get voluntary compliance from elephants" rather than an old style of elephant keeping which "depended on keeper dominance and punishment."

Full article:

Surplus water flowing to California farms, reservoirs
July 31, 2011 By Matt Weiser

This year, California declared water "surpluses" due to extra snowfall in the mountains. After three years of drought, the extra water will be sold to farmers and cities for their reservoirs at a greatly discounted price. Farmers are welcoming the opportunity to purchase the discounted water and will be able to reopen acres of farmland that had remained unused during the drought. Conservationists, however, argue that the water supply is not realy "surplus," citing the need for fish populations to grow during years of abundant water supplies.

From the article:

About three-fourths of the surplus water this year was pumped out of the [Sacramento-San Joaquin] Delta. The rest came via Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River and did not pass through the Delta. "If you look at the population graphs for just about any fish species over the past 30 years, it looks like a pretty continuous decline," said Jon Rosenfield, a conservation biologist at the Bay Institute. "That's because when times are tight, we really hammer them. And when times are good, we don't let them get off the mat."

Bill Kier, a fisheries consultant and former assistant secretary of the state Resources Agency, noted surplus pumping this year contributed to shockingly large fish kills at the state and federal water diversion systems in the Delta. According to data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the pumps "salvaged" or killed 8.9 million Sacramento splittail from Oct. 1, 2010, to July 17 this year. Nearly 37,000 chinook salmon and 90 sturgeon also met their demise.

Full article:

Scientists name world's most important marine conservation hotspots
August 1, 2011 By Alok Jha

A team of scientists led by Dr. Sandra Pompa, an ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, has "identified the 20 most important regions of the world's oceans and lakes that are key to ensuring the survival of the planet's marine mammals...." The majority of these identified areas are already under threat due to "habitat degradation, introduction of exotic species and over-exploitation of natural resources."

From the article:

Pompa led a team of scientists to try and identify which parts of the world's oceans were most crucial for the world's 129 marine mammal populations. Their results, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed nine key global conservation sites that hold 84% of marine mammal species and 11 "irreplaceable" conservation sites, which contain species that are found nowhere else.

...The main conservation areas, which contain 108 species, are the coasts of Baja California, north-eastern America, Peru, Argentina, north-western Africa, South Africa, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The 11 smaller conservation zones, which each contained unique species specific to them, included areas around Hawaiian and Galapagos Islands, Lake Baikal in Siberia and major rivers such as the Amazon, Ganges and Yangtze.

Researchers are most concerned about the Mexican vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a small porpoise that is endemic to the Gulf of Mexico. There are only 250 individuals left of this species.

Full article:

CITATION: Pompa S, Ehrlich PR, Ceballos G. 2011. Global distribution and conservation of marine mammals. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1101525108

World sacred forests mapped out
August 1, 2011 By David A. Gabel

Scientists from the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Oxford are working on a "sacred land map" which will show "all the land owned or revered by various world religions." This map will not only include man-made sites, such as Jerusalem's Western Wall, but also all of "the great forests held sacred by various religions." The researchers are trying to determine the land's "value in terms of biodiversity." To do so, they first have to delineate the boundary lines of the sacred lands in order to conduct biodiversity assessments. They willa lso be assessing "the land's value in carbon dioxide absorption, its abundance of medicinal plants, [and] the value to local people." Dr. Shonil Bhagwat, one of the researchers working on the project, says, "We urgently need to map this vast network of religious forests, sacred sites and other community-conserved areas to understand their role in biodiversity conservation. Such mapping can allow the custoidan communities, who have protected these sites for generations, to secure their legal status."

Full article:

California Academy of Science's 'living roof' is taking root
August 1, 2011 By Debbie Arrington

The California Academy of Sciences is home to California's "most famous roof garden," which covers the 2-1/2-acre roof atop a nine-story building. Originally planted with nine species back in 2007, there are now more than 75 native species growing on the roof. Frank Almeda, the senior curator of botany at the academy, notes that the majority of these new species were introduced by birds. Almeda used a custom planting mix which consists of "45 percent red lava rock, 20 percent fir bark, 20 percent organic matter and 15 percent sand."

Full article:

Denver Botanic Gardens kicks off sustainable food film series
August 2, 2011

The Denver Botanic Gardens is partnering with Chipotle to host a sustainable food film series during the month of August. The first film to be shown will be "Locavore", which "features farmers, families and pioneers in the Locavore food movement." Other movies to be shown during the series are "Ingredients", which is about how eating locally can affect a person's health, "French Fries to Go", a film about a man and his biodiesel truck, and more. Entrance to the screenings costs $10. Chipotle is providing free sustainable snacks and sponsoring panel discussions after each film.

Full article:

Proposed endangered status for Chupadera springsnail
August 2, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 148
FWS-R2-ES-2011-0042; MO 92210-0-0009

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to list the Chupadera springsnail (Pyrgulopsis chupaderae) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). If we finalize this rule as proposed, it would extend the Act's protections to this species. We also propose to designate critical habitat for the Chupadera springsnail under the Act. In total, approximately 0.7 hectares (1.9 acres) are being proposed for designation as critical habitat, located in Socorro County, New Mexico.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods, no later than October 3, 2011:
(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: In the Enter Keyword or ID box, enter FWS-R2-ES-2011-0042, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search panel at the top of the screen, under the Document Type heading, check the box next to Proposed Rules to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on "Submit a Comment.''
(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2011-0042; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Wally "J'' Murphy, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113; telephone 505-346-2525; facsimile 505-346-2542.

Full announcement:

USFWS denies endangered listing for Redrock stonefly
August 2, 2011 Federal Regiser / Vol. 76, No. 148
FWS-R2-ES-2011-0047; MO 92210-0-0008-B2

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 12-month finding on a petition to list the Redrock stonefly (Anacroneuria wipukupa) as endangered or threatened and to designate critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. After review of all available scientific and commercial information, we find that listing the Redrock stonefly is not warranted at this time. However, we ask the public to submit to us any new information that becomes available concerning the threats to the Redrock stonefly or its habitat at any time.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on August 2, 2011.

ADDRESSES: This finding is available on the Internet at at Docket Number FWS-R2-ES-2011-0047. Supporting documentation we used in preparing this finding is available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Ecological Services Office, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021. Please submit any new information, materials, comments, or questions concerning this finding to the above street address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, Arizona Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES); by telephone at 602-242-0210; or by facsimile at 602-242-2534.

Full announcement:

Suspended Arctic scientist to be questioned over research contracts
August 2, 2011 By Suzanne Goldberg

Charles Monnett, a leading Arctic scientist who authored the paper linking climate change to polar bear drowning deaths, has been suspended from his job at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE). The bureau cited Monnett's "oversight of research contracts" and denied that the investigation had anything to do with the topics of his research.

From the article:

"We intend to discuss actions taken in your official capacity as a biologist and any collateral duties involving contracts as an official of the US government," Eric May, an official in the department of interior's inspector general's office wrote in the letter. "Those actions include the procurement of a sole source, cost-reimbursable contract with the University of Alberta to conduct a study titled 'Populations and Sources of the Recruitment in Polar Bears.'"

The letter asked Monnett to meet government investigators on 9 August. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Peer), which is acting as Monnett's defence team, said Monnett will be asked about his compliance with government contracting regulations as well as his relationship with the lead researcher, a reputed polar bear scientist, Andrew Derocher.

Monnett's supporters claim he is the victim of a smear campaign to discredit his work, and cite the timing of the investigation as suspicious, as it comes around the same time the government is set to make a ruling on whether to allow further oil expeditions in the Arctic.

Full article:

Garden bird disease spreads to new parts of the UK
August 2, 2011

A new form of avian poxvirus is spreading from south-east England to areas further north and west. The virus, which is especially harmful to great tits, "causes lesions, often around the eyes and beak." The virus "can be spread through contaminated bird feeders, via biting insects and through direct contact between birds." A team at the Zoological Society of London is studying the disease and are asking for public help to track the spread of the disease.

From the article:

Dr Becki Lawson, from ZSL, said: "What's different about this avian pox in this species is that the lesions can be very severe.

"It's not unusual for several birds to be affected at one site.

..."Over the last year we've seen the geographical range of this disease spread quite significantly, as far west as Wiltshire and as far north as Staffordshire."

In the most severe cases the lesions caused by the virus in great tits can prevent the birds from feeding or flying and makes them more vulnerable to predators.

Full article:

Lawsuit slows Balboa Park renovations
August 3, 2011 By Lauren Steussy

The Plaza de Panama project aims to clear vehicle traffice from the center of Balboa Park, rerouting traffic around the Plaza to a parking garage behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. The committee in charge of the planning and fundraising is chaired by Irwin Jacobs. In July, the city signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Plaza de Panama Committee, which would allow the committee to begin fundraising and planning in earnest in order to complete the construction before the 2015 centennial celebration in Balboa Park. However, the Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), which opposes the project citing potential "devastating impacts on the iconic architecture and cultural landscapes of Balboa Park," has sued the city, claiming that the MOU was approved "before the completion of a State environmental review." Jan Goldsmith, the City Attorney, said that "the city did not violate state environmental law, nor is the memorandum a guarantee that the project go through," but that a signed MOU was necessary before the city could look at alternative solutions to the parking problem.

Full article:

New rule authorizes incidental take of Alaskan marine mammals during oil and gas exploration
August 3, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 149

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has developed regulations that would authorize the nonlethal, incidental, unintentional take of small numbers of polar bears and Pacific walruses during year-round oil and gas industry (Industry) exploration, development, and production operations in the Beaufort Sea and adjacent northern coast of Alaska. Industry operations for the covered period include types of activities similar to those covered by the previous 5- year Beaufort Sea incidental take regulations that were effective from August 2, 2006, through August 2, 2011. We find that the total expected takings of polar bears and Pacific walruses during oil and gas industry exploration, development, and production activities will have a negligible impact on these species and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of these species for subsistence use by Alaska Natives. We base this finding on the results of 17 years of data on the encounters and interactions between polar bears, Pacific walruses, and Industry; recent studies of potential effects of Industry on these species; oil spill risk assessments; potential and documented Industry impacts on these species; and current information regarding the natural history and status of polar bears and Pacific walruses. This rule is effective for 5 years from date of issuance.

DATES: This rule is effective August 3, 2011, and remains effective through August 3, 2016.

ADDRESSES: The final rule and associated environmental assessment (EA) are available for viewing at http:// at Docket No, FWS-R7-FHC-2010-0098. Comments and materials received in response to this action are available for public inspection during normal working hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the Office of Marine Mammals Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 E. Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Craig Perham, Office of Marine Mammals Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503, telephone: 907-786-3810 or 1-800-362-5148, or e-mail:

Full announcement:

Endangered species permit applications
August 3, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 149
FWS-R2-ES-2011-N145; 20124-1113-0000-F5

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: The following applicants have applied for scientific research permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The Act requires that we invite public comment on these permit applications.

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be submitted no later than September 2, 2011 to the Chief, Endangered Species Division, Ecological Services, P.O. Box 1306, Room 6034, Albuquerque, NM 87103. Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review, subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act. Documents will be available for public inspection, by appointment only, during normal business hours at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 500 Gold Ave., SW., Room 6034, Albuquerque, NM. Please refer to the respective permit number for each application when submitting comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Jacobsen, Chief, Endangered Species Division, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 87103; (505) 248-6920.

Applicant: SWCA Inc, San Antonio, Texas.
Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for the following species within Texas:
Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis).
Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi).
Golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia).
Black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla).
Interior least tern (Sterna antillarum athalassos).
Northern aplomado falcon (Falco femoralis septentrionalis).
Red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis).
Houston toad (Bufo houstonensis).
Barton Springs salamander (Eurycea sosorum).
San Marco salamander (Eurycea nana).
Texas blind salamander (Typhlomolge rathbuni).
Fountain darter (Etheostoma fonticola).
Two ground beetles without common names (Rhadine exilis and Rhadine infernalis).
Helotes mold beetle (Batrisodes venyivi).
Cokendolpher Cave harvestman (Texella cokendolpheri),
Robber Baron Cave meshweaver (Cicurina baronia).
Madla Cave meshweaver (Cicurina madla).
Bracken Bat Cave meshweaver (Cicurina venii).
Government Canyon Bat Cave meshweaver (Cicurina vespera).
Government Canyon Bat Cave spider (Neoleptoneta microps).
Tooth Cave spider (Neoleptoneta myopica).
Tooth Cave pseudoscorpion (Tartarocreagris texana).
Bee Creek Cave harvestman (Texella reddelli).
Kretschmarr Cave mold beetle (Texamaurops reddelli).
Tooth Cave ground beetle (Rhadine persephone).
Bone Cave harvestman (Texella reyesi).
Coffin Cave mold beetle (Batrisodes texanus) .

Permit TE-170625
Applicant: Daniel Howard, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) within Texas, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri.

Permit TE-150490
Applicant: New Mexico Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to collect voucher specimens and seeds from the following species within New Mexico:
Argemone pleiacantha ssp. pinnatisecta (Sacramento prickly poppy).
Astragalus humillimus (Mancos milk-vetch).
Cirsium vinaceum (Sacramento Mountains thistle).
Coryphantha sneedii var. leei (Lee pincushion cactus).
Coryphantha sneedii var sneedii (Sneed pincushion cactus).
Echinocereus fendleri var. kuenzleri (Kuenzler hedgehog cactus).
Erigeron rhizomatus (Zuni fleabane).
Eriogonum gypsophilum (Gypsum wild buckwheat).
Hedeoma todsenii (Todsen's pennyroyal).
Helianthus paradoxus (Pecos sunflower).
Ipomopsis sancti-spiritus (Holy Ghost ipomopsis).
Pediocactus knowltonii (Knowlton cactus).
Sclerocactus mesae-verdae (Mesa Verde cactus) .

Permit TE-842565
Applicant: Cibola National Forest, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) within New Mexico.

Permit TE-46978A
Applicant: U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Central Plant Introduction Station, Ames, Iowa.
Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to collect and distribute for reintroduction seeds from Helianthus paradoxus (Pecos sunflower) from plants in New Mexico.

Full announcement:

Yellowstone National Park gets 900,000+ visitors in July
August 4, 2011

For the third year in a row, Yellowstone National Park saw over 900,000 visitors over the month of July.

From the article:

July is typically the park’s peak visitation month. The park recorded 906,935 recreational visitors in July 2011, 957,785 in July 2010, and 900,515 in July 2009.

This year is the second-highest monthly visitation level recorded since 1872, when the park first opened, according to park officials. 

Park officials believe that the record numbers are due to a weak economy, since visiting the park is still a relatively inexpensive family activity. A family pass for a week costs $25.

Full article:

Joan Embery and Duane Pillsbury to receive San Diego Zoo Global's conservation medal
August 4, 2011

Excerpt from the article:

Longtime San Diego Zoo advocate Joan Embery and husband Duane Pillsbury will receive the top honor from San Diego Zoo Global – its conservation medal, zoo supporters recently announced. In her career as the zoo’s goodwill and conservation ambassador, Embery made the zoo famous with frequent talk show appearances with Johnny Carson and, later, Jay Leno. The couple keeps 30 rare and endangered animals and 40 horses at their Lakeside ranch, where they host frequent outreach events.

...At the same event, medals will be handed out in a “Young Conservation Advocate” category to Luca Banks, a recent graduate of La Costa Canyon High School who volunteers with the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Conservation Corps; Mason McGhee, a High Tech International senior who created a sport based on sustainability; and Nathan Tallman, a Poway High School graduate who developed a program for teaching middle school science students about the decline of amphibian populations.

Full article: