Please encourage ocean conservation in the local paper

May 15, 2009

Several of my brilliant classmates managed to get themselves into the local paper, the San Diego Union-Tribune. They’ve written short essays on everything from shark fin soup to solar energy. These are conservation issues that the public needs to know about, and despite the Union-Tribune’s troubles, the newspaper still reaches over a quarter million people every day.

Unfortunately, my classmates’ essays are not reaching nearly that many people, as they are  currently buried very deep in the vast U-T site where no one will ever stumble across them. If you’re interested in encouraging budding scientists to communicate directly with the public, they would appreciate it if you would say so in the comments section.


Earth Hour tonight, 8:30 PM your time

March 28, 2009

Tonight is Earth Hour. Last year, more than 50 million people in 400 cities turned out their lights for one hour to show political leaders that they wanted real action on climate change. This year, let’s make it even bigger.

All you have to do is turn off your lights at 8:30 PM your local time and leave them off for 60 minutes. I’ll even be turning off my beloved laptop for some grantwriting with…paper and pencil!!!

I’m perfectly aware that Earth Hour is just a minuscule drop in the giant ocean of worldwide energy use. But even for something as trivial as turning out the lights, seeing the entire world taking collective positive action warms the cockles of my cold dark heart.

Here’s the official Earth hour video if you want something all inspirational. But if I’m going to sit alone in the dark contemplating climate change, I’m going to do it to the dark beats of VNV Nation:


Restore a habitat, save the economy

March 9, 2009

NOAA is seeking “shovel-ready” coastal and marine restoration projects. You can restore valuable habitat while virtuously stimulating the economy (not to mention having your research actually get funded.) Proposals are due April 6.

From the press release:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is seeking applications for projects that will restore coastal and marine habitats under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in an unprecedented effort to jumpstart the economy, create save several thousand jobs, and restore valuable coastal and marine habitat. Congress has entrusted NOAA with up to $170 million for habitat restoration in coastal areas including the Great Lakes. NOAA is accepting applications for a variety of habitat restoration projects – including wetlands restoration, dam removals, shellfish restoration, and coral reef restoration.


Survey on sustainable seafood

February 24, 2009

One of my classmates, Cathy Preston, is doing her master’s project on sustainable seafood. She wants to know what kind of seafood you consume and how you chose it. Take her 30-second survey here, and you’ll have both the satisfaction of helping a student to Save The World and a chance to win $25.  All info will be kept confidential.


Answering Miriam: Subsidized Residential Solar Panels

December 30, 2008

This morning Miriam wrote: “Now where’s our cheap, subsidized residential solar panels?”

Funny you should ask!

Earlier in the month, San Diego implemented a plan to subsidize solar panels for residential customers. Well, sort of.  The biggest challenge to getting people to install solar panels is the upfront cost. I’ve read everything from $25,000 to $40,000 to power a single-family home. San Diego taps a California state law allows cities and towns to create Renewable energy zones. Within these zones, cities can invite home owners who install various kinds of energy efficient or renewable energy devices to pay off the cost of the installation through an added fee tacked onto their property tax.

In San Diego a home owner (or business owner) can apply to the city to buy solar panels for thier homes.  The city will front all of the money for purchase and installation of the solar panels. The home owner then pays the city pack over the next 20 years as part of her property tax bill.  Adding to the convenience of the program, the fee is attached to the property, not the home owner, so when the property is sold, the owner walks away from the debt as well as the panels.

On the city side, the process is entirely cost neutral. Applicants pay a fee to become a part o the program. The city then takes advantage of it’s ability to take out low interest debt in the form of municipal bonds. Cities pay far less in interest (even scandal-strewn San Diego) then individuals do because they have an excellent record for paying back, and the bonds are sometimes tax-free (depending on how they’re structured).

the program also creates a single clearing house for companies that want to sell and install solar panels. The city will point home owners to companies that sell, install, and maintain solar panels in the area, acting as a single clearing house for information.

There are other benefits too. I’ve interviewed people who claim to save $800 a month (see end of story) on their electric bills in summer months, and the woman who became the test subject for the new tax program said she saves $150 a month in the summer. Then there’s all that nice “Saving the world” stuff that she can feel good about. There’s no reason a nearly identical program wouldn’t work in other states, even if the states need to incentivize some other kind of renewable energy.


Very last chance for Open Lab 2008!

December 1, 2008

Submit the best science blog posts of the year today only! I’m totally flattered to have been nominated three times (ok, ok, one of them was a self-nomination) but I could be always be MORE flattered. Or go flatter someone else!

As your reward, please enjoy this superfluous lolcat, justified only by an utterly horrible pun on “nomination.” (Thanks, Art!)

Humorous Pictures
more animals


Vote for Danielle Lee!

November 10, 2008

The mole says, “So nu, vote for Danielle already!”

Danielle Lee of Urban Science Adventures! is a finalist in the 2008 Science Blogging Scholarship contest.  She’s a mammal biologist who blogs about urban ecology – recent posts have featured adorable fuzzy voles, bat rescue, and opossum composting. Her blog is like the Swiss Army knife of science blogs – it’s a field guide, an educational tool, and entertainment all in one. And Urban Science Adventures! also shows the wee little proto-scientists that science is for everyone, not just pasty old dudes.

So go here and vote for Danielle! Show the young ones that they, too, can be a kickass vole-trapping scientist with the best hair on the prairie.


Vote for me, eat some oysters, and help native oysters

October 21, 2008

I'm a Finalist in the Marx Foods Oyster Contest

My short radio play Miriam and the Bawdy Bivalves is a finalist in the Marx Foods Oyster Contest! But upon closer examination of the oysters offered, I cannot endorse farming non-native oysters in Puget Sound, however delicious they might be. So here’s what I’m going to do.

If I win, I’m going to hold a massive oyster dinner for me, Eric, and 6 lucky guests. The oysters will be supplemented with local mussels, Eric’s homemade pasta & sauce,  the garlickiest garlic bread ever to garlic, and my world-famous cranberry apple crisp. We’ll ask each guest to donate $10 (and will donate $10 ourselves) and will send the donations to the Nature Conservancy’s Olympia Oyster restoration project. (Olympia oysters are the Pacific Northwest’s only native oyster, but were nearly wiped out from overharvesting and habitat destruction.)

But who should be those lucky guests? Vote in the poll below. And if you think this is a good idea, vote for my radio play here!


The Managed World: Non-native oysters in the Chesapeake

October 20, 2008

There is no place on earth, no matter how remote, untouched by humans. We are mighty: we can trawl the deep, explore the South Pole, and fish every single island in the South Pacific. But as every young nerdling knows, with great power comes great responsibility. The Managed World series in the Oyster’s Garter explores the hard choices that come from a human-dominated world.

It’s been a long time since we had a Managed World entry, and it seems appropriate to start again with our namesake, the mighty oyster. Atlantic oysters (Crassostrea virginica) aren’t so mighty in Chesapeake Bay these days. They’re down to less than 1% of their historic populations due to overfishing, disease, and pollution.

A lack of oysters not only means that we are denied sweet fried goodness, but that the Chesapeake has lost the ability to clean itself. In the mid-1800s, it’s estimated that oysters filtered all the water in the Chesapeake in 3.3 days. Now there are only enough oysters to filter the water once each year. No oysters means too much phytoplankton which means hypoxia and more oyster death. And despite a $58 million attempt (a somewhat half-hearted attempt, but a lot of money nonetheless) at oyster restoration, populations have not rebounded.

Now the Army Core of Engineers and Maryland Department of Natural Resources is proposing to introduce the Suminoe oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis) to the Chesapeake. The Suminoe oyster is native to Asia, and theoretically resistant to the diseases that have decimated Atlantic oysters. The idea is that sterile (triploid) Suminoe oysters will be introduced to the Bay to filter their little patooties off, thus improving water quality and paving the way for a native oyster recovery. Unfortunately, a small percentage of sterile triploid oysters have the power to revert to fertile diploidy, meaning that the Suminoe oysters could likely establish themselves permanently in the Bay.

Non-native bivalve species do not have a particularly dignified history. Read the rest of this entry »


Coastal Cleanup Day is tomorrow!

September 19, 2008

Moss Landing reminded me that tomorrow is Coastal Cleanup Day! Celebrate your local waterways by helping to pick up trash and remove invasive vegetation. Eric and I are going to be volunteering in San Diego Bay – I’ll be diving and he’ll be on land support duty. If we find AWESOME TRASH, we will post photos. Head over to Ocean Conservancy to find a cleanup near you.


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