Category: New York Times

Why the Beaver Should Thank the Wolf

From the NY Times, a great op-ed piece connecting our work on sea otters with wolves and elk in Yellowstone!  Couldn’t be more perfect.  Notice the little Sea Otter poking his head out of the reads below the elk.

Scientists call this sequence of impacts down the food chain a “trophic cascade.” The wolf is connected to the elk is connected to the aspen is connected to the beaver. Keeping these connections going ensures healthy, functioning ecosystems, which in turn support human life.

Another example is the effect of sea otters on kelp, which provides food and shelter for a host of species. Like the aspen for the elk, kelp is a favorite food of sea urchins. By hunting sea urchins, otters protect the vitality of the kelp and actually boost overall biodiversity. Without them, the ecosystem tends to collapse; the coastal reefs become barren, and soon not much lives there.

Read the full article here.

Here’s the full photo!

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Predators, Prey and Lyme Disease

From the NY Times, a great article on our recent PNAS paper showing a possibly important role of predators in the emergence of Lyme disease.  Be sure to read the comments section.  Taal does a brilliant job of answering a number of tough questions about the study.

Deer ticks are aptly named, in a sense; a Northeastern deer can carry over 1,000 of these ticks on its body. But as far as humans are concerned, the ticks might be more relevantly called mouse ticks. That’s because white-footed mice and other small mammals, not deer, are now known by scientists to be major carriers of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is spreading in the Northeast and the Midwest, and according to the national Centers for Disease Control, the number of annual cases over the past decade has been increasing. However, no one is quite sure why. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers tried to figure out what is driving the proliferation of Lyme disease in human populations by studying populations patterns in animals that interact with ticks. Their study suggests that large predators like coyotes and foxes that aren’t typically associated with Lyme disease transmission may have a big impact on the spread of the disease.

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‘Smart Collar’ in the Works to Manage Wildlife Better

From the NY Times an article on our NSF funded collaring technology.  There’s some nice quotes from Terrie on her recent trip to Colorado.

The collars, in development in academia and intended for commercial production in the next few years, use a combination of global positioning technology and accelerometers for measuring an animal’s metabolic inner life in leaping, running or sleeping. From the safari parks of Africa to urbanized zones on the edge of wildlands across the American West — places where widespread interest in the devices has already been voiced, scientists said — the mysteries of the wild might never be the same.

“What you end up with is a diary for the animal, a 24-hour diary that says he spent this much time sleeping, and we know from the GPS where that was,” said Terrie Williams, a professor of biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and one of three co-investigators on the project. “Then he woke up and went for a walk over here. He caught something over here. He ate something and we know what it was because the signatures we get for a deer kill vs. a rabbit kill are very different.”

Read the full article here.

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Research Ties Human Acts to Harmful Rates of Species Evolution

From the NY Times, a Science Times article on our recent PNAS paper.

Human actions are increasing the rate of evolutionary change in plants and animals in ways that may hurt their long-term prospects for survival, scientists are reporting.

Hunting, commercial fishing and some conservation regulations, like minimum size limits on fish, may all work against species health.

The idea that target species evolve in response to predation is not new. For example, researchers reported several years ago that after decades of heavy fishing, Atlantic cod had evolved to reproduce at younger ages and smaller sizes.

The new findings are more sweeping. Based on an analysis of earlier studies of 29 species — mostly fish, but also a few animals and plants like bighorn sheep and ginseng — researchers from several Canadian and American universities found that rates of evolutionary change were three times higher in species subject to “harvest selection” than in other species. Writing in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers saythe data they analyzed suggested that size at reproductive maturity in the species under pressure had shrunk in 30 years or so by 20 percent, and that organisms were reaching reproductive age about 25 percent sooner.

Click here to read the full article at nytimes.com.

 

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